WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

We managed to get five out of 10 best bests over the line last week with our Premier League predictions – but we did nail a juicy 10/1 correct score winner.

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

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ARSENAL v HULL CITY

Saturday, 12.30pm

Back-to-back Premier League defeats to Watford and leaders Chelsea have put Arsenal (2/7) 12 points behind the Blues, and despite Liverpool’s awful run of form, they are only a point behind the Gunners in the race for fourth place.

There used to be a time when teams actually wanted to win the title, rather than seeing fourth or fifth place as a triumph and we are reminded that fourth place is simply third of the losers. With Arsene Wenger out of contract in the summer, there could be a change at the top, but the probability (in our estimation at least) is that he has already told the board that he will walk away as their most successful manager in the club’s history.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has been touted as the next man in, but with all the speculation, you can see things starting to unravel. This season is beginning to look like another opportunity missed.
Hull (10/1) have beaten Bournemouth, Manchester United and Liverpool in recent weeks, but remain in the bottom three, having won just once on the road this term. They have only ever beaten Arsenal once and have failed to score at the Emirates in four of their last six visits. This should be a routine win for the Gunners, but with plenty going on behind the scenes, this may spill over onto the pitch, because we know how fragile the psyche of a pampered modern-day pro can be, don’t we?

VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 HULL CITY 0 @ 13/2

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

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MANCHESTER UNITED v WATFORD

Saturday, 3pm

Whilst they have only lost once at Old Trafford in the League, Manchester United (1/4) are off the pace because they have drawn half of their 12 games on their own patch. Even the likes of Burnley and West Brom have picked up more than United’s 21 home points. Watford (11/1) have been toddling along quite nicely and are in the top half of the table, with probably three wins from their last 14 games assuring them of their place in the top flight for next season. They have won three games on the road but have lost their last five at Old Trafford, and four of those defeats were by margins of two goals or more. They are, however, seeking to do the double on Jose Mourinho’s men, having turned them over 3-1 at Vicarage Road in September. Three wins in the last 20 meetings says the odds are against them historically, but their price is ridiculous given that they won at Arsenal two weeks ago and followed up with a home win against Burnley. We see this being a bit of a struggle for United but Mourinho’s side should come through, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic perhaps again providing hope to old men everywhere.

VERDICT: MANCHESTER UNITED 2 WATFORD 0 @ 9/2

BEST BET: WATFORD +3 GOALS @ 4/9

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MIDDLESBROUGH v EVERTON

Saturday, 3pm

Middlesbrough (11/4) are just a point above the relegation zone in a compact bottom half where six teams are separated by just two points. They have the better goal difference than the teams below them but have managed to win the fewest games in the Premier League (4). However, nine draws from 24 games keeps them above the waterline for now.

It is obvious what their biggest issue is – scoring goals. They have netted just 19 times. On the flip side, only Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United have conceded fewer than Boro’s 27 this season, so keeping it tight and nicking the odd goal may be enough to see them remain in the top tier next term.

Everton (11/10) are only six points behind Merseyside rivals Liverpool, who sit fifth, so the prospect of European football is not fanciful and their away form is solid enough, with four wins and three draws from 12. The Toffeemen have won the last four encounters and seek an unprecedented fifth successive win over Boro, who have won just two of the last 15 meetings. We have a sneaky feeling about this one. While they have not posted a victory in the top flight since the middle of December, they are difficult to break down and Everton struggled to win at Crystal Palace a couple of weeks ago. We’ll take Aitor Karanka’s crew to get a little respite.

VERDICT: MIDDLESBROUGH 2 EVERTON 1 @ 12/1

BEST BET: MIDDLESBROUGH OR DRAW @ 7/10

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STOKE CITY v CRYSTAL PALACE

Saturday, 3pm

Stoke (11/10) are severely tempting at these odds, but it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and would not look out of place if cooked in white sauce at an Asian restaurant. So much as it looks a tempting treat, we tend to ignore such howlers when they bark ‘back me’.

Stoke really should be odds on, not odds against, for their clash with a woeful Crystal Palace (11/4) side who have regressed under Sam Allardyce. The results speak for themselves. Defeats to Arsenal (A), Swansea (H), West Ham (A), Everton (H) and Sunderland (H) has only been brightened by a 2-0 win at Bournemouth since the turn of the year. They have failed to score in four of their last five League outings and were dumped out of the FA Cup, 3-0 at home by Manchester City.

The odds are skewed, perhaps for this reason only: history. Palace have won six of the last seven meetings and drew the other. Stoke have won just one of the last 11 meetings with the Eagles and were thrashed 4-1 at Selhurst Park in September, which seems like a lifetime ago. Palace capitulated at home to Barcelona last week… Wait. We got that wrong. It was Sunderland who led 4-0 at half-time at Selhurst Park, the Black Cats not the Catalan giants, to keep Palace in the bottom three. Stoke had put a nice little run together until beaten by James Morrison’s goal at The Hawthorns last week, securing points against Everton and Manchester United, winning at Sunderland and beating Watford. Their home form has not been bad of late, although Mark Hughes would expect a better return than four wins from 12. They have lost just three times on their own patch, however. Stoke look tremendous value to us. Too good, in fact. Allardyce will expect a reaction and may get it.

VERDICT: STOKE CITY 1 CRYSTAL PALACE 2 @ 12/1

BEST BET: CRYSTAL PALACE OR DRAW @ 8/11

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SUNDERLAND v SOUTHAMPTON

Saturday, 3pm

Sunderland (14/5) could not believe their luck to go in 4-0 up at the break at Selhurst Park last weekend, with on-loan Manchester United striker Adnan Januzaj and Jermain Defoe looking like they had played together forever. Saturday’s win was their first in seven, however, and they remain at the bottom of the table, two points adrift of safety. Sunderland did well to keep Defoe at the club in the transfer window (a nonsense regulation) and his 14 goals (Sunderland have only scored 24) means he alone may be able to keep them up. We still maintain they will fall, but it won’t be the fault of manager David Moyes, either.

Southampton (Evens) stunned us last week losing at home to West Ham, who have a terrible record on the South Coast, despite going a goal up after just 12 minutes. The Saints have reached the League Cup final and that is a distraction. Since beating Liverpool over two legs, they have lost to Arsenal (0-5), Swansea (2-1) and West Ham (1-3). They are seven points off the drop zone but could be just five points in front of Sunderland should they lose this. We don’t expect them to. Six draws in the last 14 meetings says the value play is taking the 12/5 for a stalemate, as Saints do not win here very often (victorious twice in the last 11 trips).

VERDICT: SUNDERLAND 0 SOUTHAMPTON 0 @ 8/1

BEST BET: DRAW AT HT @ 21/10

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WEST HAM UNITED v WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Saturday, 3pm

With a form guide of: WDDWDDD in their last seven meetings at Upton Park, the sensible option would be to take on the Baggies in one shape or form. Except this isn’t Upton Park any longer. This is the London Stadium, which is not a football stadium in our opinion.

No surprise that West Ham (6/5) have struggled to adapt to the cavernous arena, a stark contrast to the tight confines of their former home, which always produced a great atmosphere. Just as Sam Allardy… wait. Perhaps not. They have netted just 1 times at home at a ratio of a goal a game and have leaked 20 – not counting the five than Manchester City put past them in the FA Cup. Had it not been for City’s home drubbings, they would be one of the form teams right now, having won by at least two clear goals against Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Southampton. Andy Carroll has been a regular on the scoresheet and the Hammers have climbed to relative safety in ninth, 11 points clear of the drop zone.

Albion (12/5) are five points and a place above the Hammers following their 1-0 win over Stoke and they could be boosted by the return of defender Jonny Evans, who has been slow to recover from a calf injury. James Morrison’s winner against Stoke was his 28th in the Premier League for the Baggies and he will cause an oft-shaky West Ham defence a few problems.

West Brom have won three of their 12 road games but have drawn five others, so we would side with them to take at least a point at (23/10). It would be no surprise should they steal all three, however. The 56,980-odd fans will still turn out in force each week; one thing about West Ham – they enjoy fantastic and loyal support.

VERDICT: WEST HAM 2 WEST BROM 3 @ 40/1

BEST BET: WEST BROM OR DRAW @ 8/13

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LIVERPOOL v TOTTENHAM

Saturday, 5.30pm

Neither team are our favourites. We’d like both to lose each week if we could. A draw would be our happiest outcome, but we will still be miserable that these two teams would each pick up a point. Liverpool (5/4) stopped the rot with a home draw against champions-elect Chelsea and then promptly fell 2-0 at Hull last week. Yet they are still only a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, so the Champions League is still a possibility, even if the title is slipping out of sight fast.
Tottenham (12/5) are still very much in with a shout of winning the Premier League. That is a horrible sentence to write and I will have to now take a few days off sick to get over it.

