2018-19 EPL Match Day 17 Preview — Manchester City (13-2-1) vs. Everton (6-6-4)

Not invincible but still certainly imposing, the hunted are the hunters Saturday when reigning champions and second-place Manchester City host Everton at the Etihad.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Citizens (13-2-1) had little time to wallow after their first loss domestically last weekend – a 2-0 setback at Chelsea that ended a seven-match winning streak in league play – as they needed a result Wednesday against Hoffenheim to wrap up the top spot in Group E of the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s team got that result – a 2-1 victory at home over the German side – but not without some effort as Leroy Sane continued his blistering form with a brace on either side of halftime to negate a first-half penalty by Andrej Kramaric.

Sane’s first was a world-class free kick in first-half stoppage time, and just after the hour, the Germany international finished a 1-2 with Raheem Sterling for his fifth goal in six matches across all competitions.

Manchester City have a limited field of potential opponents in the round of 16 in February, with the toughest of the four they can draw Friday being notoriously stubborn out and Spanish side Atletico Madrid. Other possible matchups could be against 2018 semifinalists and Serie A side AS Roma, German outfit Schalke 04 and Dutch club Ajax.

“Incredible. Today finished group stage in best way,” Guardiola said post-match as City returned to the Champions League knockout rounds for the sixth straight year. “Best 16 teams in Europe. We try to arrive in February in the best condition with players fit.

“Big compliment for this group because every group is tough, and we did it so well.”

As Sane stole the headlines, teenager Phil Foden caught the eye of many as he was given a rare start by Guardiola. The 18-year-old looked composed on the ball and was the focal point of bright, positive play throughout the match in the midfield as England’s pipeline of youth is proving deeper than the 23 who powered the Three Lions to the World Cup semifinals in the summer.

“In general over 90 minutes, Phil was outstanding,” Guardiola beamed. “I never had doubts. The quality he has with the ball. Looks skinny but really strong. Huge talent. England has a diamond. Against German teams it is so demanding, but he played like a man.”

Foden, though, still has to fight to even stay on the bench for City in Premier League play, and City discovered they have a fight on their hands to repeat as champions. This is the first time since Sept. 29 the Citizens are entering play not atop the table as Liverpool moved one point ahead of them.

Guardiola rotated a good portion of his side midweek, some out of protection as midfielder Fernandinho was one yellow card away from being forced to sit out the first-leg round of 16 tie. Sergio Aguero also had that problem but was also not 100 percent due to an adductor injury.

City are also still without winger Kevin De Bruyne, who is close to a return, but fellow playmaker David Silva could be out until at least the new year with a hamstring injury. Kyle Walker played the second half at right back after John Stones played 45 minutes out of position there with Nicolas Otamendi getting the call in central defence.

The squad rotation figures to continue as the fixtures come thick and fast between now and the new year, with City’s next midweek clash a Carabao Cup quarterfinal matchup at Leicester City on Tuesday.

Everton (6-6-4) are seventh in the table and are coming off back-to-back draws following their 2-2 stalemate Monday against Watford in the “Silva Derby.” Lucas Digne’s free kick in the 96th minute bent around the wall and inside the left post, giving the Toffees a share of the points in the first match between the teams since current coach Marco Silva was sacked by Watford in January.

Richarlison, who reunited with Silva in the summer from Watford, scored the other goal for Everton. The Toffees, though, were second-best for large stretches of the match and watched Gylfi Sigurdsson have a 67th minute penalty stopped by Ben Foster before Digne rescued them with his first goal since joining the club.

“He is settling in really fast,” Silva told the club’s official website about Digne, who leads the Premier League with 128 crosses from his left back spot. “In my opinion, when you are a really good football player – and he is – when you are a really focused player – and he is – it is easy to understand (why Digne has swiftly adapted to Premier League football).

“He comes to USM Finch Farm every day to work really hard and he is a very good professional, with high quality. He is playing so well, improving every time, not just in our defensive process … he is a really important player in our offensive process as well from Barcelona this summer.”

With yet another road contest against one of the Big Six, the talk involving Everton inevitably returns once more to the Toffees in search of that culture-changing road victory to kick onto the next level.

The winless drought at Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Emirates, Wembley/White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and the Etihad has reached 32 matches (0-10-22) after their heartbreaking Merseyside Derby loss to Liverpool a fortnight ago. Bryan Oviedo’s 86th-minute winner at Old Trafford on Dec. 4, 2013, remains the last such victorious moment on one of these grounds for the Toffees.

This is already Everton’s fifth match at the six sites this term, and while they have taken only one point from the previous four, it is clear Silva has at least got the Toffees to believe they can get a result in these contests since they have given as good as they’ve gotten in those matches. Additionally, one of those 10 draws came in last season’s corresponding fixture, though it can be argued catching City on the second match day of the season was beneficial to Everton’s cause.

The Toffees are winless in their last eight trips (0-4-4) to the blue side of Manchester since a 2-1 victory Dec. 20, 2010, in which Tim Cahill and Leighton Baines scored in the first 19 minutes. Everton then held out with 10 men for the final half-hour after a red card to Victor Anichebe and conceding an own goal through Phil Jagielka.

A 10-man City held Everton to a 1-1 draw last term as Sterling equalised eight minutes from time. Wayne Rooney had given the Toffees – who also finished with 10 men after Morgan Schneiderlin picked up his second yellow on 88 minutes – a lead late in the first half. Walker had gotten his marching orders before intermission for two yellow cards in a three-minute span.

