There are eight Premier League games this weekend, plus the Capital One Cup final between Chelsea and Tottenham.
Our betting experts managed to find winners priced 15.50, 7.60, 1.60 and 1.51 last week – the overall equivalent of a 5/1 winner to level stakes.
Let’s see how our betting experts get on this week…
Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.
West Ham 26/25 (2.04) got exactly what they deserved at Tottenham last weekend. They paid for failure to put away their many chances, paid for playing a ridiculously deep defensive line and paid for some strange substitutions. It is not easy picking nits as tiny as elephants.
While Sam Allardyce is reportedly going to play hardball for a new contract, he knows he is out the door at the end of the season, if not before.
They are on a run of one win in their last nine league games and were also thrashed 4-0 in the FA Cup by that powerhouse known as West Brom.
With Chelsea and Arsenal up next, Allardyce can hardly afford to lose to Palace 57/20 (3.85), managed by former West Ham manager Alan Pardew. That could be one bitter pill too many for the Upton Park faithful to stomach.
West Ham have won one of the last seven meetings and that sets our punting alarm bells ringing. Five of the last seven meetings contained less than three goals (it is 3/4 or 1.75 for under 2.5 goals) but with both sides creating plenty of chances, we see a few in this one.
BEST BET: Crystal Palace to Score @ 1/2 (1.5)
Both sides use width, both sides attempt to play flowing football and this should be an entertaining clash.
Swansea 20/11 (2.82), who have won one of their last four trips to Turf Moor, will be buoyed by their deserved 2-1 win over Manchester United last weekend and look certain to finish in the top half of the Premier League.
There is no doubt they will feel the effect of selling Wilfried Bony to Manchester City as the season wears on, although they have scored at least once in 14 of their last 16 league games.
Burnley 8/5 (2.60) earned a fantastic 1-1 draw at Chelsea but they have managed just one win in the last 10 games, even though they have been good for a goal or two in nine of their last 10 home games.
With Liverpool, Manchester City, Southampton, Tottenham and Arsenal to come over the next month, this is a must-win game for Sean Dyche’s side. Defeat would almost certainly signal relegation, so we hope they steal the points and gain their fourth win over Swansea in 10 meetings.
VERDICT: Burnley 3 Swansea 1 @ 19/1 (20.00)
BEST BET: Both Teams to Score @ 10/13 (1.77)
We all know what is going to happen here. Either Manchester United 9/25 (1.36) will struggle early, forsaking any width and eventually resorting to long-ball tactics. Or they will score early and cruise. The outcome will be the same: Home win.
But it is time to make a point: Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane are right up there on the Pet Shop Boys’ dive bar scale. Their actions last week left us feeling they are a cross between Tom Daley and Arthur Daley – diving con-merchants.
It sickens us to think that two of the top English strikers in the Premier League resort to throwing themselves to ground to con officials. Rooney, in particular, is the England captain and should be setting an example to kids.
Either way, both should be retrospectively punished for their actions, but will get away with it.
If we were opposing centre halves, we would brutally whack the pair of them and make it hurt. Just to teach them a lesson. Then we’d clatter into referee Jon Moss, accidentally of course, while changing direction. That’s the kind of guys we are. Uncompromising. But fair.
Sadly, nothing will be done to drive this abhorrent cheating out of the English game.
As for the England manager defending Rooney’s actions… would you want to follow such a spineless leader into battle?
Our plea is this: Defend the game. Root out the cheats. Demote poor referees and assistant referees.
Oh, and back Man Utd to beat Sunderland 9/1 (10.00)
We feel better now. Thank you.
VERDICT: Man Utd 3 Sunderland 0 @ 36/5 (8.20)
BEST BET: Man Utd -1 @ 1/1 (2.00)
Newcastle 23/25 (1.92) received a right old tonking at the hands of Manchester City last weekend – a team whom they invariably struggle with.
Two wins and six defeats in their last 11 games means John Carver’s side are four points detached from the top half of the table. They should be safe from relegation, as they are 10 points above the drop zone, but they are the epitome of mid-table mediocrity.
Aston Villa 17/5 (4.40) have failed to win any of their last 11 league games and have lost their last six. Though they are second from bottom and still have to travel to Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester City and Southampton, many expect Tim Sherwood to work his magic and save them from the drop.
However, they have failed to score in any of their last five away games – all losses – and have managed just two goals away from home in their last 11 attempts.
Newcastle are unbeaten in the last seven meetings, winning four and drawing three, but oddly there has been just one home win in the last seven clashes between the pair.
Both sides scored in five of the last seven meetings and, given Villa’s impotent strike-force, some will expect that trend to end.
However, Newcastle have conceded at least once in 13 of their last 14 games and Villa may provide the shock of the day… and actually score a goal.
BEST BET: Aston Villa And Draw @ 89/100 (1.89)
Stoke 19/20 (1.95) have won three of their last five Premier League games but are starting to look like flat-track bullies, their last five wins coming against sides in the bottom half of the table.
Hull 33/10 (4.30) have managed just two road wins and while they are still in a precarious position, the Tigers have clawed their way out of the relegation zone with two wins and a draw in their last three league games.
Steve Bruce’s side are four points above the drop zone and have a superior goals difference to the five clubs below them.
Stoke have conceded more goals at home than they have scored.
They have won five of their 12 outings at the Britannia Stadium and games between these two invariably leave the net bulging. Ten of the last 13 meetings saw three or more goals scored and both netted in seven of the last 10 clashes.
Stoke should edge it, although some will feel it would not be a surprise to see a seventh draw in 11 meetings. The draw odds are 11/5 (3.20).
VERDICT: Stoke 2 Hull 0 @ 7/1 (8.00)
BEST BET: 2 goals or more @ 43/100 (1.43)
The introduction of Tony Pulis as manager came at the right time for West Brom 23/10 (3.30). While they are still only five points clear of the drop zone and still have to face the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, four more wins will likely see them preserve their top-flight status.
Southampton 33/25 (2.32), who have lost just two of the last 13 meetings with West Brom, are encamped in the top four and deserve to stay there. They were extremely unlucky to lose to Liverpool last weekend, not helped by another sub-par refereeing display by Kevin Friend.
Saints have lost four of their last 10 trips to the Hawthorns but don’t expect them to lose consecutive matches, even though the Baggies have renewed confidence with one defeat in their last seven league games and a thumping 4-0 FA Cup victory over West Ham.
Albion have two games with local rivals Aston Villa next week, the second of those in the FA Cup quarter-finals. That may well play on the players’ minds and any desire to stay fit and healthy, rather than a desire to put it all in, will find them out.
BEST BET: Southampton @ 33/25 (2.32)
Playing two up front against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final first leg was an error of judgement from Manuel Pellegrini, who may well have been pleased with the second-half midweek display, but by that time Manchester City were 2-0 down.
The tie is finely poised at 2-1 but it should be over. So should the Premier League title race – but it isn’t.
City 37/25 (2.48) will hope to narrow the gap at the top of the Premier League to two points with a rare win at Anfield.
City have managed to win four of the last 21 meetings with Liverpool 46/25 (2.84) and have won just one of their last 24 visits.
At times, Liverpool look all over the place defensively. Yet they have managed to go on an 18-match unbeaten run in all competitions (one extra-time League Cup defeat at Chelsea aside).
There have been seven draws in the last 14 meetings (it is 47/20 for the draw) and the last six clashes saw three goals or more scored. We tentatively go for a rare City win, with both sides finding the net.
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 25/41 (1.61)
However, Everton rarely do well in this particular fixture, as Arsenal have remained unbeaten in the last 20 meetings at home.
Having drawn five of their first eight Premier League games, the Gunners have drawn just once in their last 18, so they have become punter-friendly boom or bust.
Everton have drawn four of their last six league games, winning just once in the last 10 outings. They still have the Europa Cup to play for and, despite being just six points off the drop zone, their run-in is such that they are unlikely to get dragged into the mire.
Arsenal look assured to finish in the top four again and while they should account for Everton those looking for a shock result should look the draw as a value bet at odds of 33/10 (4.30).
