Archive for January, 2013

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There are still 15 games remaining in the Premier League, but for some teams the specter of relegation is looming already. Aston Villa is standing on the 17th place, just one spot away from a position that would see them playing in the lower echelon in 2014. Except for Queens Park Rangers who appears to be doomed, their rivals are all capable of overtaking them with minimum effort. Home pitch advantage is pretty much all they’ve got left, and it is particularly important not to leak points against Newcastle.

The reason for why this can easily be regarded as a six-points fixture, is that the two teams are separated by a single point and both of them are struggling to consolidate their position. Another thing that they have in common is the fact that the injury list is growing wider, and the midfield is made mostly of replacements. Results speak for themselves, as Newcastle won just one of the last 10 games, and conceded a record number of goals during the span.

Traveling to Birmingham for a match against the best local team is definitely worrisome, especially with the head to head record being dismal. It’s been more than five years since a traveling team won a match, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, it was the hosts who prevailed. Punters might be tempted to back Aston Villa tonight, and the odds are definitely attractive, but the hosts miss Delph, Albrington, Herd, Gardner and Dunne. While their offensive is intact, the defensive area is full of gaps that the hosts will have to close on a short notice.

A very similar situation is puzzling Newcastle, a team who has all its strikers fit to play but lacks a competitive midfield. The counterattack can be a very powerful weapon in this context, and with both teams having fast strikers, things could easily spin out of control. Newcastle has a reputation of a team who concedes a lot of goals away from home, despite the fact that they score a couple of their own.

The stakes couldn’t be higher and the pressure will only aggravate the fitness issues that have been responsible for a string of negative results. Punters need to choose between backing the hosts at full stakes at odds of 2.05 with Pinnacle Sports and betting on more than 2.5 goals to be scored at identical odds. An interesting hedging strategy involving bets on both outcomes should be considered, because the chances of this match ending in a low scoring draw are insignificant.

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With their city rivals breathing in their neck, Manchester United can’t afford any false steps and losing away at Tottenham would be such a costly mistake. Their opponents are not to be trifled with, as they haven’t lost in almost two months and they have also improved the number of goals scored. While the visitors are aiming another Premier League title, the hosts would gladly settle for a Champions League berth, as the gap separating them from the leader is too wide to close. Having said this, punters should be looking for a low scoring game, despite the fact that bookmakers suggest otherwise.

Except for the most recent results when both teams managed to keep a clean sheet, neither Manchester United nor Tottenham were very successful in the defense. They could count on the fact that their opponents were afraid to make a move against them, but tonight things change dramatically. The visitors will start with Rooney and Hernandez upfront, but having Nani and Valencia right behind them means that Sir Alex Ferguson is basically starting with a 4-2-4 formation. On the other hand, there is always the possibility of a sudden change of plans and United could field the same team that defeated Liverpool.

Either way, Tottenham has plenty of reasons to fear the visitors and will only send Adebayor and Defoe in the offense, while using a standard 4-4-2 squad. The first half is decisive, because if either teams succeed in scoring an early goal, the opponents will be forced to retaliate. Given the high stakes and the considerable pressure bearing on the shoulders of both coaches, we predict a rather quiet first half. If this prediction holds, then punters who go for the under 2.5 goals to be scored, will scoop a nice payout.

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Without their first goalkeeper, Chelsea will have a hard time keeping a clean sheet away at Stoke, the only team in the Premier League who is yet to lose a home. The visitors have an excellent record but most of their victories were narrow margin ones, and it was their defense that kept them afloat. Turnbull is Cech’s replacement but so far he failed to meet the high expectations, and is only a pale shadow of the veteran goalkeeper. Despite the fact that Stoke is not a serious contender for a European Cup spot, they are relentless when playing in front of their fans and will not defend for 90 minutes.

On the other hand, Chelsea can’t afford to play a defensive minded football, because they need all three points if they are to overtake Tottenham. Their opponents are a stringy team that can cope with pressure, but their Achille’s heel is the fact that they play with a 4-3-2 formation against any team. Peter Crouch and Walter are their designated strikers, but despite the fact that they are 29 and 31 years old they are quite dangerous upfront. Chelsea has conceded many goals this season from corners and free kicks, and both Crouch and Walter can take advantage of these opportunities.

A scoreless draw is very unlikely especially now when Chelsea has to cope with Cech’s absence, so punters can afford to take their chances with the over 2.5 goals bet. The bookmakers are expecting the exact opposite and base their assumptions on past performance, but the circumstances suggest a high scoring match. Chelsea is still favorite to win, but the odds should be much higher to warrant a bet on the visiting team.

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2012 has been a terrible year for Liverpool and if they are to turn around a mediocre season, the recovery has to start with a victory over Sunderland. The hosts have been a very streaky team lately, alternating convincing wins both at home and away, with equally disheartening defeats. Last round they scored three goals away at Queens Park Rangers without conceding one but the previous round they lost away at Stoke and allowed three goals as well. Tonight they need to earn consecutive wins and Sunderland looks like the ideal opponent, as they play a rather defensive football.

Liverpool lost the overwhelming majority of points against teams that didn’t hesitate to come out firing against them, and achieved positive results against opponents that chose to defend. Despite the fact that the hosts are only a shadow of the team that dominated the fixtures held at Anfield Road, Sunderland is not the kind of team to challenge them. Without O’Shea, Brown and Cattermole, they are hard pressed to reinforce their defensive and that’s why they would only send Fletcher upfront.

The 25-year-old Scottish player is quite adept in finding breaches in stiff defensive such as Liverpool’s but only if he receives support from the midfield. This won’t happen tonight as the entire team will focus mostly on closing the gaps left by the three absentees, which means that Fletcher will be pretty much on his own. Boosted by their recent victory and the fact that they play in front of their fans, Liverpool should take the initiative early and hopefully for the them take the lead before the break. Punters should either back them to lead at half time and win at full-time, or back them to achieve victory by at least two goals.