Sterling’s goals in both matchups last season are his only two in 10 career matchups with Everton.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet 365, City are strong 2/9 favourites to pick up three points in the first match of the weekend and keep the heat on Liverpool. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 13/2, and Everton are 12/1 longshots to deal the Citizens back-to-back losses in league play for the first time since defeats to Chelsea and Leicester City on Dec. 3 and 10, 2016.

Oddsmakers are expecting goals, with 4/11 odds on the teams combining to score more than 2.5 goals compared to 11/5 odds for a defensive struggle to break out at the Etihad. There are 3/4 odds for both teams to score at least one goal, while there is even money on a clean sheet in either direction. City have not been held without a goal in back-to-back league matches since a draw at Norwich City and loss to Manchester United on March 12 and 20, 2016.

With the possibility of Aguero returning to lead the line, the former Argentina international has been installed as the frontrunner to open the scoring at 12/5. Gabriel Jesus is a 3/1 pick, while Sterling (9/2), Riyad Mahrez (5/1) and Sane (6/1) round out the top five. Despite his fine recent form, Richarlison is joint-11th on the list for first-goal honours with teammate Cenk Tosun at 12/1. Sigurdsson, Everton’s designed penalty taker, is listed at 18/1.

Aguero (4/9), Jesus (4/7) and Sterling (20/21) are all expected to score in this match per the odds for an any-time goal, while Mahrez (21/20) and Sane (13/10) are just off that standard. Brahim Diaz, Felix Nmecha and Bernardo Silva are lumped together at 15/8, while Foden and Gundogan are 11/4.

Richarlison and Tosun are again joint-top picks for Everton at 3/1, followed by Dominic Calvert-Lewin (7/2) and Theo Walcott (4/1), with Sigurdsson a step back at 9/2.

PREDICTION

To put City’s Premier League dominance prior to last weekend’s loss to Chelsea, consider the Citizens had trailed for all of 12 minutes through 15 matches, and that was on a goal by Wolverhampton that VAR would have disallowed. Even with the loss to Chelsea, Man City have still trailed more in their six Champions League matches than they have in 16 league contests.

The tweak by Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri to use Eden Hazard as a false No. 9 in his 4-3-3 formation versus City will undoubtedly spring copycat versions up and down England (and Wales for you Cardiff City readers), yet how many have the personnel to pull off such a shift? That brings us to the second half of this “revelation” … are City opponents willing to risk ceding possession so quickly by hoofing the ball up the pitch and letting their speedsters on the wings or in the middle give chase?

Is it a better plan than sitting in two low banks and hoping to catch out City on the counter stringing two or three passes to get through the middle of the pitch? It’s a debate that will be pondered across opposing locker rooms, but again, not many teams have that kind of personnel.

Everton do not have that type of personnel unless Silva is willing to move Richarlison back to the left wing spot where he started the season and play Dominic Calvert-Lewin over Tosun to lead the line in his 4-2-3-1 set-up. The Toffees, though, have also been credible enough against the Big Six this season that Silva will not gimmick his way through these 90 minutes. That is a testament to the culture change he has made, even if some of the recent results have been one point instead of three.

What is good about this Everton side is they are willing to throw a punch against the big boys. It can be argued the only match of the four against the perennials where the Toffees struggled was at Old Trafford, and even that was a 2-1 loss in which it was more spurning quality scoring chances than being run off the pitch by Manchester United.

They scrapped hard with Chelsea to nick a point at Stamford Bridge and were arguably seconds from a point at Anfield before the crossbar conspired against Jordan Pickford. It may very well be the case City — even short-handed City — are an entirely different animal at this point in time and do run Everton out of the Etihad. But it feels more likely Everton will at least make Guardiola’s side earn their three points.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester City 3, Everton 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 17 PREVIEWS:

Huddersfield Town (2-4-10) vs. Newcastle United (3-4-9)
Tottenham Hotspur (12-0-4) vs. Burnley (3-3-10)
Wolverhampton (6-4-6) vs. Bournemouth (7-2-7)
Liverpool (13-3-0) vs. Manchester United (7-5-4)

 

2018-19 EPL Match Day 17 Preview — Wolverhampton (6-4-6) vs. Bournemouth (7-2-7)

A pair of sides looking to consolidate their top-half status collide at Molineux on Saturday when Wolverhampton host Bournemouth.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Promoted Wolves (6-4-6) have clawed their way into 10th place in the table on the strength of back-to-back 2-1 wins, the more recent one coming at St James’ Park versus Newcastle United last weekend.

Playing with a man advantage from the 57th minute, Wolverhampton left it late to reap the dividends of numerical superiority. Matt Doherty’s close-range header on the save of a shot by Diogo Jota in the fourth minute of stoppage time proved to be the match-winner.

“It was good. It is probably the best way to win,” defender Ryan Bennett told the club’s official website. “You don’t want to win like that, but when you get that feeling of scoring so late it’s the best feeling you can have in football.”

Jota, who scored Wolves’ first goal on 17 minutes and for the second straight match, was a menace throughout the match and the reason Newcastle were reduced to 10 men in the second half. He dispossessed DeAndre Yedlin, forcing the American international to foul him from behind on a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Ireland international Doherty has two goals in Wolves’ last three matches, while centre-forward Raul Jimenez, who was denied by the crossbar in the second half versus Newcastle, has two goals and an assist in his last six contests.

There has been the talk Wolves will make his loan from Benfica permanent this summer at a reported price tag of £30 million, but the Mexico international is more concerned with the present and keeping Wolves up.

