Tottenham, City and Liverpool must fight form and history this weekend
The Premier League title and the Champions League places are far from a done deal. Both Manchester City and Tottenham have blown healthy leads in first and third place respectively to fall down to second and fourth, and while City’s depth and sheer quality (not to mention a recall for Carlos Tevez) may yet save their title challenge, Tottenham don’t have that wild card to call upon. They can only rely on Harry Redknapp being able to coax a little bit more out of their players, and for Arsenal and Chelsea to lose their way, again.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s big games at the top of the table.
Chelsea v Tottenham
A cracking start to the weekend’s action with Chelsea taking on Spurs at Stamford Bridge (12.45pm KO, Live on Sky Sports 2), and the home side have to be the bet at 1.91 with Betfred.
The Blues have won this fixture in five of the last six Premier League seasons and you have to go back over 22 years and 25 clashes in all competitions for Spurs last victory at Stamford Bridge. Those are compelling stats, and if you throw in the fact that Chelsea come into this in far better form than their rivals you can see why they have to be the punt.
Since Roberto di Matteo took over Chelsea had won four games in a row before going down to a late Samir Nasri goal at Manchester City on Wednesday night. By stark contrast Harry Redknapp’s side have managed just one win in six games and have yet to record an away win in 2012.
They have lost three of their last four games on the road, while Chelsea have won four on the bounce at the Bridge and have six wins in an eight-game unbeaten home run. Spurs have also managed a total of just six shots on target at Stamford Bridge spread across their last four league visits, so everything points to a Chelsea victory one which would cut the gap fifth and fourth from five points to just two.
Drogba makes the most appeal in the first goalscorer market at a standout 7.5 with Paddy Power, and he is also decent value at 2.6 with the same firm to score anytime.
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Arsenal are the form side in the Premier League and look a banker bet at 1.36 to beat Aston Villa at the Emirates.
The Gunners made it six wins in a row with a 1-0 victory at Everton on Wednesday when they went for the hosts from the start, got an early goal from Thomas Vermaelen and battled to protect it.
As usual it’s Robin van Persie who heads the goalscorer markets, but Vermaelen as the value bet at 5.5 with Betfred to score anytime. The centre-back is Arsenal’s joint-second top scorer in the league this season, and has bagged five goals in his last 17 games.
That makes the 5.5 on offer look big, especially when you thrown in the fact that most of his goals have come in streaks. He netted three in six earlier in the season and, with strikes in his last two games has to be worth a punt at a tasty price.
Any distant hopes that the Reds had of threatening the top four this season were surely ended by the astonishing defeat at QPR on Wednesday night, when they led 2-0 with 13 minutes remaining but left Loftus Road with nothing. It was a horrific hammer blow for Kenny Dalglish’s men and they will surely be have been given a roasting by the gaffer ahead of this.
The main problem is that they have really struggled convert dominance into victories on their own patch, and they have now lost four of their last five matches in the PL. That’s not good reading if you are planning to take the 1.33 on offer, especially when you take a look at the stats.
However that will surely change here, as the visitors have teal problems finding the back of the net and an on song Liverpool should prove too strong.
Luis Suarez is by far the most likely candidate to score first, and looks worth a punt at 4.33 with bet365 to do so . I fancy him to fire Liverpool to a 2-1 victory, and that scoreline is a 9 chance with bet365 and Betfred.
Finally on Monday night, Man United are a top priced 1.25 to beat Fulham (8pm KO, Live on Sky Sports 1) and should have little difficulty doing double over their rivals and maintain their position at the top of the Premiership.
The Red Devils have been in outstanding form at league level, winning eight and drawing once in the last nine games. The only dropped points came when they came from 3-0 deficit at Chelsea to draw 3-3, and they were unlucky not to come away with maximum points that day.
They hammered Fulham 5-0 on their own patch just before Christmas with a ruthless display with Danny Welbeck, Nani, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov all getting on the scoresheet and the stats suggest a similar outcome could be on the cards.
Sir Alex’s men have won their last seven Premier League games at Old Trafford against the Cottagers, with the Londoners failing to score in their last four. In fact their only goal in the previous match was an own goal by Rio Ferdinand (United scored 5 in that game, including 4 in the opening 20 minutes as United opened their 06/07 account with a thunderous announcement of intent), and Martin Jol has also never beaten United during his time as a manager in the Premier League.
Not surprisingly the bookies are running scared of Wayne Rooney in their goalscorer markets. He has scored 16 goals in his last 16 appearances in all competitions and netted five times in his last four appearances against Fulham at Old Trafford. He is a 3.5 chance with Betfred to score first, and 1.57 shot with Boylesports to net anytime.