BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Arsenal and Everton to serve up entertainment

Premier League
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday


Home fixtures against teams below them in the Premier League tend to bring out the best in Arsenal and Everton’s visit to the Emirates should yield three points for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Eight teams lower than the sixth-placed Gunners have played away at Arsenal this season, and all eight have been beaten.

Wednesday’s dismal defeat at Swansea and Theo Walcott’s return to Arsenal add extra spice, but this does look all over a home win.

Sam Allardyce, who has lost on each of his previous eight league trips to the Emirates, is presiding over a team who have somehow pulled themselves away from relegation danger without looking particularly good, and it’s hard to see the Toffees chalking up a first win in 12 at Arsenal. Indeed, even a draw may be beyond them.

Eliaquim Mangala has arrived from Manchester City to notionally shore up a defence that persists in misbehaving while Walcott would love to make it a happy return to a venue where he has spent the last 12 years. An assist and two goals on his first two Everton starts suggest he’s in the mood.

The other massive bonus is the return to fitness of Seamus Coleman, hailed as “superhuman” by Allardyce following 90 top-drawer minutes in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Leicester. However, it will be tough for him to start two games in four days after a ten-month layoff.

The win against Leicester snapped a seven-game winless run. Four of those games were against top-five outfits, but two draws against West Brom and a desperate defeat at Bournemouth were awful performances and outcomes.

Arsenal are 4-5 to win in a game featuring over 2.5 goals. A better prospect, if you fancy goals, might be both teams to score in a game featuring over 2.5 goals at 7-5 with Hills.

Arsenal look certain to score even if new man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can’t shake off a bug. Alexandre Lacazette is a perfectly adequate number nine and Mesut Ozil and Henrik Mkhitaryan are high-class cogs in the supply chain.

The Gunners have found the net in each of their last 26 Premier League home games, a run going back to October 2016, and Everton haven’t kept a clean sheet in six, leaking 12 goals in the process.

And they were hanging on against Leicester, who were cutting them apart with far too much ease as the second half dragged on during the week.

They did, though, look more potent going forward. Walcott’s arrival is a major plus and he looks comfortable alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney. They are crying out for a centre-forward of note with Cenk Tosun not yet looking settled.

Depressingly for Toffees’ diehards, their side are winless in their last 27 away league fixtures at the big six while Arsenal have never lost a home Premier League game in the month of February.

Recommendation
Both teams to score & over 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.