The FFT Flutter: Man United to start strong, West Ham and Chelsea keeping it clean
Man City vs Spurs (Sat, 12:45pm)
It’s very early to call games must-wins for any side yet, but Manchester City really can’t afford to drop many more points if they’re to catch Chelsea at the top of the table. Already five points behind the Blues, Manuel Pellegrini’s champions have little room for error as they hunt a third successive victory against an up-and-down Tottenham side who beat Southampton before the international break.
Man City have won 6 of their last 7 against Spurs, making them unsurprising 4/9 favourites, and netted a whopping 11 goals against the north Londoners in the two games last season. Sergio Aguero has bagged in 4 of his last 6 against Spurs, and is 3/1 to open the scoring here.
Best bet: Man City have conceded in all 3 home games this season; Spurs have netted in their trio on the road. Back both to score at 4/5.
Arsenal vs Hull (Sat, 3pm)
A repeat of May’s FA Cup final at the Emirates, as Arsenal aim to ignite a dreary campaign which has produced 4 draws in 7 games. Arsene Wenger’s men have only won twice all season, and went down at Chelsea a fortnight ago, but the 4/11 Gunners have beaten Hull in the last 7 meetings (all competitions). The Tigers did at least end a 5-game winless run with victory over Crystal Palace at the KC Stadium, but Steve Bruce’s side have also failed to beat Newcastle and Aston Villa on their travels. On the plus side, they’ve scored in every game this season.
Best bet: It’s difficult to see past a straightforward home win for a fixture the Gunners have traditionally done well in. Hull’s defence is there for the taking right now, so put your money on Over 2.5 Arsenal goals at 6/4.
Burnley vs West Ham (Sat, 3pm)
Finally, a chink of light for Burnley in this otherwise dark season. So their bright second-half display at Leicester didn’t earn them a first win, but it helped them to a point when they may have otherwise caved. The Clarets trebled their goal tally from six games (nice!), but still bemoan the top flight’s lowest shot-conversion rate of 5% (boo!). West Ham, meanwhile, have already won as many games this season (3) as they did from their first 20 last term. Sam Allardyce’s rejuvenated troops have scored in every game since the opening day, with Diafra Sakho (12/5 anytime) on course to match Carlton Cole’s record of notching in 5 consecutive Hammers games.
Best bet: Burnley are still a relatively lost cause in front of goal, while West Ham have proved they’re a level above last season’s team. A win to nil for the east Londoners is a tempting 7/2in this claret and blue derby.
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea (Sat, 3pm)
John Terry won’t need reminding of this fixture from last season, having bagged the decisive goal – at the wrong end. But the match which also saw Jose Mourinho berate a ball boy already feels long ago. This is a new Chelsea machine; one that’s well-oiled, in full flow and steamrollering all in its wake. The Blues have won 6 of their 7 games this season, and in Diego Costa have a 9-goal striker who’s netted more times than any Palace player since their return to the top flight last season. Bet against them at your peril.
Best bet: Since Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge on the eve of 2013/14, Chelsea have kept more clean sheets than any other side in the Premier League (21). Take the Blues to win without reply at 5/4.
Everton vs Aston Villa (Sat, 3pm)
Everton are stuck in the relegation zone after going winless in 3 and losing at Old Trafford last time out, so Roberto Martinez’s side will be desperate to claw back some points against traditionally obliging opposition here. The Toffees have lost just 1 of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Aston Villa (W3 D7), although 5 of the last 7 at Goodison have ended as a draw (grab that at 3/1 this time). Paul Lambert’s men are built to withstand pressure while offering relatively little at the other end; indeed, only Burnley have netted fewer (3) than their 4 goals this season.
Best bet: Villa games are averaging the joint-fewest goals this season (1.86). Chelsea aside, they’ve kept things tight on their travels and will be looking to do so again here. Under 2.5 goals is 43/40.
