EPL Best Bets - Week 3
August 29, 2014
By Toby Maxtone-Smith
The big game last weekend saw Manchester City put in a menacingly good performance as they dispatched Liverpool 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium. This was City at their rampant, attacking best. Every time they came forward you feared for Liverpool's defence, and the scoreline could have been higher. At present, City and Chelsea look comfortably the front-runners in the title race at this early stage.
The early leaders are, however, Tottenham. They beat QPR 4-0 in a fine display at White Hart Lane. Spurs were awful last season, but scraped sixth place and there is a new found optimism under Mauricio Pochettino. Otherwise there were wins for Chelsea, West Ham and Swansea.
Let's handicap Week 3.
Odds provided by Sportsbook.ag
The Banker: Newcastle United to beat Crystal Palace at 67/100
Newcastle have had a slightly underwhelming start to the season - they haven't scored yet and have only one point to their name, but they should get their campaign up and running with a home match against a Crystal Palace side in turmoil. Palace have just re-appointed Neil Warnock as their manager following Tony Pulis's shock departure on the eve of the new season. As much as he is a likeable and charismatic man, Warnock's Premier League record is poor.
If you take away the defensive solidity that Pulis gave them, the Palace side just looks Championship-standard. With off-field issues dominating events in South London, there has been little clear strategy in the transfer market. This disjointedness showed in the 3-1 home defeat to West Ham last weekend.
Newcastle's transfer business looks very good, with Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong and Daryl Janmaat all adding quality at reasonable prices.
The Solid Bet: Sunderland to beat Queens Park Rangers at 37/20
QPR have been pretty awful so far this season. They opened the season with an uninspiring 1-0 home defeat to Hull City, followed by a 4-0 thumping at Tottenham. And on Tuesday the West Londoners were knocked out of the League Cup by League 2 Burton Albion, 1-0. Three games, three defeats, no goals.
The most alarming thing about the loss at Tottenham was that they opted for a three-at-the-back formation. All three defenders, Richard Dunne, Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand, are very slow players and they were just carved apart by Pochettino's rampant Spurs. Harry Redknapp has never been the best at assembling defences, using the 'score more than the opposition' mantra. However his attack at QPR, the surely-departing Loic Remy aside, looks very ordinary. There is a sluggishness to the team, and even after a two year spell a few years ago, QPR still don't really look ready.
Sunderland were unlucky not to beat Manchester United at the weekend, and were excellent in a 3-0 win at Birmingham City in the League Cup. Their away form was decent under Gus Poyet and, on their day, they are a dangerous team going forward.
The Outsider: Burnley to beat Manchester United at 4/1
Manchester United's post-Ferguson nightmare got even worse on Tuesday as League 1 (English football's third tier) side MK Dons hammered United 4-0. United were a disgrace. It seems unbelievable that just 15 months ago they won their twentieth league title. Even with the additions of Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, there has still not been anywhere near enough rebuilding at the club. Painfully average players, such as Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Anderson, Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are still somehow at the club. Van Gaal's 3-5-2 experiment has been a disaster so far, and yet there seems no prospect of him dropping it soon.
Burnley are still pointless, but they have had a tough start and there have been encouraging signs among the losses. They gave Chelsea a good game first up, and troubled the Blues in the wide areas. Right-back Kieran Trippier and striker Danny Ings are their best players, and Turf Moor was something of a fortress last season. The Clarets lost only once there, and that was against league winners Leicester City, without their two best forwards.
The First Goalscorer: Mauro Zarate for West Ham United vs Southampton at 7/1
This match looks one of the hardest to call this weekend, but there is surely some value in Mauro Zarate, West Ham's new Argentinian striker, carrying on his good form from the Irons' 3-1 win over Palace last weekend. Zarate scored a lovely half-volley in that match and already looks like a great acquisition for the East Londoners.
He scored 18 in 28 for Buenos Aires-based Velez Sarsfield last year and knows English football a bit, having had a spell at Birmingham City in 200708. He has the pace to trouble a new-look Saints back-line and is worth a punt at the price.
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