It’s time for round 26 of the English Premier League and my usual batch of free betting picks for the weekend.
There are plenty of exciting games, of course, but one stands out as crucial for both the title and the top four.
Reigning champion Manchester City will host Chelsea on Sunday after an important win against Everton on Wednesday. Guardiola and his men are now level points with Liverpool but have played one additional game.
They need to keep pushing as hard as possible because the Reds look vulnerable right now. Their lack of EPL titles in the past 20 years is taking its toll on Liverpool, and City’s experience in situations like this one might be crucial at the end.
And yet, a slip-up or two might completely change the balance, and the match against Chelsea is a tricky encounter.
This will be my featured game of the week, but there are other exciting clashes as well. This is why I intend to take a closer look at the odds offered by the top English Premier League betting sites and share my predictions and picks.
Featured EPL Preview – Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Let’s start with the most popular betting markets for the game between Man City and Chelsea.
This is the second Super Sunday game in a row in which the odds for Manchester City are ridiculous.
The side is exceptional and certainly the favorite here, but Chelsea is a top four contender and one of the teams that already beat the champions.
I don’t expect that to happen again, but 1.52 for the home side is too low, in my opinion. At the same time, I’m not exactly sure what to expect from the Blues. They were abysmal against Bournemouth, but the arrival of Higuain sparked new life into the team.
In fact, this is the reason why the odds for over 3 goals might be tempting. The potency of Man City is clear, while Chelsea now finally can use the services of a natural goalscorer.
Let’s take a closer look at both sides.
Less than two weeks ago, the situation looked pretty desperate for Manchester City. The side had just lost to Newcastle, and Liverpool had the chance to open a gap of 7 points. Considering the tempo of the top teams so far, this would’ve been a massive advantage.
Instead, the Reds failed to beat Leicester at home and then proceeded to draw against West Ham. As a result, Manchester City is now leading the league on goal difference. Liverpool still has a game in hand, but Guardiola and his men are certainly happy with the current situation.
The title fight is well and truly alive. Pep even said that the lesson from that is to never give up. I believe it’s a bit early for such statements, but there will be a lot of twists by the end of the season.
You can already feel the pressure around Merseyside, and Man City’s squad is full of players who have already won the EPL. This could be the crucial difference, as experience matters in situations like this one. I expect City to grind win after win and eventually retain the title.
But the champions have already shown plenty of weaknesses and lost four games. It all started with the first clash against Chelsea in December when the team from London somehow won 2-0, despite City’s early dominance.
The defeat obviously affected the confidence of Guardiola’s squad, but a lot of injuries contributed, too. The situation is different right now, and City will also have the support of the home fans.
I believe that the side will have some extra motivation to win and prove that the first game was a fluke. While many praised Chelsea’s efficiency and resilience, Man City had a ton of chances and should’ve been a couple of goals ahead before Kante’s opener.
With Sergio Aguero available this time around, I expect to see the more clinical side of Manchester City. The team has all the weapons required to punish the shaky Chelsea defense that conceded four times against Bournemouth less than two weeks ago.
The relentless pressing of the home team will provide a lot of opportunities, and I expect them to have most of the ball. Chelsea will surely defend with a bunch of players, but as we saw in the game at Stamford Bridge, this won’t stop City from creating chances.
I expect the team to actually convert them this time around.
I’m not sure what to think about Chelsea right now, as there are a lot of mixed signals coming from the Blues’ camp. The start of Maurizio Sarri at the helm was exceptional, but it all went downhill in the past couple of months.
Most teams learned that stopping Jorginho is the key against Chelsea, and many were successful in doing so. If you add the lack of a top striker, you can easily see why the London side has gone from a title contender to a participant of the top four battle.
The manager has complained that he has issues motivating his players a couple of times already, and this seems quite strange, as Gary Neville pointed out. I don’t think it’s a question of motivation; I simply believe that Chelsea is not that good.
Early on, Sarri’s tactics brought a lot of success, but the issues in the squad were exposed once the rest of the EPL learned how to play against Chelsea.
This is why I don’t see the problem in the mental side of things. If you take a deeper look at the team, you will see that two of the top players were regularly deployed out of position.
Putting the exceptional Kante on the wing is nothing sort of a travesty, while Eden Hazard is certainly not a striker. The Belgian is so good that he could do a decent job there on a regular basis, but he’s much better if there’s a proper forward on the pitch.
