David John has bets for both massive derby matches on Merseyside and in Manchester in the Premier League on Sunday.
Southampton v Arsenal (1200 GMT, BT Sport 1)
London’s likeable whinger-in-chief Arsene Wenger is at it again over the fixture list having totted up the hours (or lack of them) between waltzing through BATE Borisov in the Europa League and travelling to the Saints.
His argument is a bit lame considering the changes he is likely to make heading back into the Premier League while a 6-0 drubbing at the Emirates of the lacklustre Belarussians suggests they endured little more than a training-pitch exercise.
I am sure he will dredge up the issue if they fail to claim three points at even money and at least make a token effort of staying in the title race ahead of the Manchester derby later in the afternoon.
Last week’s defeat at home to the Red Devils was a bitter one to swallow but it developed into the sort of game where if the goals had been twice the size, the Gunners will still have failed to get the ball over the line despite carving out chance after chance.
BATE felt the full fury of that frustration with yet another couple of eye-catching performances from Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott but I doubt it will be anywhere near enough to dislodge Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez or Alex Lacazette from Sunday’s starting XI.
Their three biggest names have not made enough of an impact consistently, individually or collectively, and they all will need to be at it down at St Mary’s against a lively Southampton side well capable of the upset.
Head coach Mauricio Pellegrino looked in some danger a month ago but his players have turned a corner for him with the promise of better to come.
There is quality in the ranks with marauding wingbacks Ryan Bertrand and Cedric, silky defensive midfielder Mario Lemina while Charlie Austin’s radar is working again up front but perhaps the best of the lot could turn out to be Sofiane Boufal.
The Moroccan has taken time to adjust but his confidence has soared since an October wonder goal to beat West Brom, showing great touch and control on the ball well up to becoming a very good player at this level.
The time has come for him to double his tally for the season in a game where the hosts could really give Arsenal something to worry about in what should be an extremely entertaining start to the day.
Prediction: Southampton 2-2 Arsenal - Sky Bet odds: 12/1
Liverpool v Everton (1415, Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League)
The Toffees dithered around for weeks on end getting a new manager in place following the exit of Ronald Koeman and finally landing on arch-Premier League schemer Sam Allardyce means there will be some level of expectation they won’t now be absolutely pummelled at Anfield.
Big Sam has already masterminded three victories – sort of, he wasn’t present at the third in Cyprus – with a hat-trick of clean sheets since his arrival on Merseyside and I would be quite happy to see him get a Knighthood if he manages a fourth such outcome across Stanley Park.
Home games against a transitional West Ham and a Huddersfield side that has suddenly looked well out of its depth in the top flight were a couple of dream starters for Allardyce to get stuck into but the main course is here now and a much better gauge of exactly what sort of job he has ahead.
I wouldn’t know exactly the stats on the matter but I doubt there have been too many derby clashes where Everton have been sent off at 11/1 or whether Allardyce has faced such a daunting attacking threat during his lengthy time in the managerial business.
I get the impression opposite number Jurgen Klopp has given up on Liverpool’s defence for the time being until some sort of reinforcements can be enticed in January so has simply told Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino to put every match out of reach of the opposition.
That means scoring goals, then scoring some more goals until the enemy is on the floor howling for submission, a lesson painfully learned at Sevilla in the Champions League when Liverpool cruised into a 3-0 advantage at the break only to end up with nothing more than a point.
Klopp’s side were 3-0 ahead inside 18 minutes in midweek against Spartak Moscow but that did not stop them piling on another four after the interval so you can hardly accuse Liverpool of lacking a ruthless edge to their game.
Perhaps another month or six weeks down the line I would give Everton some hope after Allardyce has had some time to work his own special brand of organisational magic but I just can’t see how his team at the moment will be able to keep pace with the hosts.
This fixture will have been one of the key reasons why Wayne Rooney went back to Goodison and although he has looked excellent lately, he won’t be able to beat Liverpool on his own from a new deeper midfield role.
A question mark remains too over a consistent scoring threat even against Klopp’s motley crew at the back – Everton could get on the scoresheet as they did against Arsenal but it is very difficult to argue against anything other than a convincing home win with the goals flowing with regularity once more.
Prediction: Liverpool 4-1 Everton - Sky Bet odds: 14/1
Manchester United v Manchester City (1630, Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League)
Manchester United’s price to win at Old Trafford is the first thing that leaps off the page when analysing the biggest game of the domestic season so far.
There is 13/5 available for a side guided by a manager who has forged his reputation delivering the goods in fixtures when it counts the most and putting your trust in Jose Mourinho as a punter down the years does seem to pay off in my experience more often than not.
A blundering defeat to Huddersfield followed by a similar outcome a fortnight later at old stomping ground Stamford Bridge apart, Mourinho and his team have done very little wrong so far in the top flight yet find themselves eight points in arrears as Sunday’s visitors gallop on at a record-setting pace.
Cutting the gap to a manageable five is now top of the agenda – maintaining the status quo would be extremely tough to bridge and what about a deficit of 11 if City triumph?
Expect a shrug of the shoulders from the Portuguese when interviewed a little after 6pm and that will be interpreted as giving up on this season’s title.
City’s healthy current position has been down to their extraordinary ability in the attacking third with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings while the progress from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane has made Pep Guardiola’s group simply unplayable at times.
They are averaging more than three goals per game but this will be by far their sternest examination against a side with the most miserly backline in the top flight that has conceded just nine times.
They were under extreme pressure last week at Arsenal but were breached on just the one occasion as goalkeeper David De Gea sprang to the rescue when required to make an incredible 14 saves to go with all the last-ditch blocks and tackles inside their own area.
Arsenal’s approach at times smacked of the desperation of a school playground before the bell is about to ring and end break but I would expect a more subtle, patient approach to continue from City’s playmakers even if they are in a situation of chasing the game – which has been the case lately.
United’s chance for victory will come from stress-testing a City rear-guard that is dubious at full strength but now shorn of John Stones and in all likelihood the ultra-fragile Vincent Kompany.
A back three of Nicolas Otamendi, Fernandinho and Eliaquim Mangala will be tasked with shoring up the situation with the latter hardly delivering a convincing argument he is up to the task having been left for dead by Marko Arnautovic in the latter stages of last week’s narrow win over West Ham.
I am not too concerned about any hangover from City’s first loss of the campaign in midweek at Shakhtar Donetsk – a meaningless outcome and one that will help focus the collective mind – but I would be stunned if Mourinho were not to find a way to unlock what remains the weakest area by some distance of this wonderful City outfit.
It is always tempting to go a bit crackers on the betting front in a showdown of this nature but the layers make fewer slip-ups the higher the profile of the fixture.
So a home success and under two and a half total goals appeals to me at a tempting price as the Red Devils at last blow the battle for top spot wide open.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Manchester City - Sky Bet odds: 16/1
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Posted at 1505 GMT on 08/12/17.