Premier League Betting Preview: This Weekend’s Top 5 Bets

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This weekend we’re back to a full complement of Premier League fixtures as there is no FA Cup action to contend with, and it could be a pivotal weekend for both ends of the table as Manchester City would have had a tricky fixture away to Europe-chasing wounded animals Everton earlier in the day in the lunchtime match, while in the evening clash champions-elect Manchester United take on the relegation-threatened and managerless Reading, with the Royals fully knowing the task ahead of them in light of the crucial six-pointer between fellow basement dwellers Aston Villa and QPR in the pick of the 3pm games.

The first tip comes from the Liberty Stadium however, where the newly-crowned Capital One Cup winners look a tad over-priced to claim their third successive league victory over Arsenal today.  I would suggest the quoted match odds represent an over-reaction of sorts to the Gunners’ admittedly impressive yet ultimately fruitless 2-0 midweek win at Bayern Munich, coupled with an away win being seen as necessary to maintain real hope amongst Arsene Wenger’s men of trips to opposition of Bayern’s ilk next season.

The Swans will not be easy pickings by any stretch however, and Michael Laudrup has been keen to stress there remains lots to play for despite safety assured and a cup win under their belt.  Besides, having the pressure off should only encourage even more champagne football from Michu, De Guzman and the like.

Next up, I see no reason why Luis Suarez cannot continue his impressive goalscoring form at a notoriously porous Southampton at St. Mary this afternoon, while former Saints boss Harry Redknapp will be as pumped for a QPR win today at Aston Villa as he was for his current team to beat his old employers a couple of weeks ago.  Redknapp always gets dogs abuse at Villa Park and he’ll use the home fans’ bile as an incentive to rile his players to extend their recent purple patch.  Expect the Hoops to come away from Birmingham this evening with at least a point.

Redknapp’s old protegè from the South Coast and more recently North London was unavailable for Tottenham’s torturous yet ultimately successful trip to the San Siro on Thursday, but Gareth Bale will return from his European ban to give his team-mates a badly-needed boost after successive bashings by Liverpool and Inter Milan.

Spurs looked out on their feet, in particular at the back, towards the end of Thursday’s Europa League marathon and a significantly fresher Fulham have the quality in Bryan Ruiz and former Lilywhite Dimitar Berbatov to capitalise on a tired defence and find the net.  A well-rested Bale may have the last laugh, however.



1) Swansea to beat Arsenal 23/10 PINNACLEBET
2) Southampton vs. Liverpool Suarez Anytime Goalscorer Evens BOYLESPORTS
3) QPR +0.5 Handicap vs. Aston Villa 4/6 Ladbrokes
4) Tottenham vs. Fulham Both Teams to Score 17/20 BetVictor
5) Tottenham vs. Fulham Gareth Bale Last Goalscorer 3/1 EVERYWHERE!


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: This Weekend’s Top 5 Bets

This weekend’s Premier League fixture list has been almost halved as a result of running concurrently with the FA Cup quarter-finals, but there are still truffles to be found in the mud that is a difficult top-flight coupon comprising of relegation six-pointers, mid-table battles and… Liverpool vs. Tottenham where the North Londoners look great value to take something tangible away from Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

The red-hot Spurs are unbeaten in twelve league games since a last-gasp defeat to Everton in December, but they look set for happier memories from this particular trip to Merseyside.  Liverpool aren’t in bad nick either it must be said, buoyed by top-scorer Luis ‘Marmite’ Suarez’s weighty goal contributions, and Phillipe Coutinho looks a player too.

However the Reds have yet to beat any of the teams above them on the current table in nine attempts this season and it will make for curious viewing to see what provisions are made to prevent man of the moment Gareth Bale from continuing his ceaseless run of destruction.

Back to today, and with Wigan on cup duty Reading and Aston Villa fans will know that one of their teams will be out of the relegation zone come 5pm today.  This writer is opting for Villa, who were good value for a point against Man City on Monday night and would have got one if it wasn’t for a pesky schoolkid’s error from Ciaran Clark.  Moment of madness notwithstanding, Clark and co acquitted themselves well on Monday, they just lacked the requisite teeth to make imprints on the best defence in the land.