VERDICT: Arsenal 2 Everton 1 @ 32/5 (7.40)
BEST BET: Half-Time Draw @ 13/10 (2.30)
The Capital One Cup Final may provide some cracking entertainment and, unsurprisingly, we take Chelsea 31/47 (1.66) to come out on top.
Despite beating Chelsea 5-3 at White Hart Lane last month, Spurs 37/10 (4.70) have managed to beat Chelsea just four times in the last 54 meetings and have not won consecutive meetings since 1987.
Tottenham fans had a dress-rehearsal for the Cup Final when coming from 2-0 down to draw with West Ham last week. When Harry Kane stuck away a highly dubious penalty with the last kick of the game, their fans acted as though they had won a Cup final.
It was an undeserved point, yet you have to admire their tenacity – Tottenham have recovered the most points from losing positions of any team in the Premier League (16).
Manager knows they were out-played in all phases by the Hammers and they will have to up their game significantly to trouble the Premier League leaders.
Chelsea, themselves, have not been playing well but they are consistently getting results that keep them ahead of the pack.
Tottenham have looked very ordinary in their last three matches and after Thursday’s exertions in the Europa League, they may be jaded.
Goals have been a feature of recent meetings, with six of the last seven yielding three or more and it is 19/25 (1.77) that three goals are more are scored again.
Chelsea should walk it, but they will probably allow Spurs to hang around, so we look for the Blues to sneak it by a single-goal margin.
VERDICT: Chelsea 2 Tottenham 1 @ 32/5 (7.40)
Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.
You must be aged 18 or over to bet. Please gamble responsiblywww.gambleaware.co.uk
We have had enough of the romance of the FA Cup. Despite the unpredictable nature of the fourth and fifth rounds, our betting experts managed to find winners at odds of 8.80, 6.80, 2.05, 2.04 and 1.70 last week.
We are back to Premier League action this weekend with some crucial games having a bearing on the race for the Champions League places and a couple of potential relegation scraps.
Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.
Tim Sherwood brings many things to Aston Villa (Odds: 2.62), not least a barra’ load of clichés.
Yet players understand the simplicity of his enthusiastic message and he is an underrated tactician.
Owner Randy Lerner, who will look to sell up in the summer, needs Sherwood to have an instant impact, similar to the one Crystal Palace have had since Alan Pardew’s arrival, in order to protect his investment.
With the FA Cup a distraction, Villa will do well to climb out of the bottom three this weekend.
They have managed just 13 league goals in 25 games and just eight at home from 12.
They have also lost their last five in the league and still have to travel to Newcastle, Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester City and Southampton before the end of the campaign.
Stoke (2.86), in mid-able safety, suffered two heavy defeats last week – thrashed 4-1 at home by Manchester City in the league and 4-1 away at Blackburn in the FA Cup.
Villa have won five of last 25 meetings with the Potters and one of the last six at home.
Six of the last 12 meetings were drawn and seven of the last 11 yielded no more than two goals. The odds for over 2 goals to be scored are 1.80.
It could be honours even again, but we reckon Stoke won’t allow Sherwood a honeymoon period.
Chelsea (Odds: 1.20) have opened up a seven-point gap on Manchester City at the top of the table and they have done so looking anything but certainties.
Whether they were drained by the epic League Cup semi-final clashes with Liverpool, or rocked by their FA Cup thumping by Bradford, something has not been quite right at Stamford Bridge recently. They squeaked past Aston Villa and Everton by the odd goal in their last two Premier League matches and they could get caught looking ahead to their Champions League second-leg clash with PSG.
That, at least, is what Shaun Dyche and Burnley (17.50) will be hoping.
Yet they are not that naïve and they could easily suffer a backlash for a few below-par displays.
Chelsea won the last four league meetings and in six of the last seven meetings there were three or more goals scored. It is 1.90 for over three goals to be scored.
We look for an emphatic Chelsea win, restoring a semblance of normality after another unpredictable FA Cup round.
VERDICT: Chelsea 3 Burnley 0 @ 6.60
BEST BET: Chelsea Win to Nil @ 1.81
Five points separate five teams in the fight for the final two Champions League spots and Arsenal (Odds: 1.80), currently in fifth place, are long odds-on to claim a top four spot by the end of the season.
Palace (4.50) have been revitalised since Alan Pardew took charge and they have lost just once in their last seven league games. That run has seen them claw their way out of the bottom three and they currently sit five points above the relegation zone.
Palace have tough away games at West Ham and Southampton in the next couple of weeks, so defeat here will set alarm bells ringing once again.
Arsenal have won 11 of the last 14 meetings, they are unbeaten in their last nine trips to Selhurst Park and have lost just two of the last 29 meetings with the Eagles.
The Gunners are averaging 2.17 goals per game against Palace and they are playing with plenty of confidence, so another routine victory should ensue.
VERDICT: Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2 @ 7.60
BEST BET: Arsenal to Win the Second Half @ 1.99
These two side look to be heading in opposite directions. Sunderland (Odds: 2.54) are on the slide, as evidenced by a two wins in their last 15 league games and a stunning 2-0 defeat at Bradford in the FA Cup.
West Brom (2.98), one place and two points in front of 15th-placed Sunderland, have lost one of their last six league games and are through to the FA Cup quarter-finals after an emphatic 4-0 thumping of West Ham.
Tony Pulis will fancy his side’s chances of victory at Sunderland, who have won just one of the last 10 meetings with the Baggies.
Sunderland have managed just three wins in their last nine meetings with West Brom at the Stadium of Light and goals are usually the order of the day when these two meet – 10 of the last 12 clashes saw three goals or more. It is 2.50 for over 2.5 goals to be scored.
West Brom have won twice on the road, while Sunderland have won twice at home. Given their respective recent form, if there is to be an upset, it will be a home win.
This is a game that Sunderland need badly, but will Gus Poyet’s side respond accordingly?
VERDICT: Sunderland 2 West Brom 1 @ 10.0
BEST BET: Both Team to Score @ 2.02
A real relegation dogfight, which either side cannot afford to lose. Given their previous meetings – with five of the last nine meetings ending in stalemate – a point apiece cannot be ruled out easily.
Hull (Odds: 2.02) have tightened up at the back and gained confidence from their 1-1 draw at Manchester City before downing Aston Villa 2-0.
Rangers (3.95) ended a run of four straight defeats with a 2-0 win at Sunderland and with London derbies against Arsenal, Tottenham and Crystal Palace upcoming, they will hope for another positive result here.
One or other has failed to score in five of the last nine meetings and seven of the last nine yielded under three goals. It is 1.65 that under 2.5 goals are scored.
Another tight game is anticipated, but while you can wait long enough and two London busses will come along together, successive Rangers’ away wins are as rare as useful insight from Michael Owen.
We reckon Hull can steal this and heap the pressure on those around them.
VERDICT: Hull 1 QPR 0 @ 5.90
BEST BET: One or other fails to score @ 1.80
Manchester United (Odds: 1.97) reached the FA Cup quarter-finals with an unconvincing display at League One Preston North End on Monday. They are also encamped in the top three of the league, trailing leaders Chelsea by 12 points.
While their title ambitions look far-fetched, it is imperative that they remain in the top four until the end of the season, thus making the lucrative Champions League places.
United recently announced their revenue for the second quarter of the financial year. The level of debt now stands at an astonishing £380.5 million, a 6.7 per cent increase from the same stage last year.
Commercial revenue has actually risen 9.7 per cent, from £42.3m to £46.4m, but overall revenue is down from £122.9m to £105.7m.
That is mainly due to a significant drop in broadcasting revenue – with no money from Champions League television deals – as the figures show a 39.4 per cent decrease from £46.9m to £28.4m.
It is imperative that Louis van Gaal keeps United among the European elite and Swansea (4.00) should not pose too many problems, even though they have won two of the last three meetings (both at Old Trafford).
The Swans have won just one of their last seven league games while United have lost just one of their last 15. Both sides found the net in five of their last six meetings and it is 1.77 that this occurs again.
VERDICT: Swansea 0 Man Utd 2 @ 8.80
BEST BET: Swansea not to Score @ 2.70
Manchester City (Odds: 1.28) are seven points behind leaders Chelsea and the bookmakers have already written off their chances.
