It's non-stop at the moment as another round of Premier League matches get going again! Manchester City v Spurs is the highlight, but a sizzling seven matches make-up our Saturday Special, so we'll crack on!
The first match kicks off at 12.30pm, so make sure you get your scores in before then as we cover all SEVEN of Saturday's matches for Week 18 of the FREE-TO-ENTER StanJames Predictor Competition.
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!
A sexy seven Premier League matches to predict for Game Week 18. If you please, all predictions to be entered before 12.30pm on Saturdayday, December 16th. Don't have an account yet? Click here to open one.
** Free bets will be credited within 48 hours.
LEICESTER 2 V 0 CRYSTAL PALACE
With four wins on the spin Claude Puel has Leicester flying. The Foxes are playing with pace, determination, and verve, approaching something akin to when they won the Premier League. As we mentioned midweek, Demarai Gray is showing everyone just how good a player he is. He isn’t the only one thriving under Puel, who has changed the Foxes formation to an attacking 4-2-3-1. Mahrez, in particular, seems to enjoy the freedom working in a three affords him, with three goals and an assist in Leicester’s last four wins. Their destruction of Southampton midweek shows just how dangerous the Foxes are right now, with goals in abundance. Beware anyone visiting the King Power.
Crystal Palace are progressing well under the experienced guidance of Roy Hodgson. Tuesday’s thrilling finish at Selhurst Park saw Palace beat a well-organised, attacking Watford 2-1 and moved the Eagles up to 18th. Sure, they’re still in a relegation fight, but the character of that victory shows that they’ll not go down without a heck of a battle. They’ve been troubled on the road, but remain unbeaten in six, including victories on the road at Brighton and West Brom.
German defender Robert Huth remains out for the Foxes, and Matty James joins him watching from the stands. Hodgson has issues at the back, with Joel Ward and Timothy Fosu-Mensah injured at right-back. Mamadou Sakho remains sidelined until the New Year, whilst Connor Wickham remains a long-term absentee.
What We Sayin'?
Leicester City are unbeaten in each of their last four Premier League encounters with Crystal Palace (W3 D1), and we can see that streak continuing. Crystal Palace are yet to score an away goal this season and Benteke is struggling for form and confidence. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if he was dropped for this one, with Bakary Sako his replacement. We mentioned Palace's issues on the road and we can see that continuing. BTTS - NO and Leicester win is 7/5. Vardy 1st GS pays 3/1 and Leicester to win 2-0 is 15/8.
ARSENAL 3 V 1 NEWCASTLE
The Gunners have been misfiring spectacularly this season, with an abysmal away record their main source of irritation. True, they’ve had some brilliant games at The Emirates, most notably when they took Spurs to the cleaners, but they’ve been far too inconsistent for Wenger’s liking. Wednesday’s goalless draw against West Ham extended Arsenal’s winless run to three. They need to start picking points, starting on Saturday, if they harbour any serious intentions of a top-four finish!
Newcastle arrive in poor shape themselves. They are without a win in eight (seven defeats) and are without key midfielder JonJo Shelvey, carded midweek. They’re battling for boss Benitiz but simply don’t have the quality or strength of depth of squad the size and structure of Newcastle should have. Unless they’re careful they remain in danger of being sucked into the relegation mire.
Shkodran Mustafi has resumed training but Arsene Wenger may feel this match is a little early for the German International. Aaron Ramsey is out of action for up to three weeks so will not be available, while Theo Walcott is nursing a groin injury.
What We Sayin'?
Arsenal have a tough stretch of games coming up and as they look at the top of the table from seventh, they'll want t get back to winning ways as soon as possible. However, they'll be in a scrap when they take on Newcastle. BTTS seems likely, at 10/11. Alexandre Lacazette is the Gunners' top scorer and he is 9/4 to score first, while Magpies forward Dwight Gayle is 10/1. Our score prediction, Arsenal to win 3-1 is 9/1.
