Fresh Hammers to rout Reading
Our experts preview all eight of Saturday's Premier League fixtures with West Ham fancied to win away at Reading.
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Sunderland v Tottenham (1245 GMT)
Gareth Bale and Tottenham tore Aston Villa apart on Boxing Day and, having tipped up the Spurs win, Betting Zone towers was happy place. Tottenham are the same price (11/10) to win this one but there's a notable difference - Sunderland do not come into the game on the back of an 8-0 defeat. In fact, anything but. The Black Cats' Boxing Day win over champions Manchester City was their third in four matches, a run which has pulled them into mid-table. Significantly it was also a second successive clean sheet so Spurs' attacking nous looks in for a tougher test in this one. Sunderland soaked up the pressure against City and a repeat performance will be the aim here. The best time to back Spurs appears to have gone. Instead a longer-odds play worth consideration is Stephane Sessegnon to find the net. He's struggled to replicate last season's impressive form but recent signs suggest he's coming back to something like his best. He's caught the eye in recent games and although Sunderland are far from free-scoring, he's tempting at 5/1 to score at any time.
Verdict: Sunderland 1 Tottenham 1 (AS)
Aston Villa v Wigan (1500)
Aston Villa will be desperate to halt a miserable slide since their win at Liverpool that has seen them concede 12 goals and score none in their last two games. The 8-0 defeat at Chelsea was compounded when they lost 4-0 at home to Spurs and though the visit of Wigan is a significant drop in class the fear in Villa's defence means they are 5/4 favourites that have to be avoided on this weekend's coupon. They kept Spurs at bay for 45 minutes on Boxing Day but it was always a matter of time before the North London side broke the deadlock and Paul Lambert has a huge job on his hands to convince his young group of players they are good enough to win this game. Wigan have lost three on the trot themselves but defeats by a goal to Norwich, Arsenal and Everton is a league above Villa's last two performances and at 23/10 they look worth chancing to make it an utterly forgettable festive period for Villa. Wigan played well against Arsenal and Everton and they are dangerous on the road as wins at Southampton and Tottenham this campaign suggest.
Verdict: Aston Villa 0 Wigan 1 (BL)
Fulham v Swansea (1500)
Both teams have problems coming into this game. Fulham are in a bit of a rut having won just once in their last 11 matches while Swansea not only failed to beat Reading on Boxing Day but they in all likelihood lost talisman Michu for at least this fixture. Fulham have been struggling with injuries and suspensions to key players themselves and it's made them look disjointed in attack - they've failed to score in four of their last seven games. Swansea, meanwhile, are not averse to a blank day in front of goal either. In fact, three of their last eight games would've seen 'no goalscorer' oblige and that's the route I'm going down at a tasty 12/1 at Craven Cottage. The way the Swans set themselves up away from home this bet is usually a player, as their possession football not only limits the chances for the opposition but also themselves. In their last three away games they were 0-0 at 88 minutes at Arsenal (before Michu hit the Gunners with a late sucker-punch brace), 0-0 after 75 minutes at Spurs and 0-0 at the final whistle at Reading. With Michu out, 12/1 is a fair price that nobody finds the net again in this clash.
Verdict: Fulham 0 Swansea 0 (BL)
Manchester United continue to win games despite struggling at the back. In their last five league games alone they've won 4-3 at Reading, 3-2 at Manchester City and 4-3 at home to Newcastle. You can be sure this 'we'll score more than you' attitude won't be pleasing Sir Alex Ferguson but injuries and form have given the Red Devils a disjointed backline all season. There's little the Old Trafford gaffer can do about it until he has a fully fit rearguard to pick from but offensively they continue to impress. You just get the feeling they can't keep on winning games from losing positions and sooner or later they are going to fail to oblige at really short odds. West Brom travel to the North West in good form having won their last two against Norwich and QPR and I'm not sure they should be priced up at 10/1 for any Premier League game at present. You know that the Baggies will get chances in this game and you would fancy them to put at least one of them away, while defensively they are disciplined enough to stop United running riot. 'Both teams to score' is predictably prohibitively priced-up at 17/20 but West Brom are worth considering on the Asian Handicap at shade of odds-on (+1.5). They are capable of keeping this tight and could even go home with something if United's luck runs out.