There was a time when you could trust Spurs not to win at Anfield. In fact they have won three of their last 30 competitive games there since 1986, the last coming in November 2011.

There is every chance that they could take the points, given Liverpool’s recent form which has seen them win once in the last 10 competitive fixtures – a 1-0 FA Cup replay at Plymouth. Of Division Four (as we know it). They have not won at home in their last five, since beating Manchester City 1-0 on New Year’s Eve. And while we are enjoying ourselves, they should jolly well let Daniel Sturridge join West Ham, where he will be appreciated.

Tottenham have been below-par in recent weeks, too, failing to win Manchester City and Sunderland, whilst scraping past Wycombe in the FA Cup and with a penalty against Middlesbrough last weekend.

Not a fixture we care too much about. It will have top-four implications, but unless you win the title, who wants to be first, second or third losers? Yawn.

VERDICT: LIVERPOOL 1 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 5/1

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 7/10

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BURNLEY v CHELSEA

Sunday, 1.30pm

This was always a good fixture until real football stopped. That was around the mid-Eighties in our opinion, when games in the middle of February were either frozen off or played on either bogs or sand-lots. Yes, we remember the Baseball Ground, we hanker for Stamford Bridge’s quagmires. We liked shirts without advertising, proper football, real tackles, and mesmeric wingers who could ghost past full-backs on any surface, skimpy shorts [think you had better stop there – ED].

Then the TV billions brought in the sharks who could afford to buy clubs and take advantage of the endless supply of revenue. ‘Star’ foreign players were bought. The hype was swallowed by a gullible generation who would never have been allowed out of their parents’ sight, never mind experience the pleasure of kicking a ball against a wall hour after hour. We know the truth. The Premier League is bang average, full of ordinary players ready to fall over at every opportunity in the hope of conning a match official. Over-paid, lacking moral fibre, each possessing an agent. Our distain for the exemplifiers of the ‘me-first’ generation runs deep.

Burnley are refreshingly holding their own in the Premier League – an honest club, great fans and a salt-of-the-earth manager in Sean Dyche. He tells it like it is. And we love him for that.

Burnley have not beaten Chelsea since 1973. We don’t see that trend ending, despite their exceptional home form. The lumps come via gold-plated baseball bats these days. Pity.
And don’t get us started on selfie-sticks. Just don’t.

VERDICT: BURNLEY 1 CHELSEA 3 @ 11/1

BEST BET: CHELSEA WIN AND BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 12/5

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SWANSEA CITY v LEICESTER CITY

Sunday, 4pm

We never quite understood why Swansea (7/5) ditched three good managers in the space of two years. Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk all had an expansive style and utilising what flair players they had with great effect. Things have become distinctly forgettable in South Wales since their departure. The Swans have had four different managers in one capacity or another since Monk departed in December 2015 and Paul Clement has a job on is hands keeping them in the top tier.

Leicester (21/10) are suffering a torrid time. They scraped past Derby in the FA Cup fourth round in midweek, needing extra time to do so, but Claudio Ranieri’s humiliation was almost complete when the chairman of the Premier League champions, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (remember this name when playing Scrabble), flew in from Thailand to offer his public backing. Hopefully they won’t be the first champions to be relegated the following season – we hope that accomplishment will befall Tottenham or Liverpool – but it is a distinct possibility, as the Foxes sit just a point above the relegation zone, with Swansea a place below and on the same number of points.

Leicester have failed to win away from home this season and have picked up just three points from their 12 road games. This with a player like Jamie Vardy in their team. How does this happen?

Swansea have looked more organised and cohesive in the last couple of weeks and wins over Southampton and Crystal Palace have boosted morale.

As awful as it seems, we can see Leicester’s troubles increasing here in a clash that has yet to see a draw in the last 10 meetings.

VERDICT: SWANSEA 2 LEICESTER 0 @ 10/1

BEST BET: ONE OR OTHER FAILS TO SCORE @ EVENS

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AFC BOURNEMOUTH v MANCHESTER CITY

Monday, 8pm

Manchester City (4/9) can turn it on whenever it suits them. Usually when they are playing West Ham. Does it have something to do with the fact that their precious millionaires don’t like to get too close to the fans? Intimate grounds can make even Jesus look human. Before those good souls from the… ahem… Christian right who elected Donald Trump get on my case, the Jesus referred to is Gabriel Jesus. Yes, an angel and a saviour! City fans who may have thought Sergio Aguero was the king had better start thinking again. He could be on the way out, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid the front-runners for his signature.

Jesus, 19, arrived from Palmeiras in Brazil after being signed in the summer. He has scored three goals in four appearances, including a double against Swansea last Sunday and is keeping Aguero out of the side. Though he wears gloves and has ruined his arms with tattoos (a definite no-no for us on both counts), he isn’t a bad player. Time will tell, of course.

Let’s see how he handles the cosy confines of Bournemouth (6/1), whose defence will not doubt be generous again. They shipped six goals at Everton last weekend and have leaked 28 goals in their last nine competitive matches since beating Leicester 1-0 in mid-December. This should be a case of whether or not City’s superstars fancy a trip to the cold South Coast on a Monday night. Their mood will determine how many they will win by.

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 1 MANCHESTER CITY 4 @ 16/1

BEST BET: HT/FT = MAN CITY/MAN CITY @ 4/5


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2016/17 PREMIER LEAGUE: THE COMPLETE BETTING GUIDE

Calum Chinchen analyses the 2016/17 Premier League campaign, giving you some top tips and insight along the way!

Defending Champions Leicester City will have to juggle Champions League action with Premier League games, something that will be a million miles from their comfort zone.

It’s fair to say that Leicester have a lack of squad depth at present. Take away their unbelievable commitment and the main reason for the Foxes title success last season was keeping key players fit.

Leicester City v Everton - Barclays Premier League

Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy missed just four Premier League games between them last season, with Mahrez and Vardy sharing a staggering 41 goals along the way.

However, with Kante having already departed, Mahrez reportedly looking for a move and at least an extra six games to be played during the early months – we see it being an uphill battle for Claudio Ranieri’s side, and don’t forecast them finishing inside the top six this season.

Pep Guardiola will manage in the Premier League for the first time this season, after he replaced Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City boss over the summer.

Guardiola’s new side are the 9/4 favourites in this season’s Premier League winner market, and the Spaniard will be looking to win a league title in his debut season for the third time in his short managerial career.

Despite their disappointing 2015/16 campaign, Guardiola has inherited a hugely talented squad, adding the likes of Nolito and Ilkay Gundogan to that impressive unit since his arrival.

AGUERO

Make no mistakes, Sergio Aguero is still Manchester City’s key man. The Argentine managed an impressive 24 goals in an injury hit last campaign, which saw him miss eight league games. In fact, since arriving in the Premier League, Aguero (above) has only exceeded 30 league appearances in a single season on two occasions.

In our eyes, Guardiola’s side fully deserve their favourites tag, and we see them lifting the famous Premier League trophy come May – particularly if a certain Mr Aguero can stay fit!

Manchester United are the 16/5 second favourites for this season’s Premier League crown.

Winning last season’s FA Cup wasn’t enough to save Louis Van Gaal’s job and he was replaced with the ever controversial Jose Mourinho over the summer.

Mourinho (below) has bought in a wealth of big names since being appointed, and despite paying way over the odds in transfer fees, agent payments and wages, there is no doubting that Zlatan Ibrahimović, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will improve United’s squad.

Manchester United Officially Introduce Jose Mourinho as Their New Manager

Like his former manager and verbal sparring partner, Guardiola, this campaign will be Ibrahimović’s first in English football. The Swede is a 8/1 shot to be Premier League top scorer, and he has every chance, especially if Wayne Rooney is employed in his favoured number ten position.

Chelsea will be looking to improve on last year’s horror show in the Premier League. During their dismal title defence, the West Londoners managed just 12 wins en-route to a disappointing tenth place finish.

This prompted Roman Abramovich to appoint former Juventus and Italy boss, Antonio Conte as the club’s new manager. During his five years with Juve, Conte (below) managed to win the Serie A title on an impressive three occasions.

CONTE

Conceding goals was Chelsea’s main issue last season. The Blues conceded a staggering 53 goals, and while many may point the finger at their ageing back four, the more knowledgeable football fan would blame the lack of midfield cover.

