Newcastle v Liverpool
From serious threat of relegation when Eddie Howe arrived, Newcastle have risen into the top half of the table and are W10-D1-L3 going back into January.
That includes victories from each of their past four outings hosting Wolves, Leicester and Crystal Palace, before a trip to Norwich. In fact, St. James’ Park has become a fortress, with the Magpies winning all six there over this period, though admittedly, eighth-placed Wolves were the highest placed team they welcomed to the North East.
The quadruple dream lives on for Liverpool following their midweek win over Villarreal, but with a hectic schedule over the final weeks of the season, there’s no room for Jurgen Klopp to hand a rest to any of his star players. The Reds are now W21-D5-L1 in all competitions since the turn of the year, with only Chelsea (twice), Arsenal, Inter Milan, Man City and Benfica denying them a victory within 90 minutes.
16 of those 21 wins for Liverpool were achieved by a minimum two-goal margin, and past encounters between Jurgen Klopp and Eddie Howe would suggest a similar outcome. The latter has always tried to play an entertaining brand of football, but like Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa, going toe-to-toe with elite sides is a dangerous strategy to bring about results. Klopp has won each of his past seven meetings with Howe by an aggregate 22-2 scoreline, as all but one of these came by at least two clear goals.
LIVERPOOL -1 HANDICAP
Aston Villa v Norwich
It’s not been the best run of form for Steven Gerrard’s men who have now lost four of their last five winless matches, though a good early spell under their new boss means they’ve all but avoided the drop this year and can begin to focus on developments for next season. While it’s not imperative that they pick up three points here, more dropped points would damage confidence, especially coming up against league whipping boys, Norwich.
While not technically down, Norwich fans will have come to terms with the fact they’ll be playing Championship football next season. They sit 10 points away from safety at the moment, and with just one win from their last 10 outings it’s difficult to see how they’ve going to muster up three points form this outing.
While Villa have been poor of late, there’s a stark contrast in points picked up against the elite sides of the league and those down the lower echelons of the table. Indeed, Villa have picked up just 0.29 points per game against the top eight this season, with all of those points coming against Man United, while that rises massively to 1.86 against bottom half sides. The Canaries have managed just 0.57 points per game on the road this year, so we’re happy to back the home win outright here.
ASTON VILLA TO WIN
Southampton v Crystal Palace
This is effectively a dead rubber game with neither side in any danger of relegation, but without much prospect of a top-half finish at this stage. The Saints certainly appear to be on their holidays already with a W1-D2-L5 record from their past eight league games, in addition to a heavy 4-1 defeat to Man City in the FA Cup. Chelsea (6-0) and Aston Villa (4-0) also inflicted painful scorelines, while even relegation-battling duo Watford and Burnley recorded victories over Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men.
Palace have now lost three of four winless matches, though in their defence, one of these was a spirited performance in their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, who took 65 minutes to find the breakthrough, while the other two defeats came on the road at Leicester and Newcastle. That record on their travels is however a concern, as the Eagles have taken just three wins from 16 road trips in the league this term.
These two sides played out a draw in the reverse fixture, the third stalemate in six meetings, and another one would come as no surprise. Palace are W3-D9-L2 against bottom-half sides this term, drawing five of the last six such games, while their 14 stalemates this season overall is a league-high alongside Brighton. Southampton aren’t far behind with 13 draws to their name and have lost just one of eight games hosting bottom-half sides, and with just one place between the two sides in the table, this looks a very even encounter on paper.
Watford v Burnley
Eyebrows were raised when Sean Dyche was given the boot, but Burnley have since picked up a point away at West Ham, before home wins over Southampton and Wolves. Those results have seen the Clarets usurp Everton in the table to escape the relegation zone, and with the Toffees facing a difficult assignment with Chelsea on Sunday, a trip to a Watford side virtually consigned to the drop offers up a golden chance to extend that lead.
The Hornets turned to Roy Hodgson back in January, but the experienced veteran hasn’t been able to turn the tide and the club are now a dismal W2-D3-L17 going back to late November across all competitions. They conceded at least three goals in 10 of those defeats, and a minimum of four times in six of them, so even a low-scoring Burnley side will fancy themselves to work their way onto the scoreboard.
The visitors can also take comfort from their record against Watford in recent times, suffering a solitary defeat across seven head-to-heads since 2017/18 (W4-D2-L1). They haven’t even conceded a goal over the last four, and should back themselves considering Watford have now lost 10 consecutive home games – with even fellow bottom-five outfits Norwich and Leeds thumping them 3-0.
BURNLEY +0.25 ASIAN HANDICAP
Wolves v Brighton
If there was ever a game to scream ‘low scoring’, it’s this one. Just 20 of their combined 66 games have seen over 2.5 goals land, as their respective match goals of 1.88 and 2.15 are the two lowest in the league this season. Whichever way this one swings, we’d certainly be surprised if it were a goal fest.
Consistency has been an issue for Wolves of late, and despite the majority of their games being low scoring affairs, they’ve only seen four stalemates all season. Since the turn of the year, they’re a balanced W8-L7, though they’ve lost six of their last nine outings with four of the most recent five coming to nil.
While Wolves seemingly avoid draws at all costs, Brighton are yet again the league leaders in stalemates as they have been for the past three seasons. While they lost six consecutive matches from mid-February to mid-March, they’ve since gone W2-D2-L1, with their sole defeat in that run coming to Man City, which bodes well from them here.
There’s very little pattern emerging between either sides results this season, and we’re inclined to ignore the result market considering, and the unders bet looks like the banker for this game.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
Leeds v Man City
Nothing seems to be giving in the title race as Man City and Liverpool remain just one point apart heading into the final few games. You get the feeling that any slip up would prove fatal, and while there are no signs of that just yet from either side, this is certainly a potential banana skin for the champions.
City won the reverse fixture 7-0 back in December, though last season they managed just one point out of a potential six against the Yorkshire side, and Guardiola will be wary of the threat they pose. However, it should be mentioned that those results last year were when Leeds were under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa, and when they had a fully fit squad.
With that said, Leeds are now unbeaten in five under Jesse Marsch, and while none of those sides hold a candle to Man City, the return of Kalvin Phillips has been a huge boost to midfield with the side yet to concede in the 147 minutes that he’s been on the pitch, which is a huge result considering the regularity at which they were conceding in his absence.
That leads us to believe Leeds will make this tough for the champions, and with this game sandwiched in between Champions League fixtures with Real Madrid, it’s plausible that concentration may fall by the wayside ever so slightly for the hosts. While the visitors remain strong favourites, the value is with the hosts on this occasion.
LEEDS +1 HANDICAP
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