Should the champions win here and at Liverpool next week, the title race may well linger on for another few weeks.
Newcastle (11.50) have won two of their last 10 league games and have managed just one victory at City in the last 18 visits – and that was in the League Cup.
The Magpies hold a 52-51-32 series edge since 1901 and City are restrictive odds to level that series, having won six of the last seven meetings on their own turf.
One or other has failed to score in six of the last seven meetings (it is 1.82 for that to occur again) and City will hope for a quick knockout, given they have to face Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.
We’ll know a lot more about City’s true pedigree in a week or so but they should win, and win comfortably enough.
VERDICT: Man City 3 Newcastle 1 @ 9.40
BEST BET: Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.60
West Ham (4.60) are on the slide, as a run of one win in the last eight league games and an awful 4-0 FA Cup hammering at West Brom attests.
With seven wins in their last 10 league games, Tottenham (1.77) are heading towards the top four at a rapid rate of knots, thanks largely to a one-man wrecking ball called Harry Kane.
The 21-year-old, who recently signed a five-year contract, netted his 21st and 22nd goals of the season as Spurs won the North London derby 2-1.
That left Spurs three points behind fourth-placed Southampton and four behind Manchester United.
The hapless Hammers have slipped to eighth and defeat here would all but signal the end of what was a promising campaign. European football next season will be a mere pipe dream.
West Ham have lost striker Andy Carroll for the remainder of the season and they have significant injuries at the heart of their defence.
Tottenham have lost three of the last four meetings and it should arguably have lost to the Hammers on opening day – Mark Noble missed a penalty and Spurs, outplayed for long periods, snatched a dramatic winner deep into stoppage time.
While Spurs have won one of the last four meetings at home, there should be no luck involved this time round. Perhaps a draw (3.75) is the best West Ham can hope for, but that would be bucking a trend that has seen just one stalemate in the last 13 meetings.
VERDICT: Tottenham 3 West Ham 0 @ 16.50
BEST BET: Half-Time Tottenham @ 2.28
Other than Gary Lineker, few will be interested in what may well be a dour encounter between two sides going nowhere.
Despite being five points above the relegation zone, Everton (Odds: 1.74) will likely play out the remainder of the season in mid-table mediocrity.
In contrast, Leicester (5.10) will be playing for their survival among the elite. The Foxes are five points adrift of safety and boss Nigel Pearson remains on the brink of losing his job.
Twelve of the last 17 meetings were drawn, but both sides scored in 14 of the last 18 meetings. Ten of the last 14 meetings yielded under 2.5 goals (it is 1.87 that occurs again).
While Everton have lost just three at home, they have managed to win just three.
Leicester have lost half of their 12 road games but have score in their last six Premier League away games. They also managed to net at Aston Villa in a somewhat unfortunate FA Cup loss last weekend.
Can Leicester salvage at least a point? They are certainly worth chancing in a game that it is hard to have any concrete conclusions about.
VERDICT: Everton 2 Leicester 2 @ 15.50
BEST BET: Half-Time Everton @ 2.16
Arguably the most attractive game of the weekend is saved until last.
Southampton (Odds: 2.56) and Liverpool (2.84) are among five clubs firmly in the race for the last two Champions League spots, with four points separating the third-placed Saints and seventh-placed Liverpool.
Saints have lost the last two meetings, but have not lost three consecutive clashes for 20 years.
Liverpool have been beaten just once in their last 13 league games but have won just three of their last 10 visits to St Mary’s Stadium.
Southampton continue to defy their critics and they continue to show that there are other ways to win than lumping the ball up and feeding off the “second ball”.
Liverpool are gunning on three fronts now, with another favourable home tie in the FA Cup quarter-finals (why don’t they simply give Steven Gerrard the trophy now and have done with it?).
But given Liverpool’s Europa League exertions, we reckon backing Southampton and the Draw on the Double Chance market at 1.45 will pay dividends.
Hopefully the Saints will dent the Reds’ assault on the Champions League places into the bargain. That is asking a little too much, however.
VERDICT: Southampton 0 Liverpool 0 @ 9.20
BEST BET: Southampton and Draw @ 1.45
You must be aged 18 or over to bet. Please gamble responsibly www.gambleaware.co.uk
Valentine’s Day is on Saturday and the romance of the FA Cup will be at the forefront of punters’ minds.
There were plenty of shocks in the fourth round, but our experts reckon it should be plain sailing for the Premier League elite in this weekend’s fifth round.
West Brom (odds: 2.36) eased their relegation worries with a fine 2-0 win at home to Swansea on Wednesday. The Baggies are now four points clear of the drop zone and have a better goal difference than most clubs in the dogfight, so Tony Pulis’s side will look to attack the FA Cup with a weight off their mind.
West Ham (2.90) probably need one more win to be certain of retaining their Premier League status for their final season at Upton Park before a move to the Olympic Stadium.
They have won just one of their last six League games, having drawn 0-0 at Southampton on Wednesday. On the positive side, their three losses in the last 13 league games came against Chelsea, Arsenal and bogey side Liverpool.
Albion have won two of the last 13 meetings and the Hammers have lost just two of their last nine trips to The Hawthorns.
These two sides could cancel each other out again, as they have done on six of the last nine meetings (the draw is 3.20). But if there is to be a mild shock in the Fifth round, it could come here.
The Baggies are playing with new-found confidence under Pulis and West Ham’s injury problems in defence leaves them vulnerable.
VERDICT: West Brom 2 West Ham 1 @ 8.80
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 1.77
Blackburn Rovers (Odds 2.86) have won the FA Cup on no fewer than six occasions.
However, five of those successes came in the 1800s, their last coming in 1928, and they last reached the final in 1960. Could this be the year they return to Wembley?
Rovers dispatched Premier League Swansea in the last round and they again face top-flight opposition in the shape of Stoke (2.36), who have won their last five competitive meetings.
Rovers may be 10 points off the play-off places in the Championship, but they have one of the better home records in the division, having lost just three of their 15 games at Ewood Park.
However, they have managed to beat Stoke just once in the last 13 meetings.
Goals are often hard to come by when these two meet – one or other has failed to score in seven of the last nine meetings – but lanky Peter Crouch will invariably cause plenty of problems.
We can see Blackburn proving a tough nut to crack and while Stoke have the quality to prise open the Rovers’ defence, this may need a second game to settle it. The odds for the draw are 3.20.
VERDICT: Blackburn 0 Stoke 0 @ 9.20
BEST BET: Blackburn not to score @ 3.05
An all-Championship clash sees high-flying Derby (odds: 1.73) face Reading, who are unbeaten in their last three away from home.
Under Steve McClaren, Derby have one of the best home records in the division, having lost just two of their 15 games (winning nine of them). Only Norwich and Watford have scored more goals than the 34 they have bagged in the league at Pride Park.
Reading have lost their last two matches to the Rams, but have never dropped tree on the trot, so trend-wonks will look at the 2.04 available on the Double Chance market see Reading and the Draw as good value.
Derby’s overall record against the Royals is pretty ordinary – they have won seven of the last 26 meetings and lost 10 of the last 15 clashes.
Yet for all their decent road form of late, Reading (4.70) have generally been weak travellers this season, winning just three of their 15 away games in the league and drawing four. That means there is a better than 50% chance they will succumb to the Rams.
We will stick with a draw (on offer at 3.50), reasoning that it represents a little more value than a home win.
VERDICT: Derby 1 Reading 1 @ 6.60
BEST BET: Double Chance – Reading And Draw @ 2.04
Liverpool (odds: 2.00) have been in blistering form, with just two defeats in their last 21 games in all competitions since losing 3-1 at Palace in November.
Palace (3.55) have won five of seven matches in all competitions since Alan Pardew’s arrival, losing just once, and have won three of their last four clashes with the Reds at Selhurst Park.
Palace are something of a bogey side for Liverpool, who have failed to win any of their last four meetings in South London.
Both sides have scored in six of the last seven meetings and it is 1.80 that they do so again.
Seven of the last eight meetings yielded three goals or more and it is 1.91 for that to occur this time.
Pardew has instilled belief in his squad and while they are starting to climb away from the relegation zone (five points clear after their all-too-predictable 1-1 draw with Newcastle in midweek), an equally confident Liverpool should be too strong.
