EPL Predictions: Week 25

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And so we farewell a mid-week round that did much to bolster Leicester’s title credentials, highlight Arsenal’s deficiencies and condemn Aston Villa to relegation. We now head to a weekend which has the potential to be as, if not more significant. With Manchester City v Leicester the highlight, top of the table clash, all eyes will be set on the early kick-off, however there is plenty of action to follow as well. Aston Villa and Newcastle have opportunities to win games, Southampton play have an enticing tie with West Ham, Everton have the potential to build some consistent form and Tottenham have the chance to create a sizeable void between themselves and 5th place because, oh yes, Manchester United are playing Chelsea.

2015/2016 Season EPL Predictions Record

Since this column began mid-way through the 2013/2014 Premier League season, we’ve tipped 460/846 results correctly for a success rate of 54.37%, whilst predicting 74 correct scorelines along the way.

  • Roman Barbera: 113/230 – 19 correct scorelines
  • Clinton Madden: 106/230 – 12 correct scorelines

EPL Predictions: Week 25 – Matchday 1, 2015/2016

(2) Manchester City v Leicester (1)

Venue: Etihad Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: March 4, 2015 (2-0)

A top of the table clash that represents ‘must-view’ football. The giants against the minnows, the riches against the relatively poor, there are no shortage of David v Goliath headlines that can come from this one. At the end of the day however, Leicester shut up shop at home against City and will likely do it again now that they’re travelling to the Etihad. Don’t be surprised to see a 4-2-3-1, with Vardy operating alone, being forced to run to little avail as City play out from the back around him. Ranieri struggled to flip the switch when attempting the ‘snatch and grab’ in the reverse fixture, so don’t expect Leicester to be at their potent best, even if they do go for the win late in the game. City’s scoring record at home however is second to none, and it would take a miraculous defensive effort for Leicester to be in a position to snatch a win in the 75th minute or later. City getting out to an early lead would be good for the game, and we won’t put it past Aguero and company to get that early goal and go on from there.

Key Statistic | Manchester City have failed to score at home, in the league, on just four occasions since December 2010.

Key Player | Nicolás Otamendi v Jamie Vardy – Otamendi was better against Sunderland than he has been in recent weeks. Still, the Black Cats had several opportunities to pull level and probably had enough chances to win the mid-week clash against City. Vardy meanwhile has emerged from a lull in form with arguably the goal of the season. His pace should trouble an overly ambitious City central-defensive duo, and witnessing a couple of legitimate penalty shouts wouldn’t surprise.

Prediction | Manchester City 2 – 1 Leicester City

EPL Predictions: Week 25 – Matchday 2, 2015/2016

(20) Aston Villa v Norwich (17)

Venue: Villa Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: March 2, 2014 (4-1)

Norwich’s away for continues to be a concern, whilst Aston Villa looked impressive in their lost to West Ham until Jordan Ayew’s dismissal forced them into a corner from which they couldn’t really have been expected to emerge. Without Ayew, Villa will struggle for goals, with their 8 at home this season a worry, especially when you consider almost half have come from the now-suspended striker. Norwich however come off a run of four consecutive losses, and have lost 7 of their past 8 away from Carrow Road. Villa have a legitimate chance of winning this one, even if their efforts int he transfer window and the loss of Ayew are enormous blows. Defensively, and through midfield, they’ve improved in recent weeks, and are actually undefeated in their past three at home. They’ll take something from this game, however whether they can snatch all three points without their best attacker remains a doubt.

Key Statistic | Norwich have lost 7 of their past 8 games away from Carrow Road (and have conceded 20 goals over those 7 losses). Villa are undefeated in their past 3 at home. 

Key Player | Rudy Gestede v Steven Naismith – Two 2015/2016 signings, Naismith is the more proven EPL commodity, however Gestede is arguably the more important player in this clash. Expect a change of style with Gestede playing a top the Villa formation, with supply from wide areas and set pieces now imperative to Garde’s chances of working a goal in this one.

