2018-19 EPL Match Day 23 Preview — Southampton (4-7-11) vs. Everton (8-6-8)

After making a positive response to owner Farhad Moshiri’s demands for improved play, Everton look to make it three wins on the spin for the first time this season as they go for the double over Southampton on Saturday at St Mary’s.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Moshiri aggressively courted Marco Silva while the Portuguese manager was at Watford and eventually secured his services – along with former Watford striker Richarlison – during the summer. But after a middling opening half of the season in which Everton (8-6-8) had the same amount of points (27) as they did last term while burning through three managers, Moshiri made his voice heard in no uncertain terms last week.

The majority owner of the Toffees is still fully backing Silva but also noted to shareholders at the club’s general meeting, according to The Times, that when “I look at the table … it is not good enough.”

Those words carry weight considering Moshiri has already plowed approximately £250 million pounds into the club and likely will be the driving force behind a new proposed new stadium on the banks of the River Mersey.

To Silva and his side’s credit, there has been a response. The Toffees followed up their FA Cup victory with a 2-0 win at home over Bournemouth last weekend, but it was one without much panache or flow. Defender Kurt Zouma snapped a scoreless deadlock as he met Lucas Digne’s cross from six yards just after the hour.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin added the insurance marker in the dying moments of the match, but with Everton also racking up five yellow cards with a sixth arguably missing that would have resulted in Andre Gomes’ dismissal, it is clear Everton are still sorting themselves offensively at the bottom of the top half of the table.

“It is a process when a new manager comes in and I think he’s doing a really good job at the moment,” midfielder and Iceland international Gylfi Sigurdsson told SkySports in defence of his boss. “Not just as a club, but as players and for the fans we would want to be higher up in the league.

“When we were sixth in the league, I don’t think any of the players were happy because it’s about where you finish the season, and we kind of feel the same way at the moment and we’re not happy. Our aim is to finish the season in a strong spot.”

Everton likely will not spend on a true striker in the January window since that is almost always a seller’s market, but the Toffees might have to fend off Paris-St. Germain from poaching defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye.

The Ligue 1 leaders have not made direct contact with Everton about his availability – Gueye still has two-plus seasons left on his current deal – but some PSG players have not been shy about lauding the Senegal international’s play to French media.

Southampton (4-7-11) are in the thick of the relegation scrap but making progress under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. The Saints are technically unbeaten in four matches across all competitions (1-3-0) but were dumped out of the FA Cup on penalties Wednesday by Championship side Derby County after the teams played to a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes.

Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond scored two minutes apart to give Southampton a seemingly safe 2-0 lead with 20 minutes remaining, but the Saints squandered a two-goal lead to Derby County for the second time before Redmond’s miss on their second penalty attempt wound up being decisive.

“It’s a nightmare, I think, because we had again a big chance to be in the next round and gave it away. If you have two times a chance to win and don’t do it, then you don’t deserve to be in the next round, so congratulations to Derby County. We have to concentrate on the Premier League now,” Hasenhüttl told the club’s official website.

“After the 2-0, we were maybe thinking about what happened in Derby and then at 2-1 you could feel that the guys were a little bit nervous and they got the second goal. It was too easy. In extra-time there were three great chances for us, also for Derby too, but both teams were struggling and in the shootouts it’s always about luck. But they deserved it more because they fought back twice.”

Hasenhuttl continues to go back and forth between three and four-man backs, with central defender Maya Yoshida on international duty for Japan at the Asian Cup. The FA Cup replay did have one benefit for Southampton, as wide back Yan Valery will be available after sitting out Wednesday for his two yellow cards in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Leicester City.

Even with the missed penalty, Redmond continues to be in fine form and bagged his fifth goal in Southampton’s last seven overall matches. Hasenhuttl will also have midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who completed a three-match ban last weekend and was held out of the FA Cup match.

Theo Walcott and Richarlison scored to power Everton to a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture, though the Saints did get a measure of revenge by ousting the Toffees on penalties in the third round of the Carabao Cup.

