Mark Stinchcombe: Expect United To Park The Bus, Again...

9 min

The Premier League returns this weekend and although we’re entering gameweek nine not much has changed since August. Man City are still 1.67 favourites with Liverpool the best of the rest, and perhaps two of the more interesting sides this year from that bunch are Chelsea and Manchester United who take part in this weekend’s big game at lunchtime on Saturday.

Chelsea are 1.77 favourites, with United at 5.2, which doesn’t seem too far wrong when it’s second plays eight in the table. However, an interesting angle for me is the goal expectancy, which is pitched at a rather large 2.85 when last season’s match was only 2.40. It’s the same United side, albeit a bit more ragged, while Chelsea have traded Antonio Conte for Maurizio Sarri and now sit joint top, having scored 18 and conceded just five.

This isn’t perhaps surprising when they’re firing in the second most shots, conceding the third least and possessing the second most time with the ball. However, there is a caveat to this in that it’s just eight games worth of data and five of their matches have come against the bottom seven.

Eden Hazard is firing on all cylinders with seven goals and three assists but his expected goals is just 3.79 and there’s something to be said that if you stop Hazard you stop Chelsea.

And the perfect tool for the job? Arguably a Jose Mourinho bus. Mourinho has come in for a lot of criticism this season and they’ve conceded 14 goals already, but it seems to have gone from one extreme to the other. While last season they over performed defensively this season they have been a bit unlucky with the xG making their goals conceded total closer to 11 and they’re only conceding the fifth most shots per-game.

It’s unlikely Mourinho will instruct his troops to over commit, and United have failed to score in 10 of their last 14 trips away to the ‘big 6’. So with the match looking likely to play out in the fashion of Chelsea dominating the ball but United remaining a rigid defensive unit, under 2.75 goals looks a value pick, particularly given the big increase in goal expectation. Even if Chelsea were to win 3-0, we would still get half our stake back so a point on under 2.75 goals seems a good bet here.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…

Saturday at 3pm there’s only one place to be for a goals bet.

Yes that’s right, Bournemouth.

They host Southampton at the Vitality Stadium and we can back over 2.5 goals at 1.86 even though 23 of their last 29 games have seen three or more goals (79%) and their games have had 134 goals since the beginning of last season (2.91pg). Crucially, we can be confident that these numbers are sustainable as the average expected goals is returning 3.0.

Mark Hughes has only presided over 16 games for Southampton, eight either side of a transfer window, so it’s difficult to read too much into those matches but it’s healthy to see their games average xG is 2.78. The Saints are firing in the third most shots this season, more than Liverpool and Spurs, whilst still conceding the sixth most, which should produce goal action at both ends. Given the stats it may come as surprise they are down in 16th in the table, but they just haven’t been taking their chances, converting only 0.8 goals per-game when actually the xG model suggests it should be double that at 1.60.

Southampton manager Mark Hughes during the pre-season friendly match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton.

Eddie Howe and Hughes met in April at St Mary’s where it finished 2-1. Another three goals here will do nicely and I’m going to have 1.5 points on the over 2.5 goals market here. Both sides have missed 26 big chances between them already this season, so we just need them to find the back of the net in this one.

Not a question of if, but how many

Finally, on Saturday in the evening kick-off, Huddersfield face Liverpool at home.

It’s a tale of woe for the home side at The John Smith’s stadium, having scored just once in their last nine home games. And it’s no surprise they’ve only scored 32 goals in 46 Premier League games, given they are firing in the fourth worst shots per-game and only managing a pitiful 0.1 one of those shots from inside the 6 yard-box.

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool certainly aren’t a side who give up plenty of chances, conceding the second least shots per-game with just 13 goals in 23 games since Virgil van Dijk made his debut. At the other end the Reds have scored 99 goals since the beginning of last season at an average of over two a game. Huddersfield have already found themselves two down to Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City by half-time this season, and it looks to be a case of how many for Liverpool.

Liverpool won both these games 3-0 last season, comprehensively justifying those margins with a total xG of 4.72 – 0.44, while Huddersfield managed just one shot on target across 180 minutes. Taking Liverpool -1.25 looks a value play with half stakes back if the Reds win by just one and it’s well worth a point here.

Recommended bets:

  • Under 2.75 goals Chelsea – Man Utd ~1.90 – 1 point
  • Over 2.50 goals Bournemouth – Southampton ~1.86 – 1.5 points
  • Liverpool -1.25 goals ~1.78 – 1 point