Aston Villa v Brentford
Steven Gerrard was finally put out of his misery following a dismal 3-0 defeat away at Fulham, leaving Aston Villa a desperately poor W4-D6-L12 dating back to March. That includes just two wins from the past 15 appearances, so there can be no surprise about the decision from the boardroom.
Brentford continue to impress under Thomas Frank, entering this fixture off the back of a goalless stalemate hosting Chelsea, which also represents a third clean sheet in four outings. Admittedly, the other was a 5-1 defeat at Newcastle, meaning that four of their five defeats since May have seen the Bees concede at least three goals, as they are capable of the odd poor defensive performance.
It remains to be seen if caretaker Aaron Danks can get a reaction from Villa’s squad, but he’ll have to make do without Douglas Luiz after the midfielder was sent off of a petulant headbutt last time out. He’ll also be missing a number of injured stars, including summer signings Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara, both of whom Gerrard would surely love to have had available over recent weeks.
Brentford have lost just one of their past 11 against bottom-half sides, winning six of these, a spell which doesn’t even include their clashes with Villa last term, from which they took four points. Away from home, Brentford have lost just two of 12 trips to bottom-half sides since the start of last season, so should have enough about them to get at least a point against a side horribly out of form and suffering from a few key absentees.
BRENTFORD DRAW – DOUBLE CHANCE
Leeds v Fulham
Leeds are on the slide with five defeats from seven winless appearances, including three of the spin now as Palace, Arsenal and Leicester proved too much for them. Output has been a particular concern having scored just four times across this spell, including just one from the last four, but there’s little sign that Jesse Marsch has the tools or inclination to play a more attacking brand of football.
Fulham have certainly been more exciting for the neutral to watch. Their 3-0 win over Villa midweek was the 10th time in 11 matches this season that featured a minimum of three goals, while six saw as many as four strikes. There have been some defeats along the way, losing on the road at Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham, as well as at home to Newcastle, but they haven’t faltered up against the teams they would have expected to be fighting for survival this season.
That leaves the Cottagers, who are now up to ninth in the table, quite an attractive proposition to et something from this game. Leeds are winless in their last three at Elland Road and confidence is sinking, with Jesse Marsch in danger of being the next manager to get the sack.
FULHAM DRAW – DOUBLE CHANCE
Southampton v Arsenal
After a four-game losing streak, Southampton appear to have turned a corner by taking a point from West Ham and then another three when visiting Bournemouth. However, it’s worth noting that aside from a shock 2-1 win over Chelsea in August, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side typically struggle when taking on real quality. They’ve already suffered 4-1 and 4-0 defeats to Tottenham and Man City respectively this season, in addition to an assortment of heavy defeats in recent seasons, most memorably getting tanked 9-0 on two separate occasions under current management.
Arsenal could hardly have made a better start to the campaign, winning 13 of 14 matches across all competitions, as only Man Utd could put a dent in their record. That includes four clean sheets from their most recent five appearances, with the exception in a 3-2 win over Liverpool, so they’ll fancy their chances of another shutout here.
Southampton aren’t without any firepower, but they’re hardly blessed in that regard either. Still, the Saints have only failed to score in two of their last 21 home league games, so we wouldn’t rule out a consolation effort here. However, the Gunners aren’t conceding many opportunities at present, and Arsenal and under 3.5 goals has landed in 10 of their 14 matches this term, with the last three all limited to 1-0 scorelines.
ARSENAL TO WIN AND UNDER 3.5 GOALS
Wolves v Leicester
These two sides enter the weekend occupying relegation slots, though the mood will be a little greater for Leicester, who appear to have stopped the rot with a stalemate against Palace and a win over Leeds. They even managed the latter result in the absence of James Maddison, who will return from suspension here, and his ability to unlock a defence could prove crucial given the manner in which Wolves set up so as not to be beaten.
Wolves may sit a point above Leicester, but they’ll be worried about the direction of travel having now lost four of their last five, even if they’ve had some challenging fixtures. The lack of creative output remains an alarming concern and in fact, Wolves have bagged just four goals across their past 10 games, never scoring more than once in the same appearance.
This fixture certainly hasn’t offered up too much entertainment in recent times. Only one of six meetings across the past three seasons have featured more than a single goal, with three ending n goalless stalemates. Leicester may usually be involved in a number of high-scoring affairs under Brendan Rodgers, but it appears that the Foxes are tightening up to get results, aided by the form of summer signing Wout Faes at centre-back.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
Tottenham v Newcastle
Newcastle have lost just once this season, as Liverpool bagged a 98th-minute winner at Anfield, though a division-high of six stalemates has scuppered their ability to break int the top four. A win here would still leave them two points adrift of their hosts, but Eddie Howe is without a couple of key attacking weapons as both Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin are sidelined.
Antonio Conte has his own missing men in attack with Richarlison ruled out and Dejan Kulusevski a doubt, though beyond that he has a full complement to select from. However, Tottenham have been accused of being hard to watch under the Italian, with a negative approach not yielding results in their last outing as Man Utd more than deserved their 2-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Tottenham were a disappointing W3-D2-L5 last term against the top six, wile they’ve now lost two of three winless clashes against those same sides in the current campaign. Newcastle may be new to the top six, but they have picked up 57 points from 30 games since the turn of the year, as it appears they are here to stay. There’s little to split these sides, and if Tottenham take a negative approach again, this encounter could be short on high-quality chances.
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