Verdict: Manchester United 2 West Brom 1 (BL)
Norwich v Manchester City (1500)
After an unconvincing last-gasp win over Reading and then a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland you'd have to be a brave man to be ploughing into Manchester City at 4/7. And it's not only their own form they have to worry about as Norwich have previous at Carrow Road against the top teams this season. Both Arsenal and Manchester United have lost 1-0 at the Canaries and a repeat of that scoreline is a tempting 18/1 with BetVictor. If Norwich are to get the job done you'd fancy it to be by the odd goal in a low-scoring affair so consider the 18s if you fancy the Canaries. Norwich are also 11/2 to win the game and 19/5 draw no bet but I'm loathe to oppose City given their quality as you just feel their latest defeat could spark them in to life. That's not to say we'd trust them to get the job done at such prohibitive prices, though, so this looks like a game to leave alone from a betting perspective.
Verdict: Norwich 1 Manchester City 3 (BL)
Reading v West Ham (1500)
West Ham look one of the bets of the day at 13/8. Sam Allardyce's side have impressed all season and though they've lost by the odd goal to the Merseyside clubs of late they can get back on track at lowly Reading. The struggling side stopped a run of seven defeats in a row when they held Swansea to a goalless draw on Boxing Day but it was a poor quality affair and West Ham, fresh after their Christmas clash with Arsenal was postponed due to a Tube strike, could have too much energy and guile for the Royals here. Carlton Cole has been in very good form up front and after his red card against Everton was rescinded he's available for selection. West Ham have won at QPR and Newcastle this campaign and look a decent bet to make it three away wins for the season at the Madejski.
Verdict: Reading 0 West Ham 3 (BL)
Stoke v Southampton (1500)
The Potters continued their impressive run of form with a come-from-behind success against Liverpool on Boxing Day which means they are nine matches unbeaten in the Premier League - just two short of a club record in the top flight. Expectations will be high then at the Britannia that they will see off a Saints side perched just above the drop zone but Nigel Adkins' side showed some resilience in awful conditions to grab a point at Fulham. Stoke have the best defensive record in the division and have conceded just 14 times so the consensus theory is that the visitors will have a difficult afternoon ahead finding the target. But they do possess a fair goal threat with Rickie Lambert up top and £12m signing Gaston Ramirez granted a freer role to play in the hole just behind him. Stoke will look to build on the three times they scored against Liverpool - only Aston Villa and QPR have netted fewer - and they may well have to as the the visitors are fancied to make an impact. The suggestion is to go for both teams to score at even money with Boylesports.
Verdict: Stoke 2 Southampton 1 (DJ)
Arsenal v Newcastle (1730)
This should be a rousing end to Saturday's action with the Gunners rested up and raring to following the postponement of the Boxing Day clash against West Ham. The Gunners battling 1-0 victory at Wigan last Saturday saw them register three wins on the bounce for the first time this season and despite the continued criticism of Arsene Wenger's squad, his youthful collection of players provide an exciting spectacle in full flow. Nothing less should be expected here and "contract rebel" Theo Walcott can highlight his value to the team with another goal against Toon - he has scored three times from the last five meetings between the two teams and another here at some stage will do his stock no harm as he tries to sort out a future at either the Emirates or elsewhere. Newcastle are also expected to play a full part in the game and Alan Pardew admitted the 4-3 loss at Old Trafford was one of the hardest he has had to take in his career after he saw his side take the lead three times. Vurnon Anita and Jonas Gutierrez are two more additions to the treatment room but Newcastle remain a very dangerous side on the attack. Sylvain Marveaux came within a whisker of finding the target against Manchester United with a magnificent free-kick and he does not look far away from breaking his duck in the Premier League this season. He is 15/2 to score anytime with Paddy Power and that is well worth a second glance.
Verdict: Arsenal 3 Newcastle 2 (DJ)