The Manchester derby headlines Gameweek 28 of the Premier League, and Sporting Life's Jake Osgathorpe once again uses Infogol's expected goals (xG) model to predict the likely winners and scorelines of each match...
"In fact, their attacking woes stretch back further, with Roy Hodgson’s side creating over 1.0 xGF just once in their last 14 league games."
Clarets to takes points off Gunners
Burnley v Arsenal
Burnley were unfortunate not to beat Leicester in midweek according to xG, with the signs being that their attacking process is picking up. Turf Moor has again been a tough place to visit this season, with their xG process highlighting just how tight their home matches have been (1.1 xGF, 1.2 xGA pg).
Arsenal should be well rested for this having not played in midweek, but are fresh off of a good win at Leicester. They are improving, but I am interested to see how they deal with the low-block of Burnley, given the Gunners haven't been prolific in attack over the course of the season. The model gives the host a 60% chance of avoiding defeat in a low-scoring game (58% U2.5) - 1-1.
Blades to eek another point
Sheffield United v Southampton
Sheffield United picked up their fourth win of the season in midweek, beating Aston Villa at home in another tight encounter. They continue to fight and scrap for points, and are rarely beaten heavily, shown by the fact that 14 of their 21 league defeats have been by a single goal.
Southampton have issues, and come into this game in worst form than the Blades having picked up just one point from nine games. They have struggled in attack all season long (1.1 xGF pg), and are expected to find it difficult to breach the Blades in this one, even if the hosts are missing numerous defenders. The hosts can avoid defeat (64%) in a typically dull encounter (57% U2.5) - 0-0.
Villa to edge West Midlands derby again
Aston Villa v Wolves
Aston Villa head into this one on the back of a defeat at Bramall Lane in midweek, as it is a case of one step forward and two steps back in their bid to secure European football. Having started the season like an attacking juggernaut, their underlying process has declined of late, shown by the fact that they have scored just five in their last seven league games.
Wolves saw their five-game unbeaten run come to an end at Manchester City on Tuesday, but it was a matter of time, having lost the xG battle in two of those five. Attacking issues continue to plague Nuno's side, especially on the road, where they have averaged just 1.0 xGA per game this term. Villa are taken to edge this (41%), though this game isn't likely to be high-scoring either (57% U2.5) - 1-0.
Seagulls to get a result they deserve - for once
Brighton v Leicester
As discussed on this weeks Football...Only Bettor again, Brighton continue to defy the data, as in their two games last week they created tonnes of chances equating to 6.3 xGF while allowing 1.0 xGA but lost by a 3-1 aggregate scoreline. Only Manchester City have accumulated more expected points at home than Brighton this term, with their sole home win not reflecting their performances at the Amex.
Leicester are struggling for attacking creativity with James Maddison and Harvey Barnes out through injury, and that was evident in midweek at Burnley. That is of huge concern against a Brighton team who have allowed just 0.7 xGA per game in their last nine games, and while the Foxes have the best away record in the league, they are vulnerable (1.3 xGA per away game). Infogol likes Brighton's chances here (43%), though we are airing towards a low-scoring game.
All square between two strugglers
West Brom v Newcastle
West Brom were beaten by Everton in midweek, putting an end to whatever momentum they were gathering after collecting five points from three games. Performances continue to be very underwhelming though, with goals and chances are few and far between .
Newcastle were perhaps unfortunate not to beat Wolves last time out, but have since suffered some huge injury blows, with Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron doubts for this game. Steve Bruce's side are just three points above the drop zone, and nine ahead of West Brom, so can't really afford a defeat here. Given their lack of attacking options, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both teams struggle to create in a cagey game, with the model unable to settle on a firm favourite - 0-0.
