Martin Laurence previews this weekend’s Pick 8 below, with his Syndicate available here.
Still very much in the hunt for a play-off place, with a game in hand, Sheffield United have recorded back-to-back wins and smell the blood of a stuttering Bristol City side. Hull, meanwhile, are now above the relegation zone on goal difference alone and while they’ve been tough to beat at home this season – losing just five of 15 games – they’ve won just one game in nine at the KCOM. The Blades have more quality in attack in general but the Tigers tend to score so this will be a close game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended in a fifth consecutive home draw for Nigel Adkins’ side, in this game that kicks off the Pick 8.
The visitors have been something of a surprise package in Ligue 1 this season, in the hunt for a European finish owing to a marvellous defensive record. Strasbourg have adapted well to life back in the top tier despite not being safe by any stretch, and do boast an enviable home record of late. Montpellier should be resolute enough to get at least a point, however, considering the only side they have lost to on the road in their last ten are runaway leaders PSG.
The Foxes have faltered of late after a fine start to life under Claude Puel so will see this match against a relegation threatened Stoke as one capable of improving their fortunes. If little else though, Paul Lambert has had an impact on the Potters’ defensive record, conceding just three goals in four games since his appointment. Both sides could be at full strength and I’d expect a real physical battle in the middle of the park and a potentially scrappy game in turn, decided by the odd goal. Leicester haven’t lost this fixture in their last five meetings and may just have the edge again.
Too many people are scared to back the draw outright but it’s a great way to improve your chances of eliminating the competition with your ticket if you can get it right. This match-up, then, is as close as you’ll come to what you could class as a stalemate banker. Saints are unbeaten away from home in three games, while Burnley are without a win in four at Turf Moor, albeit with the last of those results earning an excellent point against Manchester City. The Clarets are the league’s lowest scorers on home turf (nine) and are currently enduring a ten-game streak without a win. They’ve drawn half of those games, with Southampton also registering five draws in that time, and this should be number six.
Having got the job done in their Champions League tie with Porto, Liverpool won’t be distracted from doing the business against West Ham and while these kind of games have tripped the Reds up in the past, the visitors defence should be no match for Klopp’s front three. The hosts have scored four goals in each of their last two meetings with the Hammers, who are still struck by injuries and could be on the end of a body blow this weekend.
The Cherries were on a roll prior to their last league outing but were humiliated by Huddersfield and have now been drawn back – just about – into the relegation picture. That said, Newcastle certainly need the three points more but are in a decent run, with defeat to Manchester City their only loss in seven. Eddie Howe’s side have won their last three at home by a 2-1 scoreline but may have to settle for a point against an organised Rafa Benitez side.
Brighton have had their heads just above water for some time now for a reason, picking up points here and there and rarely putting too many winning or losing streaks together. They are particularly tricky to beat at home – losing just three of 14 – and while the Swans are flying they’ll do well to clip the Seagulls’ wings this weekend. After all, Carlos Carvalhal’s impact hasn’t been as stark away from home, leading the side to just one league victory on the road, but the visitors’ confidence should be enough to see them earn a share of the spoils for the third time running on their travels.
On a ticket packed with potential draws, Everton’s trip to Watford is one that I don’t see ending with both sides leaving with a point. Watford in particular still need wins, managing just one under Javi Gracia so far, and they’ll be confident against a Toffees side that have been abysmal on the road of late. The hosts still have a plethora of problems in terms of injuries but still have the firepower to put a poor Everton defence to the sword, while equally Sam Allardyce has the players at his disposal capable of putting the Hornets into real trouble. There should be goals at both ends but I can’t see these two cancelling one another out.