Ed Chamberlin: Sunday best
Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlin reflects on the week's football so far and looks ahead to the weekend.
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What a brilliant week of football and the best might still be to come. It all started on the Monday Night Football. The first half at Goodison Park was dominated by the home side and Gary Neville and I were smiling in the studio after he highlighted the importance of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar before the game, describing them as the best full-back/wing combination in the Premier League. They were both outstanding in the first 45 minutes with Baines opening the scoring at 16/1. It looked like Everton were heading for a sixth consecutive home win and extending their record to well over 11 hours without conceding a goal at Goodison. However, the second half was crazy even by the standards of this mad league of ours. It had goals, controversy, some brilliant football and a thrilling finale, which meant we had our work cut out getting through all the analysis on the show. It was an unforgettable 45 minutes of football but I will also remember the night for the moving tribute before kick-off to the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough, as Everton stood shoulder to shoulder with their Merseyside neighbours. A very classy touch.
We then saw an eventful start to the Champions League group stage but a mixed one for the English sides. Manchester City's dramatic defeat at Real Madrid could be an expensive one, especially with Borussia Dortmund winning the group's other game, yet Sky Bet only eased City a point to 10/1 to win the competition. Arsenal are 18/1 after a slightly fortunate win in Montpellier, Chelsea 14/1 after starting with a draw and Manchester United the shortest priced of the Premier League sides at 9/1 after their a narrow win against Galatasaray. Barcelona remain Sky Bet's 5/2 favourites.
The Premier League title odds also changed shape last weekend after Manchester City drifted to their biggest price this season at 6/4 after what I think was a decent point at Stoke. United are now hot on their heels at 13/8, which surprises me as they did not set the world alight despite the 4-0 scoreline against Wigan. Chelsea drifted after drawing a blank at QPR, while Arsenal shortened dramatically to 8/1 from 14s after tearing Southampton apart. We are going to learn a lot more about all the contenders this weekend, especially on a sensational Super Sunday.
The show starts at 1pm and kicks off with Liverpool (8/5) against Manchester United (8/5) - sure to be a highly charged game that I hope will make the headlines for all the right reasons on and off the pitch. Sky Bet can't split the two teams but Liverpool have actually had the better of this fixture of late and won four of the last eight Premier League meetings to United's three, with Sir Alex's last win at Anfield coming five years ago when Carlos Tevez scored the only goal in December 2007. It's going to be incredibly tight and a lot of people are saying we'll see plenty of bookings on Sunday as there have been five red cards in the last nine Premier League meetings and a total of 13 reds in this fixture - only Merseyside derbies (20) have seen more. However, punters must bear in mind that Mark Halsey is in charge and he does not like to go to his pocket.
After that big game we have another monster at the Etihad as Manchester City (7/10) host Arsenal (7/2). The champions have to be be strong favourites having won 76 points from a possible 78 at home but have a bit to prove after a rusty start to the defence of their title and defeat in the Bernabeu on Tuesday - but it's Arsenal who we will learn most about this weekend. Arsene Wenger said this week we won't know about their title credentials until after 10 games but I see this as their acid test. I've been really impressed with them so far as Steve Bould seems to have given the Gunners a backbone, Santi Cazorla has added more creativity in midfield and Lukas Podolski looks full of goals. However, on Sunday we will find out how good they are post-RvP, if they have progressed to become title contenders and if Bould really has tightened up the back four. It will be fascinating to see what happens and even though last season's two games produced only two goals, both were intriguing contests and thrilling to watch. I'm expecting more of the same. Arsenal have taken the more points off Man City in the Premier League (68) than any other side, winning 21 of the 30 meetings and eight of the first nine contests at City. However, things at both clubs have changed a lot since then. The home side won 1-0 in both games last season and the last three Premier League meetings have produced just two goals, so backing under 1.5 goals might be worth chancing at 3/1.
Some other things for punters to have in mind for the Premier League weekend:
Chelsea have never lost to Stoke in the Premier League and have won the last five league meetings at Stamford Bridge.
Five of the last six PL meetings between Wigan and Fulham at the DW Stadium have been drawn (23/10).
Everton won both games against Swansea last season without conceding and have never lost to the Swans in any competition (15 games, 11 wins). The Toffees have scored at least two goals in all seven visits to Swansea and look an attractive price at 11/8.
It promises to be a brilliant weekend and Sunday should be a bit special. I hope you can join myself, Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville for Super Sunday from 1pm on Sky Sports 1HD (both games also available in 3D).
From Manchester I'll be heading north for a busy Monday at Richard Fahey's yard and then spending the afternoon at Sky Bet HQ. Bring it on.