It seems that the manager is trying to fix the problems, and Higuain’s transfer was a step in the right direction.
The new signing instantly made an impact, scoring a brace against Huddersfield. His presence opened a lot of space for Hazard, who did the same, but we should remember that this was against the worst team in the EPL, with all due respect to Huddersfield.
I wouldn’t go too far with the excitement, as Higuain has proven to be a bully against weaker sides, but we’ve seen him go absent in big games. I’m not even sure that Sarri will start him versus Man City. The Italian might be tempted to use the same tactics as in the first game and use Hazard up front.
In most games, this would be a bad decision, but it might be the right one here. The problem is that such an approach will give City complete control over the ball, and Chelsea will be limited to very few opportunities over the course of the game.
Betting Pick and Prediction
My overall expectation is that Manchester City will win this one rather convincingly, but the price of 1.52 is not high enough to take a shot at this bet. Even the crippled Arsenal side had a solid first half against the champions, so Chelsea should be capable of more.
This is why I will skip the match result market and go for the total goals option. BetOnline offers a line of over 3 goals that is available at 2.00. I think that Man City will be more than capable of scoring goals here, but Chelsea could also pose a threat.
I expect a similar result as the game against Arsenal, so 3-1 or something like that is certainly an option.
Southampton vs. Cardiff City
Here are the main odds for the game between Southampton and Cardiff City.
This match is absolutely crucial for both teams and might have a huge impact in the battle against relegation. Cardiff City is currently in the 18th place, but only two points behind the three teams above, one of which is Southampton.
If the Saints manage to win here, they will open a nice gap of five points. The form of the team has improved dramatically since the arrival of new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl. The side is unbeaten in the last five games in the EPL, so it’s only natural to see Southampton as the favorite in this one.
The Saints have the home advantage and the better players, so they should be able to get all the points here.
However, Cardiff City continues to defy the odds and win games that allow the team to keep their hopes of staying up alive.
It’s a brave effort by Neil Warnock and his boys. There’s no reason to suggest that this mentality will change, so the Welsh club is not doomed.
And yet, I feel the odds for the home side might be a bit higher than expected, unlike the total games market that seems quite fair and is of no interest to me.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at both sides.
I didn’t expect to see Southampton fighting against relegation this season, but the start of the campaign was terrible. The board reacted by changing the manager, and it seems to have worked so far. The Saints are out of the relegation zone and seem more than capable of winning points on a regular basis.
They’ve beaten Arsenal, Everton, and Leicester since Hasenhüttl’s arrival, which gives the side a lot of confidence. Several players have improved dramatically, and the results are obvious. Still, the team is only two points above the relegation zone has a lot of work to do.
One of the squad members that looks ready for that is Nathan Redmond, who’s been in fantastic form under the new manager and even scored against Burnley last time around. He is a threat from the wing, providing a lot of service to Danny Ings and Charlie Austin.
I think that the hosts will have too much firepower for Cardiff City on Saturday, and we will certainly see some goals. Southampton has managed to find the net in six games in a row in all competitions, so the team is certainly dangerous.
The only worry is that the Saints have conceded as well in all of these games, but this could be different against Cardiff City. The visitors don’t create many chances, especially away from home, and might struggle here too.
I think that the biggest reason to believe that Cardiff City will take something from this game lies in the fact that the side surprised me every single time I’ve bet against it this season.
Jokes aside, the spirit and determination of Neil Warnock’s squad is nothing short of fantastic. I honestly didn’t expect Cardiff City to still be in it at this point in the season, but I was wrong. This team can stay in the English Premier League.
That doesn’t mean it WILL stay in the EPL, though, as the road ahead is tough. The Saints, Burnley, and Newcastle have improved immensely. Even Fulham is now stronger, so the only team that looks destined for the Championship is Huddersfield.
The other two relegation spots are yet unclear, so we’re in for a treat by the end of the season. Games like this one will be important. Cardiff City has managed to win a couple of them so far, but most of their victories came at home.
A good example is last week’s 2-0 win against Bournemouth when Bobby Reid scored a brace. His movement and agility behind new boy Niasse seem to be quite efficient. The former Everton striker is capable of opening a lot of space for Reid, but I’m not sure if this will work against Southampton.
The first two opponents of Cardiff City – Arsenal and Bournemouth – weren’t prepared for that partnership up front, but I expect more from the Saints. They should be able to stay alert and break the communications between the two front men.