Everton, who have just three wins in 19 Premier League matches at St Mary’s (3-6-10), last did the double over Southampton in 2001-02.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Everton are slight favourites at 17/10 compared to Southampton’s 7/4, with a draw the longshot at 12/5. Oddsmakers are uncertain how this game will shake out, offering 10/11 odds on both sides of the 2.5-goal threshold. The odds of both teams scoring, however, are a clear favourite at 4/6 compared to 11/10 odds for at least one clean sheet.

Despite a four-match goal drought, Richarlison leads the line for first goal-scoring options at 11/2, followed by teammate Cenk Tosun and Southampton forward Charlie Austin and young Saints striker Marcus Barnes — all of whom are 6/1. Sam Gallagher is a 13/2 option to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, while Everton’s Calvert-Lewin and Southampton’s Shane Long are both 7/1. Gylfi Sigurdsson is another step back at 15/2, followed by the in-form Redmond (8/1).

For any-time goal-scoring, Richarlison leads the line at 7/4, with Tosun, Austin and Barnes all joint-second at 15/8. Calvert-Lewin and Long are 9/4 picks, with Sigurdsson a 12/5 option followed by Redmond and Stuart Armstrong at 13/5.

PREDICTION

This is a test for Everton’s top-seven ambitions: The Toffees are clearly capable of winning this type of match, but their season-long lack of consistency has diminished external expectations to take them seriously enough to win this game.

Silva continues to try and find the right attacking options around Sigurdsson, again moving Richarlison to lead the line from his other spot on the flank. Ademola Lookman perhaps did enough to get a second consecutive league start on the right wing over Theo Walcott as he assisted on Calvert-Lewin’s goal after scoring in the FA Cup, though there is also a point where one wonders if Silva will put Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison together again as starters for the second time in three league matches.

Lineup juggling aside, these are the matches Moshiri wants to see Everton win to believe in his investment in this club, and frankly, it is a justifiable request. The Merseyside club has long been considered one of the “sleeping giants” of the Premier League. Or if you prefer a backhanded compliment, Everton are a more stable version of Aston Villa given their struggles to return to the top flight since being relegated to the Championship after the 2015-16 season.

The Gueye situation will be one to monitor during the January transfer window. Silva is keen to keep the Senegal international, and the last thing he and Everton need at this point is a distraction that takes away from consolidating their top-half status while kicking on to a higher level.

Thoguh disappointed about crashing out of the FA Cup in such a fragile manner, Hasenhuttl may find that elimination a blessing in disguise in his bid to keep Southampton above the drop. The German gaffer has done well mixing and matching his squad around blooding younger players, and has picked up another offensive option in Redmond to go along with Ings, Long, and Austin.

His decision to turn back to Alex McCarthy in Southampton’s last league match was an interesting one considering Gunn’s standout performance in his Premier League debut versus Chelsea. Hasenhuttl is likely not trying to foster a debate for the No. 1 shirt, but without the FA Cup for Gunn to gain further match time, the situation offers plenty of intrigue as the Saints grind out points to stay out of the bottom three.

The want is to see Everton play on the front foot in this game and burnish their top-seven credentials, but that is going to be easier said than done. This has the feel of a disjointed match in which a scruffy goal could wind up being the difference.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Southampton 1, Everton 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 23 PREVIEWS:

Wolverhampton (8-5-9) vs. Leicester City (9-4-9)
Liverpool (18-3-1) vs. Crystal Palace (6-4-12)
Manchester United (12-5-5) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10)
Arsenal (12-5-5) vs. Chelsea (14-5-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 23 Preview — Manchester United (12-5-5) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10)

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keeps this up, Manchester United will have a very short coaching search since they won’t need to look outside Old Trafford.

The caretaker manager looks for his seventh win in as many matches since taking charge as United host Brighton and Hove Albion on the road Saturday.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

United’s first five matches with their former Norwegian striker in charge were a means of stabilising the storied franchise following the sacking of Jose Mourinho. The Red Devils took care of business with four league wins on the trot followed by an efficient FA Cup victory over Reading.

Last weekend’s match at Wembley versus Tottenham Hotspur was the first real referendum on Solskjaer’s coaching acumen, his counterpart Mauricio Pochettino also considered a potential suitor for the United job Solskjaer has openly stated he wants on a full-time basis.

