If Liverpool are to push Man City all the way this season, away games against sides who are expected to be mid-table are must wins. City are unlikely to slip up in these types of games, therefore the Reds cannot afford to either.
In many ways, games against other members of the big six take care of themselves – even City risk dropping points against their top six peers – and so it’s games against the Leicesters, Southamptons and Bournemouths that will ultimately decide their fate. All of which makes this weekend’s trip to the King Power a potentially pivotal one, even at this early stage of the season, because one thing they cannot afford to do at any stage is allow daylight between them and Guardiola’s City.
For now though, that’s not an issue as Liverpool sit proudly at the top of the table with a 100 percent record – along with Tottenham, Chelsea and Watford – while City currently sit two points behind them having drawn last weekend with newly-promoted Wolves. For Jurgen Klopp’s men it has been a dream start to the campaign and has very much been a continuation of the form they showed in the second half of last season, which culminated in a Champions League final.
Some astute summer signings have added to the Reds’ strength in depth but cleverly, on Klopp’s part, the changes were subtle rather than sweeping and have enabled them to hit the ground running. In addition, they have continued to work on their defensive shape, which has resulted in three consecutive clean sheets.
From an attacking perspective, it’s been more of the same for Liverpool, with the triumvirate of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino carrying on from where they left off last season. And even on the team’s quieter days, like last weekend against Brighton, it took just a single moment of Salah magic to secure the points.
While the Reds are flying, the Foxes of Leicester are not far behind. A defeat on opening day at Old Trafford – a narrow 2-1 defeat – was followed by a 2-0 home win over Wolves and, even more impressively, a 2-1 win away at Southampton.
Their summer transfer business was underpinned by the sale of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City for a reported £60 million, from which they purchased, amongst others, James Maddison from Norwich City, Filip Benkovic from Dinamo Zagreb and Caglar Söyüncü from Freiberg. And with their squad already containing England World Cup stars Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy (who is suspended for the Liverpool game), Claude Puel’s men look well set for a good season ahead.
In terms of their head-to-heads, Liverpool unsurprisingly lead the way with 47 wins from their 110 contests, while the Foxes have won 39 times.
This, on paper, looks likely to be Liverpool’s biggest test of the season so far although, in some ways, it’s comparable to their visit to Crystal Palace, which they comfortably won 2-0. The signs for the Reds are positive but they do come up against a Leicester side who themselves are in good form. The defeat at Old Trafford still came off the back of a good performance and so they too will approach this one with confidence.
With Liverpool heavily odds-on with all the bookies (3/71.43-2330.43-2.330.43 with 888sport) there is little value to be had in backing the away win, and given this one will be the biggest threat so far to Klopp’s 100 percent record let’s not disregard a Maddison-inspired Leicester earning themselves a point. Much will of course depend on how well the Foxes can defend but we think that Maguire and his central defensive partner, Wes Morgan, will keeper a tighter rein on Salah and co than any of their opponents so far this season.
Also worthy of note is that Liverpool have conceded at least once in eight of their last nine meetings with Leicester, so while it won’t be a game of loads of goals, we can see the Foxes scoring, even without the suspended Vardy. Therefore, on that basis, we think a draw is worthy of consideration, which at 19/54.80+3803.803.80-0.26 with 188bet has even more appeal.
In terms of first goalscorer – a market that always appeals to us- the usual suspects of Salah, Firmino and Sane predictably lead the betting, but given that we expect Leicester to have goals in them and Maddison has continued the great goalscoring form he showed at Norwich, a little bit of 12/113.00+120012.0012.00-0.08 with Betway looks very tempting indeed.
Leicester and Liverpool to draw
Saturday 1, September. 12:30 GMT
James Maddison to be first goalscorer
Saturday 1, September. 12:30 GMT
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With West Ham still looking for their first Premier League points of the season, the visit of newly promoted Wolves to Stratford looks set to get the east London nerves jangling. As a further twist, Wolves themselves are looking for their first league win.
Manuel Pellegrini is still searching for his first league points as West Ham manager, following defeats by Liverpool, Bournemouth and Arsenal, but at least the Hammers had the fillip of a first win of the season in midweek courtesy of a narrow Carabao Cup victory over AFC Wimbledon.
The locals are getting twitchy though, particularly after their big spending of the summer, and Saturday will certainly make for an interesting atmosphere if West Ham either go behind or get off to a slow start. Pellegrini needs his men to get off to a flyer.
The Hammers will however take heart from an improved showing last week at the Emirates, where they were more than a little unlucky to be on the receiving end of a 3-1 defeat by Arsenal, and they’ll be hoping the midweek win in the League Cup will kickstart their season.
Part of their problem has been the big summer turnover of players and coaching staff and as well as getting to grips with a new squad, Pellegrini is still trying to find a formula that most effectively incorporates his summer signings, from whom Felipe Anderson, from Lazio, looks the pick of the bunch. What he does have however is a striker in form, with Marko Arnautovic netting in each of the last two Premier League defeats, and a team that at the Emirates created a whole host of chances which they proceeded to miss.
