Premier League Predictions 5 February 2012

On Sunday 5 February, Manchester United look to end a winless run at Chelsea that spans almost a decade in the Premier League while Newcastle United could unleash the “Two Demba’s” on an Aston Villa side unbeaten in their last five away fixtures.

Newcastle United vs Aston Villa

Newcastle welcome back top goal scorer Demba Ba and could hand a debut to £10 million striker Papiss Cisse in the televised lunchtime kick off. Alan Pardew’s side are in good form at home, winning their last three in all competitions, including a 3-0 defeat of Manchester United.

What is exciting about Newcastle’s form is they have won four of their last six league matches, even when key players like Ba and Cheick Tiote have been missing. The Magpies are unbeaten in their last five at home against Villa, including handing out a 6-0 drubbing at the beginning of last season.

This is not a cut-and-dried home victory though. Villa are unbeaten in their last five away matches in the Premier League and have won their last two – at Wolves and Chelsea.

Alex McLeish’s side showed great spirit coming from two goals down against QPR midweek to draw the fixture but they have not scored in their last three visits to Newcastle.

With a bolstered front line – the “Two Demba’s” have scored 59 league goals between them since the start of last season, the Magpies are tipped to outgun Villa, with Darren Bent having scored in his last three league appearances.

Verdict: Newcastle United @ 2.15 (Bet Victor)

Chelsea vs Manchester United

This is a crucial time in United’s season – having beaten Arsenal a few weeks ago, they face Chelsea this weekend and then host Liverpool next Saturday. They have also played Manchester City and Liverpool in the FA Cup in recent weeks.

The big games are coming thick and fast and it is time to put the notion that United always step up a gear in the second half of the season to the test.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine home league matches against United – winning six and drawing three with United scoring just five goals during that sequence.

But, with John Terry missing with a knee injury and Ashley Cole suspended, United have a great opportunity to end their winless run at Stamford Bridge. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Nani and Tom Cleverly are all available for Sir Alex Ferguson too. Under-fire goalkeeper David de Gea is set to return between the sticks after Anders Lindegaard was ruled out for six weeks.

Chelsea’s form has not been great. Since beating Manchester City at the Bridge convincingly, they have won just twice in eight league fixtures, despite having a relatively easy run of opponents.They lost at home to Aston Villa and dropped points against Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City and Swansea City.

Rooney has a great record against Chelsea – scoring six in 12 meetings while it is now 17 hours and 56 minutes since Fernando Torres scored for the Blues. Only youngster Daniel Sturridge looks dangerous for Andres Villas-Boas and he hasn’t found the net in his last five league and cup appearances.

Verdict: Manchester United @ 2.9 (Betfred)

FA Cup Fourth Round Betting Preview 28 January 2012

The FA Cup fourth round is in full swing on Saturday 28 January and here are some insights into all 12 matches taking place including the titanic lunchtime kick-off at Anfield where Liverpool take on Manchester United!

Queens Park Rangers vs Chelsea

A potential powder keg awaits at Loftus Road which may explain the midday nature of the kick-off. It’s the first time both London sides meet since the race row between Chelsea’s John Terry and QPR’s Anton Ferdinand and it’s likely the focus will surround that rather than the action taking place on the pitch.

New QPR manager Mark Hughes got his first victory since taking charge when his side beat lowly Wigan Athletic last week and have a solid chance at home against stuttering Chelsea. The Blues were held to a goalless draw last week and were unconvincing in a 1-0 victory against Sunderland the week before.

This could turn out to be a bad tempered game and one which may need a replay.

Verdict: Draw @ 4.0 (Sky Bet)

Liverpool vs Manchester United

The second fixture dogged by racist abuse is also set for an early kick off on Saturday. This will be the first time both teams have played eachother since Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for abuse directed at Patric Evra during a 1-1 draw last October.

Liverpool were good value for their 2-2 draw against Manchester City midweek, a result which set up a Carling Cup final clash against Cardiff City (correctly predicted here and here). Kenny Dalglish’s team will not fear United and the FA Cup is a welcome distraction from their poor league form which sees a top four finish increasingly unlikely.