VERDICT: Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2 @ 8.20
Paul Lambert’s tenure at Villa Park came to an end on Wednesday, just hours after Aston Villa (odds: 2.40) slipped into the Premier League relegation zone after an abject 2-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Hull City.
It was their 10th league game without a win and they have managed just 12 league goals all season from 25 games – the lowest in Premier League history. In truth, Villa have been circling the relegation plug-hole for the last three seasons in which they have played 139 league games and scored just 135 goals.
The failure is not with Lambert, whose hands have been financially tied, but with owner Randy Lerner, who looks certain to sell up in the summer.
Villa have a fair squad and they should ease their way out of trouble.
And if the FA Cup is nice distraction for Villa fans, it is also the case for embattled Leicester (2.86) manager Nigel Pearson, whose side are rock-bottom of the Premier League and are five points adrift of safety.
The Foxes are, at least, still creating plenty of chances and it is frustrating Pearson that they are not taking them.
Leicester have had a fair amount of success in recent times against Villa, who have won just four of the last 21 meetings.
Lambert’s departure could have a galvanising effect on the hosts. Equally, a lack of leadership on the pitch could see heads drop, and confidence only comes with goals.
Ten of the last 21 meetings were drawn (including seven of the last 15) and the odds for a draw are consequently restrictive at 3.15.
We take a rare and narrow Villa win with Christain Benteke or Andreas Weimann perhaps being the hero.
VERDICT: Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1 @ 8.80
BEST BET: Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05
League One outfit Bradford City (3.75), the lowest-ranked side left in the FA Cup, caused one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history when coming from two goals down to beat Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in round four.
Though eighth in the league and just a point off the play-off zone, they have scored goals for fun in the Cup this season, netting 17 times in their five matches.
The Bantams’ home form has not been stellar, however. They have won just five of their 15 league games.
Sunderland (2.00) are lurching towards the Championship. They are just two points off the Premier League relegation zone and have won just four league games this season. The draw specialists of the top flight – 12 of their 25 games has ended in stalemate – Sunderland’s road form has not been bad at all. Gus Poyet’s side have lost just four of their 12 road games.
This will be the first meeting since 2003, but in 12 of the previous 13 meetings, one or other side has failed to score. It is worth noting that four of the last six clashes yielded three or more goals and while Sunderland have a penchant for a stalemate (the draw is available at 3.15), we think the visitors are worth chancing to win by the odd goal in threeand are the best outright bet of the day at evens (2.00).
VERDICT: Bradford 1 Sunderland 2 @ 8.60
BEST BET: Half-Time Draw @ 2.08
FA Cup favourites Arsenal have lost just once at home in the Premier League all season and have lost to Middlesbrough just once in the last 31 meetings in North London.
That must be the starting point when considering a bet on this clash.
Boro, caused one of the upsets of the fourth round by beating champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium – and their 2-0 win was far from a fluke; they comprehensively outplayed them.
Boro enter this game as the Championship leaders, with the second-best away form in the division, having lost just three of their 15 road games, conceding just 11 goals.
The best Boro can hope for is a draw, which they have managed to earn in four of the last six meetings – the odds for that occurring are 4.50.
Both sides have scored in six of the last eight meetings and while Arsene Wenger’s side remain vulnerable at the back, we think they can win nil.
VERDICT: Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 0 @ 6.80
Two-time FA Cup winners Preston (odds 7:00) last won the famous old trophy in 1938 and have not appeared in an FA Cup final since 1964.
Preston are just four points behind the automatic promotion places in League One and look a decent bet to at least make the playoffs.
They have been extremely hard to beat at Deepdale this season – only Bradford have managed to come away with three points.
Manchester United (1.45), under the leadership of Louis Van Lump-it, have been forced to play some very interesting formations and that has not sat too well with some commentators, particularly BBC 5 Live’s Steve Claridge, who has lampooned Van Gaal for his questionable tactics on numerous occasions.
If it weren’t for the fact that United are picking up points they often have no right to, Van Gaal would be considered something of a laughing stock.
Sam Allardyce, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, refereed to the Red Devils as “long-ball United” after their 1-1 draw last weekend.
It obviously touched a raw nerve, as the arrogant Van Gaal produced a pamphlet, handed out at a press conference, opining that United were nothing of the sort.
He was laughed out of court by Opta Stats, who proved otherwise.
Though they have won just three of the last eight meetings, Lump-it Louis and his United side should have little trouble beating North End, however.
They have won three of the last six meetings at Deepdale and seven of the last 12 meetings yielded three or more goals.
We reckon they can win by two clear goals at least, whatever formation Van Gaal will utilise.
VERDICT: Preston 0 Man Utd 3 @ 8.80
BEST BET: 3 Goals or More @ 1.70
You must be aged 18 or over to bet. Please gamble responsiblywww.gambleaware.co.uk
It is derby weekend in the Premier League, but who will be the donkey?
North London and Merseyside bragging rights are at stake on Saturday, while West Ham’s clash with Manchester United is the biggest game of three on Sunday.
Last week we absolutely slaughtered the bookies with our Super Bowl selections and also found Premier League winners at odds of 6.60, 2.18, 2.30, 1.35, 1.77 and 1.64.
See how we do this week in attempting to predict the outcome of the 10 Premier League games.
All odds quoted from Billingham FC’s betting service billinghamfc.myclubbetting.co.uk
“At some clubs, success is accidental – at Arsenal it is compulsory”. That might be a fitting epitaph for Arsene Wenger when he does quit the Bank of England club. He uttered those famous words and many fans, starved of trophies in recent years, would like to see him choke on them.
Spurs aspire to reaching the Champions League places and winning the Europa League, while Arsenal expect to win the title and the Champions League. Therein lies the gulf between the two.
Yet those gunning for Wenger need to look hard look in the Mirror. They may not win the title, but they are still in the FA Cup and look a fair bet to reach the last eight of the Champions League.
Tottenham are unbeaten in their last six league games at home but have won just half of their 12 games at White Hart Lane and have lost a third of them.
Their penchant for poaching late goals has been quite astounding and the goalscoring exploits of Harry Kane has masked defensive frailty – Spurs have managed just four clean sheets in the last 21 league games.
They have also conceded at least once in their last 13 games against Arsenal, who have won five of the last seven meetings. Tottenham have not yet convinced us they are Champions League candidates and we take the Gunners to earn a narrow victory.
VERDICT: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2 @ 8.60
Villa (Odds: 11.00) have not scored a goal in the league for more than seven matches while Chelsea (1.35) did not have a shot on goal during all of the second half in their clash with Manchester City last weekend.
It seems for the last few seasons that Villa have been about unfulfilled potential and they could yet be embroiled in the nightmare scenario of relegation. A draw, on offer at 4.90, would be considered a fabulous result for under-fire boss Paul Lambert.
Chelsea are five points clear at the top of the table after drawing with City in a game they set out not to lose rather than win.
The home side have won just two of 11 matches played at their own ground this season while Chelsea have the second best away record in the Premier League.
VERDICT: Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 3 @ 14.00
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 2.50
Leicester (odds: 2.32) will have gained confidence from beating Tottenham away from home in the FA Cup, but they are still bottom of the league and adrift by two points.
Palace (3.15) have been rejuvenated under Alan Pardew but could not break Everton down last weekend after conceding an early goal.
No side has won fewer home league matches this season than Leicester and Palace are mid-table on their away form.
This fixture is being played on the back of defeats for both clubs.
However, Leicester performed better in losing 3-1 at Manchester United than Palace did in their loss to Everton at home last weekend and they can earn a much-needed win.
VERDICT: Leicester 2 Crystal Palace 0 @ 6.80
This match must be the home banker of the weekend, as it brings together the side
most likely to win the league if Chelsea falter, and opponents who were poor in defeat at home to Newcastle last Saturday.
Man City (odds: 1.19) have won seven of 11 matches at home in the league this season and for potential champions, that number should be nearer to 11.
City cannot afford to drop points as Chelsea have a winnable fixture at Aston Villa this weekend.
