Pundits Picks – Week 5 – 31/12/12

Uncle Bernstein:

West Brom vs Fulham:

As discussed previously on NitR, Fulham are notoriously poor travellers and they do so tomorrow on the back of a terrible run of form – just one win in their last 12. WBA have been one of the success stories of the first half of this season and, while they will probably fall away in the second half, I think they have a good chance of starting the New Year with a win. WBA have taken 22 pts from a possible 30 at the Hawthorns so far and should have enough to beat Fulham at odds against.

10 pts – WBA win @ 2.06  LOST

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Tottenham vs Reading:

This fixture brings back a lot of bad memories for me. In December 2007, during Reading’s last visit to the Premier League, Spurs won 6-4 courtesy of four goals by Dimitar Berbatov. I fear this visit will not be much better for the Royals. Although they have been much improved of late and considerably more solid at the back, they will be severely tested at in-form Tottenham. Tottenham have won 6 of their last 8 matches and deservedly sit 4th in the table. Luckily for Reading, Gareth Bale will be missing tomorrow but with either Dempsey or old Royal, Sigurdsson, coming in for him they should be able to ease to a home win.

5 pts – HT/FT Draw/Tottenham @ 4.8   WON

10 pts – Half with most goals 2nd @ 2   LOST

5 pts – Tottenham to win & 3 or 4 goals @ 2.88   WON

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Wigan vs Man Utd:

Wigan won well at Villa last weekend but, against the league’s current whipping boys, anything else would have been less than satisfactory. United, meanwhile, saw off a dogged West Brom with a rare clean sheet. The return of Vidic will feel like a new signing and I expect him and United’s other big guns to start again tomorrow. Wigan should make life tough but I expect Man U to round off the festive period with another win.

10 pts – Asian Handicap Man Utd (-1.0) @ 1.83   WON

5 pts – HT/FT Draw/Man Utd @ 5.1   LOST

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Southampton vs Arsenal:

Given everything we’ve seen in recent weeks, this should be a cracker of a game with plenty of chances at both ends. Like their North London rivals, Arsenal setup well for away games and their Southampton old boys, Walcott and Ox, should strike fear into the home defence. Arsenal are in a confident mood and should have the quality to win with ease, although they’re likely to need two or three goals.

20 pts – Arsenal win @ 1.76   LOST

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Chelsea vs QPR:

Chelsea did very well to win at Everton, thanks to Frank Lampard’s brace, and they will be glad to follow that difficult game up with a home match against the league’s worst team. QPR were simply dreadful at home to Liverpool and, with rumours of in-fighting, you wonder whether the whole squad are prepared to provide the fight required to salvage their season. I would expect Benitez to rest a few of his star names but they should still secure another three points .

20 pts – Chelsea win to nil @ 2   LOST

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West Ham vs Norwich:

West Ham were perhaps a bit unlucky to become only Reading’s second victims on Saturday, with the only goal coming from a miss-hit back-pass, while Norwich eventually lost a thriller at home to Man City and their good run has lost some momentum in recent weeks. West Ham are usually difficult to beat at home and I expect a tight game. I would be tempted to back West Ham at odds against but the fact that they will be missing the influential Kevin Nolan sways me away from predicting the result. Instead I fancy a lack of goals.

10 pts – Under 2.5 goals @ 2.04   LOST

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Football League Accumulator:

Wins for Tottenham, Swansea, Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea, Watford and Crystal Palace.

5 pts @ 26   LOST

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Dr Zoidberg:

Southampton vs Arsenal:

I love the way Arsenal are playing at the moment, they have a fantastic midfield and a centre forward gunning for an extra ten grand a week in wages. What a combination! Southampton had a good result at Stoke, in particular scoring three goals, but it was a weakened back line for the home side and I feel they’ll suffer under this step up in class. New Year’s Day sees a number of home sides priced at relatively short odds and it’s hard to find value in amongst the markets, however Arsenal at 1.7 I see as exactly that sort of value in a game that’s expected to produce plenty of goals.

25 Pts – Arsenal Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25   LOST

10 Pts – Walcott to Score and Arsenal to Win @ 3.0   LOST

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West Ham vs Norwich:

West Ham’s options are threadbare at the moment, already missing key players in Diame and Carroll, they are now without Collins and their influential captain Kevin Nolan. They’ve been hit at a bad time with so many fixtures and they are slowly getting pulled into a relegation scrap. I think the mindset that this brings suggests they won’t be taking any chances on New Years Day. Norwich have doubts over two of their front men, Holt and Morrison, and although them managed three goals against ten man City, I think they will settle for a point before getting off the team coach.

