Take some time to consider where to stick your hard-earned wonga this weekend with tips from FFT's Joe Brewin...
Liverpool vs Chelsea (Sat, 12:45pm)
Brendan Rodgers will be pleased when this week is over. Fielding a weakened team at Real Madrid in the Champions League earned the Northern Irishman a barrage of criticism in the media, but it may all be worthwhile if his underperforming Reds give Chelsea a fright at Anfield. It seems unlikely - after all, their table-topping opponents don’t look like rolling over for anyone on current form, and are 11/10 to repeat last season’s win. Liverpool, meanwhile, have taken just 5 points from a possible 12 at Anfield, after winning 13 of 14 home games from October to August last season. What’s more, after registering 4 successive Premier League wins against Chelsea, Liverpool are now winless in as many against the Blues (D2 L2).
Best bet: Chelsea have only failed to score twice in a game this season: at both Manchester clubs (both 1-1 draws). Against a Liverpool team with only 2 clean sheets this season, take Over 1.5 Chelsea goals at evens.
Burnley vs Hull (Sat, 3pm)
If it’s going to happen for Burnley this season, then this is a fixture Sean Dyche will hope his winless Clarets can click for. Bottom of the pile with just 4 points and and only 1 more goal scored, the promoted Lancastrians have found their return to the top flight a hard grind so far, but now face a more encouraging run of games they really will need to take points from. Hull have won just 1 of their last 10 away matches (D4 L5), and the 7/4 Tigers themselves are winless in 3 after suffering at home to Southampton last weekend.
Best bet: After scoring in each of their first 8 matches, Hull have failed to find the net in back-to-back games. They’ll fancy their chances at Turf Moor, though, and after netting first in 5 of their first 7 games this season, are value at 6/5 to do the same here.
Man United vs Crystal Palace (Sat, 3pm)
Chris Smalling did a good job of striking himself off Mancunian Christmas card lists with a dopey red card in the derby last weekend, but Manchester United fought on valiantly without him in their narrow 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium. Those encouraging signs for Louis van Gaal need turning into wins soon, though, and who better to do so against than a struggling Crystal Palace side teetering on the edge of the relegation zone and winless in 4? The Eagles’ wings were clipped by Sunderland at Selhurst Park on Monday night, meaning only QPR (20) have shipped more goals than they have (19) this season.
Best bet: Palace don’t have too much trouble scoring - they’ve only failed to net twice this season - but deprived of suspended skipper Mile Jedinak and in poor form, they could struggle at Old Trafford. United to win with both teams scoring is 7/4.
Southampton vs Leicester (Sat, 3pm)
Southampton head into their latest fixture on flames after bagging a 7th win in 8 against Hull last weekend, and keeping another clean sheet in the process - their 3rd on the spin. Ronald Koeman’s men have conceded only 5 goals all season, unsurprisingly the lowest of English football’s 92 league teams.
Which makes things all the more daunting for a Leicester side winless in 5 and struggling at the sharp end. Nigel Pearson’s men have failed to score in 4 of those games, and netted just once on the road all campaign.
Best bet: With that, just keep backing the Saints win to nil, which has yielded so much profit in recent weeks. At 7/5 this week it’s another fine bet.
West Ham vs Aston Villa (Sat, 3pm)
The battle of claret n’ blue looks to be going only one way right now; West Ham taking 10 points from a possible 12, while their West Midlands cousins head to Upton Park on the back of 6 straight defeats. Paul Lambert’s side did at least score against Tottenham on Sunday, and may well have won had Christian Benteke not got himself sent off, but their latest disappointment sees them slide closer to the relegation zone, and means they’ve only ever started 2 Premier League seasons worse (2005/06, 2012/13).
West Ham have won 3 consecutive games at Upton Park after losing their first 2, scoring at least twice in each including the scalps of Liverpool and Manchester City. Last weekend’s two-goal comeback at Stoke was yet more proof that Big Sam’s in-form marauders are not the team of old.
Best bet: Despite notably tough home games this season (Spurs, Southampton and the two teams previously mentioned), West Ham have conceded more than once only against the high-flying Saints. With Villa in such wretched form at the sharp end, try a Hammers win to nil at a juicy 15/8.
