WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

There were plenty of FA Cup shocks last week – and a few in the Premier League in midweek. Will results be easier to predict this weekend?

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all the games in England’s top flight.

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Chelsea v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group G

CHELSEA v ARSENAL

Saturday, 12.30pm

Draws are few and far between when these two meet – just three stalemates in the last 22 in fact – but that’s what we fancy in this one. We are on a run of nine meetings where either one or the other team failed to score, so we can probably go against the grain on that one as well. That should be a bettor’s philosophy – go against the grain, as in the long run, you may find yourself better off. Trusting our own eyes, Chelsea (10/11) looked as though they would settle for a point at Liverpool in midweek and that is what they got. They would have been un-backable to win the title had they not missed a penalty, and as it is, Arsenal (3/1) are still within sight. Yet unless they win, they can kiss any thoughts of a title goodbye. They will just be happy to remain in the top four after losing at home to Watford, who lost at Millwall in the FA Cup last week. This makes Millwall better than Arsenal in our eyes. Cue complaints from the selfie-stick brigade.

VERDICT: CHELSEA 1 ARSENAL 1 @ 11/2

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 8/11 

Allardyce twat 2.jpg

CRYSTAL PALACE v SUNDERLAND

Saturday 3pm

A Championship fixture masquerading as a Premier League game. In truth, Sunderland (17/4) have been circling the relegation plug-hole for a while and you have to feel just a bit sorry for David Moyes, who started his tenure with very little to work with on the pitch, and found the cupboard was bare off it. It is a gamble selling Patrick van Aanholt to Crystal Palace (4/6) to fund a mini-recruitment drive. Getting full-back Bryan Oviedo and the oft-injured Darron Gibson from Everton was not a bad piece of business, though. They are only five points adrift of safety but while securing a valuable point against Tottenham, Sunderland could have done without fellow strugglers Hull and Palace picking up points in midweek. Palace secured three points for the first time since Sam Allardyce (above) took over when winning 2-0 at slumping Bournemouth. The Black Cats have won on their last two trips to Selhurst Park and the side playing at home has won just one of the last eight meetings. Palace are leaky, Sunderland are capable of snatching a point, but the odds suggest they won’t.

VERDICT: CRYSTAL PALACE 2 SUNDERLAND 1 @ 15/2

BEST BET: HT/FT = DRAW/CRYSTAL PALACE @ 10/3

Eddie HOWE

EVERTON v BOURNEMOUTH

Saturday 3pm

Things have gone from bad to worse for Bournemouth (4/1), with striker Callum Wilson suffering a serious knee injury. The Cherries have shipped three goals in nine of their last 14 games and conceded twice against Watford and Crystal Palace in the two outings, so it is easy to see where the problem lies. This is a critical stage of the season for the likeable Eddie Howe (above) and they have taken a big step back since beating Liverpool 4-3 at the Vitality Stadium. Everton (8/11) were a little fortunate to win 1-0 at Crystal Palace and a 1-1 draw at Stoke in midweek was commendable. Seventh in the table and one home defeat says all we need to know. It won’t be long before the players go on their holidays, as they have little to play for except mid-table jostling, but for now, the form team are a short price for a reason. We’ll take an odd result here, though. Just because.

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 BOURNEMOUTH 2 @ 14/1

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 8/11

Jurgen Klopp 1.jpg

HULL v LIVERPOOL

Saturday 3pm

It must come as a relief to Jurgen Klopp’s (above) men to play away from Anfield, where Liverpool (4/9) have lost three of their last four in all competitions, a run only halted by a gritty 1-1 draw with Chelsea in midweek. Then again, Hull (13/2) have won two of the last three meetings at home with Liverpool, drawing the other. The last time the Reds won on Humberside was in April 2009 – and that was when Hull had a player sent off with the score at 1-1 (they went on to lose 3-1). Liverpool are out to 16/1 for the title and we don’t think they will get close to Chelsea (who are as big as 3/10 in that market with MCB, when 1/5 elsewhere). Three of Hull’s four wins have come at home and Liverpool have only lost twice on the road. We can see Klopp’s inconsistent side putting on a rare show of strength to grind out a win.

VERDICT: HULL 0 LIVERPOOL 2 @ 11/2

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL TO WIN @ 4/9

Andy Carroll plane.jpg

SOUTHAMPTON v WEST HAM

Saturday 3pm

Somewhere it is written in tablets of stone that West Ham (15/4) shall not win on the South coast. They win at Southampton (3/4) as often as Andy Carroll is fit – or once in a blue moon. In fact, they have not won at St Mary’s since 2000 and those looking for an historical banker bet may wish to consider this. Four wins in 32 trips. That’s the size of it. Southampton have won the last two meetings, but you have to go back to 1998 to see a run of three successive wins against the Hammers. There have been five draws in the last 11 meetings and given their in-and-out form, a point is probably all Slaven Bilic’s men will be able to muster. However, given their 4-0 home drubbing by Manchester City in midweek, we see the Saints edging this.

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 3 WEST HAM 1 @ 14/1

BEST BET: SOUTHAMPTON TO WIN @ 3/4

Everton v Watford - Premier League

WATFORD v BURNLEY

Saturday 3pm

Let’s just say it probably won’t be the first game we see on Match of the Day. Unless it finishes 5-5, but even then we’d bet against it. This game is as fashionable as your local charity shop sale rail. Yet these two sides have one thing in common – they do try and play attractive football. Five of the last seven meetings have been drawn. It is all about survival for these minnows, possibly more so in Watford’s case since they sold Ighalo (above) to some unpronounceable Chinese team you have never heard of. No less than 13 of the last 16 meetings has seen both sides score and that’s almost as good a stat as this one that we’ll give you for nothing: The New England Patriots are the visitors in Sunday’s Super Bowl, so they get to call the coin toss. They have called ‘heads’ every time in the last two seasons. Can you tell we are not too bothered about this game? Good. We aren’t.

VERDICT: WATFORD 3 BURNLEY 2 @ 33/1

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 13/10

MARK HUGHES

WEST BROM v STOKE

Saturday 3pm

Eighth-placed West Brom (5/4) take on nine-placed Stoke (9/4) in a game only a mother could love. West Brom are enjoying a great season under Tony Pulis, while Mark Hughes’ (above) side have been quietly climbing the table without getting too much attention. The Baggies have scored as many goals as Manchester City at home this season, while Stoke’s three wins and three draws from 11 on the road is not too shabby, either. With respective managers who demand discipline, it is no huge surprise that they have shared just one red card between them all season. Neither side is going anywhere, but it is a ‘Derby’, so the intensity should be ramped up a little. Stoke have not won a game in the last four meetings and the last time they went five in a row without getting one over on West Brom was in 1969. A rare home defeat is the call.

VERDICT: WEST BROM 0 STOKE 1 @ 7/1

BEST BET: STOKE TO WIN @ 9/4

Harry Kane

TOTTENHAM v MIDDLESBROUGH

Saturday 5.30pm

The title door was open a jar when Chelsea were held at Liverpool, but as is invariably the case, Tottenham (1/4) fluffed their lines in failing to beat Sunderland, having previously fluked their way past Wycombe in a 4-3 FA Cup thriller – with a goal in the seventh minute of added time. Even our in-house ref, who played 40 minutes in the first half of his Sunday game (because he forgot it was 45 mins) and added it on in the second half, still didn’t play 97-plus minutes. Some of the refereeing in the EPL is bordering on shambolic. We digress. Tottenham still have the most realistic shot of catching Chelsea, even if they have played below-par in the last couple of weeks. At Sunderland they had one shot in the first half but were better after the break, yet they failed to close the nine-point gap. One of Boro’s (11/1) more creative players Gaston Ramirez has a knee injury and with the want-away midfielder seemingly unhappy, you have to wonder what the mood in the camp is, particularly since they are embroiled in a relegation dogfight. They have collected just three points form their last six games and a trip to a Spurs side keen to put matters right won’t be pretty. No doubt Harry Kane (above) will get on the scoresheet if he plays, but we go for the HT/FT Spurs win instead as our best bet.

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 4 MIDDLESBROUGH 0

BEST BET: HT/FT = TOTTENHAM/TOTTENHAM @ 4/5

aguero

MAN CITY v SWANSEA

Sunday 1.30pm

A touch of normalcy returned to the sky blue half of Manchester in midweek. A trip to West Ham is as great a tonic as seeing near neighbours United held to a goalless draw with Hull. City’s (1/5) goal difference summarily boosted, they welcome a Swansea (12/1) side that have never managed to take a point on any of the last seven trips to City. And the hosts have a bloke called Jesus playing for them now. Life can be a bit cruel sometimes.

VERDICT: MAN CITY 3 SWANSEA 0 @ 6/1

BEST BET: HT/FT = MAN CITY/MAN CITY @ 4/6

Wayne Rooney1

LEICESTER v MAN UTD

Sunday 4pm

They said Leicester (9/2) could never win the title – until they did. They said a title winner could never be relegated the following season… The sad fact is, one player can, indeed make a team. The loss of Ngolo Kante to Chelsea has produced some horrifying results. Leicester simply don’t do the basis well any more. Kante closed space, harried opponents and gave his teammates time. They defended from the front. They can’t even defend at the back, now. It isn’t difficult. It is basic hard work. But when you are paid that much, why work for it? And that’s the problem with Premier League football. Too much money. Too much lethargy. Or that is the simplistic view, in any case. We could go on about how to defend between the lines etc, but sometimes it really is teaching you lot to suck eggs. You’ve got the talking TV heads for that. United (4/6) have been mid-table ordinary but rarely lose here and have failed to score just once in their last 12 visits. Wayne Rooney (above) is always a viable bet to score at any time but we go for Over 2.5 Goals as our best bet.