Narrow win for Reds
Liverpool v Fulham
Liverpool suffered their fifth straight home league loss in midweek to Chelsea, breaking an unwanted club record. They haven't looked like themselves for a long time, scoring just nine times in their last 13 league games, while netting just twice in seven home games. They have averaged just 1.3 xGF per home game in that time, so chances aren't being created at a rate we saw last season.
Fulham again gave a good account of themselves against Tottenham on Thursday, but ultimately suffered defeat. They had gone five games unbeaten before that, a run that has seen them reduce the gap to 17th placed Newcastle to just three points. Scott Parker's side have kept nearly all of their games tight of late, with 15 of their last 17 seeing under 2.5 goals, and given Liverpool's attacking issues, this could be another to fall into that 'under' category. The Reds should eek out a narrow win (68%) though to arrest their torrid home run - 1-0.
22 in a row for City
Manchester City v Manchester United
Manchester City are on an unprecedented winning run at the moment, with victory over Wolves their 21st straight win in all competitions - a staggering feat. That was their 14th league win in a row, and another dominant one. Their performances in these 'big-six' matches have been sensational, collecting 17 points from eight such clashes, averaging 2.2 xGF and 0.8 xGA per game. It is hard to oppose them here.
Manchester United are on their own 21 game win, with their draw at Crystal Palace extending their unbeaten away run. That is a positive coming into this game, but their attack as stalled of late, and is particularly ineffective in 'big-six' matches. They are yet to score a non-penalty goal in such matches this season, creating just 0.9 xGF per game on average, though they have been tight at the back in these bigger games, keeping five clean sheets and allowing 1.4 xGA per game (1.0 xGA pg if you discount the 6-1 defeat to Spurs).
City are in incredible form, and the data backs up their results, meaning they are 54% favourites to win this game, though another low-scoring big-six contest could be on the cards - 1-0.
Spurs to continue good run
Tottenham v Crystal Palace
Tottenham made it three straight wins in all competitions in midweek when beating Fulham 1-0, and all three of those wins have come with a clean sheet. Their league performances against Burnley and Fulham saw Spurs create plenty, which is something they had struggled with since beating Manchester City back in November, but they also look solid at the back. A dangerous blend.
Crystal Palace held Manchester United to a goalless draw on Wednesday, meaning they have now failed to score in four of their last five league games. In fact, their attacking woes stretch back further, with Roy Hodgson's side creating over 1.0 xGF just once in their last 14 league games. They should again struggle to threaten their opponents goal here and a Spurs win (55%) to nil (54% BTTS 'no') looks the way to go - 2-0.
The low-scoring Tuchel train to roll on
Chelsea v Everton
Chelsea moved back into the top four with a deserved victory at Anfield, another resolute display in which they limited the Reds to just 0.3 xG. Since Tuchel's arrival, the Blues have played eight league games and kept six clean sheets, allowing an average of 0.5 xGA per game - numbers rivalling Manchester City.
Everton made it three wins to nil on the spin by beating West Brom, moving them into striking position of a top four spot. The Toffees continue to be fortunate with their results according to xG, losing the xG battle in five of their last six matches. 12 of their last 17 league games have gone under 2.5 goals, highlighting the defensive-minded switch made by Ancelotti, and this game should fall into the same bracket, with Chelsea narrowly winning yet again (64%) - 1-0.
Hammers to beat Leeds again
West Ham v Leeds
West Ham were beaten by Manchester City last weekend, but they won the xG battle at the Etihad (xG: MCI 0.8 - 1.7 WHU). That was the first time since early October that a team had won the xG battle against City, highlighting just how impressive that performance was and how good this West Ham team are. Their process is worthy of a top six spot (1.6 xGF, 1.3 xGA pg).
Leeds created little against Aston Villa in last weeks defeat, with that their fourth loss in six league games. They have been especially vulnerable defensively when playing on the road this term, allowing a league leading 2.2 xGA per game. West Ham are expected to get back to winning ways here (50%), with goals likely to be prevalent at the London Stadium (57% O2.5) - 2-1.