The Premier League rolls onto Gameweek 20, so Infogol's Jake Osgathorpe uses expected goals (xG) to predict the likely winners and scorelines of each match...
"In the league, Liverpool are winless in five, but in all five games, the Reds have won the xG battle convincingly. Through that five-game stretch, they have averaged 1.65 xGF and 0.82 xGA per game"
Hammers to win another low-scorer
Crystal Palace vs West Ham
Crystal Palace were thumped in their last outing by Manchester City, losing 4-0 at the Etihad, but the concerning part of the victory was their lack of imagination in attack. They mustered just two shots equating to 0.05 xG in that game and have now drawn a blank in four of their last six league games.
West Ham are in excellent form, with their deserved 2-1 win over West Brom their third straight in the league, as they have lost one of their last eight. David Moyes has done an unbelievable job in turning a relegation threatened team into a top half side, and their process this term has been excellent (1.51 xGF, 1.29 xGA per game). The model thinks the visitors can edge this one (40%) in a low-scoring encounter (55% U2.5) - 0-1.
Back the 0-1 @ 8.615/2
No let-up for Newcastle
Newcastle vs Leeds
Newcastle are on a miserable run of form heading into this one, having lost six of their last eight following a deserved loss at Villa at the weekend (xG: AVL 2.60 - 0.61 NEW). They have been so poor at both ends of the pitch all season long, shown by their underlying process (1.01 xGF, 1.72 xGA pg). Since their 5-2 loss to Leeds at Elland Road, Steve Bruce's side have averaged just 0.59 non-pen xGF per game. Tragic.
Leeds are also bang out of form heading to St. James' Park, having lost their last three in all competitions without scoring. They were impressively held at arms-length by Brighton last time out, but will have gotten some much-needed rest, having not played in 10 days. On the whole, Marcelo Bielsa's side have been sensational in attack this term (1.71 xGF pg), while also proving to kamikaze in defence (1.96 xGA pg), so we could see a fair few goals here. Newcastle should fancy their chances of notching here, with BTTS given a 57% chance of occurring. Leeds are taken to win though (45%) - 1-2.
Back the 1-2 @ 9.617/2
Arsenal to avoid defeat at St. Mary's this time
Southampton vs Arsenal
These two met at the weekend in the FA Cup, with Southampton knocking out holders Arsenal 1-0. Saints haven't played a league game for 10 days, with their last match being a disappointing defeat at Leicester. Prior to that game though, they had been beaten just once in seven league matches (vs Man City), proving very difficult to break down, conceding just three times in that period. This season, Southampton have been extremely solid defensively, especially at home (1.12 xGA pg).
Arsenal were on a great run before that FA Cup defeat, but most of their wins in that time were against poor teams. Nonetheless, improvements appear to have been made, and confidence is flooding back. Four wins from nine away from home is a concern here, but their defence on the road has been so strong (1.09 xGA pg) that they should avoid a second successive defeat to the Saints. The model is on the fence with this game, as both teams are given a 36% chance of winning, so the draw looks the way to go, in a low-scoring game (55% U2.5) - 1-1.
Back the 1-1 @ 7.413/2
West Brom vs Manchester City
West Brom looked to have given themselves a lifeline with victory at Molineux 10 days ago, but a deserved defeat to West Ham coupled with road wins for Brighton and Burnley means they are still six points from safety. Sam Allardyce's side continue to sit rock bottom of our xG table, having collected the fewest expected points (xP), racked up the fewest xGF (14.9) and allowed the most xGA (40.7).
Manchester City look to have top gear at the right time, with victory over Aston Villa fully deserved (xG: MCI 3.72 - 0.70 AVL) and one that extended their PL winning streak to six. They have conceded only one goal in that time and have kept eight clean sheets in their last 10, allowing a mind-boggling 0.52 xGA per game. They are the meanest defence in the league.
No Kevin De Bruyne is an issue moving forward, but it shouldn't affect them in this game, which is set to be a comfortable City win (78%), and another win to nil (55% BTTS 'no') - 0-3.
Back the 0-3 @ 8.07/1
Villa to continue their climb
Burnley vs Aston Villa
Burnley did the unthinkable last week; they beat Liverpool at Anfield. Sean Dyche's side were the first side in 69 games to win in Liverpool's back yard, and while they were fortunate based on xG, it was a vintage Burnley-type performance (xG: LIV 1.92 - 1.10 BUR). That was their fifth win in 11 league games, lifting them to 15th in the table and seven clear of the drop zone. They have been solid defensively at home (1.08 xGA pg), but they face one of the best attacking teams in the league on Wednesday.
Aston Villa made light work of Newcastle on Saturday, running out deserved 2-0 winners (xG: AVL 2.60 - 0.61 NEW) to end a three-game winless run - though those three games were against Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City. Their underlying numbers this season are sensational, averaging 2.04 xGF per game, meaning this will be an intriguing clash of styles.
Expect this match to be defence vs attack, and the model expects attack to come out on top (42% AVL), with goals expected, in contrast to what the market is suggesting (53% O2.5, 56% BTTS) - 1-2.
Back the 1-2 @ 9.417/2
Chelsea vs Wolves
So, that's it for Frank Lampard at Chelsea. The club legend was sacked on Monday, and it is rumoured that Thomas Tuchel is set to replace him. Lampard's side occupied 9th at the time of his dismissal but sat a lofty 3rd in our xG table, again showing that the underlying process was strong. They have been unlucky more than anything this season, as their for and against tallies are identical to their xGF and xGA tallies, but one thing is for sure, the man replacing Lampard will inherit a sensational squad of talented players.
