Predicting the beautiful game can be a fool’s errand, but fortune favors the bold. Yahoo Soccer has run the stats and analyzed the form books for five of the biggest games this weekend …
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
In most London derbies, both teams typically hope to win. When Arsenal meet Chelsea this Sunday, however, it’s more likely that both sides will only be hoping not to lose.
Mikel Arteta will return to the Emirates for the first time as a manager, following his rescued point at Bournemouth on Boxing Day. The Gunners looked better organized and more effective in transition than they have in recent weeks, but there is clearly still much work to be done.
Chelsea, meanwhile, followed up a very impressive win away at Tottenham last weekend with a baffling midweek home loss to struggling Southampton. Frank Lampard’s side are the epitome of inconsistency right now.
The Blues may also be troubled by their recent record away at the Emirates. They have lost in their last two trips and haven’t won at Arsenal since January 2016, when a Diego Costa strike made the difference.
But Arsenal will also have anxiety, due to their lack of home wins in any competition since October. The Gunners have failed to win nine of their last 10 league matches.
The bookmakers put Chelsea as narrow favorites (at around +130 on BetMGM) and the draw is solid value (+275 on BetMGM) considering three of the last seven meetings between the sides have been a deadlock.
Given that both sides will be striving to not lose — and that both sides have questionable defenses —a score draw seems like a winning ticket.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea
Best Bet: A draw and both teams to score at +310 on BetMGM. Chelsea have only one clean sheet in their last nine games and Arsenal have only shut out their opposition once in their last 16 outings.
Liverpool vs. Wolves
In case it isn’t abundantly clear at this point, Liverpool are really good at soccer. Like, really really good.
After returning from Qatar, where they were crowned club world champions last weekend, Jurgen Klopp’s side pummeled title rivals Leicester in one of the all-time great away performances on Boxing Day.
Liverpool are 13 points clear and showing absolutely none of the potential weaknesses that famously felled Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle when they held a similar lead at the halfway point in 1995-96.
So, can Wolves be the ones to slow down the Liverpool steam train?
BetMGM are pricing Nuno Espírito Santo’s side at +1050, which is outrageously long for a two-horse race.
Given the odds, brave bettors can make a case for backing an away win: Wolves are in good form and have actually won at Anfield three times in the past decade, most recently in January of this year.
However, Wolves will kick off on Merseyside less than 48 hours after facing Manchester City. Liverpool are high on confidence and looking likely to extend their run of 16 consecutive home league wins.
The margin of victory may not be huge given their midweek exertions and the head-to-head stats, but expect Liverpool to take another step toward that long-awaited Premier League title.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-0 Wolves
Best Bet: Roberto Firmino to score first at +450 on BetMGM. The brilliant Brazilian boasts four goals in his last three outings.
Norwich vs. Tottenham
The main NBC broadcast channel will be serving up two Premier League matches on Saturday, starting with Tottenham’s trip to Carrow Road.
At face value, this is a simple win for Tottenham. Norwich are rock-bottom of the league with only a point taken from their last five matches, and they lost both of their two most recent matches with Spurs by a 3-0 scoreline. Hence, the bookmakers are pricing Spurs as heavy favorites.
However, this match has an upset sting in its tail.
Norwich, for all their faults, have a tendency to look very impressive at home against “Big Six” opposition during big broadcast matches this season. For evidence, see their shock victory over Manchester City and draw with Arsenal.
Their gung-ho style of play seems particularly well-suited to match the expansive play of the better teams in the league — their recent draw with Leicester is also a good example.
Tottenham, meanwhile, have looked less than convincing in recent outings. They were poor in last weekend’s loss to Chelsea and looked worryingly disjointed when they salvaged a comeback win at home to Brighton on Boxing Day.
Norwich are +400 with BetMGM for the win. This seems like a great opportunity to back the underdog.
Prediction: Norwich 2-1 Tottenham
Best Bet: Norwich to win and both teams to score at +625 on BetMGM. The Canaries haven’t kept a clean sheet at home this season and Spurs have kept only a single clean sheet in Jose Mourinho’s tenure.
Burnley vs. Manchester United
The final Premier League fixture of 2019 sees Manchester United head to Turf Moor. Burnley gifted Carlo Ancelotti three points at Everton on Boxing Day, in a match where they did not have a single shot on target.
It is stereotypical to characterize Burnley for their lack of attempts on goal, but they have scored only three times in their last six matches, while conceding 12.
United, meanwhile, recovered from last weekend’s shock result at Watford to produce a dominant midweek display against Newcastle. With a win this weekend, they can close out the year in contention for European soccer next season.
The head-to-head skews heavily towards the Red Devils. Although their last meeting was a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, United have won on their last two visits to Turf Moor. Burnley have only beaten Manchester United once in their last 27 meetings — a streak dating back to 1968.
Accordingly, the visitors are priced as favorites. There is always the chance Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will display some wild inconsistency — they tend to underperform against teams below them in the table — but all signs suggest the most successful side of the Premier League era will close out the year with a win.
Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Manchester United
Best Bet: United to win and under 2.5 total goals at +320 on BetMGM. The Red Devils’ last six trips to Turf Moor have all produced under 2.5 goals, and they kept a clean sheet in each of the last four trips.
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