It’s week 27 of the StanJames Predictor Competition, and what a week we have in store! The NLD kicks things off as Spurs host Arsenal in an absolute corker of a match. Crystal Palace fly north to Goodison, the Potters welcome the Seagulls, free-scoring Swansea take on the Clarets at the Liberty, the Hammers we be wary of giving The Hornets too much space at the London Stadium, whilst champions-elect Man City take on Leicester at the Etihad in the evening’s game.
With so much action awaiting, 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 SIX of Saturday's matches for Week 27 of the FREE-TO-ENTER StanJames Predictor Competition.
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TOTTENHAM 2 V 2 ARSENAL
There are games in world football that simply need no introduction. No hyperbole. The players need no motivation. The games simply ARE. The North London Derby is such a game, avidly watched around the world by football fans everywhere. Spurs sit a place and four points above their arch-rivals, and with such a cut-throat battle for a top-four spot raging, this tastiest of derbies takes on an added facet. So, who wins?
Tottenham come into the match having secured a place in the FA Cup fifth round following their 2-0 win at Wembley over Newport County. The extra game will not have featured in manager Pochetino’s plans, but it did allow him to give run outs to fringe players, and for senior players coming back from injury, such as Toby Alderwerild. The Lilywhites, who drew 2-2 with Liverpool last weekend, are unbeaten in 10 matches, and super striker Harry Kane netted his 100th PL goal in that encounter. The England hitman loves a North London Derby, and would like nothing better than to score in this one. The new look Arsenal will need to keep him in check if they’re to get anything from this one.
Speaking of the new look Arsenal, life after Alexis Sanchez seems to be going swimmingly. New signings Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang have slotted in well, and the Gabon striker likes playing against Spurs, netting for Borrusia Dortmund in the Champions League against the Londoners. The Gunners simply blew Everton off the park last time out, smashing the Toffees 5-1 and they’ll take a lot of confidence from that match. However, Arsene Wenger will be aware of the Gunners disastrous away form this season, though they do have nine wins in nine matches at Wembley since 2014! Tottenham Hotspur have lost only one of their last seven Premier League matches against Arsenal (W2 D4), though that loss came last time out. The Gunners won the reverse fixture 2-0, and how their fans would love a repeat of that scoreline in this one!
A test of a side’s mettle is their ability to juggle their side and manage their squad. The FA Cup midweek, Arsenal on Saturday, and then Juventus in the Champions League next Tuesday, this really is a litmus test of Spurs ambitions, and their ability to deal with them. The Lilywhites could throw new signing Lucas Moura into the mix for a baptism of fire, whilst Toby Alderweirld out for 100 days, is sure to start.
The Gunners will give a late fitness test to Petr Cech on Friday, as will Danny Welbeck. Santi Cazorla remains a long-term absentee.
What We Sayin'?
Some may accuse us of sitting on the fence, but we can see this being an open game, with chances a plenty. Wenger is likely to eschew his favoured back four for a more attacking back three, which could negate Spurs’ options from the wings. Arsenal will be the fresher of the two sides, but a concern will be their leaky defence, having failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five games. Our thoughts?
- BTTS – YES | 4/9
- BYYS - Yes +2.5 goals | 4/6
- Hary Kane 1st GS | 9/4
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 1st GS | 7/2
- 1st goal - Mins 1-10 | 15/5
- 2-2 Draw | 17/2
EVERTON 2 V 1 CRYSTAL PALACE
Everton have had a full week to group together and massage their individual and collective wounds. One thing Sam Allardyce demands of his teams is a resolute desire to fight, and defend. Everton’s abject surrender, albeit to a red-hot Arsenal, will not have sat well with the big man, and he’ll expect a response from his side when they host Palace on Saturday. Theo Walcott has settled in quickly to life on Merseyside and the Toffees will look at the former England winger’s pace as an outlet to attack a Palace team who will be on the front foot, given the fact that the south Londoners have won more Premier League away matches against Everton than against any other club, and have not lost at Goodison in their last four PL visits.
Okay, Palace go to Goodison with recent history in their favour, but they’ll be wise to remember that Gylfi Sigurdsson has been involved in six goals in his last five Premier League starts against Crystal Palace, scoring twice and assisting four. They’ve only lost once in their last five games, a 1-4 roasting by Arsenal, but successive 1-1 draws against Newcastle and West Ham, and the fact that the Eagles are goal-shy away from home (Brighton and West Brom are the only side to score fewer goals away from home this season than Palace’s 8) will mean squeaky bum time for the travelling fans.
