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Espanyol vs Alaves – Espanyol to win
Quique Sanchez Flores took time to get his ideas across at Espanyol but they’re certainly signing from the same hymn sheet now. 7 wins in 9 at home have lifted the club into the top half and while Alaves have troubled better sides away from home on the counter, the visitors are unlikely to have that luxury on Saturday in leg one of the Pick 15.
West Brom vs Southampton – West Brom double chance
Similarly to Espanyol, the Baggies owe their solid league standing to an outstanding home record, winning 8 of 10. They face a Saints side that have been hard to predict all season and impressed in midweek so I’m approaching this one with a little more caution.
West Ham vs Swansea – no bet…
West Ham are in woeful form and have slipped right into a relegation battle alongside Swansea. However, Paul Clement’s side’s confidence will have taken a hit having led for so long against Spurs only to lose. It’s too tough to call at the London Stadoum for me.
Norwich vs Reading – Draw
Norwich have suffered back-to-back defeats on the road but are an entirely different proposition at home. The Canaries are unbeaten in 8 at Carrow Road, though three of the last four have ended in draws. Reading are looking pretty comfortable in the playoff spots right now but are far better at home themselves, so Jaap Stam would take a point here to keep their tally ticking along.
Burton vs Aston Villa – Villa to win
While Burton have proven against strong opposition in recent weeks that they deserve their place at this level, Aston Villa are the Championship’s form side right now. 7 wins in 8 with just one goal conceded in that time, they’re at peak Steve Bruce efficiency at this level, with a match winner in Jonathan Kodjia that is on fire right now.
Cardiff vs Brentford – Brentford to win
Brentford have won three on the spin and look back to their best going forwards following the return of Jota. Both he and Lasse Vibe are in fine form and the visitors should have too much firepower for a Cardiff side with little to play for other than avoiding a rollocking from Neil Warnock, which I suppose is actually plenty to play for!
Nottingham Forest vs Huddersfield – Huddersfield double chance
They took their time but Huddersfield eventually secured a convincing 3-0 win over Norwich in midweek and ironically the further adrift they are from the top two the less pressure the Terriers face to win. Forest are under plenty by comparison, with Mark Warburton failing to have the desired effect as yet and the fans could get on their back against a side that will see plenty of the ball. Their home record has kept them above the drop zone to now though, so it won’t be plain sailing for the visitors.
Sheffield Wednesday vs Newcastle – Newcastle to win
Consecutive wins have allowed Newcastle fans to breathe again and while a trip to Hillsborough could be a tricky game, the Owls have choked under the pressure that comes with occupying that all important sixth spot. Little should be read into a win over relegated Rotherham, and the Magpies should take a big step closer to automatic promotion.
Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund – Bayern to win
Bayern lost for only the second time in the league this season in midweek and that simply doesn’t happen twice in a row, needing to restore confidence ahead of the Champions League next week. Their home record is exceptional, and identical to Dortmund’s in fact, with 10 wins, 3 draws and zero defeats. The difference between the two is that Tuchel’s side have struggled badly on the road, winning just four, and they play a day before the Bavarians in Europe.
Granada vs Valencia – Valencia double chance
Any bet on Valencia is a risky one but Granada are certainly a favourable opponent right now, despite being mired in a relegation battle. Lucas Alcaraz’s men arrested a run of four straight defeats with a 0-0 draw at Deportivo in midweek and while los Che’s form is inconsistent to say the least they’ve been much improved since the winter break, with only six sides picking up more points since the turn of the year at the time of writing (21).
Cagliari vs Torino – Torino to win
Now Torino’s away record is dismal, granted, but there’s still little doubt that they have the quality going forwards to punish the league’s third leakiest defence (59 conceded). Andrea Belotti leads the race for the Capocannoniere after all, with 23 goals, and Cagliari – who are without a win at home in four – haven’t beaten a team currently above them in the table since November.
Toulouse vs Marseille – Toulouse double chance
Marseille’s problem remains very clear even since the appointment of Rudi Garcia. While their record at the Velodrome is strong they are terrible travellers, winning just 3 of 15 away games. Toulouse, meanwhile, have won more than half of their home matches (8) and are unbeaten in four at the Stade Municipal. I’m not sure TFC will win on Sunday but I’m confident they won’t lose either.
Everton vs Leicester – Everton double chance
That’s right, I’m tipping Leicester’s five game winning streak to come to an end, although there could be a point up for grabs against a makeshift Everton defence. The Toffees’ home record is superb, with only rivals Liverpool winning in the league at Goodison, and Shakespeare has had the luxury of four matches at the King Power Stadium in his five league games so far. This may be the toughest test to date then, with Lukaku aiming to bounce back from two disappointing displays.
Lazio vs Napoli – Napoli to win
A huge game in the race for the third and final Champions League spot in Serie A, Lazio have been a revelation this season under Simone Inzaghi, but face a Napoli side in excellent form. Sarri’s men boast the best away record in the league, winning their last five on their travels, while also coming out on top in three of their last four away to Sunday’s hosts, drawing the other.
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal – Arsenal to win
Arsenal picked up a morale boosting, much needed win against West Ham in midweek, while Palace came back down to earth with a defeat at Southampton. Although they’ve won their last two at Selhurst Park, the Eagles have been far better away from home this season and they’ve lost six of seven with the Gunners since returning to the top-flight, including all three at home.