Fellaini return points to away win
Everton are fancied to beat Newcastle on Wednesday while Chelsea should find life easy against struggling QPR.
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It's hard not to fear for QPR, both in terms of this game and the rest of 2013. Their performance in the first half of Sunday's game against Liverpool was among the worst you'll see from a top-flight club all season, and with Chelsea full of confidence this simply looks a case of how many. Rafael Benitez's side also started slowly at the weekend, but two goals from Frank Lampard saw them deservedly beat Everton and extend their winning run in the Premier League to four. Of course, all of this is factored into the prices and 1/4 about a home win makes little appeal even if it is a fair reflection of the gulf in class and form between these two. There's certainly some temptation to back Chelsea on the handicap with a concession of two goals - 13/8 looks a reasonable price - while Chelsea to score four or more goals also looks fair at 15/8. Instead, though, I'm going to chance Lucas Piazon to score first at a massive 17/2 with BetVictor. The Brazilian is yet to start a Premier League game but this looks an obvious opportunity for him to do so, with a busy schedule forcing managers to rotate and QPR clearly there for the taking. If he does get the nod, he's no bigger than 4/1 to open the scoring in my eyes and if he doesn't, it's long odds-on that he'll be declared a non-runner as Chelsea will likely score before any changes are made. Simply put, prices in this market should be based on the assumption that the player starts and if our man does, we'll have massive value. A similar case can be made for Victor Moses but Piazon will likely play centrally and of course was given the opportunity to take a penalty against Aston Villa, so he gets our vote.
Verdict: Chelsea 4 QPR 0
Liverpool's 3-0 win at QPR owed largely to two things - the brilliance of Luis Suarez and some truly awful defending from their opponents. Sunderland will provide a sterner test but if Suarez comes to the party again, the hosts should oblige. Of course, Liverpool 'should' oblige most weeks but four home wins in 10 tells its own story, and they're simply too short having disappointed so often this season. Sunderland meanwhile have improved of late, and Saturday's defeat to Spurs should be viewed in a positive light. Away from home, they've lost only four of 10 which is a reasonable return while a draw at Stoke underlines that they're capable of getting something here, as they have in each of the last two seasons. With that in mind we'd edge towards the draw at a more than reasonable 7/2 if pushed for a bet here, but Liverpool should be able to build on Sunday's win and further solidify their position inside the top 10. No bet.
Verdict: Liverpool 2 Sunderland 1
It's been a remarkable fortnight for Newcastle, who have somehow managed to score three times at Old Trafford and three times at the Emirates Stadium yet emerge with zero points. It's fair to attribute the latter defeat to weariness, especially as their 4-3 loss at Old Trafford came in such a demoralising manner, but fatigue remains an issue here. Alan Pardew is still without several key players and Demba Ba may not be a certain starter given the rumours surrounding his future, so the only comfort I can find for Newcastle fans is that they are a much better side at home. Everton might have lost their unbeaten home record on Sunday but this is a drop in grade, and their last three away results show victory at West Ham along with admirable draws at Stoke and Man City. Marouane Fellaini's return is a timely boost to David Moyes and at a shade shorter than 6/4 they look a perfectly backable price here. Newcastle held Everton to a draw at Goodison earlier this season but the hosts should have been away and gone at half-time and, against a side battered over Christmas, I fancy Everton to win this one.
Verdict: Newcastle 1 Everton 3