Seamus Coleman could return after recovering from a mild cold, whilst Ramiro Funes Mori completed 45 minutes and could feature at some point. James McCarthy remains a long-term absentee for the hosts. The Palace are not without injuries themselves: Wilfred Zaha is out for the month, joining Bakary Sako, Jeffrey Schlupp, Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Connor Wickham on the walking wounded list.
What We Sayin'?
This was a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture, and initially we fancied the same a low-scoring stalemate (1-1 pays 9/2). However, given the extent of Palace's inuries, and Eveton's home record, we're clambering off the fence with the following tips:
- BTTS – Yes | 10/11
- Walcott 1st Goal | 17/4
- Everton -2.5 corner handicap | 11/10
- Everton to win 2-1 | 17/2
STOKE 1 V 1 BRIGHTON
Under Paul Lambert Stoke are starting to play like the sum of their collective parts. Xherdan Shaqiri is finding his form once more, and the Swiss International can be exceptional when he’s in the mood. The Potters went down 2-1 to the Premier League’s in-form team, Bournemouth at the weekend and they’ll need to bounce back. Shaqiri opened the scoring and the hosts will be looking at him to provide some magic against Chris Hughton’s stubborn Seagulls. The hosts will also be able to recall forward Jese Rodriguez, who has been allowed leave on compassionate grounds.
Brighton’s Glenn Murray has scored in five of his last seven matches in all competitions, including each of the last three, and the big striker will be a focal point as Brighton look to hit on the break. They are unbeaten in three, and turned West Ham over 3-1 last time out, beating the Hammers at The London Stadium for the first time. Brighton’s problem is that they haven’t got the balance of playing away quite right yet; The Seagulls have scored the fewest goals away from home in the division. Understandable, given this is their first season in the Premier League, but against the team with the second worst home defensive record in the league Hughton would be wise to implement the motto of the club he graced for his playing career: To Do is to Dare. If faint hearts don’t win fair maiden, they certainly don’t win football matches!
Darren Fletcher looks set to miss out after picking up a knock. As we mentioned, Jese Rodriguez should be back in contention for a starting place. Brighton will give Jurgen Locadia a late fitness test after the new signing tweaked his hamstring. Jiri Skalak’s ankle remains a problem, whilst Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown is out for the season.
What We Sayin'?
The reverse fixture was an entertaining 2-2 draw, with both teams on the front foot looking for the winner. On current form, if this was being played at the Amex, we’d take Brighton for the win. However, it’s not, so…
- BTTS - YES | EVS
- Murray 1st GS | 6/1
- Shaqiri 1st GS | 15/2
- 1-1 Draw | 19/4
SWANSEA 1 V 1 BURNLEY
The Swans are floating – literally! They came through their FA Cup replay against Notts County in some style, winning 8-1, and the effect new manager Carlos Carvalhal is having on his new club is nothing short of miraculous. A 2-0 defeat to Spurs has been followed by a 1-1 draw against Newcastle, beating Liverpool and Arsenal (1-0 and 3-1 respectively) and a 1-1 draw away at Leicester. Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham is showing everyone why he is rated so highly and it’s difficult to understand why the Blues are scrambling around trying to sign the likes of veteran Peter Crouch when they have such young talent on their books. Burnley will need to keep an eye on him, for sure!
Burnley won the reverse fixture 2-0 at Turf Moor back in November, but the Swans were a totally different proposition back then. Sean Dyche’s team remain in seventh following a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Ma City last week, but they are without a win in their last 10 games. The Clarets are beginning to feel the effects of a demanding season, but Dyche will have them revved up for this one. After consecutive 1-1 draws, can they nick a win here?
Renato Sanches is out for a month joining long-term absentees Leroy Fer and Wilfried Bony on the sidelines. For the Clarets, Steven Defour is out, possibly for the season, and will watch the game alongside Jonathan Walters, Chris Wood, Dean Marney and Robbie Brad. Stephen Ward is lacking match fitness, but may feature as Dyche juggles his squad.
What We Sayin'?
