Pundits’ Picks – Week 3 – 25/12/12

The Human Toothpick:

Fulham vs. Southampton

Oh for the return of Bryan Ruiz. Fulham have missed the Costa Rican like nobody would have believed (following his rather underwhelming debut season). They were utterly inept against Liverpool at the weekend –a performance that rather summed up their recent form, particularly away from home – a bad habit which it looked like they might have banished earlier in the season. Ruiz is only 50:50 for a return against the similarly stuttering Saints side, but regardless I think Fulham will have too much here – using their home form to eek out the results they need to stay free of any relegation worries.

Fulham win – 1.96 – 20 points – LOST

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Sunderland vs. Man City

Sunderland go into this clash with the Champions with a sneaky, almost unnoticed, bit of form under their belt. A solid win on the South Coast last time out was an impressive result and it looks like O’Neil has tightened things up a little following a poor run. City have been hit and miss this season so far as I can tell; they looked imperious first half vs. Newcastle, but then took 90mins before breaking a wounded Reading’s at the weekend.  I’m expecting this to be tight, potentially being settled by the odd goal.

 Under 2.5 goals – 2.08 – 10 points – WON

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Stoke vs. Liverpool

This just feels like 1-1! It’s almost too clichéd (7th best defence in Europe vs. a wildly inconsistent Liverpool [who have never before won at the Britannia]) but sometimes I think you’ve got to go with the expected.  Liverpool may turn up, so may Stoke’s strikers (ex-red Crouch may return), but I’m going with the centre halves this time. Shawcross, Huth, Agger, Skertl…you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night…

 Draw – 3.3 – 5 points – LOST

 Under 2.5 goals – 1.69 – 10 points – LOST

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Everton vs. Wigan

Poor Wigan. Another season, another similar story it would seem. Play some good football (with young team and manager winning plaudits along the way), lose the odd game unluckily- bottom 3 at Xmas.  I cant see the trend reversing at Goodison sadly, with Everton desperate to buck their usual slow start trend and end the year on a high. Still without Felliani, but with Baines, (a resurgent) Piennaar and the ever-steady Osman I think the Toffees will take this one easily…hopefully with goals aplenty.

 Everton win & over 2.5 goals – 1.9 – 10 points – WON

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Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace

Any other season and I’m not sure you’d even be able to get odds on this one, with perennial mid table Championship side Palace taking on a traditionally granite strong Cardiff in Wales. As we approach 2013 though, Ian Holloway’s new charges are now a force to be reckoned with, sitting 4 points off the leaders (Cardiff). Cardiff City Stadium remains a horrible place to get a result and I can see the Bluebirds taking this  – perhaps with a few goals shared between them.

Cardiff win – 1.98 – 10 points – WON

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Middlesbrough vs. Blackburn

Tricky fixture to call this, something I think is shown up by the varying odds. I’m backing Tony Mowbray and his clan here though, hoping that home form can (for once!) mean something in the Championship. B’burn have won only 1 of 9 games under Henning Berg, while Boro boast the strange statistic of winning every other of their last 6 (in league and cup). Given they lost to Leeds last time out –I’m hoping that pattern continues.

Middlesbrough win – 2.0 -10 points – WON

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Charlton vs. Ipswich

Ok. It’s happened. I’m laying the Tractor Boys. I’m sorry – I promised I wouldn’t – but for the life of me I can’t see us taking 3 points from The Valley on Boxing Day. As Super Mick McCarthy has said, the honeymoon period is well and truly over and now we’ve got to deal with the grind of pulling away from the bottom 3.  Loanee DJ Campbell’s goals have dried up and there’s not much firepower coming from others. A home draw to Bristol City was disappointing, and although Charlton haven’t been in fantastic form I can see them edging this one (although i’d take a draw!)

Lay Ipswich win  – 3.15 – 20 points – LOST

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Crimbo Darts Accy

Whitlock, Barneveld and Van Gerwen to win – 2.87 – 10 points – WON

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Uncle Bernstein:

Everton vs Wigan

It looked for a while at Upton Park on Saturday that Everton were going to record their 5th 1-1 draw in their last 6 matches. However, the sending off of Carlton Cole helped them over the line, as correctly predicted by my colleague Dr Zoidberg. With this win under their belts, I expect them to continue their excellent first half of the season with a victory over Wigan on Boxing Day. Although Wigan were perhaps a bit unlucky to lose to Arsenal, they are on a bad run with just one win (at home against Reading) in their last 8 games. At the moment, these two clubs are heading in opposite directions and Everton should be able to give the home fans something to cheer about.

