The second half of the 2015/16 EPL season begins this Saturday with eight matches being played around the UK and while some sides, such as Arsenal and Leicester, will want to continue their current form but the majority of the sides in the league will be looking for a new start. Nowhere more than the Stadium of Light will sides be looking to begin 2016 with all three points as Sunderland host Aston Villa in a bottom of the table clash that both sides need to win or find themselves in deep, deep trouble.
We preview this match, along with all of the other seven fixtures on the opening day of the January transfer window, with online sportsbook Betfair.com to provide our first EPL picks of the new year.
Sunderland v Aston Villa: 2.50 – 3.20 – 3.20
These two sides come into 2016 sitting 19th and 20th in the league having collected 12 and eight points respectively in the first half of the season, while they have both seen one manager leave to be replaced by another. They come into this game seven and 11 points away from safety so this match is a must win game for both sides and with Sunderland having failed to win at home to the Midlanders since 2010, including losing all of the last three meetings at this ground, will there be doubts in their minds coming into this clash?
The home side’s doubts will be boosted by the fact that they have defensive troubles for this bottom of the league matchup as with Younes Kaboul out and John O’Shea and Sebastian Coates both doubtful. On top of this midfielders Jack Rodwell and Sebastian Larsson are out of the match and defender Wes Brown is to be assessed before the match to see if he is fit enough to play. However, despite these injuries there is the strong possibility that Villa will have nothing to hit this weakened defensive line with as Jordan Ayew and Ashley Westwood are both suspended while Carlos Sanchez and Gabby Agbonlahor are both out injured.
With Sunderland having failed to score in three of their last four games at home and Villa not scoring in two of their last four on the road we can see this game being short on goal mouth action and goals so we are backing a shortage of goals in this match. The more adventurous could very well be tempted by a 0-0 draw as well, which is available at odds of 8.00.
Our best Sunderland v Aston Villa bet is back Both Teams to Score – No @ 1.83 at Betfair.
West Ham v Liverpool: 3.90 – 3.50 – 2.05
The first match of the new year in the EPL kicks off at 12:45 this Saturday at Upton Park as the sides sitting eighth and seventh in the league clash after winning their final games of 2015 to boost their confidence for a great start to 2016. The hosts will be especially boosted by the naming of Dimitri Payet in their squad for this game as the creative midfielder returns from two months out with a hamstring and after scoring five and creating three goals in his 12 appearances for the side he will be welcomed back with open arms. The side has won just a single match since he limped out of the 1-1 draw with Everton at the start of November, but that did come last Monday as they came from behind to beat Southampton and go six games unbeaten after five previous draws but can the return of the Frenchman now see them upset the odds to defeat Liverpool?
Liverpool have responded well to a 3-0 away beating at Watford on December 20th as they have recorded back to back 1-0 wins as Christian Benteke as netted the winner in both matches as they saw off Leicester on home soil and Sunderland at the Stadium of Light but with having two of their last three away EPL matches and having scored just a single goal since beating Man City 4-1 at the end of November are they consistent enough to win back to back away games? Their hosts have gone unbeaten in seven at home, winning three and drawing four, since a 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth at the end of August and we can see The Hammers doing enough to ensure that they continue unbeaten in what promises to be a close encounter between these two closely matched sides.
Our top West Ham v Liverpool tip is back West Ham/Draw Double Chance at odds of 1.80 with Betfair.com.
Man United v Swansea: 1.55 – 4.00 – 7.50
The Swans travel to Old Trafford this Saturday looking for an unprecedented fourth successive victory over the 20 time top flight champions following three 2-1 wins over The Red Devils since the start of last season. United will be, of course, desperate to stem this losing form against the managerless Swansea side but while they arrested four losses in a row with a 0-0 draw on Monday against Chelsea they are still without a victory in any competition since beating Watford 2-1 with a last gasp winner at the end of November. The fans have turned against manager Louis van Gaal and want him replaced with Jose Mourinho but the Dutchman is battling to save his job so can he stem the abuse from the stands with all three points today?