And the Norwegian passed with flying colours as United (12-5-5) recorded a 1-0 victory over Spurs, moving within six points of the fourth and final Champions League spot while pulling level on points with Arsenal for fifth. Solskjaer opted to match Pochettino’s diamond in midfield with one of his own, using Jesse Lingard as a false nine to open up space behind Tottenham’s defence, which contributed to Marcus Rashford’s goal on 44 minutes.

“The manager told us that at the beginning of the game it would be difficult to make short passes,” midfielder Ander Herrera told United’s official website. “He told us that it would be easier for us to switch the play and to look – almost without looking – to the other side of the pitch to switch the ball, because that is where we were going to find spaces.

“We scored like that, so thank you to the game plan as well.”

In the second 45 minutes, the match belonged to David De Gea, who again rescued points for United with a standout performance. He finished with 11 saves, thwarting Spurs striker Harry Kane thrice and Dele Alli twice.

“Every one of them (my saves) was important for the team to help keep a clean sheet, to help the team to win so every save was important,” De Gea said. It was a tough game for every player, we were attacking well, we create chances and this is United.

“They (Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones) have been top too, but not just them, the whole team, we have to defend from the striker to the goalkeeper so it was a great performance in the defensive way and we need to keep this level, keep winning games and fight for the top four.”

Solskjaer became the first United manager to win his first six games in charge, bettering the mark established by Sir Matt Busby in the 1946-47 season. Once more he found the best in Pogba, whose 45-yard pass set up Rashford for his match-winner.

The World Cup winner has four goals and four assists since Solskjaer took over while Rashford has three goals in his last four matches and four since the managerial change.

Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10) have a chance to complete their first double over Manchester United at any level since they recorded a 3-2 victory in the reverse fixture in August on first-half goals by Glenn Murray, Shane Duffy and Pascal Gross.

While United’s outlook has changed since the match. The Seagulls continue to be a stubborn outfit under Chris Hughton and had their four-match unbeaten run in all competitions end with a tough 1-0 loss at home to Liverpool last weekend.

Gross committed the foul on Mohamed Salah that led to the match’s only goal on 50 minutes, a bitter result for a Brighton side that played well and compact despite ceding nearly 70 percent position to the Premier League leaders. The effort has also provided hope among Albion they can grab a result at the Theatre of Dreams.

“Liverpool and Manchester United are the matches which are special in the Premier League, and you have important matches against top teams all the time,” defender Martin Montoya told the club’s official website. “I can see the team is growing since the start of the season, as we look more solid, physically stronger, and better individually.

“We are improving and at Manchester we will go out giving it our all to get a result.”

Brighton will also be sporting a different look compared to the first meeting, with Hughton using a 4-3-3 that will look more like a 4-5-1 formation with the expectation United will see a lion’s share of the possession. The move has most benefitted Jurgen Locadia, who had two goals and an assist in the four matches before the setback to Liverpool.

Also different will be the goalkeeper as David Button continues between the sticks while first-choice keeper Mathew Ryan plays for Australia in the Asian Cup. Button has helped Albion claim four points in his three league starts and recorded a clean sheet versus Everton.

In 10 trips to Old Trafford spanning 110 years, the Seagulls have just two draws to their credit – a 2-2 draw in the 1981 FA Cup and a 1-1 deadlock in the First Division in the 1982-83 season.

Manchester United have recorded four consecutive clean sheets at home versus Albion since that draw, with the lone league contest a 1-0 victory last term on an own goal by Seagulls defender Lewis Dunk. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic provided the offence in the most recent contest there in the FA Cup quarterfinals last March.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Manchester United are firm 3/10 favourites to make it seven wins on the spin since Solskjaer took over, and Brighton are 11/1 underdogs to pull off the double. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 19/4.

Despite a five-goal outburst in the first meeting, oddsmakers aren’t overly convinced this will be a high-scoring affair, offering 8/11 action on over 2.5 goals compared to 11/10 for under. There are also 4/6 odds on at least one clean sheet compared to 11/10 that both teams will score.

Despite the likelihood he will be coming off the bench once more, Lukaku is still the top choice for first goal-scorers at 11/4. He is followed by Anthony Martial (4/1), Alexis Sanchez (9/2), and the in-form duo of Pogba and Rashford — who are both 5/1. Lingard is a 13/2 option, while Murray is the top pick for Brighton at 10/1 to make it 0-1.

