EPL Predictions: Week 32

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The international break is behind us and the run home to EPL glory has well and truly begun. With several season-defining clashes on the cards for this weekend, we could see relegation and European football battles decided almost two months out from the end of the season.

2015/2016 Season EPL Predictions Record

Since this column began mid-way through the 2013/2014 Premier League season, we’ve tipped 492/919 results correctly for a success rate of 53.53%, whilst predicting 75 correct scorelines along the way.

  • Roman Barbera: 145/303 – 27 correct scorelines
  • Clinton Madden: 134/303 – 15 correct scorelines

EPL Predictions: Week 32 – Matchday 1, 2015/2016

(20) Aston Villa v Chelsea (10)

Venue: Villa Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 7, 2015 (1-2)

There isn’t much going right for Villa and an additional week of practice is unlikely to fix anything. Chelsea are still in with a remote chance of playing European football next season, whilst Villa are almost guaranteed to be in the Championship in 2016/2017. Villa have lost their past 3 home games by a combined margin of 10 goals, and have scored just 2 goals over their past 6 games at all venues. Over their past three league outings, Villa have held strong for the opening 40 minutes, but have fallen away in second halves.

Chelsea have gone 14 games unbeaten in the league and have scored multiple goals in four of their past 5 EPL matches. Away from home they’ve tended to sit deep and grind out narrow wins on the break, but don’t expect Villa to be dictating the tempo here. Chelsea haven’t won any of their last 3 trips to Villa Park by more than 1 goal, but expect that to change this weekend. It is a matter of how many for the visitors.

Key Statistic | Villa have scored just 2 goals over their past 6 games.

Key Player | Jordan Ayew v Kenedy – Kenedy has been one of the few bright spots in Chelsea’s campaign and with Oscar set to leave int he summer, he’ll be out to impress. Ayew will also be looking to boost his value, with this year’s star signing surely set to abandon a sinking ship.

Prediction | Aston Villa 0 – 3 Chelsea

(3) Arsenal v Watford (14)

Venue: Emirates Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: October 14, 2006 (3-0)

Arsenal have struggled to win games like this for some time now. With just one win in their last four league appearances at the Emirates, the Gunners must be cautious coming into this one. Having lost to Watford, at home, in the FA Cup just under 3 weeks ago, there is even more reason to be concerned heading into this weekend. Arsenal’s players have had a more congested international break, but they have more to play for, with their 2016/2017 European and even league fate hardly sealed.

Watford exploited Arsenal on the break in the cup, with Ighalo creating chances at will around Per Mertesacker’s ineptitude. Mertesacker won’t be lining up this time though, and given Arsenal’s fixture schedule has become less congested after falling in Europe, it seem unlikely that they’ll stumble here. It is typically Wenger to finish the season well in the league and come up just short of silverware, and that strong run home starts now.

Key Statistic | Watford have lost 7 of their last 11 league matches and have failed to score in 4 of their last 5 away EPL games.

Key Player | Danny Wellbeck v Odion Ighalo – Ighalo was at the centre of everything in the FA Cup meeting earlier this month, but lacked quality in the final third. Wellbeck scored a consolation that day and has scored in 3 of Arsenal’s 5 league games since he returned from injury.

Prediction | Arsenal 2 – 0 Watford

(13) Bournemouth v Manchester City (4)

Venue: Vitality Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 13, 1999 (0-0)

Bournemouth are practically safe from the relegation scrap, meaning that the Cherries are essentially on a long victory lap for the next two months. In front of their home fans they’ve been humbled just once this season, a 5-1 loss to Tottenham in which many aspects of their effort were uncharacteristically poor. Whilst City beat Bournemouth by that same scoreline at the Etihad, this game has the potential to be very different. City have lost four of their last six in the league, with their lone win coming against Villa. The Cherries meanwhile have won three of their last four, with their only defeat coming at White Hart Lane.

A break from football can disturb momentum however, and with City set to have De Bruyne and Nasri available, a flailing midfield could finally see a meaningful injection of life. Over the course of a season, most clubs endure tough spells, but a side like City’s should be able to knuckle down and win games like this. They are far more dangerous on the break at present (see their inability to break down Norwich) and with Bournemouth set to try to dictate the tempo at home, expect City to strike at least twice.

Key Statistic | Manchester City away games this EPL season have witnessed just 27 goals (14 matches). That is less than two per game. Bournemouth however have conceded multiple goals in 3 of their last 4 home matches in the league.

