Sporting Life's Jake Osgathorpe uses Infogol's expected goals (xG) model to predict the likely winners and scorelines of each match as the Premier League heads down the home straight...
"Tottenham somehow managed to concede nearly 4.0 xGA against Newcastle last weekend, highlighting the major defensive issues the currently have. Jose Mourinho continues to question his players as the aim for a top four finish, but Spurs have played like a mid-table team all season based on xG, and not all of that is on the players."
Wolves to pile pressure on Fulham
Fulham v Wolves
Fulham are now three points from safety having played a game more than their rivals following a 3-1 loss at Aston Villa last weekend, their fourth defeat in five league games. Home form has been a huge issue this season, winning just two of 16 - both of which came against the current bottom two.
Wolves are winless in five after a thrilling 3-2 defeat to West Ham on Monday, but the Old Gold are playing better than results would suggest. They have won the xG battle in six of their last 10 games, but have won just three of those matches, so they have been unfortunate. They can compound Fulham's misery on Friday, with goals fancied as Wolves continue their transition to an attack-first approach - 1-2.
Best Bet: Over 2.5 Goals - the Infogol model calculates an 8% margin of value in backing the overs.
No stopping City precession
Manchester City v Leeds
Manchester City have taken a firm grip of the Premier League title, and their performance against Leicester last weekend was excellent, completely dominating the side currently sat third in the league table (xG: LEI 0.3 - 1.5 MCI). Pep's side have been stellar at the Etihad, with no team collecting as many points at home, or boasting a better xG process (2.2 xGF, 0.9 xGA pg).
Leeds made it back-to-back wins over teams in the relegation zone by beating Sheffield United, but these games against the better teams are where they have struggled greatly this season. In eight games against last seasons top six, Marcelo Bielsa's side have allowed an average of 2.8 xGA per game, with those eight matches representing 42% of their season long xG total.
The West Yorkshire side do pose an attacking threat wherever they go, and unlike Leicester last weekend, won't change their usual approach just because they are playing the champions-elect. They are fancied to get on the scoresheet at the Etihad (56% BTTS), but City should prove too strong and get the win.
Best Bet: Manchester City to win and BTTS
Reds to edge to win
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Liverpool looked to have got it all figured out after last weekend's 3-0 thumping of Arsenal, but a midweek loss in Real Madrid showed us all that their recent mini resurgence was just papering over the cracks. Defensively they remain extremely vulnerable, and they are back at Anfield here, once a fortress, now a feeding ground for away teams. The Reds have lost their last six home games in the league.
Aston Villa head to Merseyside buoyed by a 3-1 win against Fulham, but Dean Smith's side have been hit-and-miss of late, shown by their last nine results (W3, D3, L3). Jack Grealish's absence continues to be the main talking point, the now-weekly 'will he, won't he' be fit, but Villa have the tools to be awkward again for the Reds, boasting a positive xG process away from home (1.5 xGF, 1.4 xGA pg).
Jurgen Klopp's men are back in the hunt for a top four finish, so will not be wanting to drop many more points, meaning I am expecting a full-strength team. They should have enough to win (64%), but both teams to score looks likely (55%) given the defensive frailties - 2-1.
Chelsea to get back to winning ways
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
It was around this time last year that Crystal Palace got excited about a potential run to finish in the European places, only to lose seven of their last eight, seemingly arriving at the proverbial beach nice and early. It wouldn't be a surprise to see something similar this season, given how poorly they have performed from an underlying numbers perspective this term.
The Eagles have created over 1.0 xGF in just two of their last 17 league games, so are struggling greatly to create chances in attack, while defensively they are allowing an average of 1.8 xGA per game.
Chelsea were rocked by a 5-2 defeat to West Brom last weekend, but that looks like a freak result, an outlier. Since Thomas Tuchel took charge, the Blues have been the best defensive team in the Premier League, allowing just 0.6 xGA per game, so expect Palace to create little here. The Blues haven't set the world alight in attack just yet under their new coach, but they should edge to another low-scoring win here - 0-1.
Best Bet: Chelsea to win and Under 3.5 Goals
Newcastle to get another point
Burnley v Newcastle
Burnley blew a 2-0 lead last weekend when losing to Southampton, but that was a fully deserved defeat based on expected goals (xG: SOU 2.6 - 1.6 BUR). The Clarets, while collecting results of late, have been poor defensively, allowing plenty of opportunities, which is why we are seeing some more entertaining games from Sean Dyche's side.
