United set for Wigan revenge
Our experts David John and Ben Coley provide a game-by-game preview of the New Year's Day Premier League programme.
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It's now just one win in 12 for Fulham and that came at Craven Cottage, so it's little surprise that West Brom are chalked up as the even-money favourites to take three points here. The Baggies had a real go at Old Trafford on Saturday and back-to-back 2-1 wins before that demonstrate that they're a side playing good football. At home, they've won seven of their 10 Premier League games and they've based their form around a solid defence - West Brom's seven conceded is the joint-best home defensive record in the top-flight. If there is a negative for those lumping on that evens, it's that West Brom's sole shocker this season came in the reverse fixture, when Fulham thumped them 3-0. That really is the sole concern because the visitors, humbled 2-1 by Swansea on Saturday, aren't at their best. One away win in 10 further underlines how tough a task this looks for the visitors and I expect West Brom to win once more.
Verdict: West Brom 2 Fulham 0 (BC)
Although Stoke failed to oblige for odds-on backers on Saturday, their second-half performance against Southampton underlined what character they have and they're now unbeaten in 10. They kept Spurs to a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane and are one of just two sides to win at West Brom this season, so while they're clearly at their most dangerous at home it is folly to rule them out on the road. However, a trip to the Etihad will probably prove a little too much. I'm far from convinced by City at the moment, but only United have beaten them in over two years at home and their confidence will have been boosted by an important weekend win at Norwich. The history of these sides suggests it'll be a home win to nil - that's been the case in all four Premier League renewals of this fixture - but it's a brave man who takes 10/11 given that City conceded three last time out, especially against a confident Stoke side. This is a simple case of what I expect to happen isn't offered at any value, so we'll avoid a bet.
Verdict: Man City 2 Stoke 0 (BC)
It's been an awful Christmas for Aston Villa after three defeats at a staggering aggregate of 15-0. It's equally remarkable that prior to this run they'd won 4-1 at Carrow Road to reach the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup before deservedly picking up three points at Anfield, to demonstrate that this is a side with quality when on-song. I'm convinced that they'll be fine this season, but the odds suggest that things will get worse before they get better as Swansea are 8/13 favourites. The Welsh outfit deserve to be, particularly having won at Fulham without their star man Michu (who remains an injury doubt), but I can't help but feel they're a shade short. Had we looked at this game a fortnight ago and expected Michu to be missing, Villa would perhaps have been 5/2, and now they're 5/1, which is tempting. Paul Lambert will remind his side how well they played when winning the reverse 2-0 back in September and he has a young squad that, while clearly having taken a massive mental blow, should be capable of rising to the challenge of this busy period from a physical perspective. Of course, the most likely outcome is a home win, possibly even to nil, but the prices reflect that.
Verdict: Swansea 2 Aston Villa 0 (BC)
Saturday's come-from-behind win at Sunderland means it's six wins in eight for Spurs as they continue to impress under Andre Villas-Boas. For all that he received some unwelcome press at the weekend, Gareth Bale is probably the best player in the league at present, Mousa Dembele looks every inch a bargain buy and Jermain Defoe is enjoying being the main man again. So, we should probably expect them to see off Reading comfortably, even if Brian McDermott's side have steadied the ship over Christmas. Victory against West Ham was no more than they deserved after much-improved displays against Man City and Swansea, and one goal conceded across those three games represents an eye-catching turnaround. With that in mind, and the fact that I consider Spurs to be set up to win away from home - they've won 18 points at home and 18 points away, with more wins on the road - I couldn't back the hosts here. Instead, I'll once again suggest that 11/10 about the second half producing the most goals is a knocking bet. Spurs have played 28 games this season, and in 20 of them the second half has seen more goals scored. That includes six of their last seven, with the exception a 0-0 draw, plus the reverse of this fixture. Where Reading are concerned the record reads 11 in 23, which while less impressive still makes 11/10 look more than fair. Spurs have shown time and time again that they improve after the break and until the market cottons on, this looks a simple decision.
Verdict: Tottenham 1 Reading 0 (BC)
The Hammers gifted Reading just their second win of the campaign after a dire backpass from James Collins while a late miss from Ricardo Vaz Te will have done nothing to lighten the mood of Sam Allardyce. They have now failed to win in four games since a convincing victory over Chelsea but they can get back on the right track on their own patch at 29/10 (Coral) with a victory to nil. Allardyce admitted that he is looking down rather than up for the first time this season but three points would put them above a very beatable Canaries in mid-table. Chris Hughton's side enjoyed a purple patch up to early December but they have now lost three on the trot - against top-half opposition to be fair. But they could have limited firepower with Steve Morison and Grant Holt big doubts to make the trip to London while I get the impression the hosts' back four will ensure they are far more resilient after that gaffe at the weekend. West Ham have shown a knack of bouncing back from a defeat this campaign with a winning display and they can start off 2013 in similar vein.
Verdict: West Ham 2 Norwich 0 (DJ)
This might not be a bet for everybody but Manchester United represent a very good price at 8/15 for the three points. I know they continue to look shambolic at times in and around the back four but the current pacesetters should have more than enough going forward to counter the odd lapse against a rival they have traditionally filled their boots against. Wigan were on a tremendous run as they secured their top-flight survival when they won this fixture 1-0 back in April but had not taken a single point from 14 previous encounters. The aggregate score was 46-5 in favour of the Red Devils and normal service was resumed at Old Trafford in September with another 4-0 success. Roberto Martinez feels his side will have derived some confidence having put three past a struggling Aston Villa at the weekend as they moved out of the relegation places. But that was a first victory in seven against a currently awful side and once again highlighted the inconsistency that the Latics seem to suffer year on year. This is a great chance for Sir Alex Ferguson to maintain the healthy cushion between himself and Manchester City - Wigan may have some joy but ultimately look well outclassed.
Verdict: Wigan 1 Manchester United 3 (DJ)
Nigel Adkins was keen to take the positives from Saturday's 3-3 draw at Stoke and there certainly were some. Scoring three against a side who'd previously conceded just four at home was no small achievement, and again served to highlight how much of a threat Southampton pose going forward. That being said, surrendering a 3-1 lead against 10 men is never good and with Arsenal having produced an excellent second half display against Newcastle, they're worthy odds-on favourites. The Gunners will relish playing on a good surface against a good footballing side and having avoided a Boxing Day fixture will be the fresher of the pair. I still wouldn't rely on them to produce though - an injury-hit Newcastle still scored three - and the safest option here is to include this game in our Going For Goals treble. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is tempting at 4/1 to score against his former club but this is the sort of time we'll see big changes so perhaps waiting for team news is the best policy.
Southampton 2 Arsenal 4 (BC)