Dale Tempest is back for his regular Sporting Life column with some football betting insight and fancies for the weekend's action.
Merry Christmas everybody, how was your Boxing Day of football betting? It does not get any easier, does it?
Chelsea turned into Christmas Scrooge by letting down most punters whilst Arsenal, Sheffield United (thankfully for my double chance tip) Fulham, Leeds and West Brom joined in the miserable form of the days bankers.
The teams go again this weekend. The four quick games over the Christmas/New Year period is an especially tough one for managers with small squads. You pick up any injuries to key players and they simply cannot recover in time to turn up two days later.
You also do not want to arrive into the festive fixtures in poor form. Confidence grows from getting results (deserved or not) and simply not losing games.
Last week we jumped on the Watford bandwagon and this week I am going to the Sky Bet Championship for another side who have been struggling at the bottom of the table - say hello to Barnsley.
After a horrendous start, their season is now turning around. New manager Gerhard Struber lost his first two games away at Blackburn and Middlesbrough, but the Tykes have now lost one game in six and that was a last minute loss after they led twice at Cardiff.
I really don't think the market has yet caught up with their new found form. The two recent home wins (5-3 and 3-1 v QPR and Hull respectively) were good, the 2-1 win away at fortress Millwall excellent but it is the 1-1 draw on Boxing Day that really caught my attention.
West Brom are the best team in the league and they outplayed them in every metric: 53%-47 possession; 22-7 shots; 8-2 shots on target; expected goals 1.61-0.43; Barnsley goalkeeper Samuel Sahin-Radlinger made one save to San Johnstone's seven and the Barnsley attack took six corners versus the Baggies' two.
No teams have done that to WBA this season. Barnsley had to rely on a 90th-minute equaliser for the 1-1 draw but it was fully deserved.
Now it’s Barnsley (23rd) away to Swansea (8th), hence the big handicap start. However, when you look closely, Swansea have only two wins in the last nine at home (two draws, five defeats) and one of those they were drawing 1-1 with Boro before Jonathan Woodgate's side picked up two second-half red cards.
Swansea manager Steve Cooper has done an okay job since he took over in the summer but the Swans have more points away than at home and can confidently be taken on at home giving up the handicap start.
In the Premier League on Boxing Day, Aston Villa got away with it at home to Norwich but I doubt they will at Watford whilst the Asian Line market gives Crystal Palace a full 1/2 goal start at Southampton. The Saints are simply better suited to playing away than at home.
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