Take a deep breath… we get into the Christmas fixtures! Let’s take a look at this weekend’s matches…
Wigan v Arsenal
Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Figueroa; Stam, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour; Kone, Di Santo, Maloney.
Ramis is still injured so Stam starts, while Maloney should start after his dazzling sub appearance last week.
Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski.
Giroud is due a start, but I don’t know when it will come. If he does start, expect the Ox to be the person who makes way.
An Arsenal win should be on the cards here, but I’m not putting it past Wigan to net a goal or two. I’m tipping a high scoring one, either 3-1 or 3-2 to Arsenal… I wouldn’t be banking on any clean sheets. Kone has been involved in everything Wigan have done in terms of attack this year, while Walcott, should he start forward, will be a handful.
Arsenal (WIN) : $1.75
Man City v Reading
Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Kompany, Clichy; Y Toure, Garcia; Aguero, Silva, Nasri; Tevez.
Garcia dominated in the absence of Barry last week, while Nasri will be hoping to overcome a groin injury. If he doesn’t due to injuries Sinclair may be afforded a rare start.
Federici; Cummings, Gorkss, Mariappa, Shorey; Kebe, Tabb, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre.
Apparently Karacan is available, but I think there’s a better week to bring him back than against the defending champs, especially with a busy schedule coming up. If he does start, it’d be in place of Le Fondre, as McDermott will want to solidify his defence and probably play a 4-5-1.
Man City should go BANG here. Expect Silva, Aguero and Tevez to be on fire, and serious captain candidates. Reading have made a habit of nabbing goals against big sides, but surely they can’t do it away to Man City…can they? Not for me, I’m going 4-0 City with a Tevez hattrick.
Man City -1 goal = $1.40
Newcastle v QPR
Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon; Marveaux, Anita, Tiote, Guitierrez; Cisse, Ba.
Ben Arfa is out, so Marveaux should play after impressive v City. Perch is another option, while Pardew has apparently considered dropping Cisse for Ameobi… I’ll back Cisse in though (without any confidence).
Cesar; Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Traore; Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Mbia, Mackie; Taarabt; Cisse.
It seems that Redknapp prefers Onuoha to Bosingwa, and has also found his nichè with Mackie on the right and Cisse up front.
I’m tipping an upset here. Newcastle’s record without Ben Arfa and Cabaye is WOEFUL, and without any supply to Ba they will struggle to score. QPR’s defence has been firm under ‘Arry, and I reckon they could pinch this game 2-1!
QPR (Win) – $3.10
Southampton v Sunderland
Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Ramirez, Rodriguez; Lambert.
Lallana is still one week away, so Puncheon will still be first choice.
Mignolet; Colback, O’Shea, Cuellar, Bramble; McClean, Larsson, Gardner, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Rose and Bardsley are set to miss again, so Colback and Bramble will deputise.
It should be a tight game. Southampton can be wasteful, while Sunderland like to lock things down away from home. With their makeshift defence though, this could be a problem. This is a good chance for Southampton to lift themselves away from the relegation zone, and a chance they should take. Lambert is always around the mark on home fixtures, while Sessegnon should be very dangerous on the break. Southampton 1-0.
Under 3.5 goals – $1.70
Tottenham v Stoke
Lloris; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton; Sandro, Dembele; Bale, Dempsey, Lennon; Defoe.
Bale will start, but Adebayor only started training yesterday, so I reckon a 4-2-3-1 might be on the cards, with Adebayor failing to come up from his niggle.
Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Shotton; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Walters, Adam, Etherington; Jones.
The only battlegrounds are at fullback, with Wilkinson now apparently almost right to play, meaning Shotton‘s place will come into contention. Jones and Crouch also have a mini war going on for the striker position, but after Jones scored last week you’d be foolish to bet against him starting.
A tight game should be played here. Last week Tottenham had 23 shots, and only converted 1. This week they will not be given the same amount of freedom going forward, so they must make their chances count. However with their most clinical striker Adebayor a major doubt, the wasteful Defoe will shoulder the burden. I’m tipping a tight one, but Tottenham should have enough to get over the line, especially at home. 1-0 to the Spurs.
Under 3.5 goals- $1.28
West Brom v Norwich
Foster; Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell; Odemwingie, Yacob, Morrison, Gera, Brunt; Long.
