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April 6th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
English Premier League
Saturday, 7 April 2012 – Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
They’re closer to bottom than top in the Barclays Premier League, with arch rivals Manchester United 24-points ahead of them in the table as the Red Devils close in on a 20th English league title, while there will be no Champions League football for a third successive season after failing to keep pace with the top-four protagonists. Yet Liverpool’s players WOULD NOT be forgiven for thinking the league season is effectively over.
Everton are above them in the table, so that in itself should serve as a motivation for the team, but there is even the prospect – a realistic one at that – of the Reds suffering the ignominy of finishing the campaign in the lower half of the table. The beleaguered Anfield outfit have won only one of their last eight Premier League matches, six of which were defeats, and have slipped to eighth in the table, one point behind locals Everton and just three above Norwich City in twelfth.
It could be worse for Kop boss Kenny Dalglish. He could be Alex McLeish, the man in the opposite dugout whose Aston Villa team are going through a similarly woeful stretch of form. And, after also winning just one of their last eight Premier League matches, are now considered genuine contenders for relegation. Villa are three places and five points above the drop zone, and what’s more is that they can barely string a team together right now what with so many key figures out injured (Richard Dunne, Stiliyan Petrov, Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent to name but a few on the sidelines).
Liverpool have an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on the horizon, but any thoughts of facing Everton in London will have to be put to one side this weekend, as nothing is more important right now than getting disgruntled fans back on side with a well overdue victory. And they should as well – earn victory, as they are playing a Villa side in dire straits whose team-sheet last weekend, in the 4-2 home defeat by Chelsea, consisted of half-a-dozen youngsters and very little in the way of experience or proven quality.
Still, I wouldn’t want to put my money where my mouth is at odds of 9/20 (BetVictor) on a rare Anfield win for the hosts, whom have won only a third of their home league games all season. It could, then, pay, in a match between two out of sorts sides, to oppose the form book and back a striker whose strike record in the league this term makes for dismal reading but produced one of his best performances in a Reds shirt in last week’s 2-0 defeat away to Newcastle.
Andy Carroll has made a total of 29 appearances for Liverpool in the Premier League this season, and yet his goal return is just three. It’s all a tad embarrassing for a striker that set his current club back in the region of £35m when they lured him away from Newcastle in January 2011. But for the first 45 minutes at St James’ Park, the misfiring forward was the most threatening player on the pitch, in either final third. Another menacing display like that could help him to a goal on Saturday – who knows, possibly even more.
There isn’t a team in the top-flight who get anywhere near the tally of goals that Aston Villa have conceded from corners (13), thus highlighting their deficiencies in the air. Most of those goals were shipped with defender Richard Dunne in the side, so without the Irishman in the ranks, Villa are even more vulnerable from the air. And as it happens, Liverpool have earned more corners this season than any other side.
So there is some logic behind our selection, with Andy Carroll backed to score this weekend at odds of 15/8 with StanJames. If the 6ft 3in Geordie doesn’t net, Martin Skrtel may well do so instead. The Slovakian, who is also stands in at 6ft 3in, is an imposing figure from set-plays and has four goals for the season, three of which were scored directly from a corner while one of which came in the reverse fixture at Villa Park in a routine 2-0 win for Daliglsh’s men.
Andy Carroll to Score @ 15/8 StanJames
Andy Carrol First Goalscorer @ 11/2 Bet365 (general price)
AND… Martin Skrtel Anytime Scorer @ 10/1 PaddyPower
January 15th, 2012 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Newcastle V QPR
Sunday, 15 January 2012 – 13:30 GMT (LIVE on Sky Sports 1)
English Premier League
He was a favourite amongst the fans, but that counted for very little when the QPR board got together, after last week’s disappointing 1-1 draw with MK Dons in the FA Cup, and decided enough was enough, sacking the enigmatic 63-year-old.
Their decision was a valid one however, as Warnock – whom saved the club from Championship relegation in 2009/10 before leading them to promotion the following season – leaves the West London outfit third from bottom in the Premier League and without a win in nine in all competitions.
Warnock’s replacement is the former Blackburn, Fulham and Man City tactician Mark Hughes, who has been out of management for the past seven months since departing QPR’s West London neighbours Fulham last summer. The Welshman cited a lack of ambition as to the reason why he quit the Cottagers, and he has cited the complete opposite as to why he couldn’t resist the Loftus Road post.