VERDICT: LEICESTER 0 MAN UTD 3 @ 10/1

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 21/20

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s FA Cup & Premier League Guide

Your improved club betting service has some great football offers. Check them out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did. Get your club its own service – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

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Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches in the FA Cup quarter-finals and the Premier League…

FA CUP

READING v CRYSTAL PALACE

Reading (3.20) have become extremely hard to beat under Brian McDermott, particularly when playing in front of their own fans. The Royals haven’t lost at home in any competition during 2016, and were convincing winners against Premier League West Brom at the Madejski in the last round.

PARDEW (1)
Pardew: Controversial figure

Things have really gone downhill for Crystal Palace (2.25) in recent weeks. The Eagles’ recent FA Cup victories over Southampton, Stoke and Tottenham have provided a welcome distraction from their wretched league form. Alan Pardew’s men haven’t managed a win in any of their last 12 league games and have lost a staggering eight times in that period.

Garath McCleary is without a doubt, Reading’s most dangerous player. The Jamaican international is an old fashioned winger, who enjoys hugging the touchline, beating full-backs and providing strikers with good service. McCleary also has the odd wonder goal in his locker, taking the opportunity to shoot from distance whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Alan Pardew’s first managerial role was at Reading. Pardew took charge at the Madejski in 1999, becoming a popular figure with the Royals’ faithful after guiding the club to the old ‘First Division’ during his tenure. However, his success didn’t go un-noticed and things turned ugly when West Ham made an approach for Pardew in 2003. After a spell of gardening leave and an eventual resignation, Pardew eventually left Reading for Upton Park – something that Royals fans have never forgiven him for.

Games between these two sides usually produce goals. In their last eight clashes, Reading and Crystal Palace have shared an impressive 29 goals, with six of those meetings ending with more than two goals.

We can’t split these two, and see this one going to a replay after a scoring draw. [CC]

VERDICT: READING 2 C. PALACE 2 @ 15.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.15

EVERTON v CHELSEA

Everton (2.70) will be cursing their luck after surrendering a two-goal lead during their loss to West Ham last weekend, especially after star striker Romelu Lukaku missed a penalty with his side 2-0 to the good.

LUKAKU (1)
Lukaku: Facing former club

Chelsea (2.50) were punished by Stoke last time out, after making wholesale changes in preparation for their game with PSG on Wednesday night. Despite leading 1-0 for a long period at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea couldn’t hold on, eventually conceding a late Mame Diouf goal to draw 1-1.

Romelu Lukaku was a Chelsea player for three years. However, he only made 10 league appearances before being sold to Everton for £28m in 2014, after a successful loan spell.

In truth, the powerful Belgian striker struggled in his first season as a permanent Everton player. However, he has more than made up for that during this campaign. Lukaku has been wonderful this season, and while his 18 league goals have caught the attention, it has been his hold-up play and use of the ball that has impressed the more knowledgeable football fan.

Chelsea’s away form has been superb in 2016. Since the turn of the year, Guus Hiddink’s men have taken 13 points from a possible 15 on the road – conceding just two goals in the five-game period.

Goals are usually on the agenda when these two sides meet at Goodison Park. In their last two clashes at the famous Merseyside stadium, Everton and Chelsea have shared a staggering 13 goals, including the West Londoners’ 6-3 win back in 2014.

Chelsea are yet to lose a domestic game under Guus Hiddink since his return to the club, and we fancy them to avoid defeat again on Saturday evening – in a game where both sides get on the scoresheet. [CC]

VERDICT: EVERTON 1 CHELSEA 2 @ 9.50

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.60

Double-Treble_TW

ARSENAL v WATFORD

In recent weeks, Arsene Wenger has come under fire from Gunners’ fans. Prior to their victory over Hull on Tuesday evening, Arsenal (1.52) had gone five games without a win in all competitions, including embarrassing losses against Swansea and a weakened Manchester United team.

GABRIEL
Gabriel: Unconvincing

Watford (6.00) look to be ‘on the beach’ after all but securing their Premier League status last month. Their fifth-round victory over Leeds on February 20th was the Hornets’ last victory in all competitions and Quique Sanchez Flores will be more than concerned after their back-to-back league losses in recent weeks.

The form of Gabriel is worrying many Arsenal fans. The Brazilian defender was bought to the club from Villarreal for over £10m during last year’s January transfer window. However, since arriving at the club, Gabriel has convinced nobody. Whilst the Brazilian’s pace often gets him out of trouble, his positional sense, communication skills and physicality are all well below standard. This was particularly evident in the Gunners’ recent defeat at Old Trafford where Gabriel was given a torrid time by young striker Marcus Rashford.

Watford are really struggling for goals at the moment. Despite having the prolific Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney in their ranks, the Hornets haven’t netted in any of their last three games and have only managed to score five league goals in all of 2016.

After their recent poor league form and seemingly impossible Champions League task, there is no doubting that the FA Cup is now Arsenal’s main priority. We expect them to field a full strength team for this one, subsequently advancing to a third consecutive semi-final appearance with a convincing win. [CC]

VERDICT: ARSENAL 2 WATFORD 0 @ 7.50

BEST BET: ARSENAL TO WIN @ 1.52

MAN UNITED v WEST HAM

Louis van Gaal is back under pressure after Manchester United (1.85) lost at the Hawthorns last weekend. The Red Devils failed to recover after Juan Mata’s first-half dismissal, eventually losing 1-0 after Salomon Rondon’s second half winner.

VAN GAAL (1)
Van Gaal: Still under pressure

The same cannot be said for Slaven Bilic, who has masterminded impressive victories over Tottenham and Everton in the Hammers’ last two games. West Ham (4.00) battled to a 1-0 home win over their bitter London rivals last Wednesday, before coming back from 2-0 down to beat Everton at Goodison Park at the weekend.

Michail Antonio has been in tremendous form of late. The winger initially struggled for a place in the Hammers’ first-team after his summer arrival from Nottingham Forest. However, since being presented with a chance by his manager, Antonio hasn’t looked back, scoring six times in 2016 and netting in his last three appearances.

Despite their struggles, Manchester United have been in wonderful home form lately. Louis Van Gaal’s side have only lost three games at Old Trafford all season – winning all of their last four.

These two clubs are separated by just two Premier League points, so there is no doubting that this one will be a tight affair. That said, West Ham have a dreadful recent record against Sunday’s opponents, with the Hammers failing to win in any of the last 10 meetings.

We are siding with history here, and fancy a narrow home win at Old Trafford. [CC]

VERDICT: MAN UTD 1 WEST HAM 0 @ 6.50

BEST BET: MAN UTD TO WIN @ 1.85

PREMIER LEAGUE

NORWICH v MAN CITY

Norwich (5.50) are in real danger of relegation. Alex Neil’s men are in a wretched run of form after going without a league win since early January – losing in all of their last three outings.

KOMPANY & OTAMENDI
Kompany and Otamendi: Solid

Manchester City (1.60) got back to winning ways last weekend. Manuel Pellegrini’s men were dominant against Aston Villa, eventually running out 4-0 winners at the Etihad after Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure scored either side of Sergio Aguero’s impressive brace.

Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi look to be establishing themselves as Manchester City’s first-choice central defensive pair. The two have been ever-present since Kompany’s return from injury, and while City are still leaking more goals than Manuel Pellegrini would like, they do look fair more sturdy as a unit without Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis in the team.

Norwich need to start winning home games if they are going to survive relegation. The Canaries have picked up just 16 points from a possible 42 at Carrow Road, and haven’t managed a win in any of their last five home games.

The Canaries have also struggled in front of goal this season. Alex Neil’s men have scored just 31 league goals all season, with strikers Dieumerci Mbokani and Cameron Jerome sharing a mere seven between them so far.

Manchester City have a wonderful recent record against Saturday’s opponents. Norwich have only managed to win one of the last 12 meetings between the two sides, with Manchester City winning nine times in that period.

It is also worth noting that Manchester City have already beaten Norwich twice already this season, including a 3-0 win at Carrow Road in the January’s FA Cup tie.

Everything points to an away win here, and we fancy a repeat of January’s score line. [CC]

VERDICT: NORWICH 0 MAN CITY 3 @ 11.00

BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 1.60

Football-ACCAs_TW

BOURNEMOUTH v SWANSEA

Bournemouth (1.91) face arguably their most important game of the season on Saturday. Last weekend, Eddie Howe’s men got a vital away win at Newcastle, lifting them comfortably clear of the relegation places, and a win at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday will surely see them safe with eight games still to play.

SIGURDSSON
Sigurdsson: Vital for Swansea

Swansea (4.33) face their second successive relegation ‘six-pointer’ this weekend, as Swans’ fans will be hoping for another positive result after their vital victory over fellow strugglers Norwich last weekend.

Charlie Daniels has been an ever-present in the Bournemouth side this season, playing in all but one of the Cherries league games so far. As a converted winger, now playing as a full-back, Daniels looks more than comfortable in the final third, often joining attacks and providing forward players with quality service. This was particularly evident in last week’s game, when Daniels netted his third Premier League goal of the season, and his second in 2016.

There is no doubting that Swansea would be in far deeper trouble if they didn’t have Gylfi Sigurdsson in their ranks. The Icelandic midfielder is by far the Swans’ most talented player, and his eight league goals from midfield this season have been vital to his side’s fight against relegation. While plenty of Sigurdsson’s goals come from dead-ball situations, he can also be found arriving late into the penalty area during counter attacks – as was the case for his winner against Norwich last week.

