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Premier League Tips: New Year – December 31 and January 1

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Wolves vs Manchester Utd

Manchester United may have missed out on Cody Gakpo, but they already have a striker in Marcus Rashford, who is bang in form.

Rashford was luke-warm ahead of the World Cup, scoring in the win over West Ham and while he was probably worth more game time for England in Qatar, he has returned in good spirits.

Rashford netted a well-worked opener against Nottingham Forest and then laid on the second for Anthony Martial. He was a real thorn in the side of Forest on the left and latterly down the middle as United cruised to a 3-0 win.

Rashford will likely spearhead United’s attack again at Molineux from the left-hand side. And Wolves will do well to keep the England man at bay.

His lightning speed makes him difficult to handle and he and United looked more dangerous playing on the counter-attack, which could suit them at Molineux.

Rashford is a confidence player and there is no doubt he is brimming with self-belief at the moment, with Erik ten Hag claiming: “There is no player who can smile so nice as Marcus Rashford, and I want to see him do that. That gives him and the players around him energy.”

With that in mind, it’s worth backing the 25-year-old to score at Wolves.

As far as the result is concerned in the Black Country, the bookies fancy United at a shade odds-on. And things do appear to be coming together for Ten Hag with three wins from four.

But United still appear to have a tendency to throw in a bad performance once in a while and last month’s away loss at Aston Villa is a prime example.

They were also rolled over by Brentford earlier in the season and it’s a big enough factor to stay away from backing United to win outright.

Wolves under new boss Julen Lopetegui managed to grab a victory at Everton last time out – in his first Premier League game.

Wolves scored late on via a smart counter-attack after earlier scoring from a corner. 

Just how they will play at home to United is unclear, but Lopetegui has vast experience, and he will most probably try to play as the away side. He will be well aware of the pace that United possess on the break and it could well be a game where neither side wants the ball.

Wolves set up in a 4-3-3 at Goodison Park, but Lopetegui, who has made early changes in both of his games in charge, may well switch to a more defensive formation.

He will be keen to avoid playing a high line and giving United too much space in behind and he could adopt a moderate to low defensive block.

Goals have been hard to come by for Wolves with blanks at home to Fulham, Man City, Leicester and Arsenal and it could well be another difficult day for the hosts.

United for their part are far from prolific away from Old Trafford and going for under 2.5 goals may well be the way to play the New Year’s Eve lunchtime clash.

Key Stats:

  • There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Man Utd’s last three PL games
  • Wolves won 1-0 in the last meeting between these sides at Old Trafford in January 2022
  • Wolves have received three red cards this season – the highest number in the PL
  • Wolves have not scored in four of their eight home matches in the PL this season
  • Wolves have seen under 2.5 goals in seven of their last eight matches against Man Utd in all competitions

Newcastle United vs Leeds United

Leeds will head north to Tyneside having had just two full days rest since losing to Manchester City.

It’s a factor which will surely irk Jesse Marsch, whose side face an in-form Newcastle side who last played on Boxing Day.

That was a resounding 3-0 win over in-form Leicester and Eddie Howe’s men will not be short of confidence.

Their home record has been impressive with four wins from their last five and three of those they have kept clean sheets. 

Leeds for their part have struggled of late and only have four points from seven away games. But they have rolled over Liverpool at Anfield, and they may well be good enough to frustrate a Newcastle side, who are making a serious charge for the top four.

Marsch admitted his Leeds side were missing some key players against City.

“We still have work to do, we still need to get a couple guys healthy, because we think some of those guys can really help us, but I just want us to keep our heads down and focus on getting better week-to-week,” said the US coach.

But midfield kingpin Tyler Adams is available after suspension and both Crysencio Summerville and Toon summer target Jack Harrison are contention to start.

That will be the fillip that Leeds need to keep things tight at St James’ Park. Their pressing will have to be on point against the Geordies and led by Adams they could make things difficult for Newcastle.

Their aggressive press, albeit with a little luck kept City at bay for much of the first half at Elland Road, but offensively they struggled to create much going forward.

They did net from a corner though and they do have that threat, but it could well be a game of few goals as Leeds dig in for a point.

Key Stats:

  • Newcastle have won their last six PL matches
  • Newcastle have been winning at both half-time and full-time in five of their last six PL matches
  • Newcastle have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven PL matches
  • Newcastle have seen under 2.5 goals in five of their last six home matches against Leeds in all competitions
  • There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Leeds’ last five PL games
  • Leeds have conceded at least three goals in their last three PL matches

Brighton vs Arsenal 

Brighton are right in the mix for a top-six place after a good start to life under coach Roberto De Zerbi.

