Pundits’ Picks – Week 4 – 28/12/12

Uncle Bernstein:

Sunderland vs Tottenham

Both of these teams have hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, including impressive victories on Boxing Day. Sunderland have now won 3 of their last 4 games and have kept clean sheets in each of those wins. Tottenham have also tightened up at the back and, with Gareth Bale back from injury, they offer plenty of excitement going forward. I think playing away from home suits Spurs’s style of play and they deserve to be favourites for tomorrow’s match, but Sunderland will be full of confidence having beaten the champions and I expect the two sides to cancel each other out.

10 pts Draw @ 3.55 – LOST
5pts Draw/draw @ 5.8 – LOST
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Stoke vs Southampton

Stoke’s phenomenal home form continued on Boxing Day as they shrugged off an early goal to eventually cruise past Liverpool. They’re now 9 games unbeaten in the Premier League and have still not lost at home since February. Their run up the league has been built on a solid defence, as you would expect from Stoke, but they will always cause teams trouble up top with the strength and height of Jones, Walters and Crouch. The next visitors to try their luck at the Brittania are Southampton who have not been very impressive on their travels and are still without their most creative talent, Adam Lallana. Stoke will be missing Shawcross and Cameron at the back tomorrow, which may be why they’re as long as 1.8, but I think that’s a great opportunity to pile into a home win.

25 pts Stoke win @ 1.8 – LOST
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Man Utd vs WBA

United have provided plenty of entertainment this season with their ‘we’ll score more than you’ attitude and, just as Newcastle did on Boxing Day, visitors to Old Trafford will fancy their chances of getting at least one goal. United have shown typical resilience to come from behind so many times but surely they can’t keep giving teams a head start. WBA are next up and although they’ve stopped their slump with wins over Norwich and QPR, I think United will win with a bit to spare. Given their recent form, one might also expect there to be plenty of goals.

10pts Man Utd to win and 3/4 goals @ 2.8 – LOST
10 pts Half with most goals: 2nd @ 1.91 – LOST
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Everton vs Chelsea

3rd travel to 5th on Sunday and, with both teams in decent form, I think there’s a good chance they will cancel each other out. Chelsea have been much more solid in defence under Rafa and they will make life very hard for Everton’s attacking options. Everton have proved they can match the top sides in the league, however, and I think both sides will take a draw from this encounter.

10 pts Draw @ 3.4 – LOST
5pts Draw/draw @ 5.4 – LOST
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QPR vs Liverpool

Both will be looking to bounce back from disappointing defeats. QPR were perhaps unlucky not to get something from their game against WBA while Liverpool were outplayed by Stoke. Both teams should be able to breach the other’s defence so I fancy there to be plenty of goals to wrap up a good Sunday afternoon of footy.

20 pts Over 2.5 @ 1.99 – WON

Football League Accumulator

Arsenal, Man City, Cardiff, Hull, Sheffield Utd & Tranmere to win.

5 pts @ 19.25 – LOST

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Dr. Zoidberg:

Reading vs West Ham

Last year’s championship match-up between these two sides saw Reading come out on top both home and away in their campaign to clinching the title. As is often the case though final position in the Championship fails to correlate to life in the Premier League and there currently stands a 13 point deficit, with the Hammers having played a game less. Despite the gulf in points Reading though have seen two decent performances of late against Manchester City and Swansea on Boxing Day, where they were unlucky not to get something more from the game. West Ham should be fresher after having their Boxing Day encounter cancelled, but I feel the lack of two key players in Diame and Carroll, as well as Reading really scrapping for points, will see the Royals come out on top and get their second win of the current campaign.

25 Pts – Reading Win @ 2.7 – WON

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Stoke vs Southampton

Both sides look set to be missing players for this one; Stoke will be without Cameron and Shawcross who have both been excellent at the back and Southampton look set to continue without influential captain Adam Lallana. Stoke were excellent against Liverpool last time out and are really stringing a good run together. They have strength and depth with Adam, Crouch and Upson making up a strong bench which will prove crucial in such a busy period. Southampton on the other hand don’t have such a luxury and a trip to London followed by Stoke will prove hard work on this sort of size squad, especially with Nigel Adkins admitting “couple of knocks” were picked up on Wednesday. It’s very hard to look past a Stoke win here.

10 Pts – Stoke Win @ 1.8 – LOST

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Sunderland vs Tottenham

Gareth Bale said it in his post match interview about this time of year; “There’s no time for training, you just have recovery time and wait for the next match.” With this in mind what better way to warm up for a match than a 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa. Tottenham are set up so well for the counter attack with pace on both flanks and being able to currently accommodate Defoe and Adebayor. Obviously it would be remiss of me to ignore Sunderland’s own wonderful result on Boxing Day, but I felt more that it didn’t quite fall for City and I would be amazed if they managed the same kind of defensive performance again.

20 Pts – Tottenham Win @ 2.15 – WON

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Norwich vs Manchester City

The game at Sunderland was a disaster for Man City, not only did they drop all three points and fail to get on the scoresheet, Championship rivals Manchester United sealed a last minute come back to put the current Champions seven points off the pace. I expect a big reaction! There’s too much quality up top for them to continue to misfire and with memory of last season’s 6-1 win cheering on the away side, I really fancy them to win by a number.  Norwich put up a good fight against Chelsea but never really threatened for much of the game and I can’t see them putting up enough to stop Man City here.

