FFT's Joe Brewin shares his best Premier League tips of the weekend...
Aston Villa vs Liverpool (Sat, 3pm)
It’s official – Aston Villa are the most boring team in Premier League history. The Villans’ last 11 Premier League matches have produced just 13 goals, contributing to a dismal 1.62-per-game average, but still Paul Lambert’s men remain in 13th despite a major slump in form. Last weekend’s defeat at Leicester was particularly poor, and their 6th league game without a victory. They’ve netted in just 1 of those – against Manchester United. At Villa Park they’re unbeaten in 5, but have drawn 4 of those. Liverpool picked up a win at Sunderland last time out to move within 5 points of fourth. The Reds have lost just 1 of their last 16 Premier League visits to Villa Park (W10 D5) too, but went down 1-0 in the first fixture at Anfield thanks to Gabby Agbonlahor’s ninth-minute opener.
Best bet: Liverpool have netted more than once in only 1 of their last 6 on the road, scoring only 2 in their last 3. Villa... well, you know all about them. Both teams to score (no) is 4/5.
Burnley vs Crystal Palace (Sat, 3pm)
Out of the bottom three and on the rise – things just keep getting better for Burnley. Hard-fought draws at Manchester City and Newcastle were big positives for Sean Dyche’s men, but they were only appetisers for the big win over QPR at Turf Moor that followed. The Clarets have lost just 1 of their last 6 home games, which bodes badly for a Palace side that haven’t won in 8 away from Selhurst Park. The Eagles saw off Spurs in Alan Pardew’s first league game in charge, but haven’t rippled the net in their last 4 away matches.
Best bet: 5 of Burnley’s last 6 home games have produced under 2.5 goals, but the same outcome is only 3/5 in this game. Instead, take a repeat of the above games and both teams to score (no) at 4/5.
Leicester vs Stoke (Sat, 3pm)
Things are on the up at Leicester. Despite the Foxes remaining rooted to the foot of the table, they’ve halved a 6-point deficit to safety and are now only 3 points behind 15th-placed Crystal Palace after wins over Hull and Aston Villa, and a point at Anfield. Victory over Villa last week was a first in 7 at home, and only their 4th of a tough campaign so far. One of the others was at Stoke, in which Nigel Pearson’s men scored with their only shot on target. This weekend’s visitors have hit decent form in recent weeks, though – before last Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, at least. Weirdly, Leicester have lost just 1 of their last 25 home games against Stoke (W9 D15).
Best bet: 68% of Stoke's goals this season have been scored in the first half – they're 6/5 to net first here.
QPR vs Man United (Sat, 3pm)
And so QPR’s Jekyll & Hyde campaign continues. At home things are decent enough – 5 wins and 4 draws from 11 matches producing 19 points – but that’s their lot. Rangers have been woeful on the road, failing to pick up a single point in 10 attempts. Good thing they’re back in west London here, then – though Louis van Gaal’s men are expected to fight back like wounded animals after losing to Southampton. United are unbeaten in 16 (all competitions) against QPR, and have lost just 1 of their last 19 league games in London. They need a win here after 3 without one, though – those comparisons with David Moyes’ mob of last season aren’t going away yet.
Best bet: QPR have netted in 9 of 11 home games this season, but their backline has proved the most unreliable in the top flight this season. Man United to win and both teams to score is 12/5.
Swansea vs Chelsea (Sat, 3pm)
It’s not been the best of weeks for Swansea. Their bank balance may have been boosted to the tune of £30 million after selling Wilfried Bony to Manchester City (a move which could have significant repercussions for Chelsea), but the Swans are now shorn of their top marksman and slipping after 3 games without victory. Bafetimbi Gomis stepped up with a big hand in the equaliser against West Ham last week, though, suggesting all isn’t lost. Chelsea have re-established a two-point lead at the top of the table after squeaking a win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho’s side have won just 1 of their last 5 league away games, but still only 1 side has stopped them scoring (Sunderland).
Best bet: Only 4 sides have a better home record than Swansea this season, and only 2 have conceded fewer. They’ve got enough to frustrate Chelsea, making the 8/5 available for the Draw/Swansea Double Chance worth pursuing.