QPR vs Man City (Sat, 5:30pm)
Beaten but not battered at Chelsea last weekend, QPR go out to do themselves and their west London rivals a favour on Saturday teatime when Manchester City visit Loftus Road. Harry Redknapp’s side defended resolutely at Stamford Bridge despite succumbing to goals either side of half-time, sandwiched in between Charlie Austin’s 5th of the season. The former Poole Town striker has scored 24 league goals for QPR since the start of last season (18 more than anyone else) and is 9/4 to add to his tally here.
Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors can scant afford any more slip-ups with Chelsea in such fine fettle, though they managed to embarrass themselves in midweek with a Champions League defeat to CSKA Moscow in which Fernandinho and Yaya Toure were both sent off. Here, though, they go in search of a 5th league win in 6.
Best bet: Sergio Aguero bagged his 10th of the season in the derby and the Argentine (3/1 to score first) may well enjoy his evening against the leakiest backline in the league. City to score in both halves is evens.
Sunderland vs Everton (Sun, 1:30pm)
Gus Poyet was put through the mill at Crystal Palace after yet another individual error threatened to deny his men their first win in a month (this time Wes Brown with a comedy own goal), but late strikes from Jordi Gomez and Steven Fletcher hauled the Black Cats out of the drop zone to keep the Uruguayan happy.
This weekend they return to the Stadium of Light, a ground on which the Wearsiders have won just 1 of their last 6 Premier League matches (D3 L2). Everton have lost just 2 of their last 10 away games (W6 D2) and look in good shape after last weekend’s draw with Swansea followed consecutive wins over Aston Villa and Burnley.
Best bet: Romelu Lukaku is likely to return to spearhead the Toffees' attack, with the burly Belgian having scored 3 goals in 4 Premier League appearances against Sunderland. Get him at 11/5 to bag Everton’s first goal of the afternoon (note: not the game’s first goal).
Tottenham vs Stoke (Sun, 1:30pm)
Those of you who expected to see Tottenham languishing in mid-to-lower table could be forgiven for thinking so. The reality is that Mauricio Pochettino’s men are still only 3 points off fourth-placed Arsenal after Sunday’s late win at Aston Villa - only their 2nd win in 8 Premier League games.
Spurs have lost 3 of their last 4 league matches at White Hart Lane, and they'll be desperate to improve that record against a team who’ve won only 1 of their previous 9 against them. Stoke continued their wildly unpredictable run of form with a 2-2 draw against West Ham last time out, but only after racing into a two-goal lead 10 minutes after half-time.
Best bet: Both teams have only scored in 1 of Spurs’ 5 games at the Lane this season. In mind of their patchy form, and Stoke’s relative struggles this season, take a chance on either not netting at 5/6.
West Brom vs Newcastle (Sun, 1:30pm)
The Baggies bounced up the table with a narrow win over Leicester at the King Power Stadium, but Alan Irvine’s men know they’ll need their wits about them when Newcastle visit The Hawthorns on Sunday.
Incredibly, the Magpies have won 3 consecutive games in the league, plus a League Cup trip to Manchester City, and are now nestled safely in mid-table after a previously poisonous stretch at St James’ Park. Alan Pardew’s men will be keeping a close eye on Saido Berahino; 7/5 to net in his 4th consecutive home game.
Best bet: Newcastle have scored a higher proportion of second-half goals (82%) than any other team in the top flight. Back the trend to continue at 8/5 with the second being their highest-scoring half.
Swansea vs Arsenal (Sun, 4pm)
Arsenal may well be scarred from fluffing a three-goal lead against Anderlecht in the Champions League on Wednesday, but there’s no time for wound-licking when they visit a resurgent Swansea.
Arsene Wenger’s troops have won back-to-back games against Sunderland and Burnley, but now face a side who’ve recovered from a mini-slump to take 4 points from games against Leicester and Everton. It’s Swansea’s best start to a Premier League season, despite dropping the joint-most points from winning positions (8). To make things tastier, Arsenal have clawed back the most from losing positions (7).
Best bet: The unlikely Arsenal come-from-behind win is 8/1, but instead take a rampant Alexis Sanchez to net anytime at 6/4 - the Chilean has scored 6 goals in his last 5 games for the Gunners (all competitions).
The FourFourTwo five-for
Empoli vs Lazio (11/10)
Getafe (evs) vs Elche
Hoffenheim (4/5) vs Cologne
Freiburg vs Schalke (11/8)
Lyon (1/2) vs Guingamp
£5 returns: £134.65
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Odds correct at time of publishing