Premier League odds, news and free bets: Wed 26 December

Perhaps Chelsea are still in the Premier League title race after an amazing 8-0 win against Aston Villa which sees them 11 points behind Manchester United but with a game in hand

Another win at Norwich City and Rafael Benitez might start to get the backing of the Blues supporters, while Manchester City will be counting their lucky blessings after that fortunate 1-0 victory over Reading which leaves the Royals scrapping for points.

Manchester United host Newcastle United hoping to keep that four-point gap over City, while Liverpool travel to Stoke City hoping to become the first team to win at the Britannia this season.

Everton v Wigan 15.00
If you had offered David Moyes 30 points from Everton’s first eighteen matches, the Scot would probably have taken it and his team were decent value for their customary win against West Ham on Saturday, even if there was an element of fortune about it.

The Toffees have fourth place in their sights this term and will look to continue the momentum on Boxing Day when they host a Wigan Athletic side who should really have taken a point against Arsenal on Saturday where a dubiously-awarded penalty was the difference between the two teams.

Everton are strong favourites to claim their fifth home win of the season, with odds of 8/15 (William Hill free bets) the best you can get about the Merseyside team although Marouane Fellaini serves the second of a three-match ban and they have stumbled in home games against Norwich and Newcastle this term.

Moyes would have liked a bigger goal return from Nikica Jelavic at this point in the season, although the Croatian has managed just six for the season and Steven Pienaar could be more likely scorer, with bet365 offering 12/1 about the South African.

As for the Latics, they have claimed two wins on the road this term although they have also suffered six defeats and struggle to find the net in away matches, with just five goals scored in eight road trips.

Fulham v Southampton 15.00
Could the Cottagers get involved in a relegation scrap this season? Saturday’s 4-0 hammering at Anfield means that Fulham are just five points above the drop zone and they can ill-afford to lose against a team who are certainly going to be scrapping against a potential return to the Championship.

Martin Jol is under pressure and his team have claimed just one win in their last ten games, with the performance against Liverpool particularly shoddy and the Dutchman will be looking for a reaction from his players on Boxing Day.

BetVictor go 17/20 about a home win although punters might want a bigger price despite the fact that you couldn’t hand-pick better opponents than a Southampton team who have lost six of seven road matches and conceded twenty goals in the process.

Fulham’s home form of 4-1-3 isn’t too bad and they did win their last match at the Cottage when Newcastle were beaten 2-1 although they really need to get back among the goals and this poor run has largely coincided with Dimitar Berbatov struggling to score for the west London team.

The Bulgarian might end up enjoying this fixture considering the Saints have been so leaky in defence and Berbatov is a 9/2 chance (Stan James bookmaker) to set his team on their way in this match.

Nigel Adkins will feel his team are playing this fixture at a good time and there wasn’t much between them and Sunderland on Saturday as the Black Cats stole all three points. His team are a 10/3 chance (bet365 £200 free bets) to win the match and bridge the gap between themselves and Fulham.

Manchester United v Newcastle United 15.00
It was around this time last season when Manchester United were turned over by Steve Kean’s Blackburn Rovers and Sir Alex Ferguson will be guarding against complacency in this match, with the Red Devils looking to maintain a four-point gap over Manchester City at the top of the table.

A draw away to Swansea on Sunday wasn’t exactly a bad result for the league leaders although they will want to get back on a winning track against a Newcastle side who haven’t won on the road yet this season and United are predictably no bigger than 1/4 (Paddy Power free bets) to claim an eighth win of the season at Old Trafford.

Ferguson will be pleased with the fact that his team have played just 8 of their 18 games at home this term although it’s possible that Robin van Persie could be rested for this fixture, while Wayne Rooney is also subject to rotation, with Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.

Newcastle landed a draw in this fixture last season although the Magpies are struggling to achieve anywhere near that form this term, with Saturday’s win at QPR much needed and giving the Tyneside team a five-point cushion ahead of the teams in the relegation zone.

Alan Pardew will look for his team to get the crowd quiet in the first twenty minutes before looking for chances on the counter-attack and the visitors are 12/1 (bet365 bookmaker) to get a shock win at the Theatre of Dreams, while a draw can be backed at 11/2.

