Things We’ll Learn This Month – November

Can Mario Balotelli's first domestic goal for Liverpool inspire a fruitful November?

Can Mario Balotelli’s first domestic goal for Liverpool inspire a fruitful November?

October is almost over, so now it’s time to embrace the wintry delights of November, with its bonfires, its toffee apples and its anti-catholicism. There’s some football games scheduled as well, let’s see if any of them might be capable of bringing a bit of sunshine to our bleak existences.

 

The opening weekend of the month sees the first Manchester derby of the season, it’s been a pretty reliable fixture in terms of entertainment value recently, with late goals, comedy errors and the odd hiding thrown in to keep us amused. United are a different beast to the pale imitation of a football side David Moyes was in charge of last season, they still aren’t particularly good, the defence is awful and the midfield hasn’t really been fixed but they do have Angel Di Maria and he’s part footballer part magic elf (by that I mean he’s good and looks like an elf) so they pose a far greater threat than 12 months ago.

City meanwhile have problems of their own, namely in the shape of a sulky Yaya Toure but when a side can call on Sergio Aguero and David Silva then they’re never going to be far short of ‘pretty bloody good’. City will probably win because they’re a better football side but United should have enough about them to ensure November starts with a bang (I think that might be a firework joke, sorry). Also on the first weekend we have Burnley travelling to play Arsenal, Burnley are a Championship team in all but name, Arsenal will still somehow struggle, there might, if we’re lucky be some booing, Arsenal fans are some of the best booers in the league. You don’t want to miss that.

Betting Instinct tip – Manchester City and Arsenal to both win this weekend is 2.25 with Intertops.eu

 

On to the second weekend and the big one is Chelsea visiting Anfield. With Mario Balotelli doing a passable impression of Chelsea era Fernando Torres/Andry Shevchenko/Adrian Mutu/Mateja Kezman and Chelsea doing a passable impression of a first Mourinho era Chelsea side only much prettier, you’d have to expect we’ll be hearing more creative excuses from Brendan come the final whistle. Maybe this time Balotelli’s hair will be the problem? or his choice of aftershave? Ah well, let’s just hope no one swaps shirts prematurely, we all know that’s the real scourge of modern football, and Brendan won’t stand for it (I thought it was holding in the box – ed.)

Having looked at the fixtures, West Ham actually have a pretty easy month, maybe this top 4 charge isn’t so unlikely, maybe we’ll get to see Big Sam manage at the Bernabeu after all or maybe Andy Carroll will come back and they’ll revert to type, long diagonals into the big man with Kevin Nolan feeding of the scraps. It’s hard to tell (no it isn’t – ed.).

 

During November we also have one of those international ‘week of football’ things, normally this would send us all into a fit of despair so deep that many of us would never fully recover but in this instance we have a genuinely big game to look forward to. It’s the battle of the Celts at Celtic Park as Scotland entertain Ireland, two evenly matched sides with everything to play for on a Friday night in Glasgow, it’ll be brilliant, or if not brilliant then at least a bit violent (amusing violence not real violence that is). A few days after that it’s the turn of England to take on the resurgent Scots but because I promised to take my girlfriend to see Jack White the same night (before I realised there was a clash (it’s part of her birthday as well, no getting out of it (not that I want to get out of it if you’re reading honey*))) I completely refuse to discuss it.

 Betting Instinct tip – Ireland (9/1) and Scotland (16/1) are generously priced with Coral to qualify from Group D

 

When Premier League action resumes the stand out game is probably Arsenal vs Man United. This fixture which has given so much over the years has been diminished somewhat with the cooling of hostilities between the two camps. During the later years of the Ferguson reign there was even signs of a mutual respect beginning to emerge, which I think we can all agree is frankly unacceptable. However whilst there will almost certainly be no food fights or the like, we do have the prospect of two talented but fragile sides going head to head, a scenario that often results in goals and red cards, and I’m not sure you can ask for more than that.

 

* I obviously don’t call my girlfriend honey.


Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF

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Van Gaal ready for a devil of a job!

vanGaal

Can van Gaal get Manchester United back on track?

After coming up just short at the 2014 World Cup with the Dutch national team, ex Oranje-coach Louis van Gaal has wasted no time in throwing all his energy into his next big task – getting Manchester United back on the road to success.