Prediction | Aston Villa 2 – 1 Norwich

(8) Liverpool v Sunderland (19)

Venue: Anfield | Last Corresponding Meeting: December 6, 2014 (0-0)

Liverpool will be disappointed having dropped points to Leicester, and entering their fifth game in two weeks, will have fatigue to contend with as well. Sunderland were valiant against Manchester City, and arguably should have taken something away from the Stadium of Light. Away from home, the side has been more inconsistent however, with their 2-4 win against a 10-man Swansea outfit the only points they’ve earned away since late November. Under Klopp, Liverpool have a tendency to play to the standard of their opponents, with the disappointment of their 5-4 win over Norwich, 2-2 draw with West Bromwich and 1-0 win over Sunderland offset by strong showings against Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United. At home, against a team which struggles away from home and exerted a lot of energy trying to snatch a point mid-week, this is set up for a comfortable Reds victory.

Key Statistic | Sunderland’s away goal difference is -19, and they’ve conceded 34 goals so far this season. At home, they’re goal difference is 0.

Key Player | Jordan Henderson v Wahbi Khazri – Following a spell of several games in two weeks, Liverpool need their captain to get them over the line in this one. His ability to dictate play through midfield will be crucial, especially with the chances Sunderland offered to City on the break when they were pushing for a late winner mid-week. Khazri meanwhile impressed during his mid-week outing, and his set-pieces look troublesome for opposition defenders to say the least.

Prediction | Liverpool 3 – 1 Sunderland

(18) Newcastle v West Bromwich Albion (13)

Venue: St James’ Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: May 9, 2015 (1-1)

Newcastle’s home form has been respectable this season, and whilst they were disappointing for the opening 70 minutes against Everton, they eventually found a semblance of control as the game came to a close. That momentum can be taken back to St. James, where the Magpies have taken 11 points from a possible 15 since the start of December. The Baggies meanwhile have become draw merchants, finishing level in three of their last four games. Their only wins since October have come at home, whilst their recent away showings have seen them lose to Swansea and Southampton. One goal over their past 3 matches will be a concern for Tony Pulis, who now has a niggling Berahino injury hampering his undermanned attack. Newcastle should win this, especially with dissent running through the ranks at Albion.

Key Statistic | West Bromwich haven’t won a game away from home since October (1-0 against Norwich). Newcastle are undefeated in 4 of their last 5 home matches.

Key Player | Georginio Wijnaldum v Salomón Rondón – Both players have been crucial to their side’s attack this season, however the support provided to Wijnaldum is far greater than than provided to Rondon. The Albion striker began life in the league with promise and will look to build on last weekend’s late equaliser.

Prediction | Newcastle 2 – 1 West Bromwich Albion

(9) Stoke v Everton (12)

Venue: Britannia Stadium| Last Corresponding Meeting: March 4, 2015 (2-0)

Everton have struggled with consistency this season, however with their League Cup campaign over and their FA Cup ambitions still in their infancy, the Toffees’ EPL form might stabilise. Unable to put Newcastle to the sword until stoppage time, converting Roberto Martinez’s high-possession style into clear-cut chances has proven difficult of late. Everton are undefeated on the road since October, however have won just 1 of their 6 away fixtures in that time. Stoke meanwhile are undefeated in 7 of their 9 previous matches at home, losing to Watford and Crystal Palace in somewhat surprising circumstances. That run of form came on the back of Bojan, Shaqiri and Arnautovic, however after being held scoreless in their past three, Mark Hughes has to have concerns. This represents an easier fixture for Stoke, however with just 5 shots on target over their past three matches, Stoke will need to pack their finishing boots to be in with a chance.

Key Statistic | Stoke have mustered just 5 shots on target over their past 3 games, and managed 0 against Manchester United midweek. 