Reading, though, have conceded over twice as many goals as Man City and are starting to ship points - and goals at an alarming rate at just the wrong time.  Eight goals let in and no points from their last three league matches and in addition Jason Roberts ruled out for the rest of the season and the attack badly missing the physical threat of the suspended Pavel Pogrebnyak.  Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann have punished better defences and can inflict more pain today at the Madejeski.

As someone who revels in the accolade of having successfully being able to predict precisely none of QPR’s fixtures correctly this season, I can say with no degree of confidence whatsoever that the Hoops are worth backing to follow up their impressive victory against Southampton last weekend by winning to nil at Loftus Road for the first time this season.

Sunderland’s switch to 4-4-2 since the purchase of Danny Graham has not done the Mackems any discernible favours, and the resurgent (for now) Hoops can leave Martin O’Neill’s boys looking over their shoulders come tonight.  Two things, meanwhile, look set in stone to occur at Carrow Road this afternoon when Southampton rock up to play Norwich.

First, the away team will score.  Second, the marvellous Rickie Lambert will notch against the faltering Canaries.



1) Tottenham +0.5 (Asian Handicap) 11/10 188BET
2) Aston Villa to beat Reading 21/10 CORAL
3) QPR to beat Sunderland to nil 3/1 CORAL
4) Norwich vs Southampton Away team to score first 6/5 BETFRED
5) Norwich vs Southampton Rickie Lambert to score anytime 2/1 STAN JAMES


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: Top 5 Weekend Bets

The biggest game of the Premier League weekend by far takes place at White Hart Lane where Champions League qualification-chasing Tottenham and Arsenal do battle in an eagerly-anticipated North London derby which will surely have massive ramifications for both teams not only this season but the next.

So where else to start today’s preview but at the DW Stadium where Wigan will take on Liverpool this evening.  Luis Suarez must be backed to hit the onion bag, champing at the bit as he must be having had over a week’s rest, and facing a defence whom before the Latics’ admirable victory over Reading last weekend had failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their previous six league matches of 2013.

I like the look of Suarez to score tonight, and I also like the look of goals at the Liberty Stadium today for the Swansea-Newcastle game.  The injury-enforced absence of vital Magpies custodians Tim Krul and Fabrizio Coloccini casts a veneer of uncertainty over the Newcastle defence which the newly crowned Capital One Cup winners can exploit, whilst at the other end Swansea are themselves missing a defensive stalwart in Chico Flores and it remains to be seen whether they will become another victim of the defensive lax-itis that seems to befall teams in the aftermath of winning the League Cup over past seasons.

Lost amongst all the rightful praise and incorrect over-fawning of Gareth Bale’s decisive contribution to Spurs’ win over West Ham on Monday was the fact that the Hammers applied themselves very well against the third-place team and as Sam Allardyce rightly pointed out, if the mercurial Welshman had not been on the pitch then the Boleyn club would have surely collected three points so good was their performance.

If they can maintain that level against Stoke today then Allardyce will surely be in celebratory mood come 5pm.  He has in Andy Carroll a weapon that can give Stoke’s burly defenders sonething to think about, and if Carlton Cole comes in for the injured Kevin Nolan then that could spell double trouble for the free-falling Potters.

The Manchester United juggernaut rumbles on and regardless of the fact that Los Merenges loom large on the week’s horizon, Sir Alex and co will ensure that all focus remains on beating Norwich today, and beat the Canaries well they should do.

Vengeance may also play a part today as Norwich were the last team to inflict a league defeat on the Red Devils way back in mid-November.  The Norfolk club havent scored an away league in a couple of months, during which time United have improved defensively by an immeasurable amount.