Betfair certainly believe that he can as they make his side the heavy favourites to triumph in front of the Old Trafford faithful but with three draws, one defeat and just a single goal in the last four matches on home soil it will be difficult to motivate the players for this match. He needs to do so though if he is to attract some new signings during the January window, but is this the match to impress?
Swansea have certainly looked a much better side since parting ways with Garry Monk as caretaker boss Alan Curtis has seen the side collect five points and three clean sheets from four games, with them unlucky not to claim something in his first game away at Man City as the home side won it in injury time with a wicked deflected goal. They will be more up for this game, but with them scoring just two goals in these four fixtures they too we can see this match being another match where goals will be in short supply.
Back Less than 2.5 goals to be scored at Old Trafford @ 1.61 in the Betfair Sportsbook!
Arsenal v Newcastle: 1.28 – 6.50 – 12.00
Arsenal will feel that they could not have an easier start to 2016 than facing Newcastle at home as they are unbeaten in ten matches against The Magpies and have won all of the last eight clashes with the team in black and white stripes. The Gunners are top of the EPL table for the start of 2016 and have won six of their last eight matches in all competitions as they edged into the last 16 of the Champions League despite an awful start to the group stages and moved to the top of the table despite suffering a 4-0 thumping at Southampton on Boxing Day. They will be confident for this match after seeing off Bournemouth last Monday, but can ensure their status as the league leaders with all three points this Saturday?
Both sides have a mass of injuries for this match and it is Newcastle who are worse off with key players missing all over the park, and with them winning just two of their away matches all season they are in terrible form away from St. James’ Park too. Arsenal have won seven and drawn one of their last eight matches at The Emirates and we can see this match going the way of the home side once again, just as the odds suggest.
Our money is on Arsenal to win by at least two goals (Arsenal -1) at odds of 1.70.
Norwich v Southampton: 3.20 – 3.40 – 2.37
After conceding just 33 goals all of last season on their way to seventh position things have not gone as well for The Saints this time around as they have already conceded 23 goals and we’re only at the halfway stage of the season. They travel to Carrow Road just four points better off than their hosts, who are deep in a relegation fight, and can be pulled right down if they are beaten today. They have lost all of their last three away games and have not won since the start of November and it has been another month since they scored more than a single goal in an away game. Things are not looking good for Southampton as their late collapse at West Ham undid all the confidence building work of a 4-0 win over Arsenal on Boxing Day, but can they live up their favourites billing for this match?
Norwich have had a good festive period as they have won two of their three matches since the 19th of December to ensure that they are three points clear of the relegation zone as they claimed their first win at Old Trafford since 1989 and then defeated bottom of the table Aston Villa 2-0 last Monday so with the second of these two victories coming on home soil they now bring a four game unbeaten run into this match. We can see the home side providing another stiff challenge for a Southampton side that has just one win in seven and we would not be surprised to see an upset at Carrow Road.
Our top Norwich v Southampton tip is back Norwich to win on the Draw No Bet market @ 2.15 at Betfair.
Leicester v Bournemouth: 1.95 – 3.75 – 4.00
Have the wheels come off Leicester’s challenge for the title recently? After scoring in each of their opening 17 matches of the season they have drawn blank in their last two as they were beaten 1-0 at Liverpool and then drew 0-0 at home to Manchester City and reports have emerged that Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are both not at full form right now. With this duo having scored 28 of their 37 goals this season this will be worrying for Claudio Ranieri, but with their guests this weekend having the second worst defensive record in the league they will believe that the goals will return.