The opportunity to build a club from the bottom up, to establish a lasting legacy, all of his own-doing, like his former mentor has at Manchester United, was too good to miss, according to Hughes. The 48-year-old plans to remain at the helm for many years to come – which is some claim when you consider he’s the fourteenth managerial appointment at the club in the last six years, but that might only the case if Rangers stay up.
With a gruelling end-of-season schedule, it’s vitally important Hughes hits the ground running if Rangers are to chalk up enough points to avoid having to go to places like Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd in the final few weeks of the season – which they do have to – and earn a result. His tenure starts with Newcastle away before a must-win clash with Wigan at home; both are winnable.
Negotiating Newcastle at St James’ Park is by no means easy, mind. The Magpies have been outstanding this season – without doubt the strongest team outside of the well-known top-six – and have only lost twice at home all season, but Alan Pardew is missing several hugely influential figures who would have made the hosts an entirely different proposition.
Whether it be the combative Chieck Tiote or goalmachine Demba Ba, Newcastle are missing top-quality players; two of their most consistent performers. Filling their voids is impossible in my opinion, so it will be a case of plugging away in their absence. Can they do that? They shown they can by beating Blackburn in the FA Cup. It was anything but convincing, but the fact they managed to ground out the victory speaks volumes; that their sheer desire and industry should compensate for their temporary losses.
Mark Hughes and Rangers are also up against a side who last time out on Tyneside thumped reigning Premier League champions Manchester United 3-0. In fact, Newcastle have only lost two of ten at home this season (W5 D3 L2), although their win over United was their first in four on home soil.
Perhaps their sprightly start has come back to haunt them. Whatever it is, Newcastle aren’t quite the same force now that they were from August right through to November, when they went eleven unbeaten in the league and at one stage were third in the table. This is why I believe QPR will take something from this game, because the euphoria and buzz of Hughes’ appointment should spark this dormant team he has inherited into life and combine nicely with the hosts’ personnel issues and lack of consistency.
The perfect start would appear a long shot, however. Hughes is expected to make a raft of signings this month, but in the meantime he will have to make do with a threadbare squad, one that won’t boast midfield maestro Joey Barton (suspended), or Armand Troare and Adel Taarabt (African Cup of Nations duty), for Sunday’s game.
There wasn’t a single goal when these two met at Loftus Road back in September, although it was far from a dull affair. QPR bossed it, in all fairness, and created enough chances to register all three points. A repeat performance would see them go close second time round.
However, Newcastle missing their top scorer; QPR shorn of several of their more creative talents; it all spells out another low-scoring contest for me, with another goalless one not a bad shout at 11/1 (SportingBet).
My Recommendation: Draw @ 13/5 Bet365
Value Punt: 0-0 Draw (Correct Score) @ 11/1 SportingBet
December 30th, 2011 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Bolton V Wolves
Saturday, 31 December 2011 – 15:00 GMT
English Premier League
Bolton haven’t done things by half this season, with the Trotters the only side in the Premier League not to have drawn a game so far. They either win or they lose – it really has been that simple. Invariably they lose, no fewer than 14 times out of 18 in fact, so why on earth bookmakers have them down as favourites this weekend is beyond me.
The reason why Bolton are tentative favourites is because they are home, and partly because of who they’re facing – fourth from bottom Wolves have won just one of nine of the road and had lost six away matches on the spin before earning an impressive point at Arsenal last time out. But that latter result should give them the belief that they can perform on their travels.
For me, I don’t see an awful lot between them on paper. Neither have excelled this season. However, Wolves do at least look a team, with their spirit and work ethic never questioned. The same cannot be said of Bolton, the team with the leakiest defence in the top flight and whose manager is still none the wiser as to who deserves a place on his team-sheet – probably because the answer to that is very few.
As if sitting second from bottom wasn’t depressing enough, reports suggesting Chelsea have agreed a deal to bring centre-back Gary Cahill to Stamford Bridge as soon as the January transfer window opens will only dampen the mood further at The Reebok, where Bolton have won only once – a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke on 5 November – but lost eight times this season.
To sell arguably your prized asset midway through a season, your most talented defender in the heart of a defence that even with his presence has leaked goals left, right and centre all season (41 in 18 games, which are the worst defensive figures in the Premier League), could be construed as suicidal. It will also fuel many disgruntled fans who haven’t been shy in voicing their disapproval in recent home games.
Wolves have been abysmal away from home, losing six of nine, but as I said, there is a togetherness with them that is clearly missing in the Bolton camp. Plus they have a striker who starts regularly and as a result is repaying the faith shown in him with goals; Steve Fletcher (2/1 with bWin to score any time in proceedings) scored the equaliser at Arsenal on Tuesday, his seventh of the season and his fourth on the road, and his intelligent movement could see him net a few more against the most porous defence in the top flight.