Hull (18.00) have played 12 league matches away home this season and won just two, so the issue is not who will win but what the margin of victory will be.
City have scored almost two goals per game at home and they can win by two goals or more.
VERDICT: Manchester City 3 Hull 1 @ 10.50
BEST BET: Hull to score @ 2.24
Stop Charlie Austin. That’s the simple recipe for beating QPR (odds: 4.50).
Austin has netted 13 of Rangers’ 24 League goals and has not gone three games without finding the net in the league this season. After drawing a blank in the last two, he seems a fair bet to score at any time.
Southampton (1.85) have the fourth-best away record in the division behind Manchester City, but have conceded just nine goals on their travels – the fewest goals conceded on the road.
Rangers have lost just three times at home but have been defeated in three of their last four meetings with the Saints at Loftus Road.
With no wins in the last six, it was no great surprise to see Harry Redknapp limp away before he was pushed, yet what the morale is within the camp is hard to quantify.
Heads could drop if Saints go ahead but we feel this will be far from easy for the visitors, who have a decent percentage of first-half goals.
VERDICT: QPR 1 Southampton 2 @ 8.00
Sunderland (odds: 4.50) enjoyed a welcome boost with an FA Cup win at Craven Cottage in the week and all that stands between them and a place in the last eight is lowly Bradford City.
Suddenly, confidence has returned to Gus Poyet’s side – last weekend’s 2-0 league win over Burnley followed losses by the odd goal to Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Swansea (1.89) have lost just one of their last 11 meetings with Sunderland, however, and are buoyed by their smash-and-grab 1-0 win at Southampton.
To get such a result after their 5-0 home defeat by a rampant Chelsea and an abject display in a 3-1 FA Cup loss at Blackburn will have heartened manager Garry Monk.
But make no mistake: Swansea were battered by Southampton, who had no luck.
There are rarely too many goals when these two meet – seven of the last 11 clashes have yielded less than three goals and there have been five draws in the last eight meetings. The draw is on offer at 3.35.
The draw looks an obvious outcome, but we would not rule out a shock result.
VERDICT: Swansea 2 Sunderland 2 @ 17.00
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 2.00
Daniel Sturridge could start in a league game for the first time this year and Liverpool (odds: 2.22) are a more effective team with the striker in the side.
Everton (3.30) are on a poor run of form but ground out a win at Crystal Palace last weekend – not a bad result in the context of that side’s form since Alan Pardew became their manager.
Brendan Rodgers has learnt from past matches to blend the players he has available into an effective unit.
Everton need to defend better to move out of the bottom half of the league and a draw (3.30) would seem a decent result, given their run of form.
Liverpool have lost just one of their last 18 matches while Everton’s defeat of Palace was their first win in nine matches.
VERDICT: Everton 0 Liverpool 2 @ 11.00
BEST BET: Everton not to score @ 3.15
The losing side could fall into the bottom three pending other results and home advantage could be key.
Despite being 16th in the league, Burnley (odds: 2.52) have won more points at home than six other teams.
Three wins from 12 matches is not a great return but four of those were drawn.
West Brom (2.98) have won only twice away from home in the league this season after 11 matches.
In the context of their respective positions in the league, a draw (3.15) would not be a bad result.
VERDICT: Burnley 1 West Brom 1 @ 5.80
BEST BET: First Goal West Brom @ 1.99
In 65 meetings since 1901, Stoke (odds: 3.30) have managed to beat Newcastle (2.24) on three consecutive occasions just once – and they will be out to repeat the feat on Sunday, having won the last two meetings.
History is against them. The last six meetings have been won by the home side and the Potters have managed just one win at St James’ Park in their last nine attempts.
Newcastle have scored at least once in eight of their last 10 league games, but they are leaking goals at the back, conceding in 10 previous games prior to their 3-0 win at Hull last week.
John Carver’s side have only lost three at home and are safely out of the relegation dogfight. Stoke are just a place above them in tenth and two points separate them.
Those bookie chaps know we are overdue a draw – there has been a positive outcome in the last nine meetings – and the odds are skewed accordingly towards a stalemate (3.25).
High-scoring clashes are not uncommon and the Magpies are worth chancing to bag a couple at least at a big price.
VERDICT: Newcastle 3 Stoke 1 @ 18.00
BEST BET: Stoke to score @ 1.44
Sam Allardyce might not survive much longer at Upton Park. A good start might come to nought.
An FA Cup exit at West Brom next weekend could set the clock ticking a little quicker.
As it is, the Hammers (odds: 4.00) have won one of their last six in the league and they are set for a tough slew of games: playing five of their next six against teams in the top six, starting with Manchester United (1.96).
The Hammers have managed just one win in the last 15 meetings with United, who have won 12 of those encounters.
Manchester United have lost just one of their last 13 in the league, yet Louis van Gaal has used some interesting formations and they have not convinced that they are anything but title also-rans.
Still, it is rare that these sides fail to serve up an entertaining clash and we should expect more of the same.
United’s away from is nothing special – they have drawn six of their 11 road games, winning just three. The Hammers have won seven of their 12 home games and have been relatively solid at the back, but the visitors should have their measure again, the Hammers will continue to slide and a new man will lead them next season – if not before.
And let’s be honest, if the Tweeting son of co-owner David Sullivan does not receive a clip round the ear from Allardyce before too long, it would be the biggest shock of the season. The Academy of Football? It’s being made to look more like the Academy of Fools.
VERDICT: West Ham 1 Man Utd 2 @ 7.40
BEST BET: Half-Time Draw @ 2.12
All odds quoted from Billingham FC’s betting service billinghamfc.myclubbetting.co.uk
You must be aged 18 or over to bet. Please gamble responsibly www.gambleaware.co.uk
Britain’s No.1 American Football handicapper and Lindy’s Sports columnist Simon Milham ties down the trends, stares at the stats and offers some cool, calculated analysis for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX, which takes place at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona.
Underdogs have been a great Super Bowl bet in the last 13 seasons, going 13-3 Against The Handicap/Spread (ATS). Underdogs have won outright in the past three Super Bowls and in five of the last seven. Seattle was a 1.5-point dog last year and defeated Denver 43-8.
Seattle has won five straight postseason games and is seeking to become the ninth team to repeat as Super Bowl champion.
Teams that allowed fewer points in the regular season are 30-17 in the Super Bowl (in 2004 the Patriots and Eagles allowed the same number of points). The Seattle Seahawks conceded 254 points to New England’s 313.
Since 1995, the higher-seeded team has covered the handicap just twice in the last 17 Super Bowls. This is only the third time in 21 seasons that the number one seed from each Conference will meet in the final.
The team whose metropolitan area boasts the lower jobless rate has won 22 of the past 27 Super Bowls. Through November 2014, the unemployment rate for the Seattle metropolitan area was 5.3 percent, compared to 5.4 percent for the Boston metropolitan area.
The New England Patriots have covered the handicap just once in their previous seven Super Bowl appearances (1-5-1 ATS).
New England is 5-10 ATS in the last 15 playoff appearances, although they easily covered the spread in a 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games against NFC West opponents.
Seattle is 4-2-1 ATS in the last seven playoff games, but failed to cover the handicap in a 28-22 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.
Backing the Underdog on the handicap and backing Over on the points total was a successful formula in the last two Super Bowls. However, that combination has never been successful in three straight season finales.
Favourites have a 33-15 record in the Super Bowl but are just 26-18-2 against the handicap. There have only been six instances where the favourite won the game but failed to cover the handicap. Those outcomes occurred in 1976, 1989, 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2009. So if you fancy the favourite, the trends favour also backing them to beat the handicap.
The NFC Champion Seahawks hope to extend a 6-1 ATS run for NFC teams in the Super Bowl.
The Points Total has gone Over the Vegas line in the last three games between the Seahawks and the Patriots.
The points total went Over the Vegas line five times in New England’s last six games against teams from the NFC West division.
Favourites have lost the last three straight Super Bowls and five of the last seven overall. If the line stays as it is (with New England +1.5 points), it will be the just the third time since 1980 that the Super Bowl spread was that small. It was Denver -2 vs. Seattle last year, and New England -2.5 vs. the New York Giants three years ago. The underdogs won both those games.
