No fun at Fulham; Goals at Arsenal
We're not expecting a classic in the weekend's first Premier League game between Fulham and Stoke but goals are expected in Arsenal's clash against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium.
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Everton and Manchester United are both expected to pick up three points as Nick Hext, David John and Ben Coley look at another very interesting day of action in the top-flight.
This isn't the most enticing of games for the neutral in Saturday's lunchtime offering for the television cameras. This battle between two mid-table clubs gives Stoke the chance to win a Premier League away game for only the second time this season - their only success on the road coming at West Brom on December 1 - and they will be happy to see Fulham's recent record isn't too hot. Martin Jol's men have only won one of their previous six home matches and a six-point gap to the relegation zone isn't enough to sit completely easy. There was only one goal in the Cottagers' previous two contests and it's also interesting to note that three of Stoke's previous six away matches have finished 0-0. That leads me to getting involved with the 9/1 for no goalscorer. Stoke will as always prove tough to break down and I don't think a point from Craven Cottage will be a bad return for the men from the Potteries. Get with the no goalscorer to provide yourself with some interest.
Verdict: Fulham 0 Stoke 0 (NH)
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An embattled Arsene Wenger has asked his players for a positive response after a bad week that has seen them ousted from the FA Cup and completely on the back foot after the first leg of their Champions League clash with Bayern Munich. The Gunners are 1/3 to get back on track with three points as they pursue fourth place in the Premier League so the question for punters will be how far has the rot set in? Five or six weeks ago you would have expected the hosts to sweep aside Villa but there have been some signs of an encouragement for Paul Lambert with a vital three points secured against West Ham on their last outing which has seen them climb out of the bottom three. They have had some time since to freshen up to heal a few ailments and there have been little nibbles on the visitors at 10s to take advantage of Arsenal's current frailty, but even taking that into account, an away success would still be a shock to my mind. That said, Villa have managed to start scoring with 11 goals in their last six outings in all competitions and will be encouraged to keep that sort of form going against a back line that has looked little short of laughable on occasions. Wenger should get a tonic of sorts but the suggestion is to back both teams to score.
Verdict: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 1 (DJ)
Norwich haven't beaten a Premier League side since December 15 and the visit of Everton poses plenty of problems. David Moyes' side stumbled at Oldham last weekend and are now three games without a win and five without a clean sheet, but they're tempting at odds-against given their exploits throughout the season. One obvious policy would be to go low on goals given Norwich's home record, particularly of late with five of their last six matches having produced fewer than three goals. However, Everton's success this season has been built on out-scoring the opposition and relying on them keeping a clean sheet looks a risky policy. Somewhat remarkably, their last six victories in the Premier League have come via a 2-1 scoreline and although we may be latching onto this trend too late, the price that they do so again looks suitably valuable for a small wager. The more cautious could back them to win without keeping a clean sheet or by exactly a goal at a similar price, but we'll keep stakes smaller and play on what's a very strong trend.
Verdict: Norwich 1 Everton 2 (BC)
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There is plenty of interest in this match between the side at the bottom of the Premier League and the side at the top. There is a 48-point gap between the clubs in the standings and that will show if QPR play as badly as they did in the 4-1 defeat at Swansea last time out. That loss followed a couple of 0-0 draws so it's hard to know exactly which Hoops team will turn up and take on the leaders. Harry Redknapp's men have secured goalless draws against Manchester City and Tottenham in two of their last three home league games and you can get 14/1 with Sky Bet about the same result on Saturday. Some may find that of interest but I'm more tempted by the price for Manchester United to win by one goal - as we all know they have done on numerous occasions during the campaign so far. I'm put off enough, however, by the horrendous display from QPR at Swansea to steer clear of that tip with the potential for the Red Devils to win with ease. Looking at United to win to nil should also get a few of you curious. It isn't for me with Sir Alex Ferguson's men conceding a goal in five of their previous seven matches and not looking completely solid throughout the season.
Verdict: QPR 1 Manchester United 3 (NH)
This is one of quite a few key battles between sides at the wrong end of the table that we can expect between now and the end of the season. Reading and Wigan sit 18th and 19th respectively and a win for either side would do wonders for their survival bid. A draw would not. Reading enter the contest on the back of two 2-1 defeats - one in the league and one in the cup - but they were on an unbeaten run of six games prior to that so confidence remains high. You can get 9.1 with Sky Bet for a 2-1 Wigan win on Saturday but that isn't one for me. I would be backing the Latics if the odds for the away victory were a bit more inviting. Wigan impressed greatly in last weekend's 4-1 FA Cup win at Huddersfield but they are without a Premier League victory in 2013 so calm down and don't get too carried away. Here are some points to consider - but not for us to tip. You can get 5/6 for Reading to score last (they have done so in their previous eight matches) and 13/2 for Adam Le Fondre to score last (he has done so for the Royals in three of those games). Wigan, however, have scored last in eight of their previous nine matches and can be backed to do so again at 11/10. The end result of that is I won't be getting involved.
Verdict: Reading 1 Wigan 1 (NH)
West Brom are feeling much better about life after winning 2-0 at Liverpool in their previous game. That ended a run of eight matches without a win for the Baggies, which stretched back to Boxing Day, and that had led to some of the good work in the first half of the season being undone. They still sit ninth in the table - a very good effort it's fair to say - and fans at The Hawthorns should look forward to the rest of the campaign with a smile. Sunderland supporters won't be quite so cheery. The Black Cats sit 13th with a six-point gap to the bottom three. That means a few more wins would come in handy and three points on Saturday would certainly be welcomed. I don't think that will happen here but West Brom's run prior to the great night at Anfield is enough to put me off getting involved with the home victory.
Verdict: West Brom 2 Sunderland 1 (NH)