With the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, the Premier League sees a heavily reduced schedule.
There are only three games on Saturday, and we’ve delved into each of them to provide a preview.
Bournemouth vs Newcastle United
Bournemouth’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield last week broke a five-game winless run, the kind of streak that’s becoming the norm for them in recent months.
After ten games of the season, 13 places and 17 points separated these two teams in the table. Now, that gap is down to just one place and three points.
In fact, Newcastle were one of the teams that set the rot in motion at Bournemouth. At St. James’ Park in November, Rafael Benitez’s side handed Eddie Howe his second defeat in what became a streak of four losses in a row. After having picked up six wins in those first ten games, Bournemouth have only won a further five since that defeat in the North East.
The Cherries at least have top-scorer Callum Wilson back from injury, after six matches out on the sidelines. He got back to his best straight away, scoring one and setting up the other in the win against Huddersfield.
However, if you look at statistics from the beginning of February, Newcastle have two of the top ten players in the league for open-play expected goals. Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez have taken shots worth 3.84 and 3.22 expected goals respectively.
Wilson-less Bournemouth, on the other hand, don’t have a single player in the top 50.
Burnley vs Leicester City
Burnley’s bounce has been brought back down to earth with a bump. After a resurgence since the end of 2018 that saw them climb away from danger, they’ve now lost three league games in a row.
Some might take Leicester’s 3-1 win last week against Fulham as a sign that they’re experiencing a resurgence of their own under new manager Brendan Rodgers. However, the 2-1 defeat to Watford in Rodgers’ first game in charge suffered from many of the problems the team had under Claude Puel, most obviously conceding early and late goals.
Leicester have conceded nearly 30 per cent of their goals this season in the first 15 minutes of games, which is by far the highest rate in the league.
Though they might be vulnerable defensively, the Foxes, like Newcastle, have two of the most in-form players in the league. Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy are both in the top ten for open-play expected goals since the start of February.
They have differing results from their 3.31 and 3.12 open-play expected goals respectively, though. Vardy has five goals in that time period, Barnes has one.
Sean Dyche’s side have conceded seven goals in their last two games, though, so Barnes could reverse this trend on Saturday.
West Ham vs Huddersfield
It would be cruel and unfair to suggest that Huddersfield got to a certain point of the season before giving up the fight. They lost nine in a row from December to early January. Of their last 18 games, they’ve suffered 16 defeats.
West Ham aren’t necessarily a team in form themselves, though. They’ve only won two of their last nine in all competitions, although these wins both came in their last four matches.
The two clubs have different strengths in squad depth, and this shows in terms of when they score or concede their goals.
Nearly 28 per cent of West Ham’s Premier League goals have come between the 61st and 75th minutes this season, the highest rate in the league. This is the part of the game that substitutes usually enter the field of play, and the Hammers have players like Javier Hernandez, Robert Snodgrass, and Andriy Yarmolenko who have made plenty of appearances off the bench.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, concede a fifth of their goals in this period. It’s not quite the highest rate in the league, but it’s up there. Combined with West Ham’s increased threat in this part of games, the vulnerability could be exposed.
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