Key Player | Benik Afobe v Sergio Aguero – Bournemouth are going to need to score at least twice to take anything from this game in our opinion. Aguero meanwhile has a lot to prove after injury and below-par finishing (by his standards) has curtailed his success this season.

Prediction | Bournemouth 1 – 3 Manchester City

(17) Norwich v Newcastle (19)

Venue: Carrow Road | Last Corresponding Meeting: January 28, 2014 (0-0)

Two sides who have been terrible away from home this season, Norwich has the advantage heading into this one. The appointment of Rafa Benitez however has us doubting what would have been a straightforward prediction one month ago. Newcastle held solid against Leicester at King Power, before playing well against a tricky Sunderland side at home in a high-pressure situation. At the same time, Norwich have conceded just once in their past 3 games, and have managed to keep clean sheets against a oddly potent West Bromwich side and Manchester City. It is difficult to gauge Newcastle so early under new management but the return of several key figures from injury – particularly in defence – before the international break means that Benitez has had a lot to work with over the last fortnight.

With just 3 points and four goals in goal difference separating these sides, a loss would be detrimental to either’s survival hopes. As Newcastle have a game in hand on the Canaries, it would prove almost terminal if the Magpies managed a win here.

Key Statistic | Norwich have conceded just once in their past 3 games. Newcastle have scored just 7 goals in 15 away matches this season.

Key Player | Steven Naismith v Aleksandar Mitrović – With Nathan Redmond out, the former Toffee will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders in this one. Mitrovic meanwhile has become a Newcastle favourite, with his passion the kind of thing necessary to escape relegation.

Prediction | Norwich 1 – 1 Newcastle

(8) Stoke v Swansea (15)

Venue: Britannia Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: October 19, 2014 (2-1)

Stoke may have won 4 of their last 6, but an easy draw combined with unconvincing wins over relegation-bound sides makes for flattering reading. Fortunately, Swansea aren’t world-beaters, but they have been on the improve in recent weeks. An away win against Arsenal is the result of most note, and whilst the majority of their positive results have come in Wales, they’ve done enough at White Hart Lane and the Emirates in the last month for us to believe they’re a shout in this one. Stoke have a number of injuries, with Walters, Pieters, Shaqiri and Butland the major doubts/outs. Swansea have a chance to take something away from this one and we’ll back them to do so against the odds.

Key Statistic | Stoke haven’t beaten an opponent by more than 1 goal since January 13 (Norwich City 3-1).

Key Player | Shay Given v  Gylfi Sigurðsson – With Butland and several other key players out, Sigurðsson will be afforded more space than he typically would be in this one. Given meanwhile will part-take in a battle to replace the impressive Butland.

Prediction | Stoke 1 – 1 Swansea

(18) Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion (11)

Venue: Stadium of Light | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 21, 2015 (0-0)

Another dud fixture on Saturday afternoon, Sunderland have lost just 3 of their last 10 matches but take on a West Bromwich outfit that has won 3 of its last 5 and secured a draw against Leicester. Away from home, West Bromwich will look to keep this game tight against a free-scoring Sunderland outfit. Whether they can manage that is another matter. Sunderland have scored twice in each of their last two home fixtures, with their attack finally starting to take some shape with the relegation threat becoming more and more real. A draw seems the most likely result in a game that could really swing either way.

Key Statistic | Sunderland have scored twice in each of their last two home games.

Key Player | Jermain Defoe v Solomon Rondon – In game like this, where Albion look to work on the break, Rondon’s ability to hold the ball up as an isolated striker will be crucial. Defoe has been exceptional this season despite some adversity with management.

Prediction | Sunderland 1 – 1 West Bromwich Albion

(5) West Ham v Crystal Palace (16)

Venue: Boleyn Ground | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 28, 2015 (1-3)

West Ham have been a favourite of ours this season, and whilst Palace have been as inconsistent as anyone in the league, they’re currently playing an entertaining brand of football. Whilst it hasn’t translated into success (Palace haven’t won a league game this year – 9 losses, 2 draws), they’re at least scoring goals again. Both sides have scored in 7 of their last 8 matches, however the same can’t be said for the Hammers. Defensively, they’ve been far more secure of late. Away from home, the Hammers have conceded 37 shots over their past two games, but in fixtures against Tottenham and Sunderland, they conceded an average of just 3 on target per outing.

