Form Labs Weekender

COURTESYFOOTBALL FORM LABS

Liverpool v Man City – Sunday 16:00, Sky Sports

Coutinho may have jetted off to Barcelona, but the Reds have plenty of other attacking options and it’s often been their rearguard that has given cause for concern. This was evident in the last game between these two, with Liverpool’s backline crumbling after Saido Mane’s red card in a 5-0 defeat, but with new signing Virgil van Dijk looking the part on his debut they should prosper better this time around.

Having won at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge already, this and a trip to Wembley look like the biggest obstacles to an unbeaten season for City. Whereas they struggled against the ‘Big Six’ last term, Pep’s side have raised their levels this season, winning all five meeting so far with an aggregate score of 15-3. However, the two away games in this spread were narrow one goal successes and Anfield is arguably the toughest ground to visit given Liverpool’s ability to get up for the major clashes in front of the Kop. Indeed, City have lost five of seven winless trips here since 2010/11.

The Citizens aren’t the only side to have a poor record at Anfield though. Under Klopp, the Reds have a W5-D7-L1 record hosting the ‘Big Six’, conceding just three times in eight matches since the start of last season. Guardiola’s current crop eclipses anything that has come before but they have stuttered on the road in recent weeks at Palace and in the Carabao Cup, where Leicester took them to penalties, so we’re backing Liverpool to get a draw at 3.75.

Whilst Liverpool have only conceded three goals in eight matches hosting top-six sides since the start of last season we still expect this rampant City side to find the net, even with the signing of van Dijk. The Citizens have netted 16 in their last six while Liverpool are in fine scoring form themselves, reaching that same number in their last five outings. These are the two highest-scoring teams in the division, and indeed six of the last 11 league meetings between these two have seen Over 3.5 Goals, which is a 2.4 shot here.

Recently crowned African footballer of the year Mohamed Salah has been on fire this season, and after missing the FA Cup clash with Everton with a slight groin strain should return to the starting line-up here. He’s already bagged himself 23 goals across all competitions, and has proven himself to be no flat-track bully,with strikes against Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Sevilla. He’s netted 12 in his last 11 league appearances, scoring the opener in four of these so he looks worth chancing to net the first goal at 6.5.

Spurs v Everton – Saturday 17:30, BT Sport 1

Not for the first time, Spurs were left frustrated at Wembley as they only managed a 1-1 draw with West Ham. Burnley and West Brom also achieved this feat while Swansea managed a goalless draw as Pochettino’s men have struggled to break-down some of the more defence-minded teams. Excluding encounters with the Big Six, seven of Spurs’ nine home games have featured fewer than three goals with the two exceptions against horribly out-of-form sides Stoke and Southampton.

However, that draw with West Ham came just two days after their win at Swansea and so with a bigger break ahead of this one, we do think Spurs will get over the line against an Everton side without a win and with just one goal in their last four. There’ll be no prizes for guessing how Allardyce will set his team up here. So far, six of his eight league games in charge have had no more than two strikes, including matches against Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool, while in the FA Cup they were five minutes away from another 1-1 draw at Anfield. Although they’re struggling for goals themselves with just two in their last five, no side have scored more than twice against them under Big Sam.

This suggests that any Spurs victory is unlikely to be a big number, but likely to be to nil. Both the 1-0 and 2-0 scores appeal here but we’re opting for the latter at 6.5 as Everton have gone down by that margin in two of their three defeats at top-half opposition. For those looking for a more conservative option, we’d simply recommend backing Under 2.5 Goals at 2.25, a bet that has landed in 11 of the Toffees’ last 19 trips to Big Six opposition.

Son Heung-Min scored a screamer against the Hammers, meaning he’s now scored in his last four games at Wembley. Kane is understandably very short in the anytime goalscorer market but we prefer Son at the prices. The Korean offers a different threat against more defensive sides, and he’s scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Palace, in a 2-0 win over Brighton and in the 1-1 draw with West Ham.

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N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Crystal Palace v Burnley

Andros Townsend (RW), Crystal Palace

Townsend has missed just nine matches since the start of last season and they’ve lost eight of those. Only one actually came during their horror start to this campaign but they’ve lost all six home matches he’s missed while both teams have scored in none of Palace’s last six (home or away) without him. Burnley’s recent form puts us off backing them to upset the odds but No in the Both Teams to Score market looks a great price at 1.83.

Dortmund v Wolfsburg

Max Philipp (LW), Christian Pulisic (RW), Marco Reus (LW), Raphael Guerreiro (LB), Dortmund

Dortmund have their usual injury problems as the Bundesliga returns following its winter break. Guerreiro has played less than half their games since the start of last season but they’ve scored half a goal less per game when he’s been missing. Meanwhile, Philipp and Pulisic rank second and third in terms of their most shots taken this season, with Philipp converting that into being their clear second highest scorer. They’ve been unbeaten in the six matches both have started but they’ve lost five of the other 11. Wolfsburg have had the fourth best defensive record this season as only three teams have had fewer defeats. With Dortmund missing a lot of their most dangerous attackers Under 2.5 Goals looks a big price but we just prefer the draw, as has been the result in 10 of Wolfsburg’s last 15 matches, at a whopping 5.0.

Betis v Leganes

Aissa Mandi (CB) and Zou Feddal (CB), Betis

Mandi and Feddal both picked up bookings in a wild Seville derby last weekend and that rules out the centre-back pairing here. The last five matches Feddal missed were all against bottom-half sides and saw Betis pick up just two points. Betis have won half the 10 matches both have started this season compared to just two of eight when at least one has been missing, with the 2-2 at home against Girona the only other time both were absent. They rank first and second for all the main defensive stats – interceptions, blocks and clearances – while Mandi has played 20% more passes than anyone else in the team and Feddal has chipped in with three headed goals. Leganes have proven their no pushovers this season with the third best defensive record in the league. That could be good enough to cause an upset but since 12 of their last 13 wins have been to nil we fancy the long shot at 6.0

Putting these three in a treble gives you a massive 53/1 shot

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