Goals galore at St Mary's
Andy Schooler and Chris Hammer preview Saturday's Premier League games, with goals on the cards in Southampton v Liverpool.
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Andy has 4/1 and 12/1 shots for that televised game, plus another 9/2 fancy for Everton v West Ham.
Chris also has picks for the matches at Stoke and Hull - check out the full match-by-match verdict.
I'm a bit torn here. Everton's strong start to the season is in danger of petering out after they lost three successive away games against teams currently above them in the table - something they couldn't afford to do if they wanted to make a top-four finish more than just a possibility. The problem wasn't playing badly - they could easily have taken at least one point from their games at Tottenham and Chelsea - just an inability to find the net, one which might be solved by the return of Romelu Lukaku for this one. However, they've lost Mr Consistent, Phil Jagielka, from their defence so the impression is they could be vulnerable against a West Ham side enjoying their best run of the campaign, with four wins in a row having propelled the Hammers away from the relegation zone. There have been two significant factors in that run - defensive solidity and Kevin Nolan's goals. West Ham have now kept 13 clean sheets, more than any other top-flight side, which is encouraging given they come up against a team struggling to put chances away. As for Nolan, his six goals in his last seven make him a serious threat here with Everton's defence weakened. Odds of 9/2 about the Scouser scoring on Merseyside are certainly worth consideration. He's bagged in three of those four Hammers wins and is exactly the sort of player who will pop up in any gaps left by the home defence. To me, siding with Nolan looks the way the go rather than his team as a whole given that even when hit by problems, Everton have managed to eke out wins at Goodison Park. Remember they've lost just two league games on home turf in almost two years.
Verdict: Everton 2 West Ham 1 (AS)
Kevin Nolan has scored six goals in his last seven Barclays Premier League appearances.
In the last 10 league meetings between these two sides, there has only been one clean sheet kept by either side, Everton winning 2-0 at Goodison Park last season.
West Ham have conceded the highest proportion of Premier League goals from set pieces this season (41%).
West Ham have kept more clean sheets than any other team in the Premier League (13), including four shut outs in their last five matches in the competition.
Everton have conceded the joint-most penalties in the Premier League this season (six - along with Crystal Palace).
Struggling Fulham can't be relishing this fixture. They've gone 16 games without a win over their West London rivals and their current form hardly holds out much hope of them bringing that run to a halt. Although clearly Chelsea have been a highly-successful side over the past eight years, it's still a somewhat surprising stat given this fixture means much more to Fulham than it does to Chelsea. At this point it's worth mentioning that five of the last seven meetings have ended in draws. New Fulham boss Felix Magath got something of a reaction from his players at West Brom last week but they still couldn't win and it's now eight without a victory for the Cottagers with their chances of survival decreasing by the week. Overall, Chelsea just look to have too much quality here. As touched upon in our midweek preview - and borne out by their game in Turkey - they haven't been ruthless in dispatching opponents but I'd expect them to edge to victory here. However, with the odds men firmly keeping the Blues onside there are few tempting betting opportunities and there look better bets to be had elsewhere.
Verdict: Fulham 0 Chelsea 1 (AS)
Darren Bent has scored in four of his last six Barclays Premier League games against Chelsea.
Chelsea have recovered more points from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (14).
Fulham have failed to score in six of their last nine Premier League games against Chelsea and netted only one goal in each of the other three.
Jose Mourinho's side have kept eight clean sheets in their last 11 Premier League games and conceded just one goal in each of the other three.
They say the table never lies but despite currently sitting in the 'comforts' of mid-table, Hull won't be celebrating survival just yet as they know another bad run of results will suck them right back into the mire. Prior to the thumping 4-0 win at Cardiff in their previous league game, the Tigers had managed just one top-flight victory in seven games - although crucially that did come away at strugglers Sunderland earlier this month. Home form is usually the key to staying up but Steve Bruce's side last tasted a league victory at the KC Stadium back on December 28 (6-0 v Fulham). To be fair, they've only played three times since then with two of those fixtures being against Chelsea and Spurs, but they would have hoped for a better result than a 1-0 defeat against Southampton. Newcastle will be on a relative high having snatching a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Aston Villa which ended a dismal run of three straight defeats with a total aggregate score of 0-10 so maybe that could prove to be the spark they needed to reignite their season. In netting his 12th of the season with the winner on his first game back from suspension, Loic Remy showed how important he is to the Magpies' cause so I feel he could give his side the edge this weekend. With this in mind I'm going to the side with an away win at 23/10 with BetVictor.