Recommended Bet: Wolves to WIN @ 5/2 (StanJames)
Alternative: Wolves Draw No Bet @ 6/4 (StanJames)
Value Punt: Steven Fletcher to Score 2 Goals or More @ 13/1 (PaddyPower)
December 27th, 2011 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Arsenal V Wolves
Tuesday 27 December, 2011 – 15:00 GMT
English Premier League
In a rearranged fixture, Arsenal take on Wolves at the Emirates in what can only be described as a home banker. At least it should be. The Gunners have won eight and lost only once in ten Premier League games. They’re also twelve places and seventeen points better off than fourth from bottom Wanderers, who were last victorious away from home over the Gunners way back in 1979.
Ominous stuff then for a visiting Wolves side striving to avoid a seventh consecutive away defeat in the Premier League, especially seeing as Arsenal have taken 13 from a possible 15 points in their last five at home. However, the Midlands outfit can at least take some heart from their opponent’s injury predicaments, with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger shorn of every recognisable full-back at the club for Tuesday’s clash.
Wolves are still to score a Premier League goal away to Arsenal, failing in three visits so far, but with the Gunners missing a whole host of key defensive personnel (Andre Santos, Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson and possibly Johan Djourou) I find myself rather taken with their odds of netting at the Emirates. After all, they did manage to score against the three leanest defences in the top flight, at Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd – albeit solitary consolations.
Two of those goals came via top scorer Steven Fletcher, who is awesome in the air but even more clinical on the deck. He gets himself into some fantastic scoring positions and the six-goal striker could be the one to prosper, in behind an Arsenal defence who were run a little ragged by a usually toothless and unimaginative Aston Villa last Wednesday.
Setting up shop simply isn’t an option for Wolves. They aren’t the best defensively – just three teams (those currently occupying the relegation zone) have shipped more this season – and so will need to offer something meaningful going forward, which I believe they will. More importantly, they’ll be set-up to test this makeshift Arsenal defence, one likely to contain four centre-halves, and that should set us up for a lively encounter.
So goals is the call, and I foresee the visitors getting in on the act just as much as the hosts. I also suspect the final score will be a lot closer than many people expect, what with the Gunners a best-priced 1/4 to bring home the bacon.
Recommended Bet: Both Teams to Score @ 20/19 bWin
Over 3.5 Goals @ 11/8 StanJames
Steven Fletcher to Score @ 15/4 Bet365
December 26th, 2011 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Stoke V Aston Villa
Date & Kick-Off: Monday 26 December, 2011 – 19:45 GMT (LIVE on SKY SPORTS 1)
Venue: Brittania Stadium
Opposing Stoke in their own backyard is a very dangerous game. You can raid your kitty whenever they go travelling, mind; but at home, at the Brittania Stadium – in the land of the giants, Stoke City take some beating. So it does kind of look ominous for an Aston Villa side with a strike rate of 1 in 8 away from home in the league this season.
Just one away win all campaign, which was a narrow victory at The Reebok over a Bolton team who at the time were propping up the league, on top of their frailties at the back, and you can’t help but wander whether there is any hope at all for Alex McLeish & Co.
Three of the previous four goals Villa have conceded, in recent defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, came via dead-ball situation. Now that’s a frighteningly bad omen ahead of their visit to set-piece specialists Stoke, who are big and strong and beast-like in the air; in fact, over half (61%) of the Potters’ total league goals have come via set-plays.
Furthermore, it isn’t as though the Villains go into their live Boxing Day encounter in fine knick. Although they were victorious on their last away outing, beating Bolton 2-1 on 10 December, that remains their only success in six, having suffered d immensely during an excruciating period of fixtures against the top sides.
However, the fact they weren’t thrashed once does at least provide me with some crumbs of comfort; if they can restrict Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham to two goals and Man Utd to just one, teams who predominately attack with the ball at their feet as opposed to the air, Villa should fare better than many envisage at the Brittania – provided they can get it together at set-pieces.
This certainly requires an element of faith, that Alex McLeish has at least improved Villa’s aerial defending in an absurdly short space of time, but I’m willing to take a chance on a team who do defend stoically on the deck and do boast one of the better defensive records in the top flight, conceding just 23 in 17.
