Midweek, and we're back! Wednesday sees SIX Premier League games, so we're back at it! The StanJames.com Premier League Predictor Competition returns after a brief convalesence (did you see our score at the weekend - gulp!) Will you beat our 'experts' and pick up a free bet for your efforts?
Well, if you think you know your football, come and prove it!
The matches kick off at 7.45pm, so make sure you get your scores in before then as we cover all six of Wednesday's matches for Week 14 of the Predictor!
So, what do I have to do to enter this FREE COMPETITION?
All you have to do is head over to our Predictor Competition, complete the quick registration form then simply enter your selections for the upcoming Premier League fixtures. Three points are awarded for a correct score and one for a correct result. The overall winner will bag a £25 Free Bet and anyone who finishes in the top 25 players will receive a £5 free bet.**
Don't forget, in order to collect your prize you must have placed at least one bet (any stake) in the 14 days prior to playing. Full T&Cs can be found here!
** Free bets will be credited within 48 hours.
BOURNEMOUTH 1 V 2 BURNLEY
Bournemouth v Burnley. There was a time, not that long ago, when such a fixture may have had the neutrals agreeing to trudge around Ikea, gathering 'bonus' points for when they thought a 'sexier' game might come up. However, this has all the ingredients of being a really interesting dust-up between two teams bloodying the noses of the so-called bigger teams this season. Eddie Howe's Cherries are playing bright, expansive football, 'Tottenham light' some have called it, whilst Burnley, currently seventh in the league, have added a real resilience and defiance to their game. Bournemouth are unbeaten in three, drawing 0-0 at Swansea last time out, with three clean sheets to boot! They've only lost once at home, a tight 1-0 defeat to current champions Chelsea. However, Bournemouth are drawing too many at home, and it will be interesting to see if Eddie Howe goes all out for the points in this one, if only to relieve the pressure on Begovic, who has made the third most saves by a 'keeper this season!
Burnley's run of three straight wins came to a frustrating end at the weekend when they fell to a stoppage-time penalty, converted by Alexis Sanchez. It will be of scant consolation to Dyche, but the level of commitment, passion and skill shown by his team surely bodes well for a bright future. In fact, against the 'bigger' teams they have beaten Everton and Chelsea, drawn away at Tottenham and Liverpool, last narrowly to Arsenal, and took their bumps in a 3-0 defeat away at Man City, which flattered the hosts somewhat.
Bournemouth could welcome back Simon Francis who has served out his suspension, whilst goal-scorer extraordinaire, Jermain Defoe, may feature from the bench as he returns for injury. Former Claret Junior Stanislas is still a couple of weeks away from match fitness, while Brad Smith and Tyrone Mings remain long-term absentees. Dyche, no stranger to mind games, may decide to throw both Sam Vokes and Jack Cork into the mix against their former club. Dean Marney is back from his recent injury, though 'keeper Tom Heaton remains sidelined.
What We Sayin'?
Tougher to call than might be expected. A lot could come down to how Bournemouth approach this game. They have been installed as favourites, but that could be due to home advantage. We can see a testing game for both teams, with the Clarets edging it.
We'll take BTTS at EVS, even though only Manchester United (6) and Manchester City (8) have conceded fewer PL goals than Burnley (10) this season. Callum Wilson looked lively on his return, and we'll have a nibble a 7/2 for the Cherries' marksman to open the scoring. Burnley to win 1-2 is 12/1. Throw Chris Wood to score last in a 1-2 win and that jumps to 45/1 - lovely!*
ARSENAL 2 V 0 HUDDERSFIELD
Arsenal, struggling this season, are up to fourth in the Premier League. They beat a stubborn Burnley by a single goal last time out, Alexis Sanchez scoring a stoppage-time equaliser. Proof positive of how Wenger's men are grinding wins. Of course, they have ability in abundance, as they showed when virtually playing Spurs off the park the last time the two met. The fact that Arsenal can change styles and mix it up only goes to show why Wenger's men will be challenging for titles and trophies once again this term. The vaunted trio of Sanchez, Ozil, and Lacazette has finally been unleashed on the Premier League and the understanding already shown between the three can only mean nightmares for defences the length and breadth of the country this season. Arsenal have a 100% win record at home this season, keeping a clean sheet in four of six games, and they also boast a record of clean sheets in all five matches that Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal have started at the back together. those two sets of players, in attack and defence, will be the basis of any Arsenal success tonight.
Huddersfield have conceded 12 and scored none in their last six away games (own goals don't count!), losing five of those. However, anyone who saw David Wagner's team at Man City will know the terriers were mightily unlucky not to get something from that game. They went ahead through Nicolas Otamendi's own goal before Man City came back to win 2-1, Sterling with the decider. Huddersfield ended the match with 10 men after Van La Parra was sent off for handbags with Sane. He'll sit this one out, which is a blow to Wagner, who needs to start getting the points his team's displays have deserved.