20 pts – Asian Handicap Everton (-1.0) @ 2.38 – WON

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Fulham vs Southampton:

Fulham tend to get homesick away from the comforts of Craven Cottage and their trip to Liverpool was a performance of ‘norovirus’ proportions. If they’re going to arrest their slide down the table it is going to be at home and in the next two games they have a good chance of stopping the rot. Southampton visit on Boxing Day on the back of a disappointing result at home to Sunderland. They have won just one of their 6 away games in the Premier League so far – against QPR. Although they have a few match winners in their side, they will be without Adam Lallana who is their main creator. I think Fulham will have enough to squeak the win in a close game.

15 pts – Fulham win @ 1.94 – LOST

5 pts – Fulham to win by 1 @ 3.5 – LOST

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Stoke vs Liverpool:

If Fulham are stronger at home then Stoke are almost unbeatable. They still haven’t lost a home game at the Brittania since February and have conceded just three goals there so far this term. Overall, they have kept the most clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals of anyone in the Premier League. Liverpool bounced back from their defeat by Villa with a comfortable win over Fulham, but they face a far stiffer test at Stoke. Stoke are the league’s draw specialists, recording their 10th at Spurs on Saturday, and I think that is the likely outcome against Liverpool.

20 pts – Draw @ 3.55 – LOST

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QPR vs WBA:

So Harry’s unbeaten run finally came to an end at Newcastle but his first few games will have given the QPR fans hope that they can still avoid the drop this season. After the defeat on Saturday, Harry lashed out about his overpaid and under motivated players, which might or might not get them up for this game. They could just as easily respond by shrugging their shoulders and congratulate Harry on stating the obvious as they could by putting in a match winning performance against West Brom. The Baggies broke their losing streak by coming from behind against the in-form Norwich and should make life tough for QPR. Whoever comes out on top, however, there should be some goals on offer.

20 pts – Over 2.5 goals @ 1.96 – WON

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King George VI Chase:

It is going to be wet and muddy at Kempton on Boxing Day so it will take a horse of some class and stamina to win the King George. A number of high profile withdrawals has left 2010’s winner, Long Run, as the favourite and if he can reproduce the performance that saw him win in 2010 and finish 2nd to the great Kauto Star last year, he should have enough to see off the competition this time around. The Giant Bolster has been to close to Long Run a number of times and the booking of AP makes him tempting at 8/1.

15 pts – Long Run @ 3 – WON

2.5 pts e/w – The Giant Bolster @ 9 (1/4 odds 1,2,3) – LOST

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Dr. Zoidberg:

Boxing Day is one of the great sporting days of the year and there’s no better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in front of the TV and finishing the last of the port and cheese left over from the day before. Despite the industrial action which has robbed me of seeing my team WHU, it still has all the makings of another cracking day. Looking down the football card I like the way a lot of the games are set up and I favour we’ll have a number of goals today. It’s amusing to anticipate a few goalkeepers with sore heads behaving in the manner of “Calamity James” and gifting a few easy goals, or the like of Rio Ferdinand being even more leaden footed by the second portion of Christmas pudding he consumed on Christmas day. However in this professional era it’s unlikely to be the case and so I’ll have to go with usual instinct and analysis to try and legitimise the goal fest I’ve predicted!

Fulham vs Southampton

Despite a home win over Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, Fulham are still struggling for the sort of form which made Craven Cottage a real fortress last year. A number of injuries, particularly in midfield have left them a bit short in keys areas. They’ve failed to keep a clean sheet since November and I can’t see them keeping one here. At the other end, they have the intricate Dimitar Berbatov who will undoubtedly continue to create chances for the home side.

Southampton should bring their attacking game to a place where they will genuinely feel as though they can get something from the game. A disappointing result last weekend, should see them fired up for this trip into London.

30 Pts – Over 3.5 Goals – 2.75 – LOST

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Reading vs Swansea

Reading put in a great performance last weekend and were unlucky to come away with nothing from the Etihad. I think it’ll give them some confidence coming into today’s game which is a much more realistic prospect for picking up some points. Swansea had a great result at home to Manchester United, but I feel that the Swansea players are as likely as anyone to be guilty of a Christmas hangover than most. The odds were also a steering factor with 3.0 for a home win proving just a touch long to ignore for a side desperate to pick up a home win.

10 Pts – Reading win – 3.0  – LOST

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QPR vs West Brom

Harry’s rant after a cagey affair at St James Park last weekend will hopefully have fired his players into life. He cancelled the Christmas party for just such a day as today and against an inconsistent West Brom side, I think he’ll see some reward.

15 Pts – QPR win – 2.4 – LOST

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Other Goals Galore bets:

Manchester United vs Newcastle

20 Pts – Over 3.5 goals –  2.0 – WON

Villa vs Spurs

20 Pts – Over 3.5 Goals – 2.25 – WON

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