Adrian Clarke is back with his penultimate Premier League Insights Column of the season with two selections for the weekend ahead…
BACKING UNITED TO GET THE JOB DONE AT BOURNEMOUTH
With Liverpool breathing down their necks it has been a slightly less comfortable passage into the Champions League than Manchester United would have envisioned a couple of months back.
At one stage they were title contenders but letting a two-goal lead slip at Spurs, before succumbing meekly to 1-0 defeats at Brighton and West Ham, means things have got unnecessarily twitchy for Erik ten Hag’s side.
Two wins from three are required, so their mission this Saturday at Bournemouth is crystal clear – and I do fancy them to claim the three points they need.
Gary O’Neil has done a marvellous job at the Vitality Stadium, but from their end, it is already mission accomplished.
Bournemouth are safe, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say they have checked out when that 5% edge goes from a football team, it often makes a heck of a difference.
A highly motivated United, who also welcome Marcus Rashford back from injury, up against a side that’s lost eight times at home already this season (getting beaten in three of their last four on the south coast) looks a decent match-up for the visitors.
Regular backers of Manchester United will have been bitten badly by their away form this term, earning just seven points from a possible 33 away to Top 12 teams.
Trusting them isn’t easy.
Yet on their travels against opponents who are inside the bottom eight, like Bournemouth, it’s a markedly different story.
Professional victories at Southampton, Leicester City, Leeds United, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Wolves will provide plenty of confidence they can despatch the Cherries too.
At 1.53 I can’t consider tipping Ten Hag’s men on the nose, but I would like to pair it with an angle that opposes goals.
- In those seven away matches against clubs in the bottom eight, a total of just 11 goals were scored. Five clean sheet wins were accrued, and that’s the type of success they will target once more.
Manchester United are solid out of possession right now. They’ve let in just four goals in their last eight Premier League matches and are more than capable of keeping the Cherries at arm’s length.
In fact, 14 of United’s last 15 top-flight matches have come in under 4.5 goals. The only exception was that humiliating 7-0 destruction at the hands of Liverpool!
With the pressure on I expect a highly focussed United display at the Vitality, where they get the job done, even if it isn’t a spectacular performance.
Manchester United & Under 4.5 goals feels like the right play, and at a price of 2.06 with Matchbook it has a fair bit of appeal.
FORWARDS WILL BE ON TOP WHEN MAGPIES HOST UNDER-PRESSURE FOXES
Leicester City have no option but to go for it now.
Two wins from two is a must for the beleaguered Foxes, who are staring down the barrel of a surprise and let’s face it, pretty catastrophic relegation to the Championship.
Interim gaffer Dean Smith knows his side can’t defend. They haven’t collected a Premier League clean sheet since before the World Cup, a run of 21 games.
It’s been a campaign riddled with individual errors at the back, and up against a rampant Newcastle United side who dismantled Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday evening I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who expects Leicester to earn a shutout at St James’ Park.
Eddie Howe’s side will score. It’s just a case of how many…
As impressive as they were against the Seagulls (what a fantastic win that was) they did concede for a 15th time in 16 matches. It’s nine games in a row now when Nick Pope has had to pick the ball out of his own net at least once.
We praised them to the hilt for their solidity at the back earlier on in 2022-23, but that clean-sheet mentality has faded on Tyneside.
Leicester City, for all their many faults, always pose a goal threat.
Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes and James Maddison are capable of making things happen against anybody in the division, and some of their better displays have been on the road.
The Foxes have scored in 15 of 18 away matches this season, returning a 67% success rate on Both Teams to Score away from the King Power too.
With the game-state suggesting they must score goals, and Newcastle less solid than they were before, I am backing them to register at least one strike of their own.
Attack for them, has to be the best form of defence.
Backing Newcastle United & BTTS at 2.9 is real temptation but in this column, I’m playing a bit safer by just selecting BTTS on it’s own. That selection is available at 1.82, which feels quite big.
- Manchester United to win and Under 4.5 goals at Bournemouth (2.06)
- Newcastle United v Leicester City – BTTS (1.82)