“It’s too early. I have to do the things I’m doing, help the team to get good results,” Jimenez told the Express & Star. “At the end of the season we’ll see what happens. I try to play well and help the team, it’s going well for me and also the team.

“It’s exciting for me, I’m doing things well and that’s the reason I’m an important part of the team. I’ll try and keep doing the same things to help us keep winning.”

While Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has no injury or personnel concerns ahead of this match as Wolverhampton seek three consecutive victories for the first time in the Premier League, two of his back three are walking a very fine line. Both Bennett and centre back Connor Coady have four yellow cards, which means any booking for either player over their next three contests will result in a one-match ban.

Jota is in a similar predicament as all three picked up their fourth cautions in the win over Newcastle. Midfielder Ruben Neves has already served a one-match ban for five yellow cards.

Bournemouth (7-2-7) are one point better than Wolverhampton and eighth in the table on 23 points, but their inability to stand up to the Big Six again cost them a chance at making some headway on potential European play next season.

The Cherries seemed content to try and nick a point off Liverpool without injured striker Callum Wilson, but those plans came undone by Mo Salah in the 25th minute as his controversial goal – to Cherries boss Eddie Howe at least – opened the floodgates that also included an own goal by defender Steve Cook.

“It was a difficult match and a tough score-line to take,” Howe admitted to the club”s official website. “The first goal had a massive bearing on the game because I thought our shape had been good and Liverpool hadn’t opened us up at that point. The first goal shouldn’t have stood.”

Howe’s protestations aside, the loss drew another red line under Bournemouth’s inability to kick on to that next gear. The Cherries are 0-0-5 against the Big Six – they face Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day – and have been outscored 13-3 in those contests.

Having Wilson available in this contest will be vital considering the forward has factored on eight of Bournemouth’s last 11 goals in league play via scoring or assisting. His eight goals in league play are tied for fourth and two behind leader Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal.

Bournemouth will be without injured midfielders Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling, while left back Adam Smith is a long-term injury absence following knee surgery last month.

This is the first top-flight matchup between the sides, who have not met since Bournemouth did the double in the Championship in 2014-15 with a pair of 2-1 victories. The Cherries are 6-2-3 all-time against Wolverhampton and unbeaten in the last five (3-2-0) since a 3-1 defeat at Molineux in 1989 while in Division Two.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Wolves are solid 19/20 favourites to record their unprecedented third consecutive Premier League victory, while Bournemouth are 10/3 underdogs to snap out of their recent funk and post a fourth road win this term. The odds of the teams sharing the points checks in at 13/5.

Oddsmakers are not sure if the offences will stick or twist in this contest as there are 10/11 odds on both sides of the 2.5-goal threshold. There is more expectation both teams will score at 3/4 odds compared to even money for at least one side posting a clean sheet.

The home side has the top three options for opening the scoring, with Jimenez the frontrunner at 9/2, ahead of Wolves reserve striker Leo Bonatini (5/1) and Jota (11/2). Wilson headlines the Bournemouth list at 6/1, with pair of Wolves wingers — Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro both right on his heels at 13/2. Veteran Cherries striker Jermain Defoe is a 7/1 pick to make it 0-1, while Wolves speedster Adama Traore is a 15/2 option.

Jimenez also leads the line for any-time goal-scorers at 11/8, followed by Bonatini (6/4) and Jota (7/4). Wilson is a 15/8 option for the Cherries, with Cavaleiro and Costa again in tandem — this time at 21/10. Defoe (9/4) and fellow Bournemouth forward Joshua King (11/4) bracket Traore (12/5), while Wolves starlet Morgan Gibbs-White is also an 11/4 option.

PREDICTION

Bournemouth have been the epitome of a flat-track bully — they are a minus-10 with three goals scored in five matches against the Big Six but a plus-9 with a whopping 22 goals in their 11 matches against the rest of the Premier League. Yet this is a match that could play into Wolverhampton’s wheelhouse given the technical ability of the Cherries that will be more about a football matchup than the blood-and-thunder physical sides sometimes prefer.

To that end, Wilson’s availability is a huge question mark dangling over the Cherries at the moment. He has been one of the best strikers in the top flight this term, period, showing as much playmaking and interplay with his attacking midfielders as he has finishing. His nine goals in 17 matches across all competitions recalls his rate of 23 in 50 for Coventry City in 2013-14 — the production rate that resulted in him being Bournemouth’s record signing.

He will have his hands full with Wolves’ back three, but Wilson will also have the support of a Bournemouth midfield that can push and pull their Wolves’ counterparts through the middle. While Wolverhampton have had the luck of the green to a degree in their last two wins, their work rate cannot be questioned as they have taken the fight to teams and shown an ability to battle back after taking a punch.

This match has the feel of a late Wolves goal somehow factoring into this match, whether it results in a draw or a win for the hosts at Molineux is the question. The Cherries have failed to score in only two of their eight league road matches — their clunker at Burnley and at a Chelsea team who limited Howe’s side to 32 percent possession. Wolverhampton will cede more than that, and the result should be a finely balanced match decided late.

