Two of the surprise packages of the Premier League season host superpowers live on television this weekend. Watford and Crystal Palace are safely ensconced in the top half of the table and beating Manchester City and Chelsea could confirm they are no half–season wonders. The double on two home wins pays almost 20/1 and that bet looks too good to miss.
In the other two live fixtures the recommended wager is away wins in a double for Liverpool and Tottenham on the road at West Ham and Everton. Statistically about one in three football matches in the major European leagues are drawn so in theory these four matches should produce at least one stalemate. However, form and fitness indicates the live TV schedule can produce four definite outcomes.
Watford are five places and seven points behind Manchester City in the latest standings. The Racing Post produced a season preview in August and projected Watford to finish 15th. That looks wide of the mark on performances this season to date but not as outrageously inaccurate as the prediction that Leicester would be relegated. The paper tipped City to win the Premier League for the third time in five years which is a more likely outcome than Leicester going down.
The last two times Watford played in the Premier League they finished bottom and did not reach 30 points. However, they are now owned by the Pozzo family who have a track record in Spain and Italy of getting things right. Watford were promoted last season despite employing four different managers and not even finishing second could save the manager’s job.
Quique Sanchez Flores was recruited and he was the early favourite in the Sack Race, the market for the first Premier League manager to get the boot. The owners have not been afraid to make major changes and the manager signed ten players in the summer. Buying a new team does not always pay off but they have the talent to stay in the top half especially since Troy Deeney has started scoring.
City had more corners and possession in the draw at Leicester on Tuesday. However, they never looked comfortable and were fortunate Jamie Vardy missed the type of chance he has been gobbling up this season. Joe Hart had to make a fine save in the last quarter and on balance a draw was a fair result. Vincent Kompany could be missing for a month and Watford will never have a better opportunity to beat City for the 7th time in the 22nd meeting.
The double will be completed if Palace beat Chelsea which looks a perfectly feasible outcome. Chelsea are still not playing at the level that saw the win the league last season with something in hand. Jose Mourinho had to go but some of the old failings under his management are still in evidence during the second Guus Hiddink era. He has become the club’s go to man when they make a sacking but qualifying for the Champions League looks beyond him.
Palace have won three more points on the road than at home this season and have already lost four times in the league at their own ground. However, Chelsea have won just one of nine away matches and have already lost five times on the road. In winning the title last season they were beaten three times on their travels, scoring 37 goals and conceding 23. They won 15 and drew 4 of 19 home fixtures.
Mourinho was named the Premier League manager of the season but Alan Pardew was an unlucky loser. He spent half a season at Newcastle gaining 26 points and 18 games at Palace where he moved the club he played for from 18th to tenth. His 37 matches saw him win 57 points and Palace had the sixth best record in the Premier League from the time he arrived in January until the end of the season.
Statistically Palace were weak in terms of possession and pass success rate but those numbers have improved this season. Signing Yohan Cabaye was a major coup and Wilfried Zaha is showing the form that got him a move to Manchester United which didn’t work out much to the relief of Palace supporters. Pardew led the side to eight wins in ten away matches but beating Chelsea at home is achievable.
Tottenham are now genuine title contenders and can enhance their claims by winning at Everton on Sunday. Goodison Park is not a fortress and the Blues have won just three of ten home league matches this season, scoring 22 goals but conceding 19. Stoke contributed four of that total on Monday against a side that do not defend well and a goalkeeper in Tim Howard who could be past his best and Tottenham can take advantage.
Mauricio Pochettino has been mentioned as a potential future England manager and if that happened Harry Kane would get a game. He is now proving to be more than a one season trick pony and Dele Alli has been a great recruit from MK Dons. All in all Tottenham are playing well enough to win the Premier League for the first time and that process can continue with a win at Everton this weekend.
Liverpool got their season back on track by beating Leicester at home last weekend. They had a fixture pending at Sunderland ahead of visiting West Ham on Saturday. Given a good result in midweek Liverpool can win at West Ham for the third time in the last five seasons. The Hammers have won just three of nine home fixtures this season and have a better overall away record. Liverpool can make it four from ten by winning away from home this weekend. So that’s four draws on TV!