Everton v Tottenham
It was joked about that David Moyes might have to strap on the old boots and take to the field if Everton picked up any more injuries. It must be getting close to a certainty now. It was something of a pyrrhic victory in Greece as David Moyes injury list is looking more and more like he wishes his first team did. When all these players start returning then things will pick up but for now the Everton boss has to piece things together with teenagers and hope for the best.
Spurs are as gloriously inconsistent as always ever since Manchester United ended their perfect start to the season which makes it difficult to predict how theyâ€™re going to perform. Considering Evertonâ€™s injury problems, Lennon and Defoe should have a field day. If the visitors come flying out of the traps then this could be a very long day for David Moyes and a big win for Spurs is very likely. Having just being beaten by United’s youngsters it would be just like Spurs to win with style and if Defoe has his shooting boots on then the 4/1 on Spurs -1 goal will look like the safest bet of the day. Defoe is 33/1 to score a hat-trick.
Paddy Power: Tom Huddlestone to score and Tottenham to win 12/1
Arsenal v Stoke
For all of Arsene Wenger’s finger-pointing, the truth was that his side just werenâ€™t up to the job. The Frenchman decried Chelseaâ€™s defensive tactics but they were the away team and thatâ€™s what away teams tend to do. Just as in the defeat to Sunderland, Arsenal struggled to penetrate, an inappropriate joke about trying to get amorous with Jo Brand just came to mind but Ill keep that one for later. The loss of Robin van Persie seems to have a much bigger effect than you would expect and with players calling for the manager to sign a striker in January, the effect may be more psychological than anything else. What they need is to give someone a good spanking but will Stoke oblige?
The only heavy defeat Tony Pulis side have suffered was at Anfield back when Liverpool were playing well, Chelsea needed injury time to make certain their win. Though Stoke have only scored four away goals, theyâ€™ve also only conceded eight, four of which were at Anfield. There are no real stand-outs in a side which is succeeding on hard work and good management but James Beattie, if he plays, has the potential to cause problems from set pieces. Heâ€™s 12/1 to score first if you fancy him.
After two league games without scoring its hard to see Arsenal not hitting the back of the net at least once at home to Stoke. There are always plenty of goals in whatever side Wenger sends out and if they go in front early on then this could be a landslide. Arshavin and Fabregas are the likeliest to do the honours. Stoke could pull off another great result but I fancy Arsenal to react and an Arsenal reaction means goals. Arsenal -1 goal at 8/11.
Aston Villa v Hull
Barring Brad Friedel, Martin ONeill played a full strength team against Portsmouth in the Carling Cup. Not just is it their most likely chance at silverware this season but it could also serve as the kick-start his side seem to need after a run which had seen them draw five from seven before heading to Fratton Park. The manner of the win and the 90 minutes Stuart Downing got under his belt should see a more invigorated showing against Hull. Even Emile Heskey scored and that has to be a sign.
Hull are having a mini-revival at the moment after Phil Brown sailed mightily close to getting the push. Unbeaten in four and having rediscovered their scoring touch, Hull could be a tricky prospect. However, as good as their draw against Man City was theyâ€™re still yet to win away in the league, have lost five, and have conceded thirteen more than theyâ€™ve scored.
Bullard at 12/1 and Downing at 10/1 are reasonably priced to score first, though Heskey looks a bit short at 5/1. Two goals in two games? It couldnâ€™t happen for the big man could it?
It should be a competitive game but if Villa play as well as they did midweek then Hulls away woes will continue. Four or more goals at 7/4 is worth a thought.
Blackburn v Liverpool
It was a win and Pepe Reina continued his superb form but thatâ€™s about all it was. Liverpool are still struggling for confidence, Gerrard and Johnson arenâ€™t fully fit, Torres is still out and Aquilani remains on the bench. There wasnâ€™t much of a rousing reaction from the players to playing in a Merseyside derby and while the win could boost confidence there were few signs which suggested a better performance was likely against Blackburn. A week of treatment may be enough to allow Steven Gerrard to have more of an effect in the game, Id like to see Aquilani start but there have been suggestions of a few minor setbacks with his recovery so itâ€™s unlikely.
Beating Chelsea, no matter who was playing, is a massive result but Blackburn fielded close to the same eleven whoâ€™ll play against Liverpool and the extra-time as well as the jubilation could take the edge off. David Dunn will be sorely missed and while a direct approach could fare well against Liverpoolâ€™s shaky backline their midweek exploits could be fatal.
Liverpool did work hard against Everton and the extra rest could be key. Itâ€™s not likely to be pretty but I fancy the reds to edge it.
Man City v Chelsea
Beating Arsenals under-17 side doesnâ€™t make Manchester City any more likely to win this game. Nor does Chelseaâ€™s loss to Blackburn make them any more likely to lose it.
