Hello! Nigel, here with my best bets for another exciting round of EPL action.
Tottenham vs. Nottingham Forest
Saturday 10 a.m. ET
Tottenham arrives here on the back of a crushing exit from the Champions League at the hands of AC Milan. It was a dreadful performance losing 1-0 over the two legs, and as the match finished, the players were roundly booed off. The hashtag #Conteout was predictably very popular on Twitter, and the tough guy Italian Coach is firmly in the spotlight now.
Though we should not forget Spurs remain in fourth, and Conte was quick to highlight as it stands, they are in with a strong chance of qualifying for next year’s Champions League. Though it has been a dreadful 10 days for the club and its long-suffering fans, losing in the FA Cup 1-0 to Sheffield Utd in another tepid display. They were very poor, losing 1-0 to Wolves in the EPL, and the pressure will be huge on Conte and his team to get the win and end the gloom around the club.
In Tottenham’s favor, they are in a solid run of home form in the EPL, winning their last three games without conceding a goal. Tottenham will be aiming to make that four home wins in a row for the first time since March 2018. Steve Cooper brings his improving Forest team to North London and will believe this is a great time to play Tottenham and pile the pressure on Conte.
Forest battled back twice to gain a 2-2 draw at home against struggling Everton last Saturday, which extended their unbeaten run at home to an impressive nine matches. That run of form has seen the team who were favorites for relegation earlier in the season climb to the dizzy heights of 14th place. Cooper was backed by the club’s owner when they were in a poor run of form and in the bottom three, and he has repaid that faith in spades. In interviews, Cooper has said his side must take that home form on the road, where they have struggled all season. They have the worst away record in the league with just one away win and a paltry three goals scored all year.
I believe they are an improving side with a really strong team spirit whereas Tottenham is in something of a crisis and the body language of the players was terrible against AC Milan. Star striker Richarlison has gone public with criticism of his under-fire coach, and there is a black cloud over the club. They are struggling to score and barely created a chance against Milan or Sheffield United.
I struggle to see Forest winning with their away form, but they are tenacious and will battle. The play here is to take them on the Asian Handicap 1.5 goals. The longer this stays 0-0, the more the crowd will turn on the players and the more of a chance Forest will have.
Pick: Nottingham Forest Asian Handicap 1.5 goals at -142
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City
Saturday 12.30 p.m. ET
Manchester City arrives in south London going all out to retain their EPL Title, and they have won four of their last five matches. They remain five points behind leaders Arsenal, though having played the same number of games, and they cannot afford anything but victories. Pep Guardiola traditionally puts the pedal to the metal at this time of year with a long run of victories to bring home the title, and this year they will need it if they are to catch and pass Arsenal.
Guardiola will be heartened to arrive at Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace in wretched form. Patrick Vieira’s men are on a winless streak of 10 (failing to score in five of those matches), and risk getting dragged into the relegation battle unless they can get some points on the board. Without star player Wilfried Zaha, who is still injured, they have looked clueless at times in front of goal. At home, they have looked nervous, and the home crowd, who had been supportive of Vieira earlier in the season, have started to turn on him and his shot-shy team. It’s not surprising when you look at their recent dismal home form to see that the boo boys are out in force. Palace has not won in their last seven home games with the Eagles grounded by two draws and five defeats. In the last three games, they have failed to register a goal and City will look to exploit the toxic home atmosphere.
Vieira will take comfort that Palace has something very few EPL teams have, and that is a good record against City. It seems unlikely on the surface, but the facts are in the Guardiola era, only Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham have avoided defeat more than Crystal Place against City. In the reverse fixture at the Etihad Palace, they took a shock 2-0 lead before City roared back to win 4-2. Given their lack of recent goals and inability to even make chances, and given the fact Manchester City has the best defensive record in the League and has scored in every match in all competitions this season, I cannot see anything but a convincing Manchester City victory on Saturday.
City has won their previous three games with nine goals scored and one conceded, and with England star Phil Foden pulling the strings in midfield in his best form all year, I see them covering this Asian Handicap comfortably. Palace fans will then be looking at the EPL table nervously for the rest of the weekend.
Pick: Man City -1.5 goals on the Asian Handicap at 100
West Ham vs. Aston Villa
Sunday 9 a.m. ET
Two weeks ago, West Ham, under David Moyes, had good reasons to be cheerful and hope that better times were around the corner for the Hammers. They were out of the relegation places and had just smashed up Nottingham Forest 4-0 at the London Stadium. The feel-good factor was short-lived for Moyes, sadly, as they then went to Brighton and the Hammers were hammered 4-0, with the supporters who had traveled there making their unhappiness clear at the end. Moyes will take heart that West Ham has a very strong record against Villa in recent seasons, remaining unbeaten in nine games and winning the last five. I have a feeling that Villa is likely to break that particular sequence this weekend.
West Ham remains in a perilous position in 16th place, just one point out of the drop zone. And Moyes will be desperate for a repeat of the Forest performance as opposed to the Brighton one. His problem is that Unai Emery brings his in-form Villa team here full of confidence, and they will be going all out for victory. I predicted they would get a result at Everton, and they were impressive that day and followed up that victory with a solid 1-0 defeat of Palace.
Under Emery, Villa has looked like a far more organized and confident side than they did under previous coach Steven Gerrard. The longer he works with them, the more confident they will become, and they will be looking to build on their current 11th place in the table. Emery has Ollie Watkins in top form, and he will be looking to build on his eight goals so far this season. West Ham will struggle to stop him from scoring if they defend as they did at Brighton.
Moyes will hope former Villa striker Danny Ings can dent Emery’s attempt to get Villa in the top half and help guide the Hammers to a much-needed three points. West Ham will be desperate to start quickly because the atmosphere in the London Stadium can be awful if things are not going well. Villa was superb against struggling Everton, stifling them and leading to Everton’s fans to turn on their team. I see a similar scenario building here with Villa being organized, and I also think they are a better overall team than West Ham, who have looked disjointed all season.
We played Villa draw no bet against Everton, and it cashed, and I believe there is no reason to change that formula in this very similar-looking fixture, especially as West Ham was in European action in midweek against Larnaca. The long flight back from Cyprus is far from ideal 72 hours ahead of this huge match.
Emery could well be looking up at the top half, and if events conspire against them, David Moyes could find his team back in the bottom three on Sunday evening.
Pick: Aston Villa to beat West Ham Draw No Bet 135