PREDICTION: Wolverhampton 2, Bournemouth 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 17 PREVIEWS:

Huddersfield Town (2-4-10) vs. Newcastle United (3-4-9)
Tottenham Hotspur (12-0-4) vs. Burnley (3-3-10)
Manchester City (13-2-1) vs. Everton (6-6-4)
Liverpool (13-3-0) vs. Manchester United (7-5-4)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 17 Preview — Tottenham Hotspur (12-0-4) vs. Burnley (3-3-10)

Their ticket to the knockout round of the Champions League for the second straight year punched in dramatic and emphatic fashion, Tottenham Hotspur try to come down off their high and stay in the thick of the Premier League race as their hectic December fixture list continues Saturday at Wembley versus Burnley.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

It could very well go down as the greatest draw in Spurs history, regardless of the strength of the Barcelona side they faced Tuesday at the Nou Camp. Mauricio Pochettino’s team – and specifically untested right back Kyle Walker-Peters – shook off a seventh-minute goal by Barca’s Ousmane Dembele to scrape out a gritty 1-1 draw courtesy of Lucas Moura’s goal three minutes from time.

The result, coupled with Inter Milan surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by group-bottom PSV Eindhoven, allowed the Lilywhites passage to the Champions League round of 16 as Group B runners-up.

For the moment, no one is worried about potential opponents Juventus, Bayern Munich or even reigning three-times champions Real Madrid ahead of Friday’s draw for their February fate after the staggering amount of energy Spurs expended to claim seven points from their final three group play matches to simply be included.

“It’s a massive achievement for the Club,” Pochettino said post-match. “It’s so important to be in the next stage of the Champions League. It’s a massive boost for everyone. Now we keep going. We were a little unlucky in how we conceded the first goal after seven minutes and that changed our strategy a little and we started to play in two different stadiums – here at the Nou Camp and in Milan.

“In the second half we found a way to link play better in our possession and started to create chances. We deserved to go through. We’ve made the impossible, possible and it’s important to show everyone if you believe, everything in football is possible. That emotion is so important and we need to protect that and use it in the right way, trying to push with everyone involved and the belief that we can improve and do better.”

To say Spurs left it late in their five-week scramble would be a huge understatement since both match-winners versus PSV and Inter and Moura’s equaliser Tuesday came on 80 minutes or later. For Moura, his seventh goal this term in all competitions was also a personal redemption after the nightmare he endured at the Nou Camp in his last visit with PSG in March 2017 when Barcelona stunned the French side with three goals after the 88th minute to advance with a 6-5 aggregate win in the round of 16.

“It was a very important goal and I’m so happy to score here in the Nou Camp in the Champions League and help my team-mates to qualify,” the Brasil international told Spurs’ official website. “It was an amazing moment. The last time here was really sad for me and this is really different.

“In the second half we did very well. We had many chances to score. We could win. It was a deserved result. … It was a very happy night for me, an amazing moment.”

Now, though, it is time for Spurs (12-0-4) to turn their attention back to domestic play. Thanks to derby rivals Chelsea, who knocked off previously unbeaten and reigning champions Manchester City last weekend, Pochettino’s side is just six points back of new leaders Liverpool and part of a three-time race.

“To qualify for the next stage of the Champions League is an amazing thing for the club, it means a lot for the fans and the players,” Pochettino said. “But now we are thinking about Burnley, a tough game on Saturday, and we need to create an amazing atmosphere at Wembley because it’s an important three points.

“We need to be ready because the competition doesn’t wait for you, it doesn’t stop, and it’s so important to be in our best condition to compete. We need to take the game in the same way as Barcelona with the same motivation. If we want to be consistent, it’s a game where we need to give our best and compete in our best way.”

Pochettino will likely again lean on the 21-year-old Walker-Peters since first-choice right back Kieran Trippier is still sidelined with a groin injury and understudy Serge Aurier just returned to training after suffering a groin injury in last weekend’s win over Leicester City. It would also not be surprising to see Moura and Erik Lamela in the starting XI given the amount of energy Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen expended at the Nou Camp.

Burnley (3-3-10) moved above the drop last weekend with a crucial 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion that ended a three-match losing streak and eight-match winless spell (0-2-6) overall.

Jack Tarkowski was able to re-direct Jack Cork’s 40th-minute cross for the lone goal, and the Clarets’ defence that had gone missing for so long this term finally showed its teeth as it followed up the solid effort in their 3-1 loss to Liverpool with their first clean sheet at home since routing Bournemouth 4-0 on Sept. 22.

“We know there is a strength to the unity of the side and recently we haven’t got over the line in games where we could have done,” Clarets boss Sean Dyche said post-match. “Others have rightly gone against us because we haven’t performed. But slowly and surely we are remodelling our game and in three of the last four we’ve looked more like ourselves.”

Dyche has some injury concerns to deal with as attacking midfielder Steven Defour and right wing Johann Berg Gudmundsson will be late decisions due to calf and hamstring injuries, respectively. Aaron Lennon would likely replace Gudmundsson on the flank while Dyche has multiple options for Defour, including dropping Ashley Barnes into the playmaking role and pairing together strikers Chris Wood and Sam Vokes.

Having finally ended their winless run, Dyche feels a weight has been lifted off his side and will be able to play freely at Wembley.

“We go down there with a bit more freedom, the expectation changes,” he noted to Sky Sports. “Last week against Brighton when there is really heavy expectation for us to get a result. “It changes when you go to places like Tottenham. That gives us just that little bit of freedom to take the game on and hopefully deliver a very good performance, because we will need it.”

The Clarets nicked a point off Spurs in their trip to Wembley last term, with Wood’s 92nd minute canceling out a goal by Dele Alli just before the hour. Burnley are winless in eight (0-3-5) in all competitions versus Spurs since their long Premier League win in eight tries (1-2-5) – a 4-2 victory at Turf Moor in 2010.