West Ham have won 5 of their last 6 at home, whilst Palace are losing to everyone – including Aston Villa – away from home. This looks like a runaway win in a high-scoring game.

Key Statistic | Palace have conceded in each of their last 11 games and have won none of them.

Key Player | Dimitri Payet v Yannick Bolasie – With Adebayor potentially out of this clash, Bolasie becomes even more significant going froward for Palace. Payet is the best player in the EPL on current form.

Prediction | West Ham 3 – 1 Crystal Palace

(9) Liverpool v Tottenham (2)

Venue: Anfield | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 10, 2015 (3-2)

This game has the potential to be the highlight of the week. Tottenham are on fire at present and whilst Liverpool have shown glimpses this season, they’ve been horribly inconsistent. Throwing away a commanding lead against Southampton was just the latest of their many confusing results, but against a Tottenham outfit playing for the title, any error will prove costly. Spurs have conceded multiple goals in a game just twice this season (one of those times was in mid-August 2015). Liverpool have made a living on pressing high and scoring at will, but against Tottenham they’re far more likely to be repeatedly found out at the back that they are to break down the best defence in the league on multiple occasions. This is a trap game of sorts for Tottenham but they should be good enough to run out comfortable winners in a high-scoring game.

Key Statistic | Liverpool’s last 7 EPL games have witnessed 32 goals. Tottenham have conceded multiple goals just twice in the EPL this campaign.

Key Player | Harry Kane v Daniel Sturridge – Two English strikers going head-to-head in what could prove a shoot-out. Kane has had an exceptional year, but no team in the Premier League relies on their marksman as much as Liverpool do on Sturridge. When fit, the Reds can beat anyone, but can he break down a defence which is as strong in structure and formation as it is fast on the flanks?

Prediction | Liverpool 1 – 3 Tottenham

EPL Predictions: Week 32 – Matchday 2, 2015/2016

(1) Leicester v Southampton (7)

Venue: King Power Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: May 9, 2015 (2-0)

Leicester just need to keep winning, as do Southampton if they want to have another chance in Europe next season. Leicester haven’t lost at home since September, and have won four of their last five at King Power. They’ve kept a clean sheet in four of their last five and against a Southampton team that hasn’t kept a clean sheet in any of its last five outings, that could prove decisive. Leicester won’t create too many chances here if Southampton don’t press uncharacteristically high, but they won’t give many away either. Expect a low-scoring clash, and it is always difficult to look past Leicester in such a clash. We’re not hugely confident in this prediction however, as Southampton have proven themselves to be as nebulous as an EPL team can get.

Key Statistic | Leicester have kept a clean sheet in four of their last 5 games.

Key Player | Jamie Vardy v Fraser Forster – Vardy comes off a sensational international break, whilst Forster is just hoping the break in club action hasn’t halted his Saints’ run to the European places.

Prediction | Leicester 1 – 0 Southampton

(6) Manchester United v Everton (12)

Venue: Old Trafford | Last Corresponding Meeting: October 5, 2014 (2-1)

Two great clubs not having the greatest of seasons. United have won their last 3 at home whilst Everton have been far better away from Goodison this season that they have been in front of their often critical fans (we feel for you, Tim Howard). Everton have lost 4 of their last 7 games, but incredibly all of those losses came at home. Away, they have posted 3 wins and 5 draws from their last 8 trips. That type of a run isn’t fortune, it is the result of how well Everton play when their opposition looks to dictate tempo. With Manchester United keen to over-possess the ball, Everton should thrive on the counter, with their diminutive centre-back pairing no match for Romelu Lukaku, who just happens to be playing for a contract at a Champions League bound club. This game has upset written all over it but we can’t look past Everton’s inability to play to a level above their opposition. A 3-3 draw with Chelsea, a 0-0 draw with City, a 3-3 draw with Bournemouth and a 1-1 draw with Norwich – not exactly clinical.

Key Statistic | Everton have lost 4 of their last 7 games, but incredibly all of those losses came at home. Away, they have posted 3 wins and 5 draws from their last 8 trips. 

Key Player | David de Gea v Romelu Lukaku – De Gea has been terrific for United of late, and whilst he has no interest in the side’s future beyond this season, his value is going up by the game. Lukaku has similar motivations, and may even be de Gea’s teammate in Madrid next season.

Prediction | Manchester United 2 – 2 Everton

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