Lastly, Southampton must be a decent shout at home to QPR and further cement the Pochettino revolution against a former Saints manager, with whom he shares a birthday.  One assumes the Argentinian incumbent will be enjoying his cake a little more than his counterpart Harry Redknapp this evening.



1) Wigan vs. Liverpool Luis Suarez Anytime Goalscorer 6/5 Boylesports
2) Swansea vs. Newcastle Over 2.5 Goals 5/6 Boylesports
3) West Ham to beat Stoke 12/5 Coral
4) Manchester United to beat Norwich to nil 5/4 BetVictor
5) Southampton to beat QPR 3/4 Coral


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: This Weekend’s Top 5 Bets

The weekend begins at White Hart Lane where a rejuvenated Newcastle aim to maintain their recent revival against a Tottenham side aiming to usurp Chelsea into third place in the Premier League, at least for a few hours.

Gareth Bale has been in talismanic form for club and country in the last few weeks, and in guiding his side to favouritism for a Champions League place, the flying Welshman himself has been backed into second-favourite for the personal accolade of PFA Player of the Year, behind only Robin van Persie in the betting.

Going six points ahead of fifth-placed Everton a day before the Blues travel to Old Trafford is a huge incentive for Andre Vilas-Boas’ men to beat the Geordies today, but the Lilywhites may have to settle for a draw in this lunchtime fixture.

Newcastle have been boosted by their new French influx, in particular Moussa Sissoko who was the hero of the hour in defeating Chelsea in memorable fashion last weekend, but in addition Yoan Gouffran has impressed and Cheik Tiote is now back from the African Cup of Nations to add further bite to a revamped midfield.

Furthermore, despite Newcastle’s well-documented lack of points on their travels this season, they have held their own at the big venues.

They led three times at Old Trafford on Boxing Day before succumbing to a 92-minute winner, were also at 3-3 with Arsenal at the Emirates only to be blitzed in the final throes, and they have picked up a pair of Mersey draws at Goodison and Anfield.

Southampton are the only outfit outside of the top seven to have scored more away goals than Newcastle this season, and the French connection can flourish once again at a Spurs side set to be devoid of a recognised centre-forward in their starting line-up.

QPR have been on a solid run of decent results, picking up the odd point and clean sheet here and there, but that run looks set to be halted at the Liberty Stadium by Swansea today.

The Swans did lose for the first time in eight matches against West Ham last weekend, but they have shown character allied with quality all season and Michu and co can oblige against the Premier League basement boys at an attractive price.

The Hammers can back up their aforementioned win over Swansea by gaining a valuable three points away to Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon. Sam Allardyce’s men have flattered to decieve at times, especially away from Upton Park, but with Andy Carroll back in their ranks and experienced campaigners such as Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan available, the East End side have the weapons available to bludgeon the Midlands strugglers into submission.

I’m on form at the moment with scorer bets so let’s side with Luis Suarez - with Daniel Sturridge’s fitness in the balance - to claim the opener on Monday night. Lastly, over 2.5 goals looks a banker bet for this evening’s clash between Southampton and Manchester City.



1) Tottenham vs. Newcastle Draw 11/4
2) Swansea to beat QPR 8/11
3) West Ham to beat Aston Villa 15/8
4) Liverpool vs. West Brom Luis Suarez First Goalscorer 10/3
5) Southampton vs. Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals 8/11


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: This Weekend’s Top 5 Bets

After a romantic weekend away in the FA Cup, the bread and luxury butter that is the Premier League is a back with a full weekend programme and the first port of call for a viewing perspective is Loftus Road when Norwich City rock up for the lunchtime fixture at QPR, presumably checking before they leave Norfolk that Peter Odemwingie hasn’t strapped himself to their coach in an attempt to infiltrate Rangers’ HQ.

One player that did manage to sign for the moneyed bottom club before the transfer deadline was Christopher Samba, and the accomplished Congolese centre-back can go some way to justify his huge fee by making an instant positive impact to the R’s backline today.