Tottenham vs Sunderland (Sat, 3pm)
Just when it looks like Spurs are building up a head of steam, they go and do a Spursy thing like lose to struggling Crystal Palace. Sure, it was Pardew’s first game at the helm, but they went 1-0 up thanks to Harry Kane’s eighth league goal of the season and then lost it from there by conceding twice in 11 second-half minutes. Sigh. The north Londoners are unbeaten in 5 at White Hart Lane, though, and 9 in total against Sunderland. Gus Poyet’s men were awful in defeat to Liverpool last weekend – their 3rd defeat in 4 league games. The Black Cats are out of the drop zone but only 3 points ahead of bottom side Leicester. Things could start getting hairy very soon.
Best bet: Sunderland have failed to net in 6 of their 10 away games this season. Though Spurs have struggled on home soil, recent form suggests a win to nil at 7/4 is within their reach.
Newcastle vs Southampton (Sat, 5:30pm)
Three games without Pards, zero wins. Come back, Alan! OK, fine. Truth is, Newcastle should have taken something away from Stamford Bridge last Saturday after a terrific first half in which they couldn’t quite crack the Blues' rearguard. They gave it a good go despite still not having a manager, although former Arsenal enforcer Remi Garde looks set to take charge. Promisingly, the Magpies have lost only 1 of their last 9 at St James’ Park but welcome a Saints side who’ve mauled them 4-0 in each of their last two meetings (both on the south coast, however). Ronald Koeman’s men are still on the rise after grabbing a gigantic victory at Man United to leapfrog the Reds into third, and now boast 4 wins from their last 5. This should be a good one.
Best bet: Stingy Saints have conceded just 8 goals in 10 away games this season, and really are back on the bounce after that 4-game losing streak before Christmas. At 11/10 they’re a decent bet, but it’s worth considering the 13/5 on them winning to nil to beef up the price.
West Ham vs Hull (Sun, 1:30pm)
Hammers fans are still blowing pretty bubbles despite their side going 4 games without a win (although apparently they always will regardless of results). Sam Allardyce’s side drew at Swansea last weekend with a little help from Andy Carroll’s bullet from the blue, but now return to home pastures where they’ve had much success this term – at Upton Park they’ve lost just 1 of their last 9. Hull, meanwhile, lost their crucial basement clash against West Brom and plunged back into the bottom three. Injuries are biting at Steve Bruce, adding misery to an already-dire situation at the sharp end: Abel Hernandez, Nikica Jelavic and Sone Aluko are all injured, while target Yaya Sanogo joined Palace on loan this week. Desperate times for the Tigers.
Best bet: Without a proper striker, Hull are clearly going to struggle. West Ham’s home form makes for an ominous result, though they’re priced up suitably at 7/10. Instead snap up the Hammers on a -1 handicap at 7/4.
Man City vs Arsenal (Sun, 4pm)
Manchester City have work ahead again if they’re to regain level footing with Chelsea, having been held to a 1-1 draw by Everton at Goodison Park last weekend. Manuel Pellegrini’s mob had clawed their way back onto level points with the Blues, and now face their last chance to do it again before facing them at Stamford Bridge in two weeks’ time. Under Pellegrini, City have won an impressive 25 of 29 matches at the Etihad Stadium, and are now 12 unbeaten. Arsenal scored 3 times here last season but shipped 6, and haven’t won at City since Samir Nasri was among the goals in a 3-0 victory back in October 2010. Away from the Emirates they’re particularly unconvincing this season, having failed to record back-to-back wins and losing 4 of their 11 road trips.
Best bet: Both sides have the double boost of players returning; Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero are back in starting contention for City, while Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott could line up for the Gunners. Pellegrini’s side have the edge, though, and should control this game in midfield against Arsenal’s sticking-plastered engine room. Take the hosts at 4/5.
Everton vs West Brom (Mon, 8pm)
The Toffees got themselves out of trouble impressively against City, but their lack of victory in 5 games since beating QPR in mid-December remains the elephant in the room. They remain in 12th, but just 5 points above Leicester in a tightly-packed bottom half. Only Swansea (16) have dropped more points from winning positions than Roberto Martinez’s strugglers (15) this season, yet they still go into this game as favourites against a West Brom side buoyed by victory over Hull last time out, but also one that has won just 4 of its last 26 Premier League away games. With Tony Pulis in charge you can be sure of their priorities in their next few weeks, with goals likely to be at a premium thanks to Pulis’s organisation-first strategy.
The FourFourTwo four-fold
Millwall vs Ipswich (6/5)
Sheff Weds (evs) vs Bolton
Fleetwood (31/20) vs Oldham
AFC Wimbledon (11/10) vs Carlisle
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