Kane had a hat trick in the most recent meeting, a 3-0 win for Spurs on Dec. 23.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Spurs are whopping 2/11 favourites to avoid a letdown and claim all three points, while Burnley are 18/1 underdogs to post back-to-back wins. The odds of the teams splitting the points are a somewhat 7/1 longshot.

Even with Burnley’s improved defensive play the last two matches, oddsmakers are confident the Lilywhites have the class to carry most, if not all, of the 2.5 goal threshold. The odds are 4/9 of clearing that mark compared to 7/4 for staying under that amount. There are also 4/6 odds of there being at least one clean sheet compared to 11/10 odds both teams put up at least a “1” on the Wembley scoreboard.

Unsurprisingly, Kane leads the line for first goal-scorer options at 2/1, comfortably ahead of understudy Llorente (7/2). Son and Moura are both 4/1 options, followed by Dele Alli (5/1), Lamela (11/2) and Eriksen (6/1). There are another three Lilywhites before finding the first Burnley player as Wood, Barnes and Matej Vydra are all 14/1 picks to make it 0-1.

Kane is a staggering 2/5 pick to score over the course of 90 minutes, and Llorente is also better than even money at 4/5. Son and Moura are also in that group at 10/11, while Alli is just off that standard at 6/5. The playmakers Lamela (13/10) and Eriksen (6/4) are also strong options. For the Clarets, Barnes, Wood, and Vydra are 15/4 options, and Sam Vokes is another tick back at 9/2.

PREDICTION

I get the desire to want this to be a competitive match. Burnley look to have finally turned a corner in terms of getting a disappointing season to kick on, and Spurs expended a staggering amount of energy and fight to get that point at Barcelona and are not 100 percent on the back line and so on and so forth.

Sometimes, though, a good offence is a better defence, and that is the case for the Lilywhites. Burnley will be disciplined and will be difficult to break down their two banks of four, but what they are not going to have is a noticeable amount of possession with the ball.

Dyche can claim his side will be adventurous in this match, but that is an “I’ll believe it when I see it” claim for the Clarets, especially if their most creative player (Defour) and best crosser (Gudmundsson) are struggling to be match fit.

For all the hue and cry of Spurs not signing anyone this past summer (note: this space was among those skeptical), the 25 players Pochettino has on his roster are all players who can contribute. Moura and Son are interchangeable, as are Lamela and Eriksen, and there is little drop-off to the expected starting pair in this match at the Premier League level. And having Alli in support in the middle makes them better.

There may be some concern in rebuilding Walker-Peters’ confidence after that man vs. boy goal by Dembele at the Nou Camp, but that is a concern for another day since he must play given the injuries to Trippier and Aurier. The 21-year-old will play until one or both of them are healthy, and will be an important piece of the holiday fixtures.

It will likely take a half for Tottenham to run through their gears, but as long as they maintain possession of the ball, there will be little for Burnley to do but harass and try to hit on the counter. And that will lead to a lack of opportunities that will allow Spurs to stay in the title hunt.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Tottenham Hotspur 2, Burnley 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 17 PREVIEWS:

Huddersfield Town (2-4-10) vs. Newcastle United (3-4-9)
Wolverhampton (6-4-6) vs. Bournemouth (7-2-7)
Manchester City (13-2-1) vs. Everton (6-6-4)
Liverpool (13-3-0) vs. Manchester United (7-5-4)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 17 Preview — Huddersfield Town (2-4-10) vs. Newcastle United (3-4-9)

Huddersfield Town’s bid to climb out of the bottom three got significantly harder this week ahead of their potential six-point belter Saturday at John Smith’s Stadium versus Newcastle United.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Terriers (2-4-10) are at the top of the drop on 10 points, one better than both Southampton and Fulham. They have a Premier League-low 10 goals, and one of their primary sources of offence and playmaking – midfielder Aaron Mooy – has been ruled out until at least February with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in last weekend’s loss to Arsenal.

It is a doubly cruel blow for the Australia international, who will also be unable to represent his country at the Asian Games in January. Mooy is the only midfielder or forward on Huddersfield with more than one goal in all competitions – his brace powering a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton on Nov. 25.

“I’m gutted to be missing an important time for Club and Country,” Mooy told the club’s official website. “We’ve got a lot of fixtures over the Christmas period at Huddersfield Town, but I back the team to continue our good performances and get the results that we’re targeting.

“I’m also sad that this injury will rule me out of the Asian Cup. I’d like to wish the Socceroos all the best as they head to the UAE; I’ll be supporting them from afar. The hard work on my recovery has already started and I’m looking forward to being back out on the pitch.”

The news also is not good in defence either as talisman and defender Tommy Smith is sidelined until at least the turn of the calendar year with a hamstring tear suffered in the loss to Arsenal. After using Smith at right back in a 4-2-3-1 set-up versus Arsenal, Huddersfield boss will likely have to revert to a three-man defence as he has done most of this term.

“The news on both Aaron and Tommy is not something we wanted, but injuries are part of football; we have to deal with it, manage it and carry on into this important December period,” Wagner said. “Aaron and Tommy are both strong characters and will work very hard in their recovery. We look forward to having them back.

“For now, this creates opportunities for others. I’ve said all along that we will need everyone in the squad to contribute and now we should see the benefits of having such a competitive squad.”