Nemanja Matic was nothing short of awful during his little playing time last season, with his mistakes and lack of positional sense often placing his back four under massive pressure. This was obviously common knowledge to the new Chelsea manager, who splashed out over £30m on N’Golo Kante from Leicester City not long after his arrival.

There is no doubt in our minds that Chelsea will be back in title contention this season, especially with the signing of Kante – a player who never seems to leave his defence exposed.

While it seems short, their 4/7 price for a top four finish is looking like free money to us.

In our minds, it is a formality that Arsenal will join Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs in next year’s Champions League, however will that be enough to keep their fans happy?

The answer is a resounding…NO!

While Arsenal supporters have every right to feel aggrieved at not winning a Premier League title for over 10 years, they should remember that it could be a lot worse. Let’s not forget, the Gunners have qualified for the Champions League in each of the last 18 seasons and were FA Cup winners in two of the last three years.

GIROUD

Olivier Giroud (above) is a fine centre forward and there is no doubting his obvious qualities, however he seems to struggle when playing as the lone forward. Giroud prefers to operate alongside a faster, more goal driven front man, which was evident at Euro 2016, where his link-up play with Antoine Griezmann set pulses racing.

However, if Arsene Wenger is going to continue with the same system as in recent years, then Giroud just isn’t the man for the job. In our mind, Wenger either needs to play Alexis Sanchez beside the Frenchman in a 4-4-2 system, or replace him for a more complete and dynamic forward.

The central defensive position has also been a problem for the Gunners, with Laurent Koscielny in real need of a new partner. Per Mertesacker is a leader with great positioning, however he is far too slow for the Premier League these days, and as for Gabriel, he is simply nowhere near good enough.

Granit Xhaka arrived for big money in the summer, and like Kante at Chelsea, we expect his combative style to provide some well needed protection for the Arsenal back four.

SANCHEZ OZIL

There is no doubting that any side containing Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez (above) should be challenging for the title, but until Arsenal address their issues at centre back and centre forward, they will just have to settle for a top four spot.

Liverpool were arguably the most inconsistent side in the Premier League last season.

Despite some fine away victories against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the Mersysiders eventually finished in eighth position after losing 12 games and conceding 50 goals in the Premier League.

With Christian Benteke looking almost certain to leave, and Daniel Sturridge’s constant injury battles, there is no doubting that Jürgen Klopp (below) needs to invest in a top striker if his side are going to challenge for Champions League football this season.

Stoke City v Liverpool - Capital One Cup - Semi Final - First Leg - Britannia Stadium

Liverpool are a 6/4 shot to finish in the top four, and unless consistency levels are increased, we don’t see Champions League qualification being likely.

Tottenham fans will still be reeling after last season’s final game. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were thrashed at already relegated Newcastle – a result that caused them to fall below their bitter rivals Arsenal for yet another season.

Despite his dire Euro 2016 performances, we still fancy Harry Kane to have a successful season at White Hart Lane. Kane (below) is the heartbeat of the current Tottenham side, and his link up play with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli always seems to result in clear goal scoring opportunities. Considering Sergio Aguero’s recent injury troubles, Kane’s top scorer price of 7/1 looks like real value.

SOCCER: FEB 14 Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur at Manchester City

When it comes to Tottenham, we just feel as though they missed their chance of success last season. With their Arsenal curse still in place and the likes of Man United and Chelsea adding real quality, we see Spurs struggling for a Champions League qualification spot, and 11/10 for a top four finish looks far from enticing to us.

If anyone is going to challenge the top six this season, then we see it being either Everton or West Ham.

Ronald Koeman made the switch to Goodison Park over the summer, and there is no doubting his managerial capabilities.

Despite a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, Romelu Lukaku is still vital for the Toffees, and they will need to keep hold of him if they are going to challenge for a European spot.

John Stones looks certain to join Manchester City for a mind blowing fee, and while that won’t bother too many Evertonians, getting an adequate replacement is still going to be vital.

Slaven Bilic has worked wonders since taking over at West Ham, guiding the club to an impressive seventh place finish last season. Bilic hasn’t rested on his laurels since, and has arguably done the best business of any Premier League manager so far this summer.

Havard Nordtveit and Sofiane Feghouli both arrived on free transfers, while Gokhan Tore was bought to the club on an initial season long loan deal.

PAYET

It also looks like Dimitri Payet (above) will be staying at the club, which will delight Hammers fans, particularly after his wonderful Euro 2016 campaign.

Southampton, Stoke and Crystal Palace all look near certainties for a mid-table finish. While all three sides have far too much depth to be considered for relegation, each of the clubs seem to lack the quality required for European qualification.

In terms of the newly promoted sides, Middlesbrough look the most equipped to fight relegation.

Manager Aitor Karanka (below) has worked wonders in the transfer window, adding Alvaro Negredo, Victor Valdes and Antonio Barragan to a squad that in our minds, was already ready for the Premier League.

KARANKA

Hull and Burley were also promoted last season, but we see their fight against relegation being far more difficult.

In truth, neither club have added much Premier League quality to their already paper thin squads, and it would surprise if these two sides were playing in the second tier again next season.

Bournemouth are a side that worry us this season. The Cherries are 16/5 to be relegated from the Premier League, which seems like value, particularly when you mention these fatal three words – second season syndrome.

Eddie Howe (below) may have spent big in the summer, but he has failed to bring in anyone with real Premier League experience. Brad Smith and Jordan Ibe both arrived from Liverpool, however, the two men have less than 50 top flight appearances between them.

HOWE

Matt Ritchie was Bournemouth’s key man last season, however he departed for Newcastle over the summer.

Watford, West Brom and Swansea all had disappointing campaigns last year, and all three sides will need to improve if they are going to avoid relegation and climb the Premier League table.

Sunderland have become the masters of last minute relegation survival over the last few years, with Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce all rescuing the Black Cats in the previous three campaigns.

As you all will know, Allardyce departed the Stadium of Light to take the England job a few weeks ago, with David Moyes being appointed as his replacement. Moyes will undoubtedly be looking to settle some scores after a wretched spell at Manchester United and if his new side manage to start well, then there is absolutely no reason why they can’t reach mid-table security.

That said, the jury is out on whether Sunderland can avoid another relegation scrap if they are in trouble come May.

OUR SELECTIONS

WINNER: MAN CITY @ 9/4

TOP SCORER: HARRY KANE @ 7/1

RELEGATION: BOURNEMOUTH @ 16/5

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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!

160113_FREE-KIT_TW

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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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 nailed TWO correct FA Cup scores last week at 9/1 and 6/1 and now look to continue our good run with our Premier League selections. Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League this weekend…

TOTTENHAM v ARSENAL

Premier League games don’t come any bigger than this one. Saturday’s game is not just about local pride – it could also turn out to be a title decider. The Gunners must win at White Hart Lane to stay in the race, while Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be more than happy with a point.

SANCHEZ (2)
Sanchez: Out of form

Home form has been a real strong point for Tottenham (2.38) during their impressive campaign. The title contenders have taken an impressive 28 points from 42 at during home games, failing to win on just six occasions in their 14 league games at White Hart Lane.

Arsenal (3.00) may be struggling of late, but they have a fine record in this fixture. The Gunners have only lost one of their last seven meetings with their neighbours, winning four times during that period.

Despite the ‘one of our own’ chants from the Tottenham faithful, Harry Kane was on Arsenal’s books as a youngster and was even rumoured to be a Gunners fan. However, you wouldn’t know it from his form on the field. Kane has scored three times in his last two league appearances against Arsenal, including a sumptuous finish to beat Petr Cech at the Emirates earlier this season.

Alexis Sanchez has really struggled for form since returning from injury. The Chilean winger was particularly poor in the Gunners loss at Manchester United last weekend, and is yet to score a Premier League goal since his strike at Vicarage Road back in October.

In the reverse meeting, Kieran Gibbs snatched a point for Arsene Wenger’s men after Kane’s opener and Tottenham’s overall dominance.

Goals are usually on the agenda when these two bitter rivals meet, with both Arsenal and Tottenham have managing to net in each of the last four clashes.

Taking all the stats into consideration, we fancy a narrow away win, with both sides getting on the scoresheet. [CC]

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 1 ARSENAL 2 @ 10.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.67

 CHELSEA v STOKE

Chelsea (1.44) were rather fortunate to win 2-1 at Norwich on Tuesday night, with Diego Costa’s winner more offside than a Donald Trump sermon in a mosque.

Jack Butland
Butland: England’s other No.1

The champions climbed to eighth with their third successive victory, five points adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United and eight adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.

