Bag some value with West Brom
Ben Coley and Chris Hammer preview Saturday's action in the Barclays Premier League.
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Aston Villa will be buoyed by their come-from-behind draw against rivals West Brom on Monday and this game offers a fine opportunity to go one better and win. Sunderland have definitely improved under Gus Poyet, but they've found comfort at home and on the road problems persist. It must be said that disciplinary issues have hurt them lately more so than a lack of desire of quality, but the fact is they've lost each of their last five away games in the Premier League and haven't scored in over six hours. Before going on, I must elaborate further on those disciplinary issues - Sunderland have had four players sent off this season, and each of those red cards has come away from home, while they've had a man sent off in each of their last three trips to Villa Park. Watch out for the release of prices about another. Wes Brown of course has had his red rescinded so is available here, as are Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena after their reds at Stoke, but even a full-strength Sunderland side doesn't put me off Villa at evens, which simply looks a good price to me. Paul Lambert's side have had a really tough set of home games to start the season but their win against Cardiff could trigger a good run, and the fact they've picked up points despite Christian Benteke's goal drought - which will end sooner rather than later - speaks volumes of how far they've come. A huge majority of Villa's goals have come after half-time so perhaps draw/Villa is worth consideration, but at evens we'll keep it simple and go home win.
Sunderland have won just one and lost 11 of their last 13 Barclays Premier League away games (D1).
Sunderland have scored 16 goals in the last 21 league games against Villa, but only more than once in a game on one occasion.
There have been four red cards in the last three league meetings between Sunderland and Villa at Villa Park, with the Black Cats being given one in each game.
Verdict: Aston Villa 2 Sunderland 0 (BC)
If there's one thing we've learned from Cardiff's embryonic Premier League life it's that they're capable of producing huge performances when they have to. Victories against Manchester City and Swansea plus last week's deserved draw with Manchester United mean they've taken seven points from nine in their biggest three games at the Cardiff City Stadium, and that spells trouble for Arsenal and their backers at 8/13. Perhaps Cardiff won't bring that level here - it's not a big stretch to suggest they've raised their game for the Sky cameras - but either way I couldn't advise a bet on the Gunners even if they're deserved favourites. Arsene Wenger's side produced another professional display to take a big step towards Champions League qualification on Tuesday and are matching sound defensive performances with attacking ruthlessness, and that's without Mesut Ozil yet producing his absolute best. The future therefore looks bright but a point here wouldn't be a disaster and recent away games point to Arsenal being given a test as they were by West Brom in their 1-1 draw, as well as by Swansea and Crystal Palace before emerging with the points. Indeed, 16/5 about the draw is a bet worth considering but on balance this is a game which can be left alone with Arsenal perhaps good enough to edge to victory.
Cardiff have allowed their opponents more shots on target against them than any other team in the top flight this season (75).
Arsenal are unbeaten in the last 11 matches in all competitions against Cardiff City, winning six and drawing five.
Peter Odemwingie has scored in two of his three Barclays Premier League starts against Arsenal.
Verdict: Cardiff 1 Arsenal 2 (BC)
Three draws on the trot now for Everton but last week's 3-3 thriller with Liverpool rather contradicts the preceding two, which ended 0-0. Indeed, Everton have drawn 0-0 in a quarter of their Premier League games this season and visitors Stoke, who would take a point, have a couple of them in the bag too. That option is a general 10/1 chance but a more solid one is 4/5 about under 2.5 goals - that's been the end product in each of the last eight meetings of the sides, eight of Stoke's 12 league games and half of Everton's. However, we have to consider the regime change at Everton before relying on history and with Romelu Lukaku leading the line they do look capable of running up a number almost every time they take to the field, as was demonstrated when they ran riot for 45 minutes against Newcastle. Should they bring that intensity to this game, Everton will run out ready winners and with Stoke proving very leaky at the back, I want to be with the hosts on the handicap. Mark Hughes is producing generally similar results to predecessor Tony Pulis but his preference for possession football has cost them on the road, where Stoke are now much easier to break down albeit more dangerous on the attack. There's nothing in the form book that says Everton will win by more than one - they've only done it once under Roberto Martinez - but this game looks the perfect platform for a ready home win.
Romelu Lukaku has the best minutes per goal ratio in Premier League history (minimum 20 goals), scoring every 118 minutes.
Stoke City's win in their last match against Sunderland ended a run of eight league games without a victory (W0 D4 L4).
Everton have only netted three goals in their last five league games against Stoke and two of those were own goals by the Potters.
