Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted to start 2013 with a seven-point lead over arch-rivals City although a trip to the DW Stadium represents a potential banana skin, while the blue half of Manchester will look to break down Stoke’s stubborn defence and keep the gap to a minimum.
West Brom v Fulham 12.45
The match between the two teams at Craven Cottage finished in a 3-0 scoreline to Fulham although Martin Jol’s team are rank outsiders to make it a Premier League double against West Brom, with the bookies prepared to offer odds of 11/4 (Sportingbet bookmaker) about the Cottagers.
This is mainly down to the fact that Fulham have won just once on the road this season and they’re also in something of a rut, with the sales of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey starting to take their toll and Saturday’s home reverse against Swansea was all the more galling considering Michu wasn’t playing for the opposition.
Therefore, the west London side are just four points above the drop zone and 12 points behind their opponents who are effectively the “best of the rest” in seventh place and they boast excellent home form this term which has seen them win seven from ten.
Steve Clarke will be looking to start the New Year with a bang and the Midlands side should be well supported at even money (Blue Square free bets) to claim three points against their opponents, having claimed a maximum haul against Norwich and QPR before losing at Old Trafford.
Manchester City v Stoke City 15.00
Roberto Mancini has been tearing his hair out over the decisions made by officials over Christmas, with the Italian having to work out how to bridge a seven-point gap between themselves and Manchester United.
Yaya Toure has just a handful of games before heading off to the African Cup of Nations and Samir Nasri will be suspended for three matches after his alleged headbutt at Carrow Road, although at least Manchester City don’t have to worry about the Champions League or Europa League this season.
Stoke will be cagey opponents for the English champions although odds of 1/3 (BetVictor £100 free bet) is the best you can get about the Citizens who are generally pretty reliable at the Etihad Stadium, even if they needed a late Gareth Barry goal to win the latest home match against Reading.
Edin Dzeko’s early brace against Norwich effectively won his team the game and the Bosnian could merit a First Goalscorer bet at odds of 9/2, although there’s a chance that he will be dropped at the expense of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.
As for Stoke, they recently went and landed a goalless draw at White Hart Lane and the recent 3-3 draw with Southampton was partly down to the absence of Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron, both of whom return from suspension for this particular match.
The Potters are more than capable of landing a point in this north-west encounter and there might be a few backers of the 9/2 (bet365) that this one ends all square, especially if Tony Pulis’ team are able to nullify City in the early stages. You can get 11/1 that City’s title hopes are dangling by a thread thanks to a Stoke win.
Swansea City v Aston Villa 15.00
The Villans haven’t won too many matches this season – four to be exact although one of these was against Swansea back in August when the supporters felt that Paul Lambert was going to be a big improvement on Alex McLeish as far as manager is concerned.
Lambert might still succeed at Villa Park although there are big problems with the Midlands club at the moment thanks to three consecutive spankings which leaves the team with the worst goal difference in the Premier League and just a point ahead of 18th-placed Southampton.
A trip to south Wales on New Year’s Day could prove unfruitful and Swansea are no bigger than 8/13 (Paddy Power free bets) to inflict a fourth defeat on the spin, with Michael Laudrup’s side proving to be one of the surprise packages in the top flight this term.
City were touted as potential relegation candidates by many at the start of the season although a fourth away win of the season at Fulham sees the Welsh club sitting pretty in 10th place although home wins have been harder to come by.
Indeed, the Swans have won just three of ten at the Liberty and much depends on whether Michu is fit for this particular encounter. The Spaniard’s ankle injury prevented him from playing at Craven Cottage although he’s a massive goal threat and could rate a bet at 6/1.
As for the Villans, they did recently go to Liverpool and win 3-1, a result which in no way was a fluke. Perhaps they will find the going better away from home where they can break on the counter-attack and William Hill offer 5/1 that Lambert’s team pull a rabbit out of the hat and win the game.
Tottenham v Reading 15.00
The garden is looking pretty rosy for Andre Villas-Boas going into the New Year, with his team sitting fourth in the Premier League table and they aren’t completely out of the title race despite a gap of thirteen points between themselves and Manchester United.
Half of Tottenham’s 36 points have come on the road this season and AVB knows that Spurs need to be merciless at White Hart Lane between now and May if they are to be playing in the Champions League at the expense of Everton and Arsenal next term.
On paper, a home match against Reading looks pretty straightforward although the Royals are not currently playing like a team bottom of the Premier League, having narrowly lost at the Etihad Stadium before a goalless draw against Swansea and a home win against West Ham.
Even so, there will be plenty of accumulators with Tottenham featuring at odds of 4/11 (Stan James free bets), with Jermain Defoe having scored twice in the reverse fixture when the north London side won 3-1 at the Madejski Stadium in August.