Newcastle vs Leicester (Sat, 3pm)
Any way will do for Newcastle – they just need a win. The Magpies are yet to win in 7 attempts this season but come up against a Leicester side looking for their first triumph in 3 after late disappointment at home to Burnley two weeks ago. Papiss Cisse is “the only one” capable of scoring goals for the hosts according to Alan Shearer, and he’s not far wrong: the Senegalese hitman has netted 4 in his last 3. At 11/2, there are worse first goalscorer punts.
Best bet: It’s reasonable to suggest the goals will flow: 4 of Newcastle’s last 5 games have produced at least 4 goals, while Leicester have managed just 1 clean sheet so far. Both teams to net in the first half is 10/3.
Southampton vs Sunderland (Sat, 3pm)
In a rare role reversal, before the international break Southampton lost (at Tottenham) and Sunderland won (hosting Stoke). You can be forgiven for expecting a return to normality at St Mary’s, though, mainly because the Saints are yet to lose on home soil and their visitors are without victory from their 3 road trips. That’s not to say that Gus Poyet’s men will roll over and die, however – they’ve proved they can make life awkward by drawing 5 of their games this season (claim another at 3/1).
Best bet: Neither side has been particularly forgiving at the back, Southampton shipping just 5 goals to Sunderland’s 7 this season, and clearly the Black Cats can offer stern resistance on their day. They’ve lost only 1 of their last 6 league away games, so take them at 8/5 on the Double Chance.
QPR vs Liverpool (Sun, 1:30pm)
QPR are a higgledy-piggledy mess. For starters they’re bottom of the league after losing 5 of 7 games this season, and conceding a messy 15 goals to go with it. If they were facing the Liverpool of last season, this may well have been a massacre. Thankfully for ‘Arry & Co. they’re not, although Daniel Sturridge could return to beef up the Reds’ frontline (a 7/2 shot for the game’s last goal). Brendan Rodgers’ team have looked rather meek in front of goal so far, netting as many as Crystal Palace (10) up to this point, but against the struggling west Londoners there’s no better team to add to the tally against.
Best bet: Equally, the Merseysiders can be hapless defensively and may be relying on Kolo Toure if Dejan Lovren doesn’t make it. Take a stab at Over 3.5 goals, available at 13/8.
Stoke vs Swansea (Sun, 4pm)
So it probably won’t be one to remember, or even be worth staying up to catch on Sunday night, but Stoke really could do with staying awake for it. Getting beaten by Sunderland (in their most entertaining game of the season) saw the Potters sink to 16th in the early standings with only 2 wins to their name. They’re hardly scoring (6 in 7) but shipping relatively few at the other end (8), culminating in a snoozy 2 goals-per-game average. Swansea haven’t won in 4 after throwing away two leads against Newcastle, and have produced mostly forgettable matches since their opening-day humbling of Manchester United. Liven it up, one and all.
West Brom vs Man United (Mon, 8pm)
The Baggies didn’t quite have enough spring in their step to take anything from Anfield before the international break, but Alan Irvine’s men are at least proving early-season doubters wrong after a string of positive displays. Leading light Saido Berahino celebrated qualification to next summer’s Under-21 Euros with England in midweek, and the Burundi-born forward is 5/4 to extend his impressive scoring streak here – 5 of his 6 goals this season have come at The Hawthorns. Meanwhile at Manchester United, there’s nothing to see here. In fourth place and only 3 points behind rivals City, Louis van Gaal’s side have seemingly averted the Big Crisis by winning their last 2, including a hard-fought victory over Everton. More of the same needed for the Dutchman to stay happy.
Best bet: United have the second-best first-half record in the top flight this season, leading 4 of their 7 games at the break. West Brom have only been ahead in 1, against Burnley. United to win the first half is 5/4.
The FourFourTwo five-for
Fulham vs Norwich (7/5)
Ipswich (11/10) vs Blackburn
Chesterfield vs Oldham (Draw 12/5)
Hartlepool vs Luton (23/20)
Wycombe (21/20) vs AFC Wimbledon
£5 returns: £377.10
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Odds correct at time of publishing