The Canaries have only won once away from home all season, and have scored at a rate of less than a goal a game on their travels, so backing Samba to be man of the match may well be worth a punt. Tottenham.

Unbeaten in eight league matches, and on course for that coveted fourth-place finish. West Brom. No wins in five, one point won out of a possible last fifteen, ensconced in mid-table and shrouded in the mire of unsettling controversy.

Jermaine Defoe has to start scoring again at some point, but even though the England man has been quiet of recent, the likes of Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey have helped pick up the slack. Away win here in the early Sunday fixture.

Later on that day, both champions Manchester City and visitors Liverpool should be able to notch in their clash at the Etihad Stadium. City’s two most experienced centre-backs, Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure, will be absent for this fixture, and Liverpool - who have scored in their meetings at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane, Goodison Park and the Emirates this season - clearly are not fazed by the more daunting arenas of English football, often playing well and scoring albeit without the desired result.

Despite defensive selection headaches, Roberto Mancini ought not to be too concerned with the state of affairs at the other end of the pitch despite the sale of striker Mario Balotelli. He still has three top-quality centre-forwards at his disposal and his side have not failed to score at home since a 2-0 defeat by Everton in December 2010.

On the subject of top-quality centre-forwards, one who is entering a purple patch of goalscoring at this moment in time is Wayne Rooney, who pitched in with a brace at home to Southampton during the week to accompany his two FA Cup goals against Fulham and West Ham since returning from injury.

Three starts, four goals since his return from a one-month abscence, and the Scouser seems to be benefitting from taking a break from competitive action during the congested festive period, albeit an enforced one.

His team Manchester United take on Fulham again and Rooney must be backed to put one over on the Cottagers yet again. He and the irrespressible Robin van Persie looks like a partnership coming into great form just as Real Madrid approach the horizon.

When it comes to goalscoring bets, it pays to not only go with players on song, but also those returning back to their former clubs. It seems that centre-forwards love to bite the hand that feeds, and Demba Ba can do just that in Chelsea colours when he returns to Tyneside today.



1) QPR vs. Norwich Chris Samba Man of the Match 12/1 LADBROKES

2) Tottenham to beat West Brom 6/5 BETVICTOR

3) Man City vs. Liverpool Both teams to score 8/13 BETFRED

4) Fulham vs. Man United Wayne Rooney to score anytime 11/8 BOYLESPORTS

5) Newcastle vs. Chelsea Demba Ba to score anytime 6/4 CORAL


Elsewhere in Premier League-land this weekend, Arsenal will aim to continue their recent goalscoring exploits in a fixture they usually come away from with three points, at home to Stoke.

Beleagured Aston Villa are sinking in the relegation quicksand and are unlikely to find any helping hands at Goodison when they visit Champions League-chasing Everton.

Comeback kings Reading clash with a Sunderland side boasting a new addition in Danny Graham, while Graham’s former club Swansea travel to West Ham with seventh place in their sights.

At the DW Stadium, a six-pointer supreme with Mauricio Pochettino aiming for his first win as Southampton boss against Wigan, who have a returning hero in Paul Scharner back in their ranks.


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: Top Five Weekend Bets

Another weekend in the Premier League, another huge Sunday as four of the top six lock horns over the course of what may be a pivotal few hours in the race for the title and Champions League qualification places. The team currently placed fifth, Everton, make their move on Monday when they will be the first opponents in the Premier League management career of new Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino, who replaced the deposed Nigel Adkins in highly controversial circumstances yesterday.

Adkins can regard himself extremely hard done by to have been sacked less than 48 hours after taking a point at the home of the champions of Europe, and on a wider scale being the architect for the revival of one of this country’s iconic football clubs. The Liverpudlian dragged the South Coast club up from their knees and back to the division in which the club feel they belong.

His successor Pochettino will therefore arrive at St. Mary’s amidst hostility from all angles, though his recent top-level playing reputation and good record at his previous job as boss of Espanyol may arguably provide the Saints with more clout, both commercially and in the transfer window, than Adkins could ever have provided. That is no substitute for success on the pitch, however, and the Argentine may well struggle initially to impose his fresh ideas on the Saints players. For that reason, Everton, who seem to have finally mastered the art of keeping a clean sheet, can complete a trio of Sunday and Monday away wins.

