That's the thrills 'n' spills and glamour of the FA Cup replays out of the way, now we return to the boring, hundrum bread and butter of the footballing world, the Premier League. Just the EIGHT games to get our teeth into this Saturday, including Brighton v Chelsea, which gets things underway at 12.30pm. The evening game is Manchester City v Newcastle, a dress rehearsal for their fourth round FA Cup. Sandwiched between all this... oh, just a London Derby featuring north and south London as Arsenal 'welcome' Palace, Burnley host Manchester United, West Brom travel to Everton, the Hornets buzzing around the King Power, The Terriers chasing the Potters' wheel, and West Ham hosting Bournemouth! So, without further ado, let's get to it!
The first match kicks off at 12.30pm, so make sure you get your scores in before then as we cover all EIGHT of Saturday's matches for Week 24 of the FREE-TO-ENTER StanJames Predictor Competition.
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An exhilerating eight Premier League matches to predict for Week 24. If you please, all predictions to be entered before 12.30pm on Saturday, January 20th. Don't have an account yet? Click here to open one.
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BRIGHTON 0 V 2 CHELSEA
tBrighton are unbeaten in four at home, which will give them confidence as they host Chelsea, who had to endure a long night against Norwich in their FA Cup replay, eventually beating the Canaries on penalties on a night of drama and excitement. The fact that the Blues finished with nine men will also not have escaped Chris Hughton, who may adopt a bolder strategy than usual against a team whose manager had already complained were ‘tired’. However, points ARE precious for Brighton, who are starting to drop down the table, and will enter the game in 16th, just three points above the relegation zone. Fortune MAY favour the brave, but will Brighton go for it?
Chelsea, as we mentioned, had a hard-fought FA Cup battle on Wednesday, were reduced to nine-men, and scored just the once… Something’s amiss in West London as, prior to Norwich, Chelsea had gone four matches without a win, and failed to score in 2018! That has seen the reigning champions drop to fourth in the table, three points above Spurs, and Conte will demand a response from his troops. Can he still inspire his charges, though? That’s the question!
Brighton’s Steve Sidwell remains injured, though Chelsea-loanee Izzy Brown joins him in the treatment room. Morata and Pedro are suspended after their midweek dismissals, which should see goal-scorer Batshuayi retain his place for a rare PL start. Barkley may figure, and though Fabregas may be fit to start for the Blues..
What We Sayin'?
Brighton took a couple of sucker punches on Boxing Day when Chelsea won the reverse fixture 2-0. Morata was one of the goal scorers that day and the Blues will rue his suspension. However, we can see a similar result, so…
- BTTS – NO
- Chelsea to win to nil
- Pedro 1st GS
- Chelsea win 2-0
ARSENAL 1 V 2 CRYSTAL PALACE
Arsenal come into this game in the midst of one of their biggest challenges in recent memory, both on and off the pitch. They’re without a win in their last five games, capitulating to Bournemouth last time out despite taking a goal lead against the Cherries. They’re currently in sixth place in the league, facing another season without Champions League football, their stars seemingly would rather be playing anywhere than The Emirates, and the clamour from the #WengerOut brigade grows ever louder. One crumb of comfort the Gunners can take consolation from is the fact that they’ve never failed to score in 17 home league matches against Crystal Palace, netting 39 in total. Tomorrow would be a good time to keep that run going… though with Giroud, Sanchez, and Walcott all out of the picture…
Contrast Arsenal’s fortunes with those at Palace. After a nightmare start the Eagles ae flying under Roy Hodgson and they’ll fancy their chances in this one. They bat Burnley 1-0 last time out, Bakary Sako netting for the Eagles. Their problem has been scoring goals on the road a paltry six their season tally this far. However, with all their big guns fit and firing, tomorrow could be the time to put that stat right!
As mentioned, Arsenal will have a new look about them as Theo Walcott (Everton), Francis Coquelin (Valencia) and Alexis Sanchez (somewhere) all head to pastures new. Giroud is injured, though Ozil is expected to be fit for whatever ailment has befallen him this time out. Palace will rue not having the pace and trickery of Andros Townsend for this one as the winger is out with an ankle injury. Connor Wickham and Mamadou Sakho join Scott Dann, and Jason Puncheon in the treatment room.
What We Sayin'?
This ended 3-2 to Arsenal last time out, and this match could be an equally high-scoring affair, despite Palace’s lack of goals on the road. Like an eagle stalking prey, they’ll sense Arsenal’s weakness and attack…
- BTTS – Yes
- Sako 1s Goal
- Lacazette 1s Goal
- Palace to win 1-2
BURNLEY 0 V 3 MAN UNITED
After their meteoritic rise Burnley are starting to feel the pinch at the top end of English Football. They are without a win in their last seven games, though they were beating United comfortably in the reverse fixture, leading 2-0 before United staged a comeback to draw. Turf Moor used to be a fortress and Sean Dyche will be hoping his men can make it so again.