Backing Villa on the off-chance they might repel Stoke’s aerial bombardments is extremely precarious indeed, but a crucial factor in this bet is the return of top scorer Darren Bent, who should thrive in a team now boasting pace on the flanks, a team who gave in-form Arsenal a right going over before Christmas before eventually losing 2-1 at Villa Park.
Bent has suffered since the summer following the high-profile departures of wingers Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, rarely touching the ball in some games let alone find himself on the end of chances. He has been feeding off scraps – plain and simple. But that may not be the case for much longer, not if speed merchants Charles N’Zogbia, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton continue in the same energetic vein when pushing Arsenal close last week.
Against the top sides, Stoke set themselves up to defend in bulk. Against the rest however, teams they instinctively fancy their chances against, they aren’t as meticulous with their organisation, for the simple reason that they show far more ambition. I expect that to be the same on Monday, what with Tony Pulis’ men being the favourites and all, which will grant Villa’s attacking players, whom are gradually growing in stature and confidence, a lot more space and time on the ball to strut their stuff.
Villa should be a constant threat on the counter, in behind a strong and robust Stoke defence that isn’t the quickest; they’re no slouches, but they can be got at with quick movement and dribbling. The return of Bent is also a massive boost as it gives them a genuine outlet, a prolific outlet too, a player with a formidable reputation for finding the onion bag, something Villa have managed just three times in their last six league games.
Recommended Bet: LAY of Stoke @ 2.00 (Betfair)
Aston Villa to WIN @ 10/3 (PaddyPower)
Darren Bent First Goalscorer @ 7/1 (Ladbrokes) (He’s 9/4 to score any time with the same firm!)
August 15th, 2011 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
From the luxury of their own homes, Manchester City watched all the weekend’s top-flight action unfold before their very eyes – and, on the whole, they’ll have no doubt been ecstatic with how it all panned out. The one sour note was seeing their fierce local rivals, Sir Alex’s Manchester United, perform one of their famous smash-and-grab wins away at West Brom.
With Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all dropping points on the opening weekend, Roberto Mancini will be all too aware that Monday’s game with newly-promoted Swansea is a glorious opportunity for his team to steal a march on the title protagonists. Plus, there’s even the incentive of leapfrogging their Manchester rivals in the process.
A two-goal margin of victory – 3/1 with PaddyPower – would ensure City end the opening weekend of the 2011-2012 Barclay’s Premier League above Manchester United, in second – though just five of their thirteen wins at home last season were by two clear goals (or better).
Swansea – a 12/1 shot with Bet365 – are the first visitors to the newly-named Etihad Stadium (for Sponsorship reasons), formerly known as the City of Manchester Stadium, and The Swans will etch their name into Premier League folklore in the process; as the first club to represent Wales in the league’s 21-year history.
And it’ll be a tough baptism of fire for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who played some beautiful football at times last season en route to promotion via the play-offs, but will quickly come to realise that they’ll need a lot more than just silky one-touch moves and the odd mesmerizing run from Scott Sinclair if they’re to finish 17th of better at the end of the term.
No goalkeeper kept more clean sheets in the Premier League last season than Joe Hart for Man City, who marshalled a defence that also boasted the tidiest defensive record (33 from 38 games). Meanwhile, in the same season, Swansea registered 13 goals fewer on their travels than at home (28 in total from their 23 away games), this against teams of Championship calibre.
Efficient and effective, but never emphatic! – that’s Manchester City’s slogan.
Betting Tip: Manchester City to Win to Nil – EVENS PaddyPower
April 10th, 2011 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Liverpool V Manchester City
Date & Kick-Off: Monday, 11 April – 20:00 (GMT)
Competition: Barclay’s Premier League
Man City manager Roberto Mancini has urged his players to show everyone, especially those who doubt him and his excessively paid stars, that they are capable of going to places like Anfield, where they haven’t won in the league since 2003, and win. Since then, however, the Citizens have registered just two points from seven visits to one of the most historic grounds in the country – two draws and five losses – though can take some heart from the fact their recent ventures have produced two creditable score-draws.
The Italian also believes his charges are primed to end their seven-year wait for a win on Merseyside over one of the most decorated clubs in the country, after their 5-0 thumping of struggling Sunderland eight-days previous consolidated their top-four stance.
Liverpool, meanwhile, will start life without their talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard on Monday, with the 30-year-old midfielder ruled out of the remainder of the campaign after successful surgery on a persistent groin problem.
To further complicate matters for Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, who is yet to put pen to paper on a deal which would keep him at Anfield beyond the end of the season, the Scot is facing a defensive crisis heading into Monday’s heavyweight clash with a rejuvenated City. Daniel Agger will spend the remainder of the season recovering from a knee problem, while full-backs Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson are still a good month away from making their respective returns to the first-team fold.
