West Ham vs QPR:
QPR have had an impressive couple of weeks, being unbeaten in their last four matches and starting to gain a slither of belief that the drop might be beatable. The opposition they’ve faced in that time all sit in the top seven of the Premier League and two of the games were London derbies, which is no mean feat. Here they’re faced with another and I think they’ll continue their good run of form, against a stop start West Ham side in terms of form. The new signing of Loic Remy, whilst his motives have been questioned, will undoubtedly boost the dressing room and it’ll ensure the Trevor Brooking lower tier is bursting with super hoop fans. Harry’s got his defence organised with only one goal conceded in the games referenced above and with Sam setting his stall out in similar fashion, it seems unlikely the goals will flow. To cover the risk of a low scoring encounter, I’ve hedged my bets with the draw as well.
35 Pts – QPR and Draw double chance @ 1.75 – WON
Man City vs Fulham:
One of the league’s strongest home teams hosts one of the worst away sides and it’s difficult to see anything but a convincing home win. City have found their scoring boots in recent weeks which has seen them win 5 of their last 6. I worry about how their foreign stars will like the cold this weekend but I don’t think Fulham will trouble them. City have also been defensively very strong at home and they should be able to keep out a Fulham side that travelled all the way to Blackpool on Tuesday for their FA Cup replay.
35 pts – City win by 2 or more @ 1.66 – WON
5 pts – 2-0 @ 7.8 – WON
5 pts – 3-0 @ 9.4 – LOST
The Human Toothpick:
Not a particularly inventive bet here, but I’m backing (the increasingly unpredictable) Fulham to take a tonking at the hands of the Champions. As always, there’s a slight danger that Fulham buck their recent miserable form trend, but it just feels like the type of game they’re going to lose 3 or 4 -nil. With Aguero nearing a return to fitness, Dzeko would love to put down his marker once again in his quest for regular starts. Fulham meanwhile will benefit from Sidwell’s return (never thought I’d be typing those words!), which will allow Ruiz and Berbatov to push forward and try and work their magic. Nevertheless, Mancini’s men have quietly won their last 4 league games, and without any European commitments for the rest of the season, Roberto will want to make sure they are well positioned should Man U slip up.
35 points – Man City -1 – 1.66 – WON
Liverpool vs Norwich
If there’s one thing Luis Suarez loves, apart from polarising opinion and causing dispute, it’s playing and more specifically scoring against Norwich city. He’s managed back to back hat tricks at Carrow Road and will no doubt be keen to put this week’s diving controversy behind him after his admission about an incident in October. Liverpool played well in the second half at Old Trafford and should take some confidence from the way Suarez and Sturridge seemed to gel. With Steven Gerrard also looking back to something new his best, I anticipate Liverpool to run out easy winners here.
10 Pts – Luis Suarez to score two or more @ 3.25 – LOST
Tottenham vs Man U:
This fixture has yielded some fantastic matches over the years and I envisage another cracker on Sunday. With United holding a seven point lead over championship rivals, they have little to lose and with the return of Wayne Rooney I believe they’ll be going out for all three points at White Hart Lane. It’s unfortunate that Emmanuel Adebayor has left for the African Nations as he would no doubt have caused some problems, however Defoe supported by Bale, Lennon and Dempsey should give adequate firepower to get at least one on the scoresheet for the home side.
15 Pts – Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.625 – LOST
Southampton vs Everton:
Southampton continue to throw up some surprise results. Having won at Villa Park, they overturned a two goal deficit against Chelsea on Wednesday night to steal a point. Previously Chelsea have only failed to win two games in their Premier League history having held a two goal lead, which makes it all the more impressive. Despite all that though I think this weekend will be a bump back to reality with the Saints being on the receiving end of an Everton backlash after they were held at home last time out. Everton are a quality side and seem particularly skilled at seeing off lower level opposition.
15 Pts – Everton Win @ 2.05
Swansea vs Stoke:
Having had one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, Stoke have had something of a nightmare in their last three outings where they’ve leaked ten goals. This weekend I expect them to restore a bit of solidity at the back, against a Swansea side who’ll undoubtedly have half an eye on their League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea in midweek.
10 Pts – Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.62 – LOST
5 Pts – Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.0 – LOST
Liverpool eventually put in a decent showing at Old Trafford last Sunday but it was too little too late. Already Daniel Sturridge looks like he will bring a bit more attacking edge to a side that has relied too heavily on Luis Suarez, but we’re yet to see whether Brendan Rogers can squeeze both of them into the same side. There’s a chance Sturridge might start up front on Saturday with Suarez roaming just behind him, or he might have to settle for some second half action from the bench. Either way, Liverpool should fancy their chances of comfortably beating a Norwich side in poor form.