The points total has gone under the Vegas line in six of the last eight Super Bowls when the line was set at 47 points or higher.
In Super Bowl history, the points total has gone over the Vegas line 24 times, and gone under 24 times
The Seahawks have lost by more than a touchdown just once since the middle of the 2011 season – a 30-21 defeat at San Diego in Week 2 this season.
Since 1978, seven defending champions have returned to the Super Bowl the following year. Those teams went 5-2 straight-up and 4-3 against-the-spread
Teams playing in consecutive Super Bowls as an underdog are 0-5 SU & ATS.
Patriots are 1-4 ATS against Top 10 run defences and 1-6 ATS versus Top 10 run offenses this season.
Seattle’s defence ranked first in the NFL in fewest points allowed (254) and their offense was tied at first in rushing yards (2,762).
Favourites of 3 or fewer points are just 3-8 ATS in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots are 1-9 ATS in their last 10 games on natural grass. The Seahawks are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games on the real stuff.
Overall, the best team (as measured by regular season record) has won 25 and lost 15 Super Bowls. The other eight games involved teams with identical regular season records. Both Seattle and New England boast identical 12-4 records.
New England’s Tom Brady already owns a number of postseason records and can join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl victories. Brady has thrown a record 49 scoring passes in the postseason and is two shy of tying Montana (11) for the most Super Bowl TD passes.
In the last 19 Super Bowls, on only three occasions has the favoured team won and the points total gone over the Vegas line (Denver 1999, Baltimore 2000 and Green Bay 2012).
Designated away teams have won 28 of 48 Super Bowls to date. White-shirted teams have won 30 of 48 Super Bowls to date. New England is the designated ‘away’ team this time and they will also wear white jerseys.
Since 2000, the Patriots are 11-4 in season openers and 11-4 off a bye week in the regular season. They are 10-3 after a week’s rest in the playoffs.
Sleepless in Seattle? Rest is not so beneficial to the Seahawks. Since 1990, Seattle is 11-14 in season openers and 10-21 coming off their bye week in the regular season or after a week’s rest in the playoffs.
New England’s attack begins and ends on the arm of 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who is 3-2 in five Super Bowl appearances.
He has completed 127 of 197 passes for 1,277 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has a 93.8 quarterback rating and hasn’t had lower than a 86.2 quarterback rating in five Super Bowl starts.
Seattle ended the 2014 regular season with six consecutive victories, all coming by at least 10 points, and they topped the Carolina Panthers by 14 points in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The 22 points scored by Green Bay in the NFC Championship game were the most Seattle allowed in a game since Week 11. They have not conceded more than 30 points in any game this season.
Led by the “Legion of Boom,” the Seahawks’ defence has been the most dominant unit in all of football. They surrendered the fewest total points in the regular season.
However they have a few injury concerns, in particular to cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated a shoulder against the Packers. That is a serious issue when faced with one of the purest passers in history.
The key for Seattle is to take away the short and intermediate underneath passing routes and force Brady to air the ball out, because if Julian Edelman gets on a roll, that opens up the seams for tight end Rob Gronkowski. Take a look at the MVP markets, because if Kam Chancellor has a big night shackling Gronk, Seattle will win.
Seattle’s top-ranked ground attack, spearheaded by ‘Beast Mode’ Marshawn Lynch, takes on a New England defence that ranked 13th overall (344.1 yards per game) and ninth against the run (104.3 yards per game) during the regular season.
In nine career postseason games, Lynch has gained 100 or more yards five times and scored eight touchdowns.
Finding a way of bottling him up is the Patriots’ biggest key to slowing Seattle’s attack, because he actually leads the team with four touchdown receptions. Nine other Seahawks have caught a touchdown this season, but leading receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse combined for just 1,362 yards and four touchdowns. Their attack is hardly prolific.
And the Patriots’ defence is better than advertised. They’ve allowed 17 points and 327.4 yards in the last nine games, winning all but two. They also have the best man coverage in football and that is a massive problem for the Seahawks, who rely heavily on wheel routes, which the Patriots are very capable of nullifying.
Patriots will attack Seattle’s right tackle with their pass rush. Alvin Bailey or Justin Britt, neither of whom are great pass defenders when in isolation, will be faced with plenty of twists and stunts which worked effectively in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots’ defence forced just 25 turnovers in the regular season (including eight forced fumbles and nine interceptions) and another five in playoff games against Baltimore and Indianapolis.
Seattle’s offensive line is not that brilliant. Russell Wilson has a great awareness and instinctiveness, an uncanny ability to know where his receivers are. The Seahawks were third in the NFL with 17 plays of 20 or more yards this season, and Wilson led all quarterbacks with 849 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Yet he may well be scrambling for his life, even against a tepid New England pass rush. Wilson is more aggressive with his legs when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter or in overtime, and with the Patriots generally utilising a four-man pass-rush, you can be siure Bill Belichick worries about a running lane for the quarterback.
New England’s linebacking corps of Rob Ninkovic, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower could have a big say in the outcome.
Even so, if there is a bet for multiple sacks on Wilson, take a good look.
New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (35-of-37 FG attempts) almost never misses, while Julian Edelman is a superb punt returner. Seattle recovered an onside kick and won in overtime against the Packers.
Seahawks’ Steven Hauschka made just 9-of-13 FG attempts from 40-to-49 yards this season and their return game has slipped a notch from last year.
Betting Market – There has been quite a swing since the opening lines were announced two weeks ago. Seattle were initially as big as 2.5-point favourites, but the money has since come for the Patriots, who are currently one-point favourites. That’s the equivalent of a field-goal swing, which is a significant move, particularly in a game of this magnitude.
The Stadium – It seems a little ridiculous that Wembley can sell over 83,000 tickets for three regular-season NFL games each year, yet for the big game itself, only 63,400 people will be inside the University of Phoenix Stadium. The NFL says it plans to keep the retractable roof open at the stadium, which goes against the grain. The Cardinals, who play their home games in the stadium, did not play a single game with the roof open this season. The Super Bowl host stadium has not only a retractable roof but a movable field – the only one of its kind in the US. The field slides inside and outside on a set of rails, motors and wheels. The natural grass field is frequently voted by players around the league as their favourite playing surface.
The Footballs – No advantage for New England, who have faced accusations that they cheated by using deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game. No doubt Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Sami Sosa, Ben Johnson and Mark Maguire will issue a joint statement defending Bill Belichick and Tom Brady shortly.
Turnovers – Out of 48 Super Bowl champions, only four of them lost the turnover battle in the big game. That’s just 8.3% of all Super Bowl winners: The 2005 Steelers lost it by one, the 1988 49ers lost it by one, the 1979 Steelers lost it by two, and the 1970 Baltimore Colts lost it by three.
Only eight of the 48 Super Bowl winners ended up tying the turnover battle, so overall, 75% of the teams that won the Super Bowl also won the turnover battle. The Patriots are currently +3 in the playoffs, having won the turnover battle in each of their two games. They were +12 in the regular season. The Seahawks are currently 0 in the playoffs, but are +10 in the regular season.
The Patriots’ aggressive run defence, which features linebacker blitzes is a boom-or-bust intangible. There is no guarantee it will work against a zone-blocking team like Seattle, who will patiently stick with the run even if they trail. One cut from Lynch and that run defence could give up a chunk of yards.
Injuries to Sherman and Thomas are significant hits for Seattle to overcome, especially against a well-oiled attack led by arguably the greatest quarterback in history. Still, if they play anywhere near the level they did last year against an equally talented Denver attack, then the Seahawks may repeat.
We will go with the favourite – whoever that may be on the day. We suspect New England.
VERDICT: New England 24 Seattle 20
After the romance (and the shocks) of the FA Cup, it is back to Premier League reality this weekend. There are some huge games, no more so than a potential title decider between Chelsea and Manchester City.
Last week we managed to find winners of 1.4, 2.12. 2.00, 1.98, 2.12, 2.16 and 1.53. We’ll give ourselves a grade F and a ‘must do better’. See how we do this week with predicting the outcome of the 10 Premier League games.
This looks a must-win game for manager Steve Bruce and Hull (odds: 2.58), as they are now in the relegation places after losing their last three matches without scoring a goal.