During the 2-1 reverse away at West Brom last time out, Dalglish was forced to use centre-backs as makeshift full-backs. If Fabio Aurelio isn’t fit in time, Dalglish may once again be forced to deploy a similarly makeshift back-four.
City chief Mancini doesn’t carry the same burden into Monday night’s game, with the Italian having only Jerome Boateng and Micah Richards out injured, although Kolo Toure is still suspending pending an investigation into a failed drugs test. It is, however, three defends who Mancini is shorn of, the only difference being that City have quality in numbers and should comfortably fill those voids.
From a betting perspective, the home side have far too many significant negatives to really take them serious. Unbeaten in six league games at Anfield they are, but Liverpool are missing several key defensive components as well as their most influential player in the middle of the park in captain Steven Gerrard.
Furthermore, with the Reds now eight-points behind fifth-placed Spurs, who occupy the one and only league entry into the UEFA Europa League, a competition Liverpool could definitely do without, and a further eleven behind City in fourth, it’s difficult to argue with this next statement that Liverpool’s season is all but over with seven games still to play.
The above certainly does not apply to Man City, who are locked in a heated battle for fourth with Tottenham Hotspur, who were 3-2 winners on Saturday. Mancini’s men are now only three-points ahead of the north Londoners, although they have a golden opportunity to stretch their advantage to six with their first league win at Anfield for seven years.
But the Citizens are far from flawless. Not since Boxing Day have Mancini’s men took maximum points from an away fixture in the Premier League, drawing two and losing three of their last five away league games. It’s an appalling statistic but one which is there to be broken, as is their seven-year drought without a win on Merseyside over the Reds.
One thing is assured, City won’t have a better window of opportunity to win at Anfield in the league for quite some time, especially as Dalglish appears as though he’s onto something at a club which, under new owners, have bold plans to take Liverpool by the scruff of the neck and return them to the big time. No doubt they’ll flex their financial muscles in the summer, however next season will be their time to shine, now it’s City’s.
Betting Tip: Manchester City to WIN – 3.00 StanJames
Value Bet: Carlos Tevez First Goalscorer – 6.50 BetFred *
The Argentine is hot on the heels of United’s Dimitar Berbatov in this two-horsed race for the 2010/2011 Premier League Golden Boot. The Bulgarian was on target for Sir Alex’s men at the weekend as he opened up a two-goal advantage, but Tevez is set to lead the line on Monday in a match Man City ideally have to take maximum points from if they’re to put further daylight between them and Tottenham.
Tevez has 19 league goals for the term and now trails Berbatov by two, so he’ll be more determined than most to get on the score sheet on Monday.
* BetFred are doing their popular ‘Double Delight & Hat-Trick Heaven’ promotion for this game, where if your player scores the game’s opening goal and then goes on to score another, Fred will double your winnings. Should he go on to score a hat-trick however, Fred would then treble your winnings!
April 9th, 2011 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Bolton V West Ham
Date & Kick-Off: Saturday, 9 April 2011 – 15:00 (GMT)
Competition: Barclay’s Premier League
Most teams have a nemesis, someone they struggle to overcome time and time again. The fact Bolton have bossed virtually every Premiership encounter with West Ham shouldn’t be all that shocking considering, as everyone tends to have a whale of a time against those suspect, hapless Hammers.
Witty comments aside, Bolton’s record against West Ham is actually very impressive. Not only have they won the previous seven meetings in all competitions, home and away, they’ve also won the last seven consecutive league meetings at The Reebok – a run which stretches right back to 1995.
Bolton also played West Ham twice at home last season, once in the league and another in the Carling Cup. The Trotters won both encounters 3-1. Yet more formidable, some might even say gruesome statistics for all you Hammer-lovers out there. Oh, and the clash at Upton Park earlier in this season also went Bolton’s way, fittingly by another 3-1.
However, this bunch of East Londoners, not that there is too many around in the first-team squad at this precise moment, should defy the history and actually contest this fixture on Saturday. Put up more stern resistance than any previous West Ham outfit has. That despite Avram Grant’s absence on the touchline, with the Israeli serving a one-game touchline ban at The Reebok.
The Hammers are enjoying a decent run of form, or at least were. A 4-2 home defeat at the hands of league leaders Manchester United last weekend ended West Ham’s four-match unbeaten run. But not only did it halt an encouraging sequence, the manner in which Grant’s men were beaten will have left a bitter taste in the mouths of all the players, who at one stage had worked so hard to pull two-goals clear only to capitulate in the second period.