Wagner will be without one of Mooy’s potential midfield replacements as Abdelhamid Sabiri is sidelined until February following surgery to repair a broken collarbone suffered against Bournemouth. Huddersfield also have short-term injury concerns for this match with midfielder Jonathan Hogg (groin) and left back Terrence Kongolo (knee) facing late fitness tests.

Huddersfield – trying to avoid a fourth loss on the bounce — will also be without striker Steve Mounie, who is serving the last of his three-match ban for a straight red card given in their 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion on Dec. 1. The Terriers still have yet to get a goal from a striker this term.

Newcastle United (3-4-9) are in far better health than Huddersfield Town, but Rafa Benitez is trying to revive the club’s spirits after a hard-luck 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton at home last weekend as they are just three points better than the Terriers.

Ayoze Perez’s header on 23 minutes canceled out a Wolves goal six minutes prior, but the Magpies had to play the final 33 minutes down a man after DeAndre Yedlin was given a straight red card for a foul as the last man on a scoring opportunity.

Benitez’s side defended bravely in their bid to nick a point, but it came cruelly undone in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Matt Doherty had an uncontested header from close range on the rebound of a shot by Diogo Jota turned out by Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka.

Benitez was incensed at referee Mike Dean’s decision to eject the American international, who will miss this match due to the red card, and the Spaniard became the latest Premier League gaffer to feel VAR cannot come fast enough in the top flight.

“I saw the replay (of the elbow) and we need VAR right now,” he fumed to the Times, equally livid Dean missed what he thought was a penalty on Wolves after Perez had his nose bloodied in an aerial duel with Willy Boly. “I was praising the referee and they (the FA) fined me, so imagine how I feel now. You can see the two incidents in the video. It was unbelievable.

“You cannot believe this type of situation can happen in the Premier League. It was an elbow in the face, he was bleeding. It was so obvious.”

Benitez does at least have an in-form striker in Salomon Rondon. Though the Venezuela international was denied a fourth goal in five matches when his free kick thumped the crossbar, his graft in tracking to the outfield to recycle the ball resulted in him getting an assist with the cross for Perez’s goal.

Javier Manquillo will likely deputise at right back for the suspended Yedlin. Centre back Fabian Schar is also available for selection after serving a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation.

Both teams recorded 1-0 victories on their home grounds last term, with Mooy’s goal on 50 minutes the difference in West Yorkshire in Huddersfield’s first top-flight home contest since 1971.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Huddersfield Town are slight 13/8 favourites to claim all three points, while Newcastle are 21/10 underdogs. Oddsmakers are also giving 21/10 odds to the teams splitting the points.

Given the sides’ defensive set-ups, oddsmakers are heavily leaning on the teams failing to reach 2.5 goals with 8/15 odds. There are 6/4 odds on the clubs having an offensive outburst to get over that threshold. There are even money odds for both teams to score a goal compared to 3/4 odds for at least one clean sheet.

With Mounie out again, Laurent Depoitre is the top option to score the first goal of the game with 11/2 odds, followed by Huddersfield teammate Collin Quaner (6/1). Isaac Mbenza is a 7/1 pick for the hosts, as are by Newcastle’s tandem of the in-form Rondon and fellow forward Joselu.

Depoitre also leads the line for an any-time goal in this match with 21/10 odds, followed by Quaner (9/4). The aforementioned trio of Mbenza, Rondon and Joselu are all 11/4 to score over the course of 90 minutes, with Perez and Huddersfield’s duo of Adama Diakhaby and Elias Kachunga all listed at 3/1.

PREDICTION

This is a really tough spot for the Terriers, who are clearly not dealing from a position of strength offensively without Mooy and Mounie, and potentially without Hogg as well. The pressure to pull the strings in the middle will fall upon Alex Pritchard to help Depoitre, who likely will operate as a long striker. On the flank, Florent Hadergjonaj will have to try and go forward to help pin Newcastle left back Paul Dummett in his own half of the pitch.

This match may be as simple as the Magpies pumping balls into the box to see what kind of damage Rondon can do against Huddersfield’s back three, especially if Kongolo is unable to play in this contest. It has taken almost half the season, but the Venezuela international is getting the type of results that are making Newcastle supporters slightly forget they let a similar striker in Aleksander Mitrovic go to Fulham this summer.

Not having Yedlin is a blow, but the return of Schar provides a stability to the central defence that was lacking somewhat last week. That was most evident in the breakdown on Wolves’ first goal with Federico Fernandez and Jamaal Lascelles. The good news is Benitez can use Manquillo for the first 45 minutes to figure out if he needs to replace him for the second 45.

This is not a matchup for those seeking goals, though Wagner and Benitez are both cagey enough to turn this into a chess match. But the lack of bodies who can create goals for the Terriers is going to loom large against a Magpies side that does their best work on the road.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Huddersfield Town 0, Newcastle United 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 17 PREVIEWS

Manchester City (13-2-1) vs. Everton (6-6-4)
Wolverhampton (6-4-6) vs. Bournemouth (7-2-7)
Tottenham Hotspur (12-0-4) vs. Burnley (3-3-10)
Liverpool (13-3-0) vs. Manchester United (7-5-4)

NFL Week 15 Picks

This is the condensed version of picks for the NFL Week 15 games for Winners and Whiners between:

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

The picks will be updated in stages, with Sunday’s picks coming either Saturday or Sunday morning, and then the picks for Monday night’s game coming late Monday morning or early afternoon.

