We start with the Reds, whose every match from here on in is destined to be dominated by the Gerrard narrative. He’s scored their last four goals, two in the draw with Leicester, before helping them past AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup. He’ll lead his team out at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, against a Sunderland side that gave Man City an almighty scare last time out. The Black Cats have drawn 11 of their 20 matches so far this season, a result that has made me money more often than not. However, Liverpool have won three of their last four against Poyet’s men and are on the up. I’m backing the Reds to eek out a victory at 9/10.
Burnley were favourites to finish bottom just a couple weeks back, but following heartening draws against Man City and Newcastle in the league, and Spurs in the cup, they have renewed hope of an unlikely survival. The most important thing is they are scoring goals – six in their last three matches. On Saturday they host QPR at Turf Moor in a relegation six-pointer. Harry Redknapp’s side are without a win in four and suffered a humiliating cup exit at home to League Two Sheffield United at the weekend. They have yet to pick up a point on the road this season and given Danny Ings` current goalscoring form, they aren’t about to start here.
Chelsea bounced back from their loss to Newcastle in early December by rattling off four consecutive victories, but recent results against Southampton and Spurs have shown there are chinks in their armoury. John Terry’s ageing legs were exposed by the effervescent Harry Kane, while Jose Mourinho seems intent on provoking the ire of the referee’s association. Here’s a thought Jose – why not tell your players to stop diving? Back in front of the Stamford Bridge faithful, he should see a couple decisions fall his way, especially as Newcastle’s technical area will be free of a manager berating the referee after every decision. The Blues have won every match at home this season. That isn’t about to change – back them on the HT-FT double at 6/10.
Man City 17/20
Everton may just be the worst team in the Premier League at the moment. They sit bottom of the form table, having won just once in their last eight matches and went down to Hull City last time out. It’s difficult to see them getting anything out of Manchester City’s visit to Goodison Park. The champions may be without a recognised striker and Yaya Toure – who will be off to the African Cup of Nations – but they’re still winning matches. They’ve lost just once since August and although they’re not at their best, they’re doing enough to get by. I considered looking at the exotics here but, at 17/20, the away win is probably the bet of the weekend.
Leicester City 11/10
Aston Villa 5/2
Aston Villa have scored just 11 goals in the Premier League this season. To give you an indication of where that puts them – Charlie Austin has scored 12. They’ve managed just one goal from midfield, coming from the much-maligned figure of Joe Cole. Their opponents this weekend, Leicester, haven’t fared much better, but still managed two against Liverpool last week, one a sublime team effort finished off by David Nugent. Unfortunately for the Foxes, Riyad Mahrez, the pick of their performers at Anfield, will miss much of January due to international commitments with Algeria. I’m sticking with under 2.5 goals here, which is available at 6/10.
Swansea City 5/4
West Ham 2/1
Swansea are likely to be the hardest hit by Africa’s showpiece tournament, losing the indomitable frame of Wilfried Bony and all that he offers up front. Bafetimbi Gomis will be expected to fill the void, but the Frenchman has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League since signing from Lyon in the summer, managing just one goal. The Swans will welcome West Ham to the Liberty on Saturday, as they look to maintain their solid home record. They’ve lost just twice on their home patch this term, with those defeats coming against Southampton and Spurs, while West Ham are yet to pick up an away point against a team in the top half. However, Bony’s absence will be felt up front and I’m going for the draw at 24/10.
West Brom 21/20
Hull City 27/10
There’s no doubt Tony Pulis will prove a success at West Brom. He’s shown his credentials at Stoke and Crystal Palace and, although I’d rather poke my eyes out with a hot needle than watch one of his teams play football, he gets results. This weekend’s match against Hull is a big one, especially after the Tigers managed a shock win over Everton. The victory, however, came at a cost as Andrew Robertson, Gaston Ramirez and Liam Rosenior all suffered injuries. This will stretch Steve Bruce’s already thin squad, perhaps beyond breaking point. The Pulis effect is beginning to take hold at the Hawthorns, with their 7-0 FA Cup win over Gateshead proof that the confidence is returning. Back the Baggies at 21/20 and throw them into your multiples.
Crystal Palace 5/2
Spurs absolutely shamed Chelsea at White Hart Lane last week before going on to draw against Burnley in the FA Cup – such is the risk of betting on English football. Mauricio Pochettino’s side now sit just two points off the top four and have gone six matches unbeaten in the league since surrendering meekly to the same Chelsea side in early December. They face a tricky trip to Selhurst Park this weekend, where they’ll come up against a Crystal Palace outfit reinvigorated since Alan Pardew’s arrival. The Eagles may still have their struggles up front, but at least they’ve stemmed the flow at the other end. I’m expecting a tight affair here, with the under’s market looking worth a dabble at 8/10.
Stoke City 6/1
The first of two matches on Sunday will see Arsenal play host to their nemesis, Stoke, in an intriguing affair at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger’s side were savagely beaten when these two met in December, going down 3-2 after trailing 3-0 at half-time. Arsenal’s frailties were laid bare for all to see on that afternoon, and will be again before the season is up. Peter Crouch will cause them problems on Sunday by his presence alone, although at the other end Arsenal will be sharpened by the return of Theo Walcott. The Gunners are too short on the outright so I suggest looking elsewhere for some value, with Both Teams to Score catching my eye at 9/10.
Man United 15/20
The weekend’s final match sees third against fourth as Southampton travel to the Theatre of Dreams to face Manchester United. Louis van Gaal’s side were lucky to escape with the victory when the two met late last year after being outplayed for long periods of the match. They come into this one with yet more injury concerns after Rafael and Luke Shaw failed to return for the second half of their 2-0 FA Cup victory over Yeovil. Southampton are not without injuries of their own as Sadio Mane has been ruled out with a calf injury, while Nathaniel Clyne remains a doubt for the trip. The meeting earlier this season was an entertaining affair, and I recall making money on the over’s market. I’m hoping for a repeat, with the 9/10 available on over 2.5 goals where I’ll be putting my money.
Despite talk of hollywood scripts that “could never be written”, the Premier League has followed a familiar formula this season. The ‘surprise packages’ (West Ham), the ‘doomed to fail final day survivors’ (Leicester), the ‘they might not make Champions League this year, but eventually do at the expense of Tottenham’ (Arsenal) and the constant grappling to be considered underdogs (Man City and Chelsea). It’s all a bit tedious. If only the football matched the narrative. Let us hope for our sake that this weekend it does. Sala Kahle.
Written by Commodore Vegas
Follow him on Twitter here!