The fixtures are coming thick and fast during the festive season. Hot on the heals of the Boxing Day matches, we go straight into another set of fixtures.
With a packed schedule, now is the time for many teams to make a move up the table. At the right end of the ladder, only Chelsea slipped up in the last round, while at the wrong end, West Ham and Wigan secured vital victories.
With the cold snap still over Britain and two games from Boxing Day postponed, I advise checking closer to kickoff that all of these fixtures are going ahead.
Here are the previews for each of the midweek games.
Manchester City v Aston Villa (0200 AEDT)
Carlos Tevez responded to a turbulent week in fine style by scoring and playing well in City’s 3-1 win at Newcastle on Boxing Day. Despite the scoreline, the Sky Blues were second best for much of the match and Newcastle gifted them the opening two goals. Villa lost to Tottenham 2-1 at Villa Park even though their opposition played with ten men for over an hour. Villa’s returning striker Gabby Agbonlahar got through a full game which will have pleased manager Gerard Houllier. Villains playmaker Ashley Young is expected to miss with a knee injury and with his absence coupled with a woeful record on the road, I can’t see anything other than a Man City win.
Andy’s Bet: Man City to win @ 1.53 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Man City to win to nil @ 2.40 (Sportsbet)
Stoke v Fulham (0200 AEDT)
On Boxing Day, Stoke won away and Fulham lost at home, so their formlines could not contrast any further. Matty Etherington is having a great season for Stoke. The little winger produced a pearler of a corner for Robert Huth’s headed opener in their 2-0 win over Blackburn at Ewood Park. Fulham are struggling badly and seem to be lacking a bit of a spark under new manager Mark Hughes. Aaron Hughes scored his first goal in about 6 years for Fulham last time out, and even that was not enough as the Cottagers meekly surrendered at home to lowly West Ham. Stoke are playing well and should win.
Andy’s Bet: Stoke to win @ 1.96 (Centrebet)
Sunderland v Blackpool (0200 AEDT)
Sunderland were given a footballing lesson by Manchester United in their last outing. The black cats will look to bounce back in a home fixture against top flight surprise packet Blackpool. Blackpool have been involved in 3 postponed matches already this December, and have played only once in the last 31 days. Sunderland are unbeaten at home this campaign and will fancy their chances to come out of the blocks against a Blackpool team that will still be dusting off the cobwebs.
Andy’s Bet: Sunderland to be leading at half time and at full time @ 2.40 (Sportsbet)
Tottenham v Newcastle (0200 AEDT)
Harry Redknapp’s Spurs are flying at the moment! Unbeaten in their last 7 league matches, and also unbeaten at home since August. Jermaine Defoe will miss this match through suspension, but Spurs have plenty of strikers to replace him. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch will probably lead the attack with Rafael van der Vaart playing just in behind them. The dutch maestro scored both Spurs goals in their last match and should be prominent again here. The only concern is whether Spurs will fatigue after playing for so long with 10 men just 2 days earlier. Newcastle gave away some really horrible goals in their loss to Man City, but were actually the better team for the rest of the match. I think they will come to White Hart Lane with an aggressive formation so should play their part in an entertaining game.
Andy’s Bet: Over 3.5 goals @ 2.84 (Betfair)
West Brom v Blackburn (0200 AEDT)
I watched Blackburn’s last game against Stoke and they were horrible. I am not going to bet on them again until I see an actual improvement under new boss Steve Kean. Since the bewildering sacking of Sam Allardyce, Blackburn have thrown away points at home to West Ham and Stoke. After the defeat to Stoke, Kean stripped Chris Samba of the captaincy and player morale is now at rock bottom. West Brom aren’t in the greatest of form either, but they should get a valuable 3 points here. Peter Odemwingie is getting plenty of chances at the moment, he has scored 6 goals already this season, but was wasteful in the Baggies last match. I don’t expect the striker will miss again.
Andy’s Bet: West Brom to win @ 2.02 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Peter Odemwingie to score first for West Brom @ 3.75 (Sportsbet)
West Ham v Everton (0430 AEDT)
West Ham are just in a bit of form now. Since November the Hammers have become a difficult team to beat, losing just 3 of their 9 fixtures since then. Rangy striker Carlton Cole scored his first ever Premier League brace at the weekend and will be looking to continue his form. Everton notched an impressive win at Manchester City last week and are fresh for this one after their weekend match with Birmingham was postponed. Despite their poor season, the Toffees have only been beaten twice in their 9 away games. They have relied on their goals from Australia’s own ‘2 yard Timmy’. Timmy Cahill is in top form and I reckon he is worth a punt for Everton’s first goalscorer.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.30 (Centrebet)
Andy’s Bet: Tim Cahill to score the first Everton goal @ 4.00 (Sportsbet)
Birmingham v Manchester United (0700 AEDT)
Even though Birmingham are a tough opponent at home, Manchester United are in supreme form and look the goods for another title. Their team has no weaknesses and quality depth players in all positions which is handy during a festive period packed with matches. Don’t get fancy here, just stick with a Man Utd win.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester United to win @ 1.55 (Betfair)
Chelsea v Bolton (0645 AEDT)
Chelsea are in free fall. The blues were sitting comfortably at the top of the table a month and a half ago, but have not won any of their 6 league matches since November 10. Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba are all fit, but not yet firing. Chelsea were belted by Arsenal in their most recent fixture, so this game against Bolton is a must win if they are to keep pace with the Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. Bolton have been quietly going about their business and occupy 6th place in the league, only 2 points behind the Blues. They will make life tough for an out of sorts Chelsea, and may be able to sneak a goal, but I think Chelsea are overdue for a comfortable win.
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea to win 3-1 @ anywhere from 10.00 and up (Odds not yet fixed)
Wigan v Arsenal (0645 AEDT)
Both these teams posted impressive recent victories. Wigan away at Wolves and Arsenal at home to Chelsea. Wigan’s home form has been rather ordinary with the Latics conceding, on average, 2 goals per game at the DW Stadium. Arsenal, in contrast to their recent history, have been quite successful when trekking away from their home patch. Defeated on their travels only by Manchester United and Chelsea, Arsenal have visited and destroyed most other sides, scoring 15 times in their 6 away matches (not including those Man Utd and Chelsea games).
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to win @ approx 1.50 (Odds not yet fixed)
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to score 3 goals or more @ approx 2.30 (Betfair – Odds not yet fixed)
Liverpool v Wolverhampton (0700 AEDT)
Liverpool didn’t get to play on Boxing Day due to the frozen pitch at Blackpool. They will get back into the action against a Wolves team that is propping up the rest of the Premier League table. Liverpool are up and down this season under Roy Hodgson, but they have been pretty solid at Anfield, winning 5 and drawing 2 of their 8 matches at English footballs most enchanting stadium. 4 of those 5 home victories have been to nil and I think they will win and keep a struggling Wolves side goalless.
Andy’s Bet: Liverpool to win to nil @ 2.10 (Sportsbet)