'Wheelchair' Wilshire has been bemoaning his lack of game time, especially with the World Cup coming up, and the England midfielder could get a rare start after impressing last week. Walcott missed Sunday's win, but is expected to be fit and should be named in the squad. Ozil, it seems, didn't wrap up warm enough and misses this one with a cold! For Huddersfield, as mentioned, van la Parra misses this one through suspension. Elias Kachunga will step in for him. Jon Stankovic is still a few weeks away from fitness, whilst Phil Billing has undergone surgery on his ankle and is out until 2018.
What We Sayin'?
e were really impressed by Huddersfield at the weekend. Under Wagner, they have a young, dynamic and intelligent manager who has managed to get his ethos and message across to his charges. The German, who learnt his trade under Klopp at Dortmund has instilled a pride and confidence at Huddersfield which might keep the newboys punching at this weight next term. However, as the old cliche says, it's all about this game, the here and now. We can see Arsenal simply being too strong at the Emirates. Boring, we know, but we'll take Arsenal to win 2-0 (5/1) and Sanchez first GS (13/5). Arsenal's ability to retain possession, coupled with their speed of thought and movement could also see Huddersfield become frustrated. A late challenge, not malicious, just borne through commitment, is possible, which is why we'll nibble at a red card being shown (14/5).*
CHELSEA 4 V 0 SWANSEA
The Swans arrive in danger of sinking from the Premier League without trace. If you think it's too early in the season, too dramatic a reaction, to issue such a statement, please give your heads a wobble! Swansea are without a win in their last six games and are the league's lowest scorers. Chelsea, fresh from a 1-1 draw at Anfield, which saw in-for winger Willian grab a late point, have been far from the swaggering champions of last year, especially at home, but Conte's men have shown in flashes just what they are capable of. Far from flat-rack bullies, the Blues do seem to gain a psychological edge against struggling teams, which means this may be what seems to be a painfully long 90 minutes for the Welsh side.
Paul Clement's men ended a run of five straight losses with a point away at Bournemouth at the weekend, but they showed a real reluctance to press a team they might expect to be fighting relegation against. Bony, as fine a player as is, isn't the answer to their goal drought and it is difficult to see where the goals will come from. In Fabinaski they have the league's most worked 'keeper - expect him to add to those stats as Chelsea run riot.
Danny Drinkwater got a rare outing at the weekend, but expect Fabregas to return to the fold for this one, the Spaniard's ability to provide the cutting pass and assist favoured over the Englishman's work rate and endeavour. Michy Batshuayi remains sidelined with an ankle injury, and Charly Musonda is out nursing a knee injury. A personal tragedy has befallen Frederico Fernandez, who has returned home to Argentina following the death of his father. Abraham will miss this one, due to Chelsea being his parent company. Bony will lead the line once again, with Ayew partnering him up top.
What We Sayin'?
No problems for the Pensioners, who could play at walking pace and take this Swansea apart. Sorry Swans fans, but until your players take to heart the motto 'He who dares, wins' and start playing with drive and verve, they are there for the taking.
EVERTON 1 V 2 WEST HAM
Every summer hope is renewed for the battle that lies ahead. Sinews are stiffened, the blood pumps, the teeth set and the nostrils wide as the spirit is bent and we go at it once again. For two teams who spent a collective £200 million plus in those hazy, lazy days it was relegation either envisioned battling! For Koeman and Billic, the sack was inevitable as Everton and West Ham battle the drop. A relegation six-pointer? This is a nine-pointer, have no doubt about that. A loss here really could sound the death knell for either side, neither of whom are too big not to go down.
Everton have conceded nine goals in two matches, absolutely abysmal against Atalanta and Southampton respectively. The Italians were yet to win on the road, yet rocked up to Goodison and smashed Everton off the park. Until recently a point gained at Everton was seen as a point won - what's gone wrong? Well, seven defeats in nine games, new faces simply not blending together and a defence that is simply shipping goals for fun, it seems. The Toffees have conceded 28 goals already this term and that generosity sees no signs of stopping. Big name signings, such as the extremely talented Siggurdsson need to start performing, inspiring and rallying their teammates through their own endeavours lest Everton do the unthinkable and drop out of the top tier in English football, a nightmare for a club with a record 114 seasons in the top flight.
David Moyes won't have been the pick of some fans to replace Billic, but the Scotsman is an experienced campaigner and just might have the nous to turn West Ham's fortunes around. A spirited performance saw the draw 1-1 with Leicester last time out, the crowd rallying behind his team, and that united atmosphere patently inspired the Hammers to claw their way back into the match and claim the point. A similar performance and you feel they might have a little too much heart for Everton... we'll see!
