Luiz looks great at 8s
Boxing Day sees the Premier League season reach its halfway point.
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It also brings the first set of reverse fixtures of the season - these sides met each other in early October.
Our Andy Schooler and Ben Linfoot have previewed the action to pick out their best bets.
- 1pt David Luiz to score at anytime v Norwich at 8/1 (Stan James) - too big for man currently playing in central midfield.
- 1pt Leon Osman to score at anytime v Wigan at 5/1 (Coral) - in fine form and can capitalise on Wigan's shaky defence.
- 2pts Stoke to beat Liverpool (draw no bet) at 11/8 (William Hill, BetVictor) - Stoke unbeaten in eight; Reds once again overrated.
- 1pt West Brom to beat QPR at 5/2 (Pinnacle) - Baggies back to winning ways at the weekend; winning feeling not familiar to hosts.
- 1pt Steven Fletcher to score anytime v Man City at 11/4 (General) - looks overpriced after two in three.
- 2pts Tottenham to beat Aston Villa at 11/10 (William Hill, BetVictor, YouWin) - Spurs set up to win away; Villa routed on Sunday.
- 1pt Michu to score and Swansea to win in 'wincast' market at 4/1 (William Hill) - League's top scorer has scored in every Swansea win thus far; Reading not good.
Everton v Wigan (1500 GMT)
Even with Everton missing Marouane Fellaini, it's hard to argue about the hosts being considerable favourites for this one. Wigan have taken just one point from a possible 15 and have scored just five goals on their travels. Four times they've failed to score on the road and that puts me off getting stuck into the even money about both sides scoring, something that has occurred in Everton's last 14 games. Fellaini is out through suspension but Darren Gibson will be available after lodging an appeal against his weekend red card. That's a boost to David Moyes and his squad. Victor Anichebe and Phil Neville were also welcomed back from injury during the win at West Ham, while Leon Osman's performance at Upton Park left Moyes purring that he "was on a different planet to anyone on the pitch." The Toffees should still be strong enough to come through this one and Osman may be worth a try in the anytime goalscorer market. Everton have not struggled for goals this season and Osman is full of confidence right now, his form having earned him a recent England debut. He's already bagged three goals in nine home games this season and on many other days would have boosted his tally at West Ham on Saturday when he had one chalked off. Only Reading have conceded more goals than Wigan, so we're have a small play on Osman netting in this one at 5/1.
Verdict: Everton 3 Wigan 1 (AS)
Fulham v Southampton (1500)
Fulham have won just once in their last 10 league games but there are few easier matches in the division than Southampton at home and the Cottagers will fancy themselves to get the maximum haul here. The Saints have won just once on the road this campaign - at QPR - and despite the poor form of Martin Jol's side they remain a solid proposition on their own turf. They have lost three times at Craven Cottage this season but two of those defeats came against Manchester City and Tottenham, with the 3-1 defeat to Sunderland (when they had a man sent off) the only really disappointing result. They generally get the job done against inferior opposition with Norwich, West Brom and Aston Villa all beaten to nil while Newcastle lost 2-1 at Fulham earlier in the month. Southampton have been getting results of late but four of their last five games have been at home and they offered very little on their one away day amongst that lot when they lost 1-0 at Anfield. Whether you want to trust Fulham at odds-on is another matter. Prices of 5/6 are fair considering their overall home league form, but they were embarrassingly poor against Liverpool on Saturday and are missing one or two of their better players. Fulham should get the job done, but we won't be betting on it.
Verdict: Fulham 2 Southampton 1 (BL)
Manchester United v Newcastle (1500)
United will likely make several changes to the side that drew at Swansea on Saturday but should still have too much in their locker for a Newcastle side still battling injuries. They will also have midfielder Chieck Tiote missing through suspension - a big miss. The Magpies' record at Old Trafford is a miserable one too - they haven't won in their last 31 visits - and you can't argue too much with the 2/7 offered about a home win. Still, it's hardly a price to set the pulse racing. At the same time, value in the handicap markets is also thin on the ground. United don't tend to batter teams these days - although it is worth noting they won the reverse fixture 3-0. There look plenty of better opportunities in other matches so we'll quickly move on.
Verdict: Manchester United 2 Newcastle 0 (AS)
Norwich v Chelsea (1500)
One bet immediately stands out in this match - 8/1 about David Luiz scoring at anytime. Stan James appear to be taking a big risk offering that price given he's played in midfield on a couple of occasions in recent weeks. Central midfielders who like to get forward should never by 8s to score during 90 minutes and Luiz fired in a few shots during a man-of-the-match display in Sunday's 8-0 rout of Aston Villa. The bonus in backing Luiz is he's also adept at set-pieces - as he showed against Villa when he netted from a free kick. The Brazilian, who now sits on four goals for the season, has also taken penalties at times. With Chelsea's confidence high, he has to be backed. Admittedly Norwich have been pretty tight at the back of late but Saturday's 2-1 defeat at West Brom may just be the start of a sticky spell for a side which has overachieved over the past two months. For those in disagreement and fancying Norwich, it's worth me pointing out that Robert Snodgrass has now scored three times in his last five league outings. He's 4/1 to net anytime in this one.
