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Aston Villa v Totteham
The Villa fans won’t be getting their money-back after this game. Their team has conceded only five league goals at home this season as Dunne has formed solid partnerships with both Collins and Cuellar and there’s unlikely to be too many goals in this for Tottenham. The good news for Spurs fans is that Defoe’s goal glut could set him off on one of his hot-streaks and he’s a very likely 11/2 to open the scoring. If Aston Villa do concede they won’t capitulate like Wigan and with Spurs’ midfield still not being quite as good without Modric, the home side can take control of the middle of the park and prevent Defoe and whoever Redknapp partners with him from seeing too much of the ball. Lennon will need to be contained but he could also leave space in behind for Young and Agbonlahor to expose with their pace. 7/5 is a tasty price for a side which has won four from six at home and 2-1 to Aston Villa at 15/2 has a nice ring to it.

Win 9-1 and then lose the next game? It wouldn’t be like Spurs to be inconsistent would it?

Paddy Power: Jermain Defoe to score a hat-trick – 40/1

Blackburn v Stoke
After rallying for the first game of Sam Allardyce’s absence, did we see the lack of his influence in the loss to Fulham? Rovers have been poor away from home so far this season so the defeat was not unexpected but the way they fell apart once they conceded the first goal wasn’t very encouraging. Being at home will help against a tricky Stoke side and if David Dunn can take control of the game then they could edge a win. Tony Pulis’ side are no pushover though and while I fancy a draw the 16/5 on the away win is a tempter.

Fulham v Bolton
Bolton are really struggling at the moment after four bad losses on the bounce and confidence is low. The talk of Gary Megson getting the push won’t be helping matters either. Meanwhile at Craven Cottage Roy Hodgson is on the verge of signing a new contract and the target for this season is no longer avoiding relegation but possibly pushing for a European place. Possibly. Their second half performance and the three goals will have been a boost and Fulham will expect to pick up their second win in a matter of days. Rightly so. Dempsey has been in goalscoring form of late and the 12/5 for him to score anytime is worth more than a cheeky punt.

Man City v Hull
Six draws in a row anyone? Burnley and Fulham have both come away from the City of Manchester Stadium with a point following high scoring affairs and if there’s one thing Hull love, it’s a good old goal-fest. After being certain to get the push, Phil Brown has his team playing for him again and though they haven’t been too prolific away from home this season, they’vescored eight in their last three games and confidence looks to be returning. The return of Jimmy Bullard should not be underestimated  and as Hull’s penalty taker the 18/1 for him to score first will pay big for a small risk.

City may well make a mockery of this prediction by turning on the style but with Adebayor going through one of his protracted indifferent phases and the backline looking far from comfortable, I’m plumping for the draw at 9/2. Maybe even a few shillings on 3-3 at 75/1, just for kicks.

Portsmouth v Manchester United
The youngsters may not have impressed midweek but few, if any, will be starting against Portsmouth. Five defeats already at Fratton Park gives this one more than the hint of a banker and the 4/11 on United is a decent price for the defending champions to beat relegation certainties. Don’t go too mad though.

Pompey have only been beaten by a single goal in all five home losses and with Avram Grant replacing Paul Hart, you have to factor in that new manager effect. Plus let us not forget that Alex Ferguson’s men have lost half of their away league games to date. Granted two of those were against Liverpool and Chelsea but despite progress in the Champions League and sitting second in the league, United have looked far from convincing at times and may be in for a tough afternoon. The visitor’s quality should get them through this tricky test but I can’t help but think of the back-page puns if Portsmouth cause a shock. Your Wishes Have Been Granted. Av’ Some Of That. They’ll need to have one of those afternoons to do it though, you know the ones I’m talking about. It’s 17/2 if you’re interested.

West Ham v Burnley
Burnley finally picked up their first away point against Man City. A bit of a shock but then considering City’s run of results lately, maybe not. Owen Coyle’s side did follow it up with a creditable draw at home to Aston Villa and are now unbeaten in their last three. The Hammers have been putting a few results together and having clambered out of the relegation zone, Zola will be eager to stay there. The London side have looked better than their league position suggests and the emergence of Carlton Cole has been a big plus. However they’re not where they are for no reason and the loss of Collins from the centre of the defence has been a big factor in their struggles. This has the makings of a good game with goals for both sides, now that I’ve said that it’ll finish 0-0. Superstition aside, if Zola can get the defence sorted, West Ham should start to climb up towards mid-table obscurity and unable to ignore how Burnley have struggled away from home this season, the home side should continue their ascent with a win here.

