EPL Betting Previews: Newcastle United at Wolverhampton FC and Watford at Bournemouth
After a week off for domestic cup competitions, English Premier League action is back in full force this weekend. While Liverpool are running away with the league title, there is no shortage of storylines. How jam-packed is the table behind the top three of Liverpool, Leicester, and Manchester City? Ninth-placed Crystal Palace is on 28 points for the season, and they are both eight points away from fourth-place (and the final Champions League Qualifying spot) and eight points above 18th (the last relegation place). For every club from Chelsea to Norwich, there’s still a ton to play for. Let’s take a look at a couple of this weekend’s games, and how this traffic jam could begin to clear up.
Newcastle United at Wolverhampton FC (-235)
It is never easy playing on a big price, but this might just be too good of a spot to pass up on Wolves. Newcastle United has surprised most this season, finding itself in 13th place on 25 points from 21 games. While the team is only five points removed from the relegation zone, having four teams between provides a touch of security. However, the simple fact is this team is worse than its form suggests. To begin with, Newcastle has only scored 20 times, fewer than every other team not currently in a relegation spot. A goal difference of -13 is the third-worst in the EPL. While the club does have a pair of quality 1-0 wins over Tottenham and Manchester United, they both came early in the year, and both of these big clubs were either in or approaching something of a crisis. Newcastle were incredibly lucky to earn a late 2-2 tie at home to Manchester City in a game in which it was outshot 24-6. A late home win against Southampton followed, thanks again to a late goal in a game that the team did not deserve to win.
A look at the Expected Points Table demonstrates the degree to Newcastle have over-performed this season. The club’s expected points total is a mere 15.38, almost ten points lower than its actual total. This is the biggest negative discrepancy in the entire league, and places Newcastle bottom of the Expected Points Table. The team has an expected goals figure of only 17.82, also the worst in the league.
Wolves, meanwhile, have gained 30 points so far this season, and the possibility of qualifying for European competition next year is alive and well. The club’s biggest issue has been the inability to turn ties into victories, as it has recorded nine draws already, tied for most in the EPL. Wolves has won two of three at home, including a 3-2 win over Manchester City. Speedy winger Adama Traore is in the form of his life, attacking with purpose over the last few weeks. He has routinely been the most dangerous player on the field, and the left side of Newcastle’s defense has nothing like the pace required to handle him. Expect Traore to continue his fine run of form, and help create a number of quality scoring chances for his team. The more conservative option of Wolves -1 is currently listed at -130 and also holds appeal. But, if you can gather up the courage to lay the big number of -235 on the money line, this is as good a place as any to do so.
Watford (+180) at Bournemouth
These two teams sit next to each other in the EPL table, both occupying two of the last three relegation spots. This is a classic relegation six-pointer but features two teams going in opposite directions. While Bournemouth has been the feel-good story of the EPL over the last few years, it looks like time is running out on its stay in the top flight. The small club has gained only four points of the last 30 available to it, going 1-1-8 over that stretch. In its last two games, Bournemouth has lost to bottom half teams Brighton and West Ham by a combined 6-0. The 4-0 defeat at West Ham on New Year’s Day was the low point of Bournemouth’s season and illustrated all the limitations this squad faces in its quest to keep its Premier League status. The team was outshot 14-3, and was down 3-0 within 35 minutes. Bournemouth look resigned to its situation, and do not seem to have the players to dig out of this mess. A home game does not bring much comfort, given that Bournemouth are the second-worst home team in the league, gaining only ten points from ten games so far.
Watford, to be sure, is still in trouble as well. The team are a point below Bournemouth, but has shown signs of life since replacing former manager Quique Sanchez Flores with Nigel Pearson. Watford has won three of its last four games, and gained ten points in the process. The upturn in fortunes has come as a result of Pearson’s switch to a more attacking formation than his predecessor opted for. Using a 4-2-3-1 formation in those four games, Watford have scored eight goals, after scoring a total of nine of its previous 17 games. Wingers Ismalia Sarr and Gerard Deulofeu have responded particularly well, and the pace and confidence in the Watford attack stands in direct contrast to the plodding, uncertain forward play of struggling Bournemouth. While +180 is a great price for a team playing as well as Watford, there’s plenty to like about being able to grab Watford at a pick, grabbing the insurance of a tie as a push, at only -105.