Verdict: Norwich 1 Chelsea 3 (AS)
QPR v West Brom (1500)
West Brom immediately jump out at 5/2 to win this one. They've bounced back from a sticky spell to take four points from their last two games. Next up is a trip to rock-bottom QPR, who have just one win to their name thus far. Harry Redknapp blasted his "overpaid" players after Saturday's defeat at Newcastle when the R's reverted to type with a toothless performance. Redknapp was surely hoping his words would spark them into action (rather than simply distancing himself from the blame for impending relegation) but the current Loftus Road lot are there largely for the cash and may not take kindly to their pay being questioned. Either way, QPR's displays this term suggest West Brom are value at the price. The Baggies have already won at Wigan and Sunderland - sides also involved in the drop battle - and I see no reson why that can't win again. It's also worth noting that after his winner on Saturday against Norwich, Romelu Lukaku has now bagged four goals in his last five league starts. His 11/4 with Coral to net in this one which could prove a value pick. You may, however, want to see the line-ups before backing that one as he's often been on the bench.
Verdict: QPR 1 West Brom 2 (AS)
Reading v Swansea (1500)
Swansea worked hard to earn a point against leaders Manchester United on Sunday so expect a few changes for this one. However, it's exactly the sort of game where they could get away with resting a few. Reading have conceded a calamitous 19 home goals in just eight games thus far and with the league's leading scorer, Michu, likely to be in the opposition's line-up, that must be worrying for Royals' fans. It is to Michu we look in this game. An interesting statistic is that he's scored in all six of Swansea's league wins this season. The Swans are 6/4 to triumph at the Madejski, something I fancy them to do having won at Arsenal and Newcastle in recent weeks. They are also unbeaten against Reading in their last seven meetings. However, William Hill are offering 4/1 in the 'wincast' betting - pick a team to win the match and a player to score at any time. Given the aforementioned stat, that's a tasty price and one we'll take a slice of.
Verdict: Reading 0 Swansea 2 (AS)
Sunderland v Manchester City (1500)
Sunderland beat Manchester City on New Year's Day thanks to a last-minute goal from Ji-Don Wong, a win that replicated their 1-0 victory from the season before when Darren Bent netted a last-gasp penalty. It's a place Roberto Mancini's men clearly don't relish going to and as they continue to underachieve it's hard to buy into quotes like 4/7 about the Citizens. They nearly failed to oblige at odds of 1/8 at home to Reading at the weekend, an injury-time header from Gareth Barry sparing their blushes at the Etihad. Sunderland, meanwhile, are getting better. Yes, they've lost to Manchester United and Chelsea in recent weeks - which suggests they're vulnerable to another really top side - but their wins against Reading and Southampton prove they're in good form. The former point does just put us off the 6/1 about the Black Cats, though, especially as Manchester City are obviously capable of slipping into a different gear as they did up at Newcastle not so long ago. But the home side still seem to have been underestimated in the goalscorer markets with Steven Fletcher an eye-catching 11/4 to score anytime. He's clearly Sunderland's main threat with eight goals to his name this campaign and he's scored in two of his last three in the victories over Reading and Southampton. He looks overpriced to find the net again against City.
Verdict: Sunderland 1 Manchester City 2 (BL)
Aston Villa v Tottenham (1730)
Villa's recent upturn went off the rails at Chelsea on Sunday where the gulf in class was very much in evidence. Things don't get a great deal easier here with another of the top-four contenders in opposition. We've mentioned before how Spurs' current line-up seems more suited to away games and we had more evidence of that on Saturday when they struggled to break down Stoke at White Hart Lane. The likes of Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe should get much more space to run into in this one and odds-against quotes about an away win look good. A ropey home record will hardly buoy the home side - it's now just three wins in their last 21 league games at Villa Park - while they've also had a day's less rest. Take the 11/10 while you can.
Verdict: Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 3 (AS)
Stoke v Liverpool (1945)
The advice for this one is well known to regular readers: oppose Liverpool. Saturday's 4-0 win at home to Fulham has again shortened them up, but put simply it's an overreaction by the layers. Injury-hit Fulham were truly awful in that one. It's worth remembering that the week before Aston Villa were 3-1 winners at Anfield, a result which looks even worse given how Chelsea took the Midlanders apart at the weekend. Yes, the comfortable nature of Saturday's victory will have boosted confidence, but the Reds will need more than that at the Britannia. Talking of confidence, Stoke are also full of it. They've not lost on their own patch since February, while Saturday's point at Spurs made it eight games unbeaten - their best such run since returning to the top flight. They've conceded just three goals in eight games at home thus far and look a real punting opportunity here. They can be backed at just over 5/2 to win the game but given they've now drawn more games than any other side in the division, the 11/8 in the draw-no-bet market looks the way to go.
Verdict: Stoke 1 Liverpool 0 (AS)
- The games at Aston Villa and Stoke are both being televised live in the UK by Sky Sports.