Black Cats to pounce on United
Ian Ogg and Ben Coley preview Sunday's action in the Premier League, where Manchester United look bad odds-on favourites.
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Hull v Stoke (1330 BST)
This is not a game that you would expect to be chock full of goals with the two sides conjuring just one from the 180+ minutes they played last season and the Tigers home record last season was excellent, with just 21 goals conceded. Steve Bruce has strengthened his defence but a serious injury to Robert Snodgrass and the need to find a replacement for Shane Long have left his team looking short of attacking options with the likes of Tom Ince still having something to prove at this level. Stoke evolved under Mark Hughes and enjoyed a decent season but they were poor on their travels (only relegated pair Cardiff and Norwich won fewer away games) and were off the pace on their reappearance, reportedly receiving a rocket from ‘Sparky’. Better can be expected from them but will it be enough to turn them into a potent force on the road? One would suspect not and the likes of Bojan Krkic and Victor Moses may need more time to be assimilated into the side. The Potters have held the upper hand in this fixture (as evidenced below) and they did finish 13 points above their hosts last season but the doubts about their ability to perform on the road coupled with Hull’s home record makes an outright bet on the match result hard to call. It could be argued that Thursday night’s trip to Lokeren will have taken a toll on Hull but it wasn’t too far for them to travel and I’m not sure that it should carry too much weight, especially at this early stage of the season. Not surprisingly, the ‘unders’ are prohibitively short at around 1/2 and I’m not convinced that there’s enough between the teams to recommend a bet on the match result. The corners market is an area that’s worth exploring with the two fixtures in the last campaign producing 12 at Hull and 9 at the Britannia while there were 17 in Hull’s opener against QPR and 10 in Stoke’s defeat to Villa. Over 9.5 can be backed at 4/6 and over 10/5 at 21/20 and the latter could provide some entertainment for those wishing for an interest in the lunchtime kick-off while backing Hull -1 in the corners handicap market at evens also appeals as it’s reasonable to expect the home team to do the lion’s share of the attacking.
Verdict: Hull City 0 Stoke 0 (IO)
180 minutes of football between Hull and Stoke in the Barclays Premier League last season produced a total of just one goal (from Peter Odemwingie).
Stoke have lost just one of their last 10 games against The Tigers (W4 D5).
Hull have not won consecutive Premier League games since September last year.
Only relegated Cardiff and Norwich (two each) won fewer away games than Stoke (3) in the Premier League last season.
Tottenham v QPR (1330)
Harry Redknapp returns to White Hart Lane on Sunday and he'll find there a very different side to that which he left. In Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs might finally have found the right man to take them forward and while they may need more time to bed-in to his style, it's been a case of so far, so good. Thursday's come-from-behind win in the Europa League underlined that Tottenham remain a work in progress but also hinted at their manager's ability to turn games, as he brought on compatriot Erik Lamela in what proved a match-winning stroke. Combine it with the way they managed to grind out three points with 10 men last Saturday, and indications are that this is a side you can rely on to get the job done. That's good news for those prepared to back them at 1/2 to see off QPR and while this time last year I'd have put you off, now I think it's a very fair price given their obvious class advantage. Redknapp's side disappointed against Hull last week and it remains to be seen whether they've got the nouse to match the undoubted quality which exists within their squad. Jordan Mutch was a fine addition but their best business was done on Thursday night, as Chile forward Eduardo Vargas joined on a season-long loan deal from Napoli. Vargas will be remembered by many for scoring the winner against Spain in the World Cup and his pace will stand him in good stead for the campaign. In truth, though, it's asking a lot for him to have an immediate impact in a game Spurs should win and it's just a question of how we side with them. In light of what I've said, a one-goal win makes a lot of sense but 29/10 looks the right price while an early concession in Cyprus - coupled with a hard-to-assess away attack - leads me away from a home win to nil at 6/4. If there is a bet, then, it could be Lamela to find the net. The Argentine's struggles were well-documented last season but he's turning the corner now and was superb off the bench on Thursday. I expect he'll be rewarded for those efforts with a start here and if that is the case, he's worth a check in man of the match, any time scorer and any time assists markets which will become clearer in the run-up to kick-off.
Verdict: Tottenham 2 QPR 0 (BC)
Tottenham have won four of their last six Barclays Premier League games against QPR, with one of those wins masterminded by current Rangers boss Harry Redknapp.
In their last Premier League campaign (2012-13), QPR took fewer points from London derbies than any other side (nine in 10 games).
QPR have won just four of their last 40 Premier League games.
Tottenham have won four of their last five Premier League games.
Sunderland v Manchester United (1600)
You'd be either very brave or very foolish to steam into United at quotes of 4/5 or shorter. Like many, I expect much better from them under Louis van Gaal but last week's defeat to Swansea serves as a timely reminder that changes don't come quickly at any club, let alone one of the biggest in the world. The crumb of comfort for those taking the plunge is the fact that they were better away from home under van Gaal's predecessor, picking up 34 points on the road compared to just 30 at Old Trafford. However, that's more a reflection of how poor their home form was and 10 wins from 19 on the road doesn't make 4/5 anything more than fair. Sunderland can't boast a particularly strong record at home but they did produce when it mattered most last season and their performances against the top six or seven sides in the league suggest an ability to compete in this type of game. Indeed, they knocked United out of the Capital One Cup at the semi-final stage and while it's 17 years since they won this fixture in the league, times have changed. It's hard to know what to make of Gus Poyet's side following a 2-2 draw at West Brom, but I like what they've done over the summer in terms of transfers and expect them to be very competitive here. Robin van Persie's potential return complicates things somewhat, but my overriding feeling is that United will not have this their own way so I'm backing Sunderland on the handicap with a one-goal start. This simply means it'll be a winning bet if the Black Cats can avoid defeat and, at 11/10, it makes sense to effectively lay United at what's too short a price.
Verdict: Sunderland 1 Manchester United 1 (BC)
Sunderland’s win at Old Trafford in May ended a run of 23 Premier League games against Manchester United without a win.
Manchester United have conceded just two goals in their last seven trips to the Stadium of Light in the Premier League.
Wayne Rooney has scored 81 Premier League away goals, only six short of Alan Shearer’s all-time record.
Manchester United ended the 2013-14 season with exactly the same away record as Chelsea and Manchester City (W10 D4 L5)