Aviva Premiership: Exeter can edge to win over title rivals Saracens

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter
Rob Baxter's side host Saracens this weekend
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Simon Mail previews the latest Premiership action including the top of the table clash between Exeter and Saracens...

"Exeter have an excellent home record and their only league defeat of the season came last month against Worcester. But the arrival of Saracens is likely to ensure the champions are fully focused on the job. Exeter defeated Sarries earlier this season and are unbeaten in the last three meetings."

Harlequins v Bath

Friday, 19:45 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1

Harlequins come into this weekend's game languishing in ninth spot after a run of four successive Premiership defeats. Their lack of discipline proved costly last week after three players were shown yellow cards during their 28-10 home defeat to Newcastle. Director of rugby John Kingston has called for his team to salvage some pride against Bath and knows his side will have to significantly improve to end their losing run.

Bath are in contention for a top-four finish with Todd Blackadder's side currently fifth but only one point behind Newcastle in fourth. Bath were unconvincing last weekend but managed to snatch a 33-32 home win over Sale with the last kick of the game. Their home form has been pretty consistent but the side have found it much tougher away with only one league victory since November.

The two sides can hardly be split, according to the odds, with the visitors marginal favourites. But home advantage could tip this match in Harlequins' favour with the side desperately needing a positive result. Bath have only won once at the Stoop since 2004 and have lost on their last two visits. Harlequins are under pressure to produce a performance and the hosts can win this game and dent Bath's top-four hopes.


Exeter v Saracens

Saturday, 15:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport 2

Exeter returned to the top of the Premiership after last weekend's win over Northampton. The champions left it late as they edged to a 31-30 bonus-point victory at Sandy Park. Rob Baxter was not overly impressed with his side's performance, but the result was significant especially off the back of three successive league defeats. The Chiefs may not be playing with the fluency they showed earlier in the season but remain on course for a home semi-final.

Saracens slipped up last week with a shock 28-20 home defeat to Leicester at Allianz Park. Sarries were well below par and Mark McCall was critical of his team's performance as they suffered a fifth league loss of the campaign. There is no doubt Saracens have been weakened by their international absentees but the result was still a surprise after five successive league wins.

Exeter have an excellent home record and their only league defeat of the season came last month against Worcester. But the arrival of Saracens is likely to ensure the champions are fully focused on the job. Exeter defeated Sarries earlier this season and are unbeaten in the last three meetings. It is likely to be tight, with only two points between them in those games, but a narrow home victory looks the most likely outcome.


Worcester v Leicester

Sunday, 15:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Worcester's form in the second half of the season has gone a long way towards maintaining their top-flight status although there is still a bit of work for them to do. The Warriors have won five of their last nine league games although their 22-9 defeat at London Irish enabled the bottom club to move within 12 points of them. Worcester should still have more than enough to avoid relegation with their record at Sixways, one defeat since the start of December, playing a major role in their improved form.

Leicester have been mediocre for too long this season but there have been a few signs the Tigers are starting to get their act together at a crucial point in the season. After a poor run across the new year, Leicester have won three of their last four league games. Their victory at Saracens was a significant one and keeps the seventh-placed side in touch with fourth-placed Newcastle only four points clear of them.

Worcester pulled off a shock win at Leicester in November but have never completed the double over them and this match could be coming at the right time for the visitors. The Tigers have an exceptional record at Sixways, winning on their last nine visits, while the team head into this game with momentum finally on their side. Worcester can keep it close but a win for Leicester by up to 12 points could be the best bet in this match.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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