Mauricio Pochettino has managed to galvanise his Spurs side remarkably well considering the seemingly downward trajectory that they were on a few weeks back. Harry Kane has provided the goals that were expected from Roberto Soldado, while Christian Eriksen has been instrumental in powering the Spurs’ midfield forward. Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil formed a dynamic partnership against Villa and highlighted that Arsenal are not wholly dependent on the precocious talents of Alexis Sanchez. Regardless of that anomaly against Chelsea, Spurs have battled to compete with the top four contenders when it has mattered and this should prove no different. Take Arsenal to win at 11/20.
In any other season, Leicester would probably be cut off from the pack at this point, playing for a semblance of pride in the upcoming fixtures. They are fortunate, however, to have a smorgasbord of other teams keeping them company in the mire of the league table. Crystal Palace were perhaps a bit unfortunate against Everton, a fact that Alan Pardew will no doubt be drilling into his side. He has resigned Wilfried Zaha from United on a permanent basis while securing the services of former Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi. He has clearly identified the lack of goals in his side and gone straight for the jugular. This one seems impossible to call, so I’m inclined to back the relative impotence of both strike forces. Take Under 2.5 goals here at 7/10.
Harry Redknapp denied himself a second hostile reunion with former club Southampton by resigning as QPR manager this week. He cited impending knee surgery as the primary motivator for this decision, but it’s fairly safe to assume that a certain level of disenchantment had entered Redknapp regarding the performances of this club. His figure was looking increasingly more like a caricature of itself; mumbled epithets and paranoid gesticulations had increased tenfold in the past few weeks. Les Ferdinand will be in charge as wobbly Southampton visit this weekend. Southampton produced one of their most insipid performances last week, floundering to a shock home defeat to an apparently desperate Swansea side. I do however feel that it was an anomaly and that Southampton will be back to their best this weekend. Pick them up at 8/10.
Gary Monk could probably not have envisaged the ease in which his Swansea side contained the usually fluent Southampton last week, especially without the totemic presence of Gylfi Sigurdsson. Jonjo Shelvey produced a powerhouse midfield performance that harkened towards the influence of former teammate and idol Steven Gerrard. Jermaine Defoe scored his first goal for Sunderland as they eased past struggling Burnley at the weekend. His very presence seems to have injected vitality into a Sunderland side in need of goals. I still see this as a fairly low scoring encounter as Sunderland aim to suffocate Swansea’s fluid passing and play on the counterattack. Under 2.5 goals seems safe at 13/20.
Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa are in crucial need of divine intervention. Their insipid presence in front of goal has drawn the ire of the Villa faithful, heaping inordinate pressure on the incumbent Irishman. It almost doesn’t make sense, given the powerful presence of Benteke working in conjunction with the pace of Weimann and Agbonlahor, that Villa find themselves a weekend away from the relegation zone. Chelsea travel to a hapless Villa on the back of a pragmatic draw against the champions that leaves them firmly in control of their own destiny. The signing of Juan Cuadrado should bolster the fluidity of their attack while Costa serves out his three match ban. Chelsea will simply have far too much for a Villa side unable to score. And in reality, an unlikely victory here will only serve to prolong the Lambert regime further, perpetuating the air of stagnation at Villa Park. Take Chelsea at 7/20 and stick it into all multiples.
Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini should have perhaps espoused the Diafra Sakho approach to managing his Africa Cup of Nations players: fake an injury and just hope no-one notices. Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony have been missed and will prove vital in City’s final title surge. Hull’s injury ravaged season has left them shattered for confidence and Steve Bruce’s side just doesn’t have an answer to the relentless obstacles provided by the Premier League. City should win but may encounter some obstinate resistance in the first half. I’m going for a bold approach here; City are far too short to justify backing on the outright as a single bet. The halftime-fulltime double with a drawn first half and City victory seems good to me at 26/10. Just be wary of adding such a risky bet to your weekend multiple. For accumulator purposes, City at 2/11 will have to do.
The Merseyside derby provides a watershed moment in the managerial reign of Roberto Martinez. His victory last week at Palace has provided a potential catalyst for lift off ahead of this most auspicious fixture. The seemingly impotent scoring presence of Romelu Lukaku was reinvigorated last week while the signing of Aaron Lennon should provide some pace in attack. Liverpool are on a fantastic league run and will be looking to build on the significant energy boost provided by the returning Daniel Sturridge. I may be crazy, but I cannot shake the creepy oompa loompa vibe that Everton could pull through this one. Liverpool have been vulnerable to muscular strikers before (think Benteke and Diego Costa) and they may be on the end of a defining moment in the reign of Martinez. Take Everton to win or draw on the Double Chance at 6/10 as a result of a powerful Lukaku performance.
Burnley’s defeat to Sunderland was alleviated by the fact that there are so many other teams in the midst of monumental crisis. Burnley managed to maintain the coveted Danny Ings and Sam Vokes while still hovering just above the zone. Tony Pulis’ immaculate reign came to a predictable end against Spurs. The initial power of the Tony Pulis effect will now begin to slowly wane under the drastic limitations of the West Brom squad. The addition of Darren Fletcher will add some cover in midfield for Pulis, but I foresee a win for Burnley here at 29/20.
This match-up sees two sides on something of an upward curve. Newcastle have shaken off Pardew and regained some momentum with some decent results. John Walters scored a typically bulldozing hat-trick last week that continues a decent league and cup run for Stoke. Mark Hughes may see this as an opportunity to be slightly more expansive on the road, leading to an open game of football between two confident sides. Both of these teams seem evenly matched and are both just coming off three-goal victories, which seems to indicate that this could be an open encounter with goals on offer. Additionally, both sides are relatively safe from the drop and should play with more freedom. Both Teams to Score looks a great bet at 17/20.
West Ham have hit a stumbling block in their grand European quest of late, with Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll struggling to maintain their attacking thrust. They have not been aided by Sakho-gate, as FIFA have flexed their considerable muscle and put Allardyce’s selection policies under the spotlight. Manchester United lie in third position on the table seemingly poised for European qualification, yet there seems to be an unwavering feeling of doubt surrounding the Van Gaal project. They are simply unconvincing, despite their star-studded line-up. Perhaps freeing up Anderson and Fletcher will go some way to streamlining the forward momentum of a club weaned on success. West Ham have been formidable at home this season and Allardyce should be able to prevent his side from defeat. Take the Hammers on the Double Chance to win or draw at 15/20.
10-leg English Premier League Multiple Price - 213/1
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