The Premier League Forecast

Wigan look to upset Man City in the FA Cup Final. Chelsea look to sure up a top 4 finish at Aston Villa. And of course, Sir Alex Ferguson will manage his last match at Old Trafford as Swansea visit. Another intriguing weekend of football ahead and Matt Wallace offers his five tactical pointers.

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FA Cup Final: Wigan vs Man City

The FA Cup Final is the main event on Saturday afternoon and features teams in drastically different circumstances. For Manchester City, this has been the target for weeks now. After drifting out of the title race they’ve targeted the cup as their sole chance of silverware in a poor season, and they take on a Wigan side who might be wondering if the distraction is worth it.

Wigan come into the game on the back of a crushing defeat to Swansea and speculation that links manager Roberto Martinez with the vacant position at Everton. With minds focused on the final two league games, it’s hard to imagine anything more than token resistance. Add to this the absences in the Wigan side, such as key wing back Jean Beausejour, and you’ve got only one team looking like winning. The question is by how much.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds.

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Aston Villa vs Chelsea

Villa breathed a huge sigh of relief when Wigan succumbed to Swansea on Tuesday. Now five points ahead of the drop zone, it would take a series of astonishing results to send Paul Lambert’s men down. But he’ll be very aware that miracles happen and will want his men fully switched on when they host Chelsea.

For Chelsea, they’re in a similar situation – good, but not secure. They know that both Arsenal and Spurs are capable of overturning them in third but that one more result should be enough to secure Champions League football. With both teams looking to get something from the game, and with Villa especially in good goalscoring form, we’re unlikely to see a repeat of the ridiculous 8-0 result from earlier in the year. A tight, competitive game is likely, and with Gary Cahill’s nervy return to action on Wednesday, Christian Benteke may fancy his chances of forging an opening.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds.

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Man Utd vs Swansea

Game One of the Sir Alex Ferguson Retirement Tour and they host Swansea, a side with nothing to play for yet still pulled out an admirable win over Wigan. But all eyes will be on the men in red and for good reason. Ferguson leaves the game with an incredible legacy, and his players will want to send him off in style (well, most of them – I doubt Rooney is crying about it).

United looked like a side waiting for the open top bus celebration against Chelsea, but any thought of coasting to the finish line will now be done. Swansea will just be the first team to see the full force of Ferguson's legacy. With Van Persie back in the goals, he will want to pay tribute to the man who gave him his first English title in the way he knows best, and he won’t be the only one. United will look to get on the board early, and put on a show.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds.

ManUtdSwansea

 

Stoke vs Tottenham

After failing to pick up three points in midweek, Tottenham find their hand weakened. Without a game in hand, they now sit behind both Chelsea and Arsenal in the race for a Champions League position. With Arsenal not playing until midweek, they find themselves with a great chance to set a marker.

Stoke, on the other hand, have just found themselves safe, and will be likely playing out the last couple of games of the seasons with no small amount of relief - and an eye on the beach. They’ve struggled for much of 2013 and a date with Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and co is likely to put them through another uncomfortable afternoon. Not that they’re likely to care, at this stage.

And so we find the onus entirely on Spurs, who need to put pressure on their London rivals. The return to fitness of Lennon is a huge boost as he provides Bale the space in which to do his magic, and they’ll be hoping Adebayor can put in another performance like the one he displayed midweek. If so, Spurs should be sitting pretty come Sunday night.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds.

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Sunderland vs Southampton

After a couple of superb wins to begin the Di Canio era, Sunderland have stuttered. A hammering against Villa and the draw at home to Stoke have failed to secure safety and they go into the final two games just three points ahead of Wigan. And things aren’t much better for Saints who are just a point ahead, despite all the encouraging performances in recent months.

It’s the ultimate win-and-in game – both sides know that a result will all but guarantee safety next season. For Southampton, this is a welcome challenge. They play some stylish, attacking football and have goalscorers in Lambert and Rodriguez who have really done well under Pochettino.

Sunderland, however, have a goalscoring problem – they enter these final games without all three of their top scorers. For goals they’re relying on set pieces or Danny Graham – and no one wants to be in that situation. For this reason, I’d expect the Mackems to try and sit back and grind out a result, with the main objective being to avoid a defeat. A point could well be enough, especially given Wigan’s fixtures, but it will be difficult to control a determined Southampton team. For this reason, the visitors have to be considered the favourites and you’ve got to wonder whether Sunderland have enough to get on the scoreboard.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds.

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