Sunday night is derby night in England, so armchair fans of the roundball code should take the relevant caffeine supplements and settle in for a night of high drama. The midlands derby between Birmingham and Aston Villa is first up alongside the tyne-wear derby between Sunderland and Newcastle. Those games are followed by the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton. If that isn’t enough, Tottenham entertain Manchester United in a match that will provide the footballing class in contrast to the raw passion of the games that precede it.
Chelsea v Blackburn (0200 AEDT)
Fortress Stamford Bridge is a thing of the past. Chelsea have won only 1 of their past 4 league games on home turf and only 1 of their last 9 anywhere! They did, however, return to form with a 7-0 thumping of Ipswich in the FA Cup last weekend. But the opposition were very poor on the day and time will tell if the blues can translate that form into the league. Blackburn have been quietly improving under new manager Steve Kean although I am not convinced they can succeed on their travels. Rovers have lost 4 of their last 5 away games and a trip to Chelsea will not improve that statistic.
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea to win to nil @ 2.00 (Sportsbet)
Manchester City v Wolverhampton (0200 AEDT)
Man City are good value for their second spot on the league table. The sky blues have the meanest defense in the league and I think that a solid back 4 is the key to success. City also have Carlos Tevez up front and the temperamental Argentine striker can be unstoppable on his day. Tevez now has a new striking partner after City splurged 27 million quid on Bosnian frontman Edin Dzeko. Dzeko is a strong, tall player and will be well suited to lead their attack and bring the quicker players into the action. The Wolves climbed off the bottom and out of the relegation zone with a stirring win against Chelsea last time out. That was in front of their home fans though and this trip to Eastlands will be a much different proposition. The lads in the orange shirts have only won 1 of their 10 away matches all season.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester City to win to nil @ 2.00 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Manchester City to be leading 1-0 at half time @ 3.30 (Sportsbet)
Stoke v Bolton (0200 AEDT)
Stoke and Bolton is one of those mid table clashes that could go either way. The most telling statistic for this one is that Bolton have only won 2 of their 11 league matches away from their home comfort of the Reebok Stadium. Those 2 victories were at West Ham and Wolves, so they are yet to beat decent opposition on their travels. Stoke have lost a couple of recent games at the Britannia, so they will be keen to give their fans something to cheer about.
Andy’s Bet: Stoke to win @ 2.18 (Betfair)
West Brom v Blackpool (0200 AEDT)
It’s official, I’m finally on the Blackpool bandwagon. Only 4 months too late! The tangerines beat Liverpool at home midweek to complete the double over the glamour club. Charlie Adam pulls the strings in midfield and the Pool always seem able to create chances at home and away. West Brom are a club in crisis losing 5 on the trot. The baggies have been competitive in their home matches, notably an unlucky 2-1 defeat by Manchester United, so I think this will be a score draw.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.65 (Luxbet, Centrebet)
Andy’s Bet: 1-1 @ 9.00 (Betfair)
Wigan v Fulham (0200 AEDT)
This is a game I can guarantee I won’t be watching. 14th vs 19th with only 1 point separating them. It sounds like a good old fashioned basement battle, but Fulham away matches average the least goals of any fixture. The cottagers score less than a goal a game on their travels and concede exactly a goal, on average. This could change with an in form Diomansy Kamara banging in a hat trick in the FA Cup 3rd round. That was only against Peterborough, but a hat trick is a hat trick. Wigan are struggling and haven’t won at home since November 13. This will probably be a scrappy draw.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.30 (TAB Sportsbet, Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Diomansy Kamara to score the first goal for Fulham @ 5.00 (Sportsbet)
West Ham v Arsenal (0430 AEDT)
This London derby rounds out the Saturday night fixtures. West Ham have been fighting hard for under fire manager Avram Grant, but most of their success has been in the cups, with the Hammers taking a 2-1 advantage after the first leg of their Carling Cup semi final. They have only won once in their last 7 league matches. Arsenal make the short journey to Upton Park needing to keep winning to stay in sight of Manchester United. The gunners have the joint best away record in the division and they will look to get the ball down and play. If they score early doors they are good enough to run away with it.
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to be leading at half time and full time @ 2.30 (Sportsbet)
Birmingham v Aston Villa (2300 AEDT)
This midlands derby will be a cracker! These two sides have history already this season after a spiteful Carling Cup tie that Birmingham won at this venue. Aston Villa have been the dominant side in the region for a long time, but they are having a poor season and the brummies would love nothing more than to keep them in the relegation zone. I’ve got a hunch that Villa are about to run into some form, so I’m going to jump on the 3.20 being offered by Betfair.
Andy’s Bet: Aston Villa to win @ 3.20 (Betfair)
Sunderland v Newcastle (0300 AEDT)
This tyne-wear derby will be a fiery affair. Newcastle belted Sunderland 5-1 at St James Park earlier in the season and the black cats will be all out to restore local pride for the Wearside. Crucially, Newcastle’s holding midfielder, Cheik Tiote picked up a red card in the magpies’ shock loss to Stevenage in the FA Cup. That means the Ivorian is suspended for this match up. Tiote has provided excellent protection for the previously dodgy Newcastle defence. If Sunderland win and other results go their way, they could even jump into the top 4. Their task will also be made easier with Newcastle striker Andy Carroll again set to miss through injury.
Andy’s Bet: Sunderland to win @ 2.18 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Sunderland to win by 2 or more goals @ 4.20 (Sportsbet)
Liverpool v Everton (0105 AEDT)
Liverpool have not had the immediate success, also known as the honeymoon period, under new manager Kenny Dalglish. King Kenny has the fans on side and he will need Anfield to be in full voice for this contest. If other results go against them, Liverpool could be less than 3 points away from relegation before kickoff, unthinkable before the season. Liverpool was miss captain and inspiration Stevie Gerrard through suspension. Defender Jamie Carragher is also sidelined, but through injury. Everton are without leading scorer Tim Cahill as the Aussie striker has taking his goalscoring form to the Asian Cup with his national side. The loss of Gerrard is massive. Without him I think the reds can only win if Torres scores, so I am going to hedge my bets by backing both the draw and Torres to score.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.35 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Fernando Torres to score at anytime @ 2.40 (Sportsbet)
Tottenham v Manchester United (0310 AEDT)
If you are a fan of the English game, then you need to watch this match. These teams portray everything that I want to see from the Premier League. Simple 4-4-2 formations with dangerous strikers, brilliant wingers, creative central midfielders and no nonsense defenders. I said a month ago in this column that I believed Tottenham have the best attacking group in the league and I will stand by that here. I can’t wait to see Gareth Bale try and rip United’s right side to shreds. He is good enough to do it. A win for spurs can give the title race the shake up it needs. Go on, be ambitious and give the spurs a chance!
Andy’s Bet: Tottenham to win @ 3.00 (Betfair, Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Gareth Bale to score at anytime @ 4.50 (Sportsbet)
Sneaky European Multi
The European leagues return from their respective winter breaks, so we can load up in search of more continental glory! We again try to pick a winner from each of Europe’s top leagues.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester City, Celtic, Lazio, Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Lyon all to win @ 13.10 (Sportsbet)