Form Labs Weekender

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Everton v Man City - Saturday 17:30

The Toffees came out victorious in their last game before the international break at Stoke, while the win over Brighton before that was their third on the bounce at Goodison Park. Meanwhile, the league leaders have had a welcome break as they haven’t played since the 12th, providing their squad with a bit of rest before a daunting fixture schedule that reads Everton, Liverpool, United, Liverpool, Spurs – all in the space of just two weeks. The visitors have secured wins to nil in each of their last three matches while Everton have lost seven of 10 unbeaten games against the ‘Big Six’ this term, losing to nil in five of these. Furthermore, they’ll be without Gylfi Sigurdsson, who has created more chances than any other Everton player this term while centre-back Ashley Williams is suspended and the underrated defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye picked up a knock over the international break.

With Sergio Aguero just returning from injury it looks as though Gabriel Jesus will get the nod in the striker role. He’s contributed a goal and an assist in his two starts since returning from injury and will be looking to replicate his form from earlier in the campaign when he netted eight times across just nine appearances.

The last time the Citizens came back from the international break back in November they triumphed 2-0 on the road at Leicester, who are only separated from Everton on goal difference. Given Big Sam will surely look to keep things relatively tight we don’t expect to see City rack up a handful and a repeat of the 2-0 defeats Everton have suffered against United and Chelsea this term is on the cards.

Chelsea v Spurs - Sunday 16:00

This is a must win game for Chelsea if they are to have hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next year and they’ll be buoyed by a Spurs side visiting without Harry Kane. The Lilywhites have coped in the last couple of games without their star man and they’ve actually won five of the last six he’s missed but all the victories were against much inferior opposition and the sole defeat came in a trip to Old Trafford where they were very lackadaisical.

Chelsea have won nine of their last 11 at Stamford Bridge and the only Big Six side to score here this term are Man City as they beat Man Utd 1-0 and draw 0-0 with Arsenal. Their overall home record under Conte against the top six reads W5-D1-L2 and with Spurs’ away record in such encounters poor, the Blues certainly look the value. Under Mauricio Pochettino, the north Londoners are W1-D7-L11 travelling to the Big Six, while they still haven’t won at the Bridge in the Premier League era (D9-L16).

The most likely man to provide the moment of magic for Chelsea is Willian. The Brazilian has played a part in six of their 10 goals across their last seven games, scoring five of them, while he showed plenty of desire against Palace last time out with the six shots he produced the most he’s managed in a single game all season.

Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker - Saturday 22:00

Anthony Joshua’s bid to unify the heavyweight division sees him square off with another unbeaten fighter in Joseph Parker as they put three of the four heavyweight titles on the line, as well as their unbeaten records. The bout’s certainly piqued the interest of boxing fans with 80,000 set to fill Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday night but the odds suggest this will be a one-sided affair as the Englishman is just 1.14 to extend his 20-0-0 record and emulate Lennox Lewis, who became undisputed heavyweight champion after his victory over Evander Holyfield, holding the IBF, WBA and WBC titles in 2000. Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury are the only heavyweights to hold three titles at one time since then.

Since being made to work harder than expected in his victory over Carlos Takam back in October, AJ’s made some changes to his training regime with a focus on more technical boxing work in the morning when he’s at his freshest and the fitness work taking place later in the day. Parker’s quest for improvement has taken a different path as he underwent surgery on both of his elbows at the end of last year, which his camp believe has resulted in a 20% improvement in his punching, whilst Joshua himself claims that the draw of fighting him leads to his opponents finding an extra 30%.

Parker’s the more experienced fighter as he has 24 fights under his belt, 18 of which he’s won by knockout, though the last three of these have gone the distance as he has proven experience in the championship rounds. Question marks were raised over the quality of Joshua’s opponents before his epic clash with Klitschko with the likes of Martin, Breazeale and Molina not putting up much of a challenge and Joshua easing to victory, with 16 of his 20 victories coming within the first three rounds. Takam was much more durable and Parker should pose a similar test as he’s yet to be knocked down and is renowned for the strength for his chin.

Joshua’s 1.36 to win by KO, TKO or Disqualification but we think this one will follow the pattern of his more recent fights rather than his earlier ones – three of his last four fights have entered the second half, whilst his last two have reached double-figure rounds. As a result, Joshua to win between Rounds seven and 12 is our standout selection at 2.5, whilst Over 8.5 Rounds is also of interest at similar prices to get the decision on-side.

Recommendation: Joshua Round 7-12 at 2.5

Weekend Team News Analysis

Lazio v Benevento – Saturday 14:00
Wallace (CB) and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (CM), Lazio

Wallace has had an injury disrupted season and is suspended for this game. However, Lazio have kept five clean sheets in his 11 starts compared to just three in 18 without him. What’s more, they’ve won none of the last seven he’s missed during which they’ve conceded at least twice on five occasions. Benevento have managed to bag themselves at least two goals in two of their last five, and whilst they’ve had a tough season they have been improving. No top-half side has conceded more than Lazio this season and added to that, the hosts will also be without their star midfielder Milinkovic-Savic.

Over 1.5 Benevento Goals at 5.6

Bayern Leverkusen v Augsburg – Saturday 14:30
Lucas Alario (CF) and Lars Bender (DM), Bayern Leverkusen

After a reckless lashing out, Alario has been banned for the next three games. It is disappointing for Leverkusen fans, as the Argentinian striker had scored and provided an assist in each of the previous two games, earning himself man of the match in both. Excluding results against the bottom six, they’ve lost three of seven winless games without the Argentine starting, scoring fewer than three goals in each. Furthermore, Lars Bender is a doubt for this clash too, who without in the starting line-up, they’ve only managed to score more than twice in one of their 11 outings, compared to 25% with him. Moreover, without their captain they’ve lost 45% of their matches compared to just 13% in the 16 with him.

Augsburg-Draw at 2.79

Hannover v Leipzig – Saturday 14:30
Stefan Ilsanker (DM) and Naby Keita (CM), Leipzig

Ilsanker left his international squad having sustained a knee injury and will likely miss this weekend. Without him in the starting XI since the start of last season, Leipzig have scored fewer than two goals in 57% of their 21 games, compared to just 35% in the 40 with him. The Austrian defensive midfielder allows the more attacking players freedom going forward, one of which is Keita who will likely be absent too. The Guinean bagged himself a goal and an assist in their last game and they’ve won 56% of their games since the start of last season with him, while this figure is a mere 38% in his absence. Leipzig’s average goals scored have fallen from 1.88 per game in his 48 starts compared to 1.23 gpg in the 13 he’s missed and they could struggle without their key midfielders.

Under 1.5 Leipzig Goals at 1.96

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