In some ways it has been a surprising start to the new Premier League season. What will the third weekend of games bring?


Tottenham to win at Leicester 9/5 Bet365

Stoke to win at Norwich 2/1 Ladbrokes

Crystal Palace to beat Aston Villa 10/11 PaddyPower

Leicester City v Tottenham

Having won their opening two games of the season Leicester are the big surprise of the Premier league season so far. After a difficult summer that saw Nigel Pearson replaced by Claudio Ranieri as manager the team was one of the favourites for relegation but their form from the end of last season (where they won 8 of their last 9 games to avoid the drop) has carried on with a 4-2 victory over Sunderland and then an impressive 2-1 win at West Ham.

By the standards of the Premier League Leicester are one of the smaller clubs but they are sustained by superb player recruitment and team spirit that is second to none. At the back the signing of Robert Huth from Stoke, first on loan and then permanently, transformed the defence but where Leicester really benefit is from their pace up-front and in wide attacking areas where they are very adept on the counter attack.

Wide man Riyad Mahrez, an Algerian international, is one of the emerging stars of the league and at this early stage is the league’s top scorer with 3 goals in the first two games and the combination of him Marc Albrighton, new England international Jamie Vardy and new signing Shinji Okazaki has hit the ground running so far this season.

In contrast Tottenham have had a slow start to the season, losing 1-0 at Manchester United and then losing at 2 goal lead at home to Stoke in the second game. A major issue is the fitness of Harry Kane, their prolific goal-scorer from 2014-15 who was substituted after an hour of the Stoke game and according to manager Pochettino still lacks match fitness.

With the club having been unusually quiet in the transfer market this summer they appear to lack goal-scoring options temporarily, although there is the possibility that Berahino will be signed from West Brom before the weekend, but that shouldn’t disguise the quality in the side once they gel. This is especially in midfield where Dembele holds and combinations of Eriksen, Mason and Chadli support the striker.

Prices for this game indicate a close match. Leicester are 13/8 favourites Tottenham underdogs at 9/5 with Bet365 and the Draw the outsider of the three possible outcomes at 5/2. Tottenham can click at any moment. Were Kane to be fully fit then Tottenham should probably be shorter, and are a speculative play against a side whose recent form means their price is artifically short.

 Norwich City v Stoke City    

Norwich City were promoted via winning the Championship play-offs and had a tough return to the Premier league losing 3-1 at home to Crystal Palace in the opening game of the season before rebounding with an excellent win at Sunderland.

Not unexpectedly for a promoted team most predictions expect Norwich to struggle this season. Not only is there a big gap between the championship and the Premier League, both in terms of standard and financial resources but the club has struggled to attract players to East Anglia over the summer. Of the 11 who played Sunderland nine were Championship starters and only Robbie Brady and Graham Dorrans were new signings.

Having recorded successive top ten finishes in the league Stoke are a blueprint for a side entering the league and establishing themselves by steadily progressing season by season.This season, Mark Hughes’ second in charge, has seen some raised expectations borne of league finishes in recent years. Last year the style of the side, famously direct under Tony Pulis, changed and new arrivals this off-season including Affelay and Shaqiri promise the introduction of more flair, to be added to when Bojan is fit to return..

Given that a return of one point from the first two games is disappointing, they created very little against Liverpool but fought back well to get a point away at Tottenham.

To see Stoke as 2/1 with Norwich for this game with Ladbrokes and Coral looks really attractive. Should a top ten Premier League side be nearly 2/1 at a promoted side? I don’t think so, and regard backing Stoke here as an attractive opportunity.

 Crystal Palace v Aston Villa

Crystal Palace look to be a side going places, and their summer signings not only strengthen the team but provide strength in depth. After winning at Nrwich on the opening day they were competitive against Arsenal losing by the odd goal in three.

On early evidence, I would think a top half finish looks perfectly possible this season

Aston Villa, winners at Bournemouth on the opening day, losing to Manchester United at home last Friday night. They have been in a state of flux, losing the spine of their team in the summer with Vlaar, Delph and Benteke departing, only being replaced comparatively late in pre-season.

Many of the signings have been from La Ligue, and whilst obviously value for money players, Sherwood himself has said that it will take some time to adapt to British football. Yet these players are having to do so in the first team straight away. This speaks to what is likely to be an inconsistent adjustment process.

With Palace having more time to integrate their signings and with plenty of attacking options, they look a good bet to me to win this match at 10/11 with Paddy Power.


Tottenham to win at Leicester 9/5 Bet365

Stoke to win at Norwich 2/1 Ladbrokes

Crystal Palace to beat Aston Villa 10/11 PaddyPower