Manchester United can be heartened by the unfortunate news of Sandro’s abscence for the remainder of Tottenham’s season. The beefy Brazilian has been a rock in the heart of the Spurs midfield in this midfield and Andre Villas-Boas’s men will be weakened in his abscence, especially with likely replacements Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone undercooked.

A defensive steel is steadily returning to United’s play, and returning ex-Lilywhite Michael Carrick, along with partner-in-crime Tom Cleverly can overpower a Sandro-less Spurs if they replicate their performance from last week’s victory over Liverpool. Or the first 60 minutes of it, at least.

Arsenal are a value bet to claim a second successive victory at Stamford Bridge against stricken Chelsea. Home victories are fast becoming a collectors item for Blues fans, with the midweek Southampton draw surely sealing their title fate. Even if the West London club win all of their remaining league games - which they almost certainly won’t - they will finish the season on 90 points. United finished second last season on 89 points, and that was an inferior model to the one that can now boast the irrespressible Robin van Persie in their ranks season.

The flying Dutchman destroyed Chelsea in an Arsenal shirt last season and of course won’t be available to the Gunners tomorrow, yet Jack Wilshere is returning to his best and Theo Walcott has the pace to trouble a ponderous Chelsea defence that are shipping too many goals of late. Laurent Koscielny will be a miss, but Arsene Wenger has the defensive strength in depth and can be pleased by his side’s character in returning to winning ways against Swansea in the week after their non-match against Man City last weekend.

It’s been two months since freefalling Wigan last won at the DW Stadium, and improving Sunderland can extend the Latics’ home misery by picking up at least a point today. The Fletcher-Johnson-Sessegnon trident is finally starting to show its obvious sparkle and if captain John O’Shea can overcome a late fitness test then that can be even more of a boost for Martin O’Neill and company.

Five of the last seven matches between West Brom and Aston Villa have finished in a 2-1 scoreline and the Baggies can oblige in that respect again tonight. Villa’s problems are well-documented but they do score regularly on the road - its just the other end which is the issue.

Steve Clarke has enjoyed seven wins already at the Hawthorns this season in the league, and in-form Romelu Lukaku can propel his boys to victory number eight against their Midlands rivals. Place your bet in a Coral shop if you can, ask they are refunding stakes on losing correct score bets on televised games if the actual scoreline is the reverse i.e. if Villa win 2-1 you would get your money back.



1) Everton to beat Southampton 21/20 (William Hill)
2) Manchester United to beat Tottenham 6/4 (BetVictor)
3) Arsenal to beat Chelsea 10/3 (Betfred)
4) Sunderland 0 (Asian Handicap) 15/8 (188Bet)
5) West Brom to beat Aston Villa 2-1 7/1 (Coral)


Elsewhere in the Premier League this season, Daniel Sturridge aims to build on his positive start for Liverpool in his home debut against Norwich today. His former club Manchester City can close the gap on their bitter title rivals United today with a home win against struggling Fulham.

Michael Laudrup and Tony Pulis will no doubt have plenty of chances to discuss the future of Kenwyne Jones when Swansea and Stoke meet at the Liberty meet at the Liberty today, while QPR fans will get their first opportunity to see new star signing Loic Remy in action against West Ham in a Loftus Road London derby.

The club Remy jilted meanwhile, Newcastle, host a Reading side with their tails up after an unlikely comeback victory over West Brom late last Saturday.


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: Top 5 Super Sunday Bets

Its here. The first Premier League Super Sunday of 2013, and Sundays do not get much more super than the fixtures that await us on this chilly Sunday 13th. The ascendancy of the noveau riches may have altered the order of power at the top end of English domestic football on a permanent basis, but for this soppy writer at least, Manchester United versus Liverpool remains the quintessential date in the league calendar. As a lower-division supporting neutral, the M62 derby is the first match I look for when the fixture lists are produced each close season.

