The Scout: EPL Week 20 Preview

Aston Villa v Burnley – Saturday, December 30 (Kick-off 11pm, WA time) 

Aston Villa will be aiming to get back on track with victory against a Burnley side that has two wins and a draw from the past six games. 

It might not seem like great form but it’s as good as it has been for Burnley, who had picked up just four points from a possible 39 before their recent run. 

A 5-0 win over Sheffield United in early December kick-started their improvement with a 1-1 draw against Brighton and a 2-0 win over Fulham soon after. There have also been defeats to Wolves, Everton and Liverpool between the successes. 

South Africa frontman Lyle Foster has three goals and three assists to his name, while Josh Brownhill and Wilson Odobert have also scored three goals each. 

Villa’s rise to Premier League title contention has taken a recent hit with an unexpected draw with Sheffield United and defeat to Manchester United on Boxing Day. 

The nature of that defeat would’ve bothered manager Unai Emery, who watched his side take a 2-0 lead through John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker, only to lose 3-2. 

But in the context of the season, this was out of character for a Villa side that just a couple of weeks ago celebrated back-to-back wins over Manchester City and Arsenal. 

Scotland international John McGinn is a regular attacking threat with five goals, two assists and the creation of seven big chances this season. Ollie Watkins (nine goals), Leon Bailey (five), and Douglas Luiz have also been important goalscoring contributors. 

Despite all this, goalkeeper Emi Martinez may well turn out to be Villa’s player this season. Man of the match in the recent win over Arsenal, he rarely makes a mistake. 

Villa haven’t lost at home this season and that is unlikely to change against Burnley. 

Suggested Bet: Aston Villa to win + Total goals over 2.5 (Same Game Multi) @ $1.78*

Nottingham Forest v Manchester United – Sunday, December 31 (Kick-off 1.30am, WA time) 

There have been few more enthusiastic goal celebrations this season than Rasmus Hojlund’s for Manchester United on Boxing Day. 

Having gone 439 minutes (15 games) without a Premier League goal since joining United in August, Hojlund’s ecstasy after scoring what turned out to be a winner against Aston Villa was understandable. 

It was also infectious as United celebrated as if they’d won the league. And why not? It’s been a tricky season for United and reversing a two-goal deficit against high-flying Villa was a mighty effort. 

Two goals from Alejandro Garnacho had laid the platform for victory before Hojlund pounced. United have lost eight games this season and exited the Champions League at the group stage, so this felt like something magical. 

And, judging by the collective celebrations of Hojlund, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Erikssen, Scott McTominay, goalkeeper Andre Onana etc, this could also be a turning point. 

Forget that this was only a second win from their past six games, United were a different proposition after half-time against a Villa side that was up to third in the Premier League. 

Forest are also in a good mood heading into the final game of the year. The sacking of manager Steve Cooper may not have had an immediate impact but it didn’t take long for Forest to be celebrating. 

Cooper was dumped after Forest lost 2-0 to Spurs in mid-December but Nuno Espirito Santo’s first game in charge didn’t go well either. The former Spurs and Wolves boss saw his side blow a lead and lose 3-2 to Bournemouth. 

But a Boxing Day win over Newcastle United, in which Chris Wood scored three times against his former club, has given Nuno a lift. Forest had won just three of their 18 games under Cooper. 

Led by skipper Morgan Gibbs-White and the driving runs of Anthony Elanga, Forest countered brilliantly against Newcastle and will look to do the same again against Manchester United. 

Suggested Bet: Manchester United to win + Rasmus Hojlund over 0.5 shots on target (Same Game Multi) @ $3.30*

Liverpool v Newcastle United – Tuesday, January 2 (Kick-off 4am, WA time) 

The wheels have fallen off Newcastle United in recent weeks and Liverpool are ready to pounce. 

Jurgen Klopp’s revived Reds are unbeaten in their past 12 Premier League games and without defeat in their nine games at Anfield all season. Not even the big guns of Arsenal, Manchester City, Aston Villa or Manchester United have been able to beat Liverpool with a 2-1 loss to Spurs in September their only defeat this season. 

Free-scoring and with the best defence in the competition (at time of writing Liverpool had conceded 16 goals, the same as Arsenal) Liverpool frequently find a way to win. 

Darwin Nunez struck a sweet goal in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Boxing Day, while Diogo Jota fired in from a tight angle. Both are on five goals for the season with Mohamed Salah leading the way with 12. But it’s hard to go past Trent Alexander-Arnold as Liverpool’s most positive and flexible influence. Whether at right back or in midfield, he has been a prominent figure and has two goals and three assists. He has also created 12 big chances in his 17 appearances this season. 

Newcastle have won only one of their past seven matches in all competitions and just one of their last five in the Premier League. A 3-1 loss to Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day, in which their former striker Chris Wood hit a hat-trick, was particularly hard to take. 

Even captain Keiran Trippier, who has provided seven assists this season, has looked out of sorts. A series of uncharacteristic blunders didn’t help Newcastle’s cause in defeats to Everton, Luton Town, Tottenham Hotspur and a Carabao Cup loss to Chelsea. 

The absence of goalkeeper Nick Pope since injuring a shoulder in early December has been a big blow with his replacement, Martin Dubravka, having featured in five defeats in seven appearances in all competitions. 

Beyond the recent doom and gloom, Newcastle have scored at a rate of 1.95 goals per game, compared to Liverpool’s 2.05 per game. 

Suggested Bet: Liverpool to win + Trent Alexander-Arnold over 0.5 shots on target (Same Game Multi) @ $3*

*Odds correct as at 9am, 28th December 2023.

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