Charlie Austin’s goals come in clusters and it may well pay to back him to score in the Premier League on Sunday, says Ben Coley.
Both of Sunday’s previews by Ben Coley
Bournemouth v Southampton (1330 GMT, Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League)
The aftermath of Southampton’s late defeat to Manchester City, into which the FA have decided to stick a nose, might have taken the focus away from another step in the right direction for Saints – but not among punters. Southampton are 13/8 and hardening to take three points at Bournemouth.
While Pep Guardiola was being all Pep Guardiola, aggressively telling a young footballer he’s really good at football, Mauricio Pellegrino will have been balancing the disappointment which comes with losing to a deflected, 96th-minute goal, with the satisfaction of watching his team to a fine job of stopping the champions elect.
Ultimately it ended in defeat but after an important and impressive victory over Everton, the signs are that Pellegrino might even last the season, no mean feat for a man in his uncomfortable chair.
The task here is somewhat different, but Southampton have done well all season on the road and while the price has probably gone, they’re expected by many to edge to victory over Bournemouth.
Eddie Howe’s side were by his own admission poor on Wednesday as they lost 2-1 at home to Burnley, with only the late introduction of Jermain Defoe adding any sort of attacking dimension. The England striker probably did enough in the best part of 15 minutes to earn a recall but he’s managed one goal all season and there remains a nagging doubt that the Cherries have not yet stumbled across the right formula this season.
It’ll be interesting to see what response Howe gets from his men and evidence here is hard to come by, because they simply don’t play that badly all that often. They bounced back from defeat to Burnley to beat Leicester last season but there was a worrying mid-winter run of seven without a win and you just wonder whether defeat here could trigger something similar, especially with an extremely difficult pre-Christmas run.
Howe, who turned 40 in the week, will be all too aware of what lies beyond this game so I do expect an improved display from the home side, whose need here just about overcomes temptation to side with the visitors now that they’ve hit their straps.
Instead, I’m going to pilfer a selection from my colleague Andy Schooler, who spotted some evidence which suggests Charlie Austin could be worth following at the moment. Andy put Austin up midweek but he was (sensibly or otherwise) rested for this game, save for the last 10 minutes, and looks worth a decent bet to score at upwards of 2/1.
As Andy noted, Austin has gone on scoring sprees at around this time in each of the last four years, so his brace against Everton last weekend could well be worth noting. He’s scored against Bournemouth before and in a game where both sides will feel like three points are there to be taken, is fancied to do so again.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Southampton – Sky Bet odds: 17/2
Manchester City v West Ham (1600 GMT, Sky Sports Mai n Event and Premier League)
Record-breaking Manchester City go for 13 Premier League wins in a row and are long odds-on to swat aside West Ham at the Etihad Stadium.
There’s a feeling that City are a little more vulnerable right now than the odds suggest, one supported by one-goal wins against the likes of West Brom, Huddersfield and Southampton of late, but the fact that unlike this time last year they are getting the job done is ominous.
Rather than forecast more of the same, then, I would lean towards things clicking sooner rather than later and were they to do so on Sunday afternoon, this could get messy. West Ham have conceded four against Manchester United, Liverpool and even Everton; three to Brighton, Spurs, Newcastle and Southampton. None are in City’s class.
Even memories of the Hammers’ shock win here two years ago have faded. They have faced City twice in 2017 and conceded nine goals without reply and it’s hard to make a case for anything but a convincing home win; indeed, 21/10 City -3 looks a fair bet.
Any concerns that City have a trip to the Ukraine to make early next week are allayed by the fact that they’ve already wrapped up their Champions League group and a bigger issue might be the fact that we are in early December, fixtures will soon pile up, and Manchester United await next Sunday.
It’s possible that the spectre of a Manchester derby in which they could put the exclamation mark on the first half of the campaign sees Guardiola name a weakened side and while they’d still be capable of doing the business for handicap backers, confidence in them doing so would take a hit.
A better option might be to hope for another late goal. Five of City’s last seven, dating back to an EFL Cup draw, have seen the net bulge in the final 10 minutes and what’s interesting is that this has happened not just when City have needed a goal, but when they’ve taken their eye off the ball and also when they’ve been running riot.