If caretaker manager David Unsworth thought he had problems defensively before, then the absence of both Leighton Baines and Michel Keane, who picked up injuries against Southampton last time out, will surely give him nightmares. Add them to the likes of Mason Holgate, Martin Stekelenburg, Ross Barkley, Yannick Bolasie, Funes Mori, Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, who all remain long-term absentees and a clearer picture of Everton's woes transpires. Javier Hernandez and Sam Byram look set to miss out for West Ham, whilst Marko Arnautovic faces a late fitness test.
What We Sayin'?
A strange one to call. Both are punching well below their weight, but you feel either could shake off the lethargy and produce a display. Unfortunately, we've not seen much from Everton to suggest this will be anytime soon.
MAN CITY 4 V 0 SOUTHAMPTON
The question on everybody's lips is 'Can anyone beat Man City this season?' Huddersfield pushed them close, but they fought fire with fire and grinded out the win. Pep's Citizens are 8/1 to finish the season unbeaten, which will probably drop if they see off Southampton tonight, as we expect. However, taking things for granted has been the downfall of many a man, and Everton, with a draw, are the ONLY team to have taken points from Pep's side this season. Something to consider when you realise Southampton will be full of pep after their drubbing of the self-same Everton last time out. That said, Man City have the record number of points accrued after thirteen games and you sense it will be a team with rather more nous than Southampton who bursts their bubble if indeed anyone does!
Pellegrino knows he's up against it tonight. Not only is Pep a master tactician, he also boasts the Premier League's deepest and most impressive squad to choose from. Consider this: a team that has Jesus and Aguero up front, both on fire, see Sterling as their leading scorer. Not forgetting the likes of Sane and de Bruyne are weighing in with goals as well! Heck, City have scored 24 goals in six home games alone! It's unlikely Southampton will outscore City, but that's the approach we expect them to take. John Stones and Benjamin Mendy are out, which saw Walker playing as a makeshift centre-half in the game against Huddersfield. Charlie Austin, back after a lengthy lay-off himself, scored twice in the win over Everton. We can see Southampton playing more direct than usual - sitting back and plying long balls to the burly striker to make a nuisance of himself. Who knows... a deflection, a scuffed goal and it could be game on!
As mentioned, City are without John Stones and Benjamin Mendy. Southampton's only injury worry is the sidelined left-back Matt Targett.
What We Sayin'?
If. But. Austin.... yes football's a funny old game, but we can only see one tea laughing come the final whistle, and it's not the visitors. City to add to the record books with a comfortable home victory. City to win to nil: 10/11. City to score in both halves: 4/6. First goalscorer Sane: 7/2. City 4-0: 9/1.*
STOKE 1 V 3 LIVERPOOL
Can you do it on a cold, wet - erm, Wednesday, at Stoke? On paper, Liverpool have far too much firepower for Stoke, but Klopp's men may be a little fatigued after their exertions against Chelsea. Sevilla have shown that Liverpool's problems defensively remain and if Stoke get at them early Liverpool may struggle. However, it's the home team who need to get their season up-and-running, with just one win in their last four and two victories in their last 12 games. True, they were unlucky not to get anything at the weekend, but the Premier League is an unforgiving and cruel mistress and Mark Hughes' Potters, who sit just three points above the relegation spots, need to start accruing points quickly! Xherdan Shaqiri is showing the world what he is capable of and he could be key if Stoke are to get anything from this.
Liverpool arrive in fine form. Since losing 4-1 to Spurs they won four on the bounce, before drawing to Sevilla and Chelsea, both games they perhaps may have won. Going forward they are as good as anyone in the league, and if they do get off to a flying start they could well bury Stoke. That's a big IF, mind...
Stoke are without Stephen Ireland, Jack Butland and Geoff Cameron all of whom remain long-term injury concerns. Mame Biram Diouf seems to have overcome his own injury worries and should feature, as might forgotten man Sadio Berahino who could make a cameo appearance from the bench. Danny Ward, Adam Bogdan and Nathaniel Clyne are all out for Liverpool, whilst Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, both benched for the Chelsea clash, should make a return tonight. As we mentioned last week, Adam Lallana is fit again, so don't be surprised if the England International is thrown into the fray against Stoke.
What We Sayin'?
Is there a more in-form player in the Premier League at the moment than Mo Salah? The Egyptian is absolutely rocking and can be had at 3/1 to open the scoring. Firmino, rested against Chelsea, should make the starting line-up and is also 3/1 to score first. Given Liverpool's defensive frailties, BTTS seems reasonable at 4/6. Shaqiri, at 17/2, is an interesting prospect to open proceedings for Stoke. Lastly, we'll take a punt on our score prediction: Liverpool to win 1-3: 10/1*
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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