*In all likelihood, Pep’s head will not pop
Bournemouth v Huddersfield: Both Teams to Score – 20/23
Maybe it was all the praise they were getting, maybe Jose Mourinho performed some black magic ritual at the Vitality Stadium, maybe Eddie Howe flew too close to the Premier League sun (that complexion, ouch!), whatever it was, the Cherries have hit a sticky patch since their rollicking start to their game against United a few weeks back.
Callum Wilson showed up Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof early on, but the likeable upstarts lost that game and all three since, and now sit even lower than Mourinho’s men in the league, trailing them by a point in eighth.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. They’ve not had the easiest run of fixtures for one thing. Rashford nipped in to nick that game in injury time, 2-1, and the same result away at the Emirates is nothing to be ashamed of.
The 3-1 loss to Man City on Saturday was also a tighter affair than the scoreline suggests, and given how many duck eggs Guardiola’s men have dished up this season, getting a goal at the Eithad and pushing the champions is something to cling to.
Even their loss at Newcastle was afflicted by a rough injury to centre half Adam Smith on the half hour, and their defensive resolve is being tested in his absence.
Which is good news for Huddersfield, who need all the help they can get in 17th, just one point outside the drop zone. Despite their less than intimidating record on their travels – a win, two draws, three defeats in the league – they’ve only been shut out once.
Which suggests that, whatever’s happened at the Vitality (it was definitely Mourinho’s black magic), it isn’t stopping goals from flowing, and Both Teams to Score at 20/23 appeals.
Man City v Watford: HT/FT City/City – 5/6
Pep Guardiola’s likely to be saying “gracias” to Javi Gracia after this one, as his City side are priced 2/7 by our traders to take three points from Vicarage Road.
The Hornets hit the headlines with their powerful plundering of Spurs back in September. It was the kind of performance that said a commute to Hertfordshire was going to be “leaves on the line” situation for anyone hoping to make a quick getaway with three points.
But they haven’t built on it. United won here, Liverpool trollied them 3-0, and Bournemouth bested all the visitors with a 4-0 flaying. Sure, they did put three past Huddersfield, but that’s not much to brag about.
City, meanwhile, have had a bit of a blip by their high standards. A draw with Lyon in the Champions League and a dubious performance agains the Cherries on Saturday, albeit with several significant names rested, would make you wonder if they can keep up their dominance through December.
Pep isn’t wondering about that though. If anything, it’s only driving him to go to MAXIMUM EYE-BULGE level as he grabs Raheem Sterling’s head in training and shakes it millimetres from his own face while intensely whispering obscenities and tactical observations.
All of which should see the wee winger bent on continuing his red-hot form, and the rest of City’s squad just as motivated to avoid such Pep talks.
They should grab a lead early against Watford, and if they do they won’t let it go. City Half Time/Full Time is to be snapped up at 5/6.
West Ham v Cardiff City: West Ham win & Over 2.5 Goals – 7/5
The Hammers are certainly happier in recent times with their summer spending spree not seeming quite the wildly ill-considered risk it appeared as they lingered at the foot of the table through the early weeks.
Looking like the love-child of Don Goodman and one of the Da Silva twins (you pick which), Felipe Anderson is playing at a higher level than such an ancestral line would suggest.
He’s scored four goals in last four games and has finally made reading all those transfer rumours about him back in the day seem almost like time well spent.
His streak has taken the goal-scoring burden off big Marko Arnautovic, though you get the impression the cocky Austrian might get the hump about someone treading on his “manor”. Nevermind, competition is good.
Still, wins of 4-2 against Burnley, 3-1 against Man United, and 3-0 away at Newcastle show that Manuel Pellegrini’s side can put up a score when the mood takes them.
Cardiff will do everything to make sure it doesn’t on Tuesday. They’ve endured a couple of beatings on the road – 4-1 at both Liverpool and Chelsea – but two recent home wins have hauled them out of the relegation places and should give them a boost in confidence for this trip to London.
They have shown themselves to be tougher opponents for less high-profile teams on their travels, and will surely fancy their chances of nicking a goal here.
With both teams building confidence after a rough start, and Cardiff showing they can get goals recently, we can see this being a contest, but the home side whould comeout on top. A West Ham win with three goals or more is 7/5.
*All odds correct at time of posting