Burnley are looking a little jaded. A fantastic season is taking its toll on Sean Dyche’s men and a visit to Swansea at the moment isn’t the best of places to go, especially since Carlos Carvalhal has been installed. True, the wans are flying at the moment, but we can see the two cancelling each other out.
- BTTS – Yes | 5/4
- BTTS - Draw | 7/2
- Abraham 1st GS | 4/1
- Barnes 1st GS | 6/1
- 1-1 Draw | 9/2
WEST HAM 1 V 2 WATFORD
West Ham will not fancy this one, despite being at home and unbeaten at the London Stadium in four matches. Watford seem to have hit a vein of form, evident in the 4-1 mauling of Chelsea, and whilst the two are only separated by one place in the league, the Hornets resurgence will be of concern to David Moyes, who looked jaded and dispirited in their recent 3-1 loss away to Brighton. The signing of Patrice Evra could offer an outlet for the Londoners, who can expect Watford to arrive on the front foot.
As mentioned, Watford smashed Chelsea at Vicarage Road last time out and will fancy taking on West Ham at the London Stadium. That startling win against Chelsea came after a lacklustre 0-0 draw away to Stoke and a cause for concern will be the fact that Watford have failed to win any of their last six matches on the road. The on-loan Barcelona winger, Gerard Deulefou, sparkled against Chelsea and the Hammers would be wise to keep him in check if they’re to get anything from this one.
West Ham will be without Pedro Obiang, who is out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Carroll and Lanzini are long-term absentees, whilst Arthur Masuaku continues his six-match ban. If the Watford board need a few quid, they could do worse than rent out their treatment room for an episode or two of Casualty. Nathaniel Chalobah, Miguel Britos, Will Hughes, Molla Wague, Kiko Femenia, Christian Kabasele and Tommie Hoban are all out, though Cathcart, Cleverly and Gomes all face late fitness tests, and could feature.
What We Sayin'?
An interesting clash, this. West Ham will want to protect their home record, though injuries could see Moyes shuffle his pack. Zabaletta may slot into Central Midfield, and we may see Evra in a Hammers shirt. The Hornets will want to exploit any weaknesses, though they may finder it harder than they might expect. A fight then, which piques our interest in the booking points market...
- BTTS – YES | 8/11
- Deulefou 1st GS | 17/2
- Watford to win 2-1 | 9/1
MAN CITY 3 V 2 LEICESTER
Manchester City welcome Leicester City to the Etihad Stadium looking to get back to winning ways after drawing with Burnley last week. The Citizens are unbeaten in their last 25 home games and beat the Foxes 2-0 in the reverse fixture, but have looked a little jaded in recent games, leaving inspirational midfielder, the brilliant Kevin Du Bryne saying the team were ‘feeling rubbish’. To be fair to City, even though they have two/three world class players for every position, battling on four fronts whilst maintaining expectations is tiresome. The players have been given a four-day break from training this week, and it will be interesting to see what sort of affect that has on the team.
The Foxes arrive with the cloud of Riyad Mahrez’s one-man strike hanging over them. The on-off and eventual non-transfer of the ambitious Algerian casts a shadow over the game, but let’s put the politics to one side. Should he play he could be instrumental in the Foxes springing a surprise as they seek to shock the Champions-elect. The Foxes have struggled a little on their travels this term, losing 2-1 to Everton on their last road trip, and that was after going seven unbeaten on the road! Without a point from their last NINE games against City, Leicester will need to find inspiration from somewhere!
Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Benjamin Mendy remain long-term absentees for City, who could welcome back John Stones for this game. Delph is a few weeks away from full fitness. Mahrez, despite the common wisdom being he’ll miss this one, could feature. Leicester need points, and if they play as we expect, sitting back and relying on the pace of Vardy they’ll need a creative outlet. New recruit Diabate can expect to retain his place, though in-form Iheanacho could make way for Okazaki especially if Mahrez doesn’t figure.
What We Sayin'?
Could be a high-scoring game, this. Leicester to hit on the break, City to cement their superiority. Vardy loves playing against the big six, Aguero loves playing against anyone. We’re going to have a few dabbles on this game!
- BTTS – Yes | 9/10
- BTTS +2.5 goals | 11/10
- Vardy 1st GS | 7/1
- De Bruyne 1st GS | 17/4
- Vardy 1st GS, Man City win 3-2 | 250/1
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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