Lukaku is the only player with better than even money odds to score over the course of 90 minutes at 8/11, with Martial just off that line at 11/10. Sanchez is a 5/4 pick while Pogba and Rashford are again linked together at 7/5. Juan Mata has 12/5 odds to pick up a goal, while Murray is a 3/1 option. Seagulls teammate Florian Andone checks in at 9/2, and Locadia is another step back at 5/1.

PREDICTION

Solskjaer has passed every test thrown at him through these first six matches with flying colours, and this contest presents a new one: can United avoid a letdown after a big result? Additionally, this has the feel of a “trap game” considering their next contest is a mouth-watering fourth-round FA Cup tie at the Emirates versus Arsenal that will undoubtedly turn into a “who’s doing better among new managers” debate for the run-up.

Still, United continue to make up ground in a push for a top-four spot, and a win here ahead of that contest with Arsenal — United trail the Gunners by just two in goal difference — would send a message to the north London side they are not going away any time soon.

Right now, Pogba and Rashford are carrying United’s offence, but the other key component of United’s success is continuity. Solskjaer has settled on a first XI and substitution patterns that promote consistency in the side, and he has been rewarded by both starters and reserves — evidenced by their win at Newcastle.

Albion are not far off from the top half of the table, and for a side who have taken just four points off the Big Six, they have proven difficult to break down. Four of their five losses against those teams have come by one loss, and the worst of them was a 2-0 setback to Manchester City. Hughton’s squad may lack a consistent offence — but they are well-drilled and disciplined.

With the likelihood Albion will have nine behind the ball for this match as their 4-3-3 retreats into a 4-5-1, it means the dirty work will fall to fullbacks Luke Shaw and Ashley Young to pump crosses into the box to create some chaos and get a greasy goal for some separation.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester United 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 23 PREVIEWS:

Wolverhampton (8-5-9) vs. Leicester City (9-4-9)
Liverpool (18-3-1) vs. Crystal Palace (6-4-12)
Southampton (4-7-11) vs. Everton (8-6-8)
Arsenal (12-5-5) vs. Chelsea (14-5-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 23 Preview — Liverpool (18-3-1) vs. Crystal Palace (6-4-12)

Liverpool’s depth along the back line will be severely tested once more Saturday at Anfield versus Crystal Palace as they must make do without right back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

POTENTIAL STARTING XI

The Premier League leaders already are without defenders Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren through injury, which has resulted in defensive midfielder Fabinho pairing with Virgil Van Dijk in central defence for the Reds (18-3-1). Alexander-Arnold joined the list of the walking wounded with an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him at least one month.

The 20-year-old suffered the injury in the warm-ups prior to Liverpool’s 1-0 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion but played the full 90 minutes. He is expected to be back in time for the Merseyside club’s first-leg round of 16 Champions League tie versus Bayern Munich in February.

The timing of the injury, however, is sub-optimal. The decision to loan out right back Nathaniel Clyne to Bournemouth is now under scrutiny, and while Joel Matip may be available for selection at centre back in this game, it would appear more likely midfielder James Milner will be deputising for Alexander-Arnold.

“We have not a massive squad at the moment in training, but they are not out for long,” gaffer Jurgen Klopp told the Evening Standard recently. “It’s not cool in this moment but in probably two weeks it looks completely different and I cannot make a decision for today and then in two weeks I created a problem with my decision today. We are fine.”

Of course, things are much easier when having Mo Salah as a potential eraser to all those defensive concerns on the other end of the pitch. The Egypt international’s earned penalty and subsequent conversion on 50 minutes separated Liverpool from Brighton and was his ninth-match winner of the season.

More importantly, Liverpool maintained their four-point lead atop the table over reigning champions Manchester City, who dealt Klopp’s side their only defeat to date.

“In my mind and all of the lads’ minds is just: ‘Take it game by game,'” captain Jordan Henderson told the team’s official website. “That’s all we can do and is what we have been doing up to this point – so why change it?

“The next game is the biggest game of the season, that’s how we look at it, and it’s a tough one again next week. We will keep taking it game by game and come the end of the season, let’s see where we are.”

