Demba the best bet Ba none
Demba Ba has scored every time he's lined up against Manchester United and Ben Coley fancies him to do so again on Sunday.
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Fulham aren't doing too badly for a squad of players who allegedly don't get on with their manager and on Sunday they head to Southampton looking for their fourth Premier League victory of the season. Earlier this week former Cottagers striker Bobby Zamora claimed "the vast majority" of the squad are not on Martin Jol's wavelength but performances this season suggest he's either way off the mark with his allegations or the players are doing a good job at covering it all up on the pitch. Last weekend Jol's men came within minutes of holding defending champions Manchester City to a 1-1 draw before Edin Dzeko struck a late winner and they headed into that clash on the back of successive victories over West Brom and Wigan - so you'd think there would still be plenty of confidence in the camp. Fulham can't be dismissed as a soft touch away from home like in previous years having given Manchester United a run for their money at Old Trafford back in August during a plucky 3-2 defeat while their victory over the Latics came at the DW Stadium. With all this in mind I feel the Cottagers will offer Southampton a stiff test at St Mary's although they will have to settle for just a point if my prediction proves correct. The Saints have endured a tough start to life back in the top flight in terms of results following their promotion last season and will be targeting this fixture as a realistic chance to pick up only their second victory of the campaign. Of course their first came on home soil in a rousing 4-1 triumph over Aston Villa while at the start of September they were unlucky not to beat Manchester United, who needed two late Robin van Persie goals to seal a dramatic 3-2 victory at St Mary's. All in all this promises to be a close affair and I'm leaning to the draw at a general price of 12/5.
Verdict: Southampton 1 Fulham 1 (CH)
Liverpool were excellent at Norwich last week and, having previously won at West Brom in the Capital One Cup, signs are that they're firmly on the up. And after 45 minutes of their Europa League tie on Thursday, there had been no evidence to doubt that theory. Then came the reality check. As Brendan Rodgers said, they can't be needing three or four goals to win games and expect to succeed, and the fact is they'd have needed four against Udinese, whose three second-half goals meant Liverpool have still won just once at Anfield all season, against FC Gomel. This doesn't mean that they won't beat Stoke, but it's certainly a note of caution for those prepared to take 1/2. The visitors have stuck to the script this year, holding Manchester City and Arsenal to draws at the Britannia, beating Swansea there, and emerging with credit from a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea. That was their first proper test on the road and despite losing to a late goal they emerged with great credit, having held their own in terms of possession and managed a remarkable 19 attempts. A similar display will make life very tough for Liverpool and although they can just about be fancied to come through it, they can't be backed. Instead, we'll take 100/30 about Peter Crouch returning to haunt a former club. The Stoke striker has scored in four of his last five starts, scored in the FA Cup here last season, and simply looks far too big a price.
Verdict: Liverpool 2 Stoke 1 (BC)
So far, so good for Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs. He might not have everyone convinced, but a 3-2 victory at Old Trafford and the performances of Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen have won over plenty of fans, and victory against Villa will see that number increase. This fixture provided Tottenham the most straightforward of victories last year, when Alex McLeish's Villa made no attempt to win the game, but things should be different now Paul Lambert is at the helm. His youth-infused side played well against West Brom last Sunday, having previously knocked Manchester City out of the Capital One cup, and early-season relegation concerns should ultimately prove unfounded. My colleague Nick Hext tipped Darren Bent to score last week and was spot-on in his prediction, and the Villa striker isn't bad value against a former club in what should be an entertaining game with chances aplenty. However, pick of the prices might be Boylesports' 6/4 about fit-again Emmanuel Adebayor, who has scored six against Villa, including three last season, since arriving in the Premier League. He's a player who tends to repeat against certain clubs - Tottenham themselves are a previous example of that - but we'd want to see his name in the starting XI before getting involved. Tottenham should win but Villa can contribute this time.
Verdict: Tottenham 3 Aston Villa 1 (BC)
This is a fixture which has provided much entertainment down the years and it's reasonable to expect the same on Sunday. Newcastle are unbeaten at home this season, which allays concerns surrounding their performance at Reading last week, and are on an unbeaten run of three against United, the most recent of which a commanding 3-0 win last season. United, meanwhile, came from behind to win in Romania on Tuesday, continuing and unwelcome habit of starting poorly. Their defeat at Old Trafford last Saturday was as much down to their slow start as it was Tottenham's undoubted excellence, and Sir Alex Ferguson will surely have spent the build-up to this game trying to ensure that a repeat doesn't present itself. Newcastle can be backed at 13/8 to score first and 9/2 to do so without going on to win, both of which represent perfectly reasonable punts, but instead we'll chance Demba Ba to score first at a general 7/1. Since coming off the bench to bag a brace at Everton, Ba has scored three goals in two starts. Ba opened the scoring in this fixture last season and has since played against United twice, scoring in both matches, and having been given a midweek break he should be raring to go.
Verdict: Newcastle 2 Manchester United 2 (BC)