16/1 Baines looks spot on
Leighton Baines to score is among our best bets for Saturday's action in the Premier League.
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The Premier League champions remain without a clean sheet in all competitions this season - a run now at 10 games. Given how open they were against an admittedly impressive Borussia Dortmund side in midweek, it makes sense to continue to take them on. Sunderland are unbeaten so far so City seem unlikely to have things easy in this one, a fixture which finished 3-3 at the back end of last season. Both teams to score - something that has happened in every City game this season - is available at 7/5 with Stan James, which is sure to tempt some, but better value would appear to lie with the red-hot Steven Fletcher. He's bagged all five Sunderland league goals so far and can be backed at 4/1 to find the net against City's out-of-sorts defence here. You can boost that price up to 11/2, however, by backing the striker - recalled to the Scotland squad this week - to score his side's first goal. Given his team-mates hardly look full of goals, this looks a decent way to go.
Verdict: Manchester City 2 Sunderland 1 (AS)
Norwich have made their worst-ever start in the top flight having gone six games without a victory with three wins and three draws. Chris Hughton knows the longer the run extends the twitchier everyone will get at Carrow Road - and a trip to Stamford Bridge before hosting Arsenal is sure to test their mettle. They head to London on the back of a 5-2 home drubbing to Liverpool and Chelsea's high-tempo, pressing game without doubt will catch them out if Hughton can't find more solidity at the back. They lost 3-1 last season at the Bridge and their three previous visits have all ended 4-0 to the home side. Chelsea top the Premier League and also their Champions League group, although they were slightly flattered by the 4-0 scoreline at FC Nordsjaelland in midweek. Hughton potentially has Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington in the mix for selection to boost his options and he did get a response from his side in the next game after a 5-0 loss on the opening day. They may nick a goal but it is hard to make a worthwhile argument for anything other than a soild home win.
Verdict: Chelsea 3 Norwich 1 (DJ)
Swansea's recent slump continued last weekend at Stoke and manager Michael Laudrup has ramped up the pressure on his players to get a result by labelling this fixture as one of the "four biggest of the season". They were overrrun in their last home game by Everton and perhaps a visit to the training ground from Ryder Cup winner Sergio Garcia - whose sister is the partner of Pablo Hernandez - can inspire the hosts to head into the international break in a better frame of mind. Reading are still looking for their first success on their return to the top flight thanks to Demba Ba's hand. They are also looking to break they duck in the league as well at the Liberty Stadium and their boss Brian McDermott is hoping that revenge for the 2011 Championship play-off final loss will be sufficient motivation for his players. Their hopes will be boosted greatly by the return to full fitness of striker Jason Roberts, as McDermott said: "He looks stronger. Even more so than last year." There is very little to choose between the pair and a small bet on the draw and the aforementioned Roberts to score anytime at a tasty 10/3 is the suggestion.
Verdict: Swansea 1 Reading 1 (DJ)
The pressure is building on Mark Hughes but QPR owner Tony Fernandes has come out in full support despite another loss on Monday night that leaves them rooted to the foot of the table. Hughes brought in 11 players over the summer and they have suffered their fair share of injuries - but that was still not an excuse for some ropey defending against West Ham that saw them two down inside 35 minutes. Contrast that with the Baggies who have yet to concede in three games at the Hawthorns and are going about business with plenty of confidence. They were upset to concede a late equaliser against Aston Villa but they are sure to be in plenty of punters' thinking this week to get back to winning ways at 10/11. They may be pushed harder than expected though as Rangers have scored in six of their eight games this year and pose a genuine threat to the hosts' goal. Both teams to score would be the shout but 4/5 is not a very tempting price and no bet on the game is the outcome I'm afraid.
Verdict: West Brom 2 QPR 1 (DJ)
Some will have second-placed Everton, available at odds-against, at the heart of their coupon this weekend but not us. The Toffees have failed to win at the DW Stadium on four of their seven visits since Wigan were promoted to the top flight, a statistic that will surprise some given the Latics' near constant struggle during that period, in contrast to Everton regularly finishing in the top eight. Instead look to the goalscorer markets in search of better value, in particular Leighton Baines. With Wigan towards the top of the fouls conceded table and having already handed opponents three penalties this term, Everton's penalty taker and free-kick specialist may well get some set-piece chances. And that's before you take into account his attacking threat from open play, something he proved with a goal against Newcastle recently. Stats show 45 per cent of Everton's attacks have been made down the left third of the pitch, another factor in Baines' favour. Wigan have conceded six times in three home games so far, collecting just one point in the process, while Everton have scored three times on their trips to Swansea and Aston Villa this season. Baines, who has scored two penalties against Wigan in the past three seasons, should have chances, so backing him each-way in the first scorer market at 16/1 looks a decent bit of value.
Verdict: Wigan 1 Everton 2 (AS)
Regular readers will know I'm yet to be convinced by West Ham, despite their strong start to the season. The fact is their run of fixtures thus far has been soft and this will be their toughest test to date. Evens about an away win could look very big come Saturday night but if you are wanting to back Arsenal, the 9/4 about Gervinho scoring at anytime looks perfectly acceptable. His new role playing through the middle has seen him score in four of his last five matches and in this match he'll face a defence which has already conceded three to Swansea's pass-and-move game. After a strong start, the Gunners suffered a setback last weekend when they lost at home to Chelsea with old frailties returning. Some comical defending by Laurent Koscielny cost them and they again looked vulnerable at set pieces. Those looking to oppose Arsenal would do well to consider who could hurt them from free-kicks and corners and Kevin Nolan is probably the player most likely. He has three goals from six game thus far and is decent enough in the air. He's 7/2 to find the net here. However, there appear to be better bets in other games on the coupon so the powder will be kept dry.
Verdict: West Ham 1 Arsenal 3 (AS)
- The Manchester City game is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports, with the match at West Ham live on ESPN.