Should last week’s gut-wrenching loss not have too big an impact on the morale and confidence of the players, West Ham should be in with a chance of snatching some points on Saturday, from a fixture which has brought them nothing but heartache, misery and a heap load of embarrassment over the years. As before the 4-2 reverse to United a week previous, West Ham had lost just two of eight in the league and were scoring goals for fun.
Their two goals against United took their tally for their last five games to 11, and although they did draw a blank in their most recent away assignment, it was a positive blank, if there ever is such a thing, in a 0-0 draw away at Tottenham. Before that, West Ham had scored two at Everton in a 2-2 draw, three at Blackpool in a 3-1 triumph and another three at West Brom, in a 3-3 draw which saw those usually spiritless Hammers come from 3-0 down to register the most unlikely of point.
It has taken a while, but there is finally some character in this West Ham team. We only hope the defeat last Saturday to the best team in the Premier League, according to the league table, hasn’t knocked the stuffing out of them, as before that rather unfortunate loss they were beginning to gather some eye-catching momentum.
We aren’t at all surprised that Bolton are the favourites. After all, their record against West Ham is overwhelming. I’m sure the fact Owen Coyle’s men are chasing their fourth-straight home win also came into the equation. Even so, despite all the fancy statistics which would make a punt on the home side seem a bank-job, we believe there’s value in those travelling Hammers in a match they desperately need something from if they’re to leap straight back out of the relegation frying pan.
Bolton, meanwhile, well there season is pretty much over, with relegation from the top-flight virtually impossible now, while Europe has also passed them by. So the hungrier team should be the visitors. We shall see if that’s the case.
Betting Tip: LAY of Bolton @ 2.32 Betfair (I’m no good at conversions, but that works out at around a 5/6 punt – me thinks!)
Draw @ 3.40 totesport
Both Teams to Score @ 1.75 VictorChandler
Mark Noble to Score @ 7.00 WilliamHill
West Ham’s Mark Noble rarely misses from the spot, as he displayed at Upton Park last week when dispatching two from 12-yards against United. Bolton are missing the player who breaks most opposing attacks down in American midfielder Stuart Holden, so West Ham should have more success in getting the ball forward into the Bolton third in the combative midfielder’s absence, and that could lead to a possible spot-kick at some stage, especially with flat-footed David Wheater in the heart of the Bolton defence.
December 29th, 2010 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Liverpool V Wolves
Wednesday, 29th December – 20:00 (GMT)
Neither Liverpool nor Wolves are on course to meet the targets set for them, which are contrasting to say the least, and so while the hosts, Liverpool, are expected to win a shade cosily this evening, there’s no doubt whatsoever that the Merseyside outfit are under just as much strain as their opponent’s, arguably a great deal more.
After spending the second half of last season in the UEFA Europa League, everyone involved with Liverpool knew an entire season in Europe’s second tier competition would be tortuous, but that it would also provide motivation to avoid having to go through the same arduous task of competing against lesser clubs in a tournament which even if you win, a club like Liverpool could never truly boast about their success – Personally, and this coming from a Reds supporter, I find it embarrassing that we’re even associated with the blooming thing.
So frustration all round to see Liverpool heading into 2011 so far off the pace of the top-four that it’s frightening, not only because we’re on course to qualify for the Europa League for the second successive season, but that others are beginning to get a foothold at the top of the Premier League pecking order. At the same time, Liverpool are dwindling away into the background and before long will be another Juventus or an Ajax, where the club’s prestigious reputation is all that is keeping them from being mourned as a former giant of the game.
Roy Hodgson has declared the need for winter reinforcements but has also requested some realism from supporters, with the majority so eager to see what is a pretty average squad boosted significantly, and not just in numbers. Players like Paul Koncheskey and Christian Poulsen are not welcome, but it’s that sort of calibre which is likely to embrace Anfield in the New Year, meaning a return to the Champions League could be an impossible dream as far as this season is concerned, with the club in need of a couple of superstars in order to really change the team’s fortunes and overhaul the current 11 point gap in front of them.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are Wolves, a club who would kill for the sort of dilemma Liverpool find themselves in. Year after year the Midlands club find themselves planted slap bang in the middle of a fight for survival, and they avoided what seemed an inevitable drop before the season even began last term, but making haste of that familar ‘Second Season Syndrome’ which has plagued so many previously is proving a lot harder than anticipated, certainly for Mick McCarthy.
