When the Premier League gets into the holiday season, it means players get tired, make mistakes, and allow unexpected results to happen. And that's when a savvy bettor can take advantage. Let's take a look at some of the best bets you can find for the upcoming December 17/18 Premier League action.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17
Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea
Chelsea, with nine wins in a row, will view this match against struggling Palace as a chance to stretch the lead at the top of the Premier League.
Even with the added spice of a London derby, it's difficult to see Palace having the wit or invention to break down a team that has the best players in the Premier League playing at their peaks, with the additional rest time from a lack of European football.
Top Bet: 17/5 with Betfair for Chelsea to win by three or more goals
Stoke City vs. Leicester City
This game is less certain to be a win for eleventh-placed Stoke, given that Leicester looked back to its best against Manchester City last weekend, and may have found that extra 10% that seemed to have been lost up to now this season.
Expect a close match, with Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic doing their best to stretch a tired Leicester defence, but Leicester now has options up-front, and Jamie Vardy looks back to his best, so a restorative victory for the away team might be on the cards.
Top Bet: 23/10 with Paddy Power for a Leicester victory
Sunderland vs. Watford
Three wins in five games still leave Sunderland at the bottom of the table, though things at least are not looking so forlorn at the Stadium of Light any longer. Watford, in seventh and chasing Manchester United for sixth, will view itself as the favourite for this game, especially with Stefano Okaka having rediscovered his goalscoring touch last time out against Everton.
However, Sunderland seems to be made of sterner stuff at the moment, especially at home, and Watford does not always show up away from Vicarage road - so this could be the risky outsider's bet you've been looking for, for a Sunderland win.
Top Bet: 31/20 with BetStars for a Sunderland victory
West Ham United vs. Hull City
Two struggling sides, but West Ham showed it had some fight against Liverpool in a 2-2 draw, while Hull claimed a home 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace last Saturday. This will feature goals, and plenty of defensive errors, and given the way Hull scrapped for that vital point last time, it's definitely within the side to get another point at the London Stadium, where West Ham have not been on anything like good form so far.
Top Bet: 14/5 with Ladbrokes for a draw
Middlesbrough vs. Swansea City
Although Middlesbrough continues to hover above the relegation places, the problems are fairly obvious: a lack of imagination in Aitor Karanka's tactics, and a lack of goals - Boro has scored the lowest of any Premier League team.
Given this is the case, you'd expect this to be another dull 0-0 draw, but Swansea has conceded 31 goals with a defence that does not look settled following the summer sale of Ashley Williams. Alvaro Negredo, with three goals and three assists following a slow start to the season, has the strength and finishing ability to test Swansea, though this is likely to end in a draw.
Top Bet: 9/5 with BetStars for Alvaro Negredo to score anytime
West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United
United got its first win in four matches against Tottenham, in a big-game victory that was Jose Mourinho's first as United manager against a top-five club. It seems likely that United will build on those promising foundations, with West Brom showing some guile in attack to add to the historic defensive strength, but still being a level below the visiting team in the quality of player it can put out.
It will be a close game, and although United should, given the resources available, win, that's not a given if former Reds man Jonny Evans and defensive partner Gareth McAuley can shut up shop at the Hawthorns.
Top Bet: 29/10 with BetVictor for a draw
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18
Bournemouth vs. Southampton
The south-coast derby features a Saints team that will be without main striker Charlie Austin for months after he injured his shoulder at the weekend. Claude Puel may need to go shopping in January for replacements, as Shane Long, Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez do not pose the same threat to defences.
Bournemouth showed in beating Liverpool at Dean Court that it is not afraid of any challenge, and with Benik Afobe and Harry Arter on excellent form, this could go either way, though ultimately it is likely to be a narrow Southampton victory.
Top Bet: 5/1 with Unibet for a half-time/full-time result of draw/Southampton
Manchester City vs. Arsenal
City hasn't been playing how anyone expected it to in recent weeks, and two defeats on the bounce in the league mean that some defensive replanning is needed with Arsenal having a whole host of in-form attacking options to choose from, such as Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez.
It's been a while since Arsenal would head to the Etihad as favourite, and given the stakes in this match, it's most likely to end in a scoring draw.
Top Bet: 5/2 with Ladbrokes for a draw
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley
Spurs, beaten by Manchester United last weekend, need to find the form of last season very quickly if this campaign is not to fizzle out by January. Burnley, a limited but willing side, will test Spurs' resolve by sitting back and waiting for a break, but even at 7/10, Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane and Dele Alli should have enough in their armoury to see off the visiting side.
Top Bet: 6/1 with BetVictor for Spurs to win 2-0
MONDAY, DECEMBER 19
Everton vs. Liverpool
Always a massive game whatever the teams' league position, the Merseyside derby takes on a new significance for both Everton and Liverpool for different reasons. Liverpool will be keen not to fall further behind Chelsea, while Everton beat Arsenal 2-1 last weekend with a superior display of footballing grit, and Ronald Koeman will be keen for his team to show similar resolve at Goodison against the oldest rival.
The derby is often hard to predict, but there will be goals at both ends and probably a draw in this game.
Top Bet: 27/10 with Bet365 for a draw
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