Week 14 Review:

In some ways, I am not surprised I had a sub-.500 week given that I did not write any previews and felt I was on the fence for so many selections. One of the keys down the stretch is being more picky about which picks are the better picks and how to winnow out games for the “average” selections for whatever reason (i.e., changes at quarterback, coaches’ firings, injuries, etc.).

There were not many picks to be proud about, though removing the stress of watching the second half of the Chiefs-Ravens game by taking the Chiefs less than a touchdown in the first half gave me a small sense of satisfaction.

And on Monday,  I hope to return to the “Bank the Bet” podcast with Scott Steehn, which is always a good time as we break down the Monday night matchup between the Saints and Panthers. Scott usually finds a third to join us, and it is always a good time, and more times than not, one of us is making money from our picks, so why don’t you give a listen and get some money too!

So follow Winners and Whiners on Twitter here (@WinnersWhiners) and follow me here @AlTruda73

For the individual games that have six picks, remember the 5/5 is simply the best pick of that individual game, not the entire week. There will be two other four and five-star picks among the rest of the Week 15 selections.

That said… ONTO THE GAMES!

Thursday, December 13

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs — Over 27.5 points 1st Half (3/5): LOSS!

Saturday, December 15

Houston Texans at New York Jets — Over 44 points (4/5) — WIN!
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos — Over 22.5 points 1st half (3/5) — LOSS!

Sunday, December 16

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers:

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Full Game — Seahawks -3.5 (5/5) — LOSS!
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Full Total —  UNDER 44.5 points (3/5) — LOSS!
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Full Prop — Seahawks OVER 24.5 points (3/5) — LOSS!
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers 1st Half — Seahawks -3 (4/5) — LOSS!
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers 1st Half Total — UNDER 22 points (3/5) — LOSS!
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers 1st Half Prop — Seahawks OVER 12.5 points (3/5) — WIN!

Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons — Falcons OVER 13.5 points 1st Half (3/5) — WIN!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens — UNDER 46.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills — Bills -2.5 (3/5) — LOSS!
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears — UNDER 22.5 points 1st half (4/5) — WIN!
Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals — Raiders +3 (3/5) — LOSS!
Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts — UNDER 47 points (5/5) — WIN!
Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars — UNDER 17.5 points 1st half (3/5) — WIN!
Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings — Dolphins OVER 8.5 points 1st half (3/5) — WIN!
Tennessee Titans at New York Giants — OVER 43.5 points (3/5) — LOSS!
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers — UNDER 54.5 points (5/5) — WIN!
Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams — Rams -13 (3/5) — LOSS!

Monday, December 17

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Full Game — Saints -6 (3/5) — LOSS!
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Full Total — UNDER 50.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Full Prop — Panthers UNDER 22.5 points (5/5) — WIN!
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers 1st Half — Saints -3.5 (3/5) — LOSS!
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers 1st Half Total — UNDER 24.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers 1st Half Prop — Saints OVER 14.5 points (4/5) — LOSS!

This Week’s Record: 12-14 (.462)
Season Record: 167-154-1 (.520)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)          Season (0-0, .000)
2-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)          Season (0-0, .000)
3-Star Pick Record: 7-11 (.389)        Season (121-108-1, .528)
4-Star Pick Record: 2-2 (.500)          Season (21-27, .438)
5-Star Pick Record: 3-1 (.667)          Season (25-19, .568)

Dec. 13 NHL Picks

These are the condensed versions of picks for Thursday’s NHL games for Winners and Whiners. A link to the full preview is below, and confidence ratings are in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does not represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick of each individual game.

Carolina at Montreal

Side Prediction/Full Game: Hurricanes -106 (3/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 6 goals (5/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/1st Period: Hurricanes +0.5 goals -205 (4/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/1st Period: Under 1.5 goals Even (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/1st Period:

Florida at Minnesota

Side Prediction/Full Game: Wild -172 (5/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/Full Game:  Under 6.5 goals (4/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/1st Period: Wild -0.5 goals +140 (3/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/1st Period: Under 1.5 goals (3/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/1st Period:

Previous Day’s Record: 4-4 (.500)
December Record 13-11-0 (.542)
November Record: 44-36-0 (.550)
October Record: 31-22-0 (.585)
Season Record: 88-69-0 (.561)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)          (0-0 (.000) in December)
2-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)           (0-0 (.000) in December)
3-Star Pick Record: 1-3 (.250)           (5-7 (.417) in December)
4-Star Pick Record: 2-0 (1.000)         (5-1 (.833) in December)
5-Star Pick Record: 1-1 (.500)           (3-3 (.500) in December)

2018-19 UEFA Champions League Match Day 6 Preview — Valencia (1-2-2, 5, -1) vs. x-Manchester United (3-1-1, 10, +4)

Rotation is the watchword for Manchester United heading into their final Group H Champions League match Wednesday at Valencia as Jose Mourinho’s already-through side are content to hold their runners-up spot versus a Tarongues club who have already assured themselves passage to the Europa League.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Technically, Manchester United can finish atop Group H with a victory and a loss by Juventus, but since the Italian side are hosting Young Boys in their group finale, there is little belief the last-place Swiss club can pull off what would be the biggest shock of Champions League group play.

United come into this match in good spirits for a change, having properly walloped a last-place Fulham side 4-1 Saturday in their last Premier League match. Marcus Rashford continued his stellar run of playmaking, setting up goals by Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata in the first half-hour before adding a strike of his own on 82 minutes.