While both sides are desperate for a win, they also know that avoiding defeat is a must. With that in mind, we are going for a score-draw here. [CC]

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 1 SWANSEA 1 @ 6.50

BEST BET: SWANSEA OR DRAW @ 1.80

STOKE v SOUTHAMPTON

Mark Hughes will be delighted with his side’s recent form. Stoke (2.70) have recovered from a terrible January, and are unbeaten in their last five games – winning four and gaining an impressive point at Chelsea last weekend.

MARK HUGHES (1).jpg
Hughes: Pleased with current form

Southampton (2.75) got out of jail last weekend. Virgil van Dijk rescued a point against Sunderland with his stoppage-time goal, leaving Southampton without a league win in their last three games.

Jack Butland is continuing to impress in the Stoke goal, conceding just three times in their last four games and making numerous game-changing saves. The young England goalkeeper has had a wonderful season, and is well and truly knocking on the door for a starting place in the national side. Butland has played every league game for Stoke this season, keeping an impressive 10 clean sheets in the process.

Ronald Koeman will be concerned with Southampton’s away form this season. The Saints have picked up just 17 points away from home this season, winning on just four occasions.

These two sides are separated by just two Premier League points and are arguably the two most similar sides in the league, with inconsistency being the main issue for both.

Since 2006, these two sides have met on 13 occasions, with a staggering 10 of those games ending with both Stoke and Southampton getting on the scoresheet.

It is also worth noting that four of the last eight clashes between the clubs have ended level.

We can’t split these two – a score draw looks like the most likely option. [CC]

VERDICT: STOKE 2 SOUTHAMPTON 2 @ 17.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 2.00

ASTON VILLA v TOTTENHAM

The chokers from White Flag Lane were at it again last week, losing at West Ham and failing to beat 10-man Arsenal.

Just when they look like they will do something special and win the title for the first time since 1961, they do their typically Spursy thing.

Eric Dier
Got lucky: Eric Dier

Arsenal gave their fellow North Londoners a reality check, securing a 2-2 draw in a game that saw some very controversial decisions. There could be no argument about Francis Coquelin’s dismissal for two yellow cards, but how Tottenham’s (1.44) Eric Dier remained on the pitch for blatantly hauling back Olivier Giroud is beyond comprehension. And just for fairness, Hector Bellerin should have walked for pulling back Dele Alli with two minutes to go.

Referee Michael Oliver should be demoted to the Horsham and District Youth Football League roster. Let’s start a petition.

Spurs have a great chance of extending their advantage over Arsenal and the chasing pack as they face a rudderless Aston Villa (7.00) side who lack on-field leadership.

Whether Harry Kane and company can catch top-of-the-table Leicester, who are five points clear, is arguable. We make Leicester 6/5 chances to win the title, with Spurs at 11/4 and Arsenal at 9/2.

Spurs have not lost at Villa Park in the last eight meetings (winning on six occasions, including the last four visits), with Villa’s sole win in the last 15 meetings coming at White Flag Lane last season.

Villa have lost their last four Premier League games and have won just three teams all season.

Not even the most Spursy of Spurs-like performances will see them lose and we see Mauricio Pochettino’s winning by two goals or more. As for any title talk, it may well be just another cock on ball story form the men at No Heart Lane. [SM]

VERDICT: ASTON VILLA 0 TOTTENHAM 4 @ 17.00

BEST BET: TOTTENHAM TO WIN @ 1.50 

LEICESTER v NEWCASTLE

Two teams with everything to play for and both are heading in different directions.

Newcastle (6.00) are in deep trouble. Even Sunderland are above them.

MCCLAREN
On the board but on the brink: Steve McClaren

The Magpies looked bereft of ideas when slumping to a 3-1 home defeat by Bournemouth, a result which looks like preserving the Cherries’ top-flight status. It may well condemn Newcastle to the Championship, although their clashes with Sunderland and Norwich in the next couple of weeks will tell us more.

Steve McClaren is universally lauded as a good coach, but it was interesting to hear Alan Shearer’s comments on Match Of The Day last weekend. He suggested that McClaren is no manager and there is no question that he has something to prove in this capacity.

Their final game of the season is at home to Tottenham, which may well turn out to be highly significant for both clubs.

Leicester (1.57) are five points clear at the top after their 1-0 win at Watford but they still have to face the likes of West Ham (H) before their last three games against Manchester United (A), Everton (H) and Chelsea (A). That is a tough run-in and they cannot afford to slip up against the likes of Newcastle, whom they have beaten in their last three meetings.

Newcastle have lost 16 games already, while Leicester have dropped just three and they are still the team of no-names who simply do not get the attention they deserve.

While Claudio Ranieri has led the team this season, it defies belief that Nigel Pearson, who crafted the squad, is still searching for a job. Newcastle could do a lot worse than to make an approach.

Leicester won the reverse fixture 3-0 in November and a similar result is on the cards. We see Leicester as a decent price at 4/7 and take them to win again.

VERDICT: LEICESTER 3 NEWCASTLE 0 @ 17.00

BEST BET: LEICESTER TO WIN @ 1.57

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MIDWEEK BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

Your improved club betting service has arrived. Check it out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did. Get one – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

We look to continue our good run with our Premier League selections and, complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League on Tuesday and Wednesday…

ASTON VILLA v EVERTON

Given Villa’s current malaise, it will be a while before these two are playing each other in the league again.

John Stones
On the move: John Stones

Reme Garde’s Villa (4.75) are all but down with less than a dozen games remaining, while Everton (1.75) boast one of the most attack-minded coaches in the league, a wealth of top young talent and are in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Villa have won two of the last 15 meetings and lost five of the last seven. They have shipped at least two goals in each of the last seven meetings (and nine of the last 10) with the Merseysiders.

And should the Toffeemen do that again, it is arguable that Villa will be able to match it, as their inability to find the net has been a recurring and frustrating theme. They have managed just 21 goals in their first 27 league games and are eight points adrift of safety.

Only Manchester City, Tottenham and Leicester have scored more goals than Everton this season, with Romelu Lukaku spearheading a side with width, guile and verve. It is no surprise that Ross Barkley and Lukaku will be the subject of much transfer speculation in the summer. Defender John Stones is almost certain to leave Goodison Park for a big pay-day, too.

Villa, who have won three games in the league all season, had shown a pulse with two wins and two draws in their previous five outings until thumped 6-0 at home by Liverpool on Valentine’s Day. With Manchester City (A), Tottenham (H), Chelsea (H) and Manchester United (A) to play in the next few weeks, it appears that any remaining life will be sucked out of them and they can start preparing for life in the Championship.

It is possible they will lose their only player with potential – Jack Grealish – although he appears to have something of an indifferent attitude and may scare some big clubs off.

Either way, the season is lost and with Everton losing just once on their travels this season, we see an away win as the only realistic outcome. [SM]

VERDICT: ASTON VILLA 1 EVERTON 2 @ 8.50

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.05

BOURNEMOUTH v SOUTHAMPTON

These two South Coast sides find themselves at opposite ends of the Premier League form table.

Everton v Southampton - Barclays Premier League
Ryan Bertrand: Complete full-back

Southampton (2.60) have really turned a corner after a sloppy first half of the season, while Bournemouth (2.88) are back in a relegation battle after a poor run of recent results.

Andrew Surman has been one of Bournemouth’s most reliable players this season and the deep lying central midfielder will be facing his former club on Tuesday night. The ever consistent Surman started his footballing career with Southampton, making over 100 senior league appearances in a 13 year spell that saw him rise from youth ranks to first team regular.

Ryan Bertrand has developed into one of the country’s best full backs and is now looking like a near certainty to be included in England’s Euro 2016 squad. The speedy left back joined Southampton from Chelsea for £10m a year ago, after impressing during an initial loan spell. Bertrand has since gone on to be named in the PFA Team of the Year at the end of last season, continuing his fine form during this campaign, despite his side’s struggles.

Southampton have a fine record in this fixture, winning all of the last four meetings between the clubs by two clear goals.

It is also worth noting that Bournemouth have lost four of their last five home league games, while Ronald Koeman’s side are unbeaten in their last three away outings.

The price looks too good to be true – everything points to an away win here. [CC]

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 0 SOUTHAMPTON 2 @ 11.00

BEST BET: SOUTHAMPTON TO WIN @ 2.60 

LEICESTER v WEST BROM

Amazingly, Leicester (1.62) are looking like near certainties for Champions League qualification, something that nobody expected when Claudio Ranieri took over at the club in the summer.

Darren Fletcher
Darren Fletcher: Leading by example

All is far from well at the Hawthorns. West Brom (6.00) suffered a convincing defeat to Reading in the FA Cup ten days ago, and the post-match incident involving Chris Brunt and the travelling Baggies fan’s did nothing to help matters. On top of this, rumours about the future of under-fire manager Tony Pulis are beginning to circulate, which appears to be having a negative effect on the playing staff.

Between them, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have scored four times in their last two games against West Brom. The two men are among the front runners for this year’s PFA Player of the Year award after sharing over 30 league goals this season.

Darren Fletcher has been West Brom’s best player this season – by a considerable distance. The experienced central midfielder arrived at the Hawthorns from Manchester United a year ago, and was immediately named Baggies captain by Tony Pulis. Since being handed the responsibility, Fletcher has flourished and can often be seen vocally encouraging his teammates as well as leading by example with numerous battling performances.

Since December 2007, these two sides have met on eight occasions, and seven of those games have ended with more than two goals being netted.

In their last two meetings, West Brom and Leicester have shared a staggering ten goals, with the Foxes winning both by a 3-2 score line.