If Roy Hodgson is a man under the pressure then Mick McCarthy must be on the brink of despair. While the Englishman’s job as Wolves manager isn’t under any immediate threat, McCarthy has overseen a 2010/2011 league season which has brought about half-a-dozen impressive displays, most of those against incredibly strong sides, but reap very little rewards. The plaudits have been there, but without the points to show for their industrious efforts Mick McCarthy isn’t interested in momentary limelight, he rightly wants his side to grab the headlines week in, week out but for all the right reasons.
At Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, against Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, Wolves were nothing short of outstanding. However, against Chelsea they were superb but still couldn’t find the goal, while against United, a weakened United team it must be said, they found that elusive goal but also found bad luck right at the death – It has just been one of those seasons I’m afraid, where whatever they do, try all they might, nothing seems to land for them.
Anfield is a formidable venue for everyone, that despite Liverpool’s recent decline from an elite team to one of a mediocre standard, and Wolves more than anyone else can back this up. In fourteen previous visits to Liverpool’s historic arena, Wolves have suffered thirteen defeats, and need to cast their minds back to 1984 for their last victory over Liverpool on Merseyside. And this is just where the bad omens and sickening statistics start if you’re a Wolves fan, so look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition.
The task in front of Mick McCarthy’s charges is huge; a Liverpool side who have overcome their humbling at the hands of Blackpool back in October by storming to four successive home wins at Anfield, an impressive but also much needed turn around in form which is accompanied by an even more encouraging aggregate goal difference of 10-1. Of course, their opponent’s have all been frightening on paper, with Chelsea (2-0) the one exception, but the likes of Blackburn Rovers (2-1), West Ham United (3-0) and Aston Villa (3-0) are all arguably a more accomplished outfit than Wolves, so in this instance Liverpool’s home form is intimidating for Wolves, although anything would be considering how poor they’ve been so far this season on their travels.
Any team that can register crucial points away from home is always going to be in with a shot of avoiding the drop, so to hear that Wolves have collected just one point from their eight away league encounters thus far isn’t the sort of promising statistic supporters would like to hear, nor the fact their team has hardly been a model of consistency at home, either. And furthermore, Wolves’ tally of five goals scorer on the road for the term is the joint-lowest in the top-flight, the entire football league in fact.
As we drop a few more statistical beauties into our Liverpool to Win with a Clean Sheet ingredients bowl; Wolves having not scored against the Reds in their previous three Premier League contests, failing to score on Merseyside against Liverpool in nine of their last eleven visits; eleven away matches with a win as well as the leakiest defence in the entire division, we thought we would also mention the current state of affairs off the pitch and in the treatment room, just for that sucker-punch effect.
For Liverpool, their talisman, skipper, goal creator and goal-getter, Steven Gerrard, returns from a hamstring injury which has kept him out of action since the start of November, and recent postponements with Fulham and Blackpool either side of Christmas will only have developed his fitness levels further, with now only a run-out in a competitive match required for Liverpool’s most inspiration individual.
Meanwhile Wolves are without defenders Michael Mancienne and Jody Craddock, midfielders Karl Henry, Adlene Guedioura and Michael Kightly, as well as a forward who would have worked tirelessly up top on Wednesday in Kevin Doyle.
There is literally nothing working in Wolves’ favour other than on their most recent visit to Merseyside they came away with a point, but that was against Everton who have been well below par and gifting points to mediocre sides all season long. Liverpool won’t be as generous as their local counterparts, in fact the Reds are as stingy as they come. A Jamie Carragher own goal was the last goal scored at Anfield against Liverpool, with clean sheets against Chelsea, West Ham and Aston Villa contributing largely to a run which has seen Roy Hodgson’s men go over six hours without conceding at home in the league. Combine that with the fact that even their village idiots have been scoring at Anfield of late – the Ryan Babel’s, the David N’Gog’s, heck even that useless Argentine Maxi Rodriguez has a couple – and it really does look a mammoth task for Wolves, and, dare I say it, a formality for Liverpool, not that they’ve heard of such a word for so long.
