Here’s our football odds expert Adrian Clarke looking ahead to the weekend’s big games…
It’s almost a fortnight since the last Premier League ball was kicked in anger and it feels as if we’ve barely witnessed a goal since.
After a string of goalless affairs during the international break, will English football’s top flight bring the fun back?
Of course it will.
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur (18 November 12:30)
There’s no denying Spurs have finally overtaken Arsenal to become North London’s best team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stroll to success in this latest renewal of their bitter rivalry.
Mauricio Pochettino, as impressive as he is, has guided Tottenham to just one victory in 16 attempts away to a member of the ‘Big Six’. That means that when his team has been asked serious questions on the road, they have often failed to come up with the correct answers. It’s become an issue.
With ‘injured’ England trio Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks likely to return nice and fresh for this clash, and Danish hero Christian Eriksen (19/5 to score anytime) walking on cloud nine after his one-man demolition of the Republic of Ireland, they will certainly play for a win at Emirates Stadium.
International break: ✅
Full focus on the #NorthLondonDerby 💪
3⃣ days to go! pic.twitter.com/TRzNQPtHgc
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 15, 2017
Tottenham are serving up some truly fabulous football, and will be well aware Arsenal’s defensive frailties are there to be exposed if they bring their A-game.
I can certainly see a front two of Kane and Son Heung-Min rattling the Gunners’ rearguard, and wouldn’t be confident of the hosts’ keeping a clean sheet.
But for all the stick Arsenal are receiving right now, it’s easy to forget they have won ten straight Premier League matches at the Emirates Stadium.
Seeing a front three of Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez start would also excite the red half of North London, and providing they begin this match with a sense of energy and purpose, I can see them troubling Spurs’ defence in an equally threatening manner.
At 17/4, I like the look of Lacazette to score the opening goal in this his first taste of the derby.
Recent history points towards a draw at 5/2, and more specifically 1-1 (23/4) (the scoreline in each of the last three meetings at the Emirates), but I’m leaning towards a winner this time around.
My head says Spurs are the superior all-round team, but with their backs to the wall and defeat not really an option, it would be foolish to write off the Gunners.
Every now and then Wenger’s side rips into a top-class team (remember Chelsea last season?), and that’s the kind of scenario I am envisaging. They should be super-hungry to prove the doubters wrong.
Therefore, I’m tipping Arsenal to claim a shock derby victory for the first time at home since 2013. This is a game they must win, and even though they’ll need to play superbly to pull it off, no one can convince me they’re not capable.
Prediction: Arsenal to win, both teams to score 3/1
Leicester City v Manchester City (18 November 15:00)
There’s a school of thought that suggests Jamie Vardy’s speed and razor-sharp form has the potential to catch the league leaders out on the break this weekend, and when I think about this match from a tactical perspective, that’s a very real possibility.
His hat-trick in this corresponding fixture last term, in a 4-2 win for the Foxes, strongly backs up that theory.
But will lightning really strike twice for the Foxes? I’m not so sure.
This Manchester City outfit is pretty special, with five or six players in brilliant form – and I also sense Pep Guardiola will have learned plenty from that chastening loss in the East Midlands almost a year ago.
Jamie Vardy nearly puts @England ahead forcing a smart save from @FCBarcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen! pic.twitter.com/PZ8nnbKdVq
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 10, 2017
They arrive at the King Power a significantly more settled side, and I find it hard to see how Leicester will contain them.
New boss Claude Puel, who has got off to a decent start, doesn’t fill me with confidence either.
As Southampton manager in 2016-17, he oversaw six home games against the big boys, and his team scored just one goal, conceding 11.
He is cautious by nature, and I fear this will hand Man City too much of an initiative.
Prediction: Manchester City to win and Leroy Sane to score 9/5
West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea (18 November 15:00)
Whenever Tony Pulis has his back to the wall and the dogs are angrily snapping away at his ankles, he usually finds a miraculous escape route – often via a bruising set piece inspired win.
On the face of it, WBA’s home clash against inconsistent Chelsea bears the hallmarks of another timely sidestep in the making. As they showed at Selhurst Park, the Blues do have a soft centre this term.
However, it’s important to remember just how uninspiring the Baggies have been.
Winning just three times during the last seven months, and not at all since August, there’s a very real possibility the club’s ambitious Chinese owners are going to lose faith in the man who’s famously never been relegated.
The Baggies are in a sorry state.
Unlike West Brom’s last two matches at the Hawthorns, which have spawned nine goals in total, I see a low scoring affair in this one.
With so much at stake, Pulis will set his team up to frustrate Chelsea, and I don’t know how expansive Conte’s men will be in response.
The Under 1.5 goals market appeals at 47/20, and it is the 0-1 win for the visiting Blues that sticks out as the most likely outcome. That’s available as low as 5/1, so plenty of money appears to be coming for it.
I can’t help but feel the escape routes are blocked this time around, and that the end is nigh for Pulis at West Bromwich Albion.
Prediction: Chelsea to win 1-0
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