Verdict: Everton 3 Stoke 0 (BC)
Crystal Palace's much-needed 1-0 victory at Hull last time out will give new boss Tony Pulis, who was watching in the stands, a glimmer of hope that his record of having never been relegated in his career will remain in tact this season. However, while I have to admit the result did my antepost bet about the Eagles finishing bottom no good, it would be naive to think they suddenly have the quality to climb out of the drop zone on the back of just their second victory of the campaign. Indeed, fellow promoted outfit Hull were beginning to struggle themselves following a decent start back in the top flight and I believe the defeat to Palace says more about their gloomy prospects than anything else. Norwich are also very much in the thick of the dogfight having managed just one victory in their last seven games which have heralded just seven points. That said, four of their five losses in this miserable run have come against Chelsea, Arsenal and both Manchester clubs so a home clash with Palace will be viewed as the perfect opportunity to pick up a precious three points. I feel Norwich could be in a slightly false position, which makes their odds of 10/11 to beat a side who have not only lost five of six away games but managed only three goals on the road extremely tempting for those eyeing up a chunky wager. However I'm going to be a little more greedy and instead head to the 'win to nil' market where the Canaries are a best of 23/10.
The Eagles beat Hull City 1-0 last weekend; their first away victory in the Barclays Premier League in 19 attempts (D5 L13).
The last time that Crystal Palace won back to back Premier League away games was in November 1997. The second game in this run was away at Tottenham and current Norwich boss Chris Hughton was Spurs' caretaker manager.
Crystal Palace have seen their woodwork struck nine times by the opposition this season, which is more often than any other team.
Verdict: Norwich 2 Crystal Palace 0 (CH)
I'm personally not a great believer in statistics reliably pointing the way to consistent football profits but the ones I've listed at the bottom of this particular match preview present a rather compelling case about there being an extremely low-scoring affair at Upton Park this Saturday. Essentially West Ham and Fulham have both endured rotten starts to the Premier League season and find themselves languishing in 17th and 18th spots respectively but perhaps most worrying is their collective lack of cutting edge up front. The Hammers would have the worst goalscoring record in the top flight if you take away the three they managed in a freak victory at Spurs while their abject performance in last weekend's 3-0 defeat to Chelsea extended their winless home run to five matches. They've failed to score in seven of their 11 league games but you can hardly say this is down to a lot of bad luck considering they've only hit the target with 32.4% of their shots this season (the lowest in the division). On the other hand, Fulham have attempted the fewest shots in total in the top flight this season, so we can hardly expect a thrilling derby between two sides who will be desperate to avoid another defeat. The 11/1 with BetVictor about there being no goalscorer is tempting but we can't ignore the Cottagers possess the joint third worst defence so it might be safer to go with bet365's 5/2 about there being under two goals or the general price of 5/6 about there being less than 2.5 scored.
10 points after 12 matches is Fulham's worst ever start to a Barclays Premier League campaign. They had 16 points at this stage last season.
In West Ham's previous 17 Premier League campaigns, they have only once had fewer points than they have at this point in 2013-14 (8 points in 2010-11 and they were relegated).
West Ham have won just one of their last 11 Premier League matches (W1 D4 L6) and none of the last five on home soil (W0 D1 L4).
Fulham have attempted the fewest shots in total in the Premier League so far this season (96, inc. blocked).
The Hammers have hit the target with just 32.4% of their shots this season, the lowest percentage in the top flight.
Verdict: West Ham 1 Fulham 0
Newcastle are very much one of the form sides in the Premier League having taken 13 points from their last six games to move up to eighth in the table. Two of their four wins in that run came against Chelsea and away at Spurs - so we can hardly say they've had it easy either. But nevertheless, I still feel there could be value in backing West Brom at a general 11/4 to pick up all three points at St James' Park on Saturday evening. Sure, the stats say the Baggies have won just once in their last eight away games but that was against Manchester United and who could deny they were unlucky not to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge following Eden Hazard's highly controversial last-gasp penalty? With Shane Long rediscovering his scoring touch, West Brom have their own weapon to counter Newcastle's in-form striker Loic Remy although they will need to defend better than they did during the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa last time out when they let a two-goal lead slip.
West Brom have won just one of their last eight Barclays Premier League away games (W1 D4 L3).
Newcastle have lost just one of their last six Premier League games (W4 D1 L1) and lost just one of the last six at St James Park (W3 D2 L1).
Magpies' striker Loic Remy has scored eight goals in his last eight Premier League games.
Shane Long has scored three goals in his last two Premier League appearances, this after failing to score in his previous 10 in the competition.
Verdict: Newcastle 1 West Brom 2
You can listen to Ben on Sky Bet's Trading Views podcast below