But as contradictory as it may now seem, the best value I can find concerns West Ham and Cheikhou Kouyate to find the net at 14/1.
The under-fire midfielder has a point to prove here, having been the subject of criticism among fans all week which largely concerns his attitude and ability without the ball, rather than what we’re interested in – his eye for goal.
While far from prolific, the Senegalese does pop up with more than his share and what’s interesting is that he tends to save it for the biggest games: Tottenham twice, Arsenal twice, Chelsea, Manchester United. With City still offering chances to their opponents and some firms offering less than half the best available price, a small bet on a player who has scored twice this season and threatened on several more occasions is the way to go.
Prediction: Manchester City 4-1 West Ham – Sky Bet odds: 11/1
Recommended bets: Sunday Premier League
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Posted at 1500 GMT on 01/12/17.
All of Saturday’s previews by David John
Chelsea v Newcastle (1230 GMT, Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League)
Judged on events that took place in midweek, this could play out a little bit closer than the market suggests as again one of the lesser lights on the road at a top-four outfit is fancied to gain nothing more than very slim pickings.
Toon stopped the rot at four straight defeats in a 2-2 draw against West Brom but did it the hard way from 2-0 down with a spirited second-half display, showing some grit and character following a couple of lame capitulations against Manchester United and Watford.
Extra merit points are added as well considering the Baggies were probably feeling re-energised with their announcement of a new manager taking over so Rafa Benitez will hope to capitalise on some momentum as they head south to the capital.
I retain plenty of faith in Benitez’s ability when it comes to tactics and strategy for a game of this nature but the individual errors he has no control over have been a thorny issue while just one victory on the road in the top flight this season (at Swansea) is a trend which needs to be addressed.
That said, the hosts could be a little vulnerable after a laboured display to get the better of Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
There is no respite for Antonio Conte with 10 matches between now and January 3 and the pressure may already be getting to him after a heated exchange with the referee saw him banished to the stands for the second half of the Swansea fixture.
He is going to have to take a chance or two in terms of squad rotation over the next month but perhaps a return from the start of an ever-improving Eden Hazard can return the Italian’s blood pressure to a less dangerous level and provide the foundation for a more comfortable afternoon.
It took until well into the second period before Swansea posed any threat on the Chelsea goal and Newcastle do at least have more in the locker on that front so rather than tipping Hazard to find the target anytime I will go for both teams to score at slightly more generous odds.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle – Sky Bet odds: 10/1
Antonio Conte (left) after his sending off in midweek
Brighton v Liverpool (1500)
If you are one of the faithful who spends their hard-earned following Liverpool you certainly can’t complain when it comes to entertainment value.
Jurgen Klopp might still be trying to figure out a solution to why a team that possesses arguably the most gifted attacking options in the country is not hot on the heels of Manchester City but the journey is a thrilling one.
The beauty watching Liverpool is the potential for them to blow anyone out of the water with consummate ease whilst teetering on the precipice of hitting the self-destruct button.
Stoke were eventually left trampled under the offensive stampede in midweek but in a parallel universe they could have been in trouble if Simon Mignolet had not avoided a clear red card for a rash challenge on the edge of his area.
They are odds-on for three more points on the south coast and you just know how this is going to play out as Chris Hughton’s well-drilled outfit digs in on the edge of their own area in an attempt to suffocate Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and company.
That plan almost worked at Old Trafford but for Ashley Young’s shot looping over the head of Mathew Ryan via Lewis Dunk and a clean sheet since at an improving Crystal Palace suggests they won’t be overrun at home.
It will be imperative Brighton don’t get behind early if are to have any chance so support one of the most disciplined sides in the section marshalled at the back by the outstanding Dunk and Shane Duffy to still be very much in the picture at the interval.
Prediction: Brighton 0-1 Liverpool – Sky Bet odds: 11/2
Everton v Huddersfield (1500)
The hugely likeable David Unsworth got a rousing send-off from Everton with a 4-0 thrashing of the hapless Hammers in midweek and we now usher in the Sam Allardyce era at Goodison Park.