Ashley Young scored the other goal for the Red Devils, who are unbeaten in five (2-3-0) in all competitions and have lost just once in their last nine (5-3-1). Though there is nothing to play for, Mourinho has opted to bring just two academy players to Spain as he feels his senior players are deserving of playing time for this match.

“The kids won’t start the match. (James) Garner will be on the bench, and Mason (Greenwood) is the protection player, in case we have any injuries,” Mourinho said at his Tuesday news conference. “We have players that need to play; we have players that deserve to play so, in spite of leaving a few players in Manchester, we are going to play with a team only with players from the first team.”

One senior player getting the start will be Paul Pogba, who was an unused substitute versus Fulham and played just 15 minutes in the 2-2 draw versus Arsenal in the previous match. While things have been tense between manager and star throughout the season, Mourinho placed little expectations upon the France international for this match beyond a professional performance.

“I’m looking for him to play well, and to have a good impact in the game and in the team,” Mourinho said.  “[It will be] a team with many players that don’t have many miles in their legs, a team with some players that are not playing a lot.

“So I hope that people like Paul and a couple of others that are normally in the team, who have the number of miles that players need to be at that top level, I hope that they can have a good impact on the team.”

Mourinho will again have a makeshift backline of sorts as Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw did not practice, and Diogo Dalot — who responded well to the pressure of his first two Premier League starts — also is nursing an injury, as is Matteo Darmian. Centre back Victor Lindelof remains a longer-term absentee with a hamstring injury.

Up front, Anthony Martial also did not train Tuesday, and Alexis Sanchez is also sidelined with a hamstring injury. After back-to-back starts for the first time this season, Jesse Lingard will likely be among the reserves.

Valencia are also expected to be without a slew of first-choice starters with nothing at stake, as coach Marcelino already has an eye on his club’s league match against Eibar this weekend. The Tarongues are 15th in the La Liga table, just four points above the drop but also only six out of fifth place.

“I am as strong, convinced and excited as I was on my first day here, if not more. But obviously when you do not win you cannot be so happy, it would be irresponsible if there was no self-assessment. The word surrender is not in my vocabulary. I’m not going to give up,” Marcelino explained about his priorities for this match.

“This is a game we did not want to play, with hopes of qualifying over. Having sealed a place in the UEFA Europa League, and given our Liga situation, the priority has to be the match against Eibar [on Saturday]. At the same time, it’s a Champions League match and they are never meaningless.”

One change will be enforced as defender Jose Luis Gaya is out through suspension. Striker Kevin Gameiro and Jeison Murillo are not expected to play due to injuries, while Goncalo Guedes and Gabriel Paulista are also being held out ahead of league play.

Valencia have been starved offensively for goals in Champions League — the only team they have scored upon in their last eight matches was Young Boys in this term’s group play. Los Che have also lost four of their last six home matches in Champions League.

These teams are no strangers to Champions League play as this will be their eighth meeting. United are 2-5-0 in the previous seven, and goals have been at a premium throughout this rivalry. There have been just five goals combined in the last six matchups, with a scoreless draw on Match Day 2 at Old Trafford.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Valencia are slight 8/5 favourites to pull out a victory in this dead rubber, while United have 19/10 odds to claim all three points. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 12/5.

Given the teams played to a scoreless draw at Old Trafford coupled with there being nothing at stake, oddsmakers are split on whether there will be goals in this match. There are 10/11 odds on either side of the 2.5 goals threshold, with even money on at least one team recording a clean sheet compared to 3/4 odds on both teams scoring.

Continuing the split decisions up and down the toteboard for this match, Valencia’s Gameiro and Lukaku are joint-top options for the first goal-scorer at 11/2, with Martial and one-time Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi joint-third at 6/1. Santi Mina, who has two of Valencia’s four goals in group play, has 13/2 odds, edging out teammate Moreno Rodrigo and the United duo of Rashford and Pogba.

Gameiro and Lukaku also lead the line for any-time goal-scorers at 7/4, followed by Martial and Batshuayi at 2/1. Santi Mina is 21/10, trailed by the same Rodrigo, Rashford and Pogba trio — all of whom are 9/4. Valencia’s Manuel Goncalo Guedes has 11/4 odds, followed by Dani Parejo at 3/1 and Lingard at 10/3.

PREDICTION

If a tree falls at the Mestalla and no one scores a goal, did it really happen? There is little in the way of expectations for this match, though all eyes will be on Pogba as he gets his first start since United’s 2-2 draw at Southampton in which the France international was lifted before the hour. After that match, word got out regarding another disagreement, albeit a calm one, between Mourinho and Pogba.

That said, having Rashford on his side makes for an intriguing examination to see if the forward’s pace is something Pogba can use to help create offence. That McTominay and not Marouane Fellaini is expected to anchor the central midfield is an added layer of intrigue since McTominay has struggled for first-team playing time for most of the season.

It also would have been interesting to see Dalot play after his impressive showings at right back versus both Arsenal and Fulham. After such a dour reverse fixture, it would not be surprising if the sides played to another scoreless draw, but the hunch here is United have too much firepower to bring in the final half-hour for that scoreline to repeat itself.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Valencia 0, Manchester United 1.

OTHER UEFA Champions League Match Day 6 Previews:

y-Barcelona (4-1-0, 13, +9) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2-1-2, 7, -1)
Liverpool (2-0-3, 6, +1) vs. Napoli (2-3-0, 9, +3)
x-Manchester City (3-1-1, 10, +9) vs. Hoffenheim 1899 (0-3-2, 3, -2)