Hello! Nigel here. Great to be back after a break last week for the FA Cup. The Premier League returns this weekend for its next round of matches and here are my three best EPL bets of the weekend’s action.
Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace
Saturday 10:00 a.m. ET
Manchester United sit nicely in fourth place in the EPL and will look to cement their Champions League Qualification aspirations by defeating visitors Crystal Palace this Saturday. I think they can do that and do it without conceding a goal as well!
Patrick Vieira brings his Crystal Place team to Old Trafford without a win the past five games in all competitions, and this is not the place to come to if you want to break a losing streak.
Manchester United have played nine EPL games at home this year, winning seven of them and keeping five clean sheets. They also have won their last 12 home matches in all competitions and have won eight of them to nil. I have written before their manager, Erik ten Haag, has stamped his style and authority on this club, and they have looked like a different team than the last few seasons.
He has Marcus Rashford, who looked to possibly be on his way out last year, playing the best football of his career and terrorizing defenses. But ten Hag’s most impressive achievement is surely turning this Man United defense into a solid unit that is difficult to penetrate.
United will still be fuming as Palace scored a late equalizer in their recent meeting at Selhurst Park—a draw that may well have derailed any hope United had of catching Manchester City and Arsenal. They still have much to play for though and a top-four finish will be seen as strong progress for ten Haag and the Red Devils.
Patrick Vieira would probably have settled for 12th place at this stage of the season, but his Palace side has been very poor on their recent travels in the EPL. They have won only two of nine away games, and in recent games this month against Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle, they have failed to score. I see that stat repeating at Old Trafford this Saturday, especially as their top goalscorer and former Manchester United striker Wilfried Zaha will miss the trip to his former club.
United can solidify their fourth position and will put Palace’s defense under tremendous pressure. I don’t see Palace carrying enough attacking threat to counter that.
Pick: Manchester United to Win to Nil 120
Brentford vs. Southampton
Saturday 10:00 a.m. ET
Brentford sits proudly in eighth place in the EPL, and on Saturday, they will be aiming to go even higher as they welcome rock-bottom Southampton. To be fair, new manager Nathan Jones has galvanized the Saints in League and Cup games since arriving, and they will provide the high-flying Bees some tough resistance.
The fact remains Southampton is a poor team who have lost seven of their 10 away games this season, and that is largely why they are propping up the entire EPL. The owners have realized they must score more if they are to have any chance of beating the drop, so they have invested in winger Kamaldeen Sulemana and striker Paul Onuachu. Both are likely to debut against Brentford, but neither looks to be a quick fix for their goalscoring issues. Scoring more is certainly needed, but they must also plug a leaky defense on the road that has conceded 18 times in their 10 away games.
Brentford lines up in great form, and since the restart after the World Cup, they have beaten West Ham, Liverpool and Bournemouth and drawn with Leeds and Tottenham. Brentford is a club going places, and their supporters will be delighted that manager Thomas Frank has signed a new deal to keep him at the club till 2027! The recent victory against Liverpool was achieved in style and they’ve proved, particularly at home, this Brentford side fears nobody.
Though the Saints are an improved team lately and do have a newfound fighting spirit under Nathan Jones, they still look short of the quality needed to stop an in-form Brentford who is looking to break into the top six in the EPL. They rate a confident pick to keep Southampton rock bottom in the table.
Pick: Brentford to beat Southampton -115
Tottenham vs. Manchester City
Sunday 11.30 a.m. ET
Without a doubt, the game of the weekend is on Sunday as Manchester City visits Tottenham in a fixture where they have struggled in recent seasons. Pep Guardiola knows his side must put a huge winning run together if they are to catch leaders Arsenal and defend their EPL Title. Do not put it past him or his side full of world-class players, though it is a very tough assignment!
As these two teams line up on Sunday, Arsenal will have already played and may well be eight points clear again, which will pile more pressure on City to gain a win here. On the surface, recent results here do not make great reading for City supporters with Tottenham having won the last three home games against City in the EPL scoring five and conceding none in the process.
Ironically, Conte’s Tottenham has fared better recently away from the pressure cooker of their own ground, winning their last two away games. They were 1-0 away against London rivals Fulham and earned a comfortable 3-0 victory against Preston in the FA Cup. At home, they have struggled, losing at home to Villa and bitter rivals Arsenal 2-0. Conte will be concerned by their lack of attacking threat in those games, and also by the erratic form of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who is starting to look a liability by throwing in at least one huge mistake every game.
Antonio Conte, himself, is likely to miss this game, as he recovers from illness, and the team may well miss his presence on the sideline, though Lloris may be relieved given the glares Conte has given him after his repeated mistakes.
One player no goalie wants to face whatever their current form is Erling Haaland, who has now scored 25 times in just 19 games this season. Tottenham will already be having nightmares about facing him. In the recent game at the Etihad, Tottenham threw away a 2-0 lead with City replying with four second-half goals. Haaland scored one of those, but he led the fight back, driving his team forward. At times, he has looked unstoppable this season.
In a move that surprised many, Manchester City let Joao Cancelo leave the club this January, but they still have an embarrassment of riches throughout the team. By letting him go, Guardiola has reminded all his players that if they don’t perform to his high standards, they will be out!
Though Tottenham has a great recent record in this fixture, the recent 4-2 loss at City and those two poor performances in the 2-0 home defeats to Villa and Arsenal lead me to believe Tottenham is in for another difficult afternoon this Sunday. City may not be ready to surrender their title just yet to Tottenham’s London neighbors Arsenal.
Pick: Manchester City to beat Tottenham -136