ARSENAL v NEWCASTLE
Arsenal fans missing European football at the Emirates Stadium this term have at least been compensated with their side’s best 12-game Premier League (PL) start since 2018/19 (W6, D2, L4). Although well placed to challenge for a top-four place, there’s still a clear gap between them and the title contenders, as evidenced by their 4-0 defeat to Liverpool (Nov 20).That ended an eight-game league unbeaten run (W6, D2), but this represents a good chance to bounce back as they haven’t lost a home PL game against Newcastle United since November 2010 (W9). ‘Gunners’ fans will therefore expect another triumph here – and a comfortable one too, given they’ve averaged three goals per game across the last three league H2Hs.While Newcastle’s new owners will eventually demand European qualification, that remains a long way off as they must now focus on gaining their first league win of the season (D6, L6). Lying five points below 17th-placed Leeds United, they’re bidding to become just the second side in a 38-game PL season to survive after a 12-game winless start!On the road in the league this term, it’s been either 1-1 draws or defeats in which they conceded 2+ goals (D3, L3) and given their appalling record here, the ‘Magpies’ would gladly accept another score draw. They’ll need to get on the front foot though, having conceded first in five (83%) of their PL away matches this season.
Players to watch: Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored six times in his last five competitive appearances against Newcastle, each of those goals coming after half-time. For Newcastle, Allan Saint-Maximin has six direct PL goal contributions this term (G3, A3), with his three goals all arriving after the 40th minute.
Hot stat: The last PL matchday produced an average of 3.6 goals per match – the games involving these two witnessed ten!
MY BET: Arsenal Total Over 1.5 @ 1.50
CRYSTAL PALACE v ASTON VILLA
What a game we have in prospect here as arguably two of the greatest midfielders in Premier League (PL) history come face-to-face in the dugout for the first time in a competitive game as Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace welcome Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa to Selhurst Park. Much like his own tough playing style, Vieira has made Palace incredibly hard to beat as his only two league defeats in charge have come against two of the top-three (W3, D7).Following the 3-3 draw against Burnley, Vieira will surely ramp up defensive drills after his side conceded their ninth goal from a set-piece last time out, a league high. Even so, Palace remain unbeaten as PL favourites this season (W1, D3) as they are again here, though they’ll hope to turn those draws into wins to push towards a top-half finish.Gerrard’s Villa took a while to get going but eventually recorded a comfortable 2-0 win to begin his reign and in turn, end their five-game losing run. The directors at Villa Park will be hoping he can continue in that vein as they look to reap dividends from their £100m+ spent over the summer in search of regular European football.That victory over Brighton confirmed Gerrard as one of only three permanent Villa managers to win their first PL game and the first since the late Gerard Houllier in 2010. However, he has a long way to go in order to match John Gregory’s record of seven straight PL wins to begin a Villa tenure, as he looks to snap a three-game losing stretch on the road!
Players to watch: Palace’s Connor Gallagher has contributed to the most PL goals amongst English midfielders this season (G4, A3). Meanwhile, Ollie Watkins grabbed the first goal of the Gerrard era last time out and he’ll likely be in the thick of the action again here after assisting a goal in both of his prior H2Hs versus Palace.
Hot stat: There was a red card shown in three of the last four H2Hs, two going the way of Villa.
MY BET: Crystal Palace/Draw & Over 1.5 @ 1.66
LIVERPOOL v SOUTHAMPTON
Liverpool return for their third home fixture in as many games, and Anfield will no doubt be buzzing again after the 4-0 dismantling of rivals Arsenal last time out in the Premier League (PL). As was the case against the ‘Gunners’, Jürgen Klopp’s men have made a habit of suffocating their opponents early, as no other team has scored more first-half goals this PL season, while only the ‘Reds’ and league-leaders Chelsea are yet to find themselves behind at the break.The Merseysiders made it 15 games unbeaten at home with the win against Porto in midweek European action (W10, D5), with Anfield once again becoming a formidable fortress. A visit from Southampton will therefore have the home fans licking their lips, having kept five consecutive home PL clean sheets against their visitors, on the way to remaining undefeated in their last seven top-flight H2H clashes at home (W5, D2).Southampton were in a generous mood in their last PL outing against Norwich, surrendering a lead to lose 2-1 and subsequently snapping their four-game unbeaten run in the league (W3, D1). Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl tends to set his team up for a tight affair week in and week out, considering only two of Southampton’s league matches this season have been decided by more than one goal.The ‘Saints’ have found life more forgiving on the road this PL campaign, already winning as many points (5) in their six PL away games this season, than they managed in the last 13 matches on their travels last season.
