Swansea City v Newcastle United 16:30 BST
Brendan Rodgers and Alan Pardew should be in the running for Premier League Manager of the Season, with both men managing to surpass relative expectations at the Liberty Stadium and St James’ Park respectively.
Ever since that opening game away to Manchester City in August, Swansea have been playing pretty football and the Welsh side have been getting results to boot, accumulating a solid 39 points from 31 games which means they are nearly safe for another campaign in the Premier League.
They can launch themselves beyond the 40-point mark by winning Friday’s match in front of their own supporters and odds of 7/5 (Sky Bet free bets) are available that the Swans win their seventh home game of the season.
City were slightly unlucky to lose 3-1 at Tottenham on Sunday, having played pretty well and got themselves level thanks to a brilliant Gylffi Sigurdsson strike. The Icelandic midfielder has been a sensation since arriving on loan from Hoffenheim and can be backed at 8/1 (Ladbrokes bookmaker) to score the first goal of this contest.
Meanwhile, Newcastle will arrive in Wales buzzing from that 2-0 win against Liverpool which saw Papiss Cisse continue his excellent scoring record since arriving on Tyneside in January. The Magpies number nine can be backed at 13/2 (bet365 £200 free bets) to break the deadlock and potentially offers better value than compatriot Demba Ba who seems to be playing wider to accommodate Cisse.
Strangely, these teams played out a goalless draw at St James’ Park in December although Swansea do generally keep things tight on home soil and they will be looking to keep the opposition striker quiet before starting to dictate matters on the pitch. Odds of 7/1 are available about a 1-0 victory which was the winning scoreline when Manchester City recently came to the Liberty.
However, it might be that Newcastle are the value bet at 85/40 (Bet Victor) to win this match considering they won 3-1 at West Brom in their last away match and the creative Hatem Ben Arfa will be hard for the Swans to mark, with the Frenchman having assisted or scored all five of his team’s latest goals.
Reading v Leeds United 14:00 BST
At the start of 2012, Reading did not look as though they would get automatic promotion from the Championship, with supporters simply hoping that Brian McDermott could steer the Royals to another top six finish where the team could take their chances in the play-offs once again.
However, McDermott is demonstrating why Wolves allegedly wanted his services as manager by getting the team on a brilliant winning run of eight matches, while Reading have also won their last two including last weekend’s fantastic 4-2 triumph at Upton Park.
It means that victory against Leeds United would take them seven points clear of West Ham and the bookies offer a best price 8/13 (Bet Victor free bets) that Reading win their 13th game of the season at the Madejski Stadium and take another big step towards becoming a top flight club.
The Royals don’t have many household names in the team, although they do have a tremendous team spirit and have not dropped any points at home since losing to Hull on 21st January. One player who will be revved up for this match is Ian Harte, the former Leeds full-back who is available at 14/1 (Sportingbet) to score first in this match.
Harte has been on the scoresheet in the past two matches and will take the penalties and some of the free kicks awarded to his team.
Leeds arrive in Berkshire hoping to scramble a place in the top six of the Championship come the end of the season and can be backed at 11/2 (Bet Victor) to do themselves and West Ham a massive favour by winning this game. However, it has been just two wins in eight for the Yorkshire side.
Barnsley v West Ham United 17:15 BST
This BBC-televised contest could see things turn ugly in the away end if Reading win earlier in the afternoon and the visitors fail to capture three points to stay in touch with the Royals.
The flip side is that Reading might stutter at home to Leeds, paving the way for the Hammers to close the gap on the second-placed side and West Ham are a different proposition away from Upton Park this season where they have claimed 11 wins and 5 draws.
It is little surprise to see Sam Allardyce’s team as favourites to win this contest, with a best price of 17/20 (William Hill free bets) about the east London side, who were badly beaten 4-2 in front of their own supporters by Reading last weekend.
Lots of money has been spent and the manager must choose from the many strikers on the books, with Carlton Cole, Nicky Maynard, Sam Baldock, Ricardo Vaz Te and John Carew all on the books. However, captain Kevin Nolan seems better value than anyone and can be backed at 6/1 (Boylesports) to score first.
Barnsley still need a few more points to be completely safe and haven’t been winning too many games lately, although they are a 19/5 chance to make it a desperate evening for West Ham.