The Scout: EPL Week 25

Fulham v Aston Villa

Aston Villa have hit something of a speed bump in recent games with two defeats in their last three matches.

The consequence of losses to Manchester United (2-1) and Newcastle United (3-1) and a goalless draw with Everton is that Villa have slid from second to fifth in four games. Amongst the disappointment there was also a 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield United that served as a reminder of Villa’s qualities.

The goals against the Blades were shared amongst John McGinn, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, Youri Tielemans and Alex Morena.

Watkins stands apart as Villa’s most obvious threat this season with 11 goals and 10 assists for Unai Emery’s side. The last time these teams met, Watkins and McGinn were on target in a 3-1 victory.

Since then, 12th-placed Fulham have continued to serve up a mixed bag of results. At times they’ve looked like world beaters – successive 5-0 victories over Nottingham Forest and West Ham and a 2-1 win over Arsenal had Cottagers buzzing. And at other times, such as in successive defeats to Burnley (2-0) and Bournemouth (3-0), they’ve been far less impressive.

In fact, last weekend’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth, courtesy of a double from Rodrigo Muniz and Bobby Decordova-Reid’s opener, was their first Premier League win since Raul Jimenez and Decordova-Reid scored against the Gunners on New Year’s Eve. That’s only one win in five and is hardly the form of a team likely to topple Villa.

Fulham do have a decent home record with seven wins and a draw from 12 matches, while Villa have been better at home than on their travels, although five wins and three draws on the road is a solid return from 12 games.

Suggested Bet: Villa to win + Total Goals under 2.5 (Same Game Multi) @ $5.75*

Nottingham Forest v West Ham United

The sight of West Ham United fans streaming out of the London Stadium during half-time of their most recent match wasn’t pretty. Neither was the performance of their team in the first half against Arsenal.

Adrift 4-0 at half-time, the Hammers were hammered 6-0, a result which underscored their recent struggles. They had lost 3-0 to Manchester United in their previous match.

Since beating Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium just before the turn of the year, West Ham have drawn four games and lost three in all competitions.

It’s not quite time to hit the panic button with David Moyes’ side still eighth on the table. But there is a growing mood of discontent that will get worse should the Hammers fail to beat fifth-from-bottom Forest.

A hefty 15 points separates Forest from West Ham. But it might not look like that when the teams clash at the City Ground.

Forest were unlucky to lose 3-2 to Newcastle recently when Taiwo Awoniyi was denied a penalty claim despite being brought down by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

Scoring goals hasn’t been a major concern for manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who has seen Forest bang in 13 during his seven games in charge.

But conceding 14 goals during that period gives you a good idea of why it hasn’t been rosier for Forest, who have won two, drawn one and lost four league games under Nuno.

West Ham have won the last two games between these two teams with a 3-2 win in November (Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek’s goals cancelled out those from Awoniyi and Anthony Elanga), and a 4-0 thrashing in February last year.

Moyes will demand a response from his players after their recent struggles, but victory at the City Ground will be a long shot.

Suggested Bet: Draw @ $3.55*

Manchester City v Chelsea

Erling Haaland is back and scoring, Kevin De Bruyne has returned with the expected impact and Phil Foden is in fine form. If manager Pep Guardiola had any concerns about Manchester City’s title challenge earlier in the season, he must be finding it hard to wipe the grin off his face these days.

City have won their last 11 games in all competitions, which has included six in a row in the Premier League and Tuesday’s 3-1 Champions League victory over FC Copenhagen. Goals from De Bruyne, Foden and Bernardo Silva sealed victory in Denmark.

Foden, so often the provider of opportunities in De Bruyne’s absence with seven assists this season, has also scored eight goals in his most recent 10 games in all competitions.

But it has been the return from injury of Haaland, who scored twice in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Everton, and chief conductor De Bruyne that has most excited City fans.

They will be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on Chelsea, a club that not so long ago was a regular title contender.

It’s hard to tell whether Chelsea are improving under Mauricio Pochettino, although they will take at least something from their 4-4 draw against Pep’s men in November when former City midfielder Cole Palmer scored a late penalty.

Since Pochettino took over before the start of the season, the embattled Blues have bounced between ninth and 15th, and currently sit 10th in the Premier League.

Last weekend’s last-gasp 3-1 win over Crystal Palace came courtesy of stoppage-time goals from Conor Gallagher, who had also scored earlier, and Enzo Fernandez. The win came less than a week after an FA Cup win over Aston Villa.

This could be a sign of improvement, but Chelsea won’t want to be reminded that their two previous games were a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool and 4-2 loss to Wolves.

Suggested Bet: City to win + Both teams to score + Half Time/Full Time – City/ City (Same Game Multi) @ $4*

*Odds correct as at 9am, 15th February 2024.

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