Fresh from beating Arsenal 3-0 twice in a week and picking up the Carabao Cup, Manchester City face Chelsea on Sunday before Wednesday’s Champions League second leg versus Basel. The games come thick and fast for Pep Guardiola’s side but they are still a fair bet to surge further clear at the top of the table by beating Antonio Conte’s Chelsea at the Etihad on Sunday.
City lead Basel 4-0 in the Champions League after a resounding victory away from home, and Guardiola is unlikely to be harbouring any worries of a shock result on Wednesday. By contrast, he is more likely to concentrate all resources on a home match against last season’s champions in which a win will take him one step closer to the Premier League crown. Chelsea produced a top class performance to draw 1-1 with Barcelona in their Champions League tie, but they followed up with a 2-1 loss at Manchester United – the Blues third away defeat in a row.
In other weekend games it’s all about the relegation zone with just five points between 11th and 18th. While the title race may be all but over, the battle for relegation is only beginning and no team in the bottom half of the table is safe. Southampton versus Stoke, formerly a mediocre mid-table clash, is a relegation six-pointer. The Saints climbed out of the bottom three after a 1-1 draw at Burnley, but the same result from Stoke at Leicester leaves the Potters one point behind and still in the mire. The two meet on the South Coast on Saturday and Southampton should be all-out for a home win.
Bournemouth are five points clear of the drop zone, and although most pundits think they have enough about them to stay up, they are shipping goals at an alarming rate. The Cherries had to fight back from 2-0 down at home to Newcastle last weekend to claim their third 2-2 draw in the last ten games. Leicester have won four of their last six at home – but crucially – have only conceded twice during that run. The Foxes are a decent bet to make home advantage count against Eddie Howe’s side on Saturday afternoon.
Manchester City v Chelsea
First up it’s the big game and odds of +215 with 888Sport about a Man City win and both teams to score are worth a second look.
This is a bet that would have landed in 8 of City’s last 10 home matches, all of which they have won. The likes of Newcastle, Bristol City, Watford and West Ham have all found the net at the Etihad but ended up on the losing side. Chelsea are more than good enough to score here but will be outgunned if Guardiola’s players are at their best. Some punters will question the idea of backing Man City after a tough week which included a Thursday night game, but such is the depth of their squad that there should be enough fit players available – particularly as the midweek game against Basel is a ‘dead rubber’.
Chelsea have been beaten on each of their last three domestic away games, at Arsenal, Watford and Manchester United. Overall Conte’s team have only won four of the last ten matches and suffered a humiliating 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth. Now down to 5th in the table, Chelsea have plenty to fight for in terms of top four positions, but few will rush in to back them to win here.
Man City have won 13 of 14 home games in the Premier League so take the odds about another win and both teams scoring.
Leicester v Bournemouth
The Foxes are a decent home side and can be backed at -119 with 888Sport to beat Bournemouth and their leaky defence.
Leicester’s four recent home wins have all been accompanied by clean sheets and they now have Burnley’s 7th place in sight. That could still be a Europa League spot for whoever finishes ‘best of the rest’ so there is plenty to play for. The former Premier League champions are only a point behind the Clarets and will aim to secure the three points here in a bid to overtake that rival.
Bournemouth’s shock 3-0 win at Chelsea was their only away win in the last ten games, and they were thumped 4-1 by Huddersfield on their next road trip. Recent fixtures have been littered with goals – 9 of the Cherries last 10 games have had over 2.5 goals – so Vardy and Mahrez should find plenty of opportunity to add to their tallies.
Southampton v Stoke
Another solid home bet is Southampton, who are -133 with Betway to get the better of Stoke.
The pair are 16th and 19th in the table but it is the Saints who appear the more likely to steer clear of trouble. The South coast club have been returning poor results for much of the season but at least they have lost only one of the last nine – and that was a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool. There have been too many draws though, and Saturday’s game is the perfect opportunity to gain a precious three points.
Stoke also need those points but the Potters have the worst away record in the whole division. They’ve gathered just 7 points from 14 away games and have conceded a league high 33 goals on their travels. Three draws and one defeat in the last four shows a slight improvement from Paul Lambert’s new side but Stoke are as short on quality as they are on points.
Manchester City to win and both teams to score
Sunday 4th March, 16:00 GMT
Leicester to beat Bournemouth
Saturday 3rd March, 15:00 GMT
Southampton to beat Stoke
Saturday 3rd March, 15:00 GMT