I don’t particularly like betting too aggressively after there’s been an FA cup or international weekend. It feels as though the form slate has been wiped clean and anyone is capable of getting a result. I’ve therefore only gone for one banker this week and it’s at the Cardiff City Stadium. Both these teams had contrasting results last weekend, Cardiff fell to a “giant killing” upset as non-league Macclesfield progressed past them to the fourth round, whereas Ipswich put up a spirited display against Aston Villa and were only denied a replay by a late goal. However despite my opening comment, this is one match where I’m struggling to see how Town can prevail against the best home record in English football. Cardiff rested their full starting XI in the cup and they’ll be anxious to maintain their seven point gap and secure their season’s aim of promotion.
35 Pts – Cardiff Win (-1 Handicap) @ 2.5 – LOST
Who knows how Villa are going to deal with their latest implosion. Their youngsters must have thought they only needed to turn up to get past Bradford and into the Wembley final. I suppose they’ll put it down as another lesson learned the hard way. Just a few days before, they had shown resilience to come from behind to beat Ipswich in their FA Cup 3rd round tie, but their fans will be far more concerned about staying in the top flight. Likewise, I don’t think Southampton will be too concerned about being knocked out of the Cup and should put in another good showing at Villa this weekend. I’m not sure which way this game will go but I would be very surprised if it wasn’t an open and free scoring encounter. Southampton have conceded 24 goals in 9 away games while Villa have conceded 21 in their last 6 matches! Both teams to get on the scoresheet is my banker of the weekend.
35 pts – Both teams to score @ 1.65 – LOST
The Human Toothpick:
5th placed Everton have had a great first half of the season, with Moyes managing to reverse their traditional early season slump to leave them just 3 points behind 3rd placed Tottenham. Their home form has largely been the root of this success, with only one defeat all season (Chelsea over Christmas) – and I fully expect the Toffees to continue their Goodison resilience this weekend. Baines, Felliani, Pienaar, Osman and Jelavic make a formidable spine and I think a tired Swansea (having played 12 games in 5 and a bit weeks) will be in for a tough afternoon. Factor in the travel over the last month (South Wales isn’t really close to anywhere!) and the fact they are touching distance away from a Wemley final and I think they’re due a flat performance. Previous encounters between the two have probably had a hand in the short-ish odds on offer here (Everton cruised to 3-0 away win earlier in the season), and while I don’t think it’ll be that easy this time round, I still think Everton will take the win here.
30 points – Everton WIN – 1.61 – LOST
As I said in my banker post, I find it incredibly difficult to pick results after an FA cup or international break and this weekend’s made even more difficult by some pretty tight games. I’ve therefore decided to go for a spread of drawn matches. Everyone knows that a last minute goal or a slice of luck can decide a really tight match, but I’m hopeful over five games at least three will go with my gut and finish in a draw.
The first game I’ve identified is Villa vs Southampton. Both sides have had poor results in their last outing and I anticipate a relatively cagey affair with both sat just outside the relegation zone. If anyone Southampton will probably have the edge in terms of confidence after Villa’s defeat to Bradford but their away record is so poor I doubt they’ll have enough to get over the line.
I also fancy Fulham vs Wigan to finish without either side on top. Again both sides were disappointed in the FA cup, failing to beat their lower league opposition, although Wigan made wholesale changes. I envisage both sides will get on the scoresheet but just the once.
Reading vs West Brom also looks a hard game to call, Readings form have improved in recent weeks and they’ll fancy getting something out of this game. West Brom have been a little more hit or miss away from home and I think they’ll struggle to get the better of a re-invigorated Reading.
Of all the games Alan Pardew would have asked for after the disappointment of being dumped out of the cup I think Norwich away would have been one of the last. Their fans will come with high expectations and as many teams have found this year it’s not an easy place to come and leave with all the spoils. I think Newcastle though will raise themselves enough to get a point as they find themselves getting dragged into the relegation mire.
Finally Arsenal vs Man City offers my last suggestion for a draw. I think Mancini will be cautious with his team selection and pack the midfield, especially as he’s missing his main attacking outlet in Sergio Aguero. This should subdue Arsenal’s dynamic midfield trio and I think goals will be hard to come by in this one.
10 Pts – Villa vs Saints Draw @ 3.5 – LOST
10 Pts – Fulham vs Wigan Draw @ 3.6 – WON
10 Pts – Reading vs West Brom Draw @ 3.5 – LOST
10 Pts – Norwich vs Newcastle Draw @ 3.5 – WON
10 Pts – Arsenal vs Man C Draw @ 3.6 – LOST
It is very difficult to know which Chelsea is going to turn up each week. Recently, they’ve won up at Everton, lost at home to QPR, cruised past Southampton away and then bogged up their first semi-final leg at home to Swansea. It would appear that playing away from their home fans suits them better but I don’t think they’ll be looking forward to a trip to Stoke this Saturday. As mentioned previously in these pages, Stoke’s home form is phenomenal and, although they almost lost their impressive record to Southampton, they showed great character and resilience to get something from that game. Surely Demba Ba will play for Chelsea to cope with Stoke’s strength but I’m not convinced they’ll have enough to escape with all three points. Stoke are the league’s draw specialists (with 11) and I think that’s the most likely outcome in this one.