Wolves meanwhile have made a steady start on their return to the Premier League and have already picked up very creditable home draws against Everton and Manchester City. The defeat at Leicester was a disappointment – Leicester (a) is the type of game they will have earmarked for points – but the performance level was good as recognised afterwards by coach Nuno Espirito Santo. They will however be keen to pick up their first points on the road and will undoubtedly perceive this weekend’s game as eminently winnable
They will also take great heart from earning a draw with everyone’s favourites for the Premier League title, Man City, even though it was concluded afterwards that their goal, by Willy Boly, was scored with his hand. That shouldn’t however disguise the fact that the point they earned from the game was a deserved one, and they too picked up their first win of the season in midweek with a 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup.
In terms of head to heads, West Ham lead the way with 29 wins from their 61 contests with Wolves having won just 18 times.
The bookies are finding this one tough to call with West Ham’s best price for a win being the 23/152.53+1531.531.53-0.65 on offer from 188bet and a Wolves win being best price with 12/53.40+2402.402.40-0.42 with BetVictor, but given they are finding it so tough to call, maybe the draw (19/102.90+1901.901.90-0.53 with 888sport) is the way to go.
However, we feel this could be the day when West Ham’s big money signings start to repay their not insignificant fees, and with a raucous London Stadium eager for something to latch onto, we can see them edging ahead early on and Arnautovic leading the Hammers to their first win of the season. Wolves, despite being a good side, have yet to score away from home and we can see this continuing as West Ham edge to a nervy 2-0 win (13/114.00+130013.0013.00-0.08 with 188bet).
Given that we expect West Ham goals, it’s not unreasonable to expect one of the new signings to get on the score-sheet, and after impressing in a midweek cameo, we have a hunch that Felipe Anderson will be a good shout for an anytime goalscorer (16/54.20+3203.203.20-0.31 with 888sport).
West Ham to win 2-0
Saturday 1, September. 15:00 GMT
Felipe Anderson – Anytime goalscorer
Saturday 1, September. 15:00 GMT
Burnley v Manchester Utd
It’s been a traumatic week for Jose Mourinho as the dust settles on United’s 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham. The fallout was typically fractious and ended with Mourinho storming out of his post-match presser, citing a lack of respect from the media as the cause of his discontent.
The defeat at Old Trafford leaves United in 13th-place, their worst start to a top-flight season for 26 years, and this relatively short trip down the M66 to face Lancastrian opponents is probably not the type of game Mourinho would choose to see them return to winning ways. Burnley are generally a good side at home and will offer United a stern mental and physical test.
The Clarets, however, have not started the season in the way manager Sean Dyche would have hoped and have, to date, been severely hampered by a string of tricky Europa League qualifying games that have stretched their limited resources. They still await their first Premier League win of the season, having drawn away at Southampton on opening day and then losing their next two.
So, it won’t be just Mourinho’s men who are under pressure, with Burnley starting the game already in the Premier League relegation zone – a long way from the wonderful seventh place they achieved last season, which got them into the Europa League in the first place.
The respective size of the clubs was borne out over the summer when comparing their summer transfer activities. Mourinho was left fuming at United spending just over £80 million, while Burnley smashed their own transfer spending record with the signings of Matej Vydra, Ben Gibson and Joe Hart for a collective total of less than £30 million.
Historically, Burnley have not had a great time against the Red Devils and have only managed one victory over United since 1968, that solitary win coming in 2009. They did however earn a tremendous 2-2 draw last season at Old Trafford, a result that was ultimately the turning point in United’s Premier League title hopes.
In the head to heads, United unsurprisingly lead the way with 60 wins from their 126 contests, with Burnley winning 44 times.
Typically, regardless of their current travails, United begin the game as favourites although their current difficulties are reflected in the odds, with 888sport’s11/171.65-1550.65-1.550.65 the pick of the bunch. Burnley offer rather better value for the speculative punter at 21/46.25+5255.255.25-0.19 for the win with BetVictor, with the draw also looking more than a little tempting at 14/53.80+2802.802.80-0.36 with 188bet.
But, for all their off-field problems, we fancy United to get back to winning ways and to give their manager a few days respite from what he sees as the baying press mob. Despite losing to Tottenham, United were excellent in the first half and but for a horror miss from Romelu Lukaku would have gone in at the interval ahead. More of the same over 90 minutes would be enough to see off the Clarets, and we can see Mourinho re-organising his defence sufficiently for them to shut out the home side and edge it with a 2-0 (13/27.50+6506.506.50-0.15BetVictor).
If you’re after a fun bet then first booking is usually worth a look and given his propensity to get stuck in and occasionally arrive a little late, we are drawn to United’s Ander Herrera at 19/102.90+1901.901.90-0.53 with BetVictor.
Manchester Utd to beat Burney 2-0
Sunday, 2 September. 16:00 GMT
Ander Herrera to be shown a card
Sunday, 2 September. 16:00 GMT
Carl is the original ‘Special One’ and uses his statistical knowledge of football to gain the upper hand over the bookies on a weekly basis. A student of odds and probabilities, ‘Wrighty’ pinpoints the value bets in the top leagues across Europe. A big signing for the SBO.net sports team, Carl brings his vast experience of playing the odds and beating the bookies to a weekly column highlighting the very best football bets.
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