United beat Stoke 3-0 on Monday, and looked like the United of old: ruthless and seemingly able to score at will, bullying their opponents with an arrogant disdain… and then you remember it was Stoke! However, there is something about them. Pogba’s return to the midfield gives them an authority and they look… solid. United have kept a clean sheet in each of their four fixtures since conceding twice against Burnley. Indeed, no side has conceded fewer than United, and with Burnley failing to score in their last six PL games, you’d have to fancy United here, wouldn’t you?
Stephen Ward is out for the Clarets. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Michael Carrick, remain sidelined, as does Eric Baily for the Red Devils.
What We Sayin'?
They say lightening can strike twice, but we just don’t see it. As we mentioned, United have looked imperious (at times) this season and we can’t see Burnley springing a shock here. Iven the recent form, and stats, we’re plumping for:
- United to win to nil
- BTTS (No) over 2.5 goals
- Lingard 1st GS
- United to win 3-0
EVERTON 1 V 1 WEST BROM
Michael Keane makes a welcome return for the Toffees as boss David Moyes looks to get that defensive solidity back. The Toffees are yet to chalk up a win in 2018, having lost their previous four matches, and last week they were absolutely smashed by Spurs – the 4-0 pasting they took not a fair reflection of just how soundly they were beaten. However, despite their travails this season they remain ninth in the league, and there is a growing sense of optimism gathering pace around Goodison. Sam Allardyce is slowly turning the club’s fortunes round and they’ll be confident of getting something against a West Brom side moored in a real relegation dogfight.
Pardew’s side have recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season, having beaten Brighton 2-0 last time out in what was a real six-pointer for the Baggies. IF they can get a result and make it three on the trot, ad IF other results go their way then they could lift themselves out of the bottom three… a big IF when you consider no team have scored less on their travels (6) than West Brom this season.
Expect Walcott to make his debut for the Toffees, charged with providing new signing Cenk Tosun with the ammo to shoot down the Baggies. Ramiro Funes Mori, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman remain long-term absentees. Gareth Barry should be confident of a warm reception from his former fans should he, as expected, make the starting line-up for West Brom.
What We Sayin'?
We initially thought this could be a 2-0 home win. But further thought leaves us second-guessing. It should be a tight game (they drew 0-0 at The Hawthorns) but both sides have a little more about them since then. Since we’re now torn, we’ll boldly go…
- BTTS – Yes
- Walcott 1st GS
- Booking points over 25
LEICESTER 3 V 1 WATFORD
The Foxes are unbeaten in four games their midweek FA Cup victory over Fleetwood adding to a win against Huddersfield, and draws against Chelsea and the aforementioned Cod Army. Vardy, rested except for a cameo against Fleetwood, is looking sharp, and the upturn in Leicester’s fortunes since the start of the year is evident for all to see. TheY were unlucky not to beat Chelsea, who only came into the game when they were reduced to ten men, and given the fact Claude Puel rested several stars for the Cup tie, they’ll be confident of keeping that run going.
Suspensions and injuries have derailed the Hornets, who starting the season buzzing. Marco Silva’s team chalked up notable wins against the ‘big boys’, but have suffered in recent times. They managed to nick (quite literally) a point a home to Southampton last time out after Abdoulaye Doucoure carried the ball into the net (VAR, anyone?) To be fair, The Horents have general been better on their travels this term, having scored in all but two of their away days. Silva will be hoping his defence will find some form, but that’s a concern as they’ve only kept three clean sheets all season. Their hope then, to outscore Leicester in what could be a thriller.
Leicester have issues at the back: Captain Morgan is out, whilst Robert Huth, Danny Simpson, and Matthew James are all doubts. For Watford, their injury list remains as long as our… to do list! Nathaniel Chalobah, Craig Cathcart, Tommie Hoban, Isaac Success, Younes Kaboul, Miguel Britos, Will Hughes, and Kiko Femenia are all definitely out, whilst Tom Cleverly faces a late rush to prove his fitness for this one.
What We Sayin'?
