Infogol's Steven Railston uses expected goals (xG) data to pick out the best goalscorer, booking and Same Game Multi bets for the highlight games of the Christmas weekend...
"Timo Werner was one of the world’s most sought after forwards, and the German arrived upon British shores with a lofty reputation. However, there’s no denying he’s currently struggling in front of goal for Chelsea."
Jamie Vardy to score in Christmas cracker
Leicester vs Manchester United
Goalscorer: Jamie Vardy to score anytime @ 1/1
Jamie Vardy is proving age is a just a number at Leicester City, showing no signs of regression at 33-years-old and still boasting a devastating turn of foot. After Leicester's 2-0 away win at Tottenham (xG: TOT 1.0 - 1.9 LEI), in which Vardy converted from the spot to open the scoring, the Foxes find themselves just four points behind league leaders Liverpool.
Unsurprisingly, Vardy has played an instrumental role in that success, recording an outstanding 1.0 xG/avg match this season, and he'll be eager to add to his growing tally on Boxing Day. Only Mohamed Salah (13) has more goals than Vardy (11) this term, and his electric pace could prove to be a lethal asset against Manchester United's ponderous back line.
Carded: Harry Maguire to be booked @ 3/1
With Harry Maguire returning to his old club, it seems a sensible play to side with him to receive a caution. In the heart of United's defence, Maguire is a guaranteed starter, although he's actually made more fouls (15) than tackles (14) this season. This calamitous record is bound to be tested up against Vardy, and it would be understandable if Maguire was issued his fourth yellow card of the campaign on Saturday afternoon.
Same Game Multi: Man United win, BTTS and Vardy to score anytime @ 7.86
Although Leicester have lost to Fulham and Everton in their last five fixtures, their underlying numbers from across those run of games are more than respectable (1.5 xGF and 1.2 xGA per game). They should make for tricky opponents here, although worryingly both of those previously mentioned defeats did come at the King Power Stadium.
Manchester United head into this clash on the back of ruthlessly dismantling Leeds last weekend, in an enthralling game at Old Trafford (xG: MUN 4.2 - 2.1 LEE). However, it's actually on the road that the Red Devils have exceeded expectations, winning all 10 of their last away visits in the Premier League.
They've created a healthy rate of opportunities when playing away this campaign, averaging 2.1 xGF per game, and they shouldn't have a problem finding the back of the net in this Christmas cracker. They can edge this contest, but it would be foolish to think Jamie Vardy won't cause them problems.
Arsenal vs Chelsea
Goalscorer: Tammy Abraham to score anytime @ 17/10
Frank Lampard wasn't afraid of making a splash in the transfer market this summer, bringing an array of stars to Stamford Bridge. Timo Werner was one of the world's most sought after forwards, and the German arrived upon British shores with a lofty reputation.
However, there's no denying he's currently struggling in front of goal for Chelsea, and Werner has now gone nine matches without scoring in all competitions, squandering chances equating to 3.6 xG across that period.
Consequently, Tammy Abraham's quickfire double (54%, 35%) against West Ham would have been a timely boost for Lampard, with the 23-year-old once again impressively seizing his chance when handed a start. With the Blues consistently carving out quality goalscoring opportunities (1.9 xGF pg) this term, Abraham can make his presence felt at the Emirates.
Carded: Dani Ceballos to be booked @ 3/1
It's not an understatement to say Arsenal are under siege at the moment, and petulance has been creeping into their fixtures, perhaps as tensions rise and frustrations with poor results surface. Dani Ceballos has attempted 34 tackles in Arsenal's midfield, although he has made 11 fouls, meaning around one in every three challenges he makes the referee will blow the whistle.
Consequently, the Spaniard has already received two yellow cards this season, and facing a dynamic Chelsea midfield here, he could receive another caution.
Same Game Multi: The draw and BTTS @ 4.3100/30
Things have gone from bad to worse for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, with the Gunners slumping to yet another disappointing defeat at Everton last weekend (xG: EVE 0.9 - 1.4 ARS). Without Nicolas Pepe's converted penalty, they mustered just 0.6 non-penalty xG in that clash, delivering another toothless attacking display.
On a positive note, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be back in contention for this game against Chelsea, and after ending his barren run, he can provide Arsenal with the focal point they've so desperately craved in attack. Chelsea have developed into formidable opposition this season (1.9 xGF and 0.9 xGA pg), though, and they'll be confident of collecting the three points in this all London affair.
Despite their seriously underwhelming results, Arsenal have conceded an average of 1.3 xGA per game, and that should ensure this game should be tighter than some markets suggest, and I believe the points will be shared.
Roberto Firmino can notch past struggling West Brom
Liverpool vs West Ham
Goalscorer: Roberto Firmino score anytime @ 13/10
Roberto Firmino scored a brace last weekend, as Liverpool stylishly beat Crystal Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park (xG: CRY 0.5 - 2.8 LIV). It was an exhibition of outstanding finishing from the champions, and Firmino took his tally to five for the campaign. He has the perfect opportunity to add another goal on Sunday, with struggling West Brom visiting Anfield.
The Baggies have conceded an average of 2.1 xGA per game, no team in the league has conceded more, and they've simply looked abysmal in defence. While Sam Allardyce is now at the helm at West Brom, this game will likely come too soon for him to have any quantifiable impact. Furthermore, Firmino (0.5 xG/avg match) is seemingly the sensible bet in this market at the prices, offering a better alternative to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are both priced up at around the 8/15 mark.
Carded: Conor Gallagher to be booked @ 5/2
West Brom look set to endure waves of Liverpool pressure, and it's therefore a fair assumption to make that they'll commit numerous fouls as the hosts look to probe their vulnerable defence. Conor Gallagher leads the way at the club for yellow cards received this season (4), and after attempting 61 tackles this term, it looks likely he could catch the official's eye again here.
Same Game Multi: Liverpool win, over 2.5 goals and Firmino to score anytime @ 2.727/4
Liverpool have suffered injuries to key players this season, and they still sit at the top of the league, frighteningly yet to reach first gear. Their attacking underlying numbers, averaging 2.2 xGF per game, are firmly among Europe's most elite, and only Bayern Munich (39) have actually scored more goals than the Reds this season from the continent's top five leagues. Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool are truly a force to be reckoned with, and considering West Brom's woeful numbers (0.7 xGF and 2.1 xGA pg), they should comfortably dispatch the visitors on Merseyside.
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