Hello, Nigel here with my three best bets of the weekend's EPL action and a special mention of the huge London clash between Tottenham and Arsenal.
You will see I have taken a position against the big clubs this week who I feel are vulnerable for different reasons. Let’s start with a huge game in Manchester.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Saturday, January 14th, 7:30 am ET
This is always a huge game, but on Saturday, it has implications for the EPL title race as City cannot afford to lose any more ground to Arsenal at the top. Many thought City would easily win the EPL given their seeming superiority, but the EPL is a very difficult league to win back-to-back, and surprisingly, they have struggled to score goals on the road in recent weeks with just five scored in their last seven (three came in one match versus Leeds).
Pep Guardiola will take heart from his terrific record against his Manchester rivals with City defeating them on eight occasions at Old Trafford in the EPL. No other club has done that, and in recent matchups, City has had the upper hand winning the last three games between the two, scoring an incredible 12 goals in the process.
That being said, I am still opposing them as this feels a very different Manchester United under Erik ten Haag, whose Red Devils come into this clash flying. With Marcus Rashford, they have an in-form player in the EPL who looks generous at +350 to score in this match as he has found the net in all six matches since returning from the World Cup. Without the distraction of the Ronaldo circus, Ten Haag has stamped his way of playing on the Red Devils. They have won eight straight and are unbeaten in their last 11 at Old Trafford, scoring at least two in eight of their last nine and have scored three goals in their last four home matches. That is some turnaround from a team who looked awful at the beginning of the season and devoid of confidence and attacking ideas.
Considering City have 12 goals in their last three Manchester Derbies and scored six in the last game when goal machine Haaland and Phil Foden both scored a hat-trick, Ten Haag will be comforted by his side’s recent defensive prowess. Manchester Utd has kept clean sheets in their last three EPL games, and for the first time in years is starting to look solid and organized at the back. They will need to be on Saturday, of course, with Haaland and company, but this City side is dropping points at an alarming rate.
They have lost two and drawn one in their last eight, which for a side who only lost three games in the entire season last year is a sign they are not firing on all cylinders. They also lost in the EFL Cup 2-0 to lowly Southampton in midweek with Pep clearly angry at many of his underperforming team at the end.
Given their form, and the fact City looks vulnerable for the first time in a long time, Manchester United have a real chance of beating their bitter rivals, and the pick I favor the most is Manchester United +0.75 on the Asian handicap at -117.
Pick: Manchester United +0.75 at -117
Brighton vs. Liverpool
Saturday, January 14th, 10 a.m. ET
Jurgen Klopp brings his underperforming Liverpool team to the seaside on Saturday, and it is difficult to believe his current team is the same club who were on for a historic quadruple of trophies just a few months ago. Many of the players look in serious decline, and Klopp’s usual cheery persona has been replaced by a series of bizarre excuses in interviews every time his team gets beat.
What will worry him most, as he takes on a Brighton side who are scoring plenty and attacking with real conviction at the moment, is that he arrives without his talisman Virgil van Dijk. That could spell a very difficult game. In their last EPL fixture, they were beaten 3-1 by Brentford, and the manner of their performance meant it was fortunate to be only 3. And on the road this season, Liverpool has looked very poor and can't stop conceding goals.
If Brighton wins, it will be regarded as a major shock by many, but Roberto De Zerbi’s free-scoring Seagulls go into this fixture just one point behind Liverpool on 27 points to their 28!
Goals were often a problem when Graham Potter managed Brighton, but De Zerbi is playing an attacking style that the fans love, and they have scored more than two goals in their last five games. In his first match in charge at Brighton, he played out a 3-3 draw in the reverse fixture at Anfield. It strikes me that they will not play it safe against an awful Liverpool defense without van Dijk and will look to attack from the start.
It is a sign of Liverpool’s declining fortunes that they have won away from home just twice all season, and I do not see them making it three on Saturday. Klopp has an ever-growing injury list with Jota, Milner, Firmino as well as van Dijk missing. He may well give an EPL debut to new signing Cody Gakpo, which could well be a baptism of fire for him given his new team's current form.
I think the bookmakers have priced this up on Liverpool’s reputation and perhaps on history, as Brighton hasn't beaten Liverpool at home since 1984. I like to go against the public and the pick of Brighton +0.5 on the Asian handicap at -125 (which cashes with a draw or a home win) represents excellent value as the seagulls are full of confidence and attacking threat. If they score first, Liverpool may crumble as they did in their last away game at Brentford.
Pick: Brighton +0.5 at -125
Everton v Southampton
Saturday, January 14th. 10 a.m. ET
Everton and Southampton meet on Saturday with both clubs in the relegation slots—Southampton in rock bottom and Frank Lampard’s Everton in third bottom.
To describe Everton’s fans as not a happy bunch is an understatement, and the atmosphere is likely to be toxic on Saturday at Goodison Park. There is a major demonstration planned against the club owners at the final whistle. The Toffees are on a terrible run of form with four defeats and two draws in their last six EPL games. Their last two home games have been a 2-1 defeat to fellow strugglers Wolves and a really bad 4-1 beating by Brighton. Sandwiched in between those two defeats, they managed a 1-1 draw at Manchester City, which shows the home crowd’s anger is possibly affecting the players.
New Southampton Manager Nathan Jones arrives here on the back of two confidence-inspiring Cup wins—a shock 2-0 defeat of Manchester City in the EFL Cup and a battling FA Cup win at Crystal Place. But those are cup games, and however welcome for the club and the fans, the facts remain that Southampton under Jones has lost their last three EPL Games to Forest, Fulham and Brighton, and sits rock bottom.
Everton is desperate for an EPL win. After failing against fellow strugglers Wolves, the pressure is even greater now against the bottom club in the EPL. Both sides find goalscoring a real issue, and neither side has scored more than once in their last three respective games.
It is difficult to be confident about either winning this game despite Southampton’s cup recent heroics. The play here has to be under 2.5 goals at -136. This game may be one to avoid if you are looking for an exciting game to watch. The demonstration after may have more drama!
Pick: UNDER 2.5 Goals at -136
Those are my three top picks for the weekend’s action but I cannot go without a brief mention of the North London clash of the season when Arsenal go to their most bitter rival Tottenham on Sunday.
Tottenham vs. Arsenal
Sunday, January 15th,11.30 a.m. ET
I continue my theme of opposing the big teams by taking on EPL leaders Arsenal in what is sure to be a hard-fought clash on Sunday. Conte’s Tottenham is unpredictable, but he will have them fired up to repeat their easy victory in May in this fixture. After losing in a poor performance 2-0 to Aston Villa in their last home game, Tottenham has won their last two and arrives here ready to stop Arsenal in their tracks. Though not an official play, my bet here is to go Tottenham +0.5 on the Asian handicap at -133 which looks value to me in what is always an entertaining and dramatic game.