Leicester (9/2) v Manchester United (4/6)
The brave new era at Manchester United went off to a flyer with a 4-0 demolition of QPR but Louis Van Gall and his legion of new players have their first real test against Leciester at the King Power. After an underwhelming start to the season with defeat against Swansea, a trashing at the hands of MK Dons, a particularly insipid draw with Sunderland and a stalemate at Burney, significant questions were being asked of Van Gaal – and rightly so – but a blitz to end the window has bought in Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Angel Di Maria and most notably – in headline terms at least as it was the big move of transfer deadline day – Radamel Falcao. Understandably with such quality, the edge that had been missing from their play so far was bought back in spades, with Angel Di Maria especially leading the way with a goal, an assists, and countless injections of raw pace, but more important to a top 4 challenge may be the addition of Bind, a utility player of the highest quality who broke down and restarted attacks like clockwork, covering the defence that still is such a liability for the Red Devils.
However impressive they were against QPR, perspective is needed. Harry Rednkapp’s side had been beaten as easily by a Tottenham side that were no match for Liverpool next week, and today they travel to a Leicester side that has already made an impression upon the Premier League. Nigel Person’s men have 5 points from their four matches, which sounds like par for the course in the league’s mid table, but a look at the opposition will tell you that is a fine total with draws against Arsenal and Leicester to add to a win against Stoke – the only team to have beaten them so far is Chelsea, unbeaten league leaders. That defeat came at Stamford Bridge when they should have scored thanks to David Nugent and at the King Power stadium they have held both Everton and Arsenal to draws and been value for the result on both occasions. The key for them will be to suffocate the much higher class of forward that United have – with respect to Everton and Arsenal – but there’s no way that they’ll allow United to have time and space on the ball, with Estaban Cambiasso a fine singing from Inter to marshal the defence, while Nugent and Leonardo Ulloa will prove awkward for United to handle, especially in the air should Leicester get down the flanks. A one goal Asian handicap for the hosts means that only a two goal defeat would be a loser and that looks to be extremely competitive here.
Advice: 2 pts Leicester +1 on Asian H’Cap (3/4 general)
Tottenham (8/15) v West Brom (13/2)
Tottenham have stuttered after two wins to open their season but they should prove too good for West Brom at White Hart Lane. Muaricio Pochettino’s men were held to a draw by Sunderland last weekend but that was in spite of the Lilywhites dominating the game outside of two moments of slack defending, and if a valid penalty appeal had been given then it would have been likely that they’d have taken all three points. West Brom have proven obdurate opponents this season for Sunderland and Southampton, but were exposed by Everton and Swaneea in particular, who had them overrun in heavy defeats to nil. In Christan Eriksen and Erik Lamela Spurs have the energy and creativity from midfield to crave them open in similar style and they can beate the handicap here.
Advice: 1 pt Tottenham -1 (13/10 general)
Everton (4/9) v Crystal Palace (8)
Everton, on paper, should be upto beating Crystal Palace well. Last season’s shock 3-2 reverse came when Roberto Martinez’s men had been on the go for a long time and were flagging badly in a late bid for fourth, and having had a successful transfer window, the toffees have showed much better defending to beat West Brom 2-0. But that said, poor defending cost them wins against Leicester and Arsenal and it remains to be seen how they’ll bounce back from a comprehensive win over Wolfsburg in the Europa League. Crystal Palace went from scoring 3 against Newcastle to being well held by a Burnley side who missed a penalty at Selhurst Park and are hard to read.
Advice: No bet.
Manchester City (6/4) v Chelsea (11/5)
Chelsea can land a major blow this early in the title race. The Blues have looked easily the most settled and cohesive team in the league, and with all of their likely rivals struggling or suffering early, have already opened up and impressive gap this early in the season on the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and today’s rivals Manchester City with four wins in four games.
What’s been most notable about those wins for many is Chelsea’s free flowing attacking play, with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa linking with aplomb although Eden Hazard has continued being an impressive attacking force. Chelsea have scored a minimum of two a game and put 6 past Everton and 4 past Swansea after being outplayed for the first half before Diego Costa’s equaliser, while even their opening day win against Burnley now looks better after three clean sheets for the promoted side.
The worry is that they have only kept one clean sheet all season and conceded three to Everton and 2 to Swansea – along with Leicester going clean through on at least one occasion – but the tools are there to tighten up at the back with Ramires a possibility to come in and Willain also maybe preferred on the right wing. Questions have been asked of the Cahill-Terry axis but they conceded just 27 goals over the whole of last season and kept clean sheets at 5 of th top 7 on way trips.
Manchester City are yet to fully get going this season, which is understandable when you consider the heavy World Cup many of their squad had, but in the context of this game it is a worry that they are clearly yet to find their full form; Last year they came into this having won eight on the bounce since trashing Arsenal in December (Chelsea had been held at home by West Ham), and this year they approach the game without a win in three while Chelsea – although held in midweek by Schalke – boast the only 100% record in the league.
Against Arsenal we saw the brilliance that they hold going forward with Sergio Aguero (having been carefully managed and most likely ready to start) scoring a fantastic breakway opener, and they grew manfully into their game against Bayern Munich, but on both occasions it was hard to argue they deserved a win and Arsenal very much threw away their lead before collapsing late on. Both teams were able to upset City with direct, high intensity running for prolonged periods and Chelsea are more than capable of doing that with an army of midfielders that are built to take people on. There’s always the chance that this could be a tight, edgy contest, but that suits the away team far more than the home side and while City too are more than capable off the break, it remains to be seen just how good they are attempting to break Chelsea down – they struggled with Stoke’s approach. But either way, Chelsea look equally equipped to win either a goal filled shootout or a tight contest and they look the value here.
Advice: 1 pt Chelsea (11/5 Bet Victor)P