Confidence is high since Chelsea tipped Jose Mourinho over the side of the leaking boat and Guus Hiddink has steered the West Londoners to calmer waters. They have the FA Cup and Champions League still to play for, and are on a run of one defeat in 16 in all competitions since mid-December (a 2-1 reverse at PSG in the first leg of their Champions League 1st Knockout Round clash).

Stoke (7.00) jumped above Chelsea on Wednesday evening, following their 1-0 win over Newcastle, to put them in seventh place. Having suffered a wobble, taking one point from a possible 12 and going out of the League Cup and FA Cup within the space of four days, Mark Hughes’ side has shown plenty of character. The Potters have won their last three to stay in the hunt for the European places.

Keeper Jack Butland has been one of the highs in a tremendous season for Stoke and will shortly sign a new long-term deal. He is also expected to be in the England squad for Euro 2016 and may well push Joe Hart for the No.1 spot.

Stoke beat Chelsea 1-0 in November. The last time they did that, they followed up with a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture. That was in the 1973/74 season, thet last time they won back-to-back games against the Blues.

Indeed, Stoke have managed just two wins over Chelsea in the last 20 attempts and in the form the hosts are currently in, we feel City’s mini-revival may come to a halt. [SM]

VERDICT: CHELSEA 3 STOKE 0 @ 9.00

BEST BET: CHELSEA WIN TO NIL @ 2.20

EVERTON v WEST HAM

Everton’s (1.73) home form has been nothing short of dreadful. They have won just four of their last 14 league games at Goodison Park and lost six times.

Romelu Lukaku 2
Lukaku: Loves scoring against West Ham

Currently in mid-table, they are five points behind visitors West Ham (4.50) with a game in hand on the Londoners.

Roberto Martinez’s side are probably too far off the pace to think about a top four spot, yet the talent within the side means they should probably be higher up the table. They do, however, still have the FA Cup to play for and the prospect of picking up a trophy after 21 barren years has energised the faithful.

Everton, beaten 1-0 by West Brom in their last home league game, have since bounced back with successive away wins at Bournemouth (FA Cup) and Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Sixth-placed West Ham, who beat Tottenham on Wednesday, may provide just the tonic to cure their home blues. For Everton are one of West Ham’s bogey teams. The Happy Hammers turn hapless when faced with the Merseysiders, who have not lost to them in the last 18 meetings. The last time West Ham won at Goodison was way back in 2005.

Given West Ham’s emotionally draining clash with Tottenham and given that they face Manchester United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford next weekend, this is a game that they could have done without. We don’t see Slaven Bilic’s side gaining much confidence from a rare Everton home win.

Those who wish to plunder the great Dubble Bubble First Goalscorer offer should look no further than Romelu Lukaku. The Everton marksman has netted in each of his last seven appearances against the Hammers.

That said, if the Hammers were to somehow win, they could still be title challengers, having to still play the likes of Leicester, Arsenal and Manchester United. They look certain to play a role in who wins the Premier League. [SM]

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 WEST HAM 0 @ 8.00

BEST BET: EVERTON TO WIN @ 1.73

MAN CITY v ASTON VILLA

Aston Villa (13.00) fans take no comfort from the fact that Leicester were in their position this time last year. Now they are on the verge of the Premier League title.

Pelegrini
Pellegrini: A dignified winner

But the Villains are on the verge of dropping into the Championship and, with few leaders and fewer star names to sell, it may be some time before the Midlanders bounce back to the top flight.

Marooned eight points adrift of safety, they were inept in a 3-1 home defeat by Everton on Tuesday and they have won just three games all season. Time is running out, but it seems the players have already consigned themselves to the obvious.

Manchester City (1.18) have lost just two of the last 17 meetings and Villa have failed to score in four of the last five meetings. Their defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday evening means they are 10 points behind first-placed Leicester and are in danger of being caught for fourth place.

Yet this presents an easy opportunity to not only win the game, but to rest a few tired legs before their Champions League second-leg home tie against Dynamo Kiev.

Manuel Pellegini’s City will look to bounce back from their avenged League Cup success, and depending on what side they select, it will either be a narrow win or an emphatic victory.

We go for the former. [SM]

VERDICT: MAN CITY 2 ASTON VILLA 0 @ 6.00

BEST BET: MAN CITY WIN TO NIL @ 1.83

NEWCASTLE v BOURNEMOUTH

Newcastle (2.63) are still well and truly in a relegation battle, despite splashing out big money on the likes of Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey in the January transfer window.

GRADEL
Gradel: Fit again

Bournemouth (2.63) have struggled for goals this season. The Cherries have been hampered since losing key man Callum Wilson to injury back in September, netting less than 35 goals during the entire campaign.

Georginio Wijnaldum has been Newcastle’s best player this season. The young Dutchman arrived from PSV for over £14m in the summer, and has looked like real value for money after netting nine league goals from midfield this season, including FOUR against Norwich back in October. The talented youngster has also become a permanent fixture in the Dutch national team this season and even managed to get on the scoresheet during their unsuccessful Euro 2016 qualification campaign.

Max Gradel arrived at Bournemouth for big money in the summer, however things really haven’t gone to plan since. The former Leeds and Leicester winger damaged cruciate knee ligaments in just his fourth appearance in Bournemouth colours, subsequently missing the next five months of competitive action. However after lengthy rehabilitation, Gradel returned to the Cherries first team against Watford last weekend, much to the delight of his manager Eddie Howe. The tricky Ivorian has the ability to help drive the Cherries to Premier League safety this season, providing he can stay fully fit for their last 10 league games.

Only two of the last six league games at St James Park have ended with more than two goals, while Bournemouth have scored just three times in their last five league games away from home and have failed to score at all in three games during that period.

We see a low scoring encounter being played out here, with the home side edging it, just as they did in the reverse fixture last November. [CC]

VERDICT: NEWCASTLE 1 BOURNEMOUTH 0 @ 8.50

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.83 

SOUTHAMPTON v SUNDERLAND

Ronald Koeman will be delighted with his sides home form of late, along with their current league position – particularly when you consider their poor start to the season. Prior to their defeat against Chelsea last weekend, Southampton (1.45) had managed to notch up five straight home league wins, including a stunning 4-0 win over Arsenal on Boxing Day.

KOEMAN
Koeman: Happy with home form

Sunderland (7.00) need to find at least 15 points from their remaining ten games in order to avoid relegation. That said, they do have the easiest run-in of all their other relegation candidates, with the Black Cats facing just one of the current top six between now and the end of the season.

Sadio Mane has struggled for form this season. The attacking midfielder has a wonderful debut campaign last season, scoring and assisting goals on a regular basis. His form caught the eye of Manchester United during the summer, who reportedly registered an interest in the Senegal international, however nothing came to fruition.

In truth, the interest has had a negative impact on Mane, who has scored just three league goals and been dropped by his manager on numerous occasions – most notably against Norwich in early January.

Sam Allardyce will be concerned by his sides away form this season. Sunderland have collected just 8 points from their 14 games away from the Stadium of Light, winning on just two occasions.

Southampton have a wonderful record against Saturday’s opponents. The Saints have lost in just two of their last 11 meetings with Sunderland, with their 8-0 win back in 2014 still sticking in the minds of both sets of fans.

Taking stats and form into consideration, we see nothing other than a convincing home win at St Marys, despite the short price. [CC]

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 2 SUNDERLAND 0 @ 6.00

BEST BET: SOUTHAMPTON TO WIN @ 1.45

SWANSEA v NORWICH

With both sides in awful form and dangerously close to the bottom three, Saturday’s game at the Liberty Stadium has a real ‘relegation six pointer’ feel about it.

Alberto Paloschi
Paloschi: New man at the Liberty Stadium

Swansea (1.85) have a wretched home Premier League record this season. The Swans have only managed to win four times at the Liberty Stadium all season, with only two coming since August.

Alex Neil will be a worried man. Norwich (4.20) are without a win since any of their last nine league games – a run dating back to the first week of January.

Alberto Paloschi has been Francesco Guidolin’s only signing since taking over at Swansea in January. Under Garry Monk, goals were extremely hard to come by, with the Swans main marksman Bafetimbi Gomis netting just five league goals in the past six months.

This prompted the Guidolin to bring in the former Milan and Parma frontman. In truth, Paloschi has a less than convincing career goal scoring record – netting well under a 100 league goals during his nine years in Italy.

That said, Swansea’s new front man has impressed since arriving and grabbed his first goal in English football with a convincing finish at White Hart Lane last weekend.

There is no doubt that Norwich will need to stay in the Premier League in order to keep winger Nathan Redmond at the club. The England under 21 international is the Canaries main threat, with his pace and direct style causing full backs across the country all sorts of problems so far this season.