Newcastle (2.92) have found a modicum of off-field stability since replacing Alan Pardew with John Carver and they are in relative mid-table safety, eight points above the bottom three.
The nightmare scenario of relegation now looks unlikely, but the Geordies have won just one of the last seven meetings with Hull.
However, this fixture has not produced a home win in seven meetings. The draw is available at 3.10.
In terms of goals, the last three matches have produced more than two goals and Hull have scored at least once six times in the last seven fixtures between the sides.
VERDICT: Hull 1 Newcastle 1 @ 5.80
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 1.97
This is fixture with a recent history of producing goals: seven of the last eight meetings have seen more than two successful strikes.
Another defeat for the Blues could see them drop as low as 17th, but they are still a competent outfit and can avoid defeat in London.
Everton have scored at least twice in six of the last eight meetings. Palace have never won three consecutive matches at home against Everton and have won the last two.
However, home advantage has not helped the side recently, as they have won just one of the last meetings with Everton at Selhurst Park.
VERDICT: Crystal Palace 2 Everton 3 @ 36.00
BEST BET: Over 2.5 goals @ 2.26
Liverpool (odds: 1.66) have rediscovered some of the swagger of last season, despite the loss of Daniel Sturridge and departure of Luis Suarez.
Any side would miss players of that calibre and Sturridge looks close to returning to the side after a lengthy injury absence.
West Ham (5.30) have become tough to beat and are in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
However, the Hammers have won just three of the last 24 meetings and have not won at Anfield since 1963. Neither have they won back-to-back games with the Reds since 1964. And Steven Gerrard always seems to have his better days when playing against the Hammers, who will be glad to see the back of him when he quits Anfield.
History suggests this could be a regulation home win, but West Ham can score in a fixture in which 10 of the last 12 have seen more than three goals. We reckon Liverpool are banker material.
VERDICT: Liverpool 3 West Ham 1 @ 12.00
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 1.71
Leicester (9.80) will be on a high after beating Tottenham away from home in the FA Cup.
However, they are still at the bottom of the table after just four wins in 22 matches, two of which were on the road.
United (1.33) have lost two of 11 league fixtures at Old Trafford this season but Leicester are not likely to make that three.
Louis van Gaal’s side have won nine of the last 10 meetings, while Leicester have won only three of the last 26 fixtures between the sides.
Seven of those Man Utd wins have been achieved without conceding a goal and they have not dropped a point against Leicester in the last four meetings in Salford.
BEST BET: Half-Time Draw @2.64
Relegation is a distinct possibility for Harry Redknapp’s side, while Stoke are just above half way and currently free of relegation worries.
Over the last 10 fixtures QPR have won five – two more than Stoke – and two of these fixtures have ended as draws.
Stoke have lost four of 10 matches at home in the league this season which suggests some vulnerability.
The QPR losing run away from home can’t continue but while this would appear to be a match in which they can finally avoid defeat away from their own ground, they won’t.
VERDICT: Stoke 2 QPR 0 @ 6.80
BEST BET: Stoke lead at half time @ 2.18
Sunderland (odds: 2.18) boast the worst home record in the Premier League, with just one win and nine points from 11 games at the Stadium of Light-weights.
Burnley (3.55) have the third-worst away record in the division, having won just one of their 10 road games. Something has to give. Or does it?
Given there have been five draws in the last 11 meetings between the two and Sunderland’s penchant for a stalemate (11 of their 22 league games have been drawn), this relegation scrap could end honours even. The draw is on offer at 3.20.
That might be a little too obvious, however. Sunderland have won five of the last eight meetings, with two draws, and one defeat. That is a fairly reasonable trend to put our faith in.
Another historic trend worth noting is that both sides have scored in seven of their last nine meetings.
Sunderland have lost four of their last five and have won one of their last 12 Premier League games. It is high time they gave their fans something to cheer about.
VERDICT: Sunderland 2 Burnley 1 @ 8.40
BEST BET: Sunderland Over 1.5 goals @ 2.30
West Brom (2.86) and manager Tony Pulis may have their eyes on Wembley, following a favourable home draw against West Ham in the FA Cup fifth round.
But their Premier League form is troubling. The Baggies sit just three points off the drop zone, having lost 10 of their 21 games. They have won just three at home and face a Tottenham Side who have lost just two of their last 11 games.
Even with a quality striker in Saido Berahino, West Brom do not hold too many fears for Spurs (2.54), as the Londoners have lost just one of the last 10 meetings.
Given that Albion have not won successive meetings with Tottenham since 1984 and that they have won just two of the last 11 meetings at home, Tony Pulis’s side look to be up against history as well as one of the top six road teams in the league.
Only Aston Villa (11) and Sunderland (19) have scored fewer goals than Albion’s tally of 20 and the first goal could be crucial. The best the Baggies can hope for is a draw.
VERDICT: West Brom 1 Tottenham 2 @ 9.40
BEST BET: Tottenham to Score @ 1.35
The odds for both Chelsea and Manchester City to go out of the FA Cup a home to lower-league opposition at last weekend’s fourth-round stage was 285/1. Who saw that coming? Not us.
Given City’s last two performances at home – crashing 2-0 to Arsenal in the league and by the same score to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup – there won’t be too many people rushing to back them to reel in the Londoners.
Yet Chelsea themselves are having a bit of a wobble.
Thumped 4-2 at home by Bradford in the FA Cup, Jose Mourinho’s side were also fortunate that Liverpool failed to convert a host of chances in their two League Cup semi-final clashes.
The Blues were outclassed at times by Liverpool. The Anfield club created a boatload of chances and striker Mario Balotelli did what he does best. He is becoming about as useful in front of goal as Anne Frank’s drum kit.
The match of the weekend could not be harder to fathom, but we can at least rely on City to find the net, as they have done at least once in eight of the last 10 meetings.
City have the best road record in the division and have lost just one of their last five trips to Stamford Bridge. For Manuel Pellegrini’s side, losing is unthinkable and given Chelsea’s midweek exertions, City look the value bet.
VERDICT: Chelsea 1 Man City 1 @ 6.60
BEST BET: Double Chance – Draw or Man City @ 1.77
Arsenal are on a roll. They followed up their unexpected 2-0 win at Manchester City with a solid FA Cup win at Brighton and a favourable home draw against Championship side Middlesbrough. Silverware is well within reach.
With five wins and a draw from their last seven league games, the Gunners (odds: 1.26) are just a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United and have winnable games upcoming against Villa, Tottenham, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Everton and QPR. That should see them comfortably in the top four.
The Gunners have lost just three of their last 33 games against Villa (odds: 14.00) and although those three defeats all came on home soil, Arsene Wenger’s side should not have any trouble against a side that have not won in seven and failed to find the net in their last five league games.
Equally, this game has the biggest potential for an upset.
Nine of the last 10 meetings yielded three goals or more and this is a trend that should be a friend.
VERDICT: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0 @ 7.20
BEST BET: Arsenal to lead at half-time @ 1.64
Two wins in the last eight league games (including no win in four) has seen Garry Monk’s side slide down the table. They are currently 10 points off the Champions League places and 11 points off the relegation zone.
Southampton, unbeaten in their last six (five wins and a draw), have won the last three meetings with Swansea to nil. They have the third-best home record in the division and only Chelsea (three in 10 games) have conceded fewer goals than the seven (from 11) allowed by the Saints.
Goals have been at a premium in previous clashes, with fewer than three goals scored in each of the last five clashes. This is the final game of the weekend and the best might just be saved until last. Expect the Saints to march on, getting the better of an entertaining clash.
VERDICT: Southampton 2 Swansea 0 @ 6.40
BEST BET: HT Correct Score 1-0 @ 3.35
The grind of the league gives way to the romance of the F.A. Cup this weekend – and we take a look at the big matches and where to put your money.
Last week we managed Premier League winners at odds of 7.40, 2.32, 1.73, 1.86, 1.50. See how we get on with predicting the outcome of this weekend’s FA Cup fixtures.
All odds quoted from afctitans.myclubbetting.co.uk
Some real FA Cup romance as the lowest team still left in the competition meet arguably the most famous club in the world.
