There was controversy and talking points everywhere you looked during the midweek matches. Birmingham snatched a late leveller against table topping Manchester United with a goal that looked to be a foul, a handball and offside. Arsenal were held also held to draw, 2-2 with Wigan. Wigan’s opener came from the penalty spot after the referee was conned by a blatant Charles N’Zogbia dive, and their second was courtesy of a Sebastien Squillaci own goal.
Elsewhere, Chelsea somehow ground out a 1-0 win at home to Bolton, Tottenham monstered Newcastle, Mario Balotelli scored a hat trick for Man City, and there were upset wins on the road for Fulham, Blackpool, Blackburn and Wolverhampton. Wolves win was especially noteworthy as they beat a hapless Liverpool at Anfield which increased the pressure on an already under pressure Roy Hodgson. Hodgson may even be sacked by the time I finish this article!
This column had another poor return from the suggested bets. So far this season the suggested bets will have produced a net loss of 20%. Plenty of room for improvement.
Here are the previews for each game this weekend.
West Brom v Manchester United (2345 AEDT)
Even though they were held at Birmingham during the week, United were unlucky and still put up a good show to continue their season long unbeaten league run. Their away form is not as strong though, the red devils have won 1 and drawn 7 of their away 8 away games. They visit a West Brom side in rapid decline. The Baggies have lost 3 on the trot and are quickly heading for the relegation places. West Brom’s star player Chris Brunt will return from suspension and will provide quality balls to strikers. I think United will win, but they may be forced to wait until the second half before hitting the front.
Andy’s Bet: Draw at half time and Manchester United to win @ 4.33 (Sportsbet)
Liverpool v Bolton (0200 AEDT)
Times are tough for the red half of Merseyside. Liverpool are in the bottom half of the table and just 3 points above the relegation places. I expect Roy Hodgson to be sacked before this match in lieu of this horror first half of the season. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was back in the lineup for the midweek loss to Wolves and even he couldn’t halt the slide. He should be better for the hitout and I expect him to be the man this weekend. Bolton very nearly got a draw against Chelsea midweek. The trotters played a very compact game and were difficult to break down, so this will be very tough for Liverpool again.
Andy’s Bet: Steven Gerrard to score @ 2.88
Andy’s Bet: Liverpool to win to nil @ 2.80
Manchester City v Blackpool (0200 AEDT)
How much longer can I keep betting against Blackpool and losing? I am going to test it out again this weekend. Carlos Tevez was left out against Aston Villa during the week, but I think he was rested rather than injured as he played the full 90 minutes against Newcastle the game before. Tevez should return to the starting lineup alongside Mario Balotelli who scored a hat trick in the little Argentine’s absence. Blackpool will be boosted by the return of midfielder Charlie Adam. I think the tangerines have a goal in them, but City have more.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester City to win 4-1 @ 17.00 (Sportsbet)
Stoke v Everton (0200 AEDT)
I can’t work out what is happening over at Stoke. Seemingly in good touch and belting Blackburn away, they follow it up with a dismal defeat to the team who couldn’t beat anybody, Fulham. In Stoke’s last 2 home games they have been defeated by Blackpool and Fulham without scoring a goal. Everton are not an easy team to host either, the toffees have only been beaten twice in 10 games on the road. Tim Cahill started as the lone striker for Everton during the week, so he is a good bet for Everton’s first goalscorer. I think the draw is the best value bet here as I can’t pick a winner.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.35 (Betfair)
Sunderland v Blackburn (0200 AEDT)
Sunderland were undone by Blackpool during the week and this resulted in their first home defeat of the season. I think they will be keen to put on a better showing for their home fans this time around. Blackburn surprised me with an excellent performance to bounce back from 2 poor home games to defeat West Brom. Nikola Kalinic scored twice in Blackburn’s midweek win, but was also red carded, so the striker will have to sit this game out. I think a second trip in a row might take it out of the Rovers and Sunderland should get back on the winners list.
Andy’s Bet: Sunderland to win @ 1.97 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Sunderland to win to nil @ 3.10 (Sportsbet)
Tottenham v Fulham (0200 AEDT)
I could watch Tottenham play all day. Especially with Gareth Bale making jinking runs down the left flank. Spurs are on fire at the moment and I can see them putting Fulham to the sword in this London derby. Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul will miss through suspension, but that will hardly be an issue as the ball will rarely be at that end. I think Tottenham have the best attacking squad in the league and will be there waiting if either team from Manchester slips up. Fulham did manage a win during the week, but had to rely on Chris Baird for both their goals. During the festive period their 3 goals have all come from centre back Aaron Hughes and full back Baird. Both players had not scored for the previous 3 seasons and are not a sustainable source of goals.
Andy’s Bet: Tottenham to win by 2 or more goals @ 2.20 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Gareth Bale to score anytime @ 3.00 (Sportsbet)
West Ham v Wolverhampton (0200 AEDT)
Ah, an old fashioned relegation 6 pointer! Always tense, always exciting, but never pretty. West Ham and Wolves are last and second last on the ladder, but as a measure of how tight the foot of the table is, a win for either side should lift them out of the bottom 3. West Ham have shored up their home form and have only been defeated once in their last 6 league games at Upton Park. Wolves win over Liverpool midweek was their first success away from home this campaign and I think it is a bit much to expect them to do it again.
Andy’s Bet: West Ham to win @ 2.08 (Betfair)
Birmingham v Arsenal (0430 AEDT)
Birmingham managed to stop Manchester United taking all 3 points from St Andrews, can they do the same to Arsenal? I don’t think so. Birmingham don’t score very often, in fact they have scored the fewest home goals of any side this season, so Arsenal will probably just need the 2 goals to be safe. The gunners will definitely create chances and will come out fuming after throwing away the win at Wigan midweek.
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to win @ 1.72 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to win 2-0 @ 8.80 (Betfair)
Chelsea v Aston Villa (0030 AEDT)
It was back to business as usual for Chelsea against Bolton in their midweek clash. A home game at the Bridge, a clean sheet and a victory. The performance wasn’t at the usual level, but it is amazing what a win can do for the confidence. Chelsea will now play with more freedom and could cut loose against an Aston Villa side 1 point above the relegation trap door. Villains boss Gerard Houllier is under immense pressure and I think a loss here could seal his fate. Of Chelsea’s 9 home games, they have won to nil on 7 occasions.
Andy’s Bet: Didier Drogba to score anytime @ 1.83 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea to win to nil @ 1.83 (Sportsbet)
Wigan v Newcastle (0300 AEDT)
This is not quite the relegation 6 pointer, but it is a big game for these clubs. When these teams met at St James’ Park earlier in the season, ex-magpie and now lactic Charles N’Zogbia scored both Wigan’s goals in the 2-2 draw. N’Zogbia was red carded for a naughty headbutt against Arsenal and his suspension could be pivotal. Newcastle will be hope to recall left back Jose Enrique as the magpies were exposed down that flanks against spurs by Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. Kevin Nolan is also available again after serving his 1 match ban. Newcastle have lost their last 4 games at the DW Stadium and will be hoping to reverse that trend and add to their 3 away successes already this season.
Andy’s Bet: Newcastle to win @ 3.00 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Andy Carroll to score anytime @ 2.50 (Sportsbet)