Gameweek 17 brings the first fixtures in 2021, and Infogol's Jake Osgathorpe welcomes the New Year by using expected goals (xG) to predict the likely winners and scorelines of each match...
"Leeds have allowed the second most xGA in the league this season (31.5), but 52% of that total came in their five games against last seasons top six (LIV, MCI, MUN, CHE, LEI)."
Toffees to edge to another narrow win
Everton vs West Ham
Everton's game in midweek against Manchester City was called off, so Carlo Ancelotti's side should be well rested here. The Toffees are on a four-game winning streak in the league after a 1-0 win at Sheffield United last weekend, another solid defensive display. During that four-game span, Everton have allowed just 0.8 non-pen xGA pg. West Ham are winless in four after a goalless draw with Southampton, as their season has stalled after a fast start. They have allowed an average of 1.4 xGA pg this season, but their attack has struggled in their winless run (1.0 xGF pg). Everton can register another win here (50% EVE), in typically grinding fashion (54% U2.5) - 1-0.
Back the 1-0 @ 9.28/1
United to avoid Villa scare
Manchester United vs Aston Villa
Manchester United left it very late to beat Wolves on Tuesday, but it was a fair result based on expected goals (xG: MUN 1.7 - 0.5 WOL). That was another game in which United won the xG battle, something they have done in seven of their last nine games, showing their upturn in results is no fluke. Aston Villa are in great form and shouldn't be underestimated here, especially after a securing a point at Chelsea in midweek. The Villains are performing like a top four team based on underlying numbers (2.1 xGF, 1.1 xGA pg), and on the road, only Leicester and Manchester United have collected more points. Villa will cause problems for United, but I feel as though United's extra quality in attack will lead to a home win (53%), with goals expected (52% O2.5, 53% BTTS) - 2-1.
Back the 2-1 @ 9.417/2
Tottenham another top six team to beat Leeds
Tottenham vs Leeds
Spurs have had their issues of late, but this is a game that should suit, as their counter-attacking style should be able to exploit Leeds' vulnerable defence. Overall this campaign, Tottenham have averaged 1.6 xGF and 1.4 xGA pg, good but not great underlying numbers, though given how Leeds have fared against better teams this season, Spurs will fancy their chances. Marcelo Bielsa's side made it consecutive wins to nil following a 6-2 loss at Manchester United, beating Burnley and West Brom. Leeds have allowed the second most xGA in the league this season (31.5), but 52% of that total came in their five games against last seasons top six (LIV, MCI, MUN, CHE, LEI). Spurs are the only team in that top six they are yet to face. The numbers suggest that, when playing against top quality sides with top quality individuals, Leeds get shredded due to their crazy one-vs-one press all over the field. Tottenham have better individuals, so should be able to win here (51% TOT), with goals likely to follow this gung-ho Leeds unit (57% O2.5, 58% BTTS) - 3-1.
Back the 3-1 @ 13.5
Basement Blades to scrape a point
Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United
Crystal Palace are winless in five following a fortunate 1-1 draw with Leicester on Monday, as the Eagles conceded a host of chances once again (xG: CRY 0.4 - 1.9 LEI). That means that, in the last three matches, Palace have allowed 9.4 xGA (3.1 per game), and while Sheffield United aren't of the attacking standard of Liverpool, Villa and Leicester, that stat is still hugely concerning. The Blades were beaten 1-0 by Burnley on Tuesday in another tightly contested match. Though they only have two points on the board, Chris Wilder's side have been in nearly every game they have played this term, shown by the fact that 11 of their 14 defeats have been by a single goal margin. They are now 11 points from safety, but that fighting spirit is still there, and I see them getting a point here (62% SHU or Draw) in another low-scoring game (58% U2.5) - 1-1.
