Sunday's no time to Bale out
There are four Premier League games on Sunday and we've got 16/1 and 19/2 tips among our selections for them.
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Ben Coley is convinced there's still value to be had in backing gareth Bale in the scorers' markets, while Andy Schooler says a tight game appears to be in store when Sunderland host Norwich in front of the TV cameras.
- 2pts Gareth Bale to score Spurs' first goal v Fulham at 9/4 (Sky Bet, bet365) - stats speak for themselves and Bale fresh whereas others are not.
- 1pt time of first goal 76mins to full-time in Wigan v Newcastle at 16/1 (Blue Square, 888sport) - pays out regularly in this tight fixture.
- 0.5pt no goalscorer in Sunderland v Norwich at 19/2 (BetVictor) - Neither side in form or safe; both have featured in plenty of 0-0s.
Sunderland v Norwich (1330 GMT)
These sides have featured in no fewer than 10 goalless draws between them this season and with neither yet totally safe from relegation, 19/2 about another does not look the worst bet in the world. Hosts Sunderland are just six points clear of danger and arguably need the points more than the Canaries. Yet given they were beaten 3-1 at rock-bottom QPR, it is eas to see Martin O'Neill trying to keep things tight, particularly early on, here. Yes, QPR did score via two cracking strikes in last week's game but the R's had plenty of other chances and Sunderland were well beaten. Norwich, who have featured in six of those 10 0-0s, have managed to pick up points of late despite not playing particularly well. An injury-time victory over Everton looked highy unlikely for the vast majority of that game while last weekend Southampton were the better side in their latest goalless draw. They could be without one of their more creative players, James McClean, in this one, while it's fair to say that Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham have yet to click as a pair up front. All things considered, having a bet on 'no goalscorer' (thus taking own goals out of play) looks worth the smallest of plays.
Verdict: Sunderland 0 Norwich 0 (AS)
Tottenham v Fulham (1500)
Are Spurs running on empty? Will they collapse on the back of subsequent defeats to end what's been a terrific season on a crushing low note? It's a reasonably popular theory, but not one I subscribe to. Spurs are a different animal this season to last, led by a more tactically astute manager, and they will have enough to finish in the top four of the Premier League with something to spare. That doesn't mean I can back them here at 8/15, a price which a fortnight ago would've looked very generous. No, 120 minutes in the San Siro isn't the best way to prepare for this and I wouldn't expect fireworks from the hosts even if they should do enough to win. However, a certain Gareth Bale was suspended on Thursday, and his fitness advantage may further exaggerate the class edge he holds on his Spurs peers in front of goal. With that in mind, I've no qualms about 3/1 that he scores first in this game but better still is Sky Bet and bet365's 9/4 that he scores first for Spurs. Yes, we'd have expected a bigger price two months ago but times change and Bale has scored the first Spurs goal in seven of his last nine appearances, and five of his last six in the Premier League. These aren't ratios he'll keep up forever, but he'd need to go through the sort of drought we've come to expect from scoring 'rivals' Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor before 9/4 would start to look questionable. For their part, Fulham have drawn their last two away from home and aren't without hope, but they have scored just once in the league at Spurs since 2004 and need to sort that out. Of course, that stat heightens confidence in Bale netting first but the discrepancy between 3/1 and 9/4 isn't sufficient to take on a whole team, and instead I'll back Bale to prove the cream of the Spurs scoring crop once more.
Verdict: Tottenham 2 Fulham 0 (BC)
Chelsea v West Ham (1600)
A London derby which pits two enigmatic sides against each other. Despite being managed by someone so remarkably unpopular with his own fans, Chelsea have shown flashes of brilliance thanks to a wonderfully creative and free-scoring midfield, performances undermined by some truly lifeless displays. West Ham have done enough to virtually ensure survival, but they've been very hard to predict too - a fact underlined by an away win at Stoke when without Kevin Nolan and a record which shows they've not won back-to-back games in the division thus far. So, what to expect on Sunday? Goals would seem on the agenda from the hosts. They've scored freely against West Ham in the past, bagged three against Steaua in midweek and know that they can ill-afford any slip-ups if they wish to return to the Champions League next term. A couple of firms go odds-against about three or more Chelsea goals, a price worth considering. West Ham won the reverse 3-1 but at 8/1 make no appeal to do the double, particularly given how inconsistent they've been. Chelsea's record post-European ties is interesting in that it shows they've been vulnerable early on, but they've been unfortunate to face Man City, Man United (twice) and Liverpool among others and should find this easier. All things considered this looks a banker home win but there's no clear value to be found.
Verdict: Chelsea 3 West Ham 1 (BC)
Wigan v Newcastle (1600)
It's little surprise that an influx of new acquisitions plus the return from injury of Yohan Cabaye et al have seen Newcastle return to something like their best this calendar year. Having signed off 2012 with a 7-3 defeat at Arsenal, they've only lost three in the league since and each - to Everton, Spurs and Swansea - has been by a one-goal margin. The latter saw them dominant but profligate, without which they'd be unbeaten in seven, and at bigger than 2/1 they're a tempting betting proposition. However, much as Papiss Cisse's late winner saved them extra-time in the Europa League on Thursday, their record the Sunday after a European game is poor: they've lost five of nine, a worse return then their overall win-draw-lose ratio which shows four defeats in 10 on average. Of course, they've not had to travel this week but it's still off-putting, especially against a Wigan side buzzing following last week's FA Cup win at Everton and a favourable semi-final draw in that competition. Interestingly, though, Wigan's improvement has come on the road where they've won six of their last nine, whereas their last home win came way back in November against Reading - a fact which surprised me. It's one of just two all season, both of which have been against sides inferior to Newcastle, all of which leads me elsewhere for a bet. I like the look of 16/1 that the first goal in this game arrives between the 76th minute and full-time. Newcastle in particular are in the habit of scoring late - see each of their last two games - and interestingly this is a bet which would've paid out in three of the last 13 meetings of the sides, which, notwithstanding red cards, have tended to be tight. With the visitors superior and Wigan poor in front of goal at home I think this is the way to play a tough match to call. Of course, you may wish to save on no goalscorer but we'll hope for that late goal that Newcastle fans have become accustomed to.
Verdict: Wigan 0 Newcastle 1 (BC)
- The matches at Sunderland and Wigan are being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.