This weekend sees a colossal clash at Stamford Bridge. In seasons past, this would have been a title decider, but United’s waning fortunes give Chelsea the clear impetus to stake their title claim. Liverpool look to continue their impressive form against the basement dwellers as they host a lackluster Villa side. Rodgers knows that his side has to keep on winning these fixtures in the hope of a slip-up amongst the top sides. Arsenal seem to have a banker three points while City look to put a cricket score on the board against Cardiff at the Etihad. This weekend offers a tantalizing array of fixtures with permutations at both ends of the table.
Sunderland’s win at Fulham could not have come at a much better time for Gus Poyet. Adam Johnson should be brimming with confidence going into this potentially exhilarating encounter. Southampton have been steady of late, but a trip to a highly motivated Sunderland side could prove a step too far for the Saints. The work ethic of Sunderland has been excellent recently, and I feel they will edge a closely fought match here. 21/10 is a great price, get on.
Fulham were abysmal at the weekend and life just does not get any easier in this league. Arsenal toyed with Villa on Monday night, almost letting complacency slip in the back door in the dying moments. There are seldom absolute no-brainers in this league, but this surely falls into that category. Arsenal have a depth of squad that Fulham could only dream of, the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain could not have come at a better time for the Gunnners following Walcott’s injury. Arsenal will completely dominate this match from start to finish. Arsenal to keep a clean sheet at 8/10 for value.
Talk about a time for a homecoming. Tony Pulis has just hit a major wobble with Crystal Palace upon his return to his old stomping ground. Stoke will feel devastated that they never got anything against Liverpool. I have been impressed with the way Mark Hughes has rallied his troops in recent weeks. They seem to possess a far greater goal threat with Walters and Crouch providing a formidable strike partnership. Palace just don’t have goals in their team and Stoke offer far more diverse goal threats. This could be a telling weekend for Palace if Stoke play with anywhere near the gusto they showed against Liverpool. Stoke at 24/10 is a steal in my opinion.
Cardiff were quite unfortunate to go down against West Ham last time out. They completely dominated that match and exuded a confidence befitting the new manager. This should however mean very little considering the monumental task at hand for the Welsh outfit. Manchester City have been nothing short of majestic at the Etihad and they possess a ruthless streak that often leaves lesser teams embarrassed come full time. Alvaro Negredo has been incredible and will lead his side to a comfortable three points. Back City into any multiple you take this weekend.
Sam Allardyce will have breathed a huge sigh of relief after West Ham's victory last week, especially considering the fact that talismanic striker Andy Carroll got some valuable game time. Newcastle have not scored a goal in almost five hours and look to be in a state of minor implosion. This should be an extremely physical encounter given the poor disciplinary record of both sides. I am not a huge Big Sam fan, but I think that they may just possess the mental edge here. Downing and Jarvis now serve a purpose with the return of Carroll, which should see them through to a tempestuous victory at 2/1.
Last season saw Christian Benteke rip Liverpool apart in front of a helpless Anfield crowd. Different season, different Benteke. Aston Villa looked utterly devoid of ideas against Arsenal; they were gifted some breathing room in the last moments in what was otherwise a dire showing at the Emirates. Sturridge and Suarez rekindled their budding relationship last weekend with some scintillating interplay that will send shivers through the spine of the Villa defence. Villa just don’t have the personnel to cope with the dynamic SAS partnership. Suarez and Sturridge will rip this static Villa side to pieces. Another clean sheet bet; back Liverpool at 8/10.
Tim Sherwood has brought a semblance of calm to proceedings at Spurs. They have started to churn out methodical victories that would befit a side of such substantial cost. The departure of Jermaine Defoe will probably alleviate some of the pressure that is resting on Roberto Soldado’s shoulders. Swansea have lost their home aura and will struggle to contain the natural width offered by the likes of Walker and Lennon. Eriksen has been in excellent form and should thrive against a Swansea side not renowned for midfield stability. Spurs at 27/20 will do.
So, to the big match of the weekend. Chelsea have the opportunity to simultaneously reaffirm their title credentials and utterly destroy Manchester United’s decimated confidence. The fact that Rooney and Van Persie will likely not feature will have huge bearing on the outcome of this match. Just how do United expect to hurt Chelsea without those key players? Eden Hazard will thrive against Rafael on the right hand side while Oscar continues to grow into the complete midfielder. I just cannot see any other result than a Chelsea victory, even with their relative lack in the strike department. United need new players just as much they need to get rid of some old ones. Hazard will light this match up in his typically evasive manner. Get on Chelsea at 8/10.
Everton have proved to be the little engine that could this season. The acquisition of Gareth Barry has solidified the midfield, freeing up more attack-minded talents like Miralles and Barkley. West Brom will battle to contain the width offered by Coleman and Baines. Sessegnon is undoubtedly a big talent, as is Amalfitano. But I just don’t see them getting enough of the ball to really affect the course of the match. Everton will grind out a workmanlike away win that will keep the pressure on Liverpool. Get the Toffees at 5/4.
The man knows his football, but even he gets it wrong from time to time. Feel free to share your EPL tips and multiples below.