After suffering their worst season for 24 years under Ferguson-successor David Moyes last year, United are looking to the experienced Dutchman to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford. Van Gaal has vowed to leave no stone unturned as he attempts to banish the ghosts of 2013/14 and his reign has got off the perfect start with his squad winning the prestigious International Champions Cup in the USA.

Ok, everyone knows that this was just a summer tournament with as much emphasis on marketing opportunities as football itself, but straight victories over Roma, Inter Milan, Champions League winner Real Madrid and, of course, bitter rivals Liverpool in the final will certainly have given every player at the club a real boost as the start of the Premiership season looms large.

Van Gaal is a man confident in his own footballing beliefs and is not afraid to rub stars up the wrong way if he feels they are not 100% behind the cause. It will be interesting to see if the current harmony continues to prevail around Manchester when the season gets underway, but with no European football to distract them this year, the Red Devils look certain to once again play a major role in the destiny of the EPL title!

Who will win the Premier League title?

Chelsea                              2.85
Manchester City              3.0
Manchester Utd              5.5
Arsenal                              7.0
Liverpool                          11.0
Tottenham                       67.0

All odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are correct as of today but subject to change. 

CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.

Man City favoured to grasp the Premier League trophy this evening!

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League trophy once again after Liverpool's draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League trophy once again after Liverpool’s draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night

On paper it is a simple task for Manchester City to claim the 2013/14 Premier League trophy and become the champions for the second time in three years as they have to face Aston Villa and West Ham at the Etihad Stadium in their final pair of matches that, if won, will see them crowned kings of England, completing a Capital One Cup and league double. They start by welcoming the Midlanders to the blue half of Manchester this evening knowing that, thanks to Liverpool’s late concession of three goals to draw 3-3 with Crystal Palace on Monday night (something that cost me a winning bet – thanks Liverpool!), victory will see them two points clear going into the final round of matches this weekend. Can they thrive in the pressure where Liverpool failed so miserably?

Manchester City v Aston Villa Match Odds:

Man City Victory – 1.15

Draw – 8.40

Villa Victory – 16.00

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

After 17 home matches this season, City sit second in the home league table second only to Chelsea who have already completed their quota of matches at Stamford Bridge. City have two games in front of the cheering masses at the Etihad Stadium to make up two points on Jose Mourinho’s Londoners and having bagged 57 league goals this season, at an average of more than three a match, they will certainly be confident of victory this evening and to tighten their grasp on the Premier League trophy.

Villa have not had too bad of a season away from Villa Park during the 2013/14 season as they have collected 17 points from four wins and five draws – while also losing eight games – but with them averaging just a single goal per away match this season they could very well be in trouble at the Etihad this evening. They are safe from relegation, with their 3-1 win over FA Cup finalists Hull City at the weekend seeing them edge past the point that they could be reached by Norwich, but how will they react to this? Can they kick onwards or will they cruise through the final two games safe in the knowledge they have pulled it out of the fire?

I personally feel that the Villa players will feel that they have given their all during the season to ensure their safety and with this secured, as well as having lost six games in a row at the Etihad in Premier League action, they may not be as motivated for this game tonight as they may have been if they were not assured of another season in the top flight. City have certainly got more to play for tonight and I see them cruising past the floundering Midlanders on home soil tonight.

Back Manchester City to beat Aston Villa by at least three goals (City -2.5) @ 2.10 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Liverpool to put pressure on Man City in the Premier League title race at Selhurst Park tonight?

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have 50 Premier League goals this season, will they add more this evening?

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have 50 Premier League goals this season, will they add more this evening?

Tonight’s Crystal Palace versus Liverpool game at Selhurst Park sees a clash of the league’s top scorers and the league’s lowest scoring team and it is Liverpool who have much more to play for this evening. They are level with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with both sides having two very winnable games left to play, so they know that they cannot afford to slip up tonight after a Crystal Palace side that have looked impressive under the stewardship of Tony Pulis. Liverpool have to win tonight, but can they do so?

