The FFT Flutter: Why Arsenal revenge can make you money at Anfield on Sunday
Man City vs Crystal Palace (Sat, 12:45pm)
And up the form table Manuel Pellegrini’s men go. Manchester City have won their last 5 Premier League games to stay hot on the heels of leaders Chelsea, just three points behind, after claming maximum points in just 4 of the previous 9. Consecutive clean sheets against Everton, Roma and Leicester have added to an impressive run that’s not expected to stop against an out-of-sorts Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium. Neil Warnock’s side are struggling having won just 1 of their last 10 league games, and the same number on the road all season (at Everton). They’ve netted in only 2 of their last 5 matches away from Selhurst Park.
Best bet: Man City have conceded just 18 goals in 26 Premier League home games under Pellegrini. In this form, and against an unconfident Palace, the win to nil at evens looks excellent.
Aston Villa vs Man United (Sat, 3pm)
Aston Villa have won just 1 of their last 37 Premier League games against Manchester United (D9 L27), including losing the last 7 in a row. Not a good start here, then. Incidentally, victory for Louis van Gaal’s side this weekend would be their seventh in a row to make them (wait for it) the top flight’s form side. Imagine! The last time they did that was March 2013 when a Titus Bramble own goal helped them to victory at Sunderland. Villa lost their first game in 6 at West Brom last weekend, but Paul Lambert’s men are still struggling at the sharp end having netted just 5 goals in as many matches.
Best bet: United haven’t kept an away clean sheet since that goalless draw at Burnley back in August, but consider that this weekend they play the league’s lowest-scoring side. Villa are handy at soaking up pressure on their own patch, though, and could frustrate Van Gaal’s form outfit. Under 2.5 goals is 17/20.
Hull vs Swansea (Sat, 3pm)
Make no bones about it – Hull are rubbish this season. What was supposed to be a season of progress with the Europa League in sight and a handy summer’s business in the bag has quickly turned into a regressive mess for Steve Bruce, who has seen his team win just 1 of their last 15 Premier League games and pick up a league-low six home points this season. Swansea haven’t fared particularly well outside of south Wales this season – indeed, they’ve picked up just two draws from their last 6 on the road – but they boast a defensive record only 4 teams can beat overall. Boss Garry Monk aims to avoid back-to-back defeats for the very first time.
Best bet: Can’t win vs can’t win away. Are you thinking what we’re thinking? The draw is 9/4.
QPR vs West Brom (Sat, 3pm)
If current form is anything to go by, QPR are probably due a win. Their LWLWL run in the last five games, most recently at Everton on Monday, suggests as much. But then things don’t exactly work out quite like that – just ask West Brom, who landed a first win in 6 against Aston Villa thanks to Kieran Richardson’s red card and Craig Gardner’s winner. QPR have picked up all of their points at Loftus Road this season, though, beating the likes of Burnley, Leicester and Aston Villa in the kind of games they might look back on smugly come the season’s end. West Brom have won 8 points from 7 away games, despite only scoring 3 goals along the way.
Best bet: QPR have home form on their side, but the R’s also bemoan the top flight’s leakiest backline (30 shipped in 16 games). A Rangers with with both teams scoring is a nice 4/1.
Southampton vs Everton (Sat, 3pm)
D:Ream once preached that things can only get better, but that doesn’t look to be true where Southampton are concerned. Ronald Koeman’s side knew the festive period would be a tough old ride, but they certainly we’re expecting 6 straight defeats in all competitions, including back-to-back ones against Burnley and third-tier Sheffield United in the League Cup. The Saints have failed to net in 4 of their last 5 overall, and have Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama (both suspended), Dusan Tadic and Jack Cork (both injured) sidelined. The fixture list is still daunting too. Everton aren’t exactly enjoying their season much, but the Toffees at least beat QPR on Monday night to return to the top half. If games ended at half-time this season, they’d be third in the table. But... well, they don’t.
Best bet: Southampton’s home form was exceptional at the start of the season, but without their absent quintet you can’t help but feel Everton can take advantage. Roberto Martinez's quick-starting team are 6/5 to score first– as they have done in 10 of their 16 games.
Tottenham vs Burnley (Sat, 3pm)
Tottenham’s season is already looking OK after all. Firstly they’re into the Europa League knockouts, plus the League Cup semis with a winnable tie against Sheffield United to look forward to. Then there’s the slight upturn in league form which has seen them beat both Everton and Swansea recently, and gentle-looking games against Burnley and Leicester to follow. The leave-it-late wonders have salvaged 8 points from goals scored in the 85th minute or later this season. But now they face a Burnley team who don’t really know what they are. What they certainly aren’t, it seems, are the division whipping boys after 3 wins in their last 6, most recently against Southampton. Just 1 of those has been away, though – and another here could be a bridge too far.