The two most successful clubs in the land, 37 titles between them, 8 European Cups, hundreds of millions of fans worldwide, if an alien who knows nothing about football - or Tom Cruise - popped down to catch a game to get up to speed with what all the fuss is about this Premier League malarkey, you’d hope that this would be the game that he - or Tom Cruise - popped down for. Passion, history, quality.

And the match afterwards isn’t bad either as the champions travel down to the Emirates minus their midfield lynchpin, striking talisman and ex-Gunners playmaker. Add to the mix that Manchester City have not recorded an away league victory against Arsenal for 38 years and you are guaranteed a major story to come out from North London this afternoon.

First things first, and the league leaders simply have to be favoured to snap up the three points which will bring a 20th league title tantalisingly closer to Old Trafford. At the time of writing, United are available at odds-against to defeat their bitter rivals, a price which in my eyes represents staggering value. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are 21 points ahead of Liverpool in mid-January, having won nine of their ten home league matches this season. They have scored in every one of them, scoring at least twice on each occasion barring the 1-0 victory over West Ham in November.

In other words their Merseyside opponents, who have been victorious on the road in only three of their ten attempts this campaign, will almost certainly have to score at least two goals today to avoid defeat. Liverpool have achieved this feat only three times this season, albeit two of those matches were their most recent away league games, against QPR and the Hammers.

However, trips to Loftus Road and Upton Park are a significant step down from a daunting journey to Old Trafford, where Liverpool have suffered four successive league and cup defeats since a Benitez and Torres-inspired 4-1 mauling of the Red Devils in 2009.

Both Spaniards have changed allegiance to Chelsea since, and while the Blues will be hoping Liverpool can do them an unlikely favour in opening up the title race with a rare away win, there is simply too big a gulf in class. United have been scoring an average of a goal a game more than Liverpool all season (whilst both teams boast similar defensive records) and if Ferguson’s declaration that Wayne Rooney will not make today’s match due to a nagging knee injury is fact as opposed to curveballed kidology - he has plenty of form in that respect - then it is not as if there is a shortage of options to make up for the loss of the Scouser.

Ferguson can utilise the pace of Javier Hernandez to pair up with key man Robin van Persie, or the physicality of Danny Welbeck to rough up Liverpool’s bouncer-like centre-back pairing of namesake Agger and Martin Skrtel. The most likely eventuality, though, is that Shinji Kagawa will be deployed in the number 10 role which Rooney has developed into smoothly over the last few months, acting as an effective conduit between van Persie up top and his midfield, the only area of the park where this Liverpool side can hold a candle to United.

In the reverse fixture in September which United won 2-1 at Anfield, Liverpool were admittedly running the early exchanges of the game via the midfield, with Jonjo Shelvey the best player on the park until his sending-off for a rash tackle. Expect Shelvey to again link up with Joe Allen and captain Steven Gerrard in the centre of the pitch, with the remit from Brendan Rodgers to consist of bossing Tom Cleverly and Michael Carrick.

No easy task at Old Trafford however, especially with Cleverley maturing by the game and Kagawa having the legs to essentially become a quasi-box-to-box-midfielder, albeit with more emphasis on appearing in his opponents box than his own. He mastered this role with distinction in his illustrious last couple of seasons at Borussia Dortmund, and can demonstrate his attributes to great effect today.

The gulf between United and Liverpool may well be illustrated to its maximum out wide, where young full-back Andre Wisdom will be issued the daunting task of keeping a marauding Ashley Young quiet in the absence of the injured Jose Enrique. The saving grace for Rodgers, of course, is the form of their controversial yet undeniably brilliant forward Luis Suarez, and he has proved in the past that he doesn’t shirk the big occasion having produced some top performances against United since arriving on these shores.

However when you look a little closer into the background of those fixtures, its not all it seems. His man