Neither side will want a draw here, so we see an open game at the Liberty Stadium. It is also worth noting that six of the last eight meetings between Norwich and Swansea have ended with more than two goals being scored.

We are going for a scoring draw here. [CC]

VERDICT: SWANSEA 2 NORWICH 2 @ 15.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.05 

WATFORD v LEICESTER

Winning games like this is going to essential if Leicester (2.40) are going to be crowned Champions come May. The Foxes have an excellent record on the road this season, collecting a staggering 28 points from their 14 away league games so far.

DRINKWATER
Drinkwater: Fine campaign

Watford (2.88) will have to guard against complacency in the coming weeks. Relegation is now out of the question for the Hornets, while a Europa League spot looks like a step too far, meaning in theory, Watford have nothing to play for other than pride.

Danny Drinkwater has had a wonderful campaign. The former Manchester United trainee has been the best English central midfielder in the Premier League this season, with many calling for the powerful midfielder to be included in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.

Recently, the goals have dried up for Odion Ighalo. Despite scoring 14 Premier League goals this season, the Nigerian striker hasn’t netted since the end of January. It has been a similar story for his strike partner Troy Deeney who has scored just three times in 2016.

Like Claudio Ranieri’s men, Watford have had a wonderful campaign and will be no pushovers on Saturday evening. The Hornets may be cagey and compact away from home, but at Vicarage Road they prefer to keep possession and focus on pressing their opponents. However, that type of set-up is ideal for the Foxes, who play best when operating with a fast counter attacking style.

We are going for a narrow away win here. [CC]

VERDICT: WATFORD 1 LEICESTER 2 @ 9.50           

BEST BET: LEICESTER TO WIN @ 2.40

CRYSTAL PALACE v LIVERPOOL

Crystal Palace (3.40) have had Liverpool’s (2.10) number in the last few seasons. The Eagles have lost just two of the last eight meetings and have won three of the last four.

KLOPP
On the rise: Klopp and Liverpool

Yet Liverpool, avenged their gut-wrenching League Cup final defeat on penalties to Manchester City by beating Mauel Pellegrini’s side at Anfield in the league on Wednesday, are starting to look a much better side than they did before Jurgen Klopp took charge.

True, the German needs to shake up his squad, which is ridden with average players on big-money contracts. And that will take time.

Yet Liverpool, who still have an outside chance of a Champions League berth and are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, may be able to shake off the Palace hex.

The Reds won on their last trip to Selhurst Park – in last season’s FA Cup – and the Alan Pardew magic appears to have worn off lately, as Palace are in freefall.

Following their 202 draw at Sunderland on Tuesday, Palace have no gone 11 Premier League games without a win and they have lost their last four home games.

While two more wins will likely see Pardew’s side retaining their top-flight status, their lack of goals, particularly from their strikers, is troubling. Emmanuel Adebayor’s arrival has not worked the oracle as yet, and while Pardew has plenty of his big names fit again, they are not firing.

Palace do have an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to and Reading are an average Championship team ripe for the taking. So a trip to Wembley for the semi-final is on the cards.

With league safety almost certain and a big game in the offing next week, it may be that some players may be a yard or two off the pace against Liverpool.

Nine of the last 10 meetings saw both sides net and we see a narrow away win for the visitors. [SM]

VERDICT: CRYSTAL PALACE 1 LIVERPOOL 2 @ 9.00

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL WIN AND BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 4.50

WEST BROM v MAN UTD

The battle for fourth place is now getting interesting, with fourth-placed Manchester City and fifth-placed Manchester United level on 47 points and West Ham breathing down their necks in sixth, a point behind.

Marcus Rashford
Starlet: Marcus Rashford

City are in the driving seat but aside from a valuable Champions League win in Kiev, their League form is starting to tail off.

True, they have won a pot, but the League Cup will be a mere token given the anticipation of the fans and the money spent at the Etihad on the squad.

Manchester United (1.95) have a winnable FA Cup quarter-final home tie with West Ham to look forward to and they are also in with a great chance of landing the Europa League.

With Marcus Rashford bursting on to the scene, suddenly United look a more potent force after a season of turbulence and tepid football under Louis van Gaal.

West Brom (4.00) have lurched from the woeful to the sublime at times this term. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Leicester, aside from being a delight to watch, showed Tony Pulis’s side can mix it with better opposition. Their win over Crystal Palace last week eased the pressure and went a long way to securing their top-flight status for another year.

West Brom have lost just two of the last six meetings with United, but the Red Devils now have plenty to play for after beating Watford on Wednesday and we see them getting at least a point – the draw is available at 3.25 – at the Hawthorns. [SM]

VERDICT: WEST BROM 1 MAN UTD 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: FIRST GOAL UP TO AND INCLUDING 30TH MINUTE @ 2.10  

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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

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

If you are not affiliated to a club, you can bet via Bet4Causes.com, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood, World Horse Welfare and StreetGames.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk

 

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 nailed TWO correct FA Cup scores last week at 9/1 and 6/1 and now look to continue our good run with our Premier League selections. Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League this weekend…

WEST HAM v SUNDERLAND

Sam Allardyce goes back to West Ham (1.83). That will be the over-riding sub-plot to a game that has massive implications at both ends of the table.

jermain Defoe
Dangerman: Ex-Hammer Jermain Defoe

Allardyce did what he was asked to do in his tenure at The Boleyn. He got them straight back into the Premier League, winning the 2012 Football League Playoff final. Finishing positions of 10th, 13th and 12th were not good enough for the fans, who ran Allardyce out of town in June 2015, feeling that his supposedly ‘long-ball’ style was not the “West Ham way” of playing.

In fairness, he was never a good fit. The West Ham fans always saw him as the Bolton manager whose side sent them down in 2002/03, despite the Hammers recording 42 points.

And the stats said change was required. Allardyce won three games in charge of West Ham in 2015, before leaving in the summer. Slaven Bilic won three games in 10 days to start 2016.

The Hammers are flying. In 10 games against seven of the top eight contenders in the Premier League, they have the best record, taking 17 points. Arsenal are next best, having taken 16 points from 10 games, while Leicester have 16 points from 11. They currently sit seventh in the table a point behind fifth-placed Manchester United and seven points outside the top four.

Allardyce’s Sunderland (4.50) are second from bottom but only a point away from safety, and have a better goal-difference than Norwich (17th), Newcastle (18th) and Aston Villa (20th).

They have a tricky run upcoming, facing Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A) and Newcastle (A) in March. They still have to play the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester, although that trio have to go to the Stadium of Light.

While the Hammers are big outsiders to make the top four, they can have a say in the destination of the title. They still have to play Tottenham (H), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H), Leicester (A) and Man Utd (H). They are also in the FA Cup quarter-finals. The good news is they raise their game against better opposition. The bad news is, Bilic’s side have lacked consistency against lesser sides: they have lost at Newcastle and Southampton, and drawn at Norwich in recent weeks.

West Ham have lost five of the last 20 meetings with Sunderland, who have won three of the last 16 trips to Upton Park.

However, the Black Cats have one statistic going for them – the Hammers have not managed to stay unbeaten against Sunderland for six consecutive meetings. They are on a run of three draws and two wins. If this stat holds true, you can forget the form. In a good season for Hammers’ fans, this may be one of the more sour notes – losing to the long-ball merchant from Bolton.

More salt in the wound? Ex-Hammer Jermain Defoe will probably score, too! [SM]

VERDICT: WEST HAM 1 SUNDERLAND 2 @ 13.00

BEST BET: SUNDERLAND AND DRAW @ 1.91

LEICESTER v NORWICH

Norwich (6.50) are falling like a stone, are giving up leads and leaking goals. They have shipped 15 goals in the last five Premier League games and have twice thrown away two-goal leads in recent weeks to Liverpool and West Ham. They sit just a point above the relegation zone and you would not fancy them to stay up if in the same position with three games remaining, as their run-in is brutal, facing Arsenal (A), Man Utd (H) and Everton (A).

Wes Hoolihan.png
Good record: Wes Hoolihan

Leicester (1.50) are still two points clear of the pack at the top of the table, despite losing in heart-breaking fashion at Arsenal two weeks ago.

Unlike the Gunners, who are in the middle of a two-legged Champions League last-16 clash with Barcelona, the Foxes are fresh. They have had two weeks to recover and manager Claudio Ranieri has given his players a week off to relax.

With title chasers Tottenham and Manchester City also involved in European competition, there will be no excuses if Leicester fail to maintain their title charge. Yes, they have less squad depth and they have also been extremely fortunate with injuries, but they also boast fresh legs.

