Christian followers to be rewarded
Christian Benteke starred for Aston Villa last week and can add to his tally with a goal on Saturday says our Ben Coley.
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2pts Christian Benteke to score v Southampton at 11/4 (bet365).
1pt Sunderland to beat West Ham at 27/10 (BetVictor).
0.5pt Marouane Fellaini to be man of the match in Swansea v Everton at 10/1 (BetVictor).
0.5pt Leighton Baines to be man of the match in Swansea v Everton at 14/1 (BetVictor).
Swansea v Everton (1245 BST)
The general assessment of Everton's 2-2 draw with Newcastle on Monday was that they were unlucky not to win. That's certainly true, after all they had two perfectly good goals chalked off. However, a less widely-held view, but one just as valid, was that they threw the game away. They should have been more than a goal ahead at the break and led with two minutes to go. Both times they conceded goals which, from a defensive point of view, were pretty disappointing. The good news for them here is that they will again come up against a team with defensive injury and suspension problems with skipper Ashley Williams the latest doubt. The bad news is that Nikica Jelavic looks set to miss the game. With that in mind, Victor Anichebe at 10/3 could be a spot of value to find the net at any time. The Nigerian scored a quality goal on Monday after having his earlier across-the-line effort disallowed. He's not guaranteed a start, however. Instead a longer-odds bet which may tempt some is to head to the man-of-the-match market. Marouane Fellaini has had the media salavating since his impressive performance against Manchester United last month. Likewise, Leighton Baines will get plenty of attention in this one following his efforts against Newcastle. He scored in this game last season too, so will bound to be at the forefront of Sky's coverage - remember it is their commentary team who will decide. A small punt on those two could be worthwhile, particularly given they are both capable of captialising on any wobbles in the home side's patched up defence. Everton will need some sort of result, but did beat Swansea in both games last season without conceding. We'll have a small play.
Verdict: Swansea 1 Everton 1 (AS)
Chelsea v Stoke (1500)
Leaders Chelsea still have much to prove against top-quality opposition - Juventus caused them plenty of problems in midweek, just as Manchester City and Atletico Madrid had done before. However, Stoke aren't at the same table as that trio. It's been four draws for them so far, but defeat seems likely here. The attacking talent at Chelsea's disposal from midfield with the likes of Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and now Oscar, must be daunting for most Premier League sides. What will also certainly be on Stoke minds as they head south will be their poor record ahainst the Blues. These two have met nine times since Stoke's promotion to the Premier League with Chelsea winning seven and two drawn. The most frequent scoreline during those games has been 2-0 to Chelsea which looks about right here, but this isn't a game I'll be getting involved in.
Verdict: Chelsea 2 Stoke 0 (AS)
Southampton v Aston Villa (1500)
When Nigel Adkins saw the fixture list for his side's return to the Premier League, he'd have been forgiven for telling his players that the season starts this weekend. Trips to Arsenal and Manchester City plus a home game with Manchester United made it an almost impossible reintroduction, and Saints can be forgiven for failing to produce against Wigan in the middle of it. So, now is the time and they really do need to start picking up points, starting with the visit of Aston Villa. Paul Lambert's side got off and running for the season with a 2-0 win against Swansea last time, but this is a different test on the road. A 1-1 draw at Newcastle was a good enough result but you have to go back to January last year for Villa's last away win, so even at 2/1 they're a risky betting proposition. What these sides should provide is goalmouth action. Southampton games this season average just a shade shy of five goals, while Villa have scored in each of their last four, so both teams to score looks perfectly solid at 8/11. We'll be more specific though and chance Christian Benteke adding to his goal against Swansea at 11/4. The Belgian international was a constant threat after his introduction and could've had a hat-trick, prompting Lambert to label him "unplayable". He scored in 15 of his last 27 games for Genk before Villa snapped him up and with a starting role against a pourous defence almost guaranteed here, 11/4 looks a good price. The more adventurous should consider Eric Lichaj at around 16/1. The US full-back has scored twice in fewer than 20 appearances for Villa and looked a massive threat going forward last weekend, but ultimately we've already a confident bet on-side and will stick with that.
Verdict: Southampton 2 Aston Villa 2 (BC)
West Brom v Reading (1500)
The Baggies will find themselves onto many a coupon this weekend and while 5/6 isn't the most attractive price in the world, they should deliver against a poor Reading side. You can argue, with some jusification, that Peter Odemwingie kicking out in ludicrous fashion cost West Brom the game at Fulham last week but take that result away and they have made a highly-impressive start to the campaign. Here at the Hawthorns they have already seen off Liverpool (3-0) and Everton (2-0) and in between drew at Spurs. Romelu Lukaku has looked a real handful up front, while behind James Morrison and Zoltan Gera give the midfield some real attacking bite. In contrast, opponents Reading looked toothless against Spurs last week and were well beaten. They remain second bottom, winless and look set for a long, hard season. Yes, they'll have had a rocket from Brian McDermott this week but the fact is there's greater quality in the home ranks here. Solid acca fodder but we won't be taking a single at odds-on.
Verdict: West Brom 2 Reading 0 (AS)
West Ham v Sunderland (1500)
Hammers fans will be happy they've put early points on the board but they shouldn't be getting too carried away. They've yet to play anyone of note and I feel they may be overrated in this one at no better than 5/4 for victory. They may have won both home games so far to nil but Aston Villa and Fulham won't do much on the road this season. On their travels, the Hammers were soundly beaten at Swansea and last weekend certainly conceded plenty of chances, if not goals, during their goalless draw at Norwich. They'll be pleased to be back at Upton Park, and they could also have Andy Carroll available again, but either way Sunderland should provide a sterner test. Yes, Martin O'Neill's well-organised side have yet to win but they've also not been beaten. Given their fixtures so far have been Arsenal (A), Swansea (A) and Liverpool (H) that's not bad. Much was made of the fee paid to Wolves for Steven Fletcher but you can't argue too much with his return so far - three goals in two games. Say what you like about the price tag but the Scot knows where the goal is - he also scored 12 for a ropey Wolves team last season - and he'll trouble West Ham's defence here for sure. He's 5/2 to score at anytime but instead I'm going to go for an away win which looks too big at 27/10. The price descrepancy between the sides is too large with Sunderland capable of causing what the bookies would label an upset.
Verdict: West Ham 1 Sunderland 2 (AS)
Wigan v Fulham (1500)
Fulham's away form has been a topic regularly raised on this site over the years and they've reverted to type at the start of this campaign. It's two road trips and two defeats so far, with the Cottagers losing narrowly at Manchester United and being thoroughly thrashed by West Ham. They've now had time to get used to the deadline-day comings and goings and Dimitar Berbatov made a good impression on his first start last weekend. Yet the Bulgarian is hardly the grafter Fulham need to banish their away-day blues. Wigan are a team who are guaranteed to put in a shift but they have produced familiar form at the start of their season too. They finished with a flourish last season to save themselves from relegation but now another battle against the drop looms. A sloppy start cost them against Chelsea, they twice blew a lead against Stoke and last weekend brought their customary Old Trafford hammering. A solitary win - away at Southampton - appears less impressive by the week. These are two pretty poor sides and if pushed the draw looks the best value at 12/5. However, the best policy would appear to be steer clear.
Verdict: Wigan 1 Fulham 1 (AS)