There are plenty of what should be routine home victories in the Premier League this weekend and the bookmakers will hope one or two slip up to bust those coupons! Here are previews for all seven matches taking place on Saturday 14 January 2012.
Aston Villa vs Everton
Two former greats languishing in mid-table are boosted by new signings going into this match. Aston Villa have signed Robbie Keane who gets to fulfil yet another dream of playing for yet another club he supported as a boy. He’s so lucky!
Everton boss David Moyes have attempted to fill a Mikel Arteta-sized gap by bringing in Manchester United fringe player Darron Gibson in on a four-year-deal. If the £2.5 million signing makes the same impact Phil Neville has over the years, I doubt the Toffees supporters will be disappointed.
Two sides lacking in both goals and creativity are hardly likely to produce a classic at Villa Park. Alex McLeish’s side have scored just 11 goals in 10 matches at home while Moyes’ team have scored 10 in 10 on the road. A low scoring, bore draw is my prediction.
Verdict: Draw @ 3.13 (Bet Victor)
Blackburn Rovers vs Fulham
Blackburn Rovers are in trouble. Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and an unlikely win at Manchester United on New Year’s Eve was soon followed by back-to-back defeats against Stoke City and Newcastle United. That’s more like the Rovers we have grown to know and pity this season!
To make matters worse, Steve Kean’s side are struggling defensively and will be further weakened by Chris Samba’s desire to leave Ewood Park. Two bids from QPR have already been rejected and the big defender has stated he is open to a move to Paris St. Germain. If his heart is not set on playing for Rovers he may not feature in this match.
Interestingly, Fulham striker Andy Johnson may be on his way to Rovers but it is unlikely a deal will be completed before kick-off. The Cottagers are enjoying a mini-revival of late and go into this match fresh off the back of a 4-0 victory against Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup last week and a 2-1 victory against Arsenal on 2 January.
Martin Jol’s side will be the more confident and Fulham have the perfect opportunity to add to their one away win this season.
Verdict: Fulham @ 2.5 (Boylesports)
Chelsea vs Sunderland
A potential coupon buster this weekend. Chelsea will be expected to record a home victory but Sunderland are a different prospect since Martin O’Neill took over. The Black Cats have won five, drawn one and lost one in the seven matches under the former Aston Villa boss and will relish the visit to Stamford Bridge.
Remember, Sunderland won 3-0 in West London last season and although the goalscorers that day (Nedum Onuoha, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck) are no longer at the club and O’Neill will feel confident against a team that has kept just one clean sheet at home this season.
Chelsea have been beaten at home in the league three times this season, most recently by Aston Villa on New Year’s Eve and Sunderland are more than capable of taking a point from this match.
Verdict: Draw @ 4.75 (Paddy Power)
Liverpool vs Stoke City
Liverpool will face Stoke full of confidence after their smash-and-grab victory at Manchester City in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi final earlier this week. The Reds have not been beaten at home in the league this season either and I can’t see Stoke City being the first to inflict defeat.
Tony Pulis’ side are doing very well this season and are currently in eighth position. But, they are hit-and-miss away from home. A record of four wins, one draw and five defeats, scoring just eight goals in the process does not inspire a lot of confidence. Liverpool are not particularly free scoring at home either, with 14 in 10 matches but they also have a mean defence which has leaked just eight goals.
In three Premier League visits to Anfield, Stoke have not scored a single goal and with their away record as it is this season, I can see another blank. A low scoring home win is the call.
Verdict: Liverpool @ 1.44 (bet365)
Manchester United vs Bolton Wanderers
Manchester United are going through a tricky spell after league defeats by both Blackburn and Newcastle but got back to winning ways by beating Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend.
Manager Alex Ferguson will be keen to build on that victory and make sure United do not drop points against a Bolton side sitting third from bottom in the table.
United have beaten Bolton at Old Trafford for the last eight seasons in a row since Kevin Nolan netted the only goal back in the 2002/03 season. Five of United’s subsequent victories have seen them keep a clean sheet and Alex Ferguson’s side put five past Bolton without reply at the Reebok Stadium in September. Wayne Rooney bagged a hat-trick and Javier Hernandez a brace that day.
Ferguson will not accept any Blackburn-style hiccups this weekend and judging by the price on offer for a home win, the bookmakers believe there is only going to be one result.
Verdict: Manchester United @ 1.17 (Ladbrokes)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Wolves
It’s great to see Tottenham giving it a real go this season and pushing the Manchester teams all the way at the top. Their 2-0 victory against Everton this week put Harry Redknapp’s team level on points with United and just three points behind City at the top of the table.
Spurs have won eight and drawn one of their last nine at White Hart Lane after losing their first home match of the season 5-1 against Manchester City. It’s an incredible sequence and all three points will be expected against Wolves who hover precariously above the relegation zone.
Mick McCarthy’s side have lost six out of 10 away from home and scored just eight goals. They have conceded 19 on the road, almost two per match and a Spurs side that has netted on average two goals at home this season will fancy their chances. Spurs keeper Brad Friedel has also kept a clean sheet in five of his last six home matches in the league.
Verdict: Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.3 (Coral)
West Bromwich Albion vs Norwich City
Just three points separate these teams in the Premier League but it is Norwich that look the healthier, sitting in ninth place while West Brom look at those below them in fifteenth. The Canaries have drawn more matches on the road than anybody in the current top 12 and they may settle for another today.
In their last three away games, Paul Lambert’s side recorded a win and two draws one while West Brom have not won at home in their last four league matches. Roy Hodgson’s team have a poor record at home this season, winning just twice.
The last time these sides met at The Hawthorns in the Premier League back in the 2004/05 season the match ended goalless. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat here, especially as the Baggies have not scored at home in their last two league fixtures.
Verdict: Draw @ 3.5 (Betfred)