This is the Premier League season that keeps on giving. The latest gift was received in the form of 41 goals during last Saturday’s 8 fixtures. Simply stunning! As you would expect, given the number of goals scored, there were numerous wonder goals scattered throughout the games. Cheik Tiote’s thumping volley, Kyle Walker long range drive and James McCarthy’s nifty footwork and finish were my picks from a very extensive bunch.
So, what do we have to feast our eyes upon this weekend. Look no further than the Manchester derby! This grudge match has the added bonus of being pivotal to the title race. A United win will be a mighty leap towards the title, while a second loss in succession would signal a serious wobble.
Manchester United v Manchester City (2345 AEDT)
Almost everywhere you turn, people are freely offering the opinion that this game is more important for United than City. I think that is complete nonsense, especially as City continually claim they are after the league title. Currently, City trail their more illustrious rivals by 5 points and have played a game extra. Defeat here surely ends any remaining title aspirations. With that in mind I expect City to come at United a little more than most teams that visit Old Trafford. This is great news for the neutrals! For me, the key to this match is how well the red devils defenders mark sky blues frontman Carlos Tevez. The diminutive Argentinian is a star and will score if given only half a chance. I am going to ignore United’s impressive home record and tip an upset.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester City to win @ 5.10 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Carlos Tevez to score @ 2.88 (Sportsbet)
Arsenal v Wolverhampton (0200 AEDT)
If the Wolverhampton team were assassins they would have a very impressive resume. Previous victims of the men orange this season include Man United, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. Arsenal are next on their hitlist and the gunners will need to quickly pick themselves back up after a shambolic capitulation last week to Newcastle. Joey Barton managed to get under the skin of some Arsenal players with his aggressive approach. Abou Diaby got himself sent off with a petulant reaction to a strong, but legal challenge. Wolves love to impose their physical style on the opposition, but unfortunately for them I think Arsenal have learnt their lesson and won’t be bullied two weeks running.
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to win to nil @ 2.10 (Centrebet)
Birmingham v Stoke (0200 AEDT)
Stoke travel to Birmingham after gaining a very fortunate 3 points last week against Sunderland. All of Stoke’s goals were illegal or accidental and a combination of poor refereeing and luck was on their side. Birmingham did have a very solid central defensive partnership in Roger Johnson and Scott Dann, but Dann recently tore a hamstring and will be out for a couple of months. This will play into Stoke’s hands as they will pump high balls into the Birmingham box to unsettle the defenders. I think Stoke will do enough to get a goal, and a draw.
Andy’s bet: Draw @ 3.30 (TAB Sportsbet)
Blackburn v Newcastle (0200 AEDT)
Predictably unpredictable. That is how I described Newcastle last week and it was probably a fair assessment of the team that was about to concede 4 times in the first half hour and then would score 4 of their own in the last half hour. That was the first time a team has successfully retrieved a 4 goal deficit in the history of the league and perfectly illustrated the team spirit that exists in the magpies dressing room. That team spirit will need to continue as their squad is wafer thin. An example of this is Alan Pardew’s signing of 34 year old out of work and not good enough for the Championship striker Shefki Kuqi. Blackburn were involved in their own thriller last week going down 4-3 to Wigan. After conceding 4 goals last week I expect both sides to have done a lot of defensive work on the training pitch. It will be tight, but I think Newcastle’s team spirit might get them home.
Andy’s Bet: Newcastle to win @ 3.70 (Betfair)
Blackpool v Aston Villa (0200 AEDT)
Ian Holloway’s entertainers continue to show pluck, score goals, surprise many, but crucially, get beaten. Last Saturday’s 5-3 reverse at Everton was their 7th defeat in the last 8 matches. On the other hand Aston Villa have improved their form and Darren Bent and Ashley Young both scored for England midweek. That will do wonders for their confidence and I can see them building on that over the next few weeks. 4 of Blackpool’s last 5 goals have been from a corner taken by Charlie Adam. If Villa can nullify his threat, then they should get the points. I am also going to bet on Darren Bent to score. I have done this a few times this season, so if he lets me down once more, I’m never going to bet on him again!
Andy’s Bet: Aston Villa to win @ 2.25 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Darren Bent to score anytime @ 1.97 (Centrebet)
Liverpool v Wigan (0200 AEDT)
Since King Kenny took charge at Anfield a month ago, the reds have secured more points than any other side. When they win, they often win to nil as has occurred in each of their last 4 Premier League matches. I know Wigan won last week, but I don’t rate them much and think Liverpool will beat them comfortably.
Andy’s Bet: Liverpool to win to nil @ 2.10 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Liverpool to win by 3 or more goals @ 3.75 (Sportsbet)
West Brom v West Ham (0200 AEDT)
West Brom sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo during the week. A lot of media pundits have expressed disappointment and surprise. I tend to agree and think that the Baggies board has over-reacted to recent poor results. Michael Appleton will perform caretaker duties while they search for a permanent replacement. West Ham are in a worse position and have kept faith in Avram Grant. I think the Hammers board deserve to be rewarded with a win for their loyalty. West Ham actually have some good firepower up front with Carlton Cole, Robbie Keane and Victor Obinna all good finishers.
Andy’s Bet: West Ham to win @ 3.80 (Betfair)
Sunderland v Tottenham (0430 AEDT)
This teatime kickoff in the north east of England is a splendid way to finish the day’s action. Two teams who play attractive football. Steve Bruce was fuming last week after Sunderland twice threw away a lead against Stoke and then lost to a controversial winner. Tottenham were fortunate to beat Bolton at home and the trotters even had a very good penalty shout denied with the score at 1-1. It is only natural for the Tottenham players to have one eye on their upcoming Champions League match with AC Milan and I think Sunderland will make them pay.
Andy’s Bet: Sunderland to win @ 2.86 (Betfair)
Bolton v Everton (0300 AEDT)
Even though Everton played one of the season’s most entertaining games last week, I foresee this match being a bit of a snore fest. Bolton’s striking duo of Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander were so productive earlier in the season, but have been awful over the last 2 months. Both have scored just once each in Bolton’s last 12 games. Everton have been conceding too frequently for manager David Moyes’ liking and their first focus will be keeping a clean sheet. I predict this will be tight, a draw and scoreless.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.35 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: 0-0 @ 12.00 (Betfair)
Fulham v Chelsea (0700 AEDT)
A tasty London derby will be the dessert to follow another feast of weekend premiership football. Fulham actually have a better form line over the last 8 matches than their more highly fancied opponents. Chelsea were quite simply listless against a well organised Liverpool team on Sunday. They had their pants pulled down during the feature match being beamed live around the world and will be keen to make amends here. Last week I asked a number of questions before the Chelsea match. One of them remains unanswered – Can Torres, Drogba and Anelka fit into the one starting XI? The short term answer last week was a resounding no. I fear that could be the long term answer as well.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.75 (Betfair)
Sneaky European Multi
This is my favourite part of the whole column, which may explain why it is also the most successful. We struck out early last weekend, this weekend I anticipate a better result.
Andy’s Bet: Liverpool, Rangers, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Sociedad all to win @ 11.65 (Sportsbet)