Norwich v Chelsea 15.00
Perhaps a winter trip to Japan actually boosted Chelsea’s title chances and the Blues have certainly returned from the Club World Cup in the mood for goals, with Rafael Benitez’s team scoring eight times without reply against Aston Villa on Sunday.

It was a remarkable win which did wonders for the team’s goal difference and seven different players found the scoresheet, although Chelsea should expect a far sterner test at Carrow Road against a team that boasted a long unbeaten run before losing 2-1 at The Hawthorns.

Even so, the bookies have sat up and taken notice of that demolition at Stamford Bridge by quoting 4/6 (Paddy Power free bets) about an away win on Boxing Day, with Fernando Torres finding the net regularly since being reunited with Benitez.

The striker has been the subject of regular criticism since arriving at the club for £50 million although Torres had no say over the price tag and he has now scored seven goals in his last six matches bringing his total to a very respectable fourteen for the campaign.

Blue Square go 9/2 about El Nino opening the scoring although there are two Blues defenders getting in on the act right now, with Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz available to back at 25/1 and both players found the back of the net against the Villa.

As for Norwich, they won’t fear their opponents having beaten Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham at home this season, with the Canaries boasting five home victories this season and that reverse against Liverpool is starting to look like a one-off.

Bet365 offer 17/4 about a home win for Chris Hughton’s team and it has been eight games since they failed to score, with Robert Snodgrass starting to really make an impact for this City team and those 20/1 backers about the Scot scoring first at The Hawthorns will be counting their winnings right now.

QPR v West Brom 15.00
The Baggies have matched Arsenal, Spurs and Everton stride-for-stride after 18 games played, although Steve Clarke’s men are unlikely to keep accumulating points at such a high ratio and Saturday’s 2-1 win against Norwich City was their first in five games.

West Brom travel to Loftus Road hoping that they can bounce back from defeats on the road against Swansea City and Arsenal, with 23/10 (Sportingbet free bets) a surprisingly big price about a team that are twenty points better off than their opponents by Christmas Day.

Queens Park Rangers suffered their first defeat under Harry Redknapp at St James’ Park where that late Shola Ameobi goal was the difference, although the new boss will be relatively satisfied with his work to date at Loftus Road, with QPR breaking their duck against Fulham recently.

Victory here could potentially move Rangers to within two points of safety and BetVictor go 7/5 about this happening, with the defence looking pretty stout in the past few matches and holding the Magpies at bay for 80 minutes.

Adel Taarabt was the match winner against the Cottagers and the midfielder’s trickery could be the difference between the sides in this clash, having scored in the reverse fixture where West Brom ended up winning 3-2. He’s an 8/1 chance to score the first goal of this particular match.

However, many will be wary of backing QPR considering they have won one of their first 18 matches, with Djibril Cisse struggling to find the back of the net and the visitors might be satisfied to get a point from this match.

Reading v Swansea 15.00
Two of Brendan Rodgers’ former clubs meet at the Madejski Stadium on Boxing Day and we might see a Reading team with fire in their belly after cruelly losing at Manchester City on Saturday when the Royals held the champions at bay for 92 minutes until Gareth Barry’s late strike.

Brian McDermott believes his players can work their way out of the relegation zone despite a six-point gap between themselves and Southampton, although they have to start picking up some three-point hauls and where better than to start against Swansea on Boxing Day.

The bookies are prepared to offer 19/10 (BetVictor free bets) about the home team winning this contest against a Swans team who are enjoying a very good season under Michael Laudrup, although they will have had less time to prepare for this fixture after Sunday’s hard-fought draw against a Manchester United team setting the pace at the top of the table.

Reading’s last home game ended in misery as Arsenal ran them ragged to win 5-2 and there have now been 33 goals scored in 8 home matches this term – and that’s not including the 12 goals during an extended League Cup tie against the Gunners. Do the Berkshire side tighten things up in defence?

Bet365 offer 8/11 about Over 2.5 Goals in this contest and you can bet your bottom dollar that Swansea will be in attack mode having won three games on the road this season which is the reason why they sit mid-table in the Premier League.

