QPR sit eight points behind their relegation rivals and Harry Redknapp might just steer them to a much-needed win in the west London derby, while Wigan Athletic travel to Carrow Road hoping to leapfrog Southampton.
However, the action starts on Saturday when Manchester City look to recover from that derby defeat by claiming all three points against a Newcastle United side that could yet end up scrapping against the drop.
Newcastle v Manchester City 12.45
Things aren’t quite going according to plan for Alan Pardew this season, although perhaps Newcastle United punched firmly above their weight last season and would inevitably finish lower in the table this time around.
Europa League involvement and a growing injury list haven’t helped the cause although three points against Manchester City this weekend would be a welcome boost and the Magpies are as big as 24/5 (Stan James free bets) to claim an important victory in terms of their points tally and confidence levels.
Monday night’s defeat at Craven Cottage leaves United looking over their shoulders and they will face a City team who will be looking to respond positively to losing to their arch-rivals last Sunday, with Roberto Mancini’s men having clawed their way back into the match before losing 3-2.
The visitors are no bigger than 4/6 (Paddy Power bookmaker) to claim victory as they did in this fixture last season although they have drawn four of their seven away matches this term and managed to score just nine goals in these games.
We can safely assume that Carlos Tevez will start instead of Mario Balotelli this time around and he can be backed at 7/1 to score the first goal, although Mancini will hope to have Vincent Kompany back for this match in central defence.
Liverpool v Aston Villa 15.00
Whisper it quietly but Liverpool are riding a crest of a wave which could yet see them finish in fourth place this season and Sunday’s dramatic 3-2 win at West Ham means that the Reds are into the top half of the table.
Brendan Rodgers might have endured a testing start to his reign as Liverpool manager, although the Merseyside club are starting to establish a winning mentality and come into a double header at Anfield with three consecutive wins under their belt.
The bookies aren’t prepared to take risks with their odds about the Reds and quote 2/5 (Ladbrokes free £50 bet) about Liverpool claiming another maximum haul, with Luis Suarez returning from suspension for this match.
The Uruguayan missed a hatful of chances against Southampton a fortnight ago although has generally been in excellent scoring form this term and Boylesports’ 4/5 about him scoring at any time looks a decent bet when you consider that Aston Villa are not particularly good travellers.
That said, Paul Lambert did return to Carrow Road on Tuesday night and saw his Villans side score four times to reach the League Cup semi-finals, while the visitors are making themselves hard to beat right now. Aston Villa are now unbeaten in their last five even if three have been draws.
Can they be backed with any confidence at 17/2 (BetVictor bookmaker)? Probably not, although it might not be a goalfest for Liverpool who were only able to defeat the Saints 1-0 and a similar scoreline could be on the cards this time. You can back the Reds at 11/8 to win to nil and that looks a price worth taking.
Manchester United v Sunderland 15.00
It’s the game that Wayne Rooney has been waiting for. In his book, the Manchester United striker revealed the heartache that came with missing out on the title last season and expressed his desire to get revenge against Sunderland supporters who were keen to laugh at the Red Devils’ misfortune.
On Saturday afternoon, Rooney will hope to put the Black Cats to the sword and BetVictor offer a best price 2/9 about United continuing their title charge, with the Red Devils full of confidence after beating Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium.
It was a fluent performance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s team who should have been out of sight before City staged their late comeback and you can get 8/13 (Paddy Power £100 free bets) that the home side lead at half-time and full-time against a team who will have hoped to turn the corner after beating Reading 3-0 on Tuesday night.
However, stopping Rooney and Robin van Persie could prove beyond the visitors, with Coral going a best price 3/1 about the Dutchman and just two firms prepared to go 7/2 about the England man breaking the deadlock.
Nemanja Vidic might make his latest return from injury for this game which finally gives Ferguson options in central defence and it’s remarkable that United are six clear at the top of the Premier League when you consider how many times they have conceded and fallen behind this season.
Rooney is 16/1 to score a hat-trick and you can get a similar price about a Sunderland win on Saturday afternoon, with Martin O’Neill’s team looking to make life difficult for their opponents and the draw is on offer at 11/2.
