The FFT Flutter: The punt at Old Trafford that should pay out this weekend
Sunderland vs Liverpool (Sat, 12:45pm)
Statistics will tell you that Sunderland have won just 1 of their last 10 league matches. They’ll also tell you that Liverpool have lost only 1 of their last 8. These things are both very true – but it’d be wrong to suggest that a) Sunderland are completely awful and b) Liverpool have been strong. Truth is, the Black Cats have drawn an obscene number of games this season (11 and counting), while Liverpool have fluffed their lines against Gus Poyet’s men at home, Manchester United away and, most recently, letting slip a two-goal lead against Leicester at Anfield before the cup break. Suffice to say, neither side’s season is going to plan.
Best bet: 4 of Sunderland’s last 6 games have yielded under 2.5 goals. Back another for the stalemate favourites at 17/20.
Burnley vs QPR (Sat, 3pm)
Few would have expected that, just over halfway through the season, just two points would separate these two teams in the Premier League. Poor little Burnley were supposed to be dead and buried by now... and QPR’s cash would tell eventually. But neither of those things have happened just yet. The Clarets are perched in the relegation zone, sure, but they hold a three-point advantage over last season’s champions Leicester and have battled to brilliant points at Manchester City and Newcastle in their last two games. QPR have relied on home form – every single point of theirs this season has been claimed at Loftus Road – and head to Turf Moor still searching for a first point on the road.
Best bet: Burnley’s last 5 home games have produced just 7 goals, while road-shy Rangers have netted just 4 on their travels this term. But with both defences particularly forgiving (67 shipped between them), we’d take both teams netting at 5/6.
Chelsea vs Newcastle (Sat, 3pm)
Big bad Chelsea are on the ropes – and you can’t help but feel Newcastle are partly to blame. The Blues seemed to have recovered after being beaten for the first time by the Magpies last month, but have since relinquished a commanding lead to hang onto top spot only by virtue of ‘C’ being before ‘M’ in the alphabet. But Newcastle are without leadership after Alan Pardew’s premature departure, have two players away on AFCON duty and bemoan a raft of injuries to key men. Lots of them. Chelsea haven’t dropped a point at Stamford Bridge this season, winning a hefty 12 of their last 16 to nil in west London. They’ll take some stopping.
Best bet: It's perhaps worth a punt on a two-goal handicap for the Blues to add some value to a home win. Chelsea -2 is 11/8.
Everton vs Man City (Sat, 3pm)
Not many teams are getting stuck against the Toffees this season. Roberto Martinez’s men are on for a fifth straight defeat should they suffer at the hands of in-form Manchester City on Saturday, after a dismal run including 4 goalless games in their last 6. The Toffees have shipped 33 goals already after only letting in 39 in the whole of 2013/14, making more errors leading to goals than anyone else (11). A procession for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, then? It probably won’t be as easy as that, but current form would suggest otherwise. Sunderland and Burnley have both given the champions scares in their last two matches, but otherwise the signs are promising. Yaya Toure is off to the Africa Cup of Nations, but both David Silva (5 goals in 6) and Frank Lampard (goal every 74 minutes this season) are both capable of stepping up when needed.
Best bet: City’s 11 goals in their last 4 matches speak volumes for a side high on confidence at the sharp end, in stark contrast to their underperforming rivals. It took a Toure penalty to narrowly separate them at the Etihad a month ago, but a straight win for the title chasers looks about right at 17/20.
Leicester vs Aston Villa (Sat, 3pm)
A huge game for Leicester at the King Power Stadium, on the back of victory over Hull and a resolute 2-2 draw at Liverpool after coming from two goals down at half-time to claim a point. Nigel Pearson’s men are still three points adrift of nearest rivals Burnley, but the signs are more promising: an FA Cup win over Newcastle was followed by the arrival of new record signing Andrej Kramaric, who needs a work permit before he can feature. Aston Villa have bored the pants off neutrals this season, but the Villans are trudging their way to safety. Back-to-back goalless draws have kept them five points above the drop zone, but they haven’t won since beating the Foxes at Villa Park six games ago and have netted only twice in 5 since.
