Maverick Managers for Marquee Matches

Ahead of this weekend’s mouth-watering Premier League clashes, we asked our resident football betting expert Dan Roebuck to consult his crystal ball…

The Premier League’s position as the most watchable football competition has come under scrutiny this season, with several high-profile games long on tactical acumen but short on expected goals. Or, in other words, just boring. This has been exacerbated by the fact that this year’s Champions League group stages have thrown up some genuine classics. Off the back of midweek continental sorties by English clubs, that brought some astonishing results and performances, the Premier League has got to step up to the plate. Lucky for those at Gloucester Place, then, that this weekend the fixtures computer has thrown up two matches that, in recent times, have a narrative bordering on Brexit proportions.

Monotonous Mourinho to Counter Conte

It’s happened before, of course, five times in fact, but Jose Mourinho leading a side out against Chelsea always swells Twitter timelines. In those previous meetings, the Portuguese has come out on top three times, while suffering defeat on the other two occasions. That split might suggest an all or nothing policy from Mourinho, but we all know he would never be that binary in his approach to any fixture. To a certain extent, the bookmakers are also struggling to find a favourite – Chelsea are 6/4 to win on Sunday, with Manchester United 21/10 and the draw 43/20.

If you believe the press, all is not quite right at Stamford Bridge. Whether the headlines say that Antonio Conte is ready to pack his bags, or Alvaro Morata is unhappy with his life in London, there has only been negativity written about the Blues. And with things hardly going right for them on the pitch – Chelsea’s 3-0 reverse at Roma in midweek was their heaviest defeat since a similar loss to Arsenal over a year ago – this should be the perfect time for United to play them. The problem is, punters and pundits alike said that when Mourinho took his side to Anfield – and we know what happened there.

We’re told Chelsea, 20/1 to retain the title, need to win to keep onto the coattails of Manchester City. Do 9/1 shots United? Probably, but that’s never stopped Mourinho from setting up his team not to get beat. You almost feel United owe us a rip-roaring performance of old, but the boxes ticked here point to a tight game. Back 0-0 at 7/1, both teams not to score at 17/20 and under 1.5 goals at 2/1 to ensure the 90 minutes of watching time aren’t wasted.

Guardiola Gains and Wenger Woes

One thing it will not be at the Etihad, where Manchester City host Arsenal, is a goalless draw. When two teams managed by Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger have met there has never been a scoreless encounter. The average goals per game is 3.45, and both teams have scored in nine of the 11 meetings. City’s goalscoring prowess this term (their mean is 3.5 per goals match in the league) coupled with the Gunners’ shaky defence (just two away clean sheets in the top flight in their last 13) suggests it will be the home side that comes out on top, but odds of 2/5 are hardly illuminating (Arsenal are 7/1, with the draw 4/1).

The match market looks bereft of any value, but there are plenty of good options elsewhere. Predicting City’s line up these days is difficult, but while the focus could well be on Sergio Aguero after his record-breaking antics in Naples in midweek – and the fact that he has scored five goals in his last seven matches against Arsenal in all competitions – the best bet might be to back Raheem Sterling to score the last goal at 21/4. The England winger, who was mooted as a makeweight in any deal between the two clubs for Alexis Sanchez, has been the last to register a goal in a game six times this season (from 10 scored). To cover your stake, you can also punt Sterling to net at anytime at 7/5.

The bookmakers make City 1/5 to win the title. The previous two occasions that a team have amassed 28 points from their opening 10 Premier League games they have gone on to be crowned champions, which bodes well for City. Conversely, Arsenal, 6/4 to claim a top-four spot, are likely to fall further off the pace after this weekend is done.





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