The swathe of blue beside them on the Oddschecker grid at odds-on suggests it is going to be a triumphant start for Big Sam and his new coaching team which includes Craig Shakespeare – quite a coup in terms of timing to get the former Leicester boss on board.
It is not time to get carried away though as West Ham are a very soft target indeed and you have to remember the Toffees are just one game removed from an utterly deplorable display at Southampton.
We know Allardyce will not stand for any of that nonsense but I would like a bit more evidence in what will be a transitional phase before rushing into back them at odds in the region of 8/13.
Part of the price is down to the Terriers and their awful away record that hit the heights on the first day of the season but has since yielded just one point and no goals.
They collapsed at Arsenal in midweek but were right in the thick of it until the Gunners went 2-0 ahead and have every right to fancy their chances of securing a result here while Allardyce gets his feet under the table.
Manager David Wagner was far from downbeat at the Emirates and if he can transfer what we saw from his side against Manchester United and Manchester City to this easier rival then an investment on them in the Double Chance market should get a reasonable run for its money.
Prediction: Everton 1-1 Huddersfield – Sky Bet odds: 11/2
Leicester v Burnley (1500)
Outside of the Arsenal v Man United showdown to wrap things up, this is the game of the afternoon between two teams who remain very much on an upward curve.
The Clarets are right on course for an unlikely European berth at the end of the season and there is no sign of the bubble bursting.
They did not dwell for long on a devastating last-gasp 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal, displaying all qualities of an exceptional team on their travels at Bournemouth to record a relatively comfortable 2-1 success.
That is 14 points they have secured on the road now – the only reverse coming at Manchester City – and they are around the 4/1 mark to make it 17 at the King Power Stadium.
The hosts are thriving under new manager Claude Puel and their own 2-1 triumph over Tottenham hoists them into the top half of the standings.
Lynchpins Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez looked rather jaded under Craig Shakespeare but the last two or three weeks has really seen them get back down to business with a superb goal from each in the first half against Spurs.
They were thankful for some shocking finishing from Christian Eriksen and Fernando Llorente late in the game but taking a quality scalp will do nothing but good as the confidence starts to return on a more regular basis for the former Premier League champions.
I am looking forward to Steven Defour against Vicente Iborra in midfield – it is tough to split the pair so a dart on the draw is an obvious avenue to head down.
Prediction: Leicester 1-1 Burnley – Sky Bet odds: 5/1
Burnley’s classy midfielder performer Steven Defour
Stoke v Swansea (1500)
The Potters built their recent Premier League reputation on being difficult to break down but that is becoming an increasingly distant memory after shipping another three against Liverpool.
Only West Ham have leaked more goals as Mark Hughes’ side continue to fail in a quest to get any sort of positive run going with their streak now standing at four games without a victory.
The Welshman and his players have every reason to feel aggrieved as Simon Mignolet should have been off following a rash challenge on Mame Biram Diouf with the whole dynamic of the game set to alter if the Liverpool custodian had headed down the tunnel.
The knives really will be sharpened for Hughes if they fail to get three points against a club sat second bottom of the standings and currently possessing very little in the way of a spark.
They do deserve some credit for keeping the scoreline down at Chelsea but that was as much down to a slow night for the hosts and Paul Clement’s side offered barely anything going forward once they went behind.
They will get Tammy Abraham back up front but they quickly need to find a solution or could be propping up the table with Crystal Palace gaining ground as they start to get better under Roy Hodgson.
All the evidence at the moment suggests an attritional encounter and one goal will more than likely be good enough.
Neither particularly inspire an investment on their chance but I narrowly give the vote to the hosts with a bit of breathing room as a result for Hughes.
Prediction: Stoke 1-0 Swansea – Sky Bet odds: 5/1
Watford v Tottenham (1500)
This has been a benefit fixture for Spurs down the years and their win streak over the Hornets now stands at seven.
They are odds-on chances to make it eight but will to have to work hard for all three points judged on current form as they have started to splutter for no real discernible reason.
Mauricio Pochettino has not had to contend with any significant injuries so their dip in form is all rather mystifying as they have lost three of their last five outings in the Premier League to drop out of the top six and a whopping 16 points behind Manchester City.