Crystal Palace v Liverpool Match Odds:

Palace Victory – 8.00

Draw – 5.20

Liverpool Victory – 1.33

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Liverpool have had eight days off since their 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea who, according to Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, “parked two buses” at Anfield to keep a clean sheet and capitalise on a slip from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard as well as killing the game off in injury time through a breakaway by former Liverpool great Fernando Torres and Brazilian Willian. These eight days will have given the club the chance to think about the mistakes made in that match – knowing that a draw against Chelsea would have seen the title in their own hands – but can the would be champions bounce back from the disappointment of that loss?

They will not find it easy to win at Selhurst Park this evening as Palace manager Tony Pulis claimed the Manager of the Month award for April having guided the club to wins over Cardiff, Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham following victory at home to Chelsea in the final game of March. This has seen the club secure a second season in the Premier League for the first time in their history and they will can close to within three points of a place in the top half of the league going into next weekend’s final match of the season if they can upset the odds against Liverpool tonight, but with Liverpool unable to drop points in the title race will a shock result be possible?

Liverpool’s pair of strikers in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have 50 goals in the league between them this season and this almost double the amount that Palace have scored all season, with them bagging just 28 goals in 36 games. This will certainly give Liverpool the advantage going forwards, but with Palace having three fewer goals than their guests tonight will this defensive edge see them able to get something from the game? With Sturridge out injured recently and Suarez not scoring goals as consistently as in the first two thirds of the season, there is certainly a chance of the hosts getting something from this match.

Personally, I see Liverpool edging the match at Selhurst Park tonight, but it will just that – a close game with only a goal or two in the final result. Palace will push them all the way and with Jason Puncheon showing that he can find the net lately, I see both of these sides getting on the scoresheet and my money is on goals as well as the away win this evening.

Back Liverpool to beat Crystal Palace tonight and there to be more than 2.5 goals in the game @ 1.77 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Chelsea set to field a weakened manager against Liverpool

Is José Mourinho on the verge of a Napoleonic downfall?

Is José Mourinho on the verge of a Napoleonic downfall?

In seasons gone by, the threat of rocking up to a title decider with a purposefully depleted hand—enfeebled in protest at having to play on a Sunday—would have been celebrated as classic José Mourinho. He strode the Premier League like Banksy spitting up something pithy onto an unguarded wall, or Marcel Duchamp plonking down a toilet in an art gallery and declaring it a fountain.

 

English football  had found a new crown prince-cum-arch satirist, who was bent not only on winning everything he could but doing so while fiddling with the well-worn levers of the British manager’s identity, much to the amusement of the game’s cossetting, chattering classes. “Oh, José!” they squealed, rocked back into their writing chairs, as he fired off yet another belter of a sound bite or tugged at yet more of the tropes set down by the likes of Brian Clough, Don Revie, Bill Shankly & Co.

Yet something has changed on his return to Stamford Bridge. It’s hard not to think that compared to the man who previously terrorised the establishment with both his flamboyant antagonism and trophy count, that come Sunday Chelsea will be fielding a weakened manager as much as a weakened team.

 

Liverpool v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Liverpool – 1.63

Chelsea – 4.80

Draw – 3.85

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

For all his absurd, syrupy nonsense and motivational envelopes, Brendan Rodgers looks like a man composed, calm and in his element at present. By contrast, Mourinho has at times appeared trite and perhaps even desperate.

The usual jibes and mind games have never quite come off for him as they used to. His ploy to write off his team’s chances at every opportunity became flat and old in a way that wouldn’t have seemed possible during his more electrified tenure back in the early days of Roman Abramovich’s reign.

 

Of course, momentum can often be everything when it comes to the dubious art of mind games, and perhaps too there is more than a hint of over-familiarity with his methods that has generated a considerable about of contempt for him of late. However, from day one something didn’t feel right about his return. He announced himself to be happy rather than special in what was an oddly subdued press conference—vibes that some put down to him feeling aggrieved at having not been granted a shot at the Manchester United job.

Though his ego surely yearned to be a feature of the intrigue that has swept through Old Trafford this season, it seemed more likely that the scars of the past were weighing heavy upon him rather than jealousy for the future.

 

It’s not often that Mourinho has tasted failure since his ascendency to the top of the game with Porto in 2004. At Chelsea and Inter he achieved the vast majority of his objectives and sometimes over-reached even his own expectations with a record points tally and treble win respectively.

His years in Madrid changed all that however. While the location of the biggest job in football is an argument that will never be settled, it’s hard to think of a more demanding post in the game than taking up position in the home dug out of the Bernabeu.

