Remy can strike early again
Our team preview Saturday's action in the Premier League with Man City fancied to further derail Everton's season.
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The Toffees were dumped out of the FA Cup last weekend while City made the last four, and the champions can show their class at Goodison Park.
Elsewhere, Liverpool's progress may be halted with a draw at Southampton, but Loic Remy can find the net again for a resurgent QPR.
Two extreme emotions were experienced by this duo last week with the Toffees making a hideous FA Cup exit at home to Wigan while City booked their place in the last four by sweeping aside Barnsley. Everton's training ground has been a subdued place and their season is in danger of completely running out of steam unless David Moyes can turn the tide. The boos have begun from the fans and Goodison may not be a happy place if they get behind the eight-ball early on in this one. City continue their pursuit of Manchester United and their form has certainly taken an upturn since the return of Carlos Tevez with him contributing six goals in four games. The FA Cup is probably the main focus now as Roberto Mancini tries to provide a third piece of silverware in three years and they are a side that is playing with a bit of freedom in the league since the rancid defeat at Southampton a month ago. I very much expect that trend to continue and the visitors look a good price at 6/5 to claim all three points and heap more misery on the Merseysiders.
Verdict: Everton 0 Manchester City 2 (DJ)
A classic relegation six-pointer at Villa Park as the hosts - who clambered out of the bottom three with a second win in four games last weekend - take on a QPR side belatedly set on proving reports of their demise to have been exaggerated. Back-to-back wins for Harry Redknapp's side (doubling their total for the season) have brought them right back into the shake-up. This looks a hard call on the result front, but one bet that does make appeal is Loic Remy to score the first goal at a widely available 6/1. He's scored three goals in his five QPR appearances to date. Two of those strikes were the game's opening goal, while the other was an equaliser at Sunderland that came with only 30 minutes on the clock. Against a Villa team with only 11 goals in 14 home games this season, the former Marseille striker looks overpriced.
Verdict: Aston Villa 0 QPR 1 (DT)
In-form Liverpool travel to the south coast on the back of a four-match winning run (following a run of just one win in five) and knowing that they must surely take three more points from St Mary's to keep their slender Champions League hopes alive. But despite their recent upturn in form, the Reds still boast only four away wins in the league this term and St Mary's has been a tricky place for the top sides to go. Manchester City were beaten last month, while Everton and Arsenal managed only draws. Manchester United needed two late, late goals from Robin van Persie to prevail 3-2 and Spurs were forced to hang on for a 2-1 win after easing into a 2-0 advantage in the first half. While the Saints may not have quite enough to beat a Liverpool side now full of confidence after beating Spurs to record a first win against top-four opposition this term, they can expect to take something from the game and the draw looks reasonable business. Southampton have drawn four of their last eight and seven of their last 13.
Verdict: Southampton 2 Liverpool 2 (DT)
At first glance, this appears simple. Stoke have lost seven of their last nine Premier League games, with their sole win in that time against plummeting Reading, while West Brom have won three of their last four with their sole defeat a 1-0 loss at Chelsea that could have gone very differently. The Baggies won this fixture last season and on the face of it appear a straightforward call at bigger than 2/1. But even with their recent struggles Stoke have still suffered only two league defeats at the Britannia, while West Brom's success this season has been built almost entirely on their home form. Their four wins on the road have been a smash-and-grab at Anfield and successes at bottom-six outfits QPR, Sunderland and Wigan. An away win is probably still the best call for this game, but we think there's better value to be had elsewhere and will leave this match off our staking plan.
Verdict: Stoke 1 West Brom 2 (DT)
A game that may depend on hangover recovery. Swansea's hangover is a good one - they've been to a great gig, had a dance, met the girl (or boy) of their dreams and woken up with nothing more than a minor headache. Arsenal's isn't so good. They've been abroad, dabbled, suffered, and they've had their passports confiscated to boot. Rather vague metaphor aside, Swansea haven't been at their best since winning the Capital One Cup - victory against Newcastle was fortunate - and if Arsenal play like they did on Wednesday, when they deservedly beat Bayern 2-0, they will win. However, we all know it's close to certain that they'll fail to do so and previous form combined with the possibility that they'll react poorly to that game spells danger. All of which creates a confusing puzzle, one five recent meetings between the sides do little to solve. Twelve of the 13 goals in those five meetings have come from different players, while both sides have won twice with one FA Cup draw thrown into the mix. Games at the Liberty, of which there have been two, have thrown up nine goals almost equally spread, but I see no gifts in goals markets here. If there is value it's probably in Swansea but I don't expect either side to be at their best and therefore have no hesitation in advising no bet.
Verdict: Swansea 1 Arsenal 1 (BC)
At the time or writing, Reading are managerless following the dismissal of Brian McDermott. Eamonn Dolan is expected to take temporary charge and he faces a daunting task here against a United site coasting towards the Premier League title. That United failed to vanquish Chelsea despite going 2-0 up in the FA Cup last weekend, in a somewhat perverse way, is actually worrying for Reading in my opinion. They've had a full week to put that and their Champions League misery behind them and a backlash is expected from Sir Alex Ferguson's men. That's why I'm swerving a bet which has served us so well this season - United to win by exactly one goal. It's what they did at the Madejski and in the FA Cup clash here at Old Trafford, and prices of around 3/1 have to be considered fair given the regularity with which United have won by a goal this season. I just think United will run riot here but with nothing more than gut feeling to back that up, it's a game I have to avoid from a betting perspective. If you're desperate for one, try Nani to score anytime. He did so the last time these sides met and with United likely to dominate, should he start Nani will likely have one or two chances. He's got a point to prove, too, and at the price is worth a small interest only once the teams are known.
Verdict: Manchester United 4 Reading 0 (BC)