Black Cats to purr for Poyet
Andy Schooler and Ben Coley provide a game-by-game preview of Saturday's action in the Barclays Premier League.
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So you're all off to back 4-3 again, right? OK, perhaps not but there are reasons to think this game could feature plenty of goals. For a start, the league's leading two marksmen will be on show. No, not Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, but Sturridge and Newcastle's Loic Remy. It is on the latter that I am going to focus from a punting perspective. A rare shining light in the season of mediocrity at QPR last season, the Frenchman has continued to impress since completing a loan move north. He's bagged five goals already and it is clear he has emerged as the Magpies' most serious goal threat. Capable of creating chances himself with his dazzling runs and not afraid to unleash a shot from distance, Remy has managed to net five of Newcastle's last six goals, only Yohan Cabaye's wonder strike at Everton denying him a full house. He'll be up against one of the league's better sides in this game but that doesn't put me off. However, what I won't do is back him to score the first goal - Liverpool have been strong from the first whistle in many games this season (see below), while the absence of Fabricio Coloccini (injured) will weaken the home defence. Instead, I'll back Remy to score Newcastle's first goal at a tasty 4/1. Papiss Cisse's drought shows no sign of ending so Remy is far and away the most likely home scorer and I don't think the odds reflect that. While on this game, it's worth mentioning that Suarez only just returned from South America. The lunchtime start won't help on that score but the Uruguayan showed last season that the travelling wasn't a major issue. Expect him to play.
Verdict: Newcastle 1 Liverpool 2 (AS)
Liverpool have won 10 of their last 14 Barclays Premier League games against Newcastle (L3 D1).
There have been 38 Premier League games between Newcastle and Liverpool without a 0-0, no fixture has had more games and no goalless draws.
Liverpool have scored 10 and conceded only one goal in the first half of Premier League games this season, but in the second half they have netted just once and conceded four. If only second-halves counted, Liverpool would be 19th with just four points.
Arsenal will likely have been passed by Liverpool in the Premier League table come kick-off but should reestablish themselves as the team to catch with a regulation win over Norwich. Arsene Wenger's side saw a club record away winning run come to an end last time out but a 1-1 draw at West Brom doesn't represent disaster; indeed, it's the type of game they might've lost last season. Certainly there were positives to take and having won every home game since their opening-day defeat to Aston Villa, quotes of 2/7 are correct. Wenger should have Mesut Ozil at his disposal despite the birthday boy having been taken off with a knock on international duty, while both Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott could return to the squad. Cazorla and Ozil haven't yet started together and that combination will surely prove too much for a Norwich side who struggle on the road. Arsenal also have the red-hot Aaron Ramsey to provide attacking support - he found the net again in midweek for Wales and is now just 2/1 to do so again. In fairness, it's not a bad price but the true value there has gone. Norwich managed to pinch three points at Stoke on their last road trip but prior to that they'd shown little in the way of an attacking threat, which leads me to believe Arsenal can match Spurs' 2-0 dismissal of Chris Hughton's side. With just one clean sheet in seven Premier League games, Arsenal to win to nil (5/4) doesn't make much sense statistically, but providing they concentrate at the back it's hard to see Norwich making much of an impact despite the fact they've scored in five of their six Premier League trips to Arsenal. This is probably a game to avoid unless you bet with Boylesports, who offer anytime assist betting and make Ozil a perfectly fair 2/1 shot. He has three in seven already and if you back him at 2/1 against sides of Norwich's calibre you will, over time, make money.
Verdict: Arsenal 2 Norwich 0 (BC)
Arsenal have collected more points (56) and more wins (17) in the Barclays Premier League in 2013 than any other side.
Norwich have failed to score in seven of their last 11 Premier League away games.
Arsene Wenger's side have only managed three clean sheets in their last 14 league games at the Emirates.
Norwich have conceded their first goal of the match earlier than any other Premier League side on average this season (29th minute).
