The Premier League title race is in full focus today, with two matches featuring the two candidates for the crown.
First off, Manchester City travel south to take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, knowing that a win will return them to the top of the table, a least for a couple of hours!
Palace don’t have a particularly good record at home this season, four wins from 16 games, but they can prove to be a difficult side to face when the mood grips them. Let’s not forget that Palace beat City earlier this season at the Etihad, registering City’s only home league defeat in the last 12 months.
City had a tough game against Spurs in the Champions League midweek, and they didn’t look particularly impressive. Was that a sign of tiredness as the fixtures mount, or just an off day that can be rectified today? We think the latter is more likely, and thus expect a reaction and strong performance today.
City are likely to bring a couple of players into their side that they rested midweek. One of these is Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian is a key influence in midfield, and we’ll take him to be man of the match today after his midweek relaxation.
The second match sees Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield, having to respond to a likely City win earlier to retake top spot.
Recent history in this tie all belongs to Chelsea, as they are unbeaten in eight matches at Anfield in all competitions stretching back to May 2012. This includes the infamous ‘Gerrard slip’ match in 2014 when Liverpool were last in serious chance of the title.
That said, Liverpool had a reasonably easy game at home in the Champions League on Tuesday while Chelsea had to travel to Prague two days later. It’s true that a number of key players didn’t start the match, but they still had to make the journey with little time to recover.
We think Liverpool will start quickly and should they get an early lead then they will prove difficult to stop. However, any lack of progress will see the crowds get nervous and the tension grow, increasing Chelsea’s belief.
Liverpool to lead at half time and full time is the most likely result from that bet, but the draw at the half and Chelsea to win at 10/1 does stand out.
However, we’ll play on the potential tension in the game. This match, and title race, means a lot to Liverpool and their players. None more so than captain Jordan Henderson. You could see the determination in his face when he came onto the pitch as a substitute against Southampton last week. He made a goal, scored a goal and got booked. We think there’s a strong chance he could let his determination get the better of him again if things are tight, and like the 11/2 on offer that he is booked.
Crystal Palace/Man City: De Bruyne to be man of the match, 1 pt, at 5/1, William Hill
Liverpool/Chelsea: Henderson to be booked, 1 pt, at 11/2, bet365
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