Simon Mail previews the latest round of the Premiership which includes Northampton's derby at home to struggling Leicester...
"Northampton have won their last three matches in all competitions against Leicester and should make it four in a row against opponents struggling in the Premiership."
Bath v Saracens
Live on BT Sport 1
Champions to claim much-needed win
Premiership champions Saracens face a fight to remain in the division after being docked 35 points for breaching the salary cup. It leaves the club 26 points behind 11th placed Leicester and hugely increases the significance of every league match. Saracens, who defeated Ospreys 44-3 in Europe last weekend, mean business and have brought England internationals Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje in against Bath to play their first match since the World Cup final.
Bath have made an inconsistent start to the season with two Premiership wins and two defeats leaving them eighth. Their Champions Cup hopes appear over already after back-to-back losses against Ulster and Harlequins. Bath suffered a setback this week after wing Anthony Watson was ruled out until at least Christmas with a knee injury.
Saracens are short-priced favourites to win at the Rec and it is no surprise after selecting such a strong team. It has not been an easy place to win though with Sarries' last victory at Bath coming three years ago. Bath's last three defeats, in all competitions have been by no more than 12 points and this match could be closer than many expect. The handicap mark is set at 12 points but a narrow Saracens victory looks overpriced at 7/4.
Saints to claim derby honours
Northampton v Leicester
Live on BT Sport 2
Northampton have made a strong start to the season with three wins from their first four league games taking them second and level on points with leaders Bristol. The Saints have also claimed victories in both of their Champions Cup matches although they were made to sweat last weekend. Northampton needed an 85th minute penalty from Dan Biggar to snatch a 35-32 win at Benetton.
Leicester's slump in recent years shows no sign of ending and are only kept off the bottom of the Premiership by Saracens' points penalty. The Tigers have lost three of their opening four league matches and it looks like being a long campaign for Geordan Murphy's side. Leicester claimed wins against Pau and Cardiff in the European Challenge Cup but this looks a step up against their East Midlands rivals.
Northampton have won their last three matches in all competitions against Leicester and should make it four in a row against opponents struggling in the Premiership. After reaching the semi-finals last season, Northampton are heading in the right direction under Chris Boyd and should be too strong for the Tigers. The hosts have won their two league games at Franklin's Gardens by at least 18 points and are backed to cover an eight-point handicap this weekend.
Quins can edge to home win
Harlequins v Gloucester
Live on BT Sport 1
The final televised match of the weekend could be the tightest game, with virtually nothing to separate Harlequins and Gloucester in the betting. Paul Gustard's Harlequins were far from their best last week but their scrappy 15-9 win over Bath in Europe was a much-needed result. Quins have only won one of their opening four Premiership games.
Gloucester reached the semi-finals last season and will be expected to achieve another top-four finish this year. Head coach Johann Ackermann has guided Gloucester to two wins from four league matches although their European hopes look over. Their 30-27 defeat in Montpellier last week was a fourth consecutive loss in all competitions.
Both teams have looked short of confidence in recent games and it would be a surprise if either team coasts to victory. Harlequins are marginally favoured and a slender home victory could yield a profit. Talented fly-half Marcus Smith made the difference in a tight game last week and can help steer the hosts to victory. Gloucester's last four defeats have all been by nine points or less and this match could follow a similar path.
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P/L 2019-20 season