The manager of Real shares the same average life span and political workload as an average Game Of Thrones protagonist (could have given us a spoiler warning – ed.), and yet faces even greater demands that stretch beyond simply amassing trophies. Real must win in style, to some self-styled ideal of false-modesty, with the most glamourous players in the world, constantly bettering themselves like gentlemanly aristocrats charged with civilising others through their own great works.

 

It’s a level of pressure and pedantry that broke José, who has become a figure of self-parody; his pronouncements now sounding just off-key enough to scan as slightly hackneyed and irrelevant. The Premier League almost feels as if it has left him and his kind behind when in the past it seemed as though Mourinho himself controlled English football’s zeitgeist.

Now reports abound about Mourinho fielding a weakened line-up for Sunday’s trip to Anfield, and with it throwing away his chances of snatching a seemingly impossible title from Liverpool’s grasp: is it a hardnosed protest or an act of sheer petulance?

 

It’s hard not to think that the Mourinho of old would have come up with something more cutting, original and, well, effective. He looks like a man feeling the impact of having to compromise his chances of winning to make a point. The ruthless master of his own destiny who once looked set to force Alex Ferguson into (relatively) early retirement surely would never have told the public of his intentions to give up on a chance of silverware.

Yet Real got to him, with his demands for the likes of Iker Casillas to wage total war against Barcelona turning into an internal conflict against his own authority and methods. Without the ends to justify the means—only one La Liga title and a Copa del Rey to show for three years of viciousness that never seemed to bring Real any closer to La Decima—he was ultimately rejected. Like Napoleon’s downfall after failing to overcome the Russian winter, he has now been exiled to an island off the mainline for his failings.

 

Mixed up in all of this are the intentions of Abramovich himself, who may well have re-hired Mourinho in order to hand him enough rope to implode his rival personality cult as much as benefit from his gift of winning trophies.

If the Portuguese is unable to rediscover the edge that he enjoyed in England prior to 2007, then his own defeat at Waterloo—and the popular and political backlash that brought upon his historical likeness—may well come sooner than many might think. Having faced off against opposition of his own from Jose loyalists in the past, reappointing his former champion to destroy his own legacy, so soon after tilting in Madrid, is a Machiavellian move that will play right into Roman’s hands even if he achieves the opposite.

 

Until then, Liverpool look set to be denied their final, title-clinching triumph, not they’re likely to care too much. With Atletico Madrid readying themselves for a second-leg raid of Stamford Bridge, Mourinho’s determination to appear as though he never wanted the win at Anfield—rather than losing at full-strength to a superior rival—will also double up as a handy excuse should the worst happen against Diego Simeone’s men.

Yet it may not be Chelsea who are too tired to rise against the Argentinean’s rampaging La Liga chasers or Rodgers’ surprise Premier League title favourites, but the special one himself who is now at risk of becoming all-too-ordinary.

 

Betting Instinct tip – If Chelsea do give the likes of Nathan Aké and Andreas Christensen a run-out on Sunday, it could well be worth backing Liverpool to be winning at half-time and full-time at 2.64 at with GR88.com

 

Greg avatarGREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football blog and podcast.

Manchester United can dent Liverpool’s title bid at Old Trafford

Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal when these teams met at Anfield in September

Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal when these teams met at Anfield in September

Everything is wrong. Not wrong in the sense that the way everything is shouldn’t be that way, but wrong in the sense that it doesn’t feel right.  Manchester United won the league last season and are a Belgian and a Spaniard stronger, yet – and look away now if you don’t want to see me get real – they won’t qualify for the Champions League. The days of Alex Ferguson must feel like a lifetime ago, especially for those born after the days of Alex Ferguson. Given that failure to attain Champions League qualification begets failure to attain Champions League qualification, the future looks grim for Manchester United fans, and everything is wrong.

Manchester United v Liverpool Betting Odds

Manchester United win – 2.40

Liverpool win – 2.85

Draw – 3.20

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Everything is also wrong because Liverpool are doing quite well, which hasn’t been the case for about five years (kind of goes back to that failure to attain Champions League qualification begets failure to attain Champions League qualification point – ed.). In fact, it was at this point in the 2008/09 season when, a few days after hitting four past Real Madrid in Europe, they met Manchester United at Old Trafford and did the same again. The omens are looking good, if you believe in that kind of thing, and I do.

