By Antony Jordan
The final four matches from round 17 of the Premier League season play this Sunday and Monday to bring football in the English top flight to a close until Boxing Day – and there are some big clashes in the last games before Christmas Day too! The biggest see two of the title challengers in Manchester City and Arsenal do battle at The Etihad Stadium on Sunday, while the Monday Night Football provides us with a local derby as the blue and red halves of Merseyside go to battle in Everton v Liverpool at Goodison Park.
We preview these two matches, as well Tottenham v Burnley and a south coast derby in Bournemouth v Southampton, with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our best EPL picks.
This clash sees the meeting of two of the top four sides in the EPL as they look to move into second place in the Premier League before the current occupants, Liverpool, face a tough match against their local rivals Everton on Monday night, however both Man City and Arsenal are missing a number of key players for this vital match. Ilkay Gundogan is out for several months for City after injuring his knee ligaments against Watford in midweek while Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are still both suspended following their red cards against Chelsea and Arsenal see players missing from across the field with Danny Welbeck still out up front, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla unavailable in midfield plus Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker out at the back. Which side will make the best of their threadbare squads for this match?
City ended a three match winless streak that had seen them beaten by Chelsea and Leicester with a 2-0 triumph over Watford on home soil during the week and they will hope that this will aid them in getting their title challenge back on track as they start round 17 of the season seven points behind Chelsea. However, they are in trouble defensively with just four clean sheets in 12 matches in all competitions all season and with Arsenal the second highest scorers in the EPL they will fear that they will fall to another defeat against top five teams having lost to Chelsea and Tottenham already this season.
Unlike their hosts, The Gunners were beaten during the week and this saw them lose their first match in the league since the opening game of the season when Liverpool triumphed 4-3 and this loss came against Liverpool’s fellow Merseysiders Everton. That came on the road and they will be hopeful of bouncing back against a side that has not defeated them in seven clashes and with this loss at Goodison Park the only defeat on the road this season they will believe that they can take something from this match. They have also netted three or more goals in six of their last nine away matches and they will certainly be out to outscore a Man City side devoid of their top striker.
We feel that Arsenal deserve to be closer to their hosts in the betting odds and there is certainly value in backing them not to lose this match (Arsenal/Draw Double Chance is 1.72) we believe that the best value at The Etihad is on the goals market.
We are backing Both Teams to Score – Yes AND Over 2.5 goals in this Man City v Arsenal game @ 1.90 with Bet365.com.
The final Premier League action before Christmas Day happens at Goodison Park where two of the most fierce rivals in English football clash looking for the local bragging rights over Christmas, as well as the vital three points too. However, these two sides have been very closely matched over the past few seasons with six of the last eight meetings between the teams seeing them share the spoils. Liverpool won the other two matches and Everton are now 12 Merseyside Derbies without all three points against their local rivals, but after seeing off Arsenal on this ground during the week will they be able to put Liverpool to the sword for the first time since 2010?
The side from the red half of the city are certainly having the better season of these two teams as they start the weekend second in the table having won nine and drawn four of their last 14 EPL matches, losing only to Bournemouth since suffering a 2-0 loss at Burnley at the end of August. Both of these losses came on the road, but wins over Chelsea and Arsenal on their travels this season will see them believe that they can defeat their local rivals this Monday night, especially considering they have scored ten times in their last four away games.
Everton will hope that their win over Arsenal is a sign that their fortunes are changing as it was just the second time that they secured all three points in 11 Premier League matches in a run that goes back as far as the end of September. They did lose five of these other nine games, but all defeats came on the road and while they have drawn three of their last five at Goodison Park they have not been defeated on this ground since March. We feel that with their history of getting draws against Liverpool coupled with their excellent home record this season that this local rivalry will see the home side take something from the game once again.
This match at White Hart Lane pits the sides who have the second best home record and the worst away records in the Premier League with Bet365.com backing a comfortable home victory for the North Londoners. The reason for this is that they have taken 20 points from six wins and two draws in front of their own fans in the league while scoring 11 goals in their last three in North London. Burnley have lost six and drawn one of seven away games this season, finding the net just once – and that from the penalty spot.
We are backing a home win in this match and with Tottenham having bagged 15 goals in their last four home matches against Burnley we cannot see anything but a rampant victory for the hosts this Sunday afternoon.
The final match we’re looking at this side of Christmas sees a meeting of two sides located 30 miles apart on the south coast and the first match from Sunday’s card promises to be a thrilling clash of these local sides. They are separated by goal difference alone coming into this match with Southampton having conceded ten fewer goals than their hosts this weekend, but with the away team missing their key striker it will be The Cherries who hope to use their better attacking record, having netted eight more goals than their guests this season, to take all three points and put space between these two teams.
The home side have Callum Wilson cleared for action after suffering a head injury in the 1-0 win over Leicester during the week and after securing their first league win over The Saints on this ground last season they’ll believe that they can claim all three points this time around too. They have won five and drawn one of their last seven on home soil too, winning three of those 1-0 and keeping four clean sheets.
With Southampton having scored just three goals in their last seven EPL clashes – and two of those coming from the boot of the now injured Charlie Austin – we can see them having trouble at The Vitality Stadium this Sunday. They have won just one of eight away games so far and we cannot see them getting anything from this match.