Side with solid Spurs
Tottenham head up our selections for Saturday's Premier League programme.
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Our Andy Schooler fancies them to see off QPR at Loftus Road, while Ben Coley feels a draw in Stoke v Chelsea is a value pick.
With eight matches taking place, David John is also involved in our game-by-game preview. Their verdicts can be found below:
- 3pts Tottenham to beat QPR at 6/7 (Pinnacle) - Strong away record; should have too much class.
- 1pt Papiss Cisse to score at any time v Norwich at 9/4 (Stan James) - Now the main man up front and can thrive.
- 1pt Robert Snodgrass to score at any time v Newcastle at 10/3 (Coral) -Confidence growing and a major threat from set-pieces.
- 1pt Stoke and Chelsea to draw at 5/2 (General) - Arguably the most likely outcome in a game that looks very tight.
- 1pt Andreas Weimann to score at any time v Southampton at 2/1 (General) - Has netted six times in eight games. Faces ropey defence here.
- 1pt Rickie Lambert to score at any time v Aston Villa at 9/4 (Stan James) - Three in last four away from home. Villa have let in 21 in six.
QPR v Tottenham (1245 GMT)
I'll keep things simple here and nominate the away win at a shade under even money. It may be a fairly short price but there's a good argument to be made that is should be much shorter. Yes, QPR did win last time out in the league at Chelsea - an admirable result - but the hosts took them lightly that night, putting out a team they thought they could get away with, and paid the price. Spurs won't be that daft. They've won six of 10 away games this season, results which suggest the theory that they are more dangerous on the road than at the Lane has plenty of merit. Full of pace, they've caused many of their hosts plenty of problems and certainly the league's lower-ranked teams have regularly been put to the sword. Andre Villas-Boas' men, who will include Emmanuel Adebayor who has delayed his departure to the Africa Cup of Nations, have already won handsomely at Villa, Fulham and Reading, while Southampton and Sunderland have also been seen off. QPR fit into a bracket alongside such names - expect them to go the same way.
Verdict: QPR 1 Tottenham 3 (AS)
Aston Villa v Southampton (1500)
My colleague Ben Coley highlighted Andreas Weimann's recent goalscoring form and duly made a decent profit in midweek when he was Villa's lone scorer in their embarrassing defeat at League Two Bradford. Having scored for the sixth time in eight games, he's 2/1 to find the target again here which looks too big given Southampton have leaked a massive 24 goals in nine away games thus far. If I've rather plagiarised there, apologies. I will offer up a view of my own too though. Rickie Lambert is 9/4 to score at any time or 7/2 to score first for the Saints. With Villa's defence shaky to say the least - it's now 21 goals conceded in six games - he has to be backed given he's scored three times in Southampton's last four away games. On each occasion his goal was their first. I'll take the safer option and go any time.
Verdict: Aston Villa 2 Southampton 2 (AS)
Everton v Swansea (1500)
Everton's run of games in which both teams have scored now stands at 18 (16 in the league). A shaky defence will surely give Swansea, who have earned 16 points on their travels so far, chances. Given the Swans boast one of the league's top scorers, Michu, in their ranks, the 4/5 about both teams netting looks tempting. However, the other stat to note here is that Swansea have never beaten Everton in 16 previous meetings, losing 12 of those matches. Clearly the most recent matches are most relevant and in these the theme has been that the Welshmen have been outmuscled by Everton's much more physical team. They've lost 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0 in the sides' Premier League matches thus far. That's a tad worrying in terms of both teams to score, no matter how unimpressive the Toffees have been in terms of keeping sides out. Instead Marouane Fellaini to score could offer better value. The most physical of Everton's players is 7/4 to find the net in this one which, given Swansea have conceded 35 per cent of their goals to headers, could be the way to go.
Verdict: Everton 2 Swansea 1 (AS)
Fulham v Wigan (1500)
These two fall into the category of difficult to weigh up - and therefore predict. Martin Jol's side slumped into a real malaise through November and December but got their act together again at West Brom on New Year's Day with a surprise 2-1 success. They followed that up with a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup at home to Blackpool - not the greatest piece of form but it is at least two unbeaten matches to start 2013 and that seems to have lifted spirits. They are a very attractive side to watch on a good day but the tendency to lack urgency on occasion has seen them punished and results suffer. The visitors also blow hot and cold and after a convincing victory over Aston Villa they were clinically swept aside by Manchester United in the league as they yet again battle to find any sort of consistency. Striker Arouna Kone has departed for the Africa Cup of Nations but new recruit Roger Espinoza could play a part having not got on the field in the FA Cup against Bournemouth. Fulham have won their last four encounters against Wigan at the Cottage and if pushed, I would opt for them once again. But quotes of even money are short enough and this looks best left alone.
Verdict: Fulham 1 Wigan 0 (DJ)
Norwich v Newcastle (1500)
It is not getting a whole lot easier for Alan Pardew and Toon and he continues to firefight after their FA Cup exit to Brighton. His problems were further compounded by an injury to James Perch and Shola Ameobi's dismissal but on a brighter note, the trip to Carrow Road will see Papiss Cisse, Jonas Gutierrez and Fabricio Coloccini all back to boost numbers as they hunt a first away win in 18 matches in all competitions. Cisse should be a particularly happy chap with Demba Ba departed so he is free to now take up the central striking role he craves. Coloccini and Gutierrez consistently provide good service along with the impressive Davide Santon and Cisse to score anytime at 9/4 is well worth a second look. The hosts have suffered four straight defeats in the top flight but got a nice confidence boost in the FA Cup with a 3-0 success at Peterborough. Grant Holt looks set for a return after a hamstring problem but the interesting player currently for the Canaries is Robert Sondgrass. Manager Chris Hughton has been talking up the midfielder this week and feels his confidence has grown markedly as the season has unfolded. He scored against Posh and is a big threat from set-pieces - he can add to his tally as well at a tempting 10/3.
Verdict: Norwich 1 Newcastle 1 (DJ)
Reading v West Brom
Take a scan through Reading's home results and you'll find their record isn't that bad. Their last eight league games at the Madejski have brought just two losses (to Manchester United and Arsenal) and they have also seen wins over Everton and West Ham. Given here they face a side who have lost five of their last eight in the league, the Royals appear worthy of consideration. However, a look at the market sees them around the 2/1 mark for the win and that doesn't sound too great. With five of Reading's 1-0 home games drawn, 12/5 about the draw looks better. The Baggies would have been a great 6/4 shot in this one a couple of months ago but as pointed out, they've gone off the boil of late. The good news for them is they do have Peter Odemwingie, snubbed by Nigeria, available, but it is their Belgian Romelu Lukaku who has been the big goal threat of late. He has five goals in his last seven league starts. 2/1 about him netting in this one isn't the worst price around but there appear better bets than that around this weekend. Time to move on.
Verdict: Reading 1 West Brom 1 (AS)
Stoke v Chelsea (1500)
Stoke's home record is always the first port of call when discussing games at the Britannia. It's well worth reminding ourselves that they're unbeaten this season with five wins and as many draws, and the last time the lost in the league here was almost a year ago when Sunderland snatched a 1-0 victory. It's therefore hard to back Chelsea at odds-on despite a solid away record, especially given their obvious inconsistency over the last month or so. It's fair to say they should've got more from their Capital One Cup clash with Swansea on Wednesday but another lifeless Fernando Torres display was in part to blame for another blank home effort. Expect Demba Ba to come in here and he should provide a boost - he also has the advantage of being able to cope with Stoke physically - but Stoke concede so rarely that he's hard to back in any scorer markets. John Terry could be back in the Chelsea squad and he'd have to be considered at fancy prices given that he opened the scoring when last in action, but a place on the bench is probably the best he can hope for. An obvious policy is to go low on goals - none of the last five meetings of the sides has resulted in more than two - but the bet here is a draw at the generally available 5/2. As mentioned, half of Stoke's league games have ended in stalemates as did their FA Cup tie last weekend, and Chelsea have been forced to make do with a point on each of their last two visits to the Britannia. Other options include Stoke to again avoid defeat at around 5/6 but the draw really does look the most likely outcome here, yet it's not priced that way, so a small value bet looks the way to go.
Verdict: Stoke 1 Chelsea 1 (BC)
Sunderland v West Ham (1500)
This looks a very tough game to call with neither side particularly reliable, and my first assessment is that the match prices are about right. Sunderland have improved at home of late and deserve to be favourites, but they can't carry my confidence against a West Ham side who have already won at nearby Newcastle and who are very hard to break down. On that note, no goalscorer is probably not the worst bet in the world at 19/2. The Hammers have failed to find the net in each of their last three on the road while Sunderland average just a goal a game, so playing under 1.5 or under 2.5 goals is also a reasonable policy - the latter looks very solid at 8/11. If the deadlock is to be broken then Steven Fletcher is probably the man to do it, but even he has only three home goals this season and the prices on offer make no appeal. It'll be interesting to see how Marouane Chamakh adapts to life at West Ham while Alfred N'Diaye should add some steel to the home side's midfield, but from a betting perspective this game makes little appeal.
Verdict: Sunderland 0 West Ham 0 (BC)
- The match at QPR is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.