12/1 Evra worth a punt
Our Andy Schooler previews Sunday's Premier League games and fancies Patrice Evra to punish Everton's shaky defence at a big price.
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The day begins with struggling Aston Villa entertaining West Ham before attention turns to Old Trafford where Manchester United will be looking to continue their title push against a resilient Everton side who beat them back in August.
Here's our game-by-game preview:
I'm struggling to take a view either way on this one. Plenty has already been written about Villa's woes but if anything can encourage them it is last week's 3-3 draw at Everton where they offered attacking threat aplenty but were again undone by their ropey defence. They have, however, scored just twice in their last seven home league games - a record almost as miserable as their overall record at Villa Park which now reads W3 D9 L13 from their last 25 in the top flight. Such figures make you think the Hammers are good value at 19/10 but they've been just as awful on their travels of late - it's one draw and seven defeats in their last eight away from Upton Park. Better value maybe offered by turning to the star strikers on show. Christian Benteke is clearly a class apart from his team-mates and has scored in his last four games. Notably he's scored Villa's first goal in all those games - he's a tasty 11/4 to do the same in this one, although that home goals stat is somewhat off-putting. For the visitors, Andy Carroll is bound to prove a threat given Villa's defensive problems, particularly at set pieces. The England international made his first start for some time last week and duly bagged the winner against Swansea. He's 85/40 to net at anytime in this one.
Verdict: Aston Villa 1 West Ham 1
Let's get it out the way now - a repeat of last season's 4-4 thriller, a result which effectively cost United the title, can be backed at 300/1. While there's no doubt that's a big price, it is (not surprisingly) another which interests us. The 12/1 about Patrice Evra scoring at any time isn't quite 300s, but it still looks too big. The United left-back has found the net four times this season, with three of them being headers. No side has conceded more headed goals than Everton (12) and their defence has been far from watertight this season. Had it been, they could really have been in control of the race for fourth place by now. However, daft errors, such as those made by Johnny Heitinga in the last two games, have been all too commonplace. David Moyes could well be forced to stick with Heitinga in this one given his injuries at right-back which will be good news for United and their backers. The hosts, who will have Michael Carrick and Ashley Young available, have scored at least twice in 19 of their 25 fixtures this season and it would be no surprise were they to do so again against a shaky Everton backline. That certainly brings Evra into play. The Frenchman will also have good memories of facing Everton - one of his seven United goals came against the Toffees. Looking at other markets, United to win by a single goal is, as ever, tempting. Thirteen of their 20 league wins this season have been attained in such a manner. Yes, Everton are tough to beat - only West Brom have beaten them by more than one goal this term - but United have won 44 of their last 50 league matches at Old Trafford. It all makes 3/1 look rather big. Finally, much has been made of United's ability to come from behind this season. They've won 27 points from losing positions so far and are 7/2 to add to that tally this weekend. Given Everton have scored 58 per cent of their goals in the first half, that is at least worth consideration.
Verdict: Manchester United 2 Everton 1
- Both matches are being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.