Norwich City v Wigan Athletic 15.00
Norwich season-ticket holders have only seen fifteen goals scored in eight games at Carrow Road this season although fans won’t be complaining considering that they have beaten Manchester United and Arsenal by a single goal this season.
Liverpool’s 5-2 win earlier in the season now sticks out like a sore thumb considering that just two other goals have been conceded in six matches and Chris Hughton’s team look a backable price at 6/5 (Sky Bet free £10 bet) to beat a Latics side that are once again struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League.
Tuesday’s Capital One Cup quarter final against Aston Villa ended in a 4-1 defeat although the scoreline can be explained as the Canaries went for broke at 2-1 down and conceded two late goals to an improving Villans team. In the Premier League, it’s a different story and last weekend yielded their first away win as Norwich won 4-3 at Swansea.
Robert Snodgrass played an integral role in that win and the winger is a 9/1 chance (Ladbrokes free bets) to score the first goal of the game, while Grant Holt is once again bang in form for the east Anglian team and 6/1 looks a tasty price about the striker getting Norwich noses in front.
As for Wigan, it’s once again a case of expect the unexpected this season although their form has largely been poor in recent weeks and Roberto Martinez’s team dropped into the bottom three last weekend after being held to a 2-2 draw against QPR which saw the visitors come close to landing the points at the DW Stadium.
The bottom line is that the Latics have lost five of their seven games on the road and conceded thirteen goals, with the bookies probably needing to offer a better price than 5/2 (Stan James) for punters to become interested.
QPR v Fulham 15.00
Anyone who has backed Queens Park Rangers to win a Premier League match this season might think twice before doing the same this weekend although QPR must surely win a game at some stage of the campaign and perhaps it is going to happen on Saturday against one of their arch-rivals.
A 3-0 win against Walsall in the Capital One Cup back in August remains the only victory of the season for a team whose Christmas party was recently cancelled thanks to their lowly position in the table although there is still time to turn things around for Harry Redknapp.
The former Spurs boss will have been disappointed to see Rangers fail to hold their 2-1 lead at Wigan which would have given them a foothold although they have drawn all three of their games under the new manager and perhaps this is the match where they go one better.
Blue Square go 6/4 about the home team providing some Christmas cheer to their supporters on Saturday, with Redknapp unafraid of making bold decisions such as benching Granero, Hoilett and Cisse for the game at the DW Stadium although the trio could return for a game where more flair is required.
As for Fulham, they finally ended a miserable run when beating Newcastle on Monday night and will now look to claim a second win on the road although they are conceding an average of two goals per away game right now and Martin Jol will hope his team can offer a more solid rearguard at Loftus Road. The visitors are as big as 2/1 (Sportingbet) to become the fourth team to win in Shepherd’s Bush this term although the draw is probably the best bet.
Stoke City v Everton 15.00
An intriguing match-up on Saturday afternoon at the Britannia Stadium where a Stoke City team with an outstanding home record face an Everton team who grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat when beating Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday.
The Potters are formidable opponents on home soil, having won four and drawn three of their seven matches in front of their own supporters and the striking statistic is that Tony Pulis’ team have conceded just twice since the season began.
Asmir Begovic’s performances between the sticks has the top Premier League clubs on red alert, while Ryan Shawcross continues to marshal the Stoke defence in expert fashion, even if City are averaging just one goal per game at the moment.
BetVictor’s 21/10 looks like a gift of a price about Stoke considering their excellent home form against an Everton side that might be sitting fourth but can’t be trusted away from home considering they have won just twice on the road this term.
Early season victories at Swansea and Villa Park have given way to draws and defeats including a reverse at Reading, with David Moyes looking to get the defence more stubborn in a bid to claim a top four spot this season, although he has plenty of match-winners in his team.
The Toffees are a 6/4 chance to win at the Brit and Marouane Fellaini is the sort of player that will stand up and be counted against physical opposition, with the Belgian likely to get special treatment at the hands of Stoke although he looks the best value on the First Goalscorer market at 8/1 (Coral).