I believe Newcastle are a better side than their league position and odds to win the game suggests and I’ll be backing McClaren’s men with confidence to take all three points.
Aston Villa 2.40 v West Brom 3.55; The Draw 3.30
Aston Villa were very impressive for 60 minutes at Leicester on Sunday but undoubtedly they should have shut-up shop when two goals in front. Instead Tim Sherwood made the bizarre decision to take off midfielder Carles Gil and replace him with a recognised striker in Jordan Ayew.
But we all know that’s how Sherwood operates, he’s a very attack-minded manager and it’s a trait/naivety/stubbornness (call it what you like) that could cost Villa their Premier League status.
Villa have taken just one point since their opening day victory at Bournemouth and in their last four league and cup games – against Leicester, Sunderland, Notts County, and Crystal Palace – they’ve conceded an alarming 10 goals.
West Brom haven’t hit top gear yet but their two defeats this term were to Chelsea and Man City, so no real disgrace there. In their four other league and cup games you won’t be surprised to learn that for a team managed by Tony Pulis they haven’t conceded a single goal.
The Baggies are struggling to find the back of the net themselves but if they can keep it tight once more in this West Midlands derby then they are sure to get a chance or two against a leaky Villa defence. At the current odds I’m willing to take a chance on Pulis’ men.
Back West Brom to Win @ 3.55
Bournemouth 1.75 v Sunderland 5.60; The Draw 3.90
I think this is a clash between two poor sides who for me will be in and around the bottom six all season. So to see Bournemouth available at odds-on, and not just marginal odds-on either, is very surprising.
Granted, I haven’t seen much of Eddie Howe’s men but they lost at home to a poor Villa side on the opening day of the season, they were gifted at least three goals in their victory at West Ham yet still conceded three times, they failed to win at home again against Leicester, and they were then put well in their place by Norwich last Saturday, a side that finished below the Cherries last season.
Bournemouth’s best performance this term came at Anfield when they were very unfortunate to lose to Liverpool, but it’s a lot easier to raise your game for those huge TV clashes against a big club than it is for a game against a relegation candidate that you’re expected to beat.
There’s no denying that Sunderland’s defending has been shocking this season and that the Cherries have to be favourites to win this one given they are at Dean Court, but I just can’t back the home side at odds-on.
The Black Cats performed a lot better against Tottenham on Sunday, in fact Jermain Defoe could easily have scored one or two against his former club before Spurs finally made the breakthrough, and if Dick Advocaat‘s men can repeat that performance at the weekend then I fancy they’ll avoid defeat at least.
Lay Bournemouth to Win @ 1.76
Newcastle 2.62 v Watford 3.05; The Draw 3.35
Living in the north east I know quite a few Newcastle fans who were disgruntled at the appointment of Steve McClaren, so having seen their side fail to win a single league game so far this season it’s fair to say they’re even less happy now.
The Magpies have failed to score in each of their last four Premier League outings too so you can imagine the ‘McClaren out’ brigade will be growing in numbers if Newcastle fail to beat Watford on Saturday.
But it’s far too early to panic (just try telling that to a passionate Newcastle fan though!) because while I have huge sympathy for what’s gone on up there in recent seasons now is the time to get behind McClaren and the team.
On paper Newcastle have had a tough start, away games to Swansea and Man Utd were never going to be easy, while at St James’ Park their only defeat came to Arsenal in a game they performed admirably in despite being down to 10 men from a very early stage. Prior to that they’d put two past Southampton and four past Northampton in the cup, so the signs are good.
Watford recorded a fabulous victory at home to Swansea last week, the first time they had scored a goal after themselves going four games without finding the back of the net. But prior to that The Hornets had failed to score against the likes of Preston, West Brom, and Southampton.
So I dare say many will have this down as a low-scoring game but instead I’m very keen on the Match Odds here. I believe Newcastle are a better side than their league position and odds to win the game suggests and I’ll be backing McClaren’s men with confidence to take all three points.
Back Newcastle to Win @ 2.62 (best bet)
Stoke 2.52 v Leicester 3.10; The Draw 3.45
Another team yet to find their stride, which is in complete contrast to their opponents on Saturday, is Stoke City, but in fairness to Mark Hughes‘ men they’ve hardly had the rub of the green so far this season.
The Potters were a tad unfortunate to lose at home to Liverpool on the opening weekend before earning successive away draws to Tottenham and Norwich. They then had two men sent off in the first half in their 1-0 loss to West Brom, and last weekend they were far from disgraced in losing at Arsenal.
It’s surely just a matter of time then before Hughes guides his talented side to their first league victory of the campaign, and because of Leicester’s fantastic start to the season we’re getting adecent price that it will occur on Saturday afternoon.
The Foxes are going great guns, but who have they played? They beat a Sunderland side who were woeful on the day, they beat an out-of-sorts West Ham, and they defeated Villa at the weekend after some bizarre tactical switches from the opposition. They couldn’t get the better of a lacklustre Tottenham side on home soil, and they also needed a late goal to draw with newly-promoted Bournemouth.
So for me Claudio Ranieri’s men, although deserving of a lot of credit for getting the results, have had it relatively easy so far, and Stoke – who have had it far from easy – at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday represents their most difficult task to date. I fancy a home win.
Back Stoke to Win @ 2.52
Swansea 2.36 v Everton 3.40; The Draw 3.45
We all have weaknesses when it comes to football betting and I have to admit that my biggest one by far is to immediately discount the possibility of a draw.
I can rarely bring myself to backing a stalemate, though the amount of times I’ve had a selection leading this season only for them to be pegged back and draw then maybe I need to consider that outcome more seriously.
When Swansea host Everton on Saturday afternoon, for all I’ve tried, I just can’t split them. They look two very evenly matched sides, both destined to finish top eight and be on the fringes of a top six challenge, and the only outcome I can seriously consider is the draw. And it’s very rare I do that.
Usually if I can’t split two sides I look to other markets, but I think this match has an equal chance of finishing 0-0 as it does 3-3, so I can’t get an angle on the goals markets either – both sides can be very strong defensively on their day, yet at the other end they have the talent to cause any team in the division problems (Swansea v United, Everton v Chelsea for example).
So apologies for the not very insightful preview. My honest thinking is that I can’t see more than one goal separating two very good sides, and therefore as the draw is the bigger price of the three options in the Match Odds then that has to be my call.
Back The Draw @ 3.45