This includes a recent 2-0 win at the Emirates where they outplayed Arsenal for much of the match before two late strikes from Michu settled the game and some will find the 6/4 (Ladbrokes) about the visitors pretty tasty considering they are perfectly equipped to sucker-punch a Reading team short of confidence.

There is little doubt that Michu is the Premier League bargain of the season and the bookies have been paying out on him plenty of times this season, with the Spaniard a 5/1 poke to open the scoring in this contest.

Sunderland v Manchester City 15.00
Who can forget this fixture last season when Ji Dong-Won scored that 90th minute winner on New Year’s Day which had the Stadium of Light erupting after Sunderland had defended bravely against Manchester City for much of the match.

Perhaps lightning will strike twice on Boxing Day and it appears that confidence is starting to return among the Black Cats after landing two wins from their past three games, especially as they put up a respectable performance at Old Trafford in the defeat being sandwiched by two victories.

Saturday’s 1-0 win at Southampton suggests that the defence is pretty sharp at the moment and you can get 6/1 (BetVictor free bets) that the home supporters are celebrating another three points after this game. Steven Fletcher was back on the scoresheet at St Mary’s while Stephane Sessegnon has found form in recent weeks.

Manchester City recently returned back from the north-east with three points and can be backed at 4/7 (Stan James) to claim a fifth away win of the season. Roberto Mancini was breathing a sigh of relief after his team’s late winner against Reading although it now means that City are going for a third straight win since the derby defeat and the gap on United is now down to four points.

Mancini might persist with Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez in attack despite neither being able to find the net against Reading, although this could be a back-to-the-wall job for the champions who can make their own defence pretty mean and sneak a 1-0 win on Wearside.

Aston Villa v Tottenham 17.30
Will the real Aston Villa please stand up? Paul Lambert looked to have turned a corner with his young team after a 4-1 win at Norwich in the League Cup was followed up with a 3-1 victory at Anfield although Sunday’s 8-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge was not in the script.

The Villans were run ragged by a Chelsea team who had played midweek and the manager will be thinking carefully about changes made to his team ahead of the visit of Tottenham, who have lost as many as they have won on the road this term.

Despite this, the bookies make Spurs warm favourites for a victory which would keep them in the hunt for a top four finish although Andre Villas-Boas’ team were unable to find a way past Stoke on Saturday and will face a team determined to be more defensively resolute for this game.

Tottenham can be backed at 11/10 (Ladbrokes) and they have won five of their last seven matches which could feasibly have been six if they hadn’t tossed away the points at Goodison Park recently. AVB has found room in the team for both Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, although Gareth Bale is arguably the greatest goal threat in the team.

The Welshman is a 15/2 chance (Paddy Power free bets) to score first in this game and will have close attention paid to him by a home team who are a mighty 11/4 to claim victory in this game and demonstrate that they can bounce back from a heavy defeat.

One plus is the scoring form of Christian Benteke who has 13 goals to his name since a £7 million move from Genk in the summer and he could cause a few problems to a Spurs defence who have started keeping clean sheets in recent weeks.

Stoke City v Liverpool 19.45
The bookmakers have continually overrated Liverpool this season and the bottom line is that they have won six of their eighteen matches this campaign. There really can’t be any value when it comes to backing the Reds at 7/5 (Stan James) to become the first team to breach the Britannia Stadium this term.

Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal are among the teams that have tried and failed to win at the Brit and Stoke City boast the best defence in the Premier League having conceded on just three occasions at home this term. Ryan Shawcross is having a season to remember and so too Asmir Begovic whose performances in goal continue to earn rave reviews.

Strangely you can get 12/5 (BetVictor bookmaker) about the Potters winning this contest and the fact that they have won four and drawn four of eight home games surely points towards backing them on the Draw No Bet market at 11/8 with the same bookie.

Yes, Liverpool have shown improvement in recent weeks and Saturday’s 4-0 win was possibly their best performance of the season, although the bottom line is that they have won just of their eight matches on the road this term.

Brendan Rodgers will encourage his team to stand up and be counted against physical opponents and we might see a low-scoring encounter which explains why Under 2.5 Goals is an 8/11 poke, with a possible 1-0 winning scoreline in favour of Stoke.

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