It would be a massive blow to Manchester United (Odds: 1.22) should they lose, even though qualifying for the Champions League is their main objective.
Even if Louis van Gaal plays his second string, they should have enough quality to win cosily.
Cambridge (14.00) are currently 12th in League Two and the gulf in class should be reflected in the score.
BEST BET: Half Time – Manchester United @ 1.53
Swansea City (Odds: 2.28) arrive in Lancashire on the back of their worst performance of the season – a 5-0 Premier League hammering at home by Chelsea.
The Blues are the best side in England, but were handed goals through poor defending and individual errors.
Swansea have won just two of 10 matches played on the road in the league this season.
Blackburn (3.05) have lost three of 13 matches at their own stadium in the Championship and while they may be able to avoid defeat, Swansea may well have enough up front to get them through to the fifth round.
BEST BET: Swansea and Over 2.5 Goals @ 3.50
A fascinating Midlands derby brings together Birmingham (Odds: 3.80), who are 17th in the Championship, and West Brom (1.96), who are gradually moving away from the relegation places in the Premier League.
West Brom are now managed by Tony Pulis who has never taken a club down in his career.
The Baggies are unbeaten in three matches and defended well in holding Everton to a goalless draw at Goodison Park on Monday. Another low-scoring draw is anticipated.
BEST BET: Draw at half time @ 2.02
These two sides that are both in the bottom half of the Championship. Cardiff (Odds: 2.36) are five places and four points ahead of Reading (2.82) and can make home advantage pay and progress to the fifth round.
The Welsh side have the fifth-best home record in the league having won eight of 13 fixtures at their own stadium this season.
Reading have only won twice on the road and have conceded 29 goals in 13 away fixtures. They are unlikely to improve that record at the home of the Bluebirds.
VERDICT: Cardiff City 2 Reading 0 @ 12.0
BEST BET: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.96
That means the main issue of debate is the margin of victory and it may not be too substantial.
The match comes in the middle of some massive fixtures for Jose Mourinho’s side, including the home match with Manchester City in the league and a League Cup semi-final second leg at home to Liverpool in midweek.
Mourinho respects the Cup competitions, and while he won’t play the reserves, he may rest several key players. Bradford can keep the score down to a respectable margin.
VERDICT: Chelsea 3 Bradford 0 @ 5.80
BEST BET: Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.40
This tie will be huge in Derbyshire as it brings together the two biggest clubs in the county.
Derby (Odds: 1.56) scraped through the last round by beating Conference side Southport with a penalty in injury time.
It took the introduction of their two best players to decide the tie and they have since lost to Nottingham Forest in the league in arguably their biggest match of the season.
Chesterfield (5.80) have won just three of 13 away matches in League One this season and avoiding defeat looks beyond them.
VERDICT: Derby County 2 Chesterfield 1 @ 7.40
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 1.85
Manchester City (Odds: 1.27) were stunned by Arsenal in the league last weekend and will want to get their season back on track by winning this clash by several goals.
Sergio Aguero hardly got a kick against Arsenal but, if selected, will be feel he can score at least once.
City are generally hard to beat at the Etihad but have failed to win four of 11 matches at home in the league this season.
Boro (10.50) are genuine title contenders in the Championship and have the second-best away record in the league, but do not have the ability to avoid defeat.
BEST BET: 2 or 3 goals Scored @ 2.12
How much did Sheffield United’s FA Cup semi-final first-leg against Spurs take out of Nigel Clough’s side? That is an imponderable in what should be a fascinating tie.
There have been three draws in the last five meetings and six of the last seven meetings were deadlocked at the interval. Tough call, but the Blades’ recent Cup exploits cannot be ignored.
VERDICT: Preston 0 Sheffield United 0 @ 8.20
BEST BET: Half-Time Draw @ 2.00
Would you take a Champions League spot or a win a Cup? It is a relevant question to teams like Southampton (Odds: 1.59), Liverpool, West Ham and Tottenham.
In Southampton’s case, they are playing with the house money and are not expected to maintain their league position. The FA Cup, which they last won in 1976 when Bobby Stokes netted an 86th-minute winner against Manchester United, should be a priority.
Palace (5.70) are unbeaten in four away games. This is not even a miss-print. The last time they went unbeaten in five on the road was in the Championship in 2012. And that doesn’t count.
Saints won six of the last seven meetings and held Palace goalless in five of those.
BEST BET: Half Time Draw @ 2.12
Sunderland have won one of their last 12 in the Premier League, while Championship Fulham are mid-table mediocre, with only bottom-of-the-table Blackpool having lost more games.
The Black Cats have won just two of the last 10 meetings with the Cottagers, who are unbeaten in their last five trips to the Stadium of Light-weights. A draw would not be a shock.
VERDICT: Sunderland 2 Fulham 2 @ 15.00
BEST BET: Both teams to Score @ 1.85
Already well on course for one trip to Wembley, holding a 1-0 League Cup semi-final first-leg lead over Sheffield United, and unbeaten in their last six league games at home, Tottenham (Odds: 1.65) appear to have a relatively straightforward task to reach the Fifth round.
Leicester (5.00) have shown signs of life recently, winning three and drawing one of their last five league and Cup games, but have conceded a combined nine goals in their last three trips to White Hart Lane.
Draws are rare when these two meet (just one in the last 12). We expect goals and a home win.
BEST BET: 4 goals or more @ 2.70
The return of former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey, 37, who made 223 appearances and scored 60 goals for the Reds, is something of an FA Cup fairytale.
But the cold, hard facts are these: Liverpool (Odds: 1.30) have managed to lose just once in their last 15 games in all competitions and have beaten Bolton on their last 10 meetings at Anfield.
Bolton (9.80) are on a run of one defeat in 12, despite languishing 11 points behind those currently in the Championship playoff positions.
Yet given their soaring confidence, betting against Liverpool is like replacing Terry Wogan with Chris Evans on BBC Radio2. Incomprehensible.
VERDICT: Liverpool 3 Bolton 0 @ 7.80
BEST BET: Bolton not to score @ 1.98
Bristol City (Odds: 3.65) look certainties for promotion to the Championship. Steve Cotterill’s young side have lost just three times in League One this season.
The Hammers (1.97) won a titanic Third round replay with nemesis Everton, but needed penalties to progress and now face another bogey side – West Ham have managed to beat the Robins just once in six attempts and have never at Ashton Gate.
Most Hammers’ fans will not thank co-owner David Sullivan for saying he thinks West Ham could win the Premier League and the Champions League within five years. Still, it is good to know optimism is still legal in some parts of East London. We think it is justified, despite conceding in all 11 League and Cup games on the road this season.
VERDICT: Bristol City 0 West Ham 2 @ 8.80
BEST BET: Half-Time Draw @ 2.12
Aston Villa (Odds: 2.34) have had more trouble scoring than a eunuch at a nuns’ convention. More vanilla than thriller, their strikeforce has a habit of doing just enough to tease not please.
It has been over seven hours since they netted. It is rumoured you can receive a satisfactory outcome from Vodafone’s customer service department in less time.
Okay, we are stretching a point, but Championship Bournemouth (2.96) have already faced Premier League opposition in Liverpool this season. While knowing what is required after giving the Reds a real test, a draw is probably the best the Cherries can hope for.
VERDICT: Aston Villa 1 Bournemouth 1 @ 6.00
BEST BET: HT/FT Bournemouth-Draw @ 14.00
Arsenal (Odds: 1.53) have won four of their last six matches in the Premier League and three from six away from home. The Gunners can win this with a bit to spare.
Despite Champions League qualification being a priority, the Cup is still an important competition for the manager and club.
Brighton (6.00) will see staying in the division as their main objective for the season but will not want a decisive defeat to effect confidence. This match is unlikely to provide the shock of the fourth round.
VERDICT: Brighton 0 Arsenal 3 @ 9.60
BEST BET: Arsenal @ 1.53
MULTIPLE CHOICE: Arsenal 1.53, Liverpool 1.30, Cardiff 2.36 – a successful £20 accumulator would return £73.88
All odds quoted from afctitans.myclubbetting.co.uk are correct at the time of going to print and are subject to change.