Best bet: Villa’s last 10 games have produced a miserly 12 goals. Paul Lambert’s men and Leicester have failed to score in 11 and 9 games respectively, so you could do worse than the 4/5 going for both teams not netting.
Swansea vs West Ham (Sat, 3pm)
Solid Swansea meet solid West Ham at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday – but both sides have issues to contend with. Garry Monk’s Swans look set to lose Wilfried Bony to Manchester City upon his return from Africa, and will be light in midfield for this one with Jonjo Shelvey suspended and Ki Sung-yueng on Asia Cup duty. As for West Ham, Cheikhou Kouyate has joined up with Senegal, and Diafra Sakho will be missing through injury. Both sides have their best-ever points hauls at this stage of a Premier League season, though, and will be up for the fight after failing to win in 2 and 3 matches respectively.
Best bet: Swansea have scored in each of their last 10 games, while West Ham failed to net away for only the first time in 9 at Chelsea. The Hammers have also conceded in every away game this season. Over 2.5 goals is 19/20.
West Brom vs Hull (Sat, 3pm)
Things are about to get prickly at The Hawthorns – this one’s big. Both of these sides are perched nervously above the relegation zone; West Brom a point clear of the bottom three and preparing for their first game with Tony Pulis at the helm, and Hull just a point above them after 2 victories from their last 3. The Baggies have won just 1 of their last 10 league games, and just 4 of 24 at home, but their struggling opponents have failed to score in 8 of their last 12 Premier League matches. No surprise, then, that the season’s earlier meeting was a goalless draw. Neither side would fancy a repeat.
Best bet: Over 2.5 goals is overpriced at 27/20 considering 60% of West Brom home games have gone that way, and Hull having seemingly rediscovered their scoring touch.
Crystal Palace vs Tottenham (Sat, 5:30pm)
New manager, new start for Crystal Palace. And that’s not the worst thing for a side marooned in the bottom three and winless in 8 after back-to-back goalless draws. The Eagles are struggling badly for goals too, failing to net in 5 of their last 7, and will be without Asia Cup-tied skipper Mile Jedinak. Visiting Spurs, on the other hand, have won 4 of their last 5 games including that 5-3 demolition of Chelsea at White Hart Lane last time out. Harry Kane (5 in 5) is scoring for fun, while behind him Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli are also thriving in front of goal.
Best bet: It’s all set for another Spurs win, and at 11/10 you should be snapping it up. Jedinak’s absence will be felt for the home side.
Arsenal vs Stoke (Sun, 1:30pm)
Arsenal’s problems against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium are well documented and very real, but at the Emirates Stadium it’s a different story entirely. The Gunners have won their last 12 home games in a row against the Staffordshire outfit, and lost just 1 of their last 27 league games at the Emirates overall. On the other hand, Arsene Wenger’s men are enduring their worst start after 20 games since 1994/95 and haven’t kept a clean sheet for 6 games. Stoke’s form is picking up, meanwhile. The Potters have won 2 of their last 3 and drew with Manchester United last time out, suggesting they have what it takes to finally starting mounting a decent top-half charge.
Best bet: Arsenal have kept clean sheets in 2 of their 9 home games this season; Stoke have scored in 8 of their 10 away. Both teams to score is 10/11.
Man United vs Southampton (Sun, 4pm)
Manchester United have made Old Trafford a fortress once more. Eight wins from 9 this season is indicative of a team who’ve found their mojo once more, and a 10-game unbeaten run has helped keep them in the frame for an automatic return to the Champions League. A recent splurge of draws has stuttered progress, but they remain in control and could leap four points clear of fourth-placed Southampton with victory in M16. The Saints have recovered themselves with 3 victories from their last 4 and a draw against Chelsea sandwiched in between. Van Gaal vs Koeman again so soon? Let’s get ready to rumbuuuuuhhhlll.
Best bet: Just 33% of Saints away games have produced over 2.5 goals this season, thanks to a mean backline that’s shipped just 8 goals in 9 trips. United have conceded only 7 in 10 home games. Under 2.5 is a generous evens.