Chelsea to give United the blues
Chelsea are fancied to beat Manchester United while a red card may be on the agenda at Goodison Park as we preview all of Sunday's games.
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Everton seek to firmly establish themselves as the best team on Merseyside when they play host to Liverpool on Sunday. The Toffees are six points ahead of their rivals having suffered just one league defeat all season, and have amassed seven points from a possible nine at Goodison Park. Liverpool meanwhile look to be steadily improving under Brendan Rodgers, winning twice and drawing once since being beaten by Manchester United, and deserved to edge past Anzhi on Thursday night. With Rodgers having named a surprisingly strong side for that game, Everton should have an advantage in that regard, but with Steven Pienaar suspended and Marouane Fellaini a doubt they may not be a full strength. It's well-documented that Liverpool have a fine record in this fixture, but all of Everton's recent wins have come at Goodison Park and I can't back the visitors at 15/8 purely because of their history. Similarly, I'm not prepared to row in with Everton because if Fellaini does miss out, they'll drift prior to kick-off. So, the search for value heads elsewhere and I reckon Everton to have a man sent off is a good 11/2 chance. In four of the last eight renewals of this fixture, Everton have had at least one man dismissed, so the notion that the away players are more likely to see red - one implied by Liverpool's price of 4/1 - seems misguided. Three Everton games have involved red so far this year and this rates better value than the 2/1 that either side lose a man. Referee Andre Marriner hasn't sent anyone off this season but has produced 20 red cards over the past three so he's not afraid to do so and in a game which often boils over, this looks the best bet.
Verdict: Everton 2 Liverpool 1
Alan Pardew rested several key players as Newcastle beat FC Bruges on Thursday so it'll be a much-changed side which takes on West Brom. Cheikh Tiote begins a three-game suspension and he'll be missed in midfield, but Yohan Cabaye is one of several set to return which serves to highlight the depth at Pardew's disposal. West Brom have looked a better side at home so far this season but in fairness they've only lost once on the road, and that came at Fulham. Shane Long continued his solid start to the season by scoring against Man City last week and with Romelu Lukaku fulfilling his potential, they certainly pose a threat going forward. Newcastle defend well though and having only lost once at home, to Manchester United, they look worth their even-money quotes. The best bet though might be Newcastle to win by exactly a goal. Four of this season's five wins - all of which have come at home - have been by one goal, as have two of West Brom's three defeats. Indeed, given that both teams have scored the last nine times these sides have met, 2-1 to Newcastle looks a very real possibility, but we'll get 1-0 and 3-2 on-side too by taking 3/1 about a one-goal home win, which looks by some way the most likely scenario here.
Verdict: Newcastle 2 West Brom 1
The first word that springs to mind is 'goals' as a Spurs side who average more than two on the road visit a team whose defence have let in a division-high 24 in eight games. Bookies, of course, are on to it, with over 3.5 goals just 6/4 and both teams to score priced at 8/15. So, we'll have to look elsewhere for value, and there's certainly a temptation to suggest that it's Tottenham at 5/6. Southampton look among the weakest four or five sides in the league and Tottenham are among the four or five best, a fact backed up by their victory at Old Trafford earlier this season. Last weekend's 4-2 defeat to Chelsea was as much due to sheer quality from their opponents and the absence of Gareth Bale as it was any great problems at Spurs, and with Bale back the visitors will fancy their prospects of winning this comfortably. However, as has been the case all season, Stan James look to be taking a big chance in quoting 11/10 about the second half producing the most goals and again it's the best bet. Such odds imply a likelihood of less than 50 per cent, yet all eight of Spurs' Premier League games so far this season have produced more goals after the break. Southampton's own record reads six from eight, which gives us a grand total of 14 from 16. When you consider that it could take Spurs a little while to hit top gear after a midweek trip to Slovenia, the prospects become even clearer.
Verdict: Southampton 1 Tottenham 3
Love or loathe him, when Sir Alex Ferguson speaks, you listen. "I can't understand our defending," he said after his side beat Braga 3-2 on Tuesday. "I can't get to the bottom of it. We certainly make it difficult for ourselves. If you analyse the goals we are conceding they are all different types." So, the greatest manager of the modern era has a problem he can't fix. Cue the sound of alarm bells ahead of Sunday's trip to Chelsea. Of course, not everything is rosy at Stamford Bridge either, with their own midweek performance arguably a season's worst effort, albeit against a highly skilled and long-unbeaten Shakhtar side. As such, this is fascinatingly poised and Petr Cech, a man whose job it is to prevent goals, reckons Sunday will provide plenty. Who'd bet against that? As we wrote in our Champions League preview, when this modern Chelsea take on a good side, both teams tend to find the net and at 4/6 many will bank on that trend continuing. As for United, it's well-documented that they've conceded first seven times already this season. Last season, it took 24 games before they'd let in the first goal seven times, this time, it's taken half that time. In their 14 games, Chelsea have scored first nine times, so is the best bet here obvious? Chelsea to score first at 10/11. Consider that they're both on paper and in practice the better side anyway, and that they have home advantage, and 10/11 looks a fair price. Add in this growing trend for United to start slowly and, even with Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra back in the team, it's a very solid punt. However, I rate Chelsea worthy 6/4 favourites and that stands out as the best bet. It's over a decade since United won a Premier League game here and not only are the home side fancied to score first, but with their dynamic midfield trio firing on all cylinders they're capable of coming from behind if needs be. United simply don't have that midfield creativity and while Robin van Persie, who has scored more than any other opposition player at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, is capable of doing it on his own, the league leaders are taken to stifle him and establish themselves as Manchester City's biggest threat.
Verdict: Chelsea 2 Manchester United 1