We can’t see past a home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: LEICESTER 2 WEST BROM 1 @ 8.50

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.10

NORWICH v CHELSEA

Norwich (5.50) used to have a decent record against Chelsea – until Roman Abramovich arrived with his buying power at Stamford Bridge. And since 2004, the Canaries have failed to win any of the subsequent 10 meetings (losing eight).

Diego Costa
Not convincing us: Diego Costa

Chelsea (1.62) are in the midst of their best run of the season – just one loss in the Champions League (at PSG) in their last 14 in all competitions. They are favourites to win the FA Cup and while still 11 points adrift of the top four, any thoughts of relegation have been banished.

While speculation continues to swirl over who will be the next Chelsea manager, it has to be said that job Guus Hiddink has done in a caretaker capacity since Jose Mourinho’s departure has been nothing short of remarkable.

True, he has quality players in the squad, but many simply cheated Mourinho and the fans, downing tools and regularly not putting in a shift for their ridiculously high wages.

Many fingers were pointing at Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, who were well below par under the former manager, but they have upped the ante under Hiddink, who is happy to slip away into retirement at season’s end.

We are still not convinced by Diego Costa. Good striker though he is, he brings plenty of unwanted attention to the club each week and his petulant behaviour is a blot on the Premier League.

There is no doubt that Chelsea need reinforcements in the summer, particularly at the back, and the loss of Kurt Zouma through injury has stretched resources. They lack pace and that will catch them out against the best.

Norwich cannot stop leaking goals and are fast slipping towards the drop zone and they have suffered six defeats in their last seven games. They have conceded 10 goals in their last three home games and gave up two-goal leads in their last two.

Chelsea may well rest a few stars ahead of a tough game against Stoke at the weekend and a vitally important Champions League second leg against PSG next Wednesday. Even so, Norwich will do well to earn a point. [SM]

VERDICT: NORWICH 1 CHELSEA 3 @ 13.00

BEST BET: CHELSEA TO WIN @ 1.62

SUNDERLAND v CRYSTAL PALACE

When the going gets tough, the tough get going (yes, we’ve been listening to Absolute 80s), but there is no doubt Sam Allardyce is doing exactly what he was brought in to do at Sunderland (2.50): put the Black Cats in with a chance of staying up.

ALLARDYCE
In with a chance: Sam Allardyce

While they are still currently odds-on to be relegated with My Club Betting, his message appear to have got through and they are playing some of their best football of a disappointing campaign.

They attempted more shots in their 2-1 win over Manchester United (21) than they had in any other Premier League game, but their lack of clean sheets must be worrying Allardyce , who is My Club’s Brand Ambassador.

Their 1-0 West Ham at the weekend means they have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 13 league games, the longest current run in the division.

Crystal Palace (2.88) gained a confidence-boosting win over Tottenham in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane last week and we suggested it could be the catalyst for a change in fortune. Prior to that, they had failed to failed to win any of their last nine league games (losing six) and it was a run that has seen them slip out of contention for a European place. They appeared to revert to type again at the weekend, when losing 3-2 at fellow strugglers West Brom.

Positive results are usually the norm when these two meet. There have only been four draws in the last 24 meetings (with a maximum of two goals scored in each).

Palace have a poor record in this fixture, however. Their sole win (In 12 attempts) came here last season when Yannick Bolasie scored a second-half hat-trick in the space of 11 minutes.

Sunderland will have to take care at dead-ball situations, as Palace have scored 52% of their goals from set pieces.

While manager Alan Pardew has a near fully-fit squad from which to pick for the first time in a while, we feel Sunderland are playing well enough to steal the points and it should not be too long before they clamber out of the bottom three. [SM]

VERDICT: SUNDERLAND 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 1 @ 9.50

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.85

ARSENAL v SWANSEA

Arsenal (1.33) return to the Emirates for the first time since their 2-0 Champions League loss to Barcelona last week. Despite the result, Arsenal gave a great account of themselves and would have been disappointed not to lead at half-time after having a good share of possession and creating a handful of clear cut chances.

FABIANSKI
Lukasz Fabianski: Faces former club

North London will feel like a new home for Swansea (9.00) who took on Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon. Francesco Guidolin’s side will need to find at least ten points from their run-in to avoid relegation, which will be no easy feat, particularly with games against Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool and Man City still to come.

Lukasz Fabianski spent seven years at Arsenal, before leaving on a free transfer in 2014. While the Polish keeper’s spell with the Gunners will generally be seen as unsuccessful, he will never be forgotten Arsenal fan’s by after his heroics in their 2014 FA Cup success. Fabianski was an ever-present for the Gunners during that season’s FA Cup campaign, saving crucial penalties in their semi-final with Wigan and playing all 120 minutes in their final win over Hull.

Fabianski kept a clean sheet on his first return to the Emirates last May, something that Francesco Guidolin will be desperately hoping for on Tuesday evening.

Clashes between these sides are usually high scoring, with four of the last five meetings ending with more than two goals being scored.

In truth, the Gunners don’t have the greatest of records in this fixture. Swansea have managed to avoid defeat in six of the last ten meetings, winning four of those games.

However, with recent form and performances in mind, we see Arsenal having more than enough to get the job done here. [CC]

VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 SWANSEA 0 @ 7.50

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.80

STOKE v NEWCASTLE

Newcastle (4.00) have lost their last five Premier League away games in a row and have won only two of the last 20 (D2, L16).

Having climbed out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win over West Brom, they reverted to type against Chelsea, losing 5-1 at Stamford Bridge and dropped back into the relegation zone.

Steven Taylor
Steven Taylor: Seeks sharpness after layoff

While Steve McClaren took the Toon away from some warm-weather training, his problems increased when skipper Frabricio Coloccini suffered a calf problem during a warm-down after a 2-1 friendly victory over Norwegian side Lillestrom in La Manga. The Argentinian faces up to a month on the sidelines.

With Chancel Mbemba battling an ankle problem and Steven Taylor just two games into his comeback after a five-and-a-half month lay-off, the timing of Coloccini’s injury could not have been worse.

The club’s failure to strengthen further at the back in recent transfer windows is starting to look more costly, although they may well have Paul Dummett, Jack Colback, Vurnon Anita and Siem de Jong available after absences.

Stoke (1.95) are unbeaten in their last four meetings with Newcastle, winning the last two meetings at the Britannia Stadium 1-0. The Magpies have managed just one win in their last seven visits, and two in their last 15 since 1970.

Mark Hughes’s side ended a trio of 3-0 defeats – by Leicester, Manchester United and Everton – with a 3-1 win at Bournemouth last week and their victory over Aston Villa on Saturday leaves them seven points off the top four. They still have the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham to play, so can have a say in the title race.

Either way, it is good to see that such an entertaining side will likely finish in the top half of the table.

Though they failed to score in four games before beating the Cherries, Germany striker Joselu has weighed in with a couple of goals recently, and it usually pays to go with the hot striker where betting is concerned. He is a fair price to get the first goal, and if he scores a second, you will automatically get DUBBLE BUBBLE (double the odds) if you back him via your My Club Betting site.

We see Stoke exploiting a ropey Newcastle defence and gaining a seventh home win of the season. [SM]

VERDICT: STOKE 3 NEWCASTLE 1 @ 15.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.10

WEST HAM v TOTTENHAM

Slaven Bilic has really impressed since taking over at Upton Park. West Ham (3.75) are comfortably in the top half of the league table, and recently progressed the quarter finals of the FA Cup after a convincing 5-1 win over Blackburn.

KANE (4)
Harry Kane: Good recent record

Tottenham (2.00) are also having a fine time of it, and stand a real chance of winning the Premier League title this season. Champions League qualification was the main aim for Mauricio Pochettino’s side at the beginning of the campaign, and that now looks a formality after their recent key victory away at Man City.

While Dimitri Payet has been the most popular of the Hammers summer arrivals, nobody should forget the impact of Angelo Ogbonna. The powerful centre back arrived at Upton Park from Juventus for just under £10m and is already looking like real value for money after a string of wonderful performances next to Hammers stalwart James Collins this season. Ogbonna really endeared himself to the Upton Park faithful after his 120th minute winner in his side’s recent FA Cup victory over Liverpool.

Harry Kane is not the most popular figure among West Ham fans. The former Millwall loannee has scored three times in his last two appearances against the East Londoners, however it is not his Millwall past nor his recent goal scoring record that has turned the Hammers fans bitter.

The bad feeling dates back to their meeting last February. Kane appeared to ‘go down easily’ while winning a last minute penalty, which he then converted himself – much to the anger of the West Ham support.

This game falls just three days before Saturday’s massive North London derby, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see Tottenham resting a few of their bigger names at Upton Park.

It is also worth noting that the Lilywhites have won just two of their last six meetings with West Ham.

With that in mind, we feel that the visitors are simply too short for this one, and are more than happy to lay them here. [CC]

VERDICT: WEST HAM 1 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: WEST HAM OR DRAW @ 1.75

LIVERPOOL v MAN CITY

On Wednesday night, Liverpool (2.50) and Manchester City (2.88) clash for the second time in just three days. The two sides went head-to-head in the League Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, with Manchester City lifting the trophy after a 3-1 win on penalties.

STERLING
Raheem Sterling: Back at Anfield

Phillippe Coutinho has a fine goal scoring record against Wednesday’s opponents. The talented Brazilian has managed to net in four of the last five league appearances, including a sumptuous long-range strike at Anfield a year ago and also in Sunday’s final. Coutinho was the best player on the field in the reverse fixture at the Etihad, scoring once and laying on a wonderful assist for fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino in Liverpool’s dominant victory.

