The holiday fixture madness is finally over and we can all now relax a bit and get back into some sort of normal punting routine.
The players who were rested for the FA Cup have had a ten-day break to recharge the batteries and now we await the weekend to see if teams have either floundered or flourished.
I read over Christmas that Liverpool send their medical and coaching teams around to the player's houses on any days off to help the recovery and preparation process. Simply brilliant. It's those small things, marginal gains, that are making Liverpool the best club side in the world.
When you watch as much football as I do, I find it's very easy to forget key bits of information like players tactics so I’m permanently taking notes about the teams performances.
I keep a very simple rating system for all clubs and move them accordingly depending on what I’ve seen or what I expect to happen. It's basically working out whether teams are underrated or overrated.
It’s nothing more than positive-neutral-negative so this is my updated premier league list:
- Arsenal - neutral to positive - very impressed with Mikel Arteta so far
- Aston Villa - negative - significant injury problems - they need bodies in ASAP
- Bournemouth - negative - poor form and injuries
- Brighton - positive - I think the seagulls are continually underrated
- Burnley - neutral to negative - injuries to Wood and Barnes and if you're losing to Villa at home you've got problems
- Chelsea - neutral - as with most young sides you get inconsistencies
- Crystal Palace - negative - Roy Hodgson is running out of players
- Everton - neutral to negative - Ancelotti must be in shock. The FA Cup shambles and senior players who aren’t taking responsibility
- Leicester - positive to neutral - going off very short every week and still 100% reliant on Jamie Vardy
- Liverpool - positive - simply the best
- Manchester United - negative - the youngsters are so far off the top level and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer really isn’t the future manager of the club.
- Manchester City - neutral - a wonderful side but Liverpool have flown and the focus will soon turn to the Champions League
- Newcastle - neutral to negative - injuries and lack of goals in the club
- Norwich - neutral - they’ll keep throwing up shocks with their positive attitude but lack consistency
- Southampton - neutral to positive - ten points from 12 over Christmas and starting to keep clean sheets
- Sheffield United - positive to neutral - you have to admire Wilder and his team but the market has them very short every week
- Tottenham - neutral to negative - no Harry Kane and Jose Mourinho has lost his mojo.
- Watford - positive - the intensity and Troy Deeney are back
- West Ham - negative to neutral - let’s see what David Moyes can do
- Wolves - positive to neutral - a bit inconsistent as they were unbeaten in ten and then lost three in five over Christmas
So, on to this weekend.
For Friday Night Football, I’ll be with West Ham on the handicap. The Blades have been simply magnificent this season but I have to take them on at the prices.
Brighton getting the handicap start at Goodison Park looks ok. There's still so much negativity around Everton despite the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti and the level that he should bring. I can’t have the Toffees at an odds-on price.
There's one bet in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday and it’s backing Barnsley to get the better of Huddersfield. I rate the Cowley brothers very highly but they are simply running out of players and options. Barnsley are much improved since the appointment of Gerhard Struber.
Looking at Sunday, If you've followed this column you’ll know we’ve been with Watford for quite a while and we’ll stick with them at Bournemouth. It’s a level ball game so Draw No Bet will be my play.
Dale's best bets
Odds correct at 1120 GMT (10/01/20)