Manchester duo to cruise
Ben Linfoot and Ian Brindle preview all six of Saturday's Premier League games, with comfortable wins for both Manchester City and Manchester United expected.
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Punters don't like backing the draw, but the 9/4 about a stalemate in this game is well worth snapping up. Basically, the two sides are very evenly matched and a draw is arguably the most likely outcome, yet it is the outsider of three in the win market. Just three points separate the teams in the standings with almost half the season gone and four of their last five meetings have ended all square. West Brom have drawn eight of their 18 league games - more than anyone else in the league - and five of those have been away from home including the 1-1 draw at Tottenham on Boxing Day. West Ham have drawn five league games themselves but they have dropped into the bottom three over the festive period after a tough run of fixtures. The Hammers were leading Arsenal after 68 minutes at home on Boxing Day and though they eventually fell to a 3-1 defeat they look in good enough form to at least stop the rot against West Brom. This looks a 'must not lose game' for both sides and while no goalscorer should be considered at 10/1, it's hard to trust either defence to deliver in that regard. We'll stick with the draw.
Verdict: West Ham 1 West Brom 1 (BL)
West Ham have met West Brom five times at Upton Park in the Barclays Premier League, and 10 different managers have taken charge.
West Bromwich Albion have only won one of their last nine Barclays Premier League meetings with West Ham United (D4 L4).
The Hammers have won just one point in their last five Premier League games (D1 L4).
West Ham have failed to find the net in nine Premier League matches this season (a joint-league high), and have scored just three goals in their last five games.
Aston Villa sit bottom of the home league table and if they don't improve at Villa Park soon they are going to get sucked into the relegation battle. It's well known that Paul Lambert's team are habitually set-up to play with pace on the counter-attack and while this serves them well away from home (they are the eighth-best team in the away league standings) they struggle when they have to take the initiative in games. They lost their fourth match in a row when Crystal Palace scored deep into injury-time at Villa Park on Boxing Day but at least they have the chance to make amends quickly with the visit of Swansea on Saturday. Michael Laudrup's team have had some tough fixtures recently and their squad is being stretched to its limit over the busy festive period. They emerged from Stamford Bridge with a creditable 1-0 defeat but barely threatened in attack and the continued absence of Michu is hurting them. This is a tough game to call but Aston Villa's struggle for goals at home makes me think 'no goalscorer' is a huge player. They haven't scored in their last three home games and with Swansea hard to break down on the road, as Chelsea found on Boxing Day, that run could be extended to four. Swansea didn't have a sniff of a chance at Stamford Bridge and while this is an easier task, they are are short of goals themselves having scored just twice in four games (one of which was an own goal).
Verdict: Aston Villa 0 Swansea 0 (BL)
Swansea have won only two points in their last four Premier League matches (D2 L2).
Aston Villa have scored just one first half goal in their last 13 Premier League games, and have not scored a single first half goal at home this season.
Aston Villa have failed to score in five of their last six Barclays Premier League home games.
Swansea have taken only 38 points from 36 Premier League games in 2013.
Villa have scored the first goal of the game on a league-low three occasions in the Premier League this season, but on each of these three occasions, they've gone on to win the match.
Fulham got their third away win of the season at Norwich on Boxing Day but the trip to Hull is a much tougher task and they will do well to emerge with a point. Steve Bruce's side have a fantastic record at the KC Stadium this season, losing just twice in nine games, including against Manchester United on Boxing Day. However, having been 2-0 up in that game they can count themselves a tad unlucky to have lost just their second home game of the season and they can get back on track with another home win on Saturday. Their last home victory came against Liverpool on December 1 and the Reds have franked that form in style since, winning their next four games and scoring 17 goals in the process. Yet Hull have shown all season long they are capable of holding their own against the best the league has to offer and while Fulham have been better since the departure of Martin Jol, they remain an average side. At least the slight upturn in form for the Cottagers makes Hull a backable price here, as odds-against about the Tigers appeals greatly all things considered. Prior to their win at Norwich, Fulham had lost five away matches in a row at Southampton, Leicester, Liverpool, West Ham and Everton and Hull is as tough a place to go as at least three of those. They could struggle to contain the home side again on Saturday.
Verdict: Hull City 2 Fulham 0 (BL)
Fulham have conceded a goal in 15 of their 18 Premier League games this season, more often than any other side.
Hull conceded as many goals in their last PL game (3 vs Man Utd) game as they had in their previous eight Premier League home matches this season (3).
