Man City vs Reading
It’s looking pretty bleak for the Royals at the foot of the Premier League table, with just a solitary win in 17 games. They simply can’t seem to stop the opposition from scoring and, although they’ve scored their fair share of goals in reply, it’s very difficult to win games if you need to score 4 or more to do so. Having been comprehensively taken apart by Arsenal on Monday, things don’t get much easier for Reading with a trip to the champions this weekend. City played some of their best football of the season at Newcastle last week and this should be a stroll for them. Clearly they have two of the best strikers in the league in Aguero and Tevez but it is the return to form of David Silva that will be most encouraging to City fans. Reading haven’t managed to score a goal in their last three away games and with Vincent Kompany likely to return for City, I can’t see them scoring in this one either. So I think it’s a case of by how many for City.
25 pts – Man City to win by 3 or more @ 2.0 – LOST
Wigan vs Arsenal:
As mentioned above, Arsenal cruised past Reading on Monday and travel to Wigan full of renewed confidence. Cazorla oozes class and the double axis of Arteta and Wilshere should be the envy of any club in the league. If Walcott can build on his impressive first game as the central striker, then he may prove the final piece in the jigsaw for the Gunners. Wigan have been equally unpredictable this season and are more than capable of giving Arsenal a tough game, but with no game on Boxing Day, I think the Gunners will be able to put everything into another winning performance. This game also provides the opportunity for my first Asian Handicap on NitR as promised in our ‘About’ section!
25 pts – Asian handicap Arsenal -1.0 @ 2.2 – LOST
Liverpool vs Fulham:
In my picks last week, I alluded to the possibility of a strong Villa showing at Anfield but I didn’t foresee them walking away with an easy three points. Liverpool’s defence had been rock solid at home until Villa’s visit, with just 1 goal conceded in their last 5 home games. Brendan Rogers will have been very disappointed with the overall performance and he perhaps deserved it after claiming Liverpool have a shot at finishing 2nd. They’ve received a boost this week as promising youngster Raheem Sterling signed a 5 year contract with the club but I still feel they rely far too heavily on Luis Suarez to get their goals. Fulham, meanwhile, have been on a bit of slide with just 1 win in 9 and they continue to struggle away from the Cottage. They’ll be missing the creative ‘talents’ of Bryan Ruiz and Steve Sidwell this weekend so they will probably be up against it again. As mentioned in my review of last week, I will not back Liverpool at home but I do hope they will tighten up at the back this week so I’ll give a lack of goals another go.
11 pts – Under 2.5 goals @ 2.3 – LOST
Elsewhere in the Premier League
The rest of Saturday’s games look like they could be close: an improved QPR team, with their first win under their belts, head to a depleted Newcastle; draw specialists Everton visit the resilient West Ham without their talisman, Marouane Fellaini; and struggles Southampton and Sunderland play each other at St. Mary’s. Each of these games could easily finish in draws in my view so I’m prepared to spread my remaining funds across the draw and HT/FT draw/draw double.
10 pts – West Ham vs Everton Draw @ 3.35 – LOST
3 pts – West Ham vs Everton HT/FT Draw/Draw @ 5.1 – LOST
10 pts – Newcastle vs QPR Draw @ 3.5 – LOST
3 pts – Newcastle vs QPR HT/FT Draw/Draw @ 5.8 – LOST
10 pts – Southampton vs Sunderland Draw @ 3.6 – LOST
3 pts – Southampton vs Sunderland HT/FT Draw/Draw @ 5.8 – LOST
The Human Toothpick:
Tottenham vs Stoke:
Quietly and efficiently AVB has steered Tottenham into 4th place, and level on points with Chelsea. The return from injury of the Belgian talent Moussa Dembele has helped Spurs to four wins and 2 clean sheets in the last 5 games, and while they haven’t been explosive – they seem to be winning the games they should win (Swansea at home for instance), a habit they have not always found easy. Jermaine Defoe has been a player re-born under the new manager and, aided by the return of Gareth Bale this weekend, looks set to prosper against a traditionally bad travelling Stoke side. I don’t think there’ll be many goals in the game, and I cant see Stoke scoring – esp if Dawson returns to add aerial ability.
