PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW 31/10
NORWICH v LEEDS
This spooky Sunday of Premier League (PL) action gets underway with a clash between early season relegation candidates Norwich City and Leeds United. A stat sure to strike terror into any Norwich fan is the fact that they currently have the joint-worst goal difference at this stage of a PL season (-21) alongside Sheffield Wednesday in 1999/00, who were eventually relegated that campaign.Will it be a trick or a treat for Norwich here then? Well, they’re unbeaten in five of their last six PL H2Hs (W4, D1, L1), but to continue that positive H2H form they’ll have to lay the demons of their winless PL season to rest (D2, L7). Their leaky defence also means that more than one goal could be required, something that Norwich haven’t achieved in 27 straight top-flight games!Leeds have caught themselves a ghastly case of ‘second-season syndrome’, evidenced by their return of just one PL win so far (D4, L4), following a top-half finish in their first season back in the top flight. Not only that but they’ve also returned just one clean sheet in the PL so far, highlighting a need for urgent defensive improvement.The good news for Leeds is the fact that they’re unbeaten in all eight league games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone since their own PL return (W6, D2). The bad news is that both of those games this season ended in 1-1 stalemates, with Leeds forfeiting a lead to Newcastle in the last such game.
Players to watch: With just two goals, Teemu Pukki is the only Norwich player to score across their last 1256 minutes of PL football. As for Leeds, Rodrigo registered a club-high five shots from inside the box across the last four rounds as he continues to lead the line in the absence of Patrick Bamford.
Hot stat: Norwich have attempted a league-low 89 shots so far (9.89 per match on average).
MY BET: LEEDS TO WIN 21/20
ASTON VILLA v WEST HAM
It’s been a difficult time for Aston Villa, who have lost three straight Premier League (PL) games ahead of this Halloween clash. Manager Dean Smith now looks to exorcise the evil spirits of his winless personal H2H record with West Ham (D2, L2) as Villa look to avoid four straight PL defeats for the first time since March 2020.Despite a spending spree over summer and talk of a European push, Villa have been disappointing, but even with their poor form Villa games have been all thriller and no filler for the neutral, as they have witnessed at least three goals in two-thirds of their PL games so far. The ‘Villans’ will be looking to end up on the right side of any goal-fest this time around, as they seek to avoid 4+ league defeats in a single month for the first time since April 2016.There’s been nothing scary about West Ham’s form of late, as they travel jubilant after knocking EFL Cup holders Manchester City out of the competition in midweek. They now seek to build on their own European ambitions, and encouragingly, the ‘Hammers’ last picked up 17 points at this stage of a PL season back in 2015/16, when they ended up finishing 7th.David Moyes’ men are currently enjoying a club-record run of seven straight unbeaten PL away games (W5, D2). However, to keep that going they will have to end their Villa Park hoodoo, which sees them failing to win back-to-back games here since 1965-67!
Players to watch: Can he break the curse? Villa’s Danny Ings (3G, 2A) has played against no side more often than West Ham without scoring or winning (D2, L9). Meanwhile, only Mohamed Salah and Phil Foden have had more shots from inside of the box across the last five PL rounds than West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen.
Hot stat: Fifteen of Moyes’ last 17 H2Hs with Villa have seen both teams score (W6, D9, L2).
MY BET: WEST HAM OR DRAW 2/5
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