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This weekend, the Premier League returns after breaking for the FA Cup Third Round. We have two massive fixtures that could have a big say in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification and the fight for survival.
All odds are taken from Pointsbet and reflective at the time of writing.
Watford vs. Newcastle (Saturday, 10 AM EST)
I'll start by revealing that I am a Newcastle fan who has a vested interest in this game that goes way beyond betting.
A win for us and other results going our way will see us lift out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. That achievement would be a massive psychological boost to the players and show progression under Eddie Howe, who is doing a great job.
Last week the first of the cavalry arrived when we completed the signing of Kieran Trippier. Making a player of his quality and experience the first one through the door is a great marker. Other targets will now take our advances more seriously.
The second piece of our survival puzzle was added this week. Burnley's Chris Wood joined in a $36 million deal after our new owners activated his release clause. I love this transfer because Wood is a big personality who knows what it takes to stay in the Premier League (PL). His signature weakens our relegation rivals Burnley, and Sean Dyche was reported to be absolutely livid about the deal.
Our form has improved recently with good performances against Liverpool and Manchester United. Although we lost 1-0 to Cambridge United in the FA Cup, there were positives to take from the game. Howe picked a strong side, and we dominated proceedings. Poor finishing, VAR, and a series of ridiculous saves from their goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov prevented us from getting on the scoresheet.
Claudio Ranieri took a different approach to the FA Cup, deciding to rotate his players and protect star player Emmanuel Dennis. They lost 4-1 to his former club Leicester City who had 17 players missing. This was Watford's eleventh defeat in their last 13 fixtures.
Ending this bad run of form will be even more difficult with Ismaila Sarr, Imran Louza, Adam Mesina, and William Troost-Ekong in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The Hornets have strengthened their backline by signing Samir from Udinese and Hassane Kamara from OGC Nice.
From the tone of my writing, you can probably guess I'm backing my Newcastle in this relegation six-pointer. I genuinely feel we have all the momentum coming into this match, and we'll be the ones leaving Vicarage Road with three points.
Betting Tip: Newcastle Moneyline +105
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Tottenham vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 11:30 AM EST)
One of my favorite fixtures in soccer, the North London Derby, rounds off this weekend's PL action. This edition should be extra spicy, with the winner seizing control in the race for the fourth and final UEFA Champions League qualification spot.
In recent months, Arsenal have grown so much and surprised everyone with their performance against Manchester City. It's been a long time since we've seen Pep Guardiola's side that shook, and Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey played a big part. A little more experience and maturity would have seen them earn a point at the very least.
When I looked at this match earlier in the week, I was leaning towards Parlaying Both Teams To Score YES and Over 2.5 Goals. Thursday's 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the Carabao Cup has completely changed my outlook on the game.
Xhaka's red card and suspension leaves The Gunners down to the bare bones in midfield. Partey and Mohamed Elneny are representing their countries at AFCON, and there are concerns over Martin Ødegaard and Emile Smith Rowe's fitness.
It's very likely we will see Calum Chambers or Rob Holding lining up in central midfield alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga. The 22-year-old Belgian must be fatigued after playing 66 minutes by himself against Liverpool's midfield three. Mikel Arteta's response to Xhaka's red card was to bring off Edward Nketiah for Holding and switch to a back five.
On the other side of North London, the signs are pointing towards Antonio Conte building something special at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. He remains undefeated in the PL, winning five and drawing three. The switch to his favored back three have earned Spurs five clean sheets conceding four goals.
In team news, Tottenham will be without Heung-Min Son after he picked up a muscle injury. That will place a heavier goalscoring burden on Harry Kane. I like his chances to get on the scoresheet and fire Spurs to victory. The England captain is in a good moment making 23 attempts on goal and scoring three times in his last five fixtures.
I will finish off my first betting article for NBC Sports Edge with a Futures Bet. There's a good chance the Top 4 race will be one of the last things decided this season. I'm backing Tottenham before their odds start to shorten.
My pick isn't based on them being out of Europe, squad depth, or Harry Kane rediscovering his form. It's based purely on my belief that Conte is an elite-level manager who's a cut above Ralf Rangnick, Mikel Arteta, and David Moyes. I will back the Italian over these three every day of the week.
Betting Tips: Tottenham Moneyline +135 | Harry Kane To Score Anytime +135 | Tottenham To Finish Top 4 +200
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