25 pts – Tottenham win to nil @ 2.34 – LOST
Newcastle vs QPR:
Never been a huge fan of scoreline bets, but I’m struggling to find too much value this weekend, and in particular in this game. QPR should be buoyed following their first win of the season last week, but I still think a festive St. James’s Park will be a stretch too far. Newcastle have been in fairly patchy form themselves, and so I cant see them running away with it, especially without the instrumental Cabaye or Hatem Ben Arfa, winning instead by the odd goal.
5 pts – Newcastle 2 QPR 1 @ 10 – LOST
Wigan vs Arsenal
A big win against Reading on Monday has, for the time being, calmed the calls for change at Arsenal -despite the relative ease of opposition. I don’t expect Wigan to be such push-overs, but they’ve never managed to turn the DW in to much of a fortress and I can see (new front man) Theo and co. using the big pitch to stretch Boyce and the rest of Wigan’s rather patched up backline. James McCarthy will be a big miss if sits this one out, and given the Latics have won just one of their last seven Premier League games, while only keeping two clean sheets all season I fully expect them to continue their bottom three form that’s seen them lose 10 out of their 17 so far this term…
35 pts – Arsenal win @ 1.75 – WON
15 pts – Theo Walcott anytime goalscorer @ 2.5 – LOST
Millwall vs Barnsley
One of the surprise packages this season, Millwall have battled their way into the top 6. A 2-2 draw at Brighton on Tues was an impressive result, and I’m hoping Kenny Jackett can get his players over the disappointment of giving up a 2 goal lead that night. Barnsley will be without the influential (on loan) midfielder Akos Buzsaky and I can’t see them coming away from The Den with anything. Slightly worrying that Millwall haven’t won their fixture immediately before Xmas since 2003…but I’m hoping they can end that run on Saturday.
15 pts – Millwall win (-1 handicap) @ 2.88 – LOST
Accumulator: Birmingham, Watford, Millwall, Crystal Palace to win – 15.2 – 5 points – LOST
Wigan vs Arsenal
Arsenal’s midfield trio are really starting to tick as we reach the busy Christmas period and Theo Walcott, in a new advanced role, is trying to add as much pressure onto current contract negotiations as he can. The club have got a run of very winnable games and with nothing on boxing day because of the strike action, Arsene Wenger has no fears over tired players and managing workloads. I expect them to run out comfortable winners against a Wigan side, who are well organised, but have struggled for form in the last couple of weeks.
15 pts – Arsenal win (-1 Handicap) @ 2.8 – LOST
West Ham vs Everton
West Ham have a pretty poor record against Everton, with no wins since 2007, and I still have the burden of a 6-0 Goodison Park drubbing etched into my childhood memory, where Kevin Campbell netted a hat trick in 1999. Obviously a lot had changed since then, but Everton are having another good year and despite missing the handful that is Marouane Fellaini, I feel they’ll come out on top here. The Hammers are still missing a few key players and were largely unconvincing at West Brom last weekend.
20 pts – Everton win @ 2.4 – WON
West Brom vs Norwich
I know what you’re thinking – how can I punt on another West Brom home win, when I’m still licking my wounds from last weekend!! I’m taking solace though in the fact that I’m not doubling up and fully chasing the losses. West Brom, after the worst half of football I’ve watched this year, did pick up in the second half last weekend and I still feel should have picked up all 3 points. The Hawthorns is a difficult place to go and with continued doubts over Grant Holt, I can see Steve Clarke’s men coming out on top.
30 pts – WBA win @ 2.0 – WON
Saints vs Sunderland
Sunderland have bagged a goal in every game they’ve played in December after a barren spell in the previous two months and I’m hopeful they can keep that run going here. Despite scoring a few more they’ve been poor at the back and with Southampton’s love to come forward at home I can see both teams getting on the score-sheet at least once.
15 pts – Over 2.5 goals @ 1.95 – LOST
Watford vs Forest
Watford have had a bit of a lull the last couple of weeks, having previously gone on a run which momentarily propelled them into the play off places. Zola has put together a large squad and seems well equipped to deal with the upcoming run of games.
20 pts – Watford win @ 2.2 – WON
All I want for Christmas is……..
5 pts – Peterborough, Watford, Ipswich, West Brom, Arsenal and Millwall all to win @ 85 – LOST