Watford v Leicester
Watford are fighting to stay out of the bottom three while Leicester have their sights on ending the campaign in second spot. The Foxes go into this game with an impressive half-time record this campaign. In their last 10 EPL matches, Leicester have not trailed at the interval – leading four times and being tied in the other six. Watford have not led at the break in their last three league games. Brendan Rodgers’ side have not conceded a first half goal in their last seven league encounters while the home side have gone three league games without finding the net in the first half.
Prediction: Leicester to lead at half-time
Brighton v Arsenal
Arsenal’s return to action on Wednesday was going to plan for 44 minutes at Manchester City. The game was goalless but two errors from David Luiz either side of half-time took the game away from them. It ended their eight-game unbeaten run and they will hope to bounce back at Brighton who are without a win in their last nine league games. Neither side is used to going into the half-time interval ahead on the scoreboard. Wednesday’s defeat was Arsenal’s sixth game in which they have not been leading at the break (four ties and losing twice) while Brighton have not led in their last six EPL matches (losing three times, level three times). Arsenal cannot afford to lose this game and I expect changes to be made to the starting line-up that should win by two or more goals.
Prediction: Tie at half-time
West Ham v Wolves
If West Ham manager David Moyes has done his homework during the lockdown, then he will know how slow Wolves have been to start matches this season. Of their last 13 league games, Wolves have scored the first goal just once. The last time they opened the scoring in an away fixture was on December 8 at Brighton. Since then, their last six journeys to opposition grounds have seen them fail to score first. West Ham, who have taken four points from their last two home games, have been first to register on the scoreboard in each of them. Incidentally, three of the last five league games Wolves have played were goalless draws. West Ham haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 10 matches since beating Bournemouth 4-0 on January 1.
Prediction: West Ham to score the first goal
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
Don’t be surprised if Crystal Palace win this game 1-0. Palace’s last three EPL games before the break were 1-0 victories against Newcastle, Brighton and Watford – all sides 13th in the standings or lower. This is a match-up between Roy Hodgson’s well-organised Palace side and Eddie Howe’s squad of players who are in the middle of the relegation battle. Another bet that might land is Palace to win the second half. Of their last 15 goals scored, 11 have come after the interval, while the home side have been outscored 6-17 in the second half. Bournemouth have scored nine goals in their last 10 EPL contests and if that scoring does not improve, they could be playing in the second tier of English football next season.
Prediction: Palace to win to nil
Newcastle v Sheffield United
Sheffield United were denied a comeback win at Aston Villa on Wednesday night when they were denied a legitimate goal just before half-time due to a technical fault with the goalline technology which failed to see Villa keeper Orjan Nyland carry the ball over the line. The two points they missed out on at the end of their 0-0 draw could be the difference between qualifying for next season’s Champions League and settling for a spot in the Europa League. Newcastle has drawn their last two home games 0-0 and another goalless draw should not be a surprise too many people. Steve Bruce’s side has managed to score just once in their last four at St James’ Park while the Blades have not given up the first goal in their last three matches and they have kept their opponents to nil in their last two.
Prediction: Under 2.5 total goals
Aston Villa v Chelsea
Dean Smith’s side will hope Lady Luck stays with them for the remainder of the season after getting a fortuitous break against Sheffield United on Wednesday. That was the eighth successive EPL game in which Villa had not led at half-time. Technology helped them break a run of seven games in which they had trailed at the interval. Chelsea went into lockdown buoyed by their 4-0 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge. It was the third consecutive match in which Chelsea scored the first goal. Can Villa finally open the scoring for the first time in eight home games? Aston Villa’s second half performances could decide the outcome of this encounter. The Villans have been outscored 6-19 after half-time which could be a weakness Chelsea will exploit.
Prediction: Chelsea to win the second half
Everton v Liverpool
The good news for Everton is that Liverpool cannot win their 18th domestic league title at Goodison Park. The bad news for Everton is that they haven’t beaten their Merseyside neighbours in 21 attempts. However, the Toffees have Carlo Ancelotti in charge of them now who has already inflicted defeat on the league leaders this season when he guided Napoli to victory in the Champions League. The stat that jumps out from this game is the impressive half-time records of both sides. Everton have not trailed at the interval in their last 11 home EPL matches while Jurgen Klopp’s side has not been behind at the break in their last eight league games away from Anfield. Nine of the last 17 meetings have finished in a tie (+320) which would not be the worst result for either of these two sides.
Prediction: Draw at half-time
Manchester City v Burnley
Matchday 30 concludes with Burnley’s trip to Manchester City on Monday. The Etihad Stadium holds plenty of bad recent memories for the Clarets who have been beaten 5-0 on their last two visits. In fact, City have scored five goals in four of their last nine home games with Burnley in a fixture that generally produces a lot of goals. Since the last goalless draw in October 1975, a total of 46 goals have been scored in the 10 meetings at Maine Road and the Etihad with City scoring 36 of them. While City have dominated this fixture in recent years, Burnley won’t make life easy for their hosts. In their last six EPL games, Burnley has failed to give up the first goal. However, with just three first half goals scored in their last 17 league matches, the visitors cannot afford to fall behind to a City side that has taken maximum points in the seven games in which they have scored the first goal.
Prediction: Manchester City HT/FT double
Watford v Leicester