We're sold on Soldado
Ben Coley and Ian Brindle preview Sunday's Premier League action and the latter is backing Roberto Soldado to find the net.
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The Spanish striker has a strong team of creators behind him and should have chances against Cardiff, whose home form may be somewhat flattering according to our man.
Much of the focus will be on the Manchester derby but according to Ben Coley it's a hard game to take a strong opinion on and instead his best bet is Swansea to win at Crystal Palace.
- 1pt Arsenal to beat Stoke by one goal at 11/4 (Ladbrokes) - Gunners on a roll but Stoke playing well and can keep it close
- 2pts Swansea to beat Crystal Palace at 7/5 (Stan James) - Swans had it easy in Valencia and can build on that with another win
- 1pt Roberto Soldado to score first v Cardiff at 9/2 (General) - can open the deadlock thanks to creators in behind
Arsenal v Stoke (1330 BST)
You might well read and hear the line about Stoke being the type of side Arsenal don't enjoy playing before this game, and if you do you should discard it as irrelevant and misplaced. Because while the Gunners clearly haven't enjoyed great success at the Britannia Stadium, this fixture has represented a guaranteed three points year on year and that should be the case again on Sunday. Arsenal are one of those sides who incite great conversation, and typically they're perceived to be in crisis or brilliantly defiant. The truth here is that they've simply recovered well from a shocking performance on the opening day of the season, winning a series of games for which they've been favourites, and it'd pay for supporters, players, management and, crucially, us punters, to try to find that quiet logic in amongst the shouting. Stoke, for their part, tend not to be embarrassed in this fixture. In two of the last three years they've lost it by exactly a goal, and having conceded just twice in the league so far this season arrive at the Emirates deserving of respect. The price that first caught my eye here was Coral's 5/4 about a home win to nil, given that Arsenal have not conceded at home since losing to Aston Villa and Stoke are among the division's least potent attacking sides on the road. However, Wednesday reminded us once again that the hosts are prone to contriving to concede somehow and that enhances my belief that Arsenal to win by one is the call. Arsene Wenger knows his side have three away games coming after this and his threadbare squad needs looking after, so it could be one of those days where they threaten to run up a cricket score but ultimately settle for a narrow victory.
Verdict: Arsenal 2 Stoke 1 (BC)
The Gunners have won all five Premier League matches against Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium.
Stoke will be the fifth team Mark Hughes has coached in an away game against Arsenal in the Premier League, but he has lost all six previous visits to north London to play the Gunners.
Stoke have completed 79 per cent of their passes in the Premier League this season; more than in any of the five Premier League seasons under Tony Pulis.
Crystal Palace v Swansea (1330)
The key question here centres around Swansea's midweek trip to Valencia and the impact that - and further European games - will have on them. So far, the signs are good as it was a strong side which lost in Romania before beating West Brom 2-0 three weeks ago. The fact that they played against 10 men for so long at the Mestalla also bodes well, and a record of five wins, five draws and nine defeats on the road last year is perfectly solid. Crystal Palace have done just about as well as could've been expected so far, losing out narrowly to Spurs, Stoke and Manchester United, the latter in unfortunate circumstances, and picking up a valuable three points against Sunderland. They look short on quality, but not on desire and Ian Holloway is certainly capable of keeping them competitive until reinforcements - from the treatment table and beyond - can arrive. However, there's little doubt in my mind that if the Swansea side who won at Valencia or fought back to batter Liverpool in the second half last Monday turns up here, they'll go home with three points. Their dynamism in attack is capable of punishing Palace who are not set up to scrap for narrow wins and may fall victims to their own ambition in games like this. The absence of Pablo Hernandez isn't ideal but Swansea have reinforcements enough to cope and make it three wins from their last three visits to Selhurst Park.
Verdict: Crystal Palace 0 Swansea 2 (BC)
Crystal Palace have failed to score in each of their last four league games against Swansea City, losing the last three in a row.
