Draw the derby value call
Ben Coley and Andy Schooler bring you their match-by-match guide to tonight's Premier League action.
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All eyes will be on Juan Mata if, as expected, he makes his Manchester United debut following his club record transfer from Chelsea. Such are the times at Old Trafford that the potential impact of the Spaniard will probably be overplayed in some quarters, but Mata deservedly won Chelsea's player of the year award during both seasons in London and is certain to provide the sort of creative spark that has so often been missing from the United midfield. Mata is also a consummate professional by all accounts so expect him to be match fit despite having not featured for Chelsea since New Year's Day. Many will want to back him to find the net here and 2/1 isn't a bad price at all - he also did so on his debut for Chelsea. Cardiff now sit bottom of the table after a tough run of fixtures. Their last three Premier League away games have been at Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City and it's no real surprise that they've failed to secure a point from these fixtures. The fact that they've lost both by exactly two goals may be an indication of what to expect here especially as United's last two home wins in the league have been by the same margin. It remains difficult to see them winning by many more until Robin van Persie returns to the side and 3/1 about a two-goal win is perfectly reasonable. However, the overriding feeling is that it's still best to watch where United are concerned and if there is value here it's probably in Cardiff and in particular the likes of Fraizer Campbell and Steven Caulker to find the net. Campbell, who started his career at United, has scored in each of his last three away games including at City, while Caulker is an aerial threat and United still look vulnerable in that regard as, they were in the reverse fixture.
Cardiff have won none and lost six of their last eight Barclays Premier League away games (W0 D2 L6).
37 points after 22 matches is the fewest Manchester United have mustered in any single Premier League campaign at this stage.
35% of Cardiff's goals have been headers; the highest proportion of any team in the Premier League this season.
As the stats below will tell you, it's not unreasonable to expect a tight, low-scoring affair here. Not only does history suggest as much, but Norwich haven't scored more than one at home since November while Newcastle have failed to score in three of their last four, albeit they did find the net three times against West Ham last weekend. Trends followers may note that Yohan Cabaye has scored Newcastle's first goal in their last three away from home and he's 9/2 to do so again. Half the French midfielder's six goals last season came on the road while this year it's five from seven, an indication of how dangerous he is. On a similar line of thinking, Norwich have little in the way of attacking threat which strengthens the case for backing Gary Hooper to score their first goal at 3/1. He's done so in three of his last five appearances at home and five times in 14 starts overall. Given those figures and the fact that he's now the leading man for Norwich, a small bet at 10/3 has to be the advice. I'll stick to backing him to score first for Norwich as a nod to Newcastle's improved away form and attacking threat both in midfield and up-front. As for the match prices, for the reasons mentioned I considered Newcastle but taking short of 6/4 about them doesn't appeal and if pushed I'd opt for a score-draw.
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Norwich have won three and lost none of the last four Premier League home matches against Newcastle (W3 D1 L0).
Newcastle have drawn none of their 11 Premier League away games this season (W6 L5).
There have been just five goals scored in the last four Premier League meetings between the Canaries and the Magpies.
Arsenal remain top of the table both overall and in terms of away form, whereas they sit fourth and seven points off the lead in the home form table. That suggests that they're best supported on the road and evens about them winning at Southampton makes plenty of appeal. Southampton have built a very strong record at St Mary's this season but Chelsea and Tottenham both won here while Manchester City drew at a time when they'd typically found winning on the road difficult. I can't help but feel that Manchester City or Chelsea would be odds-on to win right now and Arsenal deserve to be priced similarly given their current form. A look back through recent results shows that Arsenal have won all seven games in all competitions since drawing against Chelsea, and even more encouragingly they've conceded just twice since losing 6-3 to Manchester City six weeks ago. That's 700 minutes of football and goes to show just how strong the partnership between Laurent Koscielny has become, not to mention the impact Mathieu Flamini has had since his return to north London. With this in mind, I'm inclined to take 5/2 about an Arsenal win to nil as opposed to the evens about them simply winning but both look solid. Southampton did cause Arsenal one or two problems in the reverse fixture but ultimately lost 2-0 courtesy of an Olivier Giroud brace. The French striker has scored in his last two away and came from off the bench to add to his haul against Coventry on Friday, so don't be surprised if he is again among the scorers. Ultimately, Arsenal are a better side than Southampton and I'd fancy to win this fixture more often than they'd fail to, so evens is more than fair but it's the 5/2 about a win without conceding which makes most appeal.
Arsenal have hit the target with 53% of their shots this season, the best accuracy rate in the Premier League.
Arsenal have won five and lost none of their last eight Premier League games against Southampton, but have won just one of the last four trips to St Mary's (W1 D2 L1).
Only one team has managed to score more than one goal against Arsenal in their last 21 Premier League matches (Man City 6-3 Arsenal).
