THE football world is in mourning this week after the Medellin air disaster claimed the lives of more than 70 passengers, including most of the Chapecoense squad and staff bound for the Copa Sudamericana final.
We can expect plenty of heartfelt tributes in round 14 of English Premier League 2016-17 for a team whose incredible underdog efforts saw them dubbed “Brazil’s Leicester”.
The action kicks off at Eastlands with Manchester City playing host to Chelsea in a blockbuster bout for top spot.
Anything but a Blues win would leave the door open for Liverpool, who must navigate a tricky away trip to Bournemouth.
Tottenham Hotspur need to make up ground and will hope to do so with a win over Swansea City, while Everton will have a chance to leapfrog Manchester United into sixth when they welcome the Red Devils on Sunday.
Below that it’s starting to look like a 13-team relegation battle, with only seven points separating eighth-placed Watford from 18th-placed Hull City.
Here are the top match odds, first goalscorer bets and value picks for week 14, with markets courtesy of Australia’s best Premier League betting sites.
Premier League match betting
Markets provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Man City $2.10 – Draw $3.50 – Chelsea $3.50
Crystal Palace $3.20 – Draw $3.30 – Southampton $2.30
Stoke City $1.67 – Draw $3.75 – Burnley $5.50
Sunderland $3.25 – Draw $3.50 – Leicester City $2.20
Tottenham $1.33 – Draw $5 – Swansea City $10
West Brom $2.25 – Draw $3.30 – Watford $3.30
West Ham $4.60 – Draw $3.80 – Arsenal $1.75
Bournemouth $5 – Draw $4 – Liverpool $1.67
Everton $3.50 – Draw $3.30 – Man United $2.15
Middlesbrough $1.73 – Draw $3.70 – Hull City $5
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
11:30pm AEDT on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at Etihad Stadium
- 1-1 correct score – $7.50 at William Hill
- Kevin de Bruyne first goalscorer – $8.50
Man City have had to work awfully hard for their results over the last month.
Burnley, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough all put up fights, but Pep Guardiola’s crew did just enough to scrape two wins and a draw from those three.
Yaya Toure, returned from exile, has been instrumental in the past two weeks, while Sergio Aguero is back in scoring touch after a vital brace at Turf Moor.
But can they tame a Chelsea side that can’t stop winning?
The derby triumph over Spurs made it seven salutes in a row for Antonio Conte’s men, who have scored 19 goals and conceded just one in that stretch.
The forward line is flying: Diego Costa is scoring for fun, Eden Hazard is back to his old self and Pedro has rediscovered something like his Barcelona best.
But perhaps the standout is Victor Moses, whose tireless work at right wingback is a major factor in the ongoing success of Conte’s 3-4-3 system.
Neither side has any big injury news, with City winger Raheem Sterling expected to shake off a knee knock and push for a starting berth.
Chelsea’s last Premier League win against the Citizens came at Eastlands in 2014, when a lone Branislav Ivanovic strike was enough the seal the deal.
West Ham United vs. Arsenal
4:30am AEDT on Sunday, December 4, 2016 at London Stadium
- Arsenal win/both teams to score – $3.25 at Bet365
- Theo Walcott first goalscorer – $7 at William Hill
With five points in as many games, the Hammers are just about keeping their heads above water.
They managed to take a point from Old Trafford after falling just short in a belter at Spurs the week prior, so things could be worse (or better, depending on perspective) for Slaven Bilic and company.
Although the inimitable atmosphere of the Boleyn Ground is still missing, the Irons haven’t been beaten in their last three at London Stadium.
They picked up four points against Arsenal last term and may fancy their chances here if the likes of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini can find some space in which to work their magic.
The Gunners ran out 3-1 victors over Bournemouth thanks to an Alexis Sanchez double – and a very friendly back pass from Steve Cook – but that scoreline glosses over what was a less than vintage display.
They have looked someway short of their best for a few weeks now, yet they are churning out enough results to hang within a game of top spot.
With first and third facing off this weekend, this crosstown clash could be a great opportunity for Arsene Wenger’s men to win back some ground in the title race.
Squad depth is starting to become an issue, with third-choice fullback Mathieu Debuchy out with a torn hamstring and both Olivier Giroud (groin) and Mohamed Elneny (illness) battling to prove their fitness.
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool
12:30am AEDT on Monday, December 5, 2016 at Vitality Stadium
- Liverpool win/over 2.5 goals – $2.40 at Sportsbet
- Gini Wijnaldum first goalscorer – $13
Bournemouth are going through a bit of a spell right now.
Since hitting Hull for six in the middle of October, the Cherries have recorded one win in five games to slide back to 12th on the EPL table.
Charlie Daniels is out of action with a hip problem, which means Aussie gun Brad Smith has a chance to prove his worth on the left side of defence.
Loan star Jack Wilshere should return after sitting out the trip to Arsenal, while first-choice goalkeeper Artur Boruc (back) and winger Junior Stanislas (knock) are both rated 50/50 chances to front up for Liverpool’s visit.
The Reds haven’t been at their fluent best since the last international break, but they did enough on Sunday to break down Sunderland’s determined defence and grab a 2-0 result.
It came at a price, however, with Philippe Coutinho ruled out until January after tearing his ankle ligaments.
Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge are also sidelined, while Roberto Firmino is in doubt with a calf niggle, so Jurgen Klopp’s forward stocks are looking a little light.
That could mean a full Premier League debut for 17-year-old Ben Woodburn, who struck in the EFL Cup win over Leeds United in midweek to become Liverpool’s youngest ever senior goalscorer.
Liverpool have faced Bournemouth five times in competitive play, winning on every occasion.
Everton vs. Manchester United
3am AEDT on Monday, December 5, 2016 at Goodison Park
- Half-time draw/full-time Everton – $8 at Bet365
- Ross Barkley first goalscorer – $10
The Toffees need to turn things around fast if they have any designs on pinching a top six finish.
They are clinging onto seventh after one win in seven EPL games, but defeat this weekend could see them slide as low as 10th.
Perhaps they could use the midfield bite of James McCarthy, who appears to have shaken off a hamstring complaint.
But the big question is where the goals are going to come from if the Man United defence manages to shackle Romelu Lukaku.
Jose Mourinho and his men are as desperate for results as their hosts, having also managed only a single win in seven outings.
They are floundering at home, with four draws on the bounce, so maybe a change of scenery will do the Red Devils some good.
The forwards are starting to show some sort of touch, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring the equaliser against West Ham and Anthony Martial on the double in midweek.
The last eight Premier League meetings between these two have produced no draws, with Everton winning three out of four at Goodison.