There have been 22 penalties (14 won, eight conceded) in Crystal Palace's last 41 games in the Premier League.
Palace have fashioned more chances from counter attacks than any other side in the Barclays Premier League this season (4).
Cardiff v Tottenham (1600)
It's amazing the difference that a year can make as Andre Villas-Boas heads into Sunday's fixture with things looking decidedly brighter than they did at this stage of last season. Three wins from four Premier League matches is the current tally for the men from White Hart Lane but AVB is unlikely to be patting himself on the back just yet as his team have scored just four goals so far, and they were value for more than two against Norwich having generated an amazing 23 shots. That lack of goals is somewhat surprising given that they were the third highest scorers on the road last season (only Manchester United and Liverpool scored more) so the manager will be hoping that the performance of Jermaine Defoe, who hit a brace against Tromso on Thursday, can inspire new signing Roberto Soldado to deliver the goods on Sunday. Cardiff were beaten only twice at home last season in the Championship, and Malkay Mackay's team have realised four home points from six against Everton and Manchester City despite being significantly outplayed in terms of possession and chances. Nevertheless, they have shown an inability to retain the ball in key areas at times, and with due respect to Hull City, the Bluebirds are unlikely to get away with some of the mistakes that they made at the KC Stadium. Christian Eriksen, who is as low as 11/2 to hit the target first, has already made a mark for Spurs along with Glyfi Sigurdsson is capable of scoring goals as well as producing assists and this appears the decisive factor in this game. The bookmakers aren't giving away much by offering the visitors at 10/11 but it would be a major surprise if they were not capable of coming away with all three points. However, the bet is Soldado to score here because he should be given plenty of opportunities to make 9/2 look generous.
Verdict: Cardiff 0 Tottenham 2 (IB)
Tottenham have scored exactly two goals in five of their last seven Premier League away games.
Andre Villas-Boas' outfit have hit more shots than any other side this season (59 excl. blocked) but have scored only four times.
Cardiff City are one of five Barclays Premier League sides yet to score a first half goal this season.
Manchester City v Manchester United (1600)
Without doubt the weekend's most intriguing fixture but one that's devilishly difficult to solve. Neither Manuel Pellegrini nor David Moyes has enjoyed anything like a perfect start to their tenure, and midweek Champions League wins mask problems which may decide the outcome of this game. For City, the phrase about square pegs and round holes continues to apply and it may not be as simple as more time together equaling greater cohesion. The manager has to find a way to get the best out of a talented bunch, something which proved beyond Roberto Mancini last year, and only time will tell if he can do that. For Moyes, it's more a case of his side not having the quality of their predecessors. On the face of it there's no great difference to how they've played compared to last year, bar perhaps an effort to move higher up the pitch as a unit, but reinforcements were needed and haven't really arrived. City have the opportunity to control midfield here and have Vincent Kompany back on duty, but United have the game's best player in Robin van Persie and are perhaps more confident in what they're trying to do on the pitch at the moment. With that in mind I lean towards United, particularly as the away side has won three of the last four Manchester derbies in the league, but I can't shake the memory of their performances in their two toughest games this season. They were uncharacteristically toothless against both Chelsea and Liverpool and that alone is enough to put me off. City have found salvation at home this season but haven't yet been tested and while I'm eager to find out how they cope, I'm not willing to speculate with money. As for the side markets, a resurgent Wayne Rooney has scored a brace on each of his last two visits to the Etihad so merits respect at 18/1 for another, and he's the pick of the any time scorer prices at 11/4. However, it's no bet for me.
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 1 (BC)
Manchester City have scored in each of their last 52 Barclays Premier League home games. The all-time record for the competition is 66 set by Man Utd last season.
Since the start of 2012-13, no side has kept more clean sheets in the Barclays Premier League than Manchester City (21).
Wayne Rooney has now either scored or assisted 40 goals in his last 44 Premier League games.