Henderson may have a new partner in defensive midfield with Giorginio Winaldum battling a knock of his own. With Fabinho likely on the back four, Naby Keita is the most likely swap for Klopp there, though James Milner is also a potential replacement.

Salah has scored eight goals in his last nine matches in all competitions, his blistering form an omen for a Crystal Palace team expected to start third-choice keeper Julian Speroni in this match. The 39-year-old Speroni has not appeared in a league match since a 3-2 loss to Arsenal on Dec. 28, 2017, and has not won a Premier League match since a 3-0 win at Leicester City 12 days before that.

Vincent Guaita was forced off at halftime due to injury, and Wayne Hennessey – still under fire for an alleged Nazi salute that was caught on camera and spread on social media – was decisively subpar on goals allowed seven minutes apart in the second half of a 2-1 home loss to Watford.

“He didn’t have a lot to do, did he? It’s difficult to assess a goalkeeper’s performance when, really, he didn’t actually make any saves. So he did OK,” Hodgson told The Times before backing the Wales international regarding his social media flap.

“He’s made it perfectly clear it was an innocent gesture, it was nothing to do with what people are trying to link it to,” the Palace boss added. “We are more than happy to accept that, particularly knowing the man as he is and knowing he is totally incapable of any racist or inflammatory gestures. You’re asking me, can I turn back the tide of social media and your media and erase that? No, I can’t erase it but the fact is I’ve never given it more than a few seconds’ thought.”

Palace (6-4-12) scored courtesy an own goal by Watford defender Craig Cathcart as they were denied a third win on the bounce in all competitions. Jordan Ayew had scored in the previous two matches before last weekend’s loss, but Wilfried Zaha’s goal drought has reached 15 matches in league play. Five of Luka Milivojevic’s team-best six goals in league play have come from the spot.

The Eagles have been a far better outfit on the road than at home, claiming 13 of their 22 points while going 4-1-6 and matching their road win total for all of last term. They are seeking their first three-match road winning streak in Premier League play since victories at Burnley, Leicester City and West Ham United in 2014-15.

Liverpool have won three on the trot over Palace and posted a workmanlike 2-0 win at Selhurst Park in the reverse fixture. Milner converted a penalty right before halftime and Sadio Mane secured the win in second-half stoppage time.

The Eagles, though, have enjoyed success recently at Anfield. They had won their three prior visits before last season’s 1-0 defeat.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are 2/11 favourites to open a provisional seven-point lead atop the table with a victory while Crystal Palace are 16/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline and continue their recent run of success at Anfield. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 7/1.

Oddsmakers are expecting a glut of goals in this one, with 8/15 odds on clearing the 2.5-goal threshold compared to 6/4 for another 2-0 scoreline or lower. There are 8/13 odds on there being a clean sheet in this match, likely by Liverpool, compared to a 6/5 offering on both teams scoring a goal.

Salah leads a lengthy list of Liverpool players for first-goal odds, checking in at 13/5. The understudys — Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi — are 3/1 and 4/1, respectively, while Sadio Mane and Firmino are both 4/1 options. Xherdan Shaqiri is a 5/1 pick to make it 1-0 for the hosts while Milner gets some play at 10/1. Ex-Liverpool striker Christian Benteke is Palace’s top option at 16/1 for the opening goal, joined by Zaha.

Salah is a 4/7 choice to score over the course of the match, with Sturridge lurking close at 4/6. Origi, Mane and Firmino are all better than even money at 20/21, and Shaqiri is just off that standard at 5/4. Benteke and Zaha are 9/2 choices, while Palace penalty-taker Milivojevic is a 15/2 option.

PREDICTION

While Liverpool are heavy favourites for this game, one only has to go back to their last legitimate title challenge five years ago to have nightmares about Crystal Palace. Chasing Manchester City and needing to overcome goal difference, Liverpool went for broke up 3-0 at Selhurst Park to try and cut into that gap.

Instead, it ended in tears for Luis Suarez as Palace took full advantage of a suddenly frenetic end-to-end match, scoring three goals after the 79th minute from Damien Delaney and Dwight Gayle — who had a brace — to salvage a draw and effectively ending Liverpool’s hopes for a first title since 1990.