At 4/5 it’s a real booster for your weekend accum. Oh and Kieron Dyer could be returning to action before getting injured for another six months. He’s 7/2 to make an instant impact with a goal at anytime.

Wigan v Sunderland
Like quite a few teams this season, Sunderland have been great at home but rubbish away but Steve Bruce will see this as a game his side should be taking something from. The news that Darren Bent is set to play will be welcomed by Sunderland fans as goals have been hard to come by one their travels. Coming off the win over Arsenal, confidence will be high and playing an away game right after may work in their favour. They adopted an away team mentality against Arsenal and if they can match the work-rate in this game they are capable of leaving with the win. Andy Reid has been in good form of late and though not prolific, this is the kind of game that could be decided by a moment of quality. My crystal-ball is showing me a free-kick just outside the box but it’s prone to glaring errors. Either way he’s 11/2 to score anytime and could provide a moment of quality to make the difference. Wigan will have worked on one thing in training all week and Robert Martinez would snap your hand off for a 0-0 draw. The magnitude of the defeat in London pushes it beyond the realms of demoralising and into in embarrassment and the players will be playing for their pride this week. The draw at 23/10 is the safe option with 0-0 at 8/1 if you’re feeling really adventurous. It should be a good battle but if Sunderland can get the first goal then Wigan heads might begin to drop. I’m leaning towards a Sunderland win but this is a tough one to call.

Wolverhampton v Birmingham
Ten goals conceded in their last three games will have seen Mick McCarthy barking at his players to get tight and track their man during this week’s training sessions. Birmingham have only scored six in six away and with four defeats in those six Alec McLeish will be happy with a draw. Mick wouldn’t be too displeased with one either to steady the ship and at that end of the table a point is not to be sniffed at. One away win for Birmingham and one home win for Wolves paints a picture of a draw, and not a very exciting one at that.

Everton v Liverpool
Two teams riddled with injuries and not playing particularly well would usually make for a tired affair but that Merseyside Derby magic should at least make this one watchable. Liverpool have been especially poor away from Anfield and though it’s only a short hop to Goodison Park, confidence won’t be high. Their dour win against a poor Debrecen side was a real sign of how short of confidence Liverpool are at the moment and with Gerrard not fully fit and Torres out, there’s nobody to take control of games for them. Except for

Aquilani but he may need more than thirty seconds to do it. Benitez’ caution is understandable but the sooner the Italian is starting for Liverpool the better. If the manager is hit with a sudden fit of boldness Aquilani could start against Everton and if he does then the 6/1 for him to score anytime becomes a very tasty bet. If the home side as they did against Hull then this could turn into an easy win for the visitors but that’s unlikely in a derby. Everton have struggled for goals recently and will be hoping Liverpool’s shaky defence coughs up a few easy chances. Another tricky one to call as you never really know what might happen in a Merseyside Derby but if pushed I’d go for the Liverpool win at 6/5. Torres may well make an appearance and that, as always, will help.

Arsenal v Chelsea
As with all big games this London derby will receive the usual hype in the build-up and while it won’t decide anything regarding the title it might actually live up to that hype. Both sides are playing well and with twenty goals in Chelsea’s six away games and twenty-four in Arsenal’s five home games the Gods of the stats tell of action at both ends. There’s no doubt that Arsenal’s young team are dealing better physically this year but they will face their toughest test against Chelsea.

The Blues are aggressive all over the pitch, barring Anelka of course,  and they are more than capable of passing the ball through sides when they’re not lumping it long for Drogba. The Ivorian is due a goal actually and 6/1 is a good price on him to score first. Arsenal have a perfect record at the Emirates but this is the first time they’ll host a fellow title challenger in the league and having lost away to both Manchester sides there’s a hint of the flat-track bullies about them. If they can beat Chelsea then they can consider themselves serious title challengers but Chelsea aren’t top of the table by accident. The Blues will be determined to stay there and by hook or by crook I think they’ll sneak this one.

By Rob Dore

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