10 pts – Draw @3.55 – LOST
5 pts – HT/FT Draw/Draw @ 5.4 – LOST
QPR vs Tottenham:
Could this be the start of the great escape for QPR? Their fans are starting to dream after their shock victory at local rivals Chelsea. That evening, QPR capitalised on a weakened Chelsea side who took the opposition too lightly. However, QPR failed to kick on from that result with a draw at home to West Brom in the FA Cup and they now face an extremely tough league game against Tottenham. Spurs have been on a fantastic run of late and brushed Coventry aside with ease in the Cup. I maintain that they set up well for away games, with the pace of Bale and Lennon on the wings, and they should have enough to win this London derby. It will be interesting to see how they cope without Adebayor but he is available for this one having delayed his departure for the ACON. The ‘Harry’ factor will ensure that Spurs don’t have everything their own way but I’m confident they’ll come out on top.
25 pts – Tottenham win @ 1.89 – LOST
5 pts – Tottenham win and 3 or 4 goals @ 3.75 – LOST
Man Utd vs Liverpool:
Super Sunday offers up a cracking double header and I think the best value comes in the earlier of the two games. Man Utd have built an impressive lead at the top of the Premier League and there’s a whopping 21 points between them and Liverpool. In Van Persie, Utd have a man who can score big goals in big games and he may end up being the difference again on Sunday. Liverpool have been on a good run themselves but they continue to rely heavily on Luis Suarez. Although he will fancy his chances against the Utd defence, I don’t think the rest of the team can match the Utd side and I think they’re excellent value for a home win.
15 pts – Man Utd @ 1.95 – WON
5 pts – HT/FT Draw/Man Utd @ 5.8 – LOST
The Human Toothpick:
Fulham vs. Wigan
Uh-oh. It’s Craven Cottage time again. I can’t believe I’ve been tempted back, esp after they let down poor Uncle Bernstein last time out. That nagging voice in my head telling me that Fulham are good at home just won’t disappear though (despite a recent rap sheet that reads: played 3, won 0!). It helps that it’s Wigan up next though, and their record at the Cottage is awful. They’re also coming into this fixture having won 1 game in the last 10.
20 points – Fulham WIN – 2.06 – LOST
Norwich vs. Newcastle
I’m drawn back to Carrow Road again this week, with the Cannaries doing me proud at London Road in the cup last time out. Norwich have consolidated well under ex Magpie Hughton (he’s turning into a bit of a specialist at this) and 12th in the Premier League is way ahead of what many were expecting for Norwich’s supposedly tougher ‘second season’. Newcastle on the other hand are stuck in a rut at the moment, amazingly (given last year’s exploits) just 2 points off the relegation zone. Recent form has seen them concede 4 and 7 goals at Arsenal and Man U respectively, while a confidence sapping ‘cupset’ at Brighton tells its own story. Still likely to be without the influential Cabaye, Hateem Ben Arfa, and now without top scorer Demab Ba I wonder who’s going to lead the charge to haul them back into form. [Today’s reports that Coloccini is also looking to leave the club won’t help spirit either]. Like Fulham a few weeks ago, they could chose Saturday to start a turn-around (and I do think they’ll score here) but I think Norwich’s home form will carry them through.
15 points – Over 2.5 goals – 1.85 – LOST
5 points – Norwich WIN– 2.24 – LOST
2 points – Correct Score 2-1 (Norwich) – 9.6 – LOST
Reading vs. West Brom
Almost a counter intuitive bet here…with a more resilient Reading hosting an indifferent travelling Baggies side. Both teams play relatively open football though, and I can see both having enough chances over the 90mins. Whether either side’s strikers will take those chances remains to be seen, but I’m going to plump for a scappy game, with both sided notching (somehow!).
15 points – Both teams to score – 1.66 – WON
The Sony Open, PGA Tour:
First venture into the golf market for me this weekend, and I’m starting with a tournament I don’t know a huge amount about. But as it’s going to be on Sky Sports 2 all weekend, I thought why not! I had two players recommended to me ahead of this tournament and the more digging I did on them, the more interested I became. Scott Langley is a rookie on his debut season here (not usually helpful for top 10 finishes), but his ‘bogey avoidance’ stands out and he’s had a cracking start (leading after the first round). Disappointingly he started the tournament at 500-1, so most of the value may be gone here…but I’m going to back him to stay in touch over the weekend. Billy Horschel meanwhile has also started brightly, and reports suggest that this course should suit his game.
5 points – Scott Langley TOP 10 FINISH – 3.05 – WON
3 points – Billy Horschel TOP 10 FINISH – 5.6 – LOST
The Human Toothpick:
5 points – Cardiff, Middlesbrough, Man United – 6.26 – LOST