Chelsea to end Goodison hoodoo
Our Ben Coley provides a match-by-match preview of Sunday's action in the Barclays Premier League.
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Everton defend their unbeaten home record against a Chelsea side who are absolutely flying at present, and on the face of it this is a really tough game to call. The Toffees have responded to defeat at Reading by going unbeaten in seven, and those who expected Marouane Fellaini's suspension to cause them problems will notice they've won both games in his absence. Clearly, though, this is a greater test as Chelsea are both attacking and defending like the best team in the Premier League at present. Their Boxing Day win at Norwich was their third on the spin and under Rafael Benitez they've managed four clean sheets in six Premier League games while scoring 13. Fernando Torres is confident again and David Luiz has looked a natural in the holding role, so while they may have too much to do to win the title second place is up for grabs. As with their opponents, this is a bigger test than those they've faced of late but at 13/8 I have to back the visitors. Their record at Goodison Park is poor but that's probably not of great relevance and, unlike West Ham and Wigan, they can take advantage of Fellaini's absence. They've already won at Arsenal and Tottenham this season and look a shade overpriced. One factor worth noting is that Everton's last 15 games have seen both teams score so at 4/6 that's worth considering, but Chelsea get the vote.
Verdict: Everton 1 Chelsea 2
Relative to their prices, these are the two least reliable sides in the league. Liverpool are over-bet every week and how they were favourites to win at Stoke is beyond me, while QPR have shortened since Harry Redknapp took over without looking to have actually improved. All of this makes for a tough game to call, and a repeat of last season's classic which saw Rangers come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and spark a run of form that saw them survive is unlikely. Obviously, on paper this looks a game Liverpool should find much easier than that at the Britannia Stadium and I have to say I am for once tempted by them at evens. QPR have won just once all season and Liverpool have produced a couple of scintillating away performances at West Ham and Norwich. However, Luis Suarez has just gone off the boil a tad and he's so crucial to the Reds that it puts me off a bet. Indeed, pick of the any time scorer prices is probably the in-form Steven Gerrard at 11/4 and that's where my small stakes bet will go. Gerrard has found the net in each of his last three and against a QPR side lacking in defensive stability he should have his share of chances. Both teams to score punters should note that QPR's last eight home games have seen such a bet oblige but at 4/5 we're prepared to leave such a wager alone, with neither side looking to have an abundance of goals in their line-ups at the moment. Tread carefully.
Verdict: QPR 1 Liverpool 1