United demonstrated their quality when they beat Arsenal late on at the Emirates last weekend and while Sir Alex Ferguson would prefer this tie not to need a replay, there is a strong chance it will.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.3 (Bet Victor)

Blackpool vs Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday caused an upset in the third round when they defeated Championship high-fliers West Ham 1-0 at Hillsborough but they may find the visit to Blackpool a much tougher prospect.

Blackpool still have the on-form Matt Phillips, who has scored seven goals in his last six games for the Seasiders, including two hat-tricks, after the club rejected a bid from Cardiff City.

Ian Holloway’s team are unbeaten in their last six matches at Bloomfield Road and haven’t tasted defeat in their home turf since Nottingham Forest beat them 2-1 last October. Wednesday have won their last six out of seven league and cup matches on the road, but I feel they will come unstuck against Blackpool.

Verdict: Blackpool @ 1.91 (bet365)

Bolton Wanderers vs Swansea City

Bolton Wanderers are in real danger of relegation from the Premier League this season but proved they will not go down without a fight by beating Liverpool 3-1 last Saturday.

Swansea City are also doing their best to remain in the top flight but their results are as excellent as they are awful. At home, Brendan Rogers’ side are a match for anybody – as proven in their 3-2 victory against Arsenal. But, on the road, they are prone to defeat and have lost seven out of 11 against Premier League opposition this season.

Let’s not pretend Bolton are any great shakes at home either – the victory against Liverpool was only their second of the season. But with Swansea almost incapable of scoring goals away from the Liberty Stadium, the bet has to be Bolton.

Verdict: Bolton Wanderers @ 2.5 (Betfred)

Derby County vs Stoke City

After a bright start to the Championship season, Derby now find themselves in eleventh place but are just two points behind sixth placed Birmingham City. The Rams have won their last five league and cup fixtures at home, including beating West Ham United on New Years Eve and Carling Cup semi finalists Crystal Palace in the third round.

Stoke appear to be stuttering of late. Last weekend they lost 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion (as predicted here) and have won just once in their last six Premier League outings. It could be that Europa League involvement is taking it out of their relatively small squad.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis may want as high a finish as possible in the Premier League as a priority to FA Cup progress and with ground to make up on Liverpool in seventh, a few fringe players may be selected here.

Verdict: Derby County @ 3.5 (Betfred)

Hull City vs Crawley Town

Hull are progressing quietly and confidently under Nick Barmby this season and occupy fifth spot in the Championship table. The Tigers have won five of their last six league and cup fixtures at home, including a confident 3-1 dispatching of Ipswich Town in the third round.

League Two Crawley have been excellent value in the FA Cup this season. They are unbeaten in their last 10 league and cup fixtures on the road since they were thumped 6-0 by Morecambe last September. Steve Evans’ side defeated Championship outfit Bristol City in the last round and will be looking for another scalp here.

But, Hull are a different prospect to the Robins, who have hovered around the lower reaches of the Championship all season. Crawley will certainly not be underestimated but the team from the higher division will progress here.

Verdict: Hull City @ 1.91 (bet365)

Leicester City vs Swindon Town

Swindon Town caused arguably the shock of the third round when they beat Premier League strugglers Wigan Athletic. Just like Hull vs Crawley, this match pits a confident League Two outfit against a Championship side expected to beat them.

A few weeks ago, I would have given Paolo Di Canio’s side a much better chance of turning over City but this is not perhaps the best time to play against the Foxes. Things appear to be clicking into place under manager Nigel Pearson and in their last two matches, Leicester won at Southampton in the league and smashed local rivals Nottingham Forest 4-0 in a FA Cup third round replay.

Just like Crawley at Hull, Leicester will not underestimate the quality Swindon possess but with confidence high at the Walkers Stadium, I expect the Foxes to be in the draw for the fifth round.

Verdict: Leicester City @ 1.57 (Ladbrokes)

Southampton vs Millwall

After an incredible first half of the season, Southampton’s league form has been patchy. A 3-0 away victory against Nottingham Forest was sandwiched between defeats against Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol City. Indeed, the Saints have lost two of their last three in front of their home supporters.

Millwall have spent most of the season near the bottom of the Championship and are in mixed form themselves. Their last two results have been positive – a 3-1 away win at Barnsley in the league and a 5-0 thumping of Dagenham & Redbridge in a third round replay but prior to that Kenny Jackett’s side lost four out of six in the Championship. Including a 6-0 mauling at the New Den by Birmingham City.

