Arsenal v Newcastle
There were concerns that Arsenal could find their momentum halted by the World Cup, but they’ve picked up where they left off with 3-1 and 4-2 victories over West Ham and Brighton respectively to go seven points clear at the top of the table. That’s despite the loss of Gabriel Jesus, with Eddie Nketiah netting in both games post-Christmas, though their opponents are hardly in bad nick either.
Newcastle were held to a disappointing goalless stalemate hosting Leeds last time out, but they have lost just once all season, coming away at Liverpool. They’re now 14 games unbeaten, winning six of the last seven, though it’s their form at St. James’ Park that’s been better over a consistent spell.
The Magpies are W9-D4-L8 away from home under Eddie Howe, though it’s noticeable that six of the defeats came against top outfits Liverpool (twice), Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham. Newcastle have in fact lost each of their past 10 league trips to the Emirates, as well as going down in extra time in their one cup meeting in North London during this time, failing to score in each of the last five such matches.
Arsenal have now won 10 consecutive home league games, scoring twice at a minimum on every occasion, as well as three times or more in seven of them. However, there was just one clean sheet to boast of, so the home win and both teams to score also holds some appeal.
ARSENAL TO WIN
0.5PTS: ARSENAL TO WIN AND BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Everton v Brighton
Whilst sickening to concede a 95th-minute winner hosting Wolves on Boxing Day, Everton can be pleased with the point picked up at the Etihad last time out. It leaves them with just a single victory from 10 games in all competitions though, with seven defeats, as Frank Lampard’s men look set for another close relegation scrap.
In better news for the Toffees, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was able to come through 70 minutes unscathed against City, boosting their attacking options going forwards. Everton have only actually failed to score in three of 14 home league games now, against Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester, so they’ll fancy their chances of putting some points on the board here.
Brighton took a crucial win over rock-bottom Southampton on Boxing Day and occupy a much more comfortable position, having taken 13 points from 18 under Graham Potter at the start of the campaign. However, they’re a more disappointing W3-D2-L5 under Roberto De Zerbi so far, though this does include victories over both bottom-six teams they’ve travelled to (Wolves and Southampton).
Much like Everton, the Seagulls look capable of scoring too, but also unable to shut teams out. Both teams have scored in each of Brighton’s past seven matches against Premier League standard opposition, as all but one of them featured a minimum of four goals. In fact, against such teams on the road alone, both sides have scored in six of their last seven away, with all but the first of these games coming under De Zerbi.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Leicester v Fulham
Brendan Rodgers is under increasing pressure with his side suffering back-to-back defeats on the return to action, being thoroughly outclassed 3-0 by Newcastle, before Wout Faes endured a double own-goal nightmare at Liverpool. However, some decent results prior to the World Cup have bought some breathing space, and there’s certainly opportunity to move up the table with Fulham, Forest, Brighton and Villa all to come in their next five fixtures. On the flip side, Jonny Evans has suffered a setback and won’t be available for another month still, while James Maddison is currently sidelined by a persistent knee complaint.
Fulham tailed off just before the World Cup, with a draw at home to Everton followed by back-to-back defeats in admittedly tough encounters with the Manchester duo. However, the break appears to have done them some good, enjoying a comfortable afternoon against a nine-man Palace before also picking up maximum points over Southampton.
Leicester have won just two of eight home league games this season, losing half of these, while failing to score on four occasions as well. We’re not convinced by the prospect of a Fulham clean sheet though, with both teams scoring in six of their last seven on the road. However, given the Cottagers’ defeats on the road this term have come at Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Man City, they should have enough about them to pick up something from this clash.
FULHAM + 0.25 ASIAN HANDICAP
Man Utd v Bournemouth
Despite some defensive absentees since the return of action, Man Utd have registered consecutive clean sheets as they saw off Burnley (2-0) in the League Cup, as well as bottom-six sides Nottingham Forest (3-0) and Wolves (1-0). Erik ten Hag has all his defensive options available now, but Luke Shaw may feel hard done by to be ousted by Lisandro Martinez at centre-back, while Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will hope to have done enough to retain their places out wide.
Bournemouth have endured the reverse restart, losing without scoring to Newcastle (1-0) in the League Cup, as well as Chelsea and Crystal Palace (both 2-0). Eight of their 10 defeats this season have seen them draw a blank, which included damaging 4-0, 3-0 and 9-0 defeats to Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool respectively earlier in the campaign. Their losses since haven’t been quite as emphatic, but they still head into this encounter with seven losses from nine games since mid-October, with both exceptions coming in tussles with fellow bottom-six side Everton.
United can now build on some real momentum with their latest results leaving them W12-D2-L1 since early October in all competitions. There have been nine clean sheets from the last 13 games, as well as seven from their last eight at Old Trafford, as this looks set to be a fairly routine afternoon for the hosts.
MAN UNITED TO WIN TO NIL
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