Both sides remain in the FA Cup having come from behind at the weekend - Fulham for a draw at Sheffield United, Swansea for victory at Birmingham. Given the conditions Fulham faced at Bramall Lane, the extra 24 hours Swansea have to recover is in their favour, but in this day and age I don't think it should be too much of a problem for what was a much-changed Fulham team. One thing which seems certain is that neither side arrives in form. Swansea have found solace in the form of the FA Cup of late but results need to pick up soon in the league if they're to avoid becoming involved in the battle for survival, one which Fulham are firmly trapped in at present. Only when faced with 10 men did Fulham show any real quality on Sunday and it's their struggles rather than Swansea's quality which makes the home side odds-on. On the pick of their performances Swansea would win this comfortably but they've lost half their home matches this season and won just twice, which is an indication that they're really not up to producing the pick of their form at the moment. There's also been money for Michael Laudrup to lose his job while Fulham have had a bid rejected for Swansea's Neil Taylor, all of which further confuses the picture here. However, while I'm not sure how this match will go I do think 4/1 about Wilfried Bony scoring first represents value. He's scored six of Swansea's last seven goals while Fulham have conceded first in eight of their nine Premier League games under Rene Meulensteen. In a game of imponderables, the decision over what to back is actually straightforward.
Fulham have allowed 141 shots on target against them this season, more than any other team in the top flight.
There have been five Premier League meetings between Fulham and Swansea and the Welsh side have won four and lost just one.
Fulham have kept just one clean sheet in their last 15 Premier League outings.
At a glance you'd be forgiven for thinking that the draw is the most likely outcome here and therefore represents value at 23/10. I wouldn't go as far as to say that isn't true as these are two closely-matched sides, but Palace have drawn only twice at home and Hull likewise away. That being said, this is an important game for two increasingly-efficient outfits and I wouldn't expect either to run away with it. We've written before about how impressed we've been with Palace since Tony Pulis took over while Hull have produced several good performances to climb to 11th, albeit most of them have come at home. With that and three Premier League defeats on the spin in mind, there is some temptation to back Palace here at 6/4. However, I'm prepared to follow the formula used for the Arsenal game in backing the hosts to win to nil at 14/5. This looks an artificially-inflated price when we consider that Palace have won five times under Pulis (six if you count the day he sat in stands having just joined the club) and each without conceding. That's a pretty impressive record for a side who'd looked clueless in attack and defence before the change in leadership and it does also include their 1-0 victory at Hull, who struggle for goals at the best of times and have found the net just seven times away from home. That Palace conceded only once at the Etihad Stadium tells you something about how organised they now are and if the home side are to win this game, it's quite likely they'll keep a clean sheet. Given that view I'm also interested in a 1-0 home win at 13/2 but there's enough juice in the advised bet to leave it at that.
Crystal Palace have averaged 1.30 points per game since Tony Pulis took over compared to 0.58 per match prior to his arrival.
Hull have fired in the fewest shots on target of any team in the Premier League this season (67).
Hull have failed to score in their last three league games.
Well over halfway through the season and just one point separates these two rivals in the table, yet the odds suggest there's a gulf, not a wafer, between the pair. Liverpool are odds-on across the board; Everton out at 7/2. Part of the reason is the Toffees' awful record at Anfield - they haven't won there this century - but look deeper and you also find they've returned across Stanley Park with a point more often than not. Seven of the 13 league clashes at Anfield have been drawn, plus another in the FA Cup. The majority of those matches also saw Everton go with a cautious approach under David Moyes. With Roberto Martinez now at the helm, they will likely go with more attacking intent, as was the case at Old Trafford before Christmas. It was also what happened in the reverse fixture when both sides went hell for leather for the win in a cracking end-to-end clash with really could have gone either way. I don't see things being so open this time around with both managers surely having learned from their mistakes - there was a real dereliction of duty on the defensive side of the ball at times. Everton's problem right now is a mounting injury list with Bryan Oviedo's sickening leg break at the weekend further depleting their squad. However, the signs are that Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Ross Barkley could all play in this one and, in any case, the stand-ins have consistently done a decent job for the Goodison Park outfit not only this season but also under Moyes when they were always a difficult side to keep down. With the firepower Liverpool have, particularly Luis Suarez, I'd be a little worried if Jagielka and/or Distin didn't make it but, at present, the draw (3/1) makes much more appeal to me than the home win at the prices. Everton have proved a very tough nut to crack this season and have still only lost twice in the league - once at Manchester City and once with 10 men for 70 minutes against Sunderland - and I can see them again coming away from Anfield with a point pocketed.
Luis Suarez has scored in three of his four Barclays Premier League Merseyside derby appearances.
Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals in four Premier League appearances against Liverpool.
Liverpool have won seven and lost just one of their last 14 league Merseyside derbies, while Everton have won none of the last 13 league visits to Anfield (seven draws, six defeats).
Steven Gerrard has netted seven Premier League goals against Everton (all from open play), only against Aston Villa (12) and Newcastle (8) has he netted more. No player has netted more in Merseyside derbies.
- Liverpool v Everton is being televised live in the UK on BT Sport.