They had two golden chances to snatch a late equaliser at Leicester in midweek having given themselves a very tough task with a poor effort in the first half that saw them trail 2-0 but the early-season optimism in terms of a title challenge is now out of the window.
Pochettino and his side have taken plenty of plaudits when their game is rolling but the Argentine has to start earning his money and drag his ailing players up and out of this rather worrying spell.
The lively hosts are just the type of outfit to take the fight to them as they almost got back into their game with Manchester United after a decidedly weary effort that saw them trail 3-0 after 45 minutes.
Spurs target Richarlison’s stock continues to rise as does manager Marco Silva’s and the latter should be fully refocused with any distraction over the Everton vacancy now put to bed.
Silva has instilled additional confidence in this group of players and the way they gave Chelsea an extremely torrid time for a spell last month at Stamford Bridge suggests they should have little to be afraid of here.
Spurs are no bet until they get themselves back together and it would be no shock to see the hosts getting at least a share of the spoils.
Prediction: Watford 1-1 Tottenham – Sky Bet odds: 6/1
West Brom v Crystal Palace (1500)
Punters don’t want anything bar the Baggies for this one in the traditional tried-and-tested method of getting with the team expected to rise to the occasion of a new manager coming in.
Alan Pardew is the man tasked with ending a winless spell stretching back to the middle of August as quickly as possible while also producing a more attractive brand of football to entertain the fans.
As always seems to be the case, Pardew immediately takes on a former employer if a little additional motivation is required as he inherits a team that has posted back-to-back draws since the exit of Tony Pulis and certainly shown some signs of life in the process.
It was annoying to have blown a winning opportunity against Newcastle having been 2-0 ahead and in an ideal world Pardew would have probably preferred to catch Palace a month ago.
They are steadily getting better under Roy Hodgson, have now closed to within four points of safety and would draw level with the hosts on points if they come away with a victory.
The latter point is the big issue – they have not even scored away from home in the Premier League this season never mind won a game so clearly have something to prove to themselves as well as the remainder of us watching on.
Striker Christian Benteke could be a solution for half of that problem and the Belgian has been gradually regaining his sharpness following a spell on the sidelines with injury.
He was close to netting once more against Stoke and is worth a small speculator to register in a game fancied to end up with honours even.
Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Crystal Palace – Sky Bet odds: 9/2
Christian Benteke (left) can get on the scoresheet for Palace
Arsenal v Manchester United (1730 GMT, BT Sport 1)
You have to tip your hat to Arsene Wenger as he has successfully turned all the negative talk about a switch in the north London power base into an excellent recent response from his players.
The current upswing in Arsenal’s form faces a thorough test here at the Emirates but punters are already keen to put their faith in the Frenchman and his team’s excellent home record with the money in the build-up very much in favour of the hosts.
They have not lost on their own patch since the middle of March and treated the fans to another glut of goals in midweek when they put five past Huddersfield Town.
The final scoreline was convincing without doubt but getting to that point was much tougher on closer analysis as the Terriers had a very good spell midway through the game when still only trailing by a goal.
I doubt Jose Mourinho’s visitors are likely to be quite so generous in and around the Arsenal penalty area so it will be up to Wenger to prove his side really can consistently mix it against the big guns with hefty defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City (both away, to be fair) still relatively fresh in the mind.
A little bit of a reshuffle will be required with striker Alexandre Lacazette ruled out with a groin issue but much more encouraging and committed efforts of late from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil should ensure they cope without the club’s record signing.
Wenger believes United will go on the offensive and I am in agreement as that sort of approach will unsettle Arsenal even with them in the middle of such a sparkling run at home.
United slammed four in against a very good Watford side on Tuesday, due reward for the number of chances they are creating which at times has been more than enough to win a handful of games.
Both need to try and make some sort of statement before runaway leaders Manchester City play on Sunday so that might just lead to the handbrake coming off despite the pair heading the stats table this season in terms of clean sheets – go for a small bet on over 3.5 total goals.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United – Sky Bet odds: 12/1
Recommended bets: Saturday Premier League
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Posted at 0715 GMT on 01/12/17.