Adrian Clarke is back refreshed after FA Cup weekend with two strong Premier league fancies…
TEN HAG’S RED DEVILS TO KEEP ON FLYING AT HOME TO THE EAGLES
The direction of travel is upwards for Manchester United.
With a smart, strong head coach in charge of a dressing room that’s dripping with talent, you can see exactly where they are heading.
Sharper, better organised and with a long-term plan in place, Red Devils fans should be feeling optimistic.
A top four finish, plus a trophy is a realistic possibility for Erik ten Hag and his players this season.
They entertain Crystal Palace this weekend and I am backing them to continue a run that’s seen them win 12 of their last 14 matches in all competitions.
On that run they had just one draw (at Selhurst Park two and half weeks ago) where they conceded a brilliant free kick equaliser right at the death. And their only loss was also via a late goal, in a 3-2 defeat at Arsenal.
Old Trafford is beginning to feel quite scary for opponents again. It’s a while since we said or thought that, but it’s true.
Under their determined Dutch coach Manchester United have collected 22 points from a possible 27, conceding a measly five goals in nine home matches.
Considering they have entertained every member of the current top six, plus Liverpool, that’s an astoundingly positive return.
Have they blown opponents away that often? No.
Only one of their Old Trafford league matches has featured over 3.5 goals, and that was their 3-1 win at home to the Gunners. The remaining eight have all gone under that total.
I see a continuation of that pattern in the return match against Patrick Vieira’s Eagles.
They handled United very well in south London and will feel confident they can contain them once again.
They usually put-up stubborn resistance on their travels, with a grand total of 18 goals scored in their nine away games until this point.
Scoring enough goals to win those contests has been the issue; with just seven efforts finding the back of the net.
Stats-wise Palace are not involved in many goal-fests away from Selhurst Park. Just one away game has featured four goals or more, with six of them going Under 2.5 goals.
The formbook and eye test both tell you that Manchester United are red-hot favourites to win this fixture.
Player of the Month Marcus Rashford is playing elite level football right now, and around him you see in-form players everywhere you look.
Bruno Fernandes, for example, has been different class ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left the building.
My tip here is Manchester United to win & Under 3.5 goals. That’s the best value way to get Ten Hag’s boys on side. At a price of 2.1 with Matchbook I’m more than interested.
BACKING GOALS IN THE WEST v EAST MIDLANDS DERBY
You wouldn’t describe Leicester City as being in rude health, but they are certainly in a better place than they were a few weeks back.
A morale lifting 2-2 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion, James Maddison’s return from injury, coupled with the arrivals of Tete, Harry Souttar and Victor Kristiansen in the transfer window, should have raised Brendan Rodgers’ chin off the floor. He’s down but not out. Not yet anyway.
Will they be sufficiently buoyed to put up a competitive display at Aston Villa this weekend? Yes, I think so.
They are almost always good value for a goal on the road, scoring in nine of their last away matches, plus injury issues subsiding,
They have a starting XI that might just fancy their chances of claiming all three points from their Midlands neighbours.
Unai Emery’s Villa had a very quiet January in the market, bringing full back Alex Moreno in and letting Danny Ings go, but a steady-as-you-go approach might be the most sensible route to success for them in the short term.
On the field Villa have scored in every Premier League match under Emery so far, amounting to seven matches in a row.
Considering they’ve faced Liverpool, Brighton, Manchester United and Spurs on that run, it’s a noteworthy achievement.
Facing a Foxes side that have leaked 35 goals (the joint second highest tally in the division) I would anticipate that run continuing on Saturday afternoon.
My fancy here is Both Teams to Score. It’s landed in 60 per cent of games at Villa Park this term – and all four under Emery – and for Leicester City on the road we’re talking about the same percentage.
Rodgers’ men score and concede. That’s the way it’s been for a while.
I did look at Over 2.5 goals at 1.94, but I do want to get a 1-1 draw onside, so for me it’s worth taking the shorter 1.81 on offer for BTTS.
If any of you reading this like taking historical results into account, you do have to go all the way back to a 2007 League Cup tie for the last time Aston Villa v Leicester City didn’t see both teams finding the back of the net.
That stat sealed it for me!
- Manchester United v Crystal Palace – United & Under 3.5 goals (2.1)
- Aston Villa v Leicester City – BTTS (1.81)
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