BRIGHTON 0 V 1 BURNLEY
It was three defeats in a row for Brighton, who lost 2-0 to Spurs midweek and remain without a win in six. The Seagulls showed plenty in that game, with a smart Lloris save the only thing preventing them from getting on the scoresheet themselves. Boss Chris Hughton will welcome playing at home, but worryingly for Brighton, there are only two teams in the division who have taken more points away from home than high-flying Burnley this season! One crumb of comfort maybe the fact that Brighton are unbeaten in six league matches against Burnley (W3 D3) since losing 1-0 in April 2012.
Burnley, who moved up to fourth, albeit temporarily on Tuesday, are absolutely fling under Sean Dyche. The Clarets are playing vintage football, an intoxicating blend of stubborn resilience, hard work, and a never-say-die attitude. Burnley have won six of their last eight Premier League matches (W6 D0 L2) and their 1-0 win over Stoke will only fuel their confidence. A real test for anyone at the moment!
Steve Sidwell remains Brighton’s only absentee. The midfielder is recovering from a back injury. For Burnley, Nick Pope will continue in goal as Tom Heaton is yet to recover from his finger injury. Stephen Ward is a doubt and faces a late fitness test after picking up a knee injury.
What We Sayin'?
There's a bi of value to be had here. Brighton are priced favourites, and whilst they have made the Amex a tough place to visit, Burnley's away form is there for all to see. It'll be tight, but we predict a narrow 0-1 win for the visitors, which pays 6/1. Burnley are 9/4 to win, which also seems like value to us!
CHELSEA 2 V 1 SOUTHAMPTON
They may be ‘tired’ but Chelsea’s players are hiding it well, with an energetic and thoroughly deserved win on the road against Huddersfield during the week. However, derby defeat against West Ham last Saturday sees Conte’s champions amongst the chasing pack. With the possibility of retaining the title diminishing, Chelsea’s priorities may change, slightly, and with a quarter-final clash against Bournemouth coming up Conte may look to shuffle his pack in a bid to gain some momentum during this busy Christmas period.
Southampton, who were defensively sound against Arsenal, only falling to a late, late Giroud equaliser were torn asunder by Leicester midweek. The very nature of that defeat will have rocked their confidence and a trip to Stamford Bridge might not be the best medicine for a team licking their wounds. However, that result will have focussed their attention, and we expect Southampton to sit back and frustrate Chelsea.
Morata is fit again after missing the midweek game and Conte is likely to start with his star signing. David Luiz remains sidelined as he battles to recover from a knee injury. One boon for Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino is that he has a fully-fit squad to choose from.
What We Sayin'?
As we mentioned, the midweek defeat could have shaken the Saints a little, and they may look to sit deep during this one, hitting Chelsea on the break. Indeed, if that tactic is employed then this could be tighter than our traders might think. Chelsea are 2/5 for the win, but we prefer BTTS/Chelsea win at 11/5. Pedro is on fire at the moment and if the wizard starts he's 4/1 to net first. Equally, Charlie Austin arrives in fine fettle and the big man is 13/2 to grab the opener. our score prediction, 2-1, pays 15/2.
STOKE 2 V 2 WEST HAM
Stoke suffered their fourth loss in five games on Tuesday losing 1-0 at Burnley and the pressure is really starting to build on Mark Hughes, who needs his team to start performing consistently. Their confidence is shaky, and any team that gets at them has a chance. With just one win in seven, hey sit in 15th in the league and desperately need to start picking up points. With Kurt Zouma sees him join fellow centre-back Bruno Martins Indi on the sidelines there’s a huge gap in the centre of defence. Can Stoke find the collective resilience to thwart a resurgent West Ham? Time will tell!
Speaking of a resurgent West Ham, that they are on the up is without doubt. Beating Chelsea and holding Arsenal in back-to-back London derbies is no mean feat and manager David Moyes has certainly stabilised the team, making the hammers a far tougher nut to crack. However, it’s on the road that West Ham remain vulnerable: Only Crystal Palace have picked up fewer points on their travels than West Ham, while no side has conceded more away goals this season than the Hammers. Can Moyes work his magic away from home? Again, time will tell!
Glen Johnson is a major doubt with a knee injury, whilst Jesse Rodriguez is still absent following the death of his father. Stephen Ireland is a long-term absentee. For the hammers, Jose Fonte remains out until the New Year. Sam Byram also misses this one through injury.