Norwich have been something of a bogey side to Leicester in the past. Indeed, they have won six of the last 10 meetings, while Leicester have managed just three wins over the Canaries in 12 attempts.

Wes Hoolihan has been something of a thorn in Leicester’s side, having scored in three of the last four meetings and he may be a fair outside bet to get on the scoresheet once again. Don’t forget, on your club’s betting service, you can get DUBBLE-BUBBLE if your selected first goalscorer grabs a second.

However, Leicester have a month of winnable games ahead, facing West Brom (H), Watford (A), Newcastle (H) and Crystal Palace (A) after this clash, and we think Norwich will do well to keep this close. [SM]

VERDICT: LEICESTER 3 NORWICH 1 @ 12.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.80

SOUTHAMPTON v CHELSEA

After a wretched spell over the November/December period, Southampton (2.88) have recovered, and are now the in-form Premier League side. Ronald Koeman’s men are unbeaten in all of their last six league outings, winning five of those games to climb into sixth position.

FORSTER
Forster: Top keeper

Chelsea (2.50) are also a side in fantastic domestic form. The West Londoners are coming off a stunning 5-1 FA Cup win over Manchester City last weekend, with interim manager Guus Hiddink losing only one game since his return to Stamford Bridge – a far-from-disgraceful away loss at PSG.

It is absolutely no coincidence that Southampton’s form has improved since goalkeeper Fraser Forster returned to the side. The England international missed the first half of this season with the broken knee-cap he suffered against Burnley last March. Forster is yet to concede a single goal since returning to the Southampton side in mid-January, keeping six clean sheets in a row during that time.

Cesc Fabregas pulled the strings against Man City on Sunday, and appears to be enjoying life under Guus Hiddink. The Spanish international was one of the players who reportedly clashed with Jose Mourinho during his final few weeks at Stamford Bridge, which caused sections of the Chelsea faithful to voice negative chats towards the former Arsenal man. However, in the weeks that have followed, Fabregas has managed to shake off the criticism and looks to be back near his best after some fine recent performances.

Despite losing in the reverse fixture, Chelsea have a fine recent record against Southampton. The Blues have won seven of the last 12 meetings between the clubs, losing only twice.

It is also worth noting that both sides have managed to get on the scoresheet in nine of the last 10 meetings, including all of the last three.

With that in mind, we fancy an away win here – with both teams finding the net at some point. [CC]

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 1 CHELSEA 2 @ 10.00

BEST BET: CHELSEA WIN & BTTS @ 5.25

STOKE v ASTON VILLA

Stoke (1.67) were convincing winners against Bournemouth in their last outing, ending a run of four straight league defeats in the process. Consistency has been the main issue for the Potters so far this season. Mark Hughes and his men find themselves in tenth position, despite winning 10 games already this season.

AFELLAY
Affelay: Happy in new role

Relegation is looking like a near certainty for Aston Villa (6.00) after their crushing 6-0 defeat at home to Liverpool in their last league outing. The Midlanders are rooted to the foot of the table, and are now eight points from safety with just 12 games remaining.

Before arriving at Stoke in the summer, Ibrahim Afellay was known solely as an out-and-out winger.

However, the form of Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri in wide areas, and injuries to supporting strikers Jonathan Walters and Bojan have led to the former Barcelona man being used in central areas – either in midfield or as a number ten. This has proved hugely successful, with Afellay’s technique and work rate winning praise from his manager and plaudits alike.

Offensively, Aston Villa have been appalling this season. Remi Garde’s men have scored just 20 goals in 26 league games so far this season, and have failed to score in 11 of those games. Much of this has been down to the form of their strikers, with Rudy Gestede, Gabby Agbonlahor and Jordan Ayew sharing just 10 goals between them.

Stoke have won four of the last five meetings between these clubs, while Villa have only claimed one away victory during this entire league campaign.

Everything points to a convincing home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: STOKE 3 ASTON VILLA 0 @ 11.00

BEST BET: STOKE TO WIN @ 1.67

WATFORD v BOURNEMOUTH

Two of the three sides who came from the Championship are well on the way to preserving their status and it is Watford who look the most secure.

DEENEY & IGHALO
Double trouble: Ighalo and Deeney

Rule of thumb says that 37 points is usually gets a club over the line and Watford (2.30) are just a point shy with 12 games remaining. They currently sit in ninth place in the table and are in the FA Cup quarter-finals, although there has to be a question of whether or not they will be able to replicate this fantastic performance next term once they lose striker Odion Ighalo.

The prolific marksman has pricked the interest of clubs across Europe. Little wonder. The Nigerian striker has netted 15 times in 25 starts for the Hornets and continues to thrive in partnership with Troy Deeney. Ighalo’s partner-in-crime, who arrived from Walsall in 2010, has set up six goals and scored nine himself in 28 League and Cup starts.

What has been most refreshing has been the football both these sides have played. Watford have been expansive under manager Quique Sanchez Flores and they are also keeping plenty of clean sheets (as respective 1-0 FA Cup wins over Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Leeds attest).

Many expected Bournemouth (3.20) to struggle, especially when they lost Callum Wilson for the season early on with a ruptured cruciate ligament. The former Coventry striker had scored five goals in six games before being injured against Stoke in September, which had some big clubs taking note.

With the club’s two most expensive signings, winger Max Gradel and defender Tyrone Mings, also ruled out with knee ligament damage, the prospects for Eddie Howe’s side looked bleak.

Yet despite a run that has seem then lose the last three games in all competitions, the Cherries are 15th in the table, four points above 18th-placed Newcastle, and have a superior goal difference to all those below them except Swansea. That may be crucial at the season’s end.

Bournemouth have a fair recent record against the Hornets, winning one and drawing three, but their sole win came at home and that was their only victory in the last eight meetings.

Watford are going well after a patchy opening to 2016 when losing four league games on the spin. They have won two of the last nine in the League, losing five of them.

This is not an easy game to weigh up and it may be worth chancing the visitors to take a share of the spoils, although this is not a game to have a fortune on. [SM]

VERDICT: WATFORD 2 BOURNEMOUTH 2 @ 15.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.83

WEST BROM v CRYSTAL PALACE

You get the impression things are starting to implode at West Brom (2.63).

All it takes is one disgruntled fan and a few who empathise but don’t throw coins.

pulis
Seeking talks: Pulis

West Brom have won one of their last six league games and were dumped out of the FA Cup by lower-league opposition last weekend. They have won two of their last 11 in all competitions.

Baggies’ fans are obviously concerned by the manner of defeat and the slide in the table which leaves them just six points above the relegation zone.

They are by no means out of the woods, but how the squad reacts to the disgraceful and unacceptable behaviour of coin-throwing at their own players going forward is a question many will ponder. There are 12 games remaining and although seemingly just a win or two from safety, already there is a picking of the thread.

Manager Tony Pulis is refusing to commit his future to the club. His contract expires in 2017 and he came under criticism from fans after their 3-1 FA Cup exit at Reading.

The coin-throwing incident, which he deemed “barbaric” (rightly), may have been the final straw.

With Saido Berahino a valuable commodity, will Pulis be given assurances that the bulk of any transfer money go towards strengthening the squad? It may have a large bearing on his decision to stay or leave.

Crystal Palace (2.88) have looked in freefall since Christmas. They have failed to win any of their last nine league games (losing six) since Boxing Day and have scored just four goals in the process. Their FA Cup win at Tottenham was a welcome lancing of the boil and several big-name players have returned to full fitness.

Reaching the FA Cup semi-finals is a realistic possibility as they face Championship Reading – one of Alan Pardew’s former teams – in the next round.

Confidence is everything and the result at White Hart Lane could be catalyst for a strong run, starting at The Hawthorns.

Palace have 32 points, the same as West Brom, but despite their poor run, there is a totally different (positive) vibe at Selhurst Park. Palace, who have won three of the last five meetings with west Brom, have only lost one of their last seven trips to The Hawthorns, and have winnable games at Sunderland and at home to Liverpool upcoming. This game could be a pivotal one for both clubs going forward, and we feel Palace will pick up at least a point. [SM]

VERDICT: WEST BROM 1 CRYSTAL PALACE 3 @ 29.00

BEST BET: CRYSTAL PALACE WIN, DRAW NO BET @ 1.95

MAN UNITED v ARSENAL

Clashes between Wenger, Ferguson, Keane and Vieira first come to mind whenever this fixture is mentioned, and whilst the hostility between the two clubs has decreased of late, a win at Old Trafford is still vital for both teams.

WELBECK VS MAN UTD
Welbeck: Facing former club

Louis van Gaal is on borrowed time. Manchester United (3.10) have won just two of their last six league games, currently finding themselves six points adrift of the Champions League qualification places.