Key Player | Jack Butland v Tim Howard – Tim Howard has had question marks hanging over his continued selection all season. The Everton faithful have arguably been harsh, however the American’s best performances have been saved for away games this term. Butland meanwhile has tailed off from his early season form, but will remain crucial in a match against a side that averages 50% more shots on target per game than his own.

Prediction | Stoke 0 – 2 Everton

(16) Swansea City v Crystal Palace (11)

Venue: Liberty Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: November 29, 2014 (1-1)

Two of the more disappointing teams in the league over the past few months, Swansea appear to have turned a corner under new management. A win over Watford, an impressive showing against Everton and an unlucky draw against Albion capped off a strong three weeks, however this weekend’s clash against Palace looms as their most important yet. In with a chance to keep touch with the middle of the table, Swansea will rely on their reformed formation to stifle what has become an abysmal Palace attack. Having scored just twice over their past 7 games, Alan Pardew may need to call upon Emmanuel Adebayor more this coming weekend. As the club’s biggest signing of the recent window, the Togo international will need to add to his 96 EPL goals if Palace are to challenge in this one.

Key Statistic | Palace have scored just two goals over their past seven league matches.

Key Player | Andre Ayew v Emmanuel Adebayor – Ayew has been revitalised by Swansea’s abandonment of the 4-4-2 diamond formation played under Garry Monk. Deployed in a more advanced role, Ayew has 2 goals and 2 assists over his past 4 games after posting nothing in either category over his previous 7 outings. Adebayor meanwhile has the finishing ability and general quality to score goals, something that Palace strikers have persistently failed at this season.

Prediction | Swansea City 1 – 1 Crystal Palace

(3) Tottenham v Watford (10)

Venue: White Hart Lane | Last Corresponding Meeting: March 17, 2007 (3-1)

Six weeks ago, this would be shaping as a must-watch game, however Watford’s recent fall from grace has been steep. Ighalo and Deeney have dropped off in recent weeks, scoring just once each since Boxing Day. Watford have endured a difficult run of fixtures since that time, facing Leicester, City, Southampton and Chelsea, however none of those fixtures will have been as difficult as their trip to White Hart Lane. Tottenham have won 6 of their past 8, and have lost just twice since the opening weekend of the year. Both were at home, which should give Watford hope, however the manner of Tottenham’s wins of late has been overwhelmingly convincing. Dele Alli has been exceptional, whilst Harry Kane has contributed regularly and Toby Alderweireld has thrived in the absence of Jan Vertonghen. In all, Watford should struggle to score, whilst Tottenham having scored 10 goals over their past three league games is ominous for the Hornets.

Key Statistic | Tottenham have the league’s tightest defence, having conceded just 19 goals this season (9 at home). 

Key Player | Dele Alli v Odion Ighalo – Watford and Ighalo never got going against Chelsea, and were fortunate to emerge with a point courtesy of several stunning Gomes saves. Alli meanwhile has been exceptional of late, scoring 5 goals and assisting a further 4 since the start of December. Battling an illness, his withdrawal from this weekend’s match would be significant.

Prediction | Tottenham 2 – 0 Watford

(7) Southampton v West Ham United (6)

Venue: St Mary’s Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 11, 2015 (0-0)

As someone who is progressively falling in love with West Ham, it’s almost irresponsible for me to pen this preview. Regardless, the Hammers have lost just 1 of their past 11 and should enter this game as deserved favourites. Impressively, the first five games of that (almost) undefeated streak came when the team was in an attacking slump (2 goals over 5 games). The returns of Dimitri Payet and Enner Valencia however have triggered a resurgence, a period over which the side have netted an average of two goals per game over their last six games.

Southampton meanwhile are undefeated over their past four, having beaten Watford, Albion, Manchester United, and earning a point at Arsenal. Leaving aside that they should have lost against the Gunners, Southampton have kept four consecutive clean sheets, posting an aggregate of 6-0 over the past month. This is the most under-rated match-up of the weekend, and will likely see Southampton press and West Ham look to counter. Expect a thriller that deserves to have honours even at the end of the day.