What We Sayin'?
We've a feeling Stoke could nick this one, but their defence looks far too shaky to persuade us not to go for the score draw. Arnautovic will want to have a stormer aganst his former employers and the Austrian International is a tempting 7/1 to open the scoring. Crouch's height could be used to attack a West Ham defence shaky on set pieces and the former England star is 9/2 to score first. BTTS and over 2.5 goals appeals at 7/5, whilst 2-2 pays 12/1.*
WATFORD 0 V 2 HUDDERSFIELD
Stat Attack: Watford are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League matches against newly-promoted sides at Vicarage Road (W3 D4). The Hornets have been in scintillating form of late, but injuries are starting to take their toll on Marco Silva’s side who suffered their third defeat in four games on Tuesday. The nature of that last-minute loss to Palace, and the red card, will have stung and Huddersfield should beware a backlash at Vicarage Road, though Watford’s home form has been a little suspect this term!
Huddersfield are a team who have really impressed this author. David Wagner’s side are limited, but honest. The German has installed a great work ethic and his side fight for one another for the full 90 minutes. They turned Brighton over last weekend, but have lost the rest of their last six games, admittedly against the likes of Chelsea, Everton, Arsenal, and City, all of whom they gave a real game.
Tom Cleverley and Marvin Zeegelaar are both suspended for Saturday, whilst Kiko and Richarlison are doubts. Nathaniel Chalobah, Craig Cathcart, Tommie Hoban and Isaac Success are all out with knee injuries, Miguel Britos is a major doubt, and Younes Kaboul, Stefano Okaka and Will Hughes are all absent through injury as well. Rumours that the tea-lady is set to feature are not as absurd as they sound, given the number of casualties Watford have! Philip Billing and Jon Stankovic remain out until 2018 for the Terriers, though Rajiv van la Parra is available again after serving his three-match ban.
What We Sayin'?
Initially we had this down as a 2-1 home win, but on further reflection Watford's injury woes are really telling.
MAN CITY 2 V 2 TOTTENHAM
Overhyped. Overpaid. Over here. Much has been written about Pep Guardiola, with many detractors claiming his name should be spelt ‘Fraudiola’… His Citizens have accrued a record 15 wins on the bounce and dropped just two points all season, earning themselves the tag of arguably being the division's greatest-ever side and, to be frank, they are simply a joy to watch. They brushed Swansea aside, netting four away in Wales. It could have been double that had they got out of second gear. However, it’s not champagne football that City have in the locker: they’ve grinded out wins with late goals, fought teams who’ve tried to dominate them physically, and, despite fielding an ever-changing back line, boast the joint best defensive record in the league. However, as Shaktar showed in their dead rubber, they can be got at… Will Spurs be the team to do just that?
Spurs have had a topsy-turvy campaign so far. Brilliant in the 5-1 mauling of Stoke, flat and a little fortunate against Brighton midweek. The football they’ve played in the Champions League, especially when they smashed Real Madrid has matched anything City have shown. However, it’s that inconsistency that’s troubling Spurs. A problem Pochettino has is that his core, key players have looked a little jaded of late, though recent rests for the likes of Dele, Eriksen and Kane will have helped. Spurs have also looked rusty on the road, taking just one point from a possible 12 against Manchester United, Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford.
City remain without defenders Benjamin Mendy, John Stones and Vincent Kompany, though Walker and Sane are expected to be back in contention after being rested midweek. Toby Alderwerild remains the big loss to Spurs, who will be looking to contain an attacking threat that is simply breath-taking. Wanyama, though training, is not fit enough to play yet whilst Davinson Sanchez is suspended.
What We Sayin'?
Here's a nodle scratcher... Man City have failed to win any of the last four meetings between the two sides, losing three and drawing one since their last victory in May 2015! The corrosponding fixture last year saw Spurs battle back from 2-0 down to claim a 2-2 draw. We can see a similar game unfolding today. City to score first is 1/2. Ageuro or Jesus to grab that goal is 9/4 and 13/5 respectively. BTTS and over 2.5 goals is 9/10. 2-2? 12/1 to you, squire!
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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