After their dramatic late win over leaders Leicester in their last league outing, Arsenal (2.40) find themselves back in the title race. However, their squad depth will be tested to the max in March, with away games against Tottenham, Barcelona and Everton all on their agenda during the next four weeks.

The lack of fluidity in transition from back-to-front has really hindered Manchester United so far this season. In years gone by, United have focussed on plotting attacks from the middle of midfield, with the likes of Paul Scholes and the above mentioned Roy Keane both taking games by the scruff on a regular basis, providing both front men and wingers with quality delivery, as well as a constant passing option.

In all honesty, their current crop don’t look up to the challenge. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Marouane Fellaini all seem to take an age to move the ball from the centre of midfield, often finding themselves passing sideways or losing possession altogether.

Both sides have managed to find the net in three of the last four meetings between the two.

It is also worth noting that the Gunners have avoided defeat in both of their trips to Old Trafford last season, drawing the league game and winning their FA Cup quarter final after Danny Welbeck scored the winner against his boyhood club.

We are going for a scoring draw here. [CC]

VERDICT: MAN UNITED 1 ARSENAL 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.91

TOTTENHAM v SWANSEA

In their last league outing, Tottenham (1.44) well and truly confirmed themselves as title challengers after winning 2-1 away at Manchester City.

DEMBELE
Dembele: In form

However, the North Londoners were really poor in last weekend’s FA Cup exit to Crystal Palace and Mauricio Pochettino will have to ensure that the surprising home defeat doesn’t have a negative effect on the playing staff.

Francesco Guidolin has steadied the ship since taking over at Swansea (7.50) in late January. The experienced Italian guided the Swans to an impressive win away at Everton in his first game in charge, and has only overseen one loss since taking over.

Mousa Dembele has rediscovered his top form this season. The Belgian international appeared unfit and slightly heavy during the previous two campaigns, with many of the Tottenham faithful criticising his work rate on a regular basis. However, the new, slimmed down version of Dembele has been amongst Tottenham’s best performers so far this season. On his day, the Belgian midfielder can be almost unplayable, combining a dominant physical presence with excellent technical ability and vision.

Clashes between these two sides are rarely boring. Six of the last nine meetings between Tottenham and Swansea have ended with more than two goals being scored, while all but two of those nine meetings have ended with both sides getting on the scoresheet.

The reverse meeting ended in a 2-2 draw, with Christian Eriksen grabbing a stunning brace and Harry Kane scoring a spectacular own goal. However, Tottenham haven’t lost to Swansea since 1991, winning eight of the last ten meetings between the clubs.

Everything points to a convincing home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 3 SWANSEA 1 @ 13.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.95

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s F.A. Cup Guide

There were few shocks in the last round of the F.A. Cup and few shocks with our Best Bets last week: we nailed plenty of Premier League winning selections.

You will have no doubt noticed that 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!

If you are not affiliated to a club and wish to take advantage of our great offers or simply have a bet, you can sign up to our Bet4Causes site, where 20% of the bookmaker’s net revenue goes to our chosen charities.

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all the F.A. Cup Fifth round matches this weekend…

WELBECK
Welbeck: Dream return

ARSENAL v HULL

When it comes to the FA Cup, Hull City (6.50) must be sick and tired of the Gunners after losing to Arsene Wenger’s men in the last two years.

Arsenal (1.57) cruised to a 2-0 home victory in last year’s Third round, but their 2014 final clash at Wembley is the one that most sticks out. Hull went 2-0 up within the first 10 minutes before Arsenal rallied, eventually winning 3-2 after extra time.

After missing nearly a year’s worth of competitive action with a serious knee injury, Danny Welbeck made an unbelievable return to the Arsenal first team last weekend. The England international came off the bench in the 83rd minute against Leicester and was celebrating with the Arsenal faithful just 12 minutes later. Welbeck headed a 95th-minute winner to keep his side in the title race and gained a new found ‘hero’ status among Arsenal fans.

Many people expected Abel Hernandez to leave Hull after their relegation from the Premier League. However, the prolific Uruguayan stuck around and managed to score 16 league goals in the process, with only Andre Gray ahead of him in the Championship goal-scoring standings.

Hernandez got on the scoresheet at the Emirates in October 2014 during Hull’s 2-2 league draw with the Gunners.

That said, Hull have a dreadful recent record against Arsene Wenger’s men. The Gunners are unbeaten in all of the last 10 meetings between these sides, winning nine times.

Admittedly it is a short price, but everything points to a home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: ARSENAL 2 HULL CITY 0 @ 6.50

BEST BET: ARSENAL TO WIN @ 1.57

READING v WEST BROM

Goals have been a huge issue for Reading (2.50) this season, netting just 38 times during their Championship campaign. In truth, Brian McDermott’s men are lacking a natural goal-scorer.

HECTOR
Hector: A real talent

Since Nick Blackman left for Derby in January, Matej Vydra and Lucas Piazon have been favoured in attack, but the two men have mustered just five league goals between them so far this season.

West Brom (2.88) surprised everyone with a 1-0 win against Everton last weekend. Club-record signing Salomon Rondon got the winner at Goodison Park, with only his fifth Premier League goal since arriving for £12m in the summer.

Over the last three years, Reading defender Michael Hector has become one of the Championship’s best players. This prompted Premier League giants Chelsea to spend £4m on the 23-year-old Jamaican in the summer, before loaning him back to Reading for the 2015/16 campaign.

Hector is predominantly a central defender but, as his squad number of eight would suggest, he is also comfortable playing in the centre of midfield. With John Terry looking almost certain to leave in the summer and Gary Cahill falling out of favour, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Hector found himself in the Chelsea starting 11 come September.

In their last three league games, these sides have shared just three goals and one win between them. It is also worth noting that in the last four meetings, only one has ended with more than two goals being scored.

Everything points to a low-scoring encounter at the Madejski Stadium. [CC]

VERDICT: READING 1 WEST BROM 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.57

WATFORD v LEEDS

Watford (1.67) got back to winning ways at Selhurst Park last weekend. Hornets captain Troy Deeney grabbed a brace against Crystal Palace to give his side their first win since January 23.

EVANS
Evans: Controversial figure

It has been yet another turbulent season at Elland Road. Leeds (5.50) are once again stuck in mid-table after struggling for consistency throughout the campaign.

However, their real problem again lies off the field, with many of the Leeds faithful now calling for controversial owner Massimo Cellini to vacate his position immediately.

There is a real danger that Watford are beginning to become too dependent on Odion Ighalo and Deeney. Both men have started every league game and between them; Ighalo and Deeney have netted 22 of Watford’s 27 league goals so far this season.

Back in 2013, Steve Evans made some less than complimentary comments about Leeds United, so it was a surprise to everyone when the former Rotherham and Crawley boss was named manager at Elland Road earlier this season. Whilst he still hasn’t won over the entire Leeds faithful, Evans has managed to stabilise the playing staff and steer them away from the relegation places on a shoestring budget.

Games between these two clubs always seem to produce goals. In their last 13 meetings, Leeds and Watford have shared a staggering 46 goals, with 10 of the games ending with more than two goals being scored.

We are going for a high-scoring home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: WATFORD 3 LEEDS 1 @ 13.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.00

BOURNEMOUTH v EVERTON

Bournemouth (3.20) and Everton (2.20) have met only once before – with the Cherries securing a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw on the Vitality Stadium in November. They came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down, scoring two late goals (the last coming in the eighth minute of injury time) in one of the best Premier League games this season.

Benik Afobe
Afobe: Bright start

That was the beginning of Bournemouth’s best spell, as they went on to win three successive Premier League games. Everton have been beaten four times in their last 12 subsequent league games – all of them at home, but have won two and drawn three on the road since then.

While Bournemouth are four points off the drop zone and staying in the top flight is a priority, Everton are 12 points off the top four in 11th place and they have not won a trophy since lifting the FA Cup in 1995. Consequently, they will be all out to go through.

Everton were a little unlucky on their last visit, but give their inconsistent home form, they will no doubt want to finish the job at the first attempt.

Bournemouth were caught on the counter-attack by Stoke last weekend and Everton are a better side when they are not forced onto the front foot. While entertaining to watch, they have the capacity to get caught on the counter attack at home and seem to get results when they are more compact and concede possession a little more.

Similar sentiments can apply to Bournemouth, whose back four can be exposed by pace.

Eddie Howe attempted to address the Cherries’ lack of cutting edge when signing Benik Afobe in the January transfer window, and while he has made a bright start since his arrival from Wolverhampton Wanderers, the lack of goals from elsewhere has been an ongoing problem.

