EPL Predictions: Week 15

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The group stages in Europe are behind us, and with the Christmas period upcoming there isn’t really a better time to be a Premier League fan. There are a couple of matches of note on offer this weekend, but for the most part it is a chance for the cream to rise to the top, and those dwelling in the middle of the table to make a push before the transfer window opens in January. Hopefully we have a straight forward and successful week of EPL Predictions ahead, but we’re too experienced at this to not expect an upset or five. Without further ado, here we go.

2016/2017 Season EPL Predictions Record

Since this column began ahead of the 2014/2015 Premier League season, we’ve tipped 523/956 results correctly for a success rate of 54.71%, whilst predicting 94 correct scorelines along the way.

  • Roman Barbera: 47/90 – 8 correct scorelines
  • Clinton Madden: 42/90 – 5 correct scorelines

* No tips were provided for weeks 10-14 this season, so the total number of tips provided is 50 fewer than the number of games that have been played this campaign.

EPL Predictions: Week 15 – Matchday 1

Watford vs. Everton (Vicarage Road)

Watford have endured a tough month of football, with a 2-1 home victory against Leicester the only thing they’ve had to smile about. Losses to Stoke, West Bromwich and Liverpool have been the result of a failing attack and a porous defence, however against Everton the Hornets have a legitimate opportunity to get back on track. The Toffees have won just 1 of their last 9 EPL fixtures, and have taken 1 point from the last 12 available away from Goodison, scoring just 1 goal in the process. The loss of Yannick Bolasie is set to make scoring even more difficult for the visitors, and whilst Watford concede an average of 1.5 goals per game at home this season, the Toffees are no lock to trouble the error-prone Heurelho Gomes. A low-scoring game seems likely, with Everton knowing they’ll have to keep it tight to take something away from Vicarage Road. A narrow home win wouldn’t surprise but the Toffees have bundled home a goal in 4 of their last 7 and should be able to do so again here.

Key Player | Romelu Lukaku – Continuing the trend of Everton struggling to score, Lukaku is the only attacking threat Everton possesses who hasn’t clearly regressed from last season. Enner Valencia may have a chance to impress without Bolasie, but Barkley has been horrific, and Mirallas, Lennon and Deulofeu haven’t stamped themselves with enough regularity.

Prediction | Watford 1 – 1 Everton

Swansea City vs. Sunderland (Liberty Stadium)

Sunderland’s recent resurgence has robbed the Premier League of its last point of predictability. The return to form has been based on significant improvements in both defence and attack, thanks in large part to Jordan Pickford and Jermain Defoe respectively. David Moyes’ settling into his managerial role has also had an influence, but can he ensure his side retains the momentum they’ve built over the past few weeks? In attack, you would assume the form will be built upon against a Swansea team that has conceded 9 times over their past two EPL fixtures. Whilst an improvement is expected from the Swans following a fixture against Spurs in which they were outshot 28 to 1, it remains to be seen whether Gus Bradley’s team can actually lift when facing adversity. Sunderland have the worst away team in the league for some time, conceding 40 goals in 19 away games last term, and there should be no shortage of goals in this game, but neither side has shown enough consistency to earn an edge. Split the honours in this classic six-pointer.

Key Player | Jermain Defoe – The most prolific Premier League striker of 2016, Defoe has turned back the clock in his efforts to keep Sunderland afloat this season. With Swansea flailing in attack, one quality strike could seal the three points. 

Prediction | Swansea City 2 – 2 Sunderland

Arsenal vs. Stoke City (Emirates Stadium)

This all seems a familiar tale for Arsenal; excellent through November and December, only for it all to potentially come crashing down in the New Year. For now though, the Gunners have won their last three EPL/UCL matches by a combined 12-3 aggregate, Alexis Sanchez is firing and the club’s injury list looks relatively short. Stoke meanwhile are flying under the radar, winning five of their last seven in pretty convincing fashion. After a slow start to the season, the Potters are up to 9th in the standings, and have conceded just 3 times over their last 7 fixtures. History isn’t on their side in this one however, Arsenal have won their last 14 home matches against the Potters, and whilst Wenger’s men have had a tendency to struggle against more physical, outright defensive sides in the past, Stoke don’t play like that anymore. Mark Hughes has built a side that is set up to emulate Arsenal, not to beat them, and for that reason, Stoke’s incredibly fortunate run of fixtures (that they have admittedly made the most of) will end in defeat at the Emirates.

Key Player | Giannelli Imbula – After a disappointing start to life in the Premier League, Stoke’s record signing appears to be finding his feet. Breaking up play in the middle of midfield and trying to conduct something constructive against what is likely to be a defensive midfield tandem will be key to Stoke getting anything from this game.

Prediction | Arsenal 2 – 0 Stoke City

Burnley vs. Bournemouth (Turf Moor)

Another of the least consistent teams in the Premier League, Bournemouth’s thrilling 4-3 win over Liverpool on the weekend is just as likely to be followed up with a drubbing at the hands of Burnley as it is anything else. The Cherries have posted two sensational, high-scoring wins over the past two months, but have struggled to string results together. Burnley meanwhile have had serious issues scoring goals aside from one match against an incredibly porous Crystal Palace outfit. Keeping in mind that Bournemouth explode for 4-6 goals once a month, we still believe this will be a tightly fought contest that will be decided by a goal at most. The Cherries have tried to keep their trips away from home as congested as possible, looking to defend deep and slow the tempo when possible. Burnley have shown the tools to succeed at home (4 wins from 8 matches, with losses coming against Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Swansea on opening day) and we’re confident they’ll take something from this clash. Whilst Burnley home games have been high scoring this season, the return of Tom Heaton combined with the significance of this match lead us to favour a low scoring clash. For what it is worth, these sides have played twice in the last five years with both meetings finishing 1-1.

Key Player | Artur Boruc – Heaton’s return is massive for the hosts, but the main concern for Bournemouth should be their own shot stopper. The man who has replaced Heurelho Gomes as the league’s most erratic keeper has been incredibly inconsistent over the past fortnight and will look to bounce back here.

Prediction | Burnley 1 – 1 Bournemouth

Hull City vs. Crystal Palace (KCOM Stadium)

Aside from an unexpectedly long run in the League Cup, there is very little to smile about at Hull. The side has fallen away after am inspirationally strong start to the campaign, and whilst the defensive frailties on show in September have been remedied, Hull lay claim to the least effective attack in the league. With just 11 goals through 14 games, and getting off an average of 9.1 shots per fixture, Mike Phelan is probably ecstatic his side is set to play one of the league’s worst defensive sides. The prospect of a shootout (even if it ends in defeat) could be crucial to the confidence of a makeshift attack led by Adama Diomande in the absence of Abel Hernandez. For the hosts, the return of Loic Remy is insult to injury, with the former Chelsea man a clear upgrade on any player they could possibly deploy up front. Palace perform reputably away from home, with 7 of their last 15 wins coming away from Selhurst, and with Hull reeling we’re expecting another three points here.

Key Player | Loic Remy – Hull’s Abel Hernandez being ruled out for another 3 weeks whilst Loic Remy returns for the visitors just about summarises the Tigers’ season. The Frenchman is perfectly poised to help his side pad the distance between themselves and the relegation zone.

Prediction | Hull City 1 – 3 Crystal Palace

Leicester City vs. Manchester City (King Power Stadium)

Last season, these fixtures were both significant and enthralling. This season, the pressure is on both managers, as Claudio Ranieri’s side looks to back up from European competition with a victory and Guardiola looks to maintain his side’s current gap to Ranieri’s former side Chelsea (what a small world). Both teams rested key figures in Europe midweek, something that probably is to the advantage of Leicester given their relatively smaller squad. City have conceded in each of their last seven fixtures, whilst both teams have scored in six of Leicester’s last seven. In the reverse fixture last season, everything pointed to goals, but these sides played out an intense 0-0 draw. The context is completely different this time around – Leicester lack an aura, City need a win, and there is far less attention being paid to this particular fixture. Expect an open encounter, with Leicester looking to capitalise on a dysfunctional back four on the counter. Even without Aguero, City have the potency in attack to shred a team that has given up two goals to each of Middlesborough, West Bromwich and Watford over the past two months, and we expect them to do so.

Key Player | Kelechi Iheanacho – He toiled in midweek and will probably get the start here in Aguero’s absence. Sterling could be deployed, however the physicality of Huth and Morgan is more suited to a genuine number 9.

