Pundits Picks – Week 1 – 14/12/12

Dr. Zoidberg:

West Brom vs West Ham

West Brom have struggled in recent weeks, having lost three on the bounce and you’d expect Steve Clarke to get the baggies up for this one. They do have a few injury doubts, notably over Foster and Ridgwell, but their cover seems more than adequate.

For the Hammers the glaring absence, which to me makes this a bet worth having, is no Mohamed Diame. You only need to know he didn’t play the first half against Chelsea and the last 17 minutes against Liverpool to see what an impact he has, as both games saw a six point swing after his introduction and withdrawal. With this in mind I envisage West Brom winning the midfield battle, which should feed into a positive result.

West Brom win – 2.05 – 30 Pts – LOST

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QPR vs Fulham

Surely QPR have to win at some stage! I’ve been preaching this for a couple of weeks since Harry Redknapp came in and I’m hoping they can finally prove me right. It seems the reintroduction of a couple of old stalwarts has given them a little bit more hunger and bite in midfield, although it’s still hard to see where the goals might come from.

Fulham don’t usually travel that well and having had a nervy first win in seven on Monday night, they shouldn’t be feeling the same pressure as Rangers. I feel getting pressured and harried should upset their rhythm sufficiently to bring QPR out on top.

QPR win – 2.4 – 20 Pts – WON

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Middlesborough vs Wolves

Boro will be anxious to put their midweek cup exit behind them and focus on the main goal for the season – promotion. They’ve been a little bit hit or miss over the last few weeks but an excellent win over Huddersfield suggests they should still be favourites to overcome anyone at home.

Boro win – 2.0 – 20 Pts – WON

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Stoke vs Everton

The Britannia is never an easy place to go and get a result, even if you’re in the sort of form that’s propelled Everton into the top four. It’s likely to be a physical war of attrition with neither side giving much away from front to back and both managers will have their players impeccably prepped. Sometimes when you look at a game, it just smacks of a result and for me it’s a 1-1 draw, both goals coming from headers and both scored in the second half. Famous last words for a 4-4 free flowing frenzy…….probably!

HT/FT – Draw/Draw – 4.33 – 10 Pts – LOST

Correct Score: 1-1 – 6.5 – 5 Pts – WON

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Spurs vs Swansea

Tottenham were pretty unlucky to have their pockets picked not once but twice by a very good hard-working Everton side and they’ll be wary not to let anything slip this weekend.  Garth Bale seems to have only a slight possibility of making a return but there’s enough strength and depth to get a positive result at home.

Swansea were unconvincing in their mid week cup victory and although Michu remains red hot in front of goal, I’m leaning fairly heavily in favour of the home side.

Spurs win (-1 Handicap) – 2.5 – 10 Pts – LOST

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Liverpool vs Villa

I’m not totally convinced by this bet, as the odds suggest on paper it looks like a relatively straight forward Liverpool win. Obviously they had a great result last weekend, without talismanic Suarez, who returns for the visit of Villa, but it still seems Liverpool can be unconvincing at home, especially if they get off to a slow start. Villa are in decent form, proving hard to beat and the odds of 12-1 on a goalless draw just seem a little too long to turn down.

Bet on the value! Correct Score: 0-0 – 13.0 – 5 Pts – LOST

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Uncle Bernstein:

Man Utd vs Sunderland

United’s win at their fierce local rivals last weekend has given them a six point cushion at the top of the table, a lead I expect them to build on over the festive period. They have possibly the most favourable run of fixtures over Christmas, starting with the visit of Sunderland on Saturday. This is typically the time of year that United hit top gear and I think Sunderland could be in for a very tough afternoon. The odds of a home win are, of course, pretty unattractive at just 1.22 (the fact that they’re not shorter emphasises how unpredictable they’ve been this season), likewise the over/under goals markets. So, I’m tempted by combining the two to get some value out of a convincing home win.

 Man Utd to win and 3 or 4 goals in the match – 2.63 – 20 Pts – WON

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Stoke vs Everton

Once again we come back to Stoke’s phenomenal home record – just two defeats so far in 2012 and none since February. Everton, meanwhile, who sit fourth in the table having lost just once since 1st September, have had the league’s joint highest number of draws this season (8) and would have had their 4th consecutive 1-1 draw last Sunday had it not been for Jelavic’s very late winner. The other team tied with Everton on 8 draws this season……Stoke. So a draw seems an unavoidable pick this week.

 One might also think that goals will be at a premium, especially as most of Stoke’s points this season have come in games with few goals – just 2 of their last 13 games have had more than two goals. However, Everton have scored and conceded in every game they’ve played since the end of September, which makes me a bit nervous about the odds-on under 2.5 goals market.

Draw – 3.0 – 20 Pts – WON

HT/FT – Draw/Draw –  4.33 – 5 Pts – LOST

Correct Score: 1-1 – 6.5 – 5 Pts – WON

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West Brom vs West Ham:

As my fellow pundit, Dr Zoidberg, has already highlighted, this looks like an excellent opportunity for West Brom to bounce back from three consecutive defeats. Neither team have covered themselves in glory recently but I think that West Brom are better placed to pick up the three points here.

West Brom win @ 2.05 – 20 Pts – LOST

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Liverpool vs Villa:

On paper, this should be a straightforward win for Liverpool but Villa have been much more resilient of late – recording an excellent Capital One Cup win at Norwich in midweek having been unbeaten in their last three outings. If the win at Norwich hasn’t taken too much out of them I think they can frustrate Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. The Liverpool defence has been rock solid in their recent home games and there’s a good chance they’ll keep Villa out on Saturday afternoon. However, I’m not convinced Liverpool have the attacking flair, even with Luis Suarez back from suspension, to run away with it so I’m prepared to take the odds-against under 2.5 goals market.

