The Scout: EPL Week 26

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest

A victory over West Ham United last weekend was the boost Nottingham Forest needed, although there might yet be a relegation fight to be had in the not-too-distant future.

A first win in five Premier League matches lifted Forest four points clear of the relegation zone. A goal late in the first half from Taiwo Awoniyi and a stoppage-time finish from Callum Hudson-Odoi sealed victory over the Hammers. It was a third goal in as many Premier League games for former Chelsea midfielder Hudson-Odoi.

The nature of the win made it difficult viewing for manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who jumped into the hot seat in late-December. Since taking over from Steve Cooper, Nuno has steered Forest to three victories in his eight Premier League games, with a draw against Bournemouth and four defeats (against Newcastle, Arsenal, Brentford and Bournemouth).

The win over West Ham came on top of victories over Newcastle United (3-1) and Manchester United in December.

Villa are up to fourth place on the Premier League table and have won two of their last three league games. Saturday’s 2-1 win over Fulham and a 5-0 win over Sheffield United came either side of a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United.

Ollie Watkins has been Villa’s stand out star this season and confirmed as much with both goals in the win over the Cottagers. He has been involved in 52% of all Villa’s goals this season.

Recent injuries to Boubacar Kamara, who is the third Villa player to suffer an ACL tear this season after Emi Buendia and Tyrone Mings in August, and defender Diego Carlos, who has a hamstring problem, have added to manager Unai Emery’s concerns.

But a shuffling of the pack to allow Youri Tielemans to play further forward was successful with the Belgian providing an assist for Watkins’ second goal last weekend.

Suggested Bet: Half Time/Full Time Aston Villa/Aston Villa + Total Goals over 3.5 (Same Game Multi) @ $4.50*

Manchester United v Fulham

Manchester United are in rare form heading into this weekend’s game against a Fulham side struggling for consistency.

The Cottagers have won two and drawn two of their past nine Premier League games, a sequence of matches that came after successive 5-0 victories over Nottingham Forest and West Ham.

A trip to Old Trafford will be a concern for manager Marco Silva, whose side have won just once on the road this season and have the second worst away record in the competition. They have picked up just seven points on their travels, two more than Sheffield United.

It’s not like 12th-placed Fulham can lean on history for motivation, either. In their most recent clash with United – in November last year – the Cottagers looked to have earned a draw before Bruno Fernandes scored a last-gasp winner.

Results before that defeat are even more depressing. Fulham haven’t beaten United since a 3-0 victory in December 2009. The teams have played 18 times in all competitions since then with Fulham managing just three draws.

Manchester United have battled through their own troubles this season, including worrying losses to Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, West Ham and Nottingham Forest. But in recent games they appear to have found a way to win.

Rasmus Hojlund scored twice in last weekend’s victory over Luton, which prompted manager Erik Ten Hag to claim his side was back in the race for a Champions League place next season.

In fairness to the Dutchman, United are now up to sixth place on the back of four successive league victories over Wolves, West Ham, Aston Villa and Luton. They still have work to do with a gap of three points to fifth-placed Spurs and they are five points behind Villa, who are fourth.

A victory over Fulham will keep them on track.

Suggested Bet: Manchester United to win + Total Goals over 2.5 + Both Teams to Score – YES + Over 0.5 Shots on Target – Rasmus Hojlund + Total Shots on Target over 8.5 (Same Game Multi) @ $3.55*

Arsenal v Newcastle United

Talk about a turnaround. After defeats to West Ham and Fulham in late December, Arsenal have been flying in the Premier League.

Five successive league victories have left Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Burnley in bits. A 21-goal haul and only two goals conceded in that time looks a lot like title-challenging form.

The goals have come from many sources, although you don’t have to have been paying close attention to recognise Bukayo Saka as the club’s top scorer with 12 goals. What might surprise you is that Leandro Trossard has contributed the second highest number of league goals with seven this season.

Arsenal misfired in their midweek Champions League loss to Porto (1-0) but there is a home leg to come in which they can reverse the deficit. And on current form, it wouldn’t be a great surprise if they were to do so.

Against Newcastle, Arsenal will be aiming to claim a 10th home win of the season, with West Ham the only team to have beaten the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium this season.

Sitting third on the table, a point behind second-placed Manchester City and five behind Liverpool, who have played a game more, the incentive for Mikel Arteta’s side is obvious.

But Newcastle have beaten Arsenal at St James Park this season and a second victory over the Gunners would put a dent in Mikel Arteta’s title challenge.

Anthony Gordon was on target to end Arsenal’s 10-game unbeaten start to the season in November. Back then, Newcastle fans were still ecstatic about being in the Champions League and there wasn’t much manager Eddie Howe could do wrong.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, including a group-stage exit from the Champions League. And only three Premier League wins – versus Fulham (3-0), Aston Villa (3-1) and Nottingham Forest (3-2) – in their past 11 games has tempered Newcastle’s European hopes for next season.

Suggested Bet: Total goals Under 3.5 + Both teams to score – YES (Same Game Multi) @ $3.90*

*Odds correct as at 9am, 22nd February 2024.

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