Their recent 3-1 win at Southampton just underlined their credentials after the break for the World Cup.

They have become a lot of people’s second team this season with their eye-catching style of play, and you only have to glance at the stats to see that Brighton are up there with the best.

They are ranked fifth in terms of possession (56.2%), seventh for shots per game (13.4) and sixth for shots on target per game (5.4). Arsenal sit just ahead on every metric, but it’s the points tally where the two are different.

Arsenal have a 100% record at home, while they also have the best away record, winning six of their eight games to give them an impressive 40-point haul. Brighton have 24 points.

Brighton are also strong away from home and have in fact picked up the majority of their points away from the south coast. However, they are still a force under De Zerbi and they will cause problems for Arsenal.

The recent 4-1 home win over Chelsea showed they can mix it with the best and if Arsenal come with the wrong mindset, then they could be in trouble.

Both sides will look to dominate possession and that may well point towards a battle in midfield, but Arsenal do not give goals away. They have conceded just four on the road all season and that could point to a tight affair at The Amex.

Brighton have only scored 11 goals at home and have drawn blanks against Forest, Spurs and Newcastle.

They do have a decent record though against the Gunners, losing just twice in the last 10 games between the sides. They have also won the last two meetings between the sides, which were both at The Emirates.

Key Stats:

  • Arsenal have won eight of their last nine PL matches
  • There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Brighton’s last five PL games
  • Arsenal have scored in all eight away PL matches this season
  • Brighton & Hove Albion score 31% of their goals between the minutes 0-15

Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa

Spurs’ return to action after the World Cup was a sluggish one as they just about managed to grab a draw at Brentford.

They will be better for that Boxing Day run-out and at home they have been a formidable force, winning six of their eight matches.

Newcastle and Liverpool are the two sides to have dented their record in north London and Villa do not quite have the credentials of that pair.

Villa did though put up a good showing against Liverpool on Boxing Day last time out. They were 3-1 losers, but for much of the game they were a match for the Reds and created a number of opportunities.

The likes of Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey will cause Spurs issues and Villa are more than capable of scoring at Spurs. 

Villa though looked vulnerable in transition against Liverpool and Spurs will pose as big a threat on the turnover. In fact Antonio Conte’s men have launched a league-high 36 direct attacks after winning back possession and they have scored 21 goals on home soil.

Spurs’ last five games have seen both teams score, while Villa’s last three have seen both teams net and that could be the way to go at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Key Stats:

  • Tottenham have won eight of their last 10 home matches against Aston Villa in all competitions
  • There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Aston Villa’s last six PL games
  • There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Tottenham’s last five PL games
  • Tottenham have conceded at least two goals in their last six PL matches 

Nottingham Forest v Chelsea 

Nobody has a worse record away from home in the Premier League than Nottingham Forest and that is unlikely to improve on New Year’s Day at Stamford Bridge.

Just one away goal and two points is all Forest have mustered so far this season. And their latest showing in defeat at Manchester United offered little to suggest they can reverse that form against Chelsea.

Forest did have a goal ruled out by VAR in the 3-0 defeat at United, but they were well off the pace of United and they have not scored a league goal away from the City Ground since August 20.

Steve Cooper made 22 signings in the summer, and he has said he wants a “settled group”.

“For sure, we have to get to a point where we have got a settled group. That’s not to say we are not settled,” said the former England youth coach

“Togetherness, spirit and culture comes over the course of time. There’s no doubt about that.

“That’s the intention and it’s games where you learn a lot about players’ personalities and characters and they learn a lot themselves. That’s how they build relationships.”

If Forest can find some strength in adversity, then they may well make a fist of Premier League survival, but it’s hard to make a case for them against Chelsea.

Graham Potter’s men sprung back into action with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth.

Having failed to score in three consecutive matches prior to the break for the World Cup it took Chelsea less than 16 minutes to get up and running against the Cherries as they came out on top in pretty much every department.

Chelsea have won four of their seven home games. They came unstuck against Arsenal and had to settle for draws with Man Utd and Tottenham, but they have become flat-track bullies at home and Cooper’s men look like being their latest victim.

Sometimes the obvious stares you in the face and a Chelsea win with a clean sheet is exactly that, and at around 7/4 that looks like a value punt. 

Key Stats:

  • Chelsea have won their last four matches against Nottingham Forest in all competitions.
  • There have been under 2.5 goals scored in six of Chelsea’s last seven PL games 
  • Chelsea have scored at least two goals in their last four matches against Nottingham Forest in all competitions

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