Defoe is the 7/2 favourite to score first in this match although perhaps it’s time that Emmanuel Adebayor starting to redeem himself in front of the home supporters after that red card in the derby with Arsenal. He’s a 5/1 chance to break the deadlock and should prove a handful for the opposition defence.
Reading will arrive at White Hart Lane with a reasonable amount of confidence, especially considering they have kept things really tight in their last three matches and the visitors are a 9/1 chance (William Hill free bets) to come away with a surprise win and 4/1 to bank a draw which would give them increasing belief that they can survive in the top flight this term.
West Ham v Norwich City 15.00
Sam Allardyce and Chris Hughton will probably spend the post-match drink discussing their respective poor treatment at Newcastle United, although both managers are doing well with their current clubs, with the Hammers and the Canaries occupying 12th and 11th place in the table respectively.
West Ham have actually been higher this season although the wins have dried up for the London side who suffered the ignominy of becoming just the second team to lose to Reading on Saturday and the manager will be looking for a reaction in this match.
Sky Bet offer 23/20 that the Hammers win for the first time in five games and they were actually unlucky to lose at Upton Park against Everton where a controversial sending off of Carlton Cole allowed the Toffees to take control.
Cole actually opened the scoring in that match and is a 6/1 chance (Blue Square) to break the deadlock against a Norwich side that were enjoying a big winning run until recently but now need to end a losing run which could otherwise see them troubled by relegation issues.
City are probably a touch overpriced at 13/5 to win this particular encounter considering it wasn’t so long ago they were triumphing 4-3 at Swansea although they are looking defensively suspect at the moment, having conceded four times against Man City on Saturday despite playing ten men for half the game.
Perhaps the draw is the best bet at 5/2 considering it’s hard to be too confident about backing West Ham at home to anyone right now, especially at odds a shade above even money.
Wigan Athletic v Manchester United 15.00
Sir Alex Ferguson must be wondering how his Manchester United team could possibly lead the Premier League by seven points considering they have conceded 28 goals this season, which is more than any other team in the top six of the division.
The Red Devils have not had a consistent defence for the first half of the campaign, although perhaps Nemanja Vidic’s presence at the back will see United become more watertight, with the Serbian helping United to a rare clean sheet on Saturday when the leaders beat West Brom 2-0.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to keep clean sheets to win matches and the signing of Robin van Persie allied to that never-say-die spirit means that Fergie’s team have come back on numerous occasions this term and have won seven of their last eight top flight matches.
Stan James offer 4/7 that they claim a win at the DW Stadium on New Year’s Day, with United having a 100% head-to-head record against the Latics until last season where they were beaten 1-0 towards the end of the campaign and it was a result which ended up costing United dear.
Roberto Martinez will remember that match well and his Wigan team are an 11/2 chance to once again upset the odds and claim back-to-back wins after an impressive 3-0 win at Villa Park which demonstrates that Athletic will always pull the odd rabbit out of the hat during the course of the season.
That said, stopping that man RVP is proving difficult for opposition defences this term and the Dutchman found the net on plenty of occasions against Wigan in an Arsenal shirt, while he also helped the team beat the same opponents 4-0 in the reverse fixture. It’s 3/1 that he breaks the deadlock and 14/1 about a hat-trick from the master marksman.
Southampton v Arsenal 17.30
On paper, this match looks set to be an entertaining one as punters look to nurse their hangovers into Tuesday evening by watching a potential goalfest between the Saints and the Gunners.
Arsenal went goal-crazy on Saturday when smashing seven goals past Newcastle United and they are nice and fresh, with their Boxing Day match against West Ham having been postponed thanks to industrial strike.
The bookies are sure to be inundated with bets on the visitors winning this particular encounter following their big win against the Magpies and odds of 8/11 look pretty appealing considering the Gunners have well and truly bounced back since that League Cup humiliation at Bradford.
Theo Walcott will return to St Mary’s several seasons after leaving the south coast club for north London although uncertainty remains as to whether the England winger will remain at the Emirates Stadium or instead choose to join another Premier League club in January.
Paddy Power offer 5/1 about the player breaking the deadlock against his boyhood club, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also returns to his old stomping ground and he could be a goal threat after scoring Arsenal’s second against Newcastle.
Southampton themselves were full of goals at the weekend when slotting three past Stoke at the Britannia Stadium and it’s the first time that the Potters have conceded more than a goal at home in the Premier League this term.
The Saints do look capable of remaining in the top flight and seem to believe they now belong among the big boys which is half the battle. The other half is accumulating enough points to stay in the Premier League and you can get 4/1 that Nigel Adkins’ team pull off their result of the season by winning this one.