Although Bournemouth had their six game unbeaten run ended as they were beaten 2-0 at Arsenal on Monday they did themselves proud in that match as they gave the table toppers their best and prior to the first goal going in after 27 minutes they were deservedly level in North London as they are playing with a confidence despite being ravaged with injuries all season long. Back to back away games against the sides top of the league will not be easy for The Cherries but you can be sure that they’ll push The Foxes all the way this Saturday. However, the goals from Vardy and Mahrez, which are six more than Bournemouth have scored this season, will be too much and we expect to see a home win in this one.
Our best Leicester v Bournemouth bet is back the home win at odds of 1.95 with Betfair.com.
West Brom v Stoke: 2.87 – 3.10 – 2.80
After being involved in one of the, if not the, best games of the season on Monday as they defeated Everton 4-3 at Goodison Park Stoke will be hoping for a return to the excellent, and slightly boring, away form that sitting in tenth place in the Premier League and just two points away from fifth position. They had recorded five clean sheets in the six away games before conceding three at Everton during the week and will be desperate to the defensive form that sees them as just one of the five sides to have conceded less than 20 goals this season.
West Brom have some troubles up front for this game as Salomon Rondon and James McClean serve the final of their three game bans and Jonas Olsson and Victor Anichebe are both injured so Tony Pulis will be forced into playing Saido Berahino for this match despite the manager looking to get rid of the striker after he attempted to force a move through in the summer transfer window. They have been inconsistent on home soil this season too with three wins, three draws and three losses in nine games at The Hawthorns, but which West Brom side will we see this time around?
The Baggies did win the reverse of this clash earlier this season as Rondon scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at The Britannia as Stoke found themselves down to nine players after 30 minutes, but we feel that with their fine defensive record we can see the Potters edging this match and we’re backing them to take all three points in the Midlands.
Back Stoke to beat West Brom @ 2.80.
Watford v Man City: 5.00 – 4.00 – 1.72
The last time that Watford secured victory over Manchester City was 1987 and although many things have changed at both clubs in the intervening years but despite suffering a 2-0 loss at The Etihad earlier this season Watford will be confident of scoring goals and pushing their guests all the way in this match. In Odion Ighalo they have one of the players of the season as the 26 year old has fired in 14 goals, including seven in his last six matches, as he and strike partner Troy Deeney have been in fantastic form to fire The Hornets into the top half of the league.
Man City will be fearful arriving at Vicarage Road for Saturday’s late kick off as despite sitting third in the EPL table they not won in six away matches since beating Crystal Palace in mid-September and they’ve scored just two goals in this run. They have recorded just a single clean sheet while captain Vincent Kompany has been on the sidelines, and he remains there for this match, so the attacking duo of the home side will be confident about making, finding and taking advantage of the space that this Man City defence provides. We feel that the home team can get something from this match, but our pick for this end of the day match is for Igahlo to bag at least one goal to continue his fine goal scoring run.
Our cash is on Odion Ighalo to score anytime v Man City at odds of 2.80 in the Betfair Sportsbook!
Best EPL Picks:
Our last guaranteed picks selection made us a slight profit as two of the three came in, although Southampton’s late collapse cost us a clean sweep, and we’re confident of bettering that form this Saturday. Our best EPL picks are as follows:
Both Teams to Score – No in Sunderland v Aston Villa @ 1.83. There is certainly the chance that both of these sides could score if they can fashion chances as both team’s defences are terrible, but we believe that their attacks are even worse and we’ll be very surprised if both of these teams find themselves on the scoresheet.
Leicester to beat Bournemouth @ 1.95. The Foxes have shown that they are deserving at being at the top of the table as they were the better team for long periods against Man City at the end of 2015 and with Bournemouth a good scraping side but lacking the quality that Vardy and Mahrez bring we foresee an excellent value home win at The King Power Stadium.
Odion Igahlo to score anytime v Man City @ 2.80. The Watford striker has seven in six and 14 goals all season while City have not won on the road in six games and look awful at the back with Vincent Kompany. Their captain is out again this weekend and we expect the Nigerian forward to take full advantage of this.