Back at the beginning of this season, when the world was innocent and David Moyes looked his age, Liverpool won this fixture at Anfield, a solitary Daniel Sturridge goal the difference. Of course, we’re well and truly through the looking glass now. Manchester United are capable of the relatively routine, but then they’ll lose to Stoke. Conversely, Liverpool throw away chances against lesser opposition, yet are second in the league.

“We already know this Max!” you cry. “Get onto the hard statistical analysis, the fact-based assessment of the coming match, and the well-conceived prediction grounded in reality and probability!”

Ok, well, don’t say you didn’t ask for it. Manchester United have won eight of the last nine home league games against Liverpool, but these are two very different teams now. Robin van Persie has scored six goals in his last seven starts against Liverpool, but these are two very different teams now. There’s a pattern here, one which should demonstrate just how useless the statistics are – there will be two teams playing football, and without stretching out the word count by listing other certainties, that’s about all we know for sure.

Everything else is conjecture, but I need to help you out and tell you what I think will happen. Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge are both still around, so Liverpool will probably score. Therefore, if Manchester United want to avoid losing, then they’ll probably want to score as well, and this is where the difficulty in predicting this match lies. Nobody is really sure how good or bad this United side is – they won the league last season, which they had to be good to do, and with the addition of Mata and Fellaini it would be foolish to say that United are a bad side. On the other hand, they’re seventh, and deservedly so.

These are two clubs that inexplicably rise to this particular occasion despite respective circumstance, so you should expect a close game, or at the very least a violent one. My personal bias towards Liverpool is mitigated by an unshakeable belief that they will always lose their next game, but I think that they’ll win this time – everything may well be wrong, but there’s absolutey no reason why they shouldn’t.

Betting Instinct Tip – Either team to win by a one-goal margin is 2.30 with GR88.com

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is ashamed for doing so.

Down Memory Lane – Premier League Derbies

Aaron Lennon has fond memories of at least one North London Derby

Aaron Lennon has fond memories of at least one North London Derby

 

This weekend the Premier League fixture list has thrown up two appetising games on Sunday afternoon, as Manchester United’s home tie against Liverpool is followed by the North London Derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

One thing about derby rivalries (and I’m counting United v Liverpool as a derby, even though the former have another very prominent local rival) is that they provide something of a leveller. League position and form often goes out the window, and attrition takes over.

Often that will lead to a tense game between two teams afraid to lose, however these fixtures have recently seen some rather surprising outcomes. Below I go into detail about some of my favourites.

 

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham, October 2008

Arsène Wenger’s side have had a habit of shooting themselves in the foot in the nine years since they last won a trophy (no, fourth place doesn’t count, and don’t even try to bring up the Emirates Cup). While few examples stand out more than the one-two punch in February 2011 when Arsenal surrendered a 4-0 lead to Newcastle in the league before losing a cup final to a goal scored by someone who came on as a substitute for Keith Fahey (I can’t stress this point enough), the midweek draw at home to Spurs runs it close.

After responding surprisingly competently to an early long-range strike from Spurs’ then record signing (!) David Bentley, the Gunners entered the 89th minute 4-2 in front and on course for a third straight win in the league. However against the might of a Spurs team who had started the game with two points and a Harry Redknapp catchphrase from their eight games, Arsenal somehow contrived to let Jermaine Jenas and then Aaron Lennon fire past Manuel Almunia to earn the visitors a point.

Arsenal proceeded to lose three of their next four league games, finishing the season some distance behind a runaway top three, and the following years would see Spurs move closer and closer to their neighbours in league form.

 

Could another thriller be on the cards? Seven goals or more is 30.00 with GR88.com

 

 

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United, March 2011

What’s your favourite Premier League hat-trick? Dennis Bergkamp’s sublime treble for Arsenal at Leicester? Shinji Kagawa’s effortless performance against Norwich last season? Maybe it was Robbie Fowler’s five-minute special back in 1994. Whatever you said, your answer probably wasn’t Dirk Kuyt against Manchester United in 2011.