Liverpool to WIN to NIL (Without Conceding) – 2.10 VictorChandler
Liverpool: -1.5 (Asian Handicap) – 1.95 Bet365
Steven Gerrad to Score Anytime – 2.50 Unibet
Liverpool to Score 4 or More Goals – 4.50 PaddyPower
December 18th, 2010 / Matt - Category:
Premier League Tips
Wigan Athletic V Aston Villa
Saturday, 18th December – 15:00 (GMT)
It would be fair enough to say that Gerard Houllier isn’t the most popular man in Birmingham, with the Frenchman enraging supporters when he let his emotions get the better of him at his former stamping ground, Liverpool, two weeks ago. The former Liverpool boss committed three cardinal sins, the first was to touch the ‘This is Anfield’ sign en route to the pitch. The second was to completely disregard the travelling contingent of Villa fans which spent a lot of money and time to watch the game, while the third was his comments in a post-match interview suggesting he wasn’t overly concerned with the final result – Losing 3-0 – because it was against a club he admires and still holds dear to his heart. I’m afraid taking a sentimental stance doesn’t tend to get you very far in the Premier League.
As well as Houllier’s antics on Merseyside, fans weren’t in the slightest bit amused with the performance of their team. It was their third league defeat on the spin at the time, while it also left the club precariously close to the relegation zone. However, faltering levels of morale, both inside and outside the club, were handed a boost when Villa overcame local rivals West Brom at Villa Park last weekend, ending a barren spell of four games without winning in the process. But instead of the media singing Houllier’s praises, they were instead keen to focus on why former club captain Richard Dunne wasn’t even named in the starting XI, with speculation rife over a dressing room bust-up between player and manager. With the Villans still just four points above the relegation zone, any ill-feelings towards one another is like shooting yourself in the foot and the supporters are praying that if there is anything hospitable going on behind the scenes, it is resolved quickly.
This match is going to be marred by so many absentee’s for both sides, with Wigan manager Roberto Martinez now starting to rue the unavailability and ineligibilty of some of his stars ahead of another crucial league fixture which, considering they find themselves languishing in the relegation zone, they can ill-afford not to win. The Latics are without suspended duo Maynor Figeruoa and Hendry Thomas, while Emmerson Boyce and Franco Di Santo are also out with injuries. Tom Cleverely, on loan from Manchester United, is also a major doubt and the latter in particular, should he fail his late fitness test, will be sorely missed in a team starved of noteworthy individuals.
Villa, meanwhile, have been dealt a huge blow with news that Ashley Young will miss the trip up north altogether with a knee injury. Even though Young hasn’t quite glistened as he did throughout the previous term, he’s still a very important player for Villa and one who like Cleverely for Wigan will be sorely missed. However, Houllier will be chuffed to hear that Gabriel Agbonlahor is fit to start and will be hungry to add to his tally of goals against Wigan, with the England international having found the back of the Wigan net in two of his last three appearances at the DW Stadium.
Another statistic which took us by surprise was this beauty: Only one of the last ten league meetings between the two has finished with the home side celebrating victory, with none of the last eight ending in a home win. Just as well as we fancied an Aston Villa win anyhow.
While the fans are eager to get rid of Houllier, the board have recently pledge their support to the manager and the players did something similar last weekend as they ended a dismal patch of form by beating locals West Brom at Villa Park. A win which was sought-after, but it hasn’t improved their situation immensely. Villa still find themselves too close to the bottom three for comfort and can’t afford to ease off the gas now.
The hosts, Wigan, are, however, unbeaten in their last four home matches and have a couple of dangerous individuals in the form of Charles N’Zogbia and Hugo Rodellega to give Houllier something to think about. But Villa, after that hard-fought victory over the Baggies last weekend, would appear as though they’ve awoken from their slumber. It has taken a while but they’ve finally got their tails up, got that elusive win under their belts and will now target more quick-fire success before they break into the new year, hopefully not worse for wear.
In Agbonlahor they have an outlet guaranteed to cause a make-shift Wigan defence plenty of problems, a winger in Stewart Downing bang in form with a mean delivery- The former Middlesbrough ace is the club’s top scorer in the league this season with five goals – while the youngsters who have deputised for the Villa veterans have stepped up to the plate in commendable fashion. Granted consistency hasn’t been their forte this season, having not won back-to-back games in the Premier League all season, but they’ll struggle to find a better opportunity to string a run of wins together than a trip to Wigan, where the hosts are depleted, albeit unbeaten in their last four at home, but a team destined it would seem to spend the entirety of the campaign flirting with relegation zone. Villa, on the other hand, really should be challenging further up the table but must start playing to their potential before the majority of punters can really start to take them seriously again.
Aston Villa to WIN – 2.70 WilliamHill
Gabriel Agbonlahor to Score – 3.20 Coral
Has scored in two of his previous three visits to Wigan’s DW Stadium and will be eager to build on his miserly total of just one league goal thus far.