This time around, dropped points will not directly result in such a drastic outcome, but with City breathing down their necks, every game is a referendum on the state of Liverpool as squeaky bum time draws closer and closer. The Reds have done themselves no favours by loaning out Clyne giving their spate of injuries at the back, but since Milner has played right back on a few occasions this term, Klopp has far worse options than his converted midfielder at the moment.

Benteke’s expected return to Palace’s starting XI brings some intrigue to the match as a washout from his days at Liverpool, where he totaled 10 goals in 42 matches across all competitions in 2015-16 and never lived up to the lofty expectations he created after a three-season run at Aston Villa produced 42 league goals.

When healthy and on his game, Benteke can be menacing — he scored 15 goals for Palace in 2016-17. He was anything but that last term, totaling three in 31 and failing to find the back of the net in five league matches this season before getting hurt.

The keys will be the interplay Benteke has with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, as well as the service Milivojevic can provide through the middle. Palace did not play all that badly against Liverpool in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park, with the breakdowns that led to Liverpool’s goals coming at the end of each half.

Still, Anfield is an entirely different animal, even if Palace have been a surprising bogey team for Liverpool there. Every week the challenge remains for Liverpool: Are they different than Premier League title contenders of years past? For this week, at least, expect that answer to be yes.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 3, Crystal Palace 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 23 PREVIEWS:

Wolverhampton (8-5-9) vs. Leicester City (9-4-9)
Manchester United (12-5-5) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10)
Southampton (4-7-11) vs. Everton (8-6-8)
Arsenal (12-5-5) vs. Chelsea (14-5-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 23 Preview — Wolverhampton (8-5-9) vs. Leicester City (9-4-9)

For just the second time in league play, Wolverhampton will have a change in personnel in their three-man back line Saturday when they host Leicester City at Molineux.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

For the first 22 league matches, Willy Boly, Connor Coady, and Ryan Bennett have been fixtures in Nuno Espirito Santo’s starting XI for all but one contest – Bennett was dropped in Wolves’ 2-1 loss to Cardiff City on Nov. 30. While Wolverhampton (8-5-9) have recorded just one clean sheet in their last 14 league contests, they are a competent trio in front of Rui Patricio and a key reason the side are well on their way to staying in the top flight for a second straight season.

Boly, though, will begin serving a three-match suspension in this contest, the result of a straight red card received in Wolves’ 3-0 loss to reigning champions Manchester City last weekend. Boly won the ball on a challenge against Bernardo Silva, but his studs-up follow through caught the City midfielder on the ankle, and Craig Pawson did not hesitate in sending Boly off.

Nuno had no complaints post-match, having conferred with the fourth official during the contest. The scoreline was somewhat harsh to Wolves, who also conceded a first-half penalty after Bennett felled David Silva before Coady had an own goal 11 minutes from time following cross from Kevin De Bruyne.

“We have to have desire,” midfielder Jonny told Wolves’ official website. “We come from two losses in Premier League, but now we have two consecutive home games against two direct opponents. It is important to give a very good performance to our supporters and give them back that love they give to us. Hopefully first with three points against Leicester and then again three points against West Ham.

“Hopefully everything goes well, and we can get six points out of six and keep fighting, because we are having a good campaign.”

Kevin Hause started in Boly’s spot in two Carabao Cup matches for Wolves, but he was loaned out to Aston Villa for the second half of the season. That leaves Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Vinagre and possibly Romain Saiss as options for Nuno at left back.

Dendoncker started at right back in the Carabao Cup and has started three of Wolverhampton’s last four matches in all competitions.

Wolves’ first-season success could be so much better had they done a better job turning Molineux into a fortress. Wolverhampton have dropped back-to-back home league matches and are just 4-2-5 this term after taking 53 of a possible 63 points (16-5-2) in the Championship while earning promotion.

Leicester City (9-4-9) also are in no danger of the drop as they enter this match eighth in the table, but the grumbling that came with their crashing out of the FA Cup grew louder with last weekend’s 2-1 loss at home to Southampton.

The Foxes conceded twice in the first half before Wilfred Ndidi gave the Midlands side a lifeline just before the hour, but an equaliser was not to be found. With rumours swirling that current Celtic and ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is being vetted as a potential replacement for Claude Puel, Leicester begin a daunting four-match gauntlet that includes contests with the table-topping Reds, resurgent Manchester United and top-three Tottenham Hotspur.