Key Statistic | Southampton have kept four consecutive league clean sheets. West Ham have averaged two goals per game over their past 6 matches, scoring in each fixture over that period.

Key Player | José Fonte v Enner Valenia – Southampton haven’t played a side as versatile as West Ham in recent times. Albion and Watford don’t have the counter-attacking prowess of the Gunners, whilst United and Arsenal both look to dominate possession and are often susceptible on the break as a result. José Fonte may not have the pace to match up on the break, however is one of the better organisers in the league.

Prediction | Southampton 1 – 1 West Ham United

EPL Predictions: Week 25 – Matchday 3, 2015/2016

(12) Bournemouth v Arsenal (18)

Venue: Vitality Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: December 28, 2015 (0-2).

This is a tricky fixture for the Gunners, who haven’t won any of their past four EPL fixtures and have been kept scoreless in their past three. By the same token, their second most recent game win was against Bournemouth, a side they’ve never lost to. The Cherries have found a winner in former Gunner Benik Afobe, who has netted in each of his last 3 Premier League outings. A classic striker, who doesn’t need clear-cut chances to bundle the ball into the net, he’s perfectly suited to play against an Arsenal outfit often criticised for playing football for aesthetic over substance. The Cherries have been inconsistent over the past two months, however one constant remains their ability to defend resolutely, particularly at home. Aside from a 3-1 loss to West Ham, in which two goals came from free kicks, Bournemouth haven’t conceded multiple goals at home since November. Arsenal shouldn’t run away with this, but they should be good enough to build on their defensive record of 5 clean sheets in their past 7 games to earn a win.

Key Statistic | Bournemouth have not conceded multiple goals from general play at home since November (10 games).

Key Player | Benik Afobe v Olivier Giroud – Whilst Afobe makes his presence known to the league, Olivier Giroud is suffering a form slump we can only associate with fatigue. The Frenchman had 69 minutes off against Chelsea, however has missed just 31 minutes of league action aside from that since he returned to starting in early November (15 games). Interestingly, Bournemouth haven’t conceded an EPL goal to an out-and-out number 9 since Romelu Lukaku scored in November. The past 10 goals they’ve conceded have come from wingers (2), midfielders (4) and defenders (4).

Prediction | Bournemouth 0 – 1 Arsenal

(10) Chelsea v Manchester United (14)

Venue: Stamford Bridge | Last Corresponding Meeting: April 18, 2015 (1-0)

Traditionally, this would have been the fixture of the round. Now, it ranks 2nd at best, fourth at worst. Neither side has thrived this season, however both enter this game in a semblance of form. United are undefeated in 5 of their last 6 (3 wins), whilst the Blues are undefeated in their past 8 (3 wins). Chelsea have endured the tougher fixtures of late, however they’ve also had several winnable games at home in which they’ve settled for a point. At Old Trafford in late December, Guus Hiddink shut up shop in search of a point, and was very fortunate to escape with one. This time around, expect both clubs to look for all three in what should be a game with greater intrigue. Both sides have been incredibly inconsistent both tactically and performance-wise in recent times, however how Chelsea’s veteran defence matches up with the likes of Martial, Lingard and Rooney (all scorers against Stoke midweek) will be thrilling. Chelsea won’t lose this one, and should come away with a narrow win against a United side that has drawn with Newcastle, edged past Liverpool and Lost to Stoke and Bournemouth over their past four trips away from Old Trafford.

Key Statistic | Manchester United have won just 1 of their past 4 away games. Chelsea are undefeated over their past 9 meetings with United in all competitions. 

Key Player | Wayne Rooney v Diego Costa – Two very different characters who have had two relatively similar seasons. Last time these sides met, both teams were still in the midst of an abysmal form run. Since Christmas, both have 5 goals and 2 assists.

Prediction | Chelsea 1 – 0 Manchester 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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