Everton to edge closer
Our tipster Andy Schooler previews tonight's Premier League action and is backing Everton to edge closer to securing a top-four finish.
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Everton v Crystal Palace (1945 BST)
Five more wins, starting with this game, and Everton will qualify for the Champions League, or at least the qualifying stages. With a tricky fixture list, they are still odds-against to pip Arsenal to fourth spot but the bookies expect them to pick up three points against a dogged Palace side who have become hard to beat under Tony Pulis' excellent stewardship. A 4-0 win over Palace back in April 2005 helped secure Everton's last Champions League appearance but it won't be so easy this time around. The visitors have conceded just the once in their last five matches to virtually secure safety, with Chelsea among their victims. Palace also kept Everton out in the reverse fixture back in the autumn. They've been less impressive away from Selhurst Park but still look sure to make things difficult for a side who still aren't firing on all cylinders despite being on their best winning streak since their title-winning 1986/87 campaign. A televised 3-0 demolition of Arsenal is not really representative of how they've been playing. Previous home games had seen wins over Aston Villa, West Ham, Cardiff and Swansea ground out (all were by the single goal), while they were somewhat fortunate to see off rock-bottom Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, a comment that could also be applied to their display at Fulham. The good news for Everton, who will again pick from the same squad with Phil Jagielka and Steven Pienaar still sidelined, is that they've still managed to notch up wins and they remain worthy favourites here. However, backing them at around 2/5 is not hugely attractive. Instead I'm happy to get with them to post another victory by a one-goal margin. It's a route to profit we've travelled before and the aforementioned stats help show why it's the path to go down. You can get 13/5 which seems more than fair. For those seeking a bigger price, the 6/1 about 1-0 isn't the worst around. Also worthy of consideration is under 2.5 goals which is the market outsider at evens, this despite only two of Palace's last 16 games having produced three or more goals. Everton's record in this category isn't a reason to back this bet but given Palace's tight defence and an attack which struggled to break down Sunderland, it's certainly worth thinking about. On Palace's side of things, Jason Puncheon is the form horse with three goals in his last two games. He's 6/1 to bag another in this one.
Verdict: Everton 1 Crystal Palace 0
The Eagles have failed to find the net in five of their last seven away games in the Barclays Premier League.
Romelu Lukaku has scored in four of his last six league appearances at Goodison Park.
Everton have won their last seven Premier League games, they last won eight league games in a row in May 1985.
Over the past nine games, Everton are the second best team in the Premier League (21 points), while Palace are eighth (14 points).
Jason Puncheon has scored three of the Eagles' last four Premier League goals.
Manchester City v Sunderland (1945)
As disappointed as City will be about Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Liverpool, the sensible observer will know the title race is far from over. Yes, things are now out of City's hands but they only need one slip - a draw from the Reds - and that will change, as long, of course, as they keep winning themselves. Certainly their fixture list is fairly kind, while rivals Liverpool and Chelsea still have to face off at Anfield. It would definitely be a surprise were they to slip up here, even without the injured Yaya Toure. OK, Sunderland do have a pretty decent record against City but that's built on matches in the north east. This is Fortress Etihad and Sunderland's last away game - a 5-1 thrashing at Spurs - does not give any cause for optimism. Things have worsened for the Black Cats since then - they lost 1-0 at home to Everton on Saturday - and it's now hard to see them escaping from the relegation zone. Even manager Gus Poyet admits a "miracle" is needed, while their preparation for this match has involved Poyet's job security being called into question. Phil Bardsley, one of their grafters, is suspended which means another defensive reshuffle and all I can see here is a familiar home cakewalk. Sergio Aguero is likely to start for the first time since injury, something which should strike fear into the visitors. Other changes can also be expected ahead of Monday's clash with West Brom. Among them is likely to be James Milner, who helped turned Sunday's game back City's way before Vincent Kompany's uncharacteristic, calamitous error which handed Liverpool the winner. Milner isn't the most prolific goalscorer (the majority of his appearances have been as a substitute) but he's more than 6/1 to net at any time in a game which could easily see City go to town. The England man is 5/2 elsewhere. That's too short in my opinion, but likewise the 25/4 best price is too big and is worth a small punt.
Verdict: Manchester City 4 Sunderland 0
Man City have won just two of the last eight Barclays Premier League meetings with Sunderland (W2 D2 L4), with all four of Sunderland's victories being 1-0 wins.
Sunderland have lost four successive Premier League away games, conceding 13 goals in total during this run.
James Milner has scored five goals against Sunderland in the Premier League; more than against any other Premier League opponent.
The Citizens have won 14 of their last 15 home league matches, with the only blip on their record being a 0-1 home defeat to Chelsea in February.
Sunderland have collected just one point from their last eight Premier League games.