Bournemouth v Wolves
Humiliation at Anfield has provoked the board to do away with Scott Parker and his successor has an almighty job on his hands to tighten up Bournemouth’s rearguard. Following a 2-0 win over a struggling Villa side on the opening day, Man City (4-0), Arsenal (3-0) and Liverpool (9-0) have swatted the Cherries aside with ease, as the south coast side conceded as many as five goals inside the first 20 minutes across these matches alone.
With that in mind, it’s probably a blessing that their next opponents are much more gun-shy. Only the relegated trio scored fewer goals than Wolves last term, despite their 10th-place finish, while they’ve mustered just two goals from their opening four games this time around.
Given the attacking quality of the three sides to thump Bournemouth, it’s hard to envisage Wolves running riot, especially given Bournemouth’s opening day clash with more comparable opposition was a low-scoring affair. The hosts will be keen to avoid an open start to the game as they seek to restore morale, as another early setback could prove fatal in that regard.
Three of four Premier League clashes between the two clubs have seen fewer than three goals, with the exception just breaching that threshold as Wolves secured a 2-1 win here at the Vitality Stadium in November 2019. The visitors are certainly no strangers to cagey encounters under Bruno Lage either, with 64% of matches since the start of last season featuring a maximum of two goals, while 45% featured a single strike at most.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Arsenal top the table after four wins on the bounce and in fact, they’ve won six of eight halves to date and drawn the other two. Some might point to their opposition as a reason for caution, with Leicester starting the season badly and struggling to fend off other clubs coming in for star players, while the Gunners’ past two outings saw them take on promoted duo Bournemouth and Fulham.
Of course, Villa are hardly flying at the moment, with three defeats from their opening four games, leaving the midlands side with a worrying W3-D3-L9 record stretching back to mid-March. With just two clean sheets over this period and one of those against Norwich, the need for defensive improvement is obvious, though an injury to summer arrival Diego Carlos has forced Gerrard to turn to the same old centre-backs he doesn’t quite trust.
Villa lost 12 of 14 encounters with the top seven last season, including eight losses and a draw from nine such games under Gerrard. They also conceded twice at a minimum in 11 of the 14 matches, so an Arsenal side that have started the season in scintillating fashion should enjoy more chances here. Indeed, 10 of Villa’s 12 defeats to top-seven outfits last term saw at least three goals, while Arsenal and Over 2.5 Goals has landed in eight of the host’s past 11 games now – including all five at the Emirates.
ARSENAL TO WIN AND OVER 2.5 GOALS
Man City v Nottingham Forest
Considering the turnover of players at Forest this summer, Steeve Cooper can be relatively pleased how his side have performed so far, with four points on the board after results against West Ham and Everton, as well as a pair of 2-0 defeats to impressive Newcastle and Tottenham sides. However, their sole win did come at the City Ground, while a trip to the Etihad is a daunting prospect.
Man City are W26-D5-L1 home or away since November 2021, including eight from their past 10 unbeaten appearances. It’s now 13 on the spin where they’ve bagged at least two goals, averaging 3.4 per game, demonstrating a ruthless consistency which should serve them well, even if Erling Haaland could potentially be given a rest here with tussles against Aston Villa, Sevilla, Tottenham and Dortmund on the horizon. They led at both half time and full time in all six clashes with promoted outfits in the Norwegian’s absence last term, eventually bagging at least four goals in over half of them.
The reigning champions certainly don’t have any firepower concerns, though they have conceded five times in two games as Newcastle and Palace both found some joy. Those two sides might possess mercurial talents like Allain Saint-Maximin and Wilfried Zaha that Nottingham Forest lack, but the midlands club weren’t without their own chances at Tottenham last time out and an away goal shouldn’t be ruled out here.
Although a consolation effort is just a possibility rather than something to be relied upon, Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut have still only registered four clean sheets from their past 10 matches when excluding last season’s top six. Nine of those games saw a minimum of four goals, with Man City and Over 3.5 Goals landing on seven occasions. Moreover, that selection came good in all five of these games at the Etihad alone, as they trounced Watford (5-1), Newcastle (5-0), Aston Villa (3-2), Bournemouth (4-0) and Palace (4-2).
MAN CITY TO WIN AND OVER 3.5 GOALS
West Ham v Tottenham
West Ham finally bagged their first goal and points at the weekend at an under-pressure Villa side, and with an exciting new signing to boost the ranks in Lucas Paqueta, they should start finding their feet. Across all competitions, Tottenham have only registered a solitary clean sheet against the Hammers from their past nine meetings, and in fact just two from the last 18. Both teams have scored in nine of 13 head-to-heads since 2017/18, so David Moyes’ men should overcome their poor start to the campaign and provide some attacking threat here, even if they’ll be wary of the threat Tottenham pose on the break.
Antonio Conte has made minimal changes to his starting line-up this season, with nine starting every game as the exceptions were the introduction of new signing Ivan Perisic, and the other an enforced change as Cristian Romero made way for Davinson Sanchez. Despite missing their best defender, Tottenham head into this fixture after back-to-back clean sheets over Wolves and Nottingham Forest, though the former are a low-scoring side while the latter had their chances.
West Ham found the net in all seven matches hosting the rest of the top eight last term, with both teams scoring in six of them, while It weas a similar story the previous season as both teams to score landed in six of seven fixtures. Moreover, Tottenham failed to register a clean sheet in all five away matches against the same bracket of teams under Antonio Conte last season, with both sides scoring in four, while this term alone they conceded twice and were fortunate to claim a point when they visited Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Liverpool v Newcastle
Liverpool delivered their first win of the season in emphatic fashion as they thrashed Bournemouth 9-0, though the Cherries had already lost 4-0 and 3-0 to Man City and Arsenal respectively, and Jurgen Klopp’s side have plenty of catching up to do. Newcastle should prove tricky customers having made an unbeaten start to the campaign, which includes taking a point off Man City in a spectacular 3-3 stalemate.
The Magpies rocketed up the table under Eddie Howe last term, posting a W12-D1-L5 record after Christmas, even if four of those defeats were inflicted by the sides that ended up in the top four. Four of those five defeats also came on their travels, while their hosts have now won 14 of their last 16 at Anfield as only Tottenham and Palace have secured a point each.
As impressive as Liverpool can be however, they are suffering under the weight of injuries at present, while they also miss Sadio Mane’s infectious pressing, even if January signing Luis Diaz has been one of their better performers this season out on the left wing. Still, there shouldn’t be too many concerns over the attack, even if Diogo Jota is injured and Darwin Nunez remains suspended, with the Reds finding the net in 23 consecutive appearances now.
Midfield remains the biggest problem zone with Thiago, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all sidelined, while Harvey Elliot is also a slight doubt. In defence, injuries to Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate have handed Joe Gomez a rare opportunity in the team, but the 25-year-old’s partnership with Virgil van Dijk isn’t fully convincing.
Eddie Howe isn’t without his own selection problems as Bruno Guimaraes, Callum Wilson and Emil Krafth are all absent, while Kieran Trippier and Allan Saint-Maximin are doubts for the trip to Anfield. New £60m striker Alexander Isak could also be unavailable owing to a work permit issue, so the Magpies may be shorn off some key attacking threats on Wednesday. 10 of Newcastle’s 12 away days since Christmas have seen a maximum of three goals, and with both teams missing major threats and creative influences, there may well be fewer chances at Anfield this weekend.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
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