Verdict: Hull 1 Newcastle 2 (CH)
Hull City have failed to score in five of their last eight Premier League games, but in the other three games during this run they have netted seven times.
The Tigers have won just one of their last six Premier League home games (W1 D2 L3), but this victory came in emphatic fashion as they defeated Fulham 6-0 on Dec 28th.
This is the third different fixture where Steve Bruce and Alan Pardew have faced each other, after Birmingham v West Ham and Newcastle v Sunderland. Pardew has three wins and Bruce just the one in five previous encounters.
There were plenty of pundits, punters and supporters writing off Arsenal's title hopes following their 5-1 defeat at Liverpool earlier this month, while the goalless draw at home to Manchester United wouldn't have forced any of those to eat their words. However, following an FA Cup triumph over Liverpool and a potentially knockout Champions League blow against Bayern Munich, the Gunners got their league campaign back on track with a comfortable 4-1 win over Sunderland last time out. However, was that enough to suggest they may have found a second wind in this most breathless of title races? I don't think so, and Saturday's trip to a gritty Stoke outfit certainly has the potential to trip them up. The Potters dug deep to frustrate the usually free-scoring Manchester City for long periods at the Etihad Stadium in their last encounter only to be undone by a 70th-minute Yaya Toure strike. Before that they had ground out draws with Swansea and Southampton, having previously claimed their first-ever Premier League victory over Manchester United. Despite this recent resilience, Mark Hughes' side are still looking over their shoulder in 15th place so we can expect them to make life difficult for Arsenal on Saturday as they search for precious points of their own. The draw is quite a tempting price at a general 14/5 - especially considering Stoke's solid home form - so I'm more than willing to snap that up.
Verdict: Stoke 1 Arsenal 1 (CH)
Arsenal have only scored in the first half of three of their last 13 Barclays Premier League matches.
Peter Crouch has scored four goals his last six Premier League appearances at the Britannia Stadium.
Only five teams in the Premier League have taken more points on home soil than Stoke have at the Britannia this season (21).
The goal markets have to be the places to turn to for this one given these are two sides who look full of them. Much has been made of Liverpool's shaky defence of late - in their last nine games on five occasions they've conceded two or more goals - but the fact is they've largely kept on winning thanks to their strike power. And it's not just Luis Suarez (who has actually dried up) and Daniel Sturridge who are now doing the damage. Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard have all got in on the scoring act. Southampton haven't really pushed on from a strong start to the season but they are virtually assured of a top-half finish and they have the ability to trouble most teams in this league, particularly on home soil. Their all-English frontline continues to produce, while it's also noteworthy - given Liverpool's recent suspect defending - that some of their defensive players have been getting on the scoresheet from set-pieces of late. Maya Yoshida netted at a free kick at a big price at West Ham last week and Jose Fonte has two in recent times from similar scenarios. You can get some big prices about those two repeating the trick here - 12s about Fonte and 22s about Yoshida. Even Dejan Lovren, on the bench last week, scored from a corner against Sunderland. I'll have a small bet on Fonte, who is almost certain to start, while overall the 13/8 about there being more than 3.5 goals makes sound sense. That has happened in six of Liverpool's last seven league games and four of Southampton's last seven.
Verdict: Southampton 2 Liverpool 4 (AS)
Southampton have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League (15).
Daniel Sturridge has scored in eight consecutive Premier League appearances. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy (10) has scored in more consecutive appearances in the history of the competition.
Liverpool have scored the highest proportion of first half goals of any team in the Premier League this season (66%).
Southampton have won four of their five Premier League games against Liverpool at St Mary's (L1), including the last three in a row. They are also the only team to have won at Anfield this season.
Saints are one of only two teams in the Premier League to keep a clean sheet against Liverpool this season (the other being Arsenal at the Emirates).