Newcastle were in all-out-attack mode last weekend against Tottenham, and thoroughly deserved a win based on xG, but had to settle for a point (xG: NEW 3.9 - 2.2 TOT). Since defeat to Aston Villa back in January, Steve Bruce's side have performed like a mid-table team, boasting a positive xG process while ranking as the tenth best attacking team in the Premier League.
The Magpies do stand a better chance in matches when playing on the front foot, and should do so again here in what is a huge game for them. The market is expecting a dull encounter, but goals are favoured at Turf Moor (51% O2.5), as is BTTS (55%) - 2-2.
Best Bet: Over 2.5 Goals - the model calculates an 11% margin of value in backing overs.
Outside Bet: Newcastle to have 18+ shots at 12/1.
Hammers to tighten grip on top four spot
West Ham v Leicester
West Ham hung onto a 3-0 lead on Monday night, unlike against Arsenal in the game prior, but the win over Wolves was enough to move them into the top four, and just four points behind Leicester. David Moyes's side have performed like a European challenger this season according to the underlying data, and have been very strong at home. Only Manchester City have won more points than the Hammers on home turf.
Leicester were non-existent against Manchester City last weekend, seemingly rolling over for the champions-elect in a disappointing fashion. They will be looking forward to playing on the road again though, where only Man City have won more points, though their last two away performances have been well-below par against Burnley and Brighton.
Preference is for the Hammers here (41%), who the model thinks should be favourites to win this huge clash. Goals should follow (54% O2.5) in an entertaining game - 2-1.
United to add to Spurs woes
Tottenham v Manchester United
Tottenham somehow managed to concede nearly 4.0 xGA against Newcastle last weekend, highlighting the major defensive issues the currently have. Jose Mourinho continues to question his players as the aim for a top four finish, but Spurs have played like a mid-table team all season based on xG, and not all of that is on the players.
Manchester United have been extremely consistent this season, losing just one of their last 24 league matches, which is why they have breathing room in the top four race. They are unbeaten in 22 away games in the league, and should add to that run here.
While Solskjaer's men have had issues creating chances and scoring goals of late, playing against a leaky Spurs defence should see them breakthrough in a narrow victory (45% MUN) - 1-2.
Blades to make life uncomfortable for Gunners
Sheffield United v Arsenal
Sheffield United continue to lose football matches. There has been no improvement since Chris Wilder left, if anything they have gotten worst. However, they do still appear to be scrapping for every ball, which is something Arsenal didn't do at all last weekend.
The Gunners were shocking against Liverpool, with a lack of effort and guile there for all to see, even Mikel Arteta. Expect changes for this as a result of that, and the fact that they play in the Europa League either side of this trip to Bramall Lane. Overall this season, Arsenal have been decent away from home, bucking the trend of recent seasons, boasting the fourth best xG process when on the road (1.6 xGF, 1.2 xGA pg).
This should be an away win (53%), but goals aren't likely to flow (55% U2.5) in a narrow Arsenal success - 0-1.
Best Bet: Arsenal to win by exactly one goal
Saints to continue resurgence
West Brom v Southampton
West Brom caused the upset of the weekend when beating Chelsea 5-2 at Stamford Bridge, a game in which they were exceptionally clinical with their chances in comparison to the Blues (xG: CHE 2.7 - 1.5 WBA). Overall this season they are where they deserve to be, and while they are in need of results, Southampton look to be finding some form themselves.
The Saints came from 2-0 down to beat Burnley last weekend, and rightly so based on xG, after another improved attacking performance, the area they had struggled for most of the season. They have the quality to put West Brom to the sword, especially if the Baggies play on the front foot again.
The visitors are fancied to win this one (42%), but goals could be on the menu again with Sam Allardyce's side going for broke - 1-2.
Seagulls to derail Everton's European hopes
Brighton v Everton
Brighton gave a great account of themselves yet again last weekend when narrowly losing to Manchester United, but remain six points clear of the drop zone with a game in hand. As I keep banging on about, Brighton are in a false position. Graham Potter's side should be in the top six based on underlying data, and only Manchester City have won more xPoints at home than the Gulls.
Everton are the antithesis of Brighton, currently throwing their weight around in the top four race but performing like a bottom half team. Only Sheffield United, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Burnley have collected fewer xPoints this season than Everton, and if they continue performing in the same manner, they will finish in mid-table mediocrity.
The hosts are heavily fancied by the model to win this one (51%), with their home process simply exceptional (1.9 xGF, 0.8 xGA pg), though this could be a low-scorer (53% U2.5) - 2-0.