Under 2.5 goals – 2.1 – 15 Pts – LOST

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QPR vs Fulham

Will they finally get their first win of the season? Possibly, perhaps probably. QPR came very close last weekend to securing that elusive victory but had to settle for another draw. Fulham meanwhile, as correctly tipped by Dr Zoidberg, came out on top in a close game at the Cottage against a depleted Newcastle. This could be QPR’s weekend and, although I’m not confident that they will be able to hold on if they find themselves ahead after 80 minutes, I’m willing to take a chance on them.

 QPR win – 2.4 – 10 Pts – WON

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Football League Quadruple

Home wins for Man Utd, Cardiff, MK Dons and Gillingham

All wins – 5.0 – 5pts – LOST

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The Human Toothpick:

Man U vs. Sunderland

It’s nearing Christmas, so that normally means one thing in the Premier League…Fergie time. Man U seem to have an unerring knack of picking up points, scoring goals and pulling away from rivals over the festive period and I am expecting this year to follow the trend– not least because of a very enticing run of fixtures. Another pattern that seems to repeat is that when Wayne Rooney starts scoring goals, he tends to keep scoring. Chastised by Fergie earlier in the season for not scoring enough, the ebullient scouser has now scored 4 in last 2 –the 4th of which (vs. Man City) suggested to me that he’s in decent goal-scoring form (a perfectly timed arrival into the 6yrd box). With Sunderland rolling up at Old Trafford in pretty patchy form, I can see United brushing them aside with relative ease. Throw into the mix that Wayne is still on pennas…and I’m be pretty confident he’ll be in the goals.

 Rooney anytime goal scorer – 1.75 – 35 Pts  – WON ______________________________________________________________________

West Brom vs. West Ham

Did someone mention Europe?! No sooner had the pundits revved up the West Brom bandwagon then the wheels fell off –  losing 3 on the bounce. Nevertheless Steve Clarke has just scooped the November Manager of the Month award as reward for getting West Brom to 6th, above both Arsenal and Liverpool and despite the historic curse of such an award, I think Clarke will get his players up for this home game. His job might be made easier by their opponents on Sunday. I feel that West Ham’s win against Chelsea might have taken it out of them a bit, and I think they might struggle over the Xmas period. Losing the impressive Diame to injury is a big loss, and the manner of the 3-2 reverse to Liverpool last time up might just have had more of a psychological effect than big Sam will let on.

West Brom win – 2.05 – 20 Pts  – LOST

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Norwich vs. Wigan

Norwich are another who are defying pre-season naysayers (much to my disgust), with Chris Hughton quietly guiding a settled side through some tough fixtures with great aplomb. The win (and scoring of 4 goals) against Swansea last weekend was a terrific effort and despite the disappointment of crashing out of the league cup in midweek, I expect another good result this weekend. Importantly for this bet, Hughton’s men seem to have rediscovered their appetite for goals, with the unfashionable but seemingly effective Snodgrass, Johnson, Pilkington and of course Grant ‘the shire horse’ Holt leading the way. Their home form has been good (just ask Arsenal and Man U) and with Wigan having conceded 2+ goals in last 4 I think Norwich might buck their low scoring home form trend and put on a Norfolk show. Wigan are also always good for an unpredictable performance, so I’m hoping they’ll score too. [I also think Wigan striker Kone might score – but that’s just a weird hunch!]

Over 2.5 goals – 1.94 – 15 Pts  – WON ______________________________________________________________________

QPR vs. Fulham

I’ll keep it short. If QPR are going to stay up this season I think they have to win games like these, and that’s something big ‘Arry is fully aware of. A less than explosive start for the archetypal wheeler dealer has at least seen QPR add a little fight to their game. A battling 2-2 draw away at the DW last time out will have given the players a little confidence and I think Harry will succeed in taking advantage of a Fulham team that over the years haven’t tended to travel well, and who are still missing the creativity of Bryan Ruiz. I suspect QPR will need more than one goal to do it, but I think they’ll take the spoils on Saturday.

QPR win – 2.4 – 15 Pts – WON

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Leinster vs. Clermont Auvergne

Home advantage is massive in the Heineken cup, and last year’s winners Leinster have based their terrific European record on big home wins. They don’t come too much bigger than the heavy spending Clermont, with their French spine of Bonnaire, Parra, Rougerie and Fofana eager to upset the locals. A cold day in Dublin with a packed crowd desperate to see their heroes avenge the narrow loss from last week (a loss that saw Leinster lose their 17 match unbeaten Heinekken Cup record). It might be tight again, but I’m backing points nonetheless

Leinster win + over 30 points total points – pending odds – 10 Pts  – LOST ______________________________________________________________________

Amir Khan vs. Carlos Molina

If Amir doesn’t win, he’ll probably have to quit. I cant believe his manager/promoter haven’t lined up a fight he’ll win easily. That said, there’s lots of talk about his defence under new coach Virgil Hunter, while ‘local’ Californian boxer Molina has admitted that this is his ‘shot at the big time’ – suggesting that he’ll give it everything until the final bell if he can. Although Khan would love to knock him out (and he may well do), I think he’ll be terrified of getting a ‘one off’ punch from Molina that ends his career and so I think he’ll reluctantly be happy to win on points.

 Khan to win on points – 4.8 – 5 Pts – LOST

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