Back the 1-1 @ 7.26/1
All square at Amex
Brighton vs Wolves
Brighton are looking increasingly like they are in a serious relegation battle, as despite posting the sixth best underlying process in the entire Premier League, they find themselves just two points above the drop zone after a 1-0 loss to Arsenal. The Seagulls were impressive in the first half of that game, but dropped off in the second. They are yet to win at home this season, but have the fifth best home process, so that win will come, but maybe not this weekend. Wolves were beaten by a last-gasp deflected goal at Old Trafford, their fourth loss in six games. They don't look as good as last season in attack, and are clearly missing Raul Jimenez, but they remain solid defensively, which should help them get a point here in a low-scoring game (64% U2.5) - 1-1.
Back the 1-1 @ 7.06/1
Arsenal to extend winning run
West Brom vs Arsenal
West Brom's game-plan against Leeds went out of the window after a bizarre own goal early on, and they were picked off when playing catch-up after that. I think we can expect a similarly resolute performance here as what we witnessed at Liverpool, with a defence-first approach to be used once again. Arsenal look to have turned a corner, winning two in a row and deservedly so. Their display against Chelsea was impressive from an attacking stand-point, while against Brighton they were adequate, with that game again highlighting the season-long attacking issues that have faced the Gunners. They have averaged 1.3 xGF and 1.3 xGA per game this term, a mid-table process, but it should be good enough to edge past this West Brom team (54%), though don't expect an away blow-out (63% U2.5) - 0-1.
Back the 0-1 @ 8.415/2
Burnley to pull further clear of drop zone
Burnley vs Fulham
Burnley are one of the form teams in the Premier League heading into this game, picking up 14 points from a possible 24, winning four of their last eight following a 1-0 win over Sheffield United. The Clarets are once again proving to be a difficult opponent, especially at Turf Moor, where they are allowing just 1.0 xGA per game. Fulham are much improved since the start of the season, where they looked like relegation fodder, becoming more stubborn defensively while having the potential to excite in attack. Still, this is a team allowing 1.8 xGA per game on the road, so are gettable when playing away from Craven Cottage, and the model sees Burnley coming away with a low-scoring (56% U2.5) home win (46% BUR) - 1-0.
Back the 1-0 @ 7.06/1
Foxes to beat Magpies
Newcastle vs Leicester
Newcastle have the potential to be sucked into a relegation battle, with Steve Bruce's side posting an expected goal difference (xGD) inferior to Burnley, Brighton and Fulham. They have been fortunate to get as many points on the board as they have, allowing 1.7 xGA per game this season. Leicester were unfortunate to only draw with Crystal Palace on Monday, allowing only 0.4 xGA worth of chances while racking up 1.9 xGF. The Foxes continue to put up impressive underlying numbers on the road (2.1 xGF, 1.4 xGA pg), and should be able to get back to winning ways this Sunday. We give Leicester a 48% chance of winning this one, though a high-scoring win isn't expected (51% U2.5) - 0-2.
Back the 0-2 @ 8.415/2
Reds to eke out away win
Southampton vs Liverpool
Southampton come into this game on the back of successive 0-0 draws that saw them create a combined 0.8 xGF, as their attacking process has begun to ease up. At home, the Saints are averaging 1.2 xGF per game, and while that may not seem a lot, they are playing against a Liverpool team who are especially vulnerable on their travels. Jurgen Klopp's side are top of the table, and rightly so, but have had struggles away from home, mainly due to the fact that they are allowing an average of 1.6 xGA per game. They do out-create their opponents though (1.9 xGF pg), and have the quality to hurt any team on their day, as Crystal Palace found out recently. The Reds should get the win (56% LIV) in a high-scoring encounter (56% O2.5, 55% BTTS) - 1-2.
Back the 1-2 @ 8.88/1
Everton vs West Ham: Back the 1-0 @ 9.28/1
Manchester United vs Aston Villa: Back the 2-1 @ 9.417/2
Tottenham vs Leeds: Back the 3-1 @ 13.5
Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United: Back the 1-1 @ 7.26/1
Brighton vs Wolves: Back the 1-1 @ 7.06/1
West Brom vs Arsenal: Back the 0-1 @ 8.415/2
Burnley vs Fulham: Back the 1-0 @ 7.06/1
Newcastle vs Leicester: Back the 0-2 @ 8.415/2
Southampton vs Liverpool: Back the 1-2 @ 8.88/1