Wolves have slipped to 14th in recent weeks after some poor results, as their last win against Chelsea was seven games ago. Performances in that time have been poor too, with attacking issues the main reason for the poor form (1.13 xGF per game last seven). The signing of Willian Jose is a positive one and should help their attack, but there are a lot of improvements needed.
Expect Chelsea to set-up in a much sturdier manner in this game, and as mentioned, they have been performing to s strong level - process wise - all season long. The model gives them a 52% chance of winning here, though goals aren't expected (53% U2.5) - 2-0.
Back the 2-0 @ 8.415/2
Brighton to pull further clear of drop zone
Brighton vs Fulham
Brighton picked up a much-needed and fully deserved win at Leeds in their last Premier League outing, with their defensive performance in that game excellent (xG: LEE 0.35 - 0.96 BHA). As has been constantly mentioned on this column this season, the Seagulls are in a false position based on expected goals, sitting 8th in our xG table, meaning that, if they maintain their same levels, they would pull clear of the relegation zone.
This is a huge game for Fulham, who are winless in eight league games, as a defeat at the Amex would see them fall eight points behind Brighton. There have been signs of improvement on the eye-test, but the underlying numbers over that period have been poor (1.04 xGF, 1.83 xGA pg) - albeit against some stern opposition.
Fulham are weak defensively though, and Brighton are an excellent home team (based on underlying numbers), averaging 1.93 xGF per game at the Amex. A home win is likely (50%), with goals expected this time around (50% BTTS) - 2-1.
Back the 2-1 @ 10.09/1
Honours even at Goodison
Everton vs Leicester
Everton sit sixth ahead of hosting third placed Leicester, but they do have two games in hand on the majority of the top six. A win at Wolves was their fifth league victory in six matches, but in contrast to what we saw at the start of the season, the Toffees have become a defence-first team. Since their defeat at home to Leeds, Carlo Ancelotti's side have allowed an impressive 1.16 xGA per game, but they have also struggled in attack, generating a measly 1.05 xGF per game. Goals and chances have been few are far between.
Leicester are also in excellent form, having won four of their last six league games, with their most recent home successes against Southampton and Chelsea being extremely impressive. In that six-match unbeaten run, only Manchester United have created more than 1.0 xG against the Foxes, so they too are a stubborn defensive unit. No Jamie Vardy is a blow and could impact their attacking process.
A low-scoring game looks likely here between these solid defensive sides, with a 54% chance of under 2.5 goals, and the model can't separate these two. Draw - 1-1.
Back the 1-1 @ 7.413/2
United to continue to roll
Manchester United vs Sheffield United
Manchester United continue to set the pace at the top of the Premier League after their deserved 2-1 win over Fulham last week (xG: FUL 0.89 - 2.04 MUN). They followed that up with a win over Liverpool in the FA Cup, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side appear to be hitting full tilt. United are now unbeaten in 13 league games, winning 10 of those, and will be fancying their chances of enhancing that record here. However, this United team do give their opponents chances (1.90 xGF, 1.50 xGA pg).
Sheffield United couldn't follow their first win of the league season with a result against Tottenham last time out, as individual errors ruined any chance they had in that game. Though they sit bottom of the table, the Blades are 17th in our xG table based on expected points (xP), though their away process doesn't give confidence that they can get a result here (0.97 xGF, 1.75 xGA pg).
This should be a home win (70%), though it wouldn't be a surprise to see Chris Wilder's side get on the scoresheet in a high-scoring game (56% O2.5) - 3-1.
Back the 3-1 @ 11.521/2
Reds to get back to winning ways
Tottenham vs Liverpool
Tottenham had a rocky festive period, but their win over Sheffield United was much-needed and kept them in the top six. It was yet another clinical display from Spurs, who netted three times from chances equating to 1.11 xGF. At home this season, Jose Mourinho's side have a strong process, averaging 1.81 xGF and 1.28 xGA per game, and given how Liverpool have been performing, they will be fancying their chances.
Liverpool are having a rough time of it currently, winning just once in seven all competitions, and that came against Aston Villa's youth team. In the league they are winless in five, but in all five games, the Reds have won the xG battle convincingly. Through that five-game stretch, they have averaged 1.65 xGF and 0.82 xGA per game, so performances have been good. If they continue in the same manner, it is only a matter of time before things take a turn for the better for the champions.
The Reds will be desperate to get back to winning ways, and the model makes them 43% favourites to do so, though it won't be easy, with Spurs obviously offering a serious threat on the counter attack. Goals should flow (54% O2.5, 57% BTTS), just as they did at Anfield when Liverpool won 2-1, and I can see the same scoreline here - 1-2.
Back the @ 10.519/2
Crystal Palace vs West Ham: Back the 0-1 @ 8.615/2
Newcastle vs Leeds: Back the 1-2 @ 9.617/2
Southampton vs Arsenal: Back the 1-1 @ 7.413/2
West Brom vs Manchester City: Back the 0-3 @ 8.07/1
Burnley vs Aston Villa: Back the 1-2 @ 9.417/2
Chelsea vs Wolves: Back the 2-0 @ 8.415/2
Brighton vs Fulham: Back the 2-1 @ 10.09/1
Everton vs Leicester: Back the 1-1 @ 7.413/2
Manchester United vs Sheffield United: Back the 3-1 @ 11.521/2
Tottenham vs Liverpool: Back the 1-2 @ 10.519/2