Stoke have been on an awful run of form, having boasted the best defensive record in the league at Christmas, they’ve now failed to win since Boxing Day. The start of their poor run does coincide with our tip for them to beat Southampton at home in a 15-1, but I’m pretty sure Tony Pulis isn’t yet a follower and he’ll have targeted this game as an opportunity to get back to winning ways. Wigan are still struggling defensively with a number of injury concerns and having leaked three at home to Sunderland. They’ve also failed to make any telling signings in the window so far and you begin to wonder whether it’ll start to affect the morale of the squad. I’ve no doubt Roberto Martinez will bring about a close season revival, last year they won four of their last five, but the end of January still seems a little early for something similar
70 Pts – Stoke Win @ 2.0
With the ‘run in’ now underway, neither of these sides can afford to slip up in their pursuit of that all-important Champions League qualification. It should be a fascinating end to the season with five teams in with a realistic chance of grabbing the last two slots. Arsenal and Liverpool currently sit outside of the European places and both will be desperate for 3 points at the Emirates on Wednesday evening. Arsenal’s front line, and Olivier Giroud in particular, have found their scoring boots in the last few matches and they should cause Liverpool plenty of problems. However, Liverpool haven’t struggled for goals themselves and the combination of Suarez and Sturridge looks dangerous. I’m hoping for an open game with goals at both ends.
60 pts – Both teams to score @ 1.6
QPR vs Man City:
The gap between City and their neighbours has closed to 5 points but they simply can’t afford to slip up at bottom of the table QPR. City need to try and win every game and hope that Utd, who are in irresistible form, drop points somewhere along the way. I felt unlucky that City robbed me of a profit at the weekend with their late winner at Stoke, but it was an impressive result nonetheless. In contrast, QPR were dumped out at home by League One opposition and, although the first teamers will be restored to the starting XI, they will need to do a lot better to get anything out of this game. City’s league form has been very strong lately with 6 wins in their last 7 and they really should take this chance to close the gap on the leaders to just a single point.
30 pts – Man City win @ 1.5
The Human Toothpick:
Everton did both Dr. Z and me a favour on the weekend – just about justifying our faith in them at the Reebok. By all accounts they weren’t at their best though, relying on a 90th minute winner to take them through, perhaps struggling to shake off the recent lull that’s seen them draw 0-0 twice in the last 2 PL games. Nevertheless, buoyed by the recent capture of yet another Belgian starlet, I think Moyes will get his men firing against an inconsistent West Brom side. It’s not the most exciting of bets, but I think it’s the one I have most conviction on this week. I can just see Felliani and Pienaar (who’s in decent nick at the moment) causing McAuley and co. too many problems.
40 points – Everton WIN – 1.62
QPR vs Man City:
Ryan Nelson has been central to QPR’s better fortune in the last few weeks and everyone will be behind him in his last game for the super hoops before taking up an MLS coaching role. Disregarding last weekend’s four goal catastrophe against MK Dons, QPR have only conceded two goals in five games and seem to have grown a bit of stomach for a relegation dog fight. They definitely seem to raise themselves for the big games, having kept out Chelsea and Tottenham and I expect another big performance here. Man City have picked up in form having won every game since the Manchester Derby back on 9th December and I wouldn’t bet against another result for the Champions here, but I’m expecting tough going and a low scorer.
10 Pts – Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.2
Fulham vs West Ham:
I’m going to Craven Cottage on Wednesday night and this may well have clouded my thoughts for this encounter. I don’t want to be cheering anyone but the Hammers and so cheering I shall be! Trying to look beyond my rose tinted goggles, the form does suggest that the away side have a good chance of getting something out if this not least because Fulham have been absolutely woeful and winless since mid-December. West Ham on the other hand should have beaten QPR last time out and some shrewd signings have breathed a bit of life into the squad. “My name is Ludo Miklosko……”
10 Pts – West Ham Win @ 3.4
Villa vs Newcastle:
Crikey! I can’t think of many places I’d rather not be than Villa Park for the visit of Newcastle. Two sides in terrible form with disgruntled fans and squads lacking quality. I can’t see 90 minutes splitting these two sides in what is inevitably going to be a cagey encounter.
10 Pts – Draw – 3.1
Stoke vs Wigan:
If Premier League matches were 80 rather than 90 minutes long, my profitability would have a far healthier look to it. But, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a late goals league and I’ve got to embrace it. Stoke’s form has tailed off alarmingly, without a league win since Boxing Day, but a home game against Wigan offers a great opportunity to get back on track. However, while Stoke’s season is pretty much finished now they’re all but guaranteed PL football and out of the FA Cup, Wigan will be looking to start their traditional great escape from the relegation zone. The result looks difficult to call but I was encouraged by both teams’ defence at the weekend and I expect another low scoring encounter.
5 pts – Under 1.5 goals @ 3.2
Fulham vs West Ham:
Neither of these sides has set the league on fire recently and both will hope to get back to winning ways. As with all his teams, Big Sam makes the Hammers very difficult to beat and it will be no different for their trip to Fulham. Craven Cottage is normally where Fulham secure most of their points but they’re without a win there since Newcastle visited at the beginning of December. It’s starting to look a bit ominous for Fulham and I think West Ham will take a point from the game.
5 pts – Draw @ 3.55
The Human Toothpick:
What odds for this fixture at the beginning of the season? I doubt many would offer you much apart from a United demolition job. Not so now, with Southampton gaining two very credible draws in their last two fixtures – continuing an impressive first half to the campaign (sitting as they do 4 points above the drop zone). Man U are in incredible form though, rotating their strikers to devastating effect to sweep teams aside in a flurry of goals. Rooney, Little Pea, Welbeck and RVP all seem to be taking their chances when they get them and I struggle to see past a convincing win at Old Trafford again here. S’hamton have also made a habit of scoring home and away, but given United recent defensive tightening, I think United’s clean sheet odds are a little long here, and I’m backing Vidic and Co. to keep Lambert quiet.
15 points – Over 3.5 goals -2.06
5 points – Man U clean sheet – 2.14
Stoke vs. Wigan
12 goals conceded in the last 6 games represents a mini crisis for Stoke, who, not long ago, boasted one of the best defensive records in Europe. Wigan have also been scoring (despite losing) a fair bit recently as well, so it might not seem the most obvious move to back a Stoke clean sheet here. Nevertheless, I’m backing Pulis to have been working hard on getting that steel back, especially at home, and I think they’ve got a fair chance of keeping Wigan out this evening. We’ve all waxed lyrical about Fortress Britannia on here before, and I’m going back to what I know.
7.5 points – Stoke clean sheet – 2.66
QPR vs. Man City
Rested against Stoke on Saturday, Aguero has been eased back into action following his recent hamstring injury –meaning he should be fresh here to take on Harry’s new, more solid, back line. City haven’t been the most fluid of late, but have nonetheless been picking up the results. Again, hardly the most imaginative bet…but I’m backing Sergio to make an impact here
10 points –Aguero anytime goal scorer – 2.54
The Human Toothpick:
[See above for full commentary]
5 points – Everton by 2 – 4.5