Players to watch: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has nine goal contributions in his eight PL matches against Southampton (G7, A2), whose Adam Armstrong has netted the match opener in four of his last five domestic goal-scoring outings
Hot stat: Liverpool’s last loss in a 3pm UK time Saturday kickoff in the PL was in February 2017, going 25 matches undefeated since (W22, D3).
MY BET: BTTS No @ 2.08
NORWICH v WOLVES
New manager Dean Smith had the desired impact many Norwich City fans were hoping for, leading his team to 2-1 victory against Southampton in his first match in charge. In doing so, he also helped the ‘Canaries’ secure a second consecutive Premier League win for the first time since April 2016.That pair of 2-1 victories has lifted Norwich off the bottom of the table for the first time this season, renewing their survival hopes. Another two goals here might just be enough to hand them a third straight win, although a Dean Smith managed Aston Villa led 2-0 at home against Wolves earlier this season before going onto lose 3-2, therefore there’s little chance he’ll let his new group of players get complacent.Wolves got back to winning ways last time out against West Ham United, stretching their PL record to an impressive run of just one defeat in seven games (W5, D1). They’ll no doubt be starting to dream of European qualification this season, however with their games being so finely balanced, there’ll be an awareness that results could just as easily start to swing the other way – eight of their 11 games won or lost this PL season have been settled by a single goal.On the subject of goals, don’t expect to see many in the opening exchanges here. Bruno Lage’s men have only scored once and conceded once before half-time across all of their PL away matches this season. With that being the case, it’s little wonder that the average of 1.83 second-half match goals seen in Wolves’ away fixtures can be bettered by just three other sides ahead of this round.
Players to watch: Norwich’s Teemu Pukki is starting to find his feet after scoring goals before the 30th minute in each of his last two PL matches. It’s two goals in three PL appearances for Wolves’ Raúl Jiménez – those goals arrived in the 15 minutes either side of half-time.
Hot stat: Norwich boss Smith has won only one of his last five managerial H2Hs with Wolves (D1, L3).
MY BET: Under 2.75 @ 1.48
BRIGHTON v LEEDS
How quickly things can change in the space of one year. Leeds United finished several places ahead of Brighton last Premier League (PL) season (ninth vs 16th), despite losing both H2H clashes (0-1 and 0-2), but this time around the places have been reversed almost precisely. With Brighton now sitting just three points off the top five, and after winning eight of the last nine H2Hs, there should be little fear when Leeds roll in.That said, after an unsuccessful trip to Aston Villa (L 2-0) soured Graham Potter’s 100th game in charge of Brighton, a seven-game winless run in PL football (D5, L2) now threatens to undo all of their hard work. The ‘Seagulls’ will hope this campaign doesn’t follow a similar trajectory to their return to the top flight in 2017/18, in which they were also performing well in ninth place after 12 rounds only to fall away deep into the bottom half.Unfortunately for Leeds, their season has been held back by a lengthy period of underachievement, albeit against stronger opposition. They continue to teeter on the edge of the relegation zone in part due to five defeats from five starts as pre-match outsiders, albeit four of them were against clubs placed higher than Brighton at the start of the round.Whilst Leeds have conceded just six first-half goals all season, including just two from their last seven fixtures, their problems go beyond the first 45 minutes. After defeat at Tottenham in the last round (L 2-1), they became the first club of the PL season to lose twice when leading at half-time (W1, L2).
Players to watch: Neal Maupay is Brighton’s only player to score in two PL home games this season, with both goals being recorded before half-time and in victories. Similarly, Leeds are yet to lose away from home in the PL when Raphinha has opened the scoring (W1, D1).
Hot stat: All but one of the last nine competitive H2Hs have seen just one team score.
MY BET: Over 1.5 @ 1.28