Cityâ€™s defence is still suspect and with Drogba starting theyâ€™re in for a tough afternoon. The Ivorian is in good bruising form and after demolishing the full-strength Arsenal team at the Emirates, Chelseaâ€™s re-established first eleven will fancy doing a similar job to Mark Hughes side. Adebayors increased labour against his old team canâ€™t be relied upon to make a reappearance here. Carvalho and Terry can handle the big striker while in the midfield Lampard and Essien can control the tempo of the game.
The draw is about 12/5 if you think Cityâ€™s run of draws will continue but Chelsea are rightly favourite to win despite being away from home. Drogba is 4/1 to score first but he good win the free-kick or penalty the sets up Lampard to score and heâ€™s 23/10 to do it anytime.
Portsmouth v Burnley
Avram Grant admitted his focus is solely on trying to save Portsmouth from the drop and after exiting the Carling Cup he has a very good chance of doing just that. Burnley are still shocking away from home and only West Hams slackness allowed them to take the edge of what should have been an embarrassing loss. Portsmouth need to do something soon and if Grant can instil that sense of urgency in the players then they may get a glimmer of hope with three points in this one. Its one of many games Pompey need to win and the 17/20 isnâ€™t a bad price considering Burnley have managed only one away draw all season. Granted the home side have just the one win at Fratton Park but a 2-1 win at 13/2 will double that.
West Ham v Man Utd
The five goals they scored were great but the three they conceded will be frustrating for Zola. His side are struggling badly at the back and, for all their admirably good play, if he canâ€™t get it sorted then relegation will be a season long worry. With Collins gone and Upson out he may need to buy in January. The loss of Carlton Cole is another blow and his absence up front against United will make things more comfortable for the backline.
Alex Ferguson will fell vindicated by the performances of his youngsterâ€™s midweek and having beaten Portsmouth away in their last league game, hell be looking for another win. Rooney is in form and the way West Ham defend hell get chances to add to his tally and is rightly a clear 7/2 favourite to score first. The 13/2 on a West Ham win is one of those tempters, if they score first and get the home crowd going then who knows? United have lost three times on their travels this season and the Hammers have won the corresponding fixture twice in the last three seasons. Itâ€™ll need to be one of those games for West Ham and an off day for United which is why the safe money is on the away win.
Wigan v Birmingham
Alex McLeish is quietly doing a very good job at Birmingham. He has Barry Ferguson and Lee Bowyer playing well and not getting in to any trouble. Letâ€™s not forget Stephen Carr, worthy of a mention for his solid performances this season. Theyâ€™re a solid, tough team with one of the better defensive records in the Premier League. Benitez has shown flashes of quality this season and if some more goals can be coaxed out of him then the comfort of mid-table looks a very likely result. Birmingham do have some problems scoring but Lee Bowyer is a player who knows where the goal is and heâ€™s a tasty 11/1 to score first for the third game in a row.
Wigan recovered some pride with their win last week but their away record isnâ€™t great with two wins and five defeats. Rodallega looks a decent player and heâ€™s 11/2 to score first. Goals do not look to be on the menu and the 7/1 for a 0-0 may be your best chance of feasting off this one.
Wolverhampton v Bolton
Mick McCarthyâ€™s team doesnâ€™t look to have the quality to retain their place in the Premier League and they may well be joined by Bolton. Without a win since September its hard to see where the big turn around is going to come from. Plenty of spirit has been shown this season but Wolves simply arenâ€™t equipped to compete.
Bolton are similarly depressing to talk about. Their draw with Fulham at least brought an end to a run of four straight losses but itâ€™s far from even a glimmer of hope. Men behind the ball and long ball bombardments ore probably their best hope of survival. Itâ€™s a game that reeks of doom and picking the draw as the most obvious option at 9/4, Iâ€™m quickly moving on.
Fulham v Sunderland
Andy Reid may be unconcerned with his sides away from but Steve Bruce will be, or at least he should be. Since their opening day win at Bolton theyâ€™ve managed a very creditable draw at Old Trafford and thatâ€™s it. Theyâ€™ve lost to Stoke, Wigan, Birmingham and Burnley on their travels and donâ€™t seem equipped to grind out away wins against the teams around them. Andy Reid has played well this season but he still isnâ€™t the strongest defensively and when home teams do more of the attacking they struggle a little in the middle of the park.
Craven Cottage is a difficult place to visit these days with only Arsenal and Chelsea managing to squeak out wins there this season. Very solid at the back, industrious all over the park and with enough quality in the likes of Dempsey, Duff and Nevland to trouble any side. Sunderland certainly have enough attacking quality to improve their away record but Fulham take some beating and at 6/5 theyâ€™re a decent price for the win. For the second week in a row Iâ€™m backing Dempsey to get on the score sheet at 11/5 anytime.
By Rob Dore
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