Nil points for struggling QPR
Ben Coley is expecting Man City to stroll to victory at Loftus Road on Tuesday in what could be a good night for night for those on the road.
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We're beyond half way through the Premier League season and, make no mistake, this game will have a big impact on the relegation picture. Newcastle fall under the 'too good to go down' category and Alan Pardew has seen his squad beset by injuries, but the league table is all that matters ultimately and defeat here could see them end the night in the bottom three. Villa's troubles might not carry the same excuses but they are just as clear and it's little surprise that bookies struggle to split these sides. However, after much deliberation I do think Newcastle are worth a bet here after Villa put in another abject display at Millwall on Friday. The addition of Moussa Sissoko should prove a good bit of business but the best news for Newcastle is that Yohan Cabaye came through an hour of their last game, scoring the opener albeit in defeat, and the captain-elect's return to full fitness couldn't come at a better time. Yoan Gouffran averaged just under a goal every other game at Bordeaux and he should help fill the void left by Demba Ba, and Newcastle's ability to strengthen and welcome back long-absent players is what should see them steadily pull clear of Villa in the table. It's true that they've not won away since last May and were beaten by Reading at home last time, but reinforcements have arrived and at close to 2/1 they're a bet against probably the second-worst side in the Premier League a the moment.
Verdict: Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 2
From the second-worst side in the Premier League to the worst, it's hard to see QPR getting anything from this game. Worryingly, Harry Redknapp's arrival at Loftus Road hasn't seen a significant improvement and bar that shock win at Chelsea, a result harder to explain with each passing week, Rangers have been poor - a fact underlined when they were embarrassingly dumped out of the FA Cup by League One opponents at the weekend. Crucially for this game, they really lack a consistent goalscoring threat and that's why I'm backing City to win to nil. The champions have found form lately, winning eight out of nine, and they've not conceded in around 465 minutes. That's a sequence which includes a pair of games against Stoke and a trip to Arsenal, and it speaks to where their strengths lie. David Silva has been crucial in his side's resurgence and at 8/1 makes some appeal to score first but, as so often the case with City, it's hard to be certain who will play where and too much guesswork is required to snare goalscorer value. What we can be sure of is that with QPR having failed to score against Spurs and Liverpool at home recently, an away shut-out is very possible and 13/8 about a City win to nil rates a more than reasonable price for what's the most likely outcome.
Verdict: QPR 0 Man City 3
A couple of months ago, odds-against about Stoke beating just about any side outside the top six - and certainly one so lowly as Wigan - would look irresistible. But times change and so have Stoke's fortunes of late, and while they looked back close to their best against Man City in the FA Cup they remain winless since Boxing Day. That won't put off everyone and certainly evens or bigger is tempting, but I'd rather watch this one and see if they really are back on track. Wigan are notoriously hard to predict but they are unbeaten on the road since losing to Everton on Boxing Day and that run of four games has seen them concede just once, albeit against modest opposition. With all of this in mind, the solid punt here is under 2.5 goals at around 4/5. Conversely, history points towards the possibility of a speculative punt on a 2-2 draw landing - five of the last 15 meetings of the sides have ended this way, including the last three at the Britannia - but neither side are flying going forward. Ultimately there are a few too many imponderables and while if pushed it'd be a Stoke win by a goal to nil, it's not a game I'm betting on.
Verdict: Stoke 1 Wigan 0
How about this for a fact: you have to go back to September for the last time Swansea lost a game by more than one goal. Remarkable, isn't it? Since then they've only lost to Man City, Norwich, Spurs and Arsenal, and each by a solitary goal. It speaks to their quality and confidence, and I certainly couldn't back Sunderland as favourites here. Home advantage is all well and good but Swansea have won just as many away games as they have at home in the league this season, and were this at the Liberty Stadium they'd be odds-on. The Black Cats have improved at home lately with three league wins in four, including a 1-0 beating of the champions, but it was a strong side which lost to Bolton in the FA Cup when last they took to the field at the Stadium Of Light and I remain unconvinced by them. Swansea do have me convinced though and with Michu having signed a new contract as well as having been promised an international call-up, spirits are high. With that in mind they have to be worth a small bet at the prices simply from a value perspective.
Verdict: Sunderland 1 Swansea 2