Loved by Liverpool fans and perhaps underappreciated by opposition supporters, Dutch forward Kuyt was a master of perseverance and stick-to-itiveness long before his finest moment. A 31-minute hat-trick, none of the strikes coming from more than six yards out, represented a masterclass in the unremarkable and meant United’s title bid hit a stumbling block against a team whose substitutes included Peter Gulacsi, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Christian Poulsen, Jay Spearing and David Ngog.

A lot has changed in the intervening period, and indeed it is now the visitors that day whose midfield is a punchline to a joke that no one asked. What a difference three years makes.

 

Liverpool to win 3-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday is 21.00 with GR88.com

This weekend GR88.com’s Late Goal Refund means you don’t have to worry about a last-gasp goal ruining your bet. If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or later, all losing match result, last goalscorer or correct score bets which were winning before the goal went in will be refunded.

 

TOM VICTOR (editor) tv is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

Can Sunderland continue their fine form against Man City this midweek?

Phil Bardsley scores the winner in the 1-0 win for Sunderland earlier this season

Phil Bardsley scores the winner in the 1-0 win for Sunderland earlier this season

While the big match and major talking point in the Premier League in this round of midweek games is the Arsenal v Manchester United match at The Emirates, there is an equally interesting game happening at The Etihad Stadium this Wednesday.

City are impressive in front of their own fans this season, with 11 wins in 12 Premier League matches and they have lost only to Chelsea and Bayern Munich winning here in all competitions, but they are facing one of their bogey teams in Sunderland. City have managed just two wins in eight meetings with Gus Poyet’s men, while Sunderland have won four and drawn two of the other six. Can they increase that amount this midweek?

GR88.com see the City home record this season being more pertinent than the recent history of matches between them and Sunderland.

Manchester City v Sunderland Odds:

Manchester City – 1.18

Draw – 7.00

Sunderland – 16.50

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

City may have a fantastic record of 11 wins from 12 Premier League games at The Etihad Stadium and 17 wins in 19 home games in all competitions this season, but they come into this game with Sunderland having failed to score in two games thanks to a 1-0 home loss to Chelsea being followed by a weekend 0-0 draw at Carrow Road. However, I do not expect this lack of goals to last too long as they have 72 goals in their games at home this season and their 68 Premier League goals in their 25 matches has them as the division’s top scorers.

Sunderland will take heart from three clean sheets in their last four matches, although they were beaten 2-0 at home by Hull at the weekend, and the fact that they have won both of their last two matches with City in the Premier League. Both of these wins came at the Stadium of Light and the hosts kept clean sheets in both 1-0 wins and despite losing 3-0 at The Etihad Stadium last season they were not outplayed, bar in front of goal, and they will feel that they can challenge at one of the toughest places to come in the Premier League.

As well as their belief, Sunderland have an unbeaten run of six matches away from home before today, winning three and drawing three, with them keeping four clean sheets during this time. I’m not confident of Sunderland getting something from this match on Wednesday evening, but I can certainly see them challenging City and I can see them covering the +2 goal handicap that GR88.com have placed on this match. Even if they are beaten I do not see City winning by at least three goals and, as such, I’m putting my cash on the visitors to impress in this Manchester City v Sunderland game and continue their reputation as City’s bogey team.

Back Sunderland +2 goals at The Etihad against Manchester City @ 1.96 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Who’ll win in a big day at the bottom of the Premier League?

Villa will be looking for Christian Benteke to fire them to victory this weekend!

Villa will be looking for Christian Benteke to fire them to victory this weekend!

While the big draws in the Premier League this weekend are the Liverpool v Arsenal match at Anfield and the South Wales derby at the Liberty Stadium, both of which have been covered elsewhere on the site, Saturday sees a big day at the bottom of the Premier League for four sides in addition to Swansea and Cardiff.

I’m previewing the matches at Villa Park and Selhurst Park where Aston Villa welcome West Ham and Crystal Palace host West Bromwich Albion. The bottom ten sides from Villa in tenth to Fulham in 20th are separated by just eight points, so who’ll win these two vital Premier League relegation battle matches?

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Aston Villa v West Ham Betting Odds:

Aston Villa – 2.06

Draw – 3.15

West Ham – 3.45

Tenth placed Villa have league position and an eight year unbeaten record at Villa Park over 18th placed West Ham this weekend, so they are rightly deserving of being favourites to win this vital match for both sides. They also ended a six game winless streak in front of their own fans in the Villa v West Brom Midlands derby match recently in a back and forth 4-3 victory that saw top scorer Christian Benteke score the winner.