Leicester have won seven of their last nine home league matches against Watford (D1 L1), and we can see that trend continuing today. The Foxes have concerns at the back and Watford will go for the jugular. BTTS seems nailed on…
- BTTS – YES
- Mahrez anytime GS (he’s 4 in 4 against Watford)
- Leicester to win the corner battle
- Leicester 3-1
STOKE 2 V 2 HUDDERSFIELD
Stoke were roundly beaten 3-0 by Man United on Monday and despite parting ways with Mark Hughes, the ‘new manager bounce’ is yet to take effect. Paul Lambert will expect a response from his troops, but with four losses on the bounce it’s hard to see where the inspiration comes from in a team looking far, far less than the sum of their parts. They’ve conceded 50 goals in just 23 games, and nine in their last three! True, they’ve not been prolific scorers, but therein lies Lambert’s first port of call... as a sage once said: If you don’t concede you can’t lose. Again, easier said than done.
Huddersfield are a tough team to predict with any real confidence: Their will to win is never in question, and we like many chairmen at home and abroad, have been impressed with young coach David Wagner’s work. However, are the realities of a Premier League season starting to bite for the Terriers? Defensively, usually so solid, they’ve shipped eight in their last three games, crashing 4-1 at home to West Ham last time out. Their dogs of war will sense blood and we expect the Terriers to go at Stoke from the off… time will tell if their bite matches their bark.
Glen Johnson is out for Stoke who have doubts over the fitness of both Pieters and Shawcross. Huddersfield’s duo Elias Kachunga and Jon Stankovic will both watch from the stands, and could be joined by Chris Lowe, who is a major doubt for this one.
What We Sayin'?
Both teams want this win, for differing reasons, and whilst we’ve lamented their lack of firepower, we’ve a feeling this could be a high-scoring affair, especially given their respective defensive frailties. An early goal to open the floodgates?
- 0-10mins 1st goal
- BTTS – yes
- BTTs +2.5 goals
- Depoitre 1st GS
- 2-2 draw
WEST HAM 3 V 1 BOURNEMOUTH
David Moyes and West Ham’s renaissance continues as they come into this game after smashing Huddersfield 4-1 last time out. That display was made even more impressive by the displays of Lanzini and Arnautovic. If he can continue to get these two firing then a top eight finish shouldn’t be beyond the Hammers, which in itself would be a result given their early-season form.
Bournemouth themselves will be buzzing, after they came from behind to put Arsenal to the sword last time out. That result was no fluke, either, as their vision and footballing ethos, instilled by young coach Eddie Howe, continues to flourish in a world that demands instant success. That result means they’ve taken seven points from a possible nine and they’ll fancy their chances this time round.
Javier Hernandez, Cheikhou Kouyate and Winston Reid are all doubts for the Hammers, though the ‘little pea’ has been playing as if encased in a pod this season and his absence won’t be too much of a concern. Diafra Sakho, Michail Antonio, Edimilson Fernandes and Jose Fonte all remain sidelined due to long-term injuries. Jermain Defoe and Tyrone Mings both remain injured for Bournemouth, who are also sweating on Josh King and Junior Stanislas, both with ankle knocks.
What We Sayin'?
Do Bournemouth have enough on the road? This is the question. To be or not to be: that’s another question, but not one we’re concerned with as we try to take down the traders and earn a few quid. The ls five games between these two has seen 23 goals scored! TWENTY-THREE. The Hammers have scored 1 goals in their last six PL games… do you see where we are going with this?
- BTTS – Yes
- Over 2.5 goals
- Over 3.5 goals
- Arnautovic 1s GS
- West Ham 3-1
MAN CITY 4 V 0 NEWCASTLE
‘Pop’ went that bubble, and the echo reverberated around Europe as Liverpool finally proved Man City were not invincible. However, the manner of that defeat, a 4-3 reversal to one of the continent’s most attacking teams, suggested that Man City are far from done. Newcastle will do well to expect a backlash from Pep’s team. They beat Watford 3-1 last time they hosted at the Etihad, and they’ll be confident of recording a similar result against the Toon.
Newcastle are battling relegation, and partly one could point the finger at the club’s shambolic administration for the straits the Toon find themselves in. Benetiz’s men are battling for him, battling as hard as anyone out there and the lack of investment and security regarding the club’s future should be a criminal offence. That said, football is played on grass, not courtrooms and it’s up to the players themselves to stand up and be counted… and that they are. They drew against Swansea last time out, but have actually won their last two games on the road albeit against lesser teams than the one they face tomorrow. The last time they played, like so many before them, they went defensive against City; it’ll be interesting to see what tactics the wily maestro Benetiz employs this time round.
Delph is a major injury concern and is likely to see his place taken by Danilo. Sergio Aguero will continue to cover for the injured Jesus. Newcastle come into the game injury-free.
What We Sayin'?
The Citizens have won 13 of their last 14 Premier League games with Newcastle including a 6-1 hammering when the Toon last visited. Back to the future, anyone?
- BTTS – NO
- Sterling 1st GS
- City to win both halves
- City 4-0
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