Watford vs Derby:
Watford are genuine automatic promotion contenders this year and have had two fantastic away results in the last week. Zola managed to make three changes for the trip to Ipswich in the hope of keeping his squad fresh for the rigours of the Championship fixture card. In comparison to the teams around them, Watford’s home form looks patchy to say the least but when you take Derby’s away form into consideration, this looks as though it should be a regulation home win and a comfortable one at that.
40 Pts – Watford Win @ 1.83 – WON
Newcastle vs Southampton:
This is an interesting clash between two teams desperate to pull away from the relegation zone. Both have recorded good results in recent weeks and I can’t pick a winner from this game. However, I do fancy some goals for both sides. Newcastle have scored in all but 2 of their 13 home league games this season and have managed just 3 clean sheets at the Sports Direct Arena. Southampton meanwhile have an excellent scoring record away from home – they have the joint 6th best away goals record in the league and the 2nd best outside of the current top 4. Unfortunately for them, Southampton have also conceded a whopping 30 goals on the road which is 2nd only to Aston Villa. While the Saints have enjoyed a rest this week, Newcastle have been all the way to Ukraine (earning a confidence boosting win against Metalist Kharkiv). This game isn’t until Sunday lunchtime and I hope everyone has their scoring boots on.
50 pts – Both teams to score @ 1.67 – WON
The Human Toothpick:
The subject of our 25 to 1 bet this week, I’ve decided to put further trust in a high scoring game here – hopeful that these two can continue on trend and deliver goals. There are some great stats that have gone into our write up of the aforementioned 25-1, but the core to my bet is that I expect Wigan to score at least on (they’ve scored in 9 of their 13 away games so far this season)…meaning that Reading will need at least two to get a result here – something they could well do, given their recent form. I just hope Brian McDuchebag start super-sub Adam le Fondre on the bench…ready for another 20min cameo!
25 points – OVER 2.5 goals – 1.89 – WON
QPR vs Man U:
It wasn’t that long ago that some journalists were debating Manchester United’s defensive frailties and with the injury to Phil Jones, as well as half an eye on the return Champions League tie, I’d be surprised if they had their strongest defensive unit out for this one. You can’t deny that they held an abundance of quality up front and even it turns out to be the second string of Hernandez and Welbeck I think it’s very likely they’ll get on the scoresheet. Christopher Samba said he was ashamed of the super hoops 4-1 defeat at Swansea and has demanded better from his teammates. Loic Remy is a doubt, but I feel with or without him the atmosphere of a must win encounter will be enough to see them notch at least one goal.
20 Pts – Both Teams to Score @ 1.8 – LOST
Blackburn vs Leeds:
Blackburn’s have made steady progress under the stewardship of Michael Appleton and he’ll be keen to get back to winning ways after an FA Cup hangover saw them beaten away to Hull. Despite his disappointment, losing to second in the table away from home, is not something to lose sleep over and I’m expecting a positive response at Ewood Park on Saturday. Their FA Cup quarter final isn’t for a number of weeks and only playing Millwall, it shouldn’t distract the players from the job in hand. Leeds have had a particularly inconsistent season and it’s their away form that has really let them down, with this in mind I can’t see them coming away with much from this encounter, especially against an inform Jordan Rhodes.
15 Pts – Blackburn Win @ 2.0 – LOST
England vs France:
On paper this looks like a test match between two pretty even sides, form obviously tells a different story with England completing two victories to France’s two losses. The odds suggest an easy England win, but I can’t help feel that the French seem to perform well against the odds. In the World Cup they were practically written off and came within inches of winning the whole thing. I’m not convinced they will roll England over at HQ Twickenham but I envisage a tight encounter, which should see France home well within their generous handicap.
15 Pts – France Win (+7.5 Handicap) @ 1.8 – LOST
Watford vs Derby:
15 Pts – Watford Win (-1 Handicap) @ 3.2 – LOST
Sunday afternoon sees the first domestic cup final of the season and it will be a memorable day for fans of Swansea and Bradford. Bradford, who currently sit 11th in League Two, have enjoyed a remarkable run to get to the final, beating Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa on their way. Sadly for them, I think the final might be a step too far as they face an excellent Swansea team on the large Wembley pitch. Swansea are 8th in the Premier League and are fully deserving of their place in the final for their overall contribution to the league and cups this year. Michael Laudrup has built on the team that Roberto Martinez left behind and with De Guzman, Routledge, Dyer and the outstanding Michu in front of a solid defence, I think they will win well on Sunday.