15 Pts – Manchester City Win (Handicap -1) @ 2.375 – LOST

5 Pts – Manchester City Win (Handicap -2) @ 4.5 – LOST

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Brighton vs Watford

I’ve put Watford in a number of my picks so far this season and I really like the way Zola has them set up and playing. They had their game postponed on Boxing Day and should be fresh for a trip down to Brighton, who oddly also haven’t played for over a week. The odds drew me in here with a healthy return on offer to a relatively small stake.

5 Pts – Watford win @ 3.8 – WON

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Manchester United vs West Brom

Both teams were in the goals last weekend and most notably for this game, United were also leaking them at the other end too. West Brom have got some good forward players in Long, Odemwingie and Lukaku and I can’t see the home side keeping a clean sheet with the difficulties they’ve had at the back so far this season.

15 Pts – Both Teams to Score @ 1.7 – LOST

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Draw Treble

5 Pts – Aston Villa vs Wigan, Fulham vs Swansea and Everton vs Chelsea all to draw @ 30.8 – LOST

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The Human Toothpick:

Aston Villa vs. Wigan

12 goals conceded, none scored by Aston Villa in the last two. Not pretty reading for the Villans. I had expected a backlash against Spurs last time out, but despite some early resistance, a 4-0 reverse was a poor result given their home advantage. Next up? A team in equally miserable form – Wigan. I’m struggling to call the result here, but I think it’s going to remain a tight game, despite Villa’s ongoing injury woes. Neither manager can really afford another loss, especially not a heavy one and I expect a cagey first 60mins. Who wins it after that is anyone’s guess, but given the low confidence on both sides I think the odd goal might nick it.

Under 2.5 goals – 1.83 – 10 points – LOST

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Fulham vs. Swansea

Fulham badly let me down on Boxing day, struggling to put a battling Saints side away, and in truth probably only deserving of the draw Rickie Lambert’s late penalty consigned them to. Nevertheless I’m going to back them again here, hopeful that Martin Jol’s stinging post match criticism of his team will provoke a reaction. With Ruiz hopefully restored to the starting 11 (after a sub appearance on Thursday), and a Michu-less Swansea I think Fulham will (belatedly) get the win they need to keep that breathing space from the relegation black hole. The impressive Pablo Hernandez and Rangel do return for the Swans – but I’m hoping a bit of rustiness will de-rail their West London adventure.

Fulham win – 2.14  – 15 points – LOST

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Stoke vs. Southampton

I was surprised at the relatively generous odds on offer here, with Stoke’s ongoing and imperious home form perhaps not being given the full recognition it deserves. This may be in part due to another resilient Saints performance at Craven Cottage on the weekend –but despite the key injury to Shawcross I think Fortress Brittania will be a bridge to far for Nigel Adkins’ men. Llalana looks set to miss out, which again will be a big miss for the new boys and if Kenwyne Jones can continue the form shown over the last few weeks (keeping Crouchy on the bench) then I think him and (notorious home boy) Walters will prove to be the difference. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Saints goal here though, and not just because Shawcross will be in the stands.

Stoke win – 1.89 – 30 points – LOST

Both teams to score – 1.98 – 10 points  – WON

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Arsenal vs. Newcastle

A boxing day rest, a remarkably inconsistent Newcastle side and home support – What can go wrong for the Gunners? Sadly quite a lot it would seem, going on previous home defeats this season. Regardless, I’m backing Arsene and his men to edge this one, with Newcastle probably a little jaded following their sapping 7 goal thriller at Old Trafford. The odds of a straight Arsenal win are a bit skinny at 1.46 though, so slightly tentatively I’m going to back goals as well, hoping that an early goal in either direction will see the game open up.

Arsenal win & 2.5 goals – 2 – 10 points – WON

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QPR vs. Liverpool

Looks like it’s going to be a long, hard slog for Redknapp and his band of millionaires if they’re going to survive the drop again this season –with frustrations regarding wage packets and under-achievers already showing through at Loftus Road. The return from illness of Ryan Nelsen (if it happens) could be important here…although more likely the result will be dictated by which Liverpool turns up. In any event, I think it might be a tight first 45 – with neither team wanting to be out of the contest come the 70th minute mark.

Draw half time – 2.16 – 10 points – LOST

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Adrian Lewis vs. Michael Van Gerwen

One lucky darts treble and you think you’re Eric Bristow. Typical. I can’t help it though – I think the PDC is as exhilarating as always this year, and things are just starting to hot up. Ex-champ Lewis managed to rile the rather boisterous Ally Pally faithful during his win against Kevin ‘the artist’ Painter and I think he’s got a tough match on his hands here. That said, I’m surprised Van Gerwen is the clear favourite, given his lengthy absence from the game, and so have stayed away from match odds. I like Van Gerwen’s treble throwing though, and I’m backing him to shade a high scoring affair.

Michael van Gerwen most 180s – 1.85 – 10 points – WON

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Premier League Treble

Man City to win, with Reading and Everton both drawing – 16.44 – 5 points – LOST

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