Champions to advance to Twickenham final
Saracens v Gloucester
Live on BT Sport 1
Saracens host Gloucester in the first semi-final this weekend with the Premiership champions bidding to successfully defend their title. Mark McCall's side have already won the Champions Cup this month, after defeating Leinster, and are now bidding to add to their European triumph by completing the double with domestic silverware.
The title favourites have been inside the top two for the whole campaign although their league form has not been the most consistent in recent months. With a home semi-final secure, Saracens understandably prioritised Europe and were beaten 31-29 last weekend with a much-changed side at Worcester. Second-placed Sarries will return to near full strength for this match although prop Mako Vunipola misses the run-in with a torn hamstring.
Gloucester earned their trip to Allianz Park after finishing third although they were ten points behind their semi-final opponents. Johan Ackermann's side have entertained this season with Danny Cipriani, who has set up a league high 13 tries, stating his case for an England World Cup spot as the fly-half was named Premiership player of the season. Gloucester ended the regular season with a 46-41 defeat at Sale last weekend.
Saracens are proven performers at this stage of the season with the side winning four of their last five semi-finals in the competition. The champions have also not lost at home since their defeat to Leicester in February 2018. Gloucester have lost all six trips to Allianz Park and face a huge challenge to overcome Saracens. In September's meeting, the hosts won 38-15 and Saracens are backed to cover a 12-point handicap to seal their return to Twickenham.
Exeter should prove too strong again for Saints
Exeter v Northampton
Live on BT Sport 1
Exeter have a perfect record in Premiership semi-finals with the Chiefs winning their three previous ties. This season is their fourth successive appearance at this stage and Rob Baxter's side will be aiming to go one step better than last year after losing in the final to Saracens. Exeter finished top of the table with 17 wins from 22 games.
It is the second year in a row Exeter have ended the regular season in top spot and the Chiefs have become a consistent title contender. Their sole Premiership triumph came two years ago and the club have been threatening since to win it for a second time. Exeter have won two of their last three games, including a 40-21 victory over their semi-final opponents last weekend.
Northampton have significantly improved under Chris Boyd, in his first season in charge, as he guided the Saints into fourth spot. Despite losing at Sandy Park last weekend, Northampton edged into the semi-finals by virtue of points difference after fifth-placed Harlequins lost to Wasps. The Saints were drawing 21-21 at half-time but Exeter pulled away to win convincingly in the second half.
Much like the first semi-final, the hosts are overwhelming favourites and it is difficult to bet against Exeter. Northampton have lost their last seven games at Sandy Park, including last weekend, so it would be a huge turnaround to upset them in this pivotal clash. Exeter won by 19 points last week and are fancied to cover an 11-point margin this time to clinch a final rematch against Saracens.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
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