BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

TV: Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 4.30pm Sunday

After the party in Paris expect excitement at the Emirates when Manchester United travel to Arsenal for a crunch clash in the race to make next season's Champions League.

Cases can be made for either side, but the sensible play may be to bank on entertainment and back both teams to score in a match featuring at least three goals.

Fourth-placed United, one point ahead of Arsenal, are oozing confidence following their remarkable turnaround in the Champions League on Wednesday, recovering a 2-0 first-leg deficit to beat Paris St-Germain 3-1, to reach the quarter-finals via the away-goal rule.

It was the latest episode of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's stunning run and the manager's touch is so golden it puts Midas to shame.

Solskjaer has had 17 matches at the helm since replacing Jose Mourinho, leading the club to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and Champions League as well as truly putting United back in the top-four picture after they had been 14-1 shots in December.

Not even the most biased of Stretford End regulars could have predicted 14 wins, two draws and just one loss from Solskjaer's astonishing start.

They have won at PSG, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal so this is not flat-track bullying stuff, while they have overcome a serious list of absentees which is nicely eased for this north London trip - Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and at least one of Ander Herrera or Nemanja Matic are expected to start.

Slick counter-attacking has been at the heart of United's away successes. Marcus Rashford has been the first to benefit, followed by Romelu Lukaku, who has bagged braces in each of his last three appearances.

United have not had much possession in those away triumphs - 39 per cent at Spurs, 38 per cent at Arsenal, 33 per cent at Chelsea and 28 per cent in Paris when their five shots produced three goals.  

It's unlikely to continue according to expected goals and United's record of nine straight away wins is countered by Arsenal's eight consecutive home Premier League victories.

Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to United in the FA Cup showed the Gunners' vulnerability to pace on the counter, while losing 3-1 at Rennes on Thursday was another iffy result on the road.

However, Unai Emery's side tend to be a different beast at home with Alexandre Lacazette scoring in each of his last five Emirates outings in the Premier League.

Arsenal have scored in their last 11 meetings with United, but won only three of those contests and this could quite easily be another topsy-turvy contest.

Recommendation

Both teams to score & over 2.5 goals

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

 

Match in Focus

15:00 Mo 27May SKY

Aston Villa v Derby

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Tammy Abraham has scored in five of his last seven starts for Aston Villa.
Expert verdict
Aston Villa have lost just two of their last 15 matches and valid excuses can be made for both defeats. Dean Smith made wholesale changes with the playoffs in mind for their 2-1 loss to champions Norwich on the final day, while they lost the second leg of semi-final at West Brom despite having 73 per cent possession and winning the shot count 24 to ten. They are full of confidence and should be more determined than ever after last season’s playoff final heartbreak.