Wednesday sees Raheem Sterling return to Anfield for the first time since leaving Liverpool in the summer. During his last six months at the club, Sterling became less than popular with the Reds faithful after refusing to sign a long term contract and an evident dip in performances. The England international eventually got his wish in early July, when Liverpool accepted a staggering £49m bid from Wednesday’s opponents.

In truth, the speedy youngster is yet to convince since arriving in Manchester, finding himself on the sidelines in recent weeks after unconvincing performances during the January period. Make no mistakes – Sterling won’t receive a good reception from the Kop on Wednesday night!

As mentioned in the previous edition, goals are usually on the agenda when these two sides meet, and this was evident in the reverse fixture back in November, which ended in a 4-1 away victory for Liverpool.

Both sides have managed to find the net in all of their last seven league meetings and with this in mind, we are going for a scoring draw at Anfield. [CC]

VERDICT: LIVERPOOL 2 MAN CITY 2 @ 13.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.73

MAN UTD v WATFORD

Manchester United (1.62) are currently 7/2 with My Club Betting to finish in the top four and while Louis van Gaal will pay lip service to the fact they can still win the title, the priority is in the Cup competitions.

Memphis Depay
Memphis Depay: In flying form

They have a fair chance of getting to the FA Cup semi-finals, since they play a flaky West Ham side in the quarter-finals on Saturday week. They are also still in the Europa League – and victory in the lesser of the European competitions comes with a guaranteed Champions League spot next season.

Still, they are one of the dullest sides in the Premier League to watch.

While Van Gall’s CV is bountiful, it is all about the here and now – and United simply bore the pants off anyone who has the misfortune to watch them. They lack width and are predictable.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United won 38 trophies. Since 2013 under David Moyes and Van Gaal, they have won the Community Shield. Big whoop.

To be fair to the manager, he has had a length injury list to deal with. Already without 13 players before their FA Cup win at Shrewsbury, they lost Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Will Keane to injury. Jesse Lingard also finished the game limping. Wayne Rooney is sidelined for the next six weeks with a knee injury, while first-teamers Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rojo remain out.

The injuries have left plenty of scope to blood youngsters and while Marcus Rashford has been hitting the headlines – his brace against Arsenal (his second double in as many games) – and Memphis Depay has had a couple of good games recently, you don’t win anything with kids. Not at this level, at least.

Watford (6.00) have had a tremendous first season back in the top flight and they are certain to be in the Premier League next season. They also have an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to.

Unlike United, Watford have a strike-force that is the envy of the division in Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, yet the Hornets have a poor record against United, having lost the last nine meetings. In all but one of those games, Watford conceded two or more goals.

They have managed just two wins over the Red Devils in 18 attempts – and both of those came at Vicarage Road. They have never won at Old Trafford, losing on six of their eight trips.

After two tough games against Midtjylland and Arsenal (both victories), we feel United might be ripe for the taking and take a chance on Watford securing at least a point. [SM]

VERDICT: MAN UTD 1 WATFORD 1 @ 7.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 2.20

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

Your improved club betting service has arrived. Check it out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did. Get one – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

We look to continue our good run with our Premier League selections and, complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League this weekend…

NORWICH v LIVERPOOL

Norwich (4.00), thumped 3-0 at Bournemouth last weekend, have found life tough adjusting to the Premier League and they may well need a couple of significant signings to galvanise them. Alex Neil has been attempting to sign Everton’s Steven Naismith who will certainly provide guile and hopefully a few goals for the Canaries.

Klopp embarrassing
Celebrating a draw: Klopp and Liverpool

At the time of writing, the deal has yet to be finalised, but he would be a significant arrival as they bid to avid a relegation scrap.

Last week’s poor result was out of character for a team that has done well in recent weeks, with home wins against Aston Villa and Southampton. It will be their home form that keeps them up and they are unbeaten in their last five games at Carrow Road. But their next five at home (Tottenham, West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City follow) are difficult. We will know a lot more about their status for next season by mid-March.

Liverpool (1.95), ninth in the table and eight points away from a top-four spot, have lost just two of their last 11 trips to Norwich. They have scored at least three goals against the Canaries in five of the last six meetings.

Jurgen Klopp’s sideline antics are already starting to get annoying and his wild celebrations in front of fans after late comeback draws against West Brom and Arsenal were, frankly, laughable. Act like you have been there before, perhaps?

He is taking the attention away from his under-performing side, however, which can only be a good thing. But his act will get pretty old, pretty fast, if the Reds do not address their form. Their last three Premier League wins were all single-goal successes, but two wins and four defeats in their last eight league games makes it difficult to see them playing in the Champions League next season.

Still, Norwich are lacking in confidence after two straight defeats and Liverpool will have the pressure off them following their midweek League Cup semi-final exploits. We see Liverpool taking the points. [SM]

VERDICT: NORWICH 1 LIVERPOOL 3 @ 15.00

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL TO WIN @ 1.95

CRYSTAL PALACE v TOTTENHAM

Crystal Palace (3.50) are not in the greatest form. In their last six games, Alan Pardew’s men have only managed one victory – losing both of the last two without getting on the scoresheet.

HENNESSEY.jpg
Hennessey: Struggling

Tottenham (2.15) are looking near certainties to finish in the top four this season, with Mauricio Pochettino’s men only losing three league games so far this season. This has been down to their remarkable defensive record, with Spurs conceding just 18 goals thus far – the best of all Premier League clubs.

Wayne Hennessey has had a week to forget. The Welsh international goalkeeper made a terrible mistake in his side’s surprise defeat at Villa Park a week ago, before conceding four at Man City last time out.

Palace are also struggling at the other end of the field. The Eagles have failed to score in five of their last six games and have only scored 23 league goals all season.

Sadly, encounters between these sides rarely excite or produce goals. Of the last five meetings between Palace and Tottenham, only one has finished with more than two goals being scored.

When you consider past meetings, Tottenham’s defensive record and the lack of attacking threat from Palace, you only get one outcome – a low scoring away win. [CC]

VERDICT: C. PALACE 0 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 7.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70 

LEICESTER v STOKE

Leicester (2.05) may be sitting pretty in the top two, but history would suggest they will face a tough test from a Stoke side looking to push into the top six. For the Foxes have won just three of the last 13 meetings with the Potters and they have won just two of the last 11 home meetings with Stoke.

Vardy celebrates
Plenty to celebrate: Vardy and Leicester

Leicester have drawn three of their last four Premier League games but their sole defeat in their last 15 league games came against Liverpool (1-0 at Anfield on Boxing Day).

For all the lauding of striker Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, it appears that Claudio Ranieri has shored up a previously leaky defence; Leicester have conceded just once in two of their last five league games.

Stoke (3.75) were a little unfortunate not to beat Arsenal last weekend and settled for a goalless draw, but they are still just six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and Europe is still an achievable goal for Mark Hughes’s entertaining side.

Outside of the top four, Stoke possess the best defensive record in the division, having conceded just 22 times at an average of exactly one goal per game, and while the Foxes have lost just once at home, they have often had trouble breaking sides down at the King Power Stadium. In their last six home league games, they have managed to score more than once on just two occasions and have been held scoreless in their last two.

Stoke created plenty of chances against the Gunners and Leicester’s goal famine is unlikely to continue, so we look for a bit of value. We are going against the obvious for a bit of value, believing there will be a few goals. [SM]

VERDICT: LEICESTER 2 STOKE 2 @ 17.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.15

MAN UNITED v SOUTHAMPTON

Louis van Gaal will be breathing a huge sigh of relief after his side’s late winner at Anfield last weekend. In truth, Manchester United (1.83) were lucky to beat Liverpool and will be thanking keeper David de Gea after his string of saves during the first half.

Charlton Athletic v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Austin: Bargain

Southampton (4.50) finally look to be turning things around. Prior to their game last Wednesday, the Saints had lost three in a row. However, consecutive wins and clean sheets against both Watford and West Brom has seen them rise into the top 10.

Wayne Rooney is beginning to find goals again. The England skipper endured a torrid start to the season, but after five goals in his last four appearances, Rooney appears to be re-finding his confidence in front of goal.

Finding the net has been a huge problem for Southampton this season, with strikers Shane Long and Graziano Pelle sharing just 11 goals between them during the campaign. That may have prompted Ronald Koeman to purchase the prolific Charlie Austin, who arrived from QPR for a bargain £4m over the weekend.

In truth, Southampton have a woeful record against Man United, winning just two of the last 18 meetings between the sides.

We are going for a routine home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: MAN UNITED 2 SOTON 0 @ 7.50

BEST BET: MAN UNITED TO WIN @ 1.83

SUNDERLAND v BOURNEMOUTH

Sunderland (3.10) seem to be taking one step forward and two steps back at the moment. The Black Cats have only recorded consecutive league wins on one occasion this season – something that will need to change if they are going to avoid relegation.

AFOBE
Afobe: Prolific

Bournemouth (2.38) are in great form and now look like strong candidates to avoid relegation. Eddie Howe’s men have only lost two of their last 11 games and now find themselves three places clear of the relegation zone.

Conceding goals has been a huge issue for Sunderland, who have by far the worst defensive record in the Premier League. Central defenders John O’Shea, Sebastian Coates and Younes Kaboul all lack pace, which opposition attackers have highlighted and exploited so far this season.

Benik Afobe arrived at Bournemouth last week for a club-record fee. The ex-Arsenal man had a shaky debut against West Ham, but followed that with a goal and solid performance against Norwich last time out.

As good as Bournemouth have been of late, we just feel their price is far too short for this away trip and we are more than happy to lay them here. [CC]

VERDICT: SUNDERLAND 1 BOURNEMOUTH 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: SUNDERLAND OR DRAW @ 1.57

WATFORD v NEWCASTLE

Newcastle (3.75) finally got their just rewards for a string of decent performances when beating West Ham 2-1 last weekend. Watford lost their fourth successive league game when going down 1-0 at Swansea, having lost successive home games to Tottenham and Manchester City and at Southampton. Both home defeats were a little unfortunate, as they were sunk by late goals.

Troy Deeney
Deeney: Fair price

Their failure to bounce back on Monday night, losing at Swansea, has underpinned what had been a remarkable feat in their first season back in the top flight.

Newcastle have lost seven of their last 10 away games and have only managed a league-low five goals away from St James’ Park in 10 road games and have shipped 21. Clearly, Steve McClaren knows there is still plenty of work to be done.

Watford (2.10) knocked Newcastle out of the FA Cup, with a 1-0 third-round victory earlier this month, having also won 2-1 at Newcastle in September. They have not managed to win three consecutive meetings since they first met in 1984.

Troy Deeney has scored seven goals in his last 14 appearances in all competitions and it was is goal that meant Newcastle’s silverware drought continues. Deeney is 4/1 to score the first goal, but those who bet via their club’s My Club Betting service can take advantage of a great offer – if you successfully back him to score first and he goes on to score a second, your will get double the odds. If he scores a hat-trick, you will receive treble the odds.

Newcastle’s lack of goals away from home means we cannot justifiably back them. Watford are a better side than many give them credit for and we see them getting back on track. [SM]

VERDICT: WATFORD 2 NEWCASTLE 0 @ 9.00

BEST BET: WATFORD TO WIN @ 2.05

WEST BROM v ASTON VILLA

West Brom (2.05) do not have the greatest record against Midlands rivals Aston Villa (3.80). In fact, the Baggies have won just four of the last 22 meetings and just two of the last 10 at home.

Fletcher
One the scoresheet: Fletcher

Villa are still 10 points adrift of safety, marooned at the bottom of the league with just two wins from 22 games, but they have taken four points from their last two games, beating Crystal Palace and drawing with Leicester.

Both those games were at Villa Park, but their away from has been poor, losing eight of their last 10 road games and picking up two points from a possible 30.

Currently thirteenth in the table, West Brom lost their first game in five when being taken apart 3-0 by a suddenly resurgent Southampton last weekend. That, together with their poor recent history with Villa, is why they are odds against when form suggests they should perhaps be odds-on.

The Baggies have not won away since beating Norwich 1-0 in October, but they are not reliant on one man doing the business up front, which is a good thing. They are getting goals from all manner of positions, with Craig Gardner, James McClean, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Gareth McAuley, Craig Dawson and Jonas Olsson all on the scoresheet in recent weeks.

Villa are showing signs of life and the odds say they are likely to get something out of this game. But we still believe that West Brom are too big a price to ignore and they should be 4/5 chances at least. Given our view compared to the bookmakers’ line, we would probably swerve this game if we had to. West Brom should win. The odds suggest they won’t. So we will take Villa to get something out of this, even though the selection goes against every fibre in our betting bones. [SM]

VERDICT: WEST BROM 2 ASTON VILLA 2 @ 17.00

BEST BET: ASTON VILLA OR DRAW @ 1.70

WEST HAM v MAN CITY

Slaven Bilic has become a real fans’ favourite at Upton Park. His no-fear approach to games against the bigger sides in the league has won hearts and mind, and this was particularly evident when West Ham (5.00) surprised everyone with a win at The Etihad earlier this season.

SILVA
Silva: Fully fit again

Manchester City (1.70) were wonderful in their 4-0 win over Crystal Palace last week and are now firm favourites for this season’s Premier League crown.

The right-back spot is starting to become a real issue for West Ham, with Carl Jenkinson looking like a shadow of the player he was last season. His dip in form caused Bilic to favour playing centre back James Tomkins out of position which, in truth, has proved unsuccessful. With that in mind, we really wouldn’t be shocked if the Hammers moved for a right back during this transfer window.

David Silva looked back to his best against Palace last weekend. The Spanish playmaker has struggled with injury all season. However, he now looks to be fully fit again. His link-up play with striker Sergio Aguero and winger Kevin De Bruyne was breathtaking against Palace, something that will need to continue if City are going to be crowned Champions in May.

These two sides are among the highest scorers in the league this season – sharing 77 goals between them so far.

With that in mind, we fancy a high-scoring encounter on Saturday evening. [CC]

VERDICT: WEST HAM 1 MAN CITY 2 @ 8.50

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.75

EVERTON v SWANSEA

Swansea (5.25) gave themselves a lifeline with a gritty 1-0 win over Watford on Monday evening – their first win in 18 league games – but they are still just a point above the relegation zone and will hope for an immediate lift as former Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin takes charge.

martinez
Draw frustration: Martinez

The fact remains that they have won just once away from home and only Aston Villa have a worse away record than the Welsh club.

Everton (1.70) are better than their current 11th place in the table would suggest. Roberto Martinez’s side are playing a brand of football that highlights everything that is good about the Premier League. Results have not reflected this, however. The Toffeemen have just six wins but they have drawn half of their 22 games, including their last three outings.

And a stalemate has been the outcome in the last three meetings with Swansea, who seek only their second ever victory over Everton. They have lost four and drawn three of their seven previous trips to Goodison Park.

Everton were very unfortunate not to have come away from Stamford Bridge with all three points last weekend, a blatantly offside John Terry equalised in the sixth minute of added time, to hand Chelsea a 3-3 draw.

Holding leads has been a problem for Everton, who have just one win in the last nine. The tide should soon turn, however, and they have a few winnable games upcoming. They can take the points here. [SM]

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 SWANSEA 0 @ 7.50

BEST BET: EVERTON TO WIN @ 1.70

ARSENAL v CHELSEA

In truth, nobody expected Arsenal (2.05) to be 19 points and 13 places above their bitter London rivals Chelsea (3.75) with less than half the season remaining.

GIROUD (1).jpg
Giroud: On song

Arsene Wenger will be slightly disappointed after his side failed to win either of their last two away outings. The Gunners conceded late to draw 3-3 at Liverpool, before struggling to break down Stoke at The Britannia, with Sunday’s game eventually finishing goalless.

Interim Manager Gus Hiddink appears to have re-united the playing staff since taking over from Jose Mourinho in late December, with Chelsea unbeaten in all of the seven games he has overseen so far.

Olivier Giroud is a man bang in form. The French striker has turned out some wonderful performances recently, with most notable of these coming against Liverpool last week. Giroud used his physical strength and hold up play to great effect at Anfield, something a Chelsea defence who have conceded five goals in two games will need to be very wary of.

That said, the Gunners have a wretched recent record against the Champions. Arsenal have won just one of the last 10 meetings between the sides and Chelsea haven’t lost at the Emirates since 2010. Both sides are coming off successive Premier League draws and we see both having to settle for a point again on Sunday afternoon. [CC]

VERDICT: ARSENAL 1 CHELSEA 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: CHELSEA OR DRAW @ 1.73

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MCB’S TOP SIX BETS FOR 2016

We’ve throw away the wrapping paper, eaten the left-over turkey and taken the Pepto Bismol. We’ve over-indulged on winning bets through 2015 and now we are looking ahead. Another New Year, another ante-post wager to beat the January blues. So here follows My Club Betting’s idea of a few winners for 2016…

JORDAN SPIETH – TOTAL 2016 MAJORS

2015 was quite a year for Jordan Spieth. The talented young American was named PGA Player of the Year after gaining two major championship victories, claiming the number one world ranking and winning the illustrious FedEx Cup.

Jordan Spieth.jpg
Big year ahead: Jordan Spieth

There is no doubting that Spieth’s 2015 season will go down in history as one of the best of all time, but we don’t see the 22-year-old resting on his laurels anytime soon.

Speith has the complete golf game, and has very few weaknesses. He does have one major strength though – his putting. The talented Texan has some of the most impressive putting stats in the history of the game, and rarely looks like missing a putt from inside ten feet.

Oakmont and Baltusrol host the 2016 US Open and PGA Championship respectively. Both Golf Courses are perfectly set-up for Spieth and even at this early stage, we would fancy him to win at both.

Some would argue that Augusta is also tailor made for the young American, but we see the trend of first time major champions being crowned at Augusta continuing in 2016. [CC]

BEST BET: SPIETH TO WIN 2 MAJORS IN 2016 @ 8.50 

NBA CHAMPIONSHIP

Stephen Curry is a man on a mission. Last season’s MVP has continued where he left off and recently guided the Golden State Warriors to record start to an NBA season, which involved them winning all of their first 16 games.

LeBron james.jpg
LeBron James: Man on a mission

That said, Golden State look lost when Curry isn’t on the court and any injury to the exceptional point guard would massively hinder their chances of winning back to back championships.

It looks as though Curry will win Regular Season MVP and that won’t please the pre-season favourite LeBron James. The Cleveland forward has had a solid season so far, guiding his side to the top of the Eastern Conference.

LeBron is a man who loves accolades, and we see him doing his utmost to ensure that his Cleveland side go all the way to the finals, where a potential clash with Curry and Golden State may be on the cards.

We fancy King James to reign supreme and are sticking with our pre-season tip for the Cavaliers to win the NBA Championship. [CC]

BEST BET: CLEVELAND TO WIN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP @ 3.75

US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

You can look at Donald Trump two ways: Is he a bad person because he is a dull, fascist bully? Or is he a dull fascist bully because he is a bad person?

Hiary Clinton.jpg
Hillary Clinton: Just the ticket

Either way, America seems to have fallen in love with him. To be fair, he is only saying what a lot of people are too ‘politically correct’ to think. He has been taking a leaf out of Nigel Farage’s book, if you will.

And how did that work out in the end?

The right-minded part of the Western world hopes that, when it comes time to vote, the American electorate will come round to some sort of rational thinking.

And that can only mean one thing: The Republican Party will have a less bombastic Presidential candidate – and that Marco Rubio will justify odds of 2.88 to win the Republican nomination.

It probably won’t matter a jot, as we feel the Democrats are a certainty to remain in power.

Hilary Clinton is therefore likely to become America’s first female President and she is a backable price at 1.73 and is the more certain of the two selections. [SM]

BEST BET: HILARY CLINTON NEXT US PRESIDENT @ 1.73

BEST BET: MARCO RUBIO WINS REPUBLICAN PARTY NOMINATION @ 2.88

 OSCARS – BEST PICTURE

You will have to wait until Feb 28 to cash in this bet, but betting on the Best picture at the Academy Awards is usually worth a small ante-post wager.

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Top movie: Spotlight

The Martian was one of our favourite films of 2015 but will it be voted the Best Picture? The American science fiction movie, directed by Ridley Scott, is the story of an astronaut who is mistakenly presumed dead and left behind on Mars. It depicts his struggles to survive and others’ efforts to rescue him. Matt Damon is 66-1 to win the Best Actor role and that tells you all you need to know.

Hollywood, being what it is, will probably see a betting move for Carol, which is a British-American romantic drama directed by Todd Haynes. The film is the story of a young aspiring photographer and her relationship with an older woman in 1952 New York., and Cate Blanchett is brilliant in the lead role. It is well worth a look. Carol is third-best in the betting at around 11.00.

The two to concentrate on are Spotlight and The Revenant, respectively 1.91 and 5.00 in the betting.

The Revenant is cinematically stunning – the story of uncharted American Wilderness and stars Leonardo DiCaprio – but it not on general release until January 2016. It was a true test of his acting ability and he deserves to be considered as Best Actor.

However, its release date means that Spotlight has the inside track on the Academy’s voters. Directed by Tom McCarthy, it is about the Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ team, an investigative newspaper investigative unit, who methodically uncover a pattern of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in Massachusetts and the ongoing cover-up. It is hard-hitting, gripping and clever. We think Spotlight merits support at odds of 1.91. [SM]

BEST BET: SPOTLIGHT – BEST PICTURE AT ACADEMY AWARDS @ 1.91

QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE

Sir Peter O’Sullevan once told this correspondent that the key to longevity was “having an ante-post bet, because it gives you something to look forward to”.

Sage advice.

There was nothing he liked better than calling the horses on the biggest jumps stage of all – the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham Festival - Ladies Day
Each-way value: Sire De Grugy

And we look to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March to provide our ante-post wager.

Sire De Grugy won the two-mile chase in 2014 but finish 10-lengths fourth last year, not having had the ideal preparation. Yet he looks tremendous each-way value at around 12-1, having scored in style on his second run of the season in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December. He may not be the horse he was in 2013/14 but he is still capable of producing top-class form.

The obvious winner is youngster Un De Sceaux, who won the Arkle at Cheltenham last March and who followed up in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novices’ Chase at Punchestown in April.

However, he is too short for an ante-post plunge at 11-8 and we feel that, at his best, Moore’s charge can make the frame come March 16. [SM]

BEST BET: SIRE DE GRUGY – CHAMPION CHASE @ 13.00 EACH-WAY 

STOKE CITY TOP 10 FINISH

Stoke City are currently in 11th place, two points behind eighth-placed West Ham, with Liverpool and Everton in between.

Mark Hughes3
Top-half finish: Stoke City and Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes has put his stamp on the club, who play some of the most attractive football in the division.

And after suffering a sticky start with no win their first six, they have steadily climbed the table and have recently beat the likes of Manchester City, Southampton, Chelsea and Man Utd.

Their biggest concern is lack of goals, but they may well address this in the January transfer window and although they face a few tricky fixtures, including facing Manchester United twice in the space of six weeks, we fancy them to finish in the top half of the table at a massive 2-1. We have them nearer an evens chance. [SM]

BEST BET: STOKE TO FINISH IN TOP 10 @ 3.00 

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

Your improved club betting service will be arriving within days. In the meantime, we look to continue our good run and, complete with industry average odds, take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League…

MAN UTD v WEST HAM

There is a little more unrest at Old Trafford than there is at the Boleyn Ground. While Manchester United (1.44) may be winning with regularity and are in contention for the title, supporters are bemoaning the lack of attacking football and expected easy-on-the-eye style.

Diafra Sakho3
Big loss: Diafra Sakho

West Ham’s (7.00) bright start has faltered in the last few weeks, as injuries to key players pile up. Diafra Sakho looks likely to miss the next few weeks, along with Dimitri Payet, who is ruled out for three months.

West Ham have won at Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool and Crystal Palace this season, but those wins seem a distant memory.

They have not won in four outings and have won one of the last 16 meetings with the Red Devils, their last win at Old Trafford coming 10 years ago.

Man Utd are unbeaten in the last six and while they are similarly short of strikers, West Ham look toothless at present.

We take the hosts to chisel out a routine win, with over 2.5 goals suggested at evens. [SM]

VERDICT: MAN UTD 3 WEST HAM 0 @ 11.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.00 

CHELSEA v BOURNEMOUTH

Seven defeats in 14 games. That is the worst start for any defending champions since Ipswich in 1961-62. This is Chelsea’s (1.40) worst start since 1978 – and they were relegated that year.

Diego-Costa
Attitude: Diego Costa

Yet they have managed to pick up four points for their last two outings, despite scoring just once. The frustration was evident in the goalless draw at Tottenham on Sunday with Diego Costa throwing his bib in the direction of manager Jose Mourinho, having been made to sit on the bench.

Bournemouth (9.00) came back from the dead to secure a point at home to in-form Everton last weekend but remain in the relegation zone with just two wins to their name since gaining promotion.

The Cherries have been hit hard by injuries yet at least their no-name team has a togetherness that appears to be sorely lacking from Chelsea’s vastly expensive superstars.

While going well in the Champions League, the Blues’ domestic form needs a lift and they should get it here. We plump for a win by two goals or more on the handicap at evens. [SM]

VERDICT: CHELSEA 2 BOUNEMOUTH 0 @ 7.00

BEST BET: CHELSEA -1 @ 2.00

ARSENAL v SUNDERLAND

Sunderland have moved out of the bottom three following two-back-to-back wins, but their chances of making it three on the bounce are not good if history is a guide.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
Injury woes: Wenger has limited options

For the Black Cats have not won at Arsenal since November 1983 – a span of 16 visits without success. In fact, Arsenal have tasted defeat in just two of the last 25 meetings.

The lengthening injury list is a concern for Arsenal boos Arsene Wenger, who will hope his squad comes out of this unscathed with such an important Champions League clash at Olympiakos coming up next Wednesday.

The Gunners were dealt another major blow in their bid for a first Premier League title in 12 years when Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez both exited from their 1-1 draw at Norwich with what looked to be serious looking muscle injuries.

Santi Cazorla also played the second half ‘on one leg’ according to Wenger.

The depth of the squad has been a major issue over the past few season, but something is out of the ordinary where Arsenal’s amount of injuries is concerned.

They have not won in three, but with the two Manchester clubs and Leicester also dropping points, the Gunners are just two points behind the leaders in fourth place.

Sunderland brought Sam Allardyce in to preserve their Premier League status, but while victories over Crystal Palace and Stoke offered some respite, they have a tricky period upcoming with games against Watford (H), Chelsea (A), Man City (A) and Liverpool (H) before the turn of the year.

Arsenal know what the drill is – try and break down a team that will be happy to park the bus and come away with a point.

If, however, they score early, there should be a little more freedom for the hosts to exploit. We anticipate a comfortable home win, despite the injuries.

VERDICT: ARSENAL 4 SUNDERLAND 0 @ 12.00

BEST BET: ARSENAL WIN TO NIL @ 2.00

SWANSEA v LEICESTER

Leicester (2.63) have played just three teams who currently occupy the top six and have failed to win any of those games, losing once and drawing twice.

Garry-Monk
Garry Monk: On borrowed time

For all the lauding of striker Jamie Vardy, the fact remains that Leicester are in a false position.

With two more winnable games upcoming – Chelsea (H) next week – they should remain in the top four until Christmas at least. Everton (A), Liverpool (A) and Manchester City (H) might make it a less-than-festive Christmas for the Foxes, however.

Swansea (2.63) are on the slide with just one win in 10 (that at bottom club Aston Villa) following their 1-0 defeat at Liverpool last weekend and we can see manager Garry Monk carrying the can should they lose their next three games, which include a trip to Manchester City and the visit of West Ham.

Clashes between these two have always provided a positive result – the last seven meetings saw the home side winning on each occasion. In fact, on their three trips to Swansea, Leicester have failed to score on each occasion.

Leicester are unbeaten on their travels and have scored at least twice on their last five road trips. They are set up to play on the break, with Vardy’s pace proving a key component.

This is a difficult game to call, but the Swans are sinking towards the foot of the table at a rapid rate and a point may be the best they can hope for and the odds of 2.30 for a draw are fair.

VERDICT: SWANSEA 1 LEICESTER 1 @ 12.00

BEST BET: LEICESTER AND DRAW @ 1.44

WATFORD v NORWICH

Both sides have done remarkably well since coming up from the Championship and we expect both to be safe at season’s end.

Troy Deeney
Buzzing: Watford striker Troy Deeney

This may not appear to be the most attractive Premier League game of the weekend, but one thing this fixture has invariably provided is goals. No less than 17 of the last 189 meetings has yielded three goals or more.

It looks an all-too-obvious punt again this weekend and the bookmakers are taking something of a chance by offering evens (2.00) for over 2.5 goals to be scored.

Norwich have taken the last two meetings, doing the double last term with 3-0 wins at home and on the road.

Watford have usually had the better of things at home, losing just two of the last 11 meetings to the Canaries. The visitors have won back-to-back games at Vicarage Road just once in their history – and there was an eight-year gap in between those two wins.

Norwich are just three points off of safety, following their 1-1 draw with Arsenal in which they missed a couple of good opportunities to take all three points.

Watford have won three of their last five, with their two defeats in that run coming at the hands of top-four sides Leicester and Manchester United.

While the Over 2.5 goals looks tempting, we feel both sides to score looks more attractive. Only once has there been three consecutive meetings where one or other has failed to net (1989-95) and we see Watford stealing the points.

VERDICT: WATFORD 2 NORWICH 1 @ 8.50

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.67

STOKE v MAN CITY

Mark Hughes did not look a happy man after his side were beaten at Sunderland last weekend. Influential skipper Ryan Shawcross was controversially sent-off with the game at 0-0 and Stoke (5.50) subsequently capitulated, eventually losing by two goals to nil.

MARK HUGHES.jpg
Hughes: Frustrated

It was a completely different story for Manchester City (1.65) who dominated in their 3-1 home win against Southampton. That said, it did come at a cost, as key man Sergio Aguero came off injured late in the game.

Goals aren’t usually on the agenda when these two meet. Six of the last eight meetings between Stoke and Manchester City have resulted in less than three goals being scored. It is also worth noting that Stoke have only conceded seven league goals at the Britannia Stadium all season.

Those statistics, coupled with Sergio Aguero’s probable absence through injury leads us to believe that this one will be a low-scoring affair. [CC]

VERDICT: STOKE 0 MAN CITY 2 @ 8.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.00 

SOUTHAMPTON v ASTON VILLA

Southampton (1.45) are coming off consecutive league defeats and, in truth, they have struggled for consistency all season. Ronald Koeman’s side looked lacklustre in their defeat at Manchester City last week and could have lost by a far heavier score-line on any other day.

PELLE
Pelle: Greatly missed

It has been a baptism of fire for Remi Garde. Aston Villa (8.00) are currently bottom of the league table after their home defeat to Watford and are now favourites to be relegated this season.

Graziano Pelle was most definitely missed by Southampton last week. Pelle was suspended for Southampton’s trip to The Etihad and although his replacement, Shane Long, managed to get on the scoresheet, he was not able to offer the same hold-up play and quality as the imposing Italian.

Jack Grealish was omitted from the first team squad against Watford, due to a breach of ‘club discipline’. While neutrals are applauding Garde for his firm actions towards the young talent, the vast majority of Villa fans feel that Grealish is simply too important to be dropped – especially during the club’s current plight.

Southampton have struggled to dominate the so called ‘weaker’ teams this season and have only managed to win a game by more than a single goal on four occasions so far. With that in mind, we see the home side winning, but only by a narrow margin. [CC]

VERDICT: SOTON 2 ASTON VILLA 1 @ 9.00

BEST BET: ASTON VILLA +2 @ 1.55

WEST BROM v TOTTENHAM

West Brom (4.50) are starting to turn things around after a shaky start to the season, with their last two performances being particularly impressive. The Baggies followed their 2-1 home win against high-flying Arsenal with a battling draw away at West Ham last week.

ALDERWEIRELD
Alderweireld: impressive

Tottenham (1.85) are on quite a run. Mauricio Pochettino’s side got a decent point at home to Chelsea last weekend, and are still without defeat in the league since the opening day of the season.

Tony Pulis has a habit of resorting to defensive tactics against the more attacking sides in the league. This was particularly evident in the 0-0 draw at home to Southampton earlier in the season, when the Baggies seemed happy to sit back and take a point, rather than trying to win the game. Southampton and Tottenham have very similar possession-based styles, so we really wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pulis employing similar tactics on Saturday afternoon.

Much of Tottenham’s success has been down to their solidarity in defence, with Toby Alderweireld being particularly impressive so far this season. The Belgian international was bought into the club over the summer after a fine season at Southampton, immediately slotting into the centre of defence alongside fellow countryman Jan Vertonghen.

Tottenham may have a fine record at The Hawthorns, but we still fancy West Brom to hold Pochettino’s men to a draw here – at the very least. [CC]

VERDICT: WBA 1 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 7.00

BEST BET: WBA AND DRAW @ 1.95 

NEWCASTLE v LIVERPOOL

These two sides are currently at opposite ends of the Premier League form table.

KLOPP
Klopp: Great start

Liverpool (1.70) have lost just once in all competitions since Jürgen Klopp took over as manager, and although many expected them to be more convincing against Swansea last weekend, they still got all three points.

On the other hand, Newcastle (5.25) are in wretched form. The Magpies were beaten 5-1 at Selhurst Park last weekend, and have lost eight league games already this season, conceding a staggering 30 goals in the process.

Liverpool are unbeaten away from home in the league under Klopp, recording impressive victories at Stamford Bridge and The Etihad along the way.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have won just one league game at home all season and have only beaten Liverpool on one occasion in their last six meetings.

Everything points to an away victory here and we are following the stats, even if the price is a little too short. [CC]

VERDICT: NEWCASTLE 1 LIVERPOOL 2 @ 8.00

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL TO WIN @ 1.70

EVERTON v CRYSTAL PALACE

Last week, Everton (2.00) were involved in arguably the game of the season so far. Roberto Martinez watched his side throw away a two-goal lead at Bournemouth, but that wasn’t the end of the drama. After being pegged back, Ross Barkley scored in the 95th minute to make it 3-2, only for Bournemouth to dramatically level again in the 97th minute.

LUKAKU & BARKLEY
Barkley and Lukaku: in form

Crystal Palace (3.75) were dominant in their 5-1 over Newcastle last weekend, in a game that Alan Pardew would have been delighted to win.

Pardew and Martinez both favour attacking football, which makes these two sides among the most exciting to watch in the entire league.

Everton will be hoping that Barkley and teammate Romelu Lukaku can continue their lethal link-up play, with the two being responsible for the vast majority of their team’s goals this season.

Palace have won on both of their last two visits to Goodison Park, and we fancy them to get at least a draw on Monday night. [CC]

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 C. PALACE 2 @ 14.00

BEST BET: C. PALACE AND DRAW @ 1.80

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Guardiola’s unhappy homecoming? Your Champions League betting guide

We have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and the second semi-final takes place on Wednesday night.

The My Club Betting prognosticators offered a trio of bets last night – and all of them won! We gave you winners at odds of 1.40, 1.91 and 2.82 – and also weighed in with a 9.20 correct score winner!

Our guys cast their eyes over the second semi-final and pick out a trio of bets to whet your appetite…

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BARCELONA v REAL MADRID

Luis Suarez
Danger man: Luis Suarez

A lot has been made of the injuries that Bayern Munich have to overcome in order to reach the Champions League final.

It is true that they will miss the pace of Arjen Robben, who can unlock the tightest of defences.

But even though they have kept five clean sheets in their last five games, this Barcelona side is far from solid at the back.

Bayern will certainly be weakened by the loss of Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber.

However, it is likely that the influential Poland international striker Robert Lewandowski will play, albeit with a face mask.

Lewandowski has contributed five goals two assists in 10 Champions League games this season and Pep Guardiola, who won 14 trophies in four years at Barcelona, will know his Bayern side are unlikely to progress unless they grab an away goal.

BET: Draw or Bayern Munich @ 1.99

Guardiola returns to face the club that made him and the Bayern Munich manager knows it won’t be an easy homecoming.

Bayern have not fared particularly well on their travels in Europe this season and had to overcome a 3-1 first-leg quarter-final deficit against Porto, winning the second-leg 6-1.

But they have won three of their previous four encounters with Barcelona at the Camp Nou, including a 3-0 success in the 2012-13 semi-finals. That was part of a 7-0 aggregate win.

BET: Half-Time Draw @ 2.22 

Barcelona, who seek their eighth European Cup final appearance, have won 13 of their 18 two-legged ties with German opposition and they are scoring goals for fun. They have bagged 14 in the last two matches and have kept five straight clean sheets.

While that 2012-13 semi-final thumping is unlikely to have been forgotten, Guardiola knows the Barcelona players and the system. He hopes to negate perhaps the most effective strike-force ever assembled in Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Likewise, the Barcelona players know his systems and how he thinks.

BET: Home Yellow Cards – Over 1.5 @ 1.57

Italian whistle-blower Nicola Rizzoli is potentially a bad omen for the Blaugrana. He took charge of the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. In that game Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer escaped any sanction for his diabolical attack on Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain.

This season he took charge in Barcelona’s 3-2 defeat to PSG at the Parc des Princes and was also in the middle for Barca’s 2-1 defeat by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium a couple of seasons ago. In that game he disallowed what looked a perfectly good goal from Lionel Messi.

Bayern have won five of their seven European Cup semi-finals against Spanish teams and while they are injury-hit, this might be a more difficult test for Barcelona than many pundits are anticipating.

VERDICT: Barcelona 0 Bayern Munich 0 @ 7.20

All odds quoted from Shoreham FC’s betting service shorehamfc.myclubbetting.co.uk

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