20 pts – Liverpool to win by 2 or more @ 1.83 – WON
10 pts – Liverpool to win and 3 or 4 goals @ 2.8 – LOST
Sunday offers up another fantastic double header this weekend and both games look extremely close. In the early game, Chelsea will have to play in front of their disgruntled home fans again and anything but a win will be greeted with more boos. Like the hosts, Arsenal probably prefer playing away from the pressure of their home support and will look to hit Chelsea on the break at pace. The second game should also be close and I think both teams would probably take a point now. United and Spurs have been in devastating form but this should be an even match up. Although United probably have the better ‘match winners’ in RVP and Rooney, Spurs can keep it tight at the back and provide a platform for Bale, Lennon and co. to attack. I fancy entertain draws at both.
5 pts – Chelsea vs Arsenal Draw @ 3.75 – LOST
5 pts – Spurs vs Man United Draw @ 3.6 – WON
The New England Patriots are worthy favourites to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy in next month’s Super Bowl, but they first need to win their AFC Championship match up against the Baltimore Ravens. Last weekend’s playoff matches produced some phenomenal action, including the Ravens’ double overtime victory at the Denver Broncos, and there should be more fireworks this weekend. The Patriots, who came through the regular season with an impressive 12-4 record, avoided trouble when they eventually cruised past the Houston Texans last weekend and, with their dynamic offense marshalled by one of the game’s greatest QBs, they should have enough to get past the Ravens. However, the Ravens won the regular season game between these two 31-30 and they should make like difficult again for the Patriots.
In the NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers head to the Atlanta Falcons in what is expected to be a very close match up. The 49ers reached this stage last year, where they lost to the eventual winners (the New York Giants), while the Falcons are aiming to win the Super Bowl for the first time. San Fran looked impressive against the Green Bay Packers last weekend and in Colin Kaepernick they have an exciting new breed of QB who is as happy running with the football as he is passing and throwing it. The Falcons will have home advantage but I wonder whether their lack of experience at this late stage of the season and high expectations from their own fans will heap too much pressure on them (witness their almost choke from 20-0 up at half time last weekend).
5 pts – Patriots to win by 1 – 6 pts @ 5.2 – LOST
5 pts – Patriots to win by 7 – 12 pts @ 4.4 – LOST
5 pts – 49ers to win by 1 – 6 pts @ 4.7 – WON
The Human Toothpick:
Go back to 2001 and Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds made up 3 of the top 5 that season. Champions league, Uefa cup…everything looked great for the three northern teams…but a lot has happened in 10 years and Saturday’s fixtures see Leeds line up against Bristol City in the Championship, while the Reds and the Magpies take on Norwich and Reading respectively. The odds on offer here are, I suspect, slightly different to the ones that would have been offered in 2001…but with Newcastle arresting an alarming decline at Carrow Road last week, Liverpool impressing in the 2nd half at Old Trafford I’m backing the sleeping giants to prevail. Leeds, as with most Championship sides, might end up being the fly in the ointment…but I’m going to back them to beat an out of sorts Bristol City.
15 points – Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds to WIN – 3.96 – LOST
Watford vs Huddersfield:
I’m backing Championship favourite Watford this weekend after they shocked Middlesbrough at the Riverside last weekend (and in doing so ruining my mini accumulator). They’ve been in half decent nick at home (despite the odd shock [thanks Charlton]), and I think they’ll overcome a faltering Huddersfield here. They’ve beaten them once already this season and (as long as it’s on) I’m hoping (top scorer) Vydra and co. can fire them to 3 points. If they want to finish the season in the playoffs…these are the games they need to win.
10 points – Watford win – 1.82 – WON
India vs. England:
Despite England’s great start to this ODI series, I believe we will fundamentally continue to struggle in limited overs cricket on the continent…esp if we insist on playing the leaky Jade Dernbach! Without Swann and Anderson, we lack a little depth…and I think Dhoni’s return to form is ominous. India’s seam bowling still seems a tad short, but with Yuvraj and the other spinners keeping us quiet in the middle overs…I can see us struggling to keep pace…
15 point – India win – 1.69 – WON
Tennis tends to be one of the easier sports to pick a string of results (famous last words!), esp in the 5 setter Grand Slams where the ‘better’ player has longer to prevail…and I’m going to start by unashamedly picking a few favourites to progress. The odds are understandably quite short…but (despite the heat) I’m hoping that there won’t be too many shocks at this stage of the tournie.
20 points – Murray, Tsonga, Del Potro, Federer, Berdych, Djokovic to WIN – 1.54 – LOST
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship:
Anders Hansen is in decent form, and likes the Desert. He had another good year in 2012 with 13 top 20 finishes in his 24 appearances but really starting playing well at the back end of the season where he had five top 10s in his last 9 tournaments. This run includes 40 consecutive rounds par or better going all the way back to the USPGA Championship in August. He’s started this week solidly enough (current 2 under par) and I’m backing him for a top ten finish.
5 points – Anders Hansen TOP 10 finish – 4.9 – WON
5 Pts – Accumulator of West Brom Win, Everton Win, QPR/Draw Double Chance, Liverpool Win, Man C Win, Wigan Win, Under 2.5 Goals in Swansea/Stoke game, Over 2.5 Goals in Spurs vs Man U and India to win Cricket @ 102.2 – LOST