Plenty has been written about Juan Mata already this season, so be warned; here comes some more. The Spaniard appears to be winning Jose Mourinho round and I'd expect him to start in this game. Midfielders Oscar and Ramires, plus David Luiz, were all on duty for Brazil in Beijing earlier this week so it's easy to see them being rested and that will simply give Mourinho another reason to play Mata in his attacking-midfield role. Mata scored for Spain in midweek and, having also got back in the reckoning with the Blues, should be more confident than at any time so far this season. He's 2/1 to score at any time which seems fair. I can see Chelsea knocking in three or four here. They were all over another of the newly-promoted sides, Hull, earlier in the season and with some shambolic off-field management at Cardiff during the international break, I wonder if the spirit in the camp will be what it should. Malky Mackay remains in place but appears to have been undermined by those above him and if any issues remain Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea win for fun, isn't a venue to carry them into.
Verdict: Chelsea 3 Cardiff 0 (AS)
Chelsea have won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge.
Cardiff have kept a clean sheet in just one of their seven Premier League games so far.
Chelsea have scored exactly two goals in each of their last eight home league games.
This game is one between two sides who have made better-than-expected starts to the campaign. Few would have given Hull 11 points after seven games, while the doom-mongers who said Everton would slip without David Moyes' hand on the tiller have, so far, been proved wrong. The Toffees were beaten at Manchester City last time out but they have Gareth Barry returning for this one and are back at Fortress Goodison here, a ground where they have not lost a league game in 2013. Hull's defence has been a major plus point thus far, although (a game at Newcastle aside) scoring goals has been a problem. With this in mind, Everton to win by a single-goal margin at 13/5 may be worth a play. All three Everton wins this season have come this way, while seven of their 12 home victories last term were by one goal. There may also be some value in the scorer markets. While Romelu Lukaku's flying start at Everton is bound to see him backed here, Leighton Baines might be worth siding with. The left-back is actually Everton's top scorer in 2013 yet he's 9/1 to score his team's first goal which, given his free-kick ability, probing runs and the fact he takes penalties, looks a little big. Hull have already conceded one spot kick this season and it would have been two but for some awful refereeing in their game against West Ham. Baines is certainly one to ponder.
Verdict: Everton 1 Hull 0 (AS)
No side has currently gone longer without losing at home in the Premier League than Everton (12 games; W9 D3).
Hull have not conceded a goal in the in three hours and 46 minutes of league action.
Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals in three games for Everton.
Everton have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last eight Premier League games at Goodison Park.
Ninth-placed United host fourth-placed Southampton in a game which isn't as straightforward to call as has been the case previously. The headlines grabbed by Adnan Januzaj in United's 2-1 win at Sunderland shouldn't hide the fact that they still failed to convince against arguably the league's worst team and four points from nine at home - three of which came in hard-fought fashion against Crystal Palace - tells its own story. Southampton, meanwhile, have been a revelation so far with Danny Osvaldo and Rickie Lambert combining well and their defence operating with supreme efficiency. In their last four games in all competitions Saints have scored seven without reply and away victories at West Brom and Liverpool show exactly what they can do. Put simply, this looks a really tough fixture for United and their under-pressure boss David Moyes, and while the stats say they'll turn things around it's hard to know how relevant - if at all - history now is. Besides, Southampton caused Sir Alex Ferguson's United plenty of problems last season and they are more than capable of doing so again. The problem is that you knew all this already, and so do the layers. Where Southampton would've been perhaps 14/1 last year they're now just 5/1, and while on form that's absolutely fair and certainly tempting, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the prices are just about an accurate reflection of the balance of this game. However, there's perhaps a touch of value in Southampton to score first at 9/4. It's easy to envisage a scenario in which they frustrate a nervous United before ruthlessly capitalising, and the hosts have gone behind in four of their last five league games. Southampton, meanwhile, have scored first in two of their away games already and, while defending so well, could repeat the feat.
Verdict: Manchester United 2 Southampton 1 (BC)
Manchester United have not lost successive Barclays Premier League home games since May 8, 2002.
Southampton have conceded just two goals in their seven Premier League games so far, fewer than any other side.
If only second-halves counted, Southampton would be top of the Premier League on 16 points.
Saints have scored their opening goal in the 59th minute on average this season; the latest of all Premier League sides.
