Premiership Rugby: Distracted Saracens could struggle against title rivals Exeter

Premiership leaders Exeter
Leaders Exeter face Saracens in their top of the table clash

Simon Mail previews the latest round of Premiership matches including the showdown between the top two with Saracens hosting Exeter...

"It is not often you bet against Saracens but this might be the week to take them on. With one eye on their Champions Cup final, the hosts could be vulnerable and Exeter know how to win at Allianz Park."

Quins to boost top-four hopes

Harlequins v Leicester
Friday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 1

Harlequins still have a big opportunity to reach the Premiership semi-finals despite their recent slump in form. Paul Gustard's side have impressed this season although five successive league defeats have seen them drop down to fifth. A 17-15 defeat at leaders Exeter last weekend was a step in the right direction though and the side are only behind fourth-placed Northampton on points difference.

It has been a season to forget for Leicester and the Tigers have still not secured their top-flight status. The reality is Leicester should inevitably avoid relegation and may not even need the two points which will guarantee safety but it is still a worrying slide which has seen them drop down to 11th in the table. Leicester were beaten 23-20 at home to Bristol in their last match.

There is plenty at stake in this match and the motivation of Harlequins' top-four hopes should help lead them to victory. Their performances in defeat against Clermont in the Challenge Cup and Exeter suggested they were improving and a Leicester side short on confidence is a strong chance to find their form at the right time. Realistically, the visitors may be content with another losing bonus point and a home win by one to 12 points looks the value play.

Exeter to trouble Saracens

Saracens v Exeter
Saturday, 15:00
Live on BT Sport 3

Ordinarily a clash between the top two sides in the Premiership would have real significance but Saracens' attention will undoubtedly be turning towards their European Champions Cup final next week. With both teams already assured of a home semi-final, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has opted to make changes and rest some key players. Saracens won 31-14 at Wasps last weekend.

Exeter have been exceptionally consistent this season with 16 wins from 20 matches helping the leaders open up a nine-point advantage over Saracens. Rob Baxter's side have won six of their last seven games with a surprise home defeat to Wasps the only blot on their record. Normal service resumed with a 17-15 win over Harlequins last week.

It is not often you bet against Saracens but this might be the week to take them on. With one eye on their Champions Cup final, the hosts could be vulnerable and Exeter know how to win at Allianz Park. The Chiefs have only lost one of their last seven meetings against Saracens and have won on two of their last four visits to their title rivals. Exeter look worth backing with a five-point handicap advantage.

Bath to edge to points

Bath v Wasps
Sunday, 15:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Todd Blackadder is leaving Bath this summer to join Japanese club Toshiba but the director of rugby will be determined to guide the Premiership club back into the Champions Cup. This requires a top-six finish and Bath are only two points off this target in eighth spot. Bath have lost their last two games including a 6-3 defeat at Sale last weekend in a dour game.

Wasps are only one point and place above Bath and it has been a desperately poor campaign for last season's semi-finalists. Dai Young's side have lost 11 of their 20 matches, lacking consistency throughout a disjointed year. A 26-19 win at Exeter sparked hopes of a late revival but their 31-14 home loss to Saracens was another reality check for Wasps.

Both of these teams have disappointed on too many occasions this season but Bath could have the edge in this contest. The hosts are unbeaten in three games this season against Wasps with two wins and a draw in the Champions Cup. Both victories came by no more than ten points and Bath can finish their home campaign with a tight victory at the Rec.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

P/L 2018-19 season

Staked: 101.5pts
Returned: 98.1pts
P/L: -4.2pts

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