Jan the man for Spurs
Dave Tickner and Ben Coley preview Saturday's action in the Barclays Premier League.
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2pts Fulham to beat Norwich at 17/20 (BetVictor).
2.5pts QPR to beat Swansea at 11/10 (General).
1pt Pavel Pogrebnyak to score anytime v Stoke at 11/5 (Coral).
0.5pts Jan Vertonghen to score first v Newcastle at 33/1 (Coral).
1pt Jan Vertonghen to score anytime v Newcastle at 10/1 (Coral).
Arsenal v Sunderland
With Robin van Persie expected to have completed his move to Manchester United prior to kick-off, Arsenal can finally move on and have a fine opportunity to do so with a home game against Sunderland. The Black Cats reacted well to the appointment of Martin O'Neill midway through last season but flattened out towards the end and are seriously lacking in firepower. The addition of Carlos Cuellar won't inspire fans and although it's surely only a matter of time before Steven Fletcher arrives from Wolves, O'Neill will need to muster more magic to get this squad anywhere near the top 10. New Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski has looked sharp in pre-season but evens about him scoring is no gift, and although this should be a relatively straightforward home win there's no angle we can find that merits support. There's some temptation to back Arsenal to win to nil at 11/8 but they have issues at right-back and are always liable to give one away, so we'll leave this one alone.
Verdict: Arsenal 2 Sunderland 0 (BC)
Fulham v Norwich
It took Fulham a while to get off the mark at home last season but come the end of it no side outside the top seven had accrued more victories. That included a relatively straightforward 2-1 win over Norwich and a repeat looks on the cards here. Martin Jol has done well to fill the void left by Pavel Pogrebnyak by adding Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric to his squad, and as long as Clint Dempsey remains in support they'll be extremely hard to beat at Craven Cottage. Norwich have been relatively quiet in the transfer market and Chris Hughton has a big job on his hands if he's to keep them clear of so-called 'second-season syndrome', especially as they ended last season largely on the back foot. Fulham will understand the importance of a fast start as they travel to Manchester United next weekend, and at 17/20 they rate a solid opening day punt.
Verdict: Fulham 3 Norwich 1 (BC)
QPR v Swansea
The departure of Brendan Rodgers and money spent by QPR's new owner will lead many towards the home side here, and at 11/10 they rate as our best bet on the coupon. Although some considered QPR fortunate to survive last season, it may pay to remember that they won each of their last five home games, including victories over Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and this weekend's visitors. Ryan Nelsen and Fabio rate as solid additions to the back-line, Junior Hoilett was rightly targeted by several clubs and Park Ji-Sung's arrival to bolster the midfield is a great bit of business. Swansea have lost their best midfielder to Liverpool as well as Rodgers, and Michael Laudrup may need time to adapt. Their success last term was built on a wonderful home record and in our opinion QPR should be a shade of odds-on to get off to a winning start at Loftus Road.
Verdict: QPR 2 Swansea 0 (BC)
Reading v Stoke
Brian McDermott has made some fantastic signings as he prepares Reading for their return to the Premier League, and last time they arrived from the Championship they finished eighth. Whether or not they can do that this time around, they've certainly a squad with enough quality to make a fist of things this season. Colleague Chris Hammer fancies Stoke to go down and he's right to point out that they struggled badly at the end of last season. Whether that was purely down to Europa League-driven fatigue remains to be seen, but what's for certain is that they need reinforcements. Stoke lost 11 times on the road last year whereas Reading, albeit at a lower level, excelled at home, and if there's value in the match betting it's with the Royals at 7/5. However, there's a better bet here, and that's Pavel Pogrebnyak to find the net at anytime at 11/5. The Russian scored six in 12 for Fulham last term, with the first of those coming against Stoke, and he's backed to repeat the trick.
Verdict: Reading 2 Stoke 1 (BC)
West Brom v Liverpool
Two sides with new managers should make for an intriguing game here, but one which is hard to bet on. Five of the six times this fixture has taken place in the Premier League, Liverpool have won without conceding, but times change and the Baggies won the last meeting of the sides at Anfield. Steve Clarke has been the busier of the two managers in the transfer market but the core of his side should remain the same, while Rodgers will hope that Fabio Borini can adapt quickly to life in the Premier League and link well with Luis Suarez. We expect a big season from Suarez and slow but steady improvement from Liverpool, but we can't go close to odds-on quotes about them winning this game even if they may just edge it by the odd goal.
Verdict: West Brom 0 Liverpool 1 (BC)
West Ham v Aston Villa
If there's a game to avoid this weekend, it's this one. West Ham have bolstered their squad and should put up a fight this season, but it was their home form which saw them require the play-offs last season rather than achieve promotion automatically. Aston Villa, meanwhile, haven't won a Premier League game since March and rely too heavily on Darren Bent, whose absence was underlined with a string of poor results to end last season. Exciting signings have been thin on the ground for both clubs and this game is priced correctly, with the home side marginal favourites simply because they get to play in front of their own fans. No bet.
Verdict: West Ham 1 Aston Villa 1 (BC)
Newcastle v Tottenham (1730)
A crucial fixture to start the season for both clubs who will harbour Champions League ambitions after finishing last season fifth and fourth. Given the fine margins that settled last season's table, Spurs could come to rue their failure to complete their summer transfer work ahead of a trip that has not been kind to them in the Premier League era. With the Emmanuel Adebayor deal still not completed, Jermain Defoe is the only senior striker at the club and appears ill-suited to Andre Villas-Boas' 4-3-3 system. There are, though, no shortage of goalscoring threats elsewhere in the Spurs XI thanks to the likes of Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Gylfi Sigurdsson. But they also have a goalscorer slightly deeper on the field in new centre-back Jan Vertonghen. He scored 10 goals for Ajax last season (including eight in 31 league games) and eight the season before. Sure, the Premier League is a step up in class from the Eredivisie but all the signs are that the Belgian has what it takes. With a powerful shot and obvious aerial prowess, we suspect he won't be 33/1 and 10/1 in the first and anytime goalscorer markets for long this season and will look to take early advantage.
Verdict: Newcastle 2 Tottenham 1 (DT)