Watford draw should be cause for concern
A home game against a direct rival in the relegation scrap. A new signing in attack with a proven goalscoring record in the Bundesliga and Eredivisie, alongside a player who has caught the eye on numerous occasions in the Premier League. All the ingredients should have been there for a vital Burnley win, but they were largely outplayed in a 0-0 draw with Roy Hodgson’s Watford.
Wout Weghorst struck the crossbar with a looping, deflected effort, and Maxwel Cornet tested Ben Foster in the Watford goal, but the Clarets managed just two shots on target across the ninety minutes, and according to our friends at Infogol they posted an Expected Goals figure of just 0.7. They haven’t managed an xGF figure of 1.5 or above since a 3-1 win over Brentford in October, and their total of 16 goals in 19 Premier League matches is far from surprising given their poor attacking process.
As usual, it’s Burnley’s grit, determination and defensive mettle that are giving them a chance of survival.
They have the best defensive record outside the top half, with just 27 goals conceded, although it’s worth remembering they have played the fewest games in the division. They have also suffered the fewest defeats of bottom-eight sides, losing just eight of 19.
Josh Brownhill is back after suspension, and is expected to start here. Ashley Barnes, Charlie Taylor, Matej Vydra and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are all doubts for the game because of fitness concerns.
Misfiring United must look beyond cup exit
When Ralf Rangnick arrived at Manchester United, there were many observers of German football who were happy to talk him up as a football visionary, myself included. While his thrilling brand of fast-paced football hasn’t quite been implemented, the criticism of the former Hoffenheim and Leipzig boss misses the mark. United have won five of their eight league games under Rangnick, and have lost just once in the top flight.
Friday’s FA Cup clash with Middlesbrough yielded a somewhat unfortunate defeat. Cristiano Ronaldo missed an early penalty, Boro’s equaliser was highly controversial due to a clear handball in the build-up, and Bruno Fernandes somehow fired a shot against the post with the goal at his mercy. Rangnick declared himself happy with the overall performance, and you can see why.
Given that the biggest target when Rangnick was handed the reins was the securing of Champions League football, the Stuttgart native is on track. United are fourth in the Premier League, having nudged ahead of West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham, although the North London duo have games in hand. In the Top 4 Finish market on the Exchange, United are trading at 3.1511/5, with Spurs 2.546/4.
David De Gea should return in goal, while striker Edinson Cavani is available for selection after an extended break in the international window. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly are struggling with illness and injury respectively.
Visitors can net maximum haul
United seem to have had Burnley’s number in recent meetings. They overcame them 3-1 at Old Trafford late in 2021, and they have won their last five PL games at Turf Moor without conceding a single goal. According to Opta, the only side to beat Burnley in Burnley six times in a row in the league was Wolves, between 1983 and 2002. It’s not just at Turf Moor where United tend to win against the Lancashire side – the Red Devils have lost just one of their last 14 meetings with the Clarets, winning nine of those clashes.
United’s results under Rangnick have been respectable when you consider he inherited an underperforming and over-indulged set of players, and that he has had to make tactical compromises to suit certain players.
United are unbeaten in five away games in the top flight, and wins at Norwich and Brentford suggest they can win here against a side that has won only once in the league all season.
I’ll use the Sportsbook’s Bet Builder to double up a United win with an Under 3.5 Goals bet at 2.26/5. Six of Burnley’s eight home matches in the league have stayed under the 3.5 goals line, and incredibly, four of their last seven top-division games have ended goalless.
Rashford to make his mark?
Marcus Rashford is the kind of player who should thrive under Ralf Rangnick. He is quick and direct, and he does seem to have rediscovered his park in recent games. The England international has scored in two of his last three games, and he had a goal disallowed on Friday night for offside. I’ll back Rashford to score at any time at 3.211/5.