EPL Gameweek #29 preview: United and City battle for bragging rights


With 10 weeks to go, this year’s English Premier League had looked set for a fairly dull title race until last week provided the comedy aspect that until Saturday evening at Vicarage road, we had been missing. To say that Liverpool were made to look silly is the understatement of the season, with footage of their ineptitude away to Watford fast overtaking other similar moments on YouTube.

epl-gameweek-29-preview-united-and-city-battle-for-bragging-rights-minWatford scored three against the runaway league leaders in a little over 15 minutes, and at this time of the season, it’s a reminder that teams with more to play for can often overcome the odds. Given that just three points separate the teams between 15th and 19th place in the Premier League, that counts for a lot of teams, and with Bournemouth visiting Anfield and Watford heading to Crystal Palace, it’s worth checking the value very closely. Here are three matches from this weekend’s fixtures that could go either way and a little guidance for you if you’re thinking of taking on the bookies.

Arsenal vs. West Ham (Saturday, 3pm GMT kick-off)

There’s no doubting that both sides will be desperate for the points at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal and West Ham clashing at the traditional time of 3pm on Saturday. Both sides have had a decent rest between games, with Arsenal’s F.A. Cup win over Portsmouth out of the way on Monday evening and West Ham resting up for a week after their 3-1 triumph over Southampton.

Arsenal are under pressure in the league after their initial recovery under Arteta has been followed by some insipid displays that included a terrible 1-2 reverse to Olympiakos that ended their Europa League run.

West Ham still sit just three goals difference and no points above the relegation zone, and that only thanks to last week’s victory. If they don’t win, it’s likely that they’ll be bang in trouble, with some tough fixtures to come. For that reason, we think they’ll have to go after goals. It might not be successful in terms of the three points, but a point apiece could be exactly what both these ailing teams deserve. West Ham have scored eight goals in their last four games, with Arsenal scoring just one less. These two don’t do solid defensive displays.

Our tip: Draw and Both Teams to Score (4/1)

Manchester United vs. Manchester City (Sunday, 4.30pm GMT kick-off)

This should be an absolute classic. Both teams are in great form, with Bruno Fernandes single-handedly dragging United out of the January doldrums after his signing from Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese has looked the real deal and won last month’s Player of the Month vote with his new adoring fans at a canter.

In this game, however, he’ll be up against the player who is arguably the best Premier League midfielder and is up there in terms of world football right now. Frankly, it’s an insult that any other midfielder is in the race to be Player of the Year when you consider what Kevin De Bruyne does, both in terms of individual displays, but team assists and goals. His statistics put him so far ahead of anyone, with only Fernandes is close in recent games. No-one is close over the season, however and that’s the key difference – at 28, the Belgian has done it consistently for almost four seasons’ worth of Premier League football.

Oddly, the home side has lost all three Manchester derbies this season, with United triumphing in fine style 2-1 at The Etihad, before a 1-3 reverse at Old Trafford looked to have sealed City’s path to the Carabao Cup final with ease. That didn’t quite happen, as United won 1-0 at The Etihad again, but it wasn’t enough on aggregate, a highly unfortunate Andreas Pereira own goal eventually proving the difference.

This time around, can United lay the ghost of a visiting City to rest? We think they’ll go halfway o their goal, something of a trend in the past half-decade with the Red Devils. Take United to go into a lead at half-time before City’s extra day of rest and a rested midfield talisman counts.

Our tip: Man Utd Half-Time/Draw Full-Time (16/1)

Leicester City vs. Aston Villa (Monday, 8pm GMT kick-off)

What might have looked a formality a few weeks ago looks anything but for a Leicester City side that have stuttered badly since their damaging 0-4 defeat at hoe to Liverpool on Boxing Day 2019. It seems like a few years ago and yet just like it happened yesterday all at the same time, and not just to us armchair fans, but possibly to Leicester players and supporters too.

The Foxes defence has generally been very solid this year, with Turkish centre-back Caglar Soyuncu stepping into the space vacated by Harry Maguire magnificently alongside Jonny Evans. There seems little issue with Leicester’s full-backs, either, with Ricardo Pereira – who netted the F.A. Cup 5th Round winner against Birmingham in midweek – and Ben Chilwell both excelling on the flanks. So what is the problem?

Put frankly, Leicester’s front six. While Jamie Vardy looked back to his very best earlier in the season, with James Maddison loading the bullets, Vardy has fired blanks in the last nine Premier League games, a drought that has seen the golden boot race he looked to have sewn up weeks ago come apart at the seams. Maddison looks distracted by interest from the North-West and hasn’t been quite as brilliant in recent weeks either, although he looked Leicester’s biggest threat against Norwich and Birmingham in their last two games.

Across the middle, Wilfred Ndidi’s injury, Hamza Choudhury’s club suspension and mixed form from players such as Dennis Praet, Harvey Barnes and in particular Ayoze Perez has left observers questioning whether Brendan Rodgers knows his best starting line-up. We have no idea, which is a decent indication.

Aston Villa, of course, knocked Leicester out of the Carabao Cup in the semi-final just a few short weeks ago, and although they didn’t beat Manchester City, they gave a great account of themselves and only lost to a goal from a corner which shouldn’t have been given.

With Matt Targett a massive danger to Leicester last time out, we think The Foxes will overcompensate on one flank and leave the other, far more dangerous full-back to get among the goals. That is, if Dean Smith picks the player who made the last-minute goal that took Aston Villa to Wembley happen. No, not the goalscorer, but the provider. The Villains need the points, and they might just get one in the Midlands derby.

Our tip: Ahmed El Mohamady to score at anytime (22/1)

Gameweek #29 fixtures:

Saturday 7th March   

Liverpool vs. Bournemouth (12.30pm GMT kick-off)

Arsenal vs. West Ham (3pm GMT kick-off)

Crystal Palace vs. Watford (3pm GMT kick-off)

Sheffield United vs. Norwich (3pm GMT kick-off)

Southampton vs. Newcastle (3pm GMT kick-off)

Wolves vs. Brighton (3pm GMT kick-off)

Burnley vs. Tottenham Hotspur (5.30pm GMT kick-off)

Sunday 8th March      

Chelsea vs. Everton (2pm GMT kick-off)

Manchester United vs. Manchester City (4.30pm GMT kick-off)

Monday 9th March    

Leicester City vs. Aston Villa (8pm GMT kick-off)