Morrison has been playing deeper and Gera has been featuring further up, and with Mulumbu banned this won’t change. Ridgewell returns as does Foster to give the defence a much needed boost.
Bunn; Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt.
Whittaker has trumped Martin for the RB post, while Holt will hopefully overcome a hamstring complaint. If he doesn’t Morison is in prime position to make his first start as the lone striker.
West Brom will bounce back, and with the inclusions of Foster and Ridgewell they should be defensively stoic. I reckon Norwich’s 10 match unbeaten run is in serious jeopardy here. Under Hughton they have been miraculously efficient of late, but against the structured and methodical approach of Clarke’s men, they will find scoring very tough. 2-0 West Brom, with Long finally getting on the scoresheet again.
West Brom – Draw No Bet: $1.38
West Ham v Everton
Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O’Brien; Noble, O’Brien; Jarvis, Nolan, Taylor; Cole.
Nothing should change from last week, with Diame still out.
Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Naismith, Gibson, Hitzlsperger, Osman, Pienaar; Jelavic.
Fellaini leaves a massive hole in the team. Osman could drop forward with Hitzlsperger deputising in CM, or alternatively, Pienaar could roam forward with Oviedo coming in on the left.
I’m struggling on this one. I think West Ham are pretty much favourites, as without Fellaini Everton really don’t have a focal point to their attack. West Ham’s defence has been fantastic all year and nobody in the Everton team really looks like challenging them, so I’ll tip a West Ham win in a tight one…their CB’s are far too good for Cole, so Jarvis and Nolan prove the biggest threats. 1-0 to the Hammers.
Liverpool v Fulham
Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Allen, Lucas, Gerrard; Skrtel, Suarez, Suso.
The one change I’m expecting to make is Sterling. He has been apparently tipped for a rest soon by Rogers, and I think this is the perfect opportunity with a heavy schedule coming up. Suso is his likely replacement. If he’s not rested, no changes should be made! Enrique has been declared fit.
Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Karagounis, Baird, Kacaniklic; Berbatov, Petric.
Diarra has been ruled out and Sidwell is suspended, meaning Baird and Karagounis should be walk up starters at CM. Petric could also replace Rodallega after his fantastic long range shot last week.
Liverpool has been rubbish at home, and Fulham have been shipping goals away. No one instils me with any great deal of confidence, so I’ve gotta stick with the Reds. Suarez is due and I’m 80% sure he will score, and lead Liverpool to a 2-1 win. Berbatov will continue his torrid run I’m tipping- he really relies on Ruiz to set him up.
Both teams to score- $1.68
Swansea v Man United
Tremmel; Tiendailli, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, Ki, De Guzman; Routledge, Michu, Dyer.
Rangel is a doubt, so Tiendailli is the natural replacement.
De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Young; Rooney, Van Persie.
Rafael is out, so Jones will deputise, while I think Vidic won’t be risked so Evans should start.
I’m also torn on this one. Swansea score at home, while Man United’s defense hasn’t been at all reliable this year. All signs point to a high scoring game. RVP and Rooney should cause havoc, while Michu will find more space as he always does and will always be a threat. I’ll put my neck out here, 4-2 to Man United!
Man United- $1.67
Over 2.5 goals- $1.54
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Mata, Hazard, Moses; Torres.
Ramires and Lampard are the only fit CM’s and short of Oscar playing OOP, they are the likely choices. Hazard was rested midweek on the bench so he’ll start, while Mata should play despite playing a full 90… beware though.
Guzan; Lowton, Herd, Baker, Clark, Bennett; Bannan, Westwood, Holman; Benteke, Weimann.
A 3-5-2 has been utilised by Lambert really effectively, so that should continue. No new injury worries, with Vlaar expected to miss one more game.
All signs point to Chelsea romping home, but I’m not so sure. Villa have pulled out some memorable performances this year, and with their formation they’re always going to score 1- Benteke is too good not to be a threat. Chelsea though have the firepower to put more than 1 past Villa, and should win 3-1.
Both teams to score (YES) – $1.78
Well that’s it from me this week, it’s getting awful busy around here soon so keep an eye out for loads of articles in quick succession!