Going low on goals in this one looks an obvious bet, even if under 2.5 is just 7/10. Stoke's problems in the goalscoring department are deep-rooted and this season they have scored a paltry four goals in their seven games to date; they have also conceded just seven. The Baggies' stats of seven for and six against add weight to the theory. Regular readers will know I've had my doubts about West Brom but, give them their dues, results against Manchester United and Arsenal have shown they are better than I thought. Still, they need to prove they can win 'bread and butter' games like this if they are to ensure they defy my view that they would be battling relegation. Given my thoughts about a lack of goals, it seems almost perverse to start talking about potential goalscorer bets. However, it would be wrong of me not to mention a potential value pick in the form of Saido Berahino. The West Brom youngster starred for England Under-21s again this week and has now scored four goals in three appearances for them this season. Add in his West Brom games and the 20-year-old has scored eight goals in six starts; some record. He also notched the winner - as a sub - at Old Trafford. Expect him to start in this one, as he did against Arsenal two weeks ago, and if that's the case, 17/4 in the anytime market is big. However, given the potential for a low-scoring game, I'd suggest anyone wanting to side with Berahino should back him to score first at 12/1.
Verdict: Stoke 1 West Brom 1 (AS)
Stoke have kept a clean sheet in six of their previous eight Barclays Premier League games against West Brom.
West Brom have never gone five games unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League under Steve Clarke (currently four in a row).
No side has lost more Premier League games in 2013 than Stoke (15).
If only first-halves counted, Stoke City would be bottom of the Premier League on three points.
Here's an alarming fact for odds-on backers: Swansea haven't won at home in the league for nearly eight months. I was genuinely astonished by it, and it serves as reason enough to avoid the home side despite both the Premier League table and performances on the pitch suggesting they should sweep past Sunderland with ease. Of course, the key here is that pretty much every Sunderland player asked has commented how much happier life seems at the club since the departure of Paolo Di Canio, and in Gus Poyet they've appointed a promising manager who will have seen plenty to work with in Sunderland's 2-1 defeat to United last time. No side with one point in seven can be backed with any degree of confidence and clearly it's asking a lot for Poyet to have an immediate impact, but we shouldn't forget that both Di Canio and Martin O'Neill before him gained instant responses from players who'd previously been struggling. With that in mind, the visitors could be worth considering at fancy prices here especially with Steven Fletcher having returned to training earlier than expected following a shoulder injury. The more sensible call, however, is for Sunderland to get something from this game at 8/5. As mentioned, one point in seven is clearly terrible form but Swansea haven't been winning and the Poyet factor could be enough to see the away side return home with their tally doubled at least.
Verdict: Swansea 1 Sunderland 1 (BC)
Sunderland have kept a clean sheet in three of their previous four Barclays Premier League games against Swansea.
Swansea have currently gone eight successive home games without a win in the league; the longest current run.
Michael Laudrup's Swansea side have made fewer substitutions than any other Premier League side this season (15).
Sunderland are only the sixth team in Premier League history to have recorded one point (or none) after seven games; three of the previous five were relegated.
West Ham's 3-0 win at Spurs last time out has to be the result of the season so far. Now they will look to back that up against a City side yet to win on the road. City showed their vulnerability from set-pieces at Cardiff earlier in the campaign and they are sure to be tested in that department again here, particularly with Vincent Kompany missing. It's no surprise to find that City win fewer games without the Belgian than with him. Both sides to score looks a fair bet at 4/5 - something which has occurred in four of City's last five matches and two of their three away league games this term. For the visitors, Alvaro Negredo is worth a mention, particularly after he scored in both Spain games over the past week. He's looked a handful every time I've seen him this season and has shown his eye for goal - a fine strike against Bayern Munich being a case in point - yet he's often started on the bench. That surely has to change soon and after a good week for his country, now is that time. He's 13/8 to net in this one, another bet worthy of consideration.
Verdict: West Ham 1 Manchester City 2 (AS)
West Ham have kept four clean sheets in their last seven Barclays Premier League games; but have also failed to score in four of their seven matches.
Man City have lost just one of their last 12 Barclays Premier League meetings with West Ham (W8 D3).
Man City have won just 46% of their Premier League games without Vincent Kompany since his debut; compared to 58% with him in the side.
Yaya Toure, who has either scored or assisted in five of his seven league appearances this season, has scored three goals in four appearances against the Hammers.
- The games at Newcastle and West Ham are being televised live in the UK by BT Sport and Sky Sports respectively.