15 Pts – Draw @ 3.1   LOST

5 Pts – 0-0 @ 11.0   LOST

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Spurs vs Reading:

The odds here suggest a steam roller job and whilst Tottenham have been in great form, I expect this to be a little more of a struggle. Reading have had three good performances against Man City, Swansea and West Ham which will give them plenty of confidence. Spurs play so well on the counter attack but at home I suspect they’ll have to move the away side’s bus, back-room staff and ball boys to get to goal. With no Gareth Bale I think they’ll have enough quality to get the three points but only after a first half where they huff and puff but fail to blow the house down.

10 Pts – Half time/Full time – Draw/Spurs @ 4.8   WIN

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Manchester City vs Stoke:

Like the Tottenham game, I feel Man City will struggle more than the odds suggest. Stoke will be back up to full strength and that’ll restore one of the meanest defences in the league, which they’ll be keen to reinforce after the three first half goals they leaked on Saturday. I think quality will prevail in the end but only in the second half after a goalless first.

10 Pts – Half Time Score 0-0 @ 3.5   LOST

5 Pts –  Half time/Full time – Draw/Man C @ 4.2   LOST

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Interesting Idea:

I have a theory which could prove totally unfounded however I believe that those teams who have to travel a long way on New Year’s Day will perform better than those who play at home. Rather than going to a Mario Balotelli style firework and late night party, the thought of a long couch journey and a 7am start will have the away side tucked up in bed at 12.01. I’ve delved into the Championship to test it out!

5 Pts – Hull to beat Blackpool @ 3.0   LOST

5 Pts – Wolves to beat Crystal Palace @ 4.0   LOST

5Pts – Bristol City to beat Millwall @ 5.0   LOST

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The Human Toothpick:

Phil Taylor vs. Michael Van Gerwen

Possibly the final everyone wanted to see. The incredibly talented Van Gerwen into his first PDC final, up against the man who’s won it an incredible 15 times. The bookies are split, undecided whether Van Gerwen’s form, not only in this tournament but also vs. Taylor (he’s won the last 2 meetings) should supersede Taylor’s experience in a big final. It’s the latter I’m going to go for here. I don’t doubt that Van Gerwen has the bigger ‘scoring power’, but checking out on doubles has been a weakness in the past and I fear that on the biggest stage it could potentially be his undoing. Taylor boasts a wealth of experience, and I think he might just handle the undoubtedly hot, boisterous and pressurised Ally Pally oche better (overcoming illness and some mixed form in the process). Should be a great final, whatever the outcome.

 Phil Taylor WIN – 1.97 – 15 points  WON

 Over 21.5 180s – 1.84 – 5 points  LOST

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West Brom vs. Fulham

Enough is enough. Dimitar and Co. have squandered two decent home games to play themselves back into form, and so I’m finally giving up on them. They may chose the trip to The Hawthorns to do so (sods law and all that), but it’s not an easy place to go –despite the Baggies own mixed form of late. Fulham are close to having a fully fit squad again, and the return of Riise and Duff (especially) will be a big boost, but they seem to be struggling with confidence at the moment – leaving Berbatov to fight too many battles on his own. West Brom meanwhile rested a few at Old Trafford and should edge this one.

 West Brom WIN – 2.06 – 10 points   WON

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 West Ham vs. Norwich

Always tricky backing a draw in any football game (as we saw last week!), but I’m backing Norwich to make this a tricky game for Hammers at Upton Park –with neither side running away with it. West Ham still have a few key players out (not least the suspended Nolan), while the Cannaries have showed a remarkable resilience both home and away from home.

 Draw – 3.55 – 10 points   LOST

Correct Score 1-1 – 7.6 – 5 points   LOST

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Wigan vs. Man United

Simply the most generous of the top 3’s odds this weekend. I think United bigger squad will prove important here, and despite Wigan’s good result last time out, I think Man U will come away with the 3 points. Always the chance of a New Year’s day upset, but Fergie will want to cement the lead he’s built over the Xmas period.

 Man United WIN – 1.6 – 20 points   WIN

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Tottenham vs. Reading

2 good away wins, followed by a home banker against 2nd bottom of the league…should be a foregone conclusion for Spurs fans here then. Not so. Too many missed opportunities against teams they should be beating at home, means most of the Spurs faithful will take 3 points anyway they come against a more resilient looking Reading side. I do think they’ll get those 3 points this time out, although I wouldn’t expect a cricket score. No Bale means that Dempsey, Lennon and Defoe will be required more than normal – and I’m backing the latter to step up. Afforded a 15min rest at the Stadium of Light, I’m hoping Defoe can rediscover his scoring form and take Spurs over the line here.

 Jermain Defoe anytime goalscorer – 1.94 – 10 points   LOST

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 Championship Mixer

Most in the Championship are used to games coming thick and fast, but that doesn’t make picking results any easier in this notoriously tricky league. I’m backing the two of the more in form home teams here:

Watford vs. Charlton: Watford win – 1.82 – 10 points   LOST

Crystal Palace vs. Wolves: Crystal Palace Win – 1.95 – 15 points   WIN

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