Puel has guided Leicester City to wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, but a poor run of results could lead to the ouster of the Frenchman, who has never truly won over supporters and had his run-ins with players, most notably striker Jamie Vardy.

“They are four easy games for us,” centre back Harry Maguire joked to The Times. “But we need to start improving at home. Wolves away will be tough and then we have three good fixtures but very tough ones. Hopefully we can rise to the occasion and get some more points on the board and set us up for an exciting end to the season.”

One reason for Leicester’s inability to kick onto the next level has been a paucity of goals. The Foxes have struck for two or more goals just once in their last 10 matches across all competitions. Leicester City’s 26 league goals are the fewest of any side in the top half of the table as every other club have racked up at least 30.

Vardy has a team-best seven goals, but young playmaker James Maddison, who has five goals and shares the team led with three assists, has not factored on a goal in Leicester’s last five contests.

Leicester City were somewhat fortunate to come away with a 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture in August. Wolves hit the woodwork three times during the match and conceded an own goal through Matt Doherty to open the scoring. Maddison provided the other goal with a finish off a cross from Ricardo Pereira right on the stroke of halftime, and the Foxes saw out the win down a man after Vardy scythed down Doherty in the 66th minute.

Leicester also dumped Wolves out of the Carabao Cup on penalties in the third round on penalties after a scoreless 90 minutes. The Foxes have not done the double over Wolverhampton since the 1995-96 season in the First Division.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Wolves are 11/8 favourites to claim all three points, while Leicester City are 12/5 underdogs to complete the league double. The odds of the teams splitting the points are slightly in between at 11/5.

Oddsmakers are expecting a tight defensive contest, with the under 2.5 goals a heavy favourite at 4/7 odds compared to 11/8 for clearing that bar. There are also 3/4 odds there will be at least one clean sheet for the third time in as many matches between the sides this term compared to even money they both score.

Each team has a striker at 5/1 odds to score first, but for the Foxes, that choice is Kelechi Iheanacho as opposed to Vardy at 6/1. Jimenez joins Iheanacho at 5/1, with Leo Bonatini in the middle at 11/2. Wolves’ Diogo Jota is a 13/2 pick, while Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro are both 15/2 options. Adama Traore checks in at 17/2, while Leicester teammates Maddison and Demarai Gray are both 9/1 to make a 0-1 scoreline.

Iheanacho and Jimenez are both 15/8 picks to score during the course of the match, with Vardy at 9/4, again behind Bonatini (2/1). Jota is a 12/5 choice, with Costa and Cavaleiro both 11/4 options. Traore again edges out Maddison and Gray as a 10/3 option over the Foxes’ duo at 7/2. Wolves starlet Morgan Gibbs-White also is a 7/2 pick during the match and 9/1 to bag the first marker.

PREDICTION

It may be a longshot, but given the gauntlet the Foxes have after this contest, there is a possibility Puel could get the axe here after a loss to consolidate and regroup. Both of these clubs have been maddeningly inconsistent all term — Leicester City overall and Wolverhampton curiously at home — but the grousing in the Midlands picked up steam after the FA Cup loss and could reach a crescendo with another empty result.

Both of these teams are top-half capable, and with no one picking up the banner to claim seventh — three points separate seventh through 11th in the table — a potential Europa League qualifying round spot is there for the taking since the Carabao Cup final will be contested by a pair of top-four sides. A win streak among any of the clubs in that pack could create separation and an inside lane for that spot.

Leicester have the feel of a team with no galvanising force to rally behind, yet have impressive pieces at each level in Kasper Schmeichel, Maguire, Maddison, and Vardy. The parts are better than the sum of the whole at the moment. Wolves have been the opposite for most of their season since promotion, but there will be much to learn about them in these next three matches without Boly.

