Go for goals on Super Sunday
Ben Coley previews Sunday's Premier League action and expects goals to flow, especially at Stamford Bridge.
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We're in the first fortnight of November and Manchester City are as good as out of the Champions League - all is not well at the Etihad. Micah Richards, Kolo Toure, Mario Balotelli and more appear ill at ease with the way things are being done by Roberto Mancini, who is under immense pressure to get his side playing the sort of stylish football that ultimately won them the Premier League title last May. The Italian will rightly point out that, two points off the top of the table, there's little physical evidence to suggest European struggles are affecting their league form, but anyone who has seen them this year knows that simply isn't the case. Why? Well, the continued absence of David Silva - who could make a surprise return - has been a massive factor, as has the manager's persistent experimentation in defence, and my feeling is that City are living on borrowed time when it comes to their 34-game unbeaten home run in the league. And in Spurs, they face more than worthy adversaries, despite what was a very poor performance against Wigan a week ago. On the road, Andre Villas-Boas has his side firing. If they overcome City it'll be the first time in more than 20 years that they've won four consecutive away games, and at 5/1 I can't resist chancing them. The way they're set up and the expectations of supporters - many of whom remain unconvinced by the Portuguese - means that backing Spurs on the road is the best policy. What's more, they could very well have won this fixture last season and have beaten City away from home seven times this century. What that counts for remains to be seen, but they face a side playing below their best and missing arguably their most influential player, and the North London club definitely have the tools to take advantage. In addition, I'll have a small each-way bet on Gareth Bale to score first. He's done so in each of Spurs' last two away wins, found the net in this fixture last year, and will relish the extra space he gets away from White Hart Lane.
Verdict: Man City 1 Tottenham 2
Newcastle have become a very difficult side to beat and that's why they're worthy favourites to see off a side above them in the table. Alan Pardew's men have lost just three times all season, twice to Manchester United and once to Chelsea, and once again showed their spirit in coming back from 2-0 down to draw in Bruges on Thursday. My concern is that Cheikh Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini are both suspended for this and, with Danny Simpson and James Perch also missing, they could be exposed at the back. However, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are available and with those leading the line, the home side are capable of outscoring any side in the league on a good day. It's no secret that West Ham have had a very kind reintroduction to the Premier League, with Norwich, QPR, Wigan and Swansea their four away opponents so far. That they have four points from a possible 12 suggests a season of struggle on the road and although the likes of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan will be right up for this return to Newcastle, I don't think there's any value in 3/1 about an away win. I'd certainly rather take 3/1 about Nolan finding the net for the fifth time in 11 Premier League games, especially with Newcastle's defensive issues, but an even better 3/1 chance is Newcastle to win by a goal. They've won six games so far this season, five of which came by exactly a goal, and therefore always merit close consideration in this market.
Verdict: Newcastle 2 West Ham 1
Chelsea are odds-on to beat Liverpool as they bid to return to the top of the Premier League come the end of the weekend fixtures. Roberto Di Matteo's side have been wonderful to watch this season - a fact underlined by Wednesday's 3-2 win over Shakhtar - but defensive issues that again surfaced against the Ukrainians mean they remain unconvincing in victory. John Terry's return from domestic suspension will help in that regard with David Luiz likely to make way, and he can help Ryan Bertrand as the youngster fills the shoes of Ashley Cole at left-back. That's where Liverpool will seek to get at the home side, with Raheem Sterling surely set to be given licence to get at his England colleague, but it's Luis Suarez who is increasingly essential to the Reds. Indeed, Sky Bet go 3/1 that Liverpool win this game, and 100/30 that they do so with Suarez scoring: if he doesn't score, Liverpool won't win is their effective conclusion. In midfield, I expect Chelsea to dominate. Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are simply a sensational trio and with Victor Moses having starred in each of the last three games Di Matteo has options that Brendan Rodgers simply does not have. And that's why I expect Chelsea to win the game, I just can't quite pull the trigger at odds-on, especially as Liverpool have won both league meetings in each of the last two seasons. If looking for a solid punt I'd rather take 4/6 about both teams scoring, but instead I'll play over 3.5 goals at 2/1. Even with Terry returning I don't see Chelsea keeping a clean sheet against anyone right now, and games with City, Juventus, Shakhtar, Tottenham, Manchester United (twice), Norwich, Wolves, Reading and Nordsjaelland have all seen more than three goals scored. Expect another thriller at Stamford Bridge.
Verdict: Chelsea 3 Liverpool 1