Fulham have conceded a goal in each of their last eight Premier League away games, letting in 18 goals in the process.
The Whites have failed to find the net in five of their last eight Premier League games on the road.
23 of Dimitar Berbatov's 93 Premier League goals (25%) have been scored in December - at least 10 more goals than in any other month of the year.
No surprise to see the bookmakers making City strong favourites but Manuel Pellegrini won't be taking anything for granted against Tony Pulis' men despite them being 1/7 to take all three points. Palace will be buoyed by winning only their second away game of the campaign against a hapless Aston Villa, but to some extent, that shouldn't have been a complete surprise as they'd already posted victories against Hull, West Ham and Cardiff and they were far from outclassed against Chelsea. City managed to get the result they needed against Liverpool despite some strong pressure from the Reds and their class saw them through a couple of decidedly sticky moments at Fulham. Palace's lack of a genuine attacking threat at this level suggests that they may struggle to get past a resurgent Joe Hart so the percentage call appears to be that of backing City to win to nil at 8/11.
Verdict: Man City 3 Crystal Palace 0 (IB)
Manchester City are the only team in the Premier League this season yet to drop a point at home (P9 W9 D0 L0). They have also scored in each of their last 59 Premier League home games.
Alvaro Negredo has now scored in each of his last nine competitive appearances at the Etihad Stadium.
Tony Pulis has won nine points from his six Premier League games in charge of Crystal Palace - two more than Ian Holloway and Keith Millen won combined in 2013-14 (7 in 12 games).
The Eagles have kept five clean sheets in their last eight Premier League matches.
Man City have profited from six goals from substitutes this season in the Premier League; more than any other side.
David Moyes will have been delighted by Manchester United's resilience against Hull having seen his team go 2-0 down in the first twenty minutes of the game and he'll be hoping that the momentum that has been evident in their play can be carried through to their visit to Carrow Road. United clearly miss RVP in spades but Wayne Rooney, who has been utilised in more of a holding role, managed to get back on the scoresheet at the KC Stadium and he's a best priced 6/5 to score anytime today. Norwich slumped to a disappointing defeat against Fulham on Boxing Day and with results elsewhere going against them, they find themselves very much involved in a relegation battle. Though they are capable of creating chances, their inability to convert them has not helped their predicament. United lost the equivalent fixture 1-0 last season and while they will have a number of notable absences, they should have too much class for the Canaries so quotes of the 11/4 for them to win both halves seems fair enough under the circumstances.
Verdict: Norwich 0 Manchester United 2 (IB)
Norwich have lost 13 and won just two of their last 16 league meetings with Manchester United (W2 D1).
The Red Devils have lost two of their last three Premier League games at Carrow Road without getting on the scoresheet.
Norwich have scored a total of only eight goals in 12 Premier League games against Man Utd.
Man Utd have scored five goals in their final Premier League game of the year three times (in 1992, 1993 and 2009).
Wayne Rooney has assisted 19 goals since the start of last season in the Premier League; currently this is four more than any other player (Gerrard/Hazard on 15).
Gus Poyet's revolution at the Stadium Of Light has built up some serious progress over the last few weeks and though his club sit at the bottom of the division, their recent form has been anything but relegation material having dumped Chelsea out of the Capital One Cup and taken five points from their last nine in the league. In truth, Sunderland couldn't be meeting Cardiff at a better time. Due to the open warfare between the now sacked Bluebirds manager Malky Mackay and the club's owner Vincent Tan, performances on the field appear have suffered greatly and their first-half display against Southampton was a shadow of that they produced against Manchester City at the start of the season. At 11/5 it looks worth taking a chance about the visitors on Saturday evening. Though they may not score often, they produced plenty of chances during their draws against West Ham and Norwich and in what is likely to be a scrappy affair, they may only need one to hit the target once in order to make the difference.
Verdict: Cardiff 0 Sunderland 1 (IB)
Vito Mannone has kept five clean sheets in eight Premier League starts this season for Sunderland.
Cardiff City have lost two successive Premier League games, they have not lost three league games in succession since November 2009.
Despite playing 18 games fewer in 2013 than Sunderland (36), Cardiff have won just three games fewer in the Premier League this calendar year (4) than their opponents (7).
David Marshall (70) has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season.
Sunderland have lost more points from leading positions than any other side this season (11) in the Premier League.
Cardiff have only been in the lead on five occasions in the Premier League this season - no side have led less frequently (Villa also five).
*All games 1500 GMT kick-off unless stated. The matches at West Ham and Cardiff are live on Sky Sports 1 HD.