Neither side are in great recent form but with the Saints winning 11 out of 14 at home in the Championship this season and beating Millwall 1-0 at St Mary’s earlier in the campaign, I will side with Nigel Adkins’ team.

Verdict: Southampton @ 2.6 (Coral)

Sheffield United vs Birmingham City

Sheffield United have made excellent progress this season under Danny Wilson. After winning eight out of their last 10 League One fixtures, the Blades are up to third in the table, level on points with second placed Huddersfield Town. But, two of their last four in the league have ended in defeat – most recently last Saturday when table toppers Charlton Athletic beat them 1-0.

Birmingham have won their last four league and cup matches in a row and are unbeaten in their last eight in all competitions. After labouring through the first half of the season Chris Hughton’s side are climbing the table and are into the play-off positions.

United are solid at home, winning 10 out of 14 at Bramall Lane and losing just twice while Birmingham are shaky on their travels, losing seven out of 13 and winning just three times. This tie may need more than 90 minutes to settle it.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.4 (Sky Bet)

Stevenage vs Notts County

An all-League One fixtures pits play-off chasing Stevenage against mid-table Notts County and with a place in the last 16 at stake, neither side will take this match lightly. Stevenage, now under manager Gary Smith are solid, if not spectacular at home – winning six, drawing four and losing three.

That is better than County who are poor on the road, losing nine out of 14 in the league. Indeed, that is a record matched only by Tranmere Rovers in seventeenth and Rochdale and Chesterfield who prop up the table.

County inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Stevenage when the pair met in League One last September but Smith has cup victory experience – leading Colorado Rapids to MLS Cup glory in 2010 and I’m tipping the home side to exact their revenge.

Verdict: Stevenage @ 2.0 (Boylesports)

West Bromwich Albion vs Norwich City

Norwich City recorded a Premier League victory at the Hawthorns just a fortnight ago and it would not be a shock to see Paul Lambert’s side do the same again in the FA Cup.

Norwich are fresh from holding Chelsea to a goalless draw last weekend – their first clean sheet of the season and are riding high in ninth place in the Premier League. The Canaries are decent enough of their travels – winning three, drawing four and losing four in the league.

The Baggies earned a much needed victory at Stoke which kept some distance between the bottom three and themselves but it is their home form which is a huge concern. Two defeats, two draws and seven defeats does not inspire confidence and I choose Norwich to progress.

Verdict: Norwich City @ 4.0 (Ladbrokes)

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Newcastle United

Championship side Brighton needed extra time and penalties to see off the challenge of Conference promotion contenders Wrexham in the last round. But, strangely, they may have an easier time of it against Premier League side Newcastle United.

Despite leading at half-time against Fulham last weekend, Alan Pardew’s side were thumped 5-2 at Fulham and are unquestionably missing the likes of Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote who are on Africa Cup of Nations duty. While not terrible away from the Sports Direct Arena, the Magpies are vulnerable to defeat.

Brighton are solid enough at home, winning seven out of 13 and five of their last six, including a 3-0 victory against Southampton. Under Gus Poyet the Seagulls play good football and Craig Mackail-Smith is always a danger when fit.

Verdict: Brighton & Hove Albion @ 4.0 (Paddy Power)

Premier League Predictions 21 January 2012

Eight matches take place in the Premier League on Saturday 21 January, including a huge relegation six-pointer at Loftus Road where QPR host rock-bottom Wigan Athletic. Wolves face their second Midlands derby in a matter of days when they tackle Aston Villa while both Chelsea and Liverpool will be expected to record away victories at Norwich and Bolton respectively.

Norwich City vs Chelsea

After a difficult December, Chelsea look to be getting back on track and could take all three points at Carrow Road. January has seen the Blues win both Premier League matches against Wolves and Sunderland, while Portsmouth were spanked 4-0 in the FA Cup.

Norwich have also won all three fixtures in January, winning at both QPR and West Brom in the league and recording a 4-1 victory against Burnley in the FA Cup. Very similar results to Chelsea in fact.

The Canaries weakness is their defence and Paul Lambert’s side have not kept a clean sheet all season. Chelsea have also looked shaky at the back but that will be remedied by the £7 million arrival of defender Gary Cahill, who could make his debut on Saturday. Norwich will be up for this but Chelsea will edge it.

