The games come thick and fast while intrepid fingers battle to keep pace with the frenzy that accompanies the Christmas period. Chelsea proved far too strong for a Spurs side undergoing something of an identity crisis, while City marched on in their typically roguish fashion. Three games in a week will put various teams in a twist, particularly those encumbered by the vagaries of relegation duty. There are no stand out games, which should necessitate an intriguing distillation of fixtures with various permutations. Perhaps the naysayers are right - the congested fixture list may be detrimental to the entire fabric of English football - but at least it makes for smashing television.
Newcastle host Mourinho’s undefeated men in a game that could have had more pertinence if Pardew’s men had not gone on their awesome run. Chelsea were clinical against Spurs and will be looking to capitalise on the ruthless efficiency they have thus far displayed. Hazard should have far too much guile for Coloccini and company; expect Chelsea to run out comfortable winners at 5/10 against a Newcastle side devoid of pace and precision.
Hull City and West Brom stand on the precipice of deep relegation dilemma. Hull, riddled by injury, are hanging by the proverbial coattail following a surprising draw away at Everton. West Brom have lost their flair for dramatics and look woefully inept apart from the obvious talents of Berahino and Sessegnon. West Brom will look to counter at every given moment, but considering Hull’s substantial injury concerns, this could end up a dull opera of midfield proportions. I can’t see both of these sides registering in what could prove to be a snooze-fest. Take Both Team to Score - No - at 17/20.
Beach balls anyone? Who could possibly forget that infamous afternoon which saw the unwanted interception of a bloated beach ball? Sunderland were unceremoniously dispatched by City on Wednesday night and have begun to manifest relegation characteristics. Connor Wickham is surely not the answer for a Premier League club in terms of leading the attack. Liverpool have managed to grind out a few cutthroat wins and will be hopeful against a Sunderland side desperate for cohesion. Liverpool should have far too much pace for a static Sunderland side. Take the Reds at 5/10.
QPR have slowly started to turn their season around through Harry Redknapp’s single-mindedness and the priceless goals of Charlie Austin. Burnley have also begun to legitimise their survival possibilities; Sean Dyche’s side have beggared belief with a series of pugnacious performances worthy of any survival candidate. QPR should have too much quality at home to a side dependent on their Turf Moor form. Look for Austin to star in a rousing home win, priced up at 21/20.
Spurs have to win here. Pochettino knows there is no other possible result that can save his continental hide. A solid defeat to Chelsea undermined all the good work that they had done in recent weeks. Crystal Palace have ground along, but a home defeat to Villa is not exactly the type of result that inspires confidence in a unit. However, the value is in Palace to win or draw on the Double Chance at 11/10. Spurs are shattered for confidence.
Stoke were desperately unlucky to not equalise in a late feeding frenzy at Old Trafford that would have left Godzilla envious. Arsenal had to rely on the plucky persistence of Alexis Sanchez to overcome a faltering Southampton side. Even without the powerful presence of both Ozil and Wilshere, Arsenal are beginning to shape a destiny of their own, relying heavily on the combination play of Sanchez and Welbeck. Stoke have battled to remain consistent on their once hallowed Britannia home turf. Play it safe here. Take Arsenal to win or draw on the Double Chance at 1/4.
The goals of Sergio Aguero are keeping Pellegrini’s Manchester City in touching distance of imperial Chelsea. The depth of their squad could prove crucial in the hurly-burly of the Christmas schedule. Everton were complacent against Hull and were made to pay with a late equaliser. You can’t help but love the footballing ethos of Roberto Martinez, but there comes a time when a club has to grow up and embrace the real world practicalities of their situation. Lukaku will struggle to force his will upon a game where his midfield is deprived of meaningful possession. Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri will dictate terms in a significant victory for the home side. It’s halftime-fulltime double time, with City priced at 11/10 to win both halves.
West Ham and Swansea are both in ascent, but you have to fancy West Ham’s impressive home record to see them through here. This is something of a stylistic clash: the continental cool of Garry Monk versus the retro chic of Sam Allardyce. Regardless, West Ham should prove the likely winners following a series of impressive away performances. Grab the Hammers at 27/20.
Christian Benteke returned to goal scoring supremacy in an amazing way in the game at Palace. Just when you thought Lambert was being dragged in, his star striker has provided an antidote to Aston Villa’s problems. Leicester City showed their Premier League naivety against a Liverpool side ripe for the picking. They were overzealous on attack and don’t seem to possess a modicum of defensive acumen. Villa should prove too strong for a side devoid of big match experience. At 13/10, take advantage.
Southampton have had an extremely difficult sequence of fixtures that has ultimately served to undermine their high-flying status. Koeman has battled to continually invigorate a spare squad determined to play in the aesthetically pleasing tika taka mode. Manchester United look a different beast in recent weeks and seem to be thriving on their newly acquired underdog status. Marouane Fellaini looks a completely different entity and could prove decisive in this potentially tricky away fixture. I like United for another win here at 31/20.
10-leg English Premier League Multiple Price - 647/1
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