Best bet: Going further, the Clarets have bagged in just 2 of their 7 away games this season – at bottom side Leicester and lower-team-loving Stoke. Spurs are hardly miserly Scrooge-types at the back but look good at 8/5 for a win to nothing.
West Ham vs Leicester (Sat, 3pm)
The Premier League’s fourth-best team this season are doing quite alright thank you very much. Gone are the anti-Big Sam bedsheets and mutinous ramblings from the Upton Park faithful, replaced instead by ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s reacting to their suddenly-ace team. The Sammers (geddit?) have won 5 of their last 6 on home soil and now play Leicester, who haven’t won in 11 and sacked their Director of Football in midweek after it was revealed they did indeed sign Matthew Upson in the summer (and who hasn’t played yet, but never mind). Nigel Pearson’s Foxes are giving away points like Christmas presents, and allowed an unmarked Frank Lampard to consign them to a fourth straight (perhaps unfortunate) defeat last weekend. Oh, and they haven’t won in London for 17 matches (D3 L14). Good-o.
Best bet: Leicester have lost 7 of their 8 away games this season, and unsurprisingly, haven’t led at half-time in any of them. They’ve been level in 6 of them, though, to West Ham’s 5 of 8 at home. Draw HT/West Ham FT is ambitious, but a juicy 7/2.
Newcastle vs Sunderland (Sun, 1:30pm)
A big eight days for Newcastle have not gone well for so far. After conceding four goals to Arsenal in the league, and then Tottenham in the Capital One Cup, Alan Pardew has warned his players they can’t afford to slip up in the Big One. Trouble is, that’s all his side have ever done at St James’ Park under his stewardship; consecutive 3-0 home defeats in the Tyne-Wear tussle following a 1-1 draw in his first. Sunderland have won 3 straight derbies, in fact, and are bidding for a first-ever fourth in a row. The Black Cats haven’t even won 3 games this season, though, having drawn a mind-numbing 10 matches to send boss Gus Poyet a bit mental.
Best bet: No side has picked up more yellow cards than Sunderland (37) this season, while only Swansea (4) have more red cards than Newcastle (3). Over 5.5 total cards is 5/6. Fight! Fight! Fight!
Liverpool vs Arsenal (Sun, 4pm)
"One-and-a-half crisis clubs doing crisis football against each other," was FFT's take on a tasty clash this weekend as two out-of-sorts sides face off at Anfield. Arsenal have it better after getting back on the horse with big wins over Galatasaray and Newcastle, while Liverpool trundled to victory over Bournemouth in midweek after taking a beating from Manchester United and getting knocked out of the Champions League by Basel. Brendan Rodgers’ side’s problem is their inability to defend, which looks like a particularly bad thing against an Alexis Sanchez in mercurial form – the Chilean has scored (7) or assisted (4) 11 of Arsenal’s last 17 Premier League goals. Liverpool’s stunning 5-1 victory in this fixture last season certainly won’t be repeated, the Reds having only netted as many goals in their last 6 at Anfield.
Best bet: No Suarez, no Sturridge, no Balotelli and pinning almost everything on Raheem Sterling – things really don’t look good for Liverpool at the sharp end. Most worryingly the situation is even worse defensively. Take Arsenal to win at 6/4.
Stoke vs Chelsea (Mon, 8pm)
Stoke, Stoke, Stoke. Stoke! You know the situation by now – Mark Hughes’ side don’t half know how to follow a fine performance with an absolute duffer. This time it was a dour draw at Crystal Palace after their customary home win over Arsenal, though it was the first time this season they hadn’t lost the game after a win. Unlike Potters sides of old, they’ve not kept a clean sheet in 10 games – the top flight’s longest run of its kind this season. Bah, humbug. Now they face Chelsea, who can’t be called invincibles but still look pretty good atop the table. They could be caught by Man City ahead of this one depending on the result of Saturday’s early kick-off... if only for a while. Nevertheless, it’s 2 without a win away from Stamford Bridge and now they come up against a team who’ve fared better against stronger opposition this season. A potential banana skin indeed.
Best bet: Chelsea are almost certain to breach the Potters’ rearguard on the evidence above, but the Blues have kept just 1 away clean sheet in 8 attempts. Both teams to score is evens.
The FourFourTwo five-for
MK Dons (3/4) vs Oldham