Verdict: Chelsea @ 1.62 (Paddy Power)

Everton vs Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers have hauled themselves out of the relegation zone after some decent form in recent weeks. Back-t0-back defeats against Newcastle and Stoke were sandwiched between a draw at Liverpool and victories against Manchester United and Fulham.

Steve Kean’s side were magnificent in their victory against Fulham last weekend. Wantaway defender Chris Samba didn’t play while top goalscorer Yakubu was sent off. Yet, Rovers still managed to fire in three goals and keep poor travellers Fulham to just one.

Everton are a team in mixed form. An unbeaten four-match run which produced two wins and two draws at the back end of December leading into the New Year was followed up by a dismal home defeat against rock-bottom Bolton. Blackburn are tough to beat on the road and a dour draw looks the call here.

Verdict: Draw @ 4.0 (Bet Victor)

Fulham vs Newcastle United

With Demba Ba, Cheick Tiote and now new signing Papiss Cisse all away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, Newcastle United are not such an exciting betting proposition. They laboured their way to a 1-0 home victory against struggling QPR last weekend and may find a trip to Craven Cottage a lot more difficult.

Fulham followed up a memorable home victory against Arsenal with a humiliating 3-1 defeat at Blackburn last week and Martin Jol’s team are difficult to predict. They are still six points from the relegation zone but a couple of bad results could see them slip closer to danger.

Fulham’s home record is the same as Newcastle’s away: four wins, three draws and three defeats. Neither sequence inspires confidence here with all three results just as likely. A draw may be the sensible option.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.5 (Betfred)

Queens Park Rangers vs Wigan Athletic

A real relegation six pointer and one I fancy Wigan will be up for more than their hosts. QPR were not convincing in their midweek FA Cup victory against League One side MK Dons and on another day could have lost. They also offered little in a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle last weekend.

Mark Hughes has his work cut out against rock-bottom Wigan who put up a fighting display against Manchester City on Monday night and were unlucky not to get anything out of the match. Roberto Martinez’s strugglers have won at West Brom and Sunderland this season and also held the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal to a draw.

It would be easy to pick a draw in this match but Wigan showed enough on Monday they will up for the fight on Saturday. QPR may turn their season around thanks to a glut of new signings but those reinforcements won’t arrive until after this weekend.

Verdict: Wigan @ 4.0 (Ladbrokes)

Stoke City vs West Bromwich Albion

West Brom are being dragged into the dogfight at the bottom of the table and their status as relegation candidates was compounded by a home defeat by Norwich last weekend. Roy Hodgson’s side are still five points clear of the bottom three but they need more to give themselves some breathing space.

With Stoke sitting in eighth position you may think this should be a routine home win. However, the Baggies may be dire at home, but away from the Hawthorns they are a much different proposition with four wins and two draws out of 10 matches.

West Brom have won two of their last three fixtures on the road, beating both Blackburn and Newcastle. While Stoke have a solid home record with four wins, four draws and just two defeats, consecutive stalemates against Aston Villa and Wigan suggest they could be in for a shock on Saturday.

Verdict: West Brom @ 4.33 (Paddy Power)

Sunderland vs Swansea City

After Swansea played Arsenal off the park for much of their 3-2 victory last Sunday, Sunderland should not pose too much of a problem. But, much of Swansea’s success this season is down to their inspired home form – five wins, five draws and just one defeat at the Liberty Stadium compared to just one win, three draws and six defeats away.

Sunderland are similar. Decent enough at home but prone to defeat on the road. Since Martin O’Neill took charge, the Black Cats have lost just twice in eight Premier League matches and were good value in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Chelsea by all accounts.

This will be a close match but given home advantage and Swansea’s poor away record, Sunderland will just edge this one.

Verdict: Sunderland @ 1.91 (bet365)

Wolves vs Aston Villa

This will be Wolves’ second Midlands derby in the space of a few days and another they may finish as the losing side. Mick McCarthy’s side were dumped out of the FA Cup after a home defeat by Championship side Birmingham City and face a difficult travelling outfit in Villa.

Alex McLeish’s side are heading into lower mid-table territory but have lost just two in 10 on the road this season. Admittedly, six have ended as draws with just two victories but it shows the battling spirit required for a local derby such as this.