If that happens, Cardiff City won’t be able to do much in attack. The team has been struggling to create and finish chances so far. Add to that the somewhat shaky defense, and you can understand why I see the Saints as the favorites here.
Betting Pick and Prediction
Southampton is the better side, and a couple of good results have built up their confidence. The first goal will be crucial, but Hasenhüttl is a solid tactician that manages to neutralize teams like Chelsea and Arsenal.
I think he will be able to do the same with Cardiff, while the Southampton front line should create enough chances and score some of them. My correct score prediction for this game is 2-0, and I feel that the odds of 1.74 for the hosts contain solid value, so I’m going to take them.
Odds and Predictions for This Week’s Other EPL Games
It’s time to take a look at the other EPL games, too.
Fulham vs. Manchester United
Both Fulham and Manchester United have recently improved under a new manager, and both have a clear goal by the end of the season. The Cottagers will desperately try to stay in the league, which makes them a dangerous opponent.
At the same time, the Red Devils are flying right now, so it’s tough to see anything but a win for them here. Still, the odds are too short for my taste, and I have no intention of touching this game.
Crystal Palace vs. West Ham
This is one of the most unpredictable games of this week. Both teams have been inconsistent this season, showing exceptional stuff at times and disappointing every now and then.
Crystal Palace has struggled to find the net in many games but remains a dangerous team. The same can be said about West Ham. The visitors proved that on Monday night by earning a respectable draw against the EPL leaders Liverpool.
The Hammers even had a couple of chances to win the game, so they should never be underestimated. To be fair, I don’t think they will win this one, but you never know. A draw seems the most likely result, but anything is possible.
Huddersfield vs. Arsenal
On paper, this game shouldn’t be very competitive. Huddersfield is preparing for the Championship, as the team will most certainly go down, and this is not a surprise.
Arsenal should easily dismantle the opposition here, but the terrible away form and the injury crisis at the back are concerning enough to skip the price of 1.62. On top of that, Huddersfield already put up a good fight against the Gunners at the Emirates this season, so they could do the same this week.
Liverpool vs. Bournemouth
The pressure for Liverpool is building, and the long wait for the EPL title is messing with the heads of the players and the fans. Two draws in a row have prevented the Reds from building a solid advantage over Man City, so games like this are a must between now and the end of the season.
I think that Klopp and his men will win here, but Bournemouth is no joke. The team crushed Chelsea only a couple of weeks ago, so I would be careful here. The price of 1.21 for the home side is too short, in my opinion.
Brighton vs. Burnley
Burnley is another team that was in a hole at the start of the season, but Sean Dyche has managed to motivate his players in time. The club has a chance to stay and has looked tough to beat recently.
This is why I can certainly see the visitors take something from a shaky Brighton side here. The draw looks like the most likely result, in my opinion.
Wolves vs. Newcastle
Newcastle almost got a point in the visit against Spurs. Despite losing at the end, the Magpies certainly kept the confidence they gained in their victory against reigning champions Man City a week earlier. Rafa Benitez and his boys know how to defend, so this will be their main weapon.
They will need to stay strong, as the Wolves are in good shape. The team is in the top half of the table, which is remarkable for a newcomer but is fully deserved. I think that the home side will manage to win, but it could be 0-0 too.
Watford vs. Everton
If you’ve been following my EPL picks, you probably know that I view Watford as the most unpredictable team in the league. Well, this week they face another extremely inconsistent side in Everton, so I will naturally stay away from this one.
I believe that the visitors might nick it, but they have struggled in front of goal recently, which might be an issue once again. At the same time, Watford can always erupt and score a couple, so I honestly don’t know what to expect here.
Big-Priced Bet of the Week – Tottenham vs. Leicester
Tottenham will still be without Harry Kane and Dele Alli, which obviously hurts the side. The likes of Son and Moura are doing a fine job, but they lack the killer instinct of the injured stars of the club.
They missed a bunch of chances against Newcastle, and Leicester will play in a similar style but offers an attacking threat at the other end.
If the Foxes manage to score the first goal, they could very well go on to win this match. This is why I feel the price of 5.20 for them is way too high and shouldn’t be missed.
Let’s see if Cardiff City surprises me once again and if City truly has what it takes to win the title.
What do you think will happen in the EPL this week? Feel free to share your own betting picks and opinion in the comments section below.
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Manchester City vs. Chelsea and This Weekend’s EPL Games – Odds, Predictions, and PicksFebruary 7, 2019