Hello! Nigel here with my best bets for another exciting round of EPL action.
Arsenal vs. Bournemouth
Saturday 10:00 a.m. ET
It is top versus second-bottom in the EPL on Saturday as league leaders Arsenal welcome struggling Bournemouth. The Gunners are a massive -400 favorite to win this game, and I believe they can do it without conceding a goal.
Arsenal arrives here on the back of a very satisfying 4-0 bashing of Everton who had recently caused a shock by beating the Gunners in their recent fixture at Goodison. The dominance Arsenal had in all areas midweek made it all the more bewildering that this poor Everton team had the ability to beat them. It was an important win for Arsenal and not just because it took them five points clear of rivals Man City, but also because it will have built the players' confidence again after some shaky performances.
Struggling Bournemouth has won just twice away from home all season, which is the main reason their Premier League status is under real threat. They were beaten easily 4-1 by Man City in their last game. One positive is their last away game was a 2-1 victory against Wolves, but this game is levels above that in terms of difficulty for the Cherries.
Arsenal has been clinical in their play against newly promoted teams winning eight out of nine— the only defeat was an opening-day loss to Brentford last season. This Arsenal team is playing fast, free-flowing football again, and they attack from all angles in midfield with Zinchenko and Saka back in unstoppable form. City could not be stopped by this Bournemouth defense that lacks pace, and I cannot see them keeping Arsenal out just as Everton could not midweek. Beleaguered Cherries boss Gary O’Neil looked a broken man when interviewed after the City defeat, and it is not surprising he looked depressed as the fixture list has provided him with Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool consecutively. He will have to keep his players upbeat as they could well suffer three heavy defeats in a row. Since the return from the World Cup, Bournemouth has only scored four goals. With Arsenal looking assured in keeping Everton out, the play here is for Arsenal to win to nil at -110, which is much better than the -400 available for the league leaders on the money line.
Pick: Arsenal to Win to Nil -110
Aston Villa vs. Crystal Place
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET
Aston Villa, as I predicted in last week’s column, broke a sequence of three defeats with an impressive 2-0 victory at Everton last weekend to see them lie in 11th place with 31 points. On Saturday, they welcome Crystal Palace, the team directly below them in 12th place who have 27 points and will still be looking over their shoulder at the relegation places.
Palace has become the draw specialists of the EPL this season drawing five of their last six fixtures with the team looking to avoid defeat rather than go all out for a win in their efforts to stay in the top flight. Palace drew 0-0 with Liverpool in their last match. That was a poor game with both sides providing little in terms of attacking threat. Palace remains without star man Wilfried Zaha and is a much less potent force with him on the sidelines. It is a testament to their organizational skills that they still keep grinding out draws under boss Patrick Vieira. The fact remains they are on the longest current winless run of any team in the EPL, now stretching eight games with three defeats and five draws.
Villa boss Unai Emery was quick to point out after beating Everton that his side must bring their away game back to Villa Park, where they have been struggling. They have just one victory in their last seven games at home with five defeats coming in that sequence. Emery has striker Ollie Watkins in goal-scoring form. His goal in the 2-0 victory at Everton made it five consecutive games hitting the net, and I like the former Brentford striker to score again at the weekend at +220.
Villa's last six EPL fixtures have contained no less than 17 goals, and that shows the open attacking style of play Emery wants to see his teams play. They were much tighter at the back against Everton though, and Palace is equally goal shy. With Villa, particularly with Watkins, offering a real goal threat, I think they will beat the Eagles on Saturday. If they do, Palace will then be nine games without a win and fearing a nervous battle to stay in the EPL.
Pick: Aston Villa to beat Crystal Palace +110
Liverpool vs. Manchester United
Sunday, 11.30 a.m. ET
For many, this is still the number one fixture in the EPL in terms of history and certainly in terms of rivalry. It’s no secret these two huge clubs and their fans do not like each other, and this game is often a tense and bad-tempered affair.
Liverpool may not be at the top of the League. In fact, they are having a very poor season by their high standards, but all eyes will be on Anfield on Sunday for the latest installment of the EPL’S most bitter rivalry.
If United win, and in their current form there has to be a very strong chance they will, then they will keep the heat on title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal. If they fail to win, and their rivals win this weekend, then ten Hag’s Red Devils will surely be only looking at a Champions League qualifying top-four finish. They arrive here with Silverware back in the club trophy room after defeating Newcastle in the League Cup at Wembley last Sunday. They are looking to do the home and away double over Liverpool for the first time since 2015/16 after beating Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford in August.
Liverpool sits in sixth place currently, six points off Tottenham in fourth place. It has been a tough season with boss Klopp’s methods questioned by many, including the club's supporters for the first time in his reign. The German will have been heartened by his side’s 2-0 victory over Wolves on Wednesday evening which featured their fourth successive clean sheet in the EPL. In recent seasons, Liverpool has done well in this home fixture with the last six games seeing them remain unbeaten with three wins and three draws.
Since the resumption of the EPL after the World Cup, United have taken their form to another level. As I have written before, without the Ronaldo soap opera, ten Hag has forced his personality on the whole club. He is regarded as a tough but fair taskmaster, and the players who had received much criticism for not performing in previous seasons have responded to him. Their last 10 EPL fixtures have seen the Red Devils gain eight wins and two draws, and they have Marcus Rashford playing the football of his life.
Though Liverpool has tightened up at the back and kept clean sheets, their performances have been less than convincing, and many senior players are still underperforming from the high standards they have set. United are simply the better team and the pick, but because of Liverpool’s recent upturn in results and their strong record in this fixture, the smart play is to go United Draw No Bet at -105, with the bet a push if it does end in a stalemate.
Pick: Manchester United Draw No Bet v Liverpool -105