Premier League bets of the weekend: Leicester are handicap pick to beat United
First plays second in tonight’s late game in the English Premier League, while fifth plays 15th in tomorrow’s first match. At the start of the season it would have been possible to envisage Chelsea and Tottenham fitting the bill in the first game, and likewise Manchester United and Leicester in the second, but roles have been reversed in spectacular fashion.
Having been widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season, Leicester are not just the season’s surprise package, they are going from strength to strength and are the form team in the Premier League with 16 points from their last 18. That run has taken them to the top of the table, a point ahead of Manchester United going into tonight’s clash at the King Power Stadium.
Scoring is not a problem for Claudio Ranieri’s entertaining side – not with 13-goal hotshot Jamie Vardy leading their attack – and that must give them a decent chance against United, whose limitations were exposed again in midweek with a home goalless draw against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.
Leicester have scored in all 13 Premier League matches this season and have lost only one of them, when Arsenal brought their own firepower to bear in a 5-2 win at the King Power.
The doubt about Leicester is that their record is not outstanding against the better sides in the league, but of course that could be said about most teams. This season Ranieri’s side have won only one out of four against top-eight teams and, as well as scoring in all four of those games, they have conceded every time.
Whereas Leicester have been able to outscore the poorer teams, it is more difficult to do that against higher-class opposition and their credentials will face a searching test over the next month, with matches against Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City to come in December.
United may not be such an exciting side but Louis van Gaal has them well organised, with six clean sheets in their last seven games in all competitions, and they have a good record against top-eight opponents this season, with three wins and just one defeat from five games.
A couple of those wins were impressive – 3-2 at Southampton and 3-0 at Everton – and there is a chance of a similar performance here, as Leicester’s attacking outlook can leave them exposed at the back.
At the odds, however, Leicester continue to be underrated and they rate the pick on the handicap.
The surprise team near the bottom of the table is Chelsea, who look opposable again away to Tottenham. This fixture ended 5-3 to Tottenham last season and the current Chelsea side look even more vulnerable against the in-form home attack.
The concern with Tottenham is that they had a long away trip to play in the Europa League on Thursday night and have the early kick-off slot tomorrow.
However, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have coped well with the demands of the Europa League this season (two wins and two draws in the Premier League after their four Thursday-night games) and Chelsea still have a lot of prove, having lost seven out of eight against teams in the top 11 (the exception was the 2-0 win over nine-man Arsenal).
Everton rate the best bet in the Premier League away to struggling Bournemouth. The hosts’ survival hopes were dealt a potentially mortal blow when striker Callum Wilson went on the long-term injury list and since then they have managed only two draws from six games.
This could be the best Everton side assembled by Roberto Martinez and their speed on the counter-attack is likely to cause plenty of problems for Bournemouth.
Aston Villa, yet to score under Remi Garde, look opposable at home to Watford, who are hard to score against and well set up for counter-attacking.
Southampton are not without hope of a big upset away to Manchester City. The title favourites have won only three of their last eight in the Premier League and all of those victories were against current bottom-five teams, which makes three points against eighth-placed Southampton far from a formality.
City have won only one out of four against top-eight teams, although Southampton are even weaker in that category with no win in three. Against that, Southampton have lost only one out of nine this season when scoring, which suggests they can take something from the game given the rarity of a City clean sheet (two in their last 15 games in all competitions).
Shortlist Watford, Brentford, Ingolstadt, Lazio.
Everton away win Developing into a top-class side
Leicester on handicap Tricky match but well worth a shot at the odds
Tottenham on handicap Worth chancing despite long midweek trip
Burnley on handicap Unbeaten in their last eight games
Reading on handicap Good chance against struggling Forest