Leicester City are not an overly physical side, something that should help Wolverhampton given their struggles against teams that like a little bit of blood and thunder with their football. That said, both teams need a win for a different reasons, but it also looks like the kind of match where the sides frustratingly split the points.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Wolverhampton 1, Leicester City 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 23 PREVIEWS:

Liverpool (18-3-1) vs. Crystal Palace (6-4-12)
Manchester United (12-5-5) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10)
Southampton (4-7-11) vs. Everton (8-6-8)
Arsenal (12-5-5) vs. Chelsea (14-5-3)

January 17 NCAA Basketball Picks

These are the condensed versions of picks for Thursday’s college basketball 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.

Louisiana Tech at Old Dominion:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Old Dominion -5 (5/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/Full Game: UNDER 130 points (4/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: 
Side Prediction/1st Half: Old Dominion -2.5 (3/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/1st Half: OVER 60.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/1st Half: 

Northern Kentucky at Cleveland State:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Northern Kentucky -9 (3/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/Full Game: OVER 144.5 points (5/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: 
Side Prediction/1st Half: Northern Kentucky -5 (4/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/1st Half: OVER 70 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/1st Half: 

Today’s Record: 7-1-0 (.875)
Previous Day’s Record: 5-6-0 (.455)
January Record 84-73-1 (.535)
December Record 86-62-5 (.578)
November Record: 81-91-6 (.472)
Season Record: 251-226-12 (.526)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)             (0-0-0 (.000) in January)
2-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)             (1-1-0 (.500) in January)
3-Star Pick Record: 4-0 (1.000)           (43-36-1 (.544) in January)
4-Star Pick Record: 2-0 (1.000)           (21-17-0 (.553) in January)
5-Star Pick Record: 1-1 (.500)             (19-19-0 (.500) in January)

January 17 NHL Picks — Anaheim at Minnesota

These are the condensed versions of picks for Thursday’s NHL game 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.

Anaheim at Minnesota:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Wild -165 (5/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/Full Game: UNDER 5.5 goals (4/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Ducks UNDER 2.5 goals (3/5) — LOSS!
Side Prediction/1st Period: Wild -150 (3/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/1st Period: UNDER 1.5 goals (3/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/1st Period:

Day’s Record: 1-4-0 (.200)
Previous Day’s Record: 4-0-0 (1.000)
January Record: 26-23-2 (.529)
December Record 39-33-1 (.541)
November Record: 44-36-0 (.550)
October Record: 31-22-0 (.585)
Season Record: 140-113-3 (.553)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)           (0-0 (.000) in January)
2-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)           (0-0 (.000) in January)
3-Star Pick Record: 0-3 (.000)           (13-14-2 (.483) in January)
4-Star Pick Record: 1-0 (1.000)         (7-4 (.636) in January)
5-Star Pick Record: 0-1 (.000)           (6-5 (.545)  in January)

January 16 NCAA Basketball Picks

These are the condensed versions of picks for Wednesday’s college basketball 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.

St. Bonaventure at Rhode Island

Side Prediction/Full Game: St. Bonaventure +6.5 (3/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/Full Game: UNDER 132.5 points (4/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Rhode Island UNDER 69.5 points (5/5) — LOSS!
Side Prediction/1st Half: St. Bonaventure +3 (3/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/1st Half: UNDER 62 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/1st Half: 

Creighton at St. John’s

Side Prediction/Full Game: St. John’s -2.5 (2/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/Full Game: OVER 159.5 points (2/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: 
Side Prediction/1st Half: 
Total Prediction/1st Half: 
Prop Prediction/1st Half: 

George Mason at Massachusetts

Side Prediction/Full Game: George Mason +2.5 (4/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/Full Game: OVER 144.5 points (5/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: 
Side Prediction/1st Half: George Mason +1 (3/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/1st Half: UNDER 68 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/1st Half: 

Today’s Record: 5-6-0 (.455)
Previous Day’s Record: 6-7-0 (.462)
January Record 77-72-1 (.517)
December Record 86-62-5 (.578)
November Record: 81-91-6 (.472)
Season Record: 244-225-12 (.520)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)             (0-0-0 (.000) in January)
2-Star Pick Record: 1-1 (.500)             (1-1-0 (.500) in January)
3-Star Pick Record: 3-2 (.600)             (39-36-1 (.520) in January)
4-Star Pick Record: 1-1 (.500)             (19-17-0 (.528) in January)
5-Star Pick Record: 0-2 (.000)             (18-18-0 (.514) in January)