Prediction | Leicester City 1 – 3 Manchester City

EPL Predictions: Week 15 – Matchday 2

Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion (Stamford Bridge)

Very few matches are as predictable as this one is set to be. West Bromwich have the lowest possession rate in the league (41%), and their away games average 1.2 goals per game fewer than their home matches. As a result, expect the Baggies to sit deep and defend in an attempt to take something from a match they should have no expectation of being in. Chelsea’s form has been irresistible of late, with the side’s stars finding the form that led them to the title in 2014/2015. Albion’s recent results have been encouraging, however they appear to be highly contingent on the quality of opposition faced in recent weeks. Chelsea marks a notable upgrade on the likes of Hull, Burnley, Watford and even Leicester, so a comprehensive win along the lines of the Blues’ 5-0 drubbing of Everton wouldn’t be a surprise. Recent history between these sides suggests a close but high-scoring encounter, with the last 9 matches being split three-a-piece and witnessing and average of 2.8 goals each. The hosts should take the three points as they secure their seventh clean sheet and ninth win from their last 9 league fixtures.

Key Player | Eden Hazard – Once considered the Premier League’s response to Messi, there are few better stories this season than the resurgence of the Belgian star. Antonio Conte has him firing on all cylinders and the Baggies are likely to be the worse for it.

Prediction | Chelsea 3 – 0 West Bromwich Albion

Southampton vs. Middlesborough (St. Mary’s Stadium)

Southampton’s European obligations were their undoing at the start of last season, and the club hasn’t dealt with backing up from mid-week football any better this campaign. A win in the Cup against Arsenal was followed with a 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace, their Europa League match against Inter in early November was followed with a 2-1 loss to lowly Hull. Maybe being bundled out of the competition will prove a good thing yet again. Middlesbrough meanwhile have been sensational defensively of late, conceding just 4 times over their last 6 league games despite facing Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in that stretch. Their simplistic attack (a typically English hit-and-hope ‘long-ball’ tactic) has proven moderately effective of late, however will probably struggle against the combination of pace and speed offered by Jose Fonte and company. The absence of Charlie Austin is a huge loss for the hosts, with Shane Long more effective as a secondary option than an out-and-out number 9. Expect a low-scoring game in which Boro have a good chance to seal all three points after four straight away draws.

Key Player | Shane Long – Big shoes to fill with Charlie Austin going down. Having a difficult time off the field with family health issues, an opportunity to get out on the field will be welcome relief, especially in a game where 1 goal could very well decide the match.

Prediction | Southampton 0 – 1 Middlesborough

Manchester United vs. Tottenham (Old Trafford)

Not the glamorous contest we’d hoped for when the fixtures were initially released, Manchester United’s stuttering start to the season has been poor for the league. United have less time to recover from midweek action, however that is arguably the least of their concerns to this point in the season. Despite one of the more aggressive spending sprees in world footballing history, United have been unable to secure results. The primary reason is an seemingly infectious tendency to miss clear-cut chances. The Red Devils average the fourth most shots per game, and the 4th most shots from within the 6-yard box in the league this season, but have scored the 8th most goals. A reliance on crossing (most in the league) generally leads to a lower conversion rate, however with the likes of Pogba and Zlatan theoretically on the end of the delivery from wide areas, you’d expect more success.

Tottenham have also struggled in attack, however played the majority of their underwhelming football with Harry Kane on the sidelines. Expect both sides to score, but for United to somewhat halt their slide at home and secure a draw.

Key Player | Paul Pogba – Much was made of Pogba at Juventus (and rightly so) but in both the Euros and the early part of his second term at Manchester United, the hype has been unsubstantiated.

Prediction | Manchester United 1 – 1 Tottenham

Liverpool vs. West Ham United (Anfield)

This game has goals written all over it, and we don’t believe it will disappoint. The Reds will be livid having given up a huge lead late to Bournemouth, whilst West Ham have been incredibly poor defensively over the past week, giving up 9 goals over two games. Liverpool should welcome back Adam Lallana, a key figure to their early season success. Now relatively fit, the Reds should have no trouble slicing through a team that looks far less determined than they did 12 months ago. There are momentary glimpses from the likes of Payet and Oxford, but in all the Hammers haven’t enjoyed their move away from Upton Park. Competitive in their last three away games, a fired up Liverpool and a glut of fixtures to begin December should culminate in a humiliating loss.

Key Player | Dimitri Payet – We wanted to talk about Reece Oxford, but Payet’s significance to West Ham and the potential for him to jump this sinking ship in January makes his influence more urgent than ever.

Prediction | Liverpool 4 – 2 West Ham United

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On twitter @rombarbera. Australian sports by day, international sports by night. Co-founder of Blindside Sport. Fantasy sport addict.

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