I was in Las Vegas last week, and I met up with the VSiN legend Mitch Moss for a few Stellas around Stadium Swim… The search party is still out for his partner-in-crime, Pauly Howard, who was on the missing list! Also on the missing list was my cash from the Under 2.5 play in Sheffield United vs. Wolves. How we didn’t get a sweep last week has still been bothering me on the plane back to Blighty! But it’s been five winning picks from our last six bets in the last two weeks, and we are hitting form in this column. Hopefully, we have more of the same this weekend.
Crystal Palace vs. Everton
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET
I have an inside track on Crystal Palace, as my brother is a season ticket holder there. He regularly tells me that the soccer being served up by Roy Hodgson is utter dross. Music to the ears of an Unders bettor like me, and that’s the angle of attack for my first selection of the week.
My brother called me this week and invited me to the club Christmas party, something we attend every year. That will be the only time we will likely see any fun at Selhurst Park in the coming weeks. Certainly, more than this match promises to offer, and I’m sure I just heard my 0-0 detector bleep at the mention of these two teams.
Palace have badly missed Eberechi Eze; without him, they look devoid of creativity. The England international made his return from injury last weekend and got 30 minutes of action off the bench. In added on time, he supplied the assist for the second goal in a 2-o win against woeful Burnley. But is he 100% fit? I don’t think he is.
Added to the Eagles not having Wilfried Zaha to rely on after his summer move to Turkey, it is no wonder why the bottom three and Fulham are the only teams to score less than their 10 league goals, especially with well-known pragmatist Roy Hodgson in charge. At 76 years of age, he is unlikely to change that approach.
Opponents Everton are showing shoots of recovery and signs of improvement each week. Under Sean Dyche, they have been heavily criticized but are now beginning to look much stronger and more resilient, much more like a typical Dyche side.
I thought they played really well at Liverpool, despite being reduced to 10 men in the first half. It took that all-star Liverpool forward line until the 75th minute to break the deadlock, and that came through a penalty, only adding a second goal seven minutes into added on time.
The defensive unit is working well, and they always have a chance with Dominic Calvert-Lewin finally back fit and scoring goals. The 1-1 daw with free-scoring Brighton last weekend proves that things are working at both ends of the pitch.
This game looks like two managers who are all about being organized and ensuring their team doesn’t concede rather than going out to entertain. Emphasized by the fact that, incredibly, there hasn’t been a single goal scored in any of Crystal Palace’s five home league games so far this season.
Under 2.5 goals is heavy minutes money, which isn’t my style, so I am playing Under 2 instead. Meaning if there is zero or one goal, we win with two, making the bet void and returning our stake.
When Palace played two similar sides to Everton in Fulham and Nottingham Forest at home this season, both games ended 0-0, the same scoreline as in the corresponding fixture last term, which was played as recently as April.
Pick: Under 2 goals at +125
Bournemouth vs. Newcastle
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET
Newcastle may be in the midst of an injury crisis with key players missing at both ends, but that doesn’t put me off taking on Bournemouth here, who have been awful all season. I’m holding a ticket on Andoni Iraola to be the next manager to lose his job at +2000, and I’m stunned he’s still there.
Defeat here, which I expect, could and should see the end of his reign ahead of the international break. The Cherries enter this fixture in the relegation zone with just one win to their name after 11 fixtures.
This looks to be a huge match for sixth-placed Newcastle. They are within touching distance of the top four, just four points behind Arsenal. But such is the nature of the top end of the Premier League. They need to keep winning to ensure they don’t lose ground.
A win buys them time to get a couple of players back fit over the break, ahead of a huge Champions League tie on the return to action away at Paris Saint-Germain.
Eddie Howe has created a fantastic team spirit, and it seems as soon as a player is out, another comes in his place and hits the ground running. There is talk they haven’t been great on the road, but remember, they went to Sheffield United, who are only two points worse off than Bournemouth and won 8-0!
The Geordies are now unbeaten in seven Premier League games and could have a field day against this leaky home defense. They have conceded 19 goals in their last six league games, losing five of them, and only have one clean sheet all season.
Iraola loves to press the opposition, but I don’t think his players are capable enough, and as a result, they leave themselves wide open. Only Sheffield United have conceded more goals across the campaign, with the same team being the only one to have faced more shots or shots on target (44%) and goal conversion rate (18%) in the English top flight.
Eddie Howe returns to the club where he made his name and is still regarded as a legend, with his current side unbeaten in the last eight head-to-head meetings. I firmly believe that record will be improved here and am taking the heavy favorites Newcastle on a -1 handicap, meaning we simply need the away team to win by two or more goals. If they win by only one goal, we get a full refund on our stake.
Pick: Newcastle -1 at +120
Aston Villa vs. Fulham
Sunday, 9:00 a.m. ET
Aston Villa threw in their worst performance of the season when losing 2-0 at Nottingham Forest last weekend. But they are so strong in front of their own fans, I am taking them to immediately get back to winning way with what I consider to be my strongest bet of the week.
Not only do Villa win their home games, they win them in the best style and really put on a show. Their record at Villa Park this season is phenomenal, winning all five league games, scoring 20 goals in the process and only conceding four.
Their fixtures have been relatively kind, dispatching the likes of Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Luton, but when faced with one of the best sides in the league, they recorded their biggest win, hammering Brighton 6-1.
However, the good news is Fulham come into the category of an easier opponent as they are in the lower half of the table. Plus, they are arguably worse than any of those other sides as an attacking force since the departure of Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Marco Silva strugglers have already fone to Tottenham and lost 2-0, although the score was kind to them, and they were thrashed 5-1 at Manchester City. They also have a terrible record at this ground, losing four of the last five meetings.
The cottages are woeful in attack, with only Burnley scoring fewer than their nine league goals so far. They have only scored five of those nine from open play—only Luton and Sheffield United have recorded fewer to date.
What’s more, Unai Emery’s side knows how to bounce back from a defeat. They opened the season with a 5-1 hammering at Newcastle, then beat Everton 4-0 the following week. They recovered from their recent 3-0 loss at Anfield by defeating Crystal Palace 3-1.
I’m confident in that trend continuing against this Fulham side, and I’m taking the -1 handicap. Villas have scored at least three goals in every home league game this term, covering this handicap in all of them. Another victory by two or more goals gives us a full win, while a victory by a single-goal margin will return our stake in full.
Pick: Aston Villa -1 at +100