Adrian Clarke is back with his latest Premier League Insights Column with two selections for the weekend ahead…
A MUST-WIN FOR FOREST & THEY ARE A GOOD PRICE TO GET IT
With time and matches running out on them, Nottingham Forest and Southampton are well and truly in squeaky bum territory this weekend.
They meet at the City Ground in the six-pointiest of six-pointers, knowing that defeat will almost certainly send them down to the Championship.
Traditionally, Saints are pretty good at coming up with miracles, but Ruben Selles’ version doesn’t really conjure up a lot of belief, do they?
His team needs at least 10 points from the last four matches to stand a chance of survival, which means it’s victory or bust in the East Midlands.
Collecting two points from a possible 15 on the road since their famous win at Chelsea and losing five of their last six games full stop, the likelihood of a win does feel like a longer shot than the 3.65 on offer from Matchbook.
If that price feels a tad skinny, I have the opposite take on how the markets view Nottingham Forest, who are rated 2.2 shots to land the three-point haul they crave.
In front of a raucous home crowd they slayed Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 in their last City Ground fixture, and over the course of this campaign, they’ve shown decent form on their own patch.
That connection between manager Steve Cooper, his players, and the supporters has been special – and in a game of this magnitude, it could be worth a goal head start.
At home to bottom half sides they have won 4, drawn 3 and lost 1. A quartet of those encounters also featured precious, clean sheets.
For the record, Southampton have drawn blanks in 47% of their fixtures away from St Mary’s.
I say this is a must-win for Forest – who can still save themselves if they don’t – because of the remaining fixtures.
Arsenal at home won’t be easy, and their other two matches are away from home at Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Forest’s rotten away record means those are hardly gimmes!
It ramps up the significance of this encounter, which I believe they have to win.
In spite of their precarious position, Nottingham Forest have scored in 15 of their 17 home games this term. This is highly encouraging, not least because the Saints have kept just four clean sheets in 34.
Inspired by Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson, flanking Taiwo Awoniyi, I do feel that Cooper’s scrappers have enough to see off the Saints.
If they score first, instinct tells me it could break Southampton’s wavering resolve.
So, this is a no-frills selection. Nottingham Forest on the nose to beat Southampton at 2.2
STRONG FANCY FOR OVERS TO LAND AT THE COTTAGE
Attack is often the best form of defence, and that’s a mantra which Dean Smith seems to have at the forefront of his mind at Leicester City.
The Foxes’ interim boss can see what we all see too, and that’s a Leicester City rearguard you simply can’t trust. I mean, who else concedes 23 shots, eight shots on target, and an xG Against of 3.09 at home to Everton?!
So, with limited time to make enough of a positive impression to land the job permanently, I sense that Smith is ‘going for it’.
Jamie Vardy is back in the team and flying, as are Harvey Barnes and James Maddison. When those three are sharp, the Foxes are dangerous.
Before Smith’s arrival, Leicester City were often ponderous and flat, averaging an Expected Goals tally of 1.2 per game.
Under Smith they haven’t once dipped under 2, averaging 2.61xG a game instead!
On Bank Holiday Monday they travel to Fulham for a match they really need to win.
Facing Marco Silva’s side at the moment, with no Mitrovic and nothing but pride to play for, feels like an opportunity that cannot be squandered.
Leicester City are certain to attack the match with ambition, and because of the visitors’ weaknesses, I strongly suspect Fulham will release the handbrake and have a go too.
The 2022-23 season stats lean strongly toward a match containing goals.
A whopping 65% of Fulham’s games have featured Over 2.5 goals (3rd highest in the Premier League) and Leicester City are a place behind on 62%.
Five of both teams’ last eight matches have seen three or more goals too.
Both Teams to Score at 1.7 has to be a runner. It’s a punt that has landed in 65% of Fulham’s home games and 65% of Leicester’s away contests.
They have been involved in a stack of high-scoring affairs away from the King Power Stadium this term, with their away games averaging 3.59 goals.
That’s not it.
Between them, Fulham and Leicester have produced just 14 clean sheets from a combined 68 Premier League fixtures. Having got the calculator out, it’s a lowly 20.6% hit rate.
For me, the game state suggests an open, attacking clash (Leicester must target three points and why would Fulham sit back?) and this ties in nicely with a body of evidence that indicates these two are at their best inside the opposition half.
Over 2.5 goals has been trimmed a little since I first looked, but at 1.83 it still feels very backable. I expect a fun game with three or more goals.
- NOTTINGHAM FOREST to beat Southampton (2.2)
- Fulham v Leicester City – OVER 2.5 GOALS (1.83)
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