Villa will be relying on the impressive Belgian to fire them to victory today, but after West Ham’s fine back to wall defensive display at Stamford Bridge to claim a point against Chelsea seeing them record back to back clean sheets on the road will they be able to prevent Villa from taking all three points this weekend?

The Hammers will certainly be more motivated to claim all three points, but without Andy Carroll following his controversial red card against Swansea, they may struggle to find a winner themselves. The two sides have scored 51 goals in 48 Premier League games this season, including drawing 0-0 at the Boleyn Ground in November, and I do not see this game being a goal fest, so I’m sticking my cash on few goals at Villa Park.

Back two or fewer goals at Villa Park in this Villa v West Ham game @ 1.81 with GR88.com.

Crystal Palace v West Brom Betting Odds:

Crystal Palace – 2.50

Draw – 2.98

West Brom – 2.84

Although Palace start this weekend in 17th place in the Premier League just four points above the bottom of the table, the fact that Tony Pulis was nominated for Manager of the Month in January shows how far they have come since his appointment. Both themselves and Sunderland have been in impressive form to move out of the bottom three positions in the league and for Palace is has been their form at Selhurst Park that has done it.

They have won four and drawn two of their last seven in front of their own fans and with West Brom without a win in nine away games since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in September the home side in this Premier League relegation battle must fancy their chances of pushing up the table and going ahead of West Brom.

The Baggies have changed managers, but new boss Pepe Mel does not seem to be able to rouse his men from the slump they are in and they could be in big trouble if he does not get a handle on things shortly. They are known in parts as the ‘Boing Boing’ Baggies for their continual relegation and promotion cycle and I can see them as one of the favourites to go down this season. I see a defeat for West Brom today and this will not help their cause, but with 1-0 wins over Hull and Stoke for Palace in their last two home games I’m not confident in West Brom’s ability to find the net this weekend.

Back Crystal Palace to beat West Brom @ 2.50 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Can Chelsea do the double over Man City at the Etihad tonight?

 Fernando Torres celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge this season

Fernando Torres celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge this season

Although a horrible mistake by defender Matija Nastasic and ‘keeper Joe Hart right at the end of the 90 minutes in the Chelsea v Manchester City game at Stamford Bridge earlier this season gave Chelsea a 2-1 victory with Fernando Torres taking advantage, things are likely to be very different in this evening’s clash between the two sides at the Etihad Stadium.

Torres is out injured for Jose Mourinho’s side and much has changed for Manchester City in the three months since their last meeting with Chelsea. Will City gain revenge for that defeat in front of their own fans tonight? The GR88.com betting odds for this game certainly suggest so and they are as follows.

Manchester City v Chelsea Odds:

Man City – 1.86

Draw – 3.30

Chelsea – 4.00

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Chelsea will struggle in this match tonight as many have done at the Etihad Stadium as City have won 17 of their 18 home matches in all competitions this season. Only the champions of Germany, Europe and the World in Bayern Munich have managed to leave this stadium located in the blue half of Manchester with anything this season when the claimed a 3-1 win in the Champions League. Since then City have won 13 straight home matches in all competitions, as well as gaining revenge on Bayern in Munich, and have scored 56 goals in front of their own fans in these games at home.

They have also won each of the last four meetings with Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, scoring seven goals and conceding just two, but Chelsea will take confidence from the fact that no other side has matched the amount of wins (ten) that they have taken on the road against City and that they are missing their top scorer in Sergio Aguero through injury for this match.

Chelsea have won all three away games in the Premier League and FA Cup in 2014 without conceding a goal with Southampton and Hull seen off in the league and Derby beaten in the cup. They are, in fact, without conceding a goal in four away games following a 0-0 draw at the Emirates at the end of December and they will believe that their defensive abilities will be able to overcome the overwhelming firepower of City.

I, on the other hand, feel that City are more than good enough to win this match and move to the top of the Premier League ahead of Arsenal with another victory at home this evening. I also feel that City offer great value and I am backing the home win at the Etihad Stadium tonight.

I am backing Manchester City to take all three points at home tonight by beating Chelsea @ 1.86 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.