Wolves rested Steve Fletcher midweek and the nine-goal striker will be raring to go. If Villa can keep him quiet then Wolves will struggle to score and may be able to nick a victory for themselves.

Verdict: Aston Villa @ 2.9 (Sky Bet)

Bolton Wanderers vs Liverpool

Liverpool have an excellent record against Bolton, winning the last 10 meetings home and away.  Bolton last tasted victory against the Reds in September 2006, when the late Gary Speed and Ivan Campo scored the goals in a 2-0 win.

Liverpool clearly like playing Bolton and it is difficult to oppose them on Saturday. Kenny Dalglish’s side may have dropped points at home to Stoke last weekend, but with league and Cup games coming thick and fast, you cannot be expected to win every match.

It’s not a great price for an away win given Liverpool’s hit-and-miss form on the road (five wins, one draw and four defeats) and while Bolton are in mixed form, they have lost eight out of 10 at home this season and could be beaten again on Saturday evening.

Verdict: Liverpool @ 1.67 (Coral)

Premier League Predictions 15 January 2012

Two intriguing matches take place in the Premier League on Sunday 15 January. Mark Hughes takes charge of his first match as manager of QPR who visit Newcastle United while two of the division’s great entertainers, Swansea City and Arsenal meet at the Liberty Stadium.

Newcastle United vs Queens Park Rangers

After a storming start to the season, Newcastle are starting to falter a little. They may have beaten Manchester United 3-0 in their last Premier League match but in their last 10 league matches, five have ended in defeat.

Alan Pardew’s side sit comfortably in seventh place but are without midfield enforcer Cheick Tiote and 15-goal Demba Ba who are both on duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. Losing two such influential players is a massive blow and it will be interesting to see how the Magpies cope in their absence.

As the old saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain and new QPR boss Mark Hughes will look to capitalise on Newcastle’s weaknesses in his first match in charge.

Hughes, without a club since walking out on Fulham last summer, is an intriguing appointment. He left Craven Cottage because he felt the board lacked ambition and as a manager he wants to win trophies and compete at the highest level. In that case and with all due respect, what is he doing at QPR?

Realistically, the best they can hope to emulate is that of the likes of Stoke, or opponents Newcastle. Challenge for a top 10 finish and perhaps sneak into the Europa League. Hughes is living in a fantasy land if he believes he is in charge of a club destined for Champions League glory.

But, first there are more pressing matters at hand, like avoiding relegation to the Championship. QPR are without a win in their last eight games, registering two draws and six defeats – just two points from the last 24 available. Relegation form that needs to be turned around quickly. They have not won away from home since the 19 November when they beat Stoke City 3-2.

They don’t score many goals either – 20 all season in fact. Hughes will be concerned about the over reliance on Heidur Helguson who has score eight of those goals and a new striker will probably arrive during the transfer window.

Ironically, Hughes may have to adopt the tactics that ultimately cost him his job at Manchester City – view not getting beat as a good result. He may not be able to perform miracles on his first game in charge but a point at the Sports Direct Arena would be a good start.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.75 (Coral)

Swansea City vs Arsenal

The second televised match of the day pits two of the best footballing sides in the division against each other. Premier League new boys Swansea, who have built a reputation of a fast-paced, entertaining passing game against the grand masters of such a style of play in Arsenal.

The Gunners could give Thierry Henry his second Premier League debut. The 34-year-old striker is on loan from New York Red Bulls and scored the winning goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup on Monday after coming on as a late substitute.

Swansea have lost just once at home this season – to Manchester United – and the visit of Arsenal, the Premier League’s top goalscorer Robin Van Persie with 17 and returning legend Henry won’t phase them. The Swans narrowly lost 1-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in September when Andrei Arshavin scored the winner five minutes before half time.

Their defensive form at home is as good as table toppers Manchester City, with just four goals conceded but with a return of 12 goals in 10 matches, a quality-packed side like Arsenal will fancy their chances of nicking a result. Indeed, only Manchester City have scored more goals on the road than the 20 the Gunners have managed this season.

Swansea will undoubtedly give Arsenal a game at the Liberty Stadium and the football played by both sides is sure to be entertaining. But, I think Arsene Wenger’s side will return to London with all three points.

Verdict: Arsenal @ 1.83 (Bet Victor)