25pts – Swansea to win by 2 or more goals @ 2.08 – WON
England vs France:
Two weeks ago, France let me down considerably! I had safely negotiated my way through three legs of my multi-sport accumulator that included cricket, football and horse racing, before the French ruined it all when they ‘slipped’ to an embarrassing defeat at home to Wales. With trips to England and Ireland coming up in the next few weekends, France might need to beat Scotland in Paris on the last day to avoid the wooden spoon. However, as my fellow pundit Dr Zoidberg points out, the French are never more dangerous when they’ve got nothing to lose and I expect a response from them on Saturday afternoon. Philippe Saint-Andre has made some essential changes to his line-up for the visit to Twickenham, bringing in the reliable half-back pairing of Parra and Trinh-Duc while evergreen Vincent Clerc’s return on the wing allows the influential Fofana to move into the centre. England meanwhile have shown both flair and grit in their opening two matches and they will be looking for a combination of the those attributes to get past France. If England can win this one, and I expect them to just come out on top, they know they will have taken a considerable step towards the Grand Slam.
10 pts – England to win by under 13 points @ 2.68 – WON
Arsenal vs Aston Villa:
Arsenal fans must dread February – all too often in recent seasons they’ve started the month in contention for a variety of trophies, and sometimes even the Premier League, only to get knocked out of the cups and fall behind in the league. The defeat to Blackburn in the FA Cup and the first leg loss at home to Bayern Munich has almost ended the Gooners’ season. Their only remaining objective is that all important 4th Champions League spot and they simply must not slip up against Villa on Saturday. I think they’ll bounce back to winning ways but expect them to need at least one goal. Villa look to have turned the corner and a few good results have lifted them out of the bottom three. They have some excellent attacking talent and have scored 9 goals in their last 5 away games. They will surely have a go at a vulnerable Arsenal defence and look good value to get in on the action.
10 pts – Both teams to score @ 1.96 – WON
The Human Toothpick:
Interesting clash this, with Newcastle seemingly having turned a corner after a shaky Jan and the Saints looking ever more assured after the magnificent win against the Champions last time out. Newcastle’s efforts in the Europa league surely have to take their toll (hence the rather obvious 2nd half bet) –given their failure thus far to perform after mid-week games. Their new French contingent should make them competitive here though, especially with the Geordie faithful roaring them on…but I’m hoping Southampton (having had another 2 weeks under their new boss) will press, harry and generally annoy a tired Magpies team.
15 points – Half with most goals; 2ND – 1.73 – LOST
10 points – Over 2.5 goals – 1.82 – WON
Brighton vs. Burnley
Never that confident dipping into the Championship, given how predictably unpredictable it tends to be…but having been encouraged by wins from home favourites Cardiff and Hull last week, I’m going to back Brighton to treat the Amex faithful to another 3 points. Burnley, for their part, are in pretty poor form, with 2 points from the last 12 – and I’m hopeful that Poyet and co. will do enough early on to get their heads down once again. One danger is over-confidence given their superb win away at Cardiff mid-week…but if they can keep their high work rate up for the 2nd match in a row, I can’t see Burnley getting too much of a stranglehold.
15 points – Brighton win – 2.02 – WON
England vs. France
A low scoring round of fixtures last time out might suggest teams are starting to cancel each other out as they spend more time together. But everyone’s looking forward to the France game and I’d love to see a free-scoring affair. The England camp claim they’re going to attack, while France seem confident (as ever) of leaving HQ with a win. I’ve got a feeling the French could spring a surprise, but if they do, I hope it involved running in a few tries!
10 points – Over 39.5 points – 1.83 – LOST
This is not an easy trip for United. QPR have held Man City and Tottenham to 0-0 draws in recent weeks and United’s attack will need to be sharp against a well-rested QPR back line. However, there are already 48 points between these two teams and Utd really should come away with another three. Man Utd have won a large number of their games by just the one goal this season and I’m willing to back this outcome again at Loftus Road.
5 pts – Man Utd to win by 1 goal @3.5 – LOST
The Human Toothpick:
My last ‘gut’ feeling draw was a disaster (as Palace thumped a torrid M’boro 4-1!) – but, unlike the Brighton bet above, I’m backing City to buck the obvious trend here, and get something against a Barnsley side that have won 5 games in a row. Both teams will be desperate to avoid defeat as they strive for Championship survival – particularly the home side, who really need a result here, and I’m hoping that means enough nervousness to ensure a shaky 1-1 or something similar! City’s form has been far stronger at home (with good wins against Forest and Watford in their last two), and I would probably have liked to hedge my draw with a double chance Bristol win, but the odds are too mean…so it’s the draw or nothing!
5 points – DRAW – 3.55 – LOST