Everton lacked the killer instinct when slipping to a 1-0 home defeat by West Brom on Saturday, despite having 34 attempts on goal to the Baggies’ one. And that one was enough to seal victory.

The good thing for the Toffeemen is that they are creating plenty of opportunities and Romelu Lukaku rarely needs a second invitation.

We feel that Everton are a bit of value to go through to the sixth round. [SM]

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 0 EVERTON 2 @ 10.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.85

BLACKBURN v WEST HAM

Liverpool failed to beat West Ham (2.20) four times in the same season.

The Hammers won their two Premier League clashes, but were held to a goalless draw at Anfield in the Fourth round of the F.A. Cup, and drew 1-1 in the replay at Upton Park before settling the tie deep into injury time of extra time.

Hope Akpan
Full of Hope: Akpan expected to return

To many West Ham fans, this season avenged Liverpool’s rather fortunate 2006 FA Cup final win (on penalties), forever known as the Gerrard Final.

And they now sniff their first major trophy since winning the F.A. Cup in 1980 (the Intertoto Cup in 1999 does not count), whilst attempting to finish in their highest-ever Premier League position (5th in 1998-99).

Blackburn Rovers (3.50) are just five points off the relegation places in the Championship and have won just six of their 29 league games. The loss of Jordan Rhodes to Middlesbrough has hit hard and following their 2-0 home defeat by high-flying Hull, they have now failed to win any of their last nine games in the division.

Manager Paul Lambert was hampered by the loss of Danny Graham, Grant Hanley and former Crawley Town and Reading striker Hope Akpan last weekend and while they should all be fit, he know a Cup run has been a happy distraction. They simply cannot afford to be dragged into a relegation battle and resources will be stretched as they face 11 games in just over a month.

Ex-Hammer Elliott Ward has tuned into a commanding presence at the heart of the Rovers’ defence and the on-loan signing of Sunderland’s Jordi Gomez has provided plenty of creativity to their midfield, but Rovers are lacking in front of goal.

They have won just three of their 14 home games this season (drawn 7 and lost 4) and have scored 12 goals. Only Charlton have a worse home record in the division.

Their record against the Hammers is nothing to write home about, either. Since thrashing West Ham 7-1 in the Premier League in October 2001, Rovers have won just one of the last 16 meetings, although the last five clashes have been drawn (all yielding less than three goals).

There was barely a shock in the Fourth round and while the form points to a West Ham win, we feel that if there is to be a surprise, it will be at Ewood Park.

West Ham have a nasty habit of starting slowly and if they come out with the same lethargy that inflicted them at Norwich last weekend, they could easily come unstuck. They are simply too big at odds-against, which also sets alarm bells ringing. The Hammers are worth taking on. [SM]

VERDICT: BLACKBURN 1 WEST HAM 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: BLACKBURN AND DRAW @ 1.62

TOTTENHAM v CRYSTAL PALACE

Tottenham (1.62) are riding the crest of a wave, while Crystal Palace (6.00) are thrashing for life in the undertow.

Cabaye
Key figure: Cabaye has been injured

Spurs are still battling in two Cup competitions and are just two points off the Premier League summit, having won at Manchester City last weekend.

Palace have won three of the last 13 meetings with Tottenham, but have failed to win any of their last nine Premier League games and have taken three points from a possible 27 since winning at Stoke on December 19.

Palace have lost to Spurs twice already this season in the league, going down 1-0 at White Hart Lane in September and 3-1 at home late last month.

Spurs are currently fourth favourites at 6/1 to lift the F.A. Cup (behind Arsenal 7/2, Manchester United 9/2 and Chelsea 11/2), but will fancy their chances of a hat-trick of wins against the Eagles, who are 25/1 to lift the trophy.

Palace probably won’t get embroiled in a relegation battle, although they are just eight points off the relegation zone. Two more wins will likely see them over the line, but confidence appears to be ebbing away and they will do well to finish in the top half of the table.

In fairness to Palace, manager Alan Pardew has not been able to field a fully-fit side and the collective absences, at various times, of Yannick Bolaise, Dwight Gayle, Yohan Cabaye and Conor Wickham has been instrumental in their tailspin, which reached a new low with a 2-1 home defeat by Watford last weekend.

They are all creative players and it is in the final third where they have struggled, scoring just six goals in their last 10 games. Though the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor last month may address the problem, he had been without a club since September and still lacks sharpness.

Tottenham have lost only three times this term and have won their last five league games, putting them on the brink of their first title since 1961.

Their young side appear to be playing for each other and, as similarly apparent at fellow title contenders Leicester, there is a real camaraderie which appears to be lacking at the two Manchester clubs.

There are goals right throughout the team – Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamella have all been on the scoresheet in recent weeks – and Spurs have been fortunate with injuries.

Spurs should win this, but Palace gave them a fright at Selhurst Park – they were the better team for long periods – and it would not surprise us if they earned a replay. [SM]

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 1 CRYSTAL PALACE 1 @ 7.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.91

CHELSEA v MAN CITY

Since announcing Pep Guardiola’s summer arrival, Manchester City (3.50) have really struggled for form. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won just three of their last six games, and looked well below-par in their home defeat to Tottenham last weekend. That loss has all but ended City’s league title challenge and we expect them to now prioritize all three of the cup competitions that they are competing in.

PEDRO
Pedro: Finding form

It has been a different story for Chelsea (2.10) who are still unbeaten since Guus Hiddink took over at the club. The Blues were rampant in their 5-1 win over struggling Newcastle last weekend, finding themselves 3-0 up after just 17 minutes.

It hasn’t exactly been plain sailing for Pedro since arriving at Stamford Bridge in the summer. The tricky winger had a wonderful spell at previous club Barcelona, scoring 99 times and winning countless trophies. However, he has struggled to adapt with the more physical side of the English game, and was often left on the touchline by Jose Mourinho.

However, like many of the current playing stuff, Pedro has looked like a totally different player since Mourinho’s departure in December, and seems to be playing with much more confidence under Guus Hiddink. The Spanish international was instrumental in last week’s thrashing of Newcastle, scoring twice and linking up with Diego Costa effectively on numerous occasions.

These two sides are among the most free-scoring in the Premier League, sharing an impressive 86 goals between them so far this season.

It is also worth noting that in four of their last seven meetings, both sides have managed to get on the scoresheet.

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

VERDICT: CHELSEA 1 MAN CITY 1 @ 6.50

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.70

SHREWSBURY v MAN UTD

Shrewsbury (12.00) manager Micky Mellon has sought the advice of MyClub Brand Ambassador Sam Allardyce on just how he should prepare for this tie. Big Sam’s Sunderland side downed Manchester United (1.29) at the weekend and were good value for their 2-1 win. Mellon used to play under Allardyce at Blackpool in the mid-nineties.

“I’ll speak to Big Sam and see what his plan was, can see if there is any help he can give us,” said Mellon.

The Shrews are currently 19th in League One and welcome Louis van Gaal’s side to New Meadow on Monday. They have beaten Gainsborough, Grimsby, Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday to earn their shot at the Premier League side.

United sit fifth in the Premier League table, six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City and 12 behind leaders Leicester City. While the Europa League offers another chance of silverware (currently 9/1), the F.A. Cup would appear to be their best hope of a pot (they are 9/2 second-favourites behind Arsenal).

Managerial uncertainty can undoubtedly unsettle a side, but United have not been playing with much fluency or flair all season and it can only be a matter of time before a new man takes charge.

It is unlikely that he will go before the end of the season, though. It is his last job in management and while United are in a stalemate over his position, van Gall is unlikely to walk away as he would lose a small fortune.

Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, who brought him in, has been a staunch supporter and is unlikely to wield the axe. Van Gaal is fully aware that, as Arsenal have found, a successful run in a knockout tournament can pave the way for a title challenge.

While the speculation over the lame-duck head coach swirls, those out on the pitch need a close look in the mirror. Memphis Depay’s failure to adapt to the English game appear to have as much to do with his attitude as anything else, if you believe what you read.

On the other hand, he is an instinctive player, and it may just be that he is restricted in van Gaal’s system. Depay has time on his side, but the jury is most definitely out at the moment.

United struggled to get past Sheffield United and Derby County to reach the Fifth round, but the odds suggest they should not have too much trouble putting the Shrews to the sword. This should be an easy away win. [SM]

VERDICT: SHREWSBURY 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 3 @ 7.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70 

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

If you are not affiliated to a club, you can bet via Bet4Causes.com, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood, World Horse Welfare and StreetGames.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk