- The Premier League enters the final stretch with matchday 30.
- The North West Derby this Saturday could ultimately determine second place in the table.
- Arsenal have lost their last four games; can they stop the bleeding against Watford?
Matchday 30 of the Premier League has a little bit of everything. We have a top-table clash with Man U taking on Liverpool, a bottom-table scrap with Newcastle taking on Southampton, and another potential upset in the making with Arsenal taking on Watford.
Let’s preview the weekend ahead. Odds from Bovada. (Go here to get acquainted with the advantages and drawbacks of Bovada’s sportsbook.)
Manchester United (+160) vs Liverpool (+165), Draw (+230)
Saturday, March 10th at Old Trafford
The North West Derby this weekend is a race for silver. Manchester United (19-5-5, 62 points) are currently sitting in second, but they’re just two points clear of Liverpool (17-9-3, 60 points). Overtaking Man City is now almost mathematically impossible, so the real race is for runners-up.
There’s something about Man United that just doesn’t inspire confidence. Perhaps that’s just Jose Mourinho’s managerial style, where a win is a win. No need to make it pretty or entertaining, just make sure to grab those three points. But even so, United have pulled off some very lucky wins with lackluster performances.
Their 3-2 victory over the relegation-threatened Crystal Palace last week is just one of many examples. Palace established a two-goal lead by the hour mark, and it seemed Man U were headed for their sixth league loss of the season. But the Red Devils rallied and closed the deficit by the 90-minute mark. Then, out of nowhere, Nemanja Matic hammered a shot from well outside the box to clinch the win in injury time. It was a remarkable comeback, but it should never have been that difficult in the first place.
The match was riddled with defensive mishaps and unforced errors. Paul Pogba, who is currently at odds with Mourinho, isn’t connecting well with new recruit Alexis Sanchez. And neither player is performing anywhere near their best. Mourinho is known for butting heads with his star players, and conflict resolution is definitely not his strong suit. We only need to look to his previous clubs for hints on how this could end.
Liverpool is a club firing on all cylinders. They’re the only Premier League side to have beaten Man City this season and their recent wins have been convincing and emphatic. Losing Philippe Coutinho over the January window was a significant blow, but the introduction of center-back Virgil van Dijk has been a godsend for their back-line. In the long run, they may even be better off.
They’re undefeated in their last five league fixtures and morale is high at Anfield. Mo Salah has exceeded expectations, Sadio Mane is back in form, and Bobby Firmino is smiling as bright as ever.
Man United have only lost one league match at Old Trafford this season, and Liverpool have an amazing away record. It’s no wonder the odds are this tight. There seems to be quite a bit of discord in the Man U dressing room and their performances of late have been less than spectacular.Meanwhile, everything seems to be sunshine and rainbows over at Liverpool.
Man U also have a must-win Champions League fixture against Sevilla next Tuesday, and that’s probably the match they’ll prioritize. I have to side with Liverpool this Saturday.
Pick: Liverpool (+165)
Arsenal (-210) vs Watford (+525), Draw (+360)
Sunday, March 11th at Emirates Stadium
Which stat should I lead with?
Maybe I should start by mentioning that Arsenal (13-6-10, 45 points) have lost their last four games across all competitions. Or perhaps it’s worth noting their three-game losing streak in the league, which includes a loss to Brighton, a club making their Premier League debut. Or maybe I should zoom out and focus on the fact that they’re 13 points shy of the top four and won’t qualify for a European competition unless they win Europa.
No matter which stat you choose to focus on, you’ll come to the same conclusion: These are grim times for Arsenal and hilarious times for the rest of us. The Gunners face Watford (10-6-13, 36 points) this Sunday, and we definitely cannot rule out another upset.
When they’re at their best, the Hornets are an impressive side to watch. The 20-year-old Richarlison is a superstar in the making, Barcelona loan Gerard Deulofeu has already made a splash since signing in January, and captain Troy Deeney has saved the day countless times this season.
They’ve lost big and they’ve lost often this season, but they’ve also surprised us quite a few times as well. They beat Chelsea 4-1 last month, drew 1-1 against Tottenham, and earlier in the season, they defeated Arsenal 2-1.
Can they shock the Gunners a second time? Arsenal have gotten progressively worse throughout the season, so I’d say there’s a pretty decent chance. Though the biggest difference this time is that Arsenal will be playing at home, where they still have quite a good record (10-2-2).
Arsenal travel to to Milan this Thursday to face AC Milan in the Europa League. This is the only game that matters to them right now. It’s the only silverware available to them, and it’s their ticket to the Champions League next season. At this point, the Gunners are just looking to make it through the season.
Another loss this weekend would be humiliating, but it wouldn’t alter their standing in the Premier League. A top-four finish is already out of the question, so another loss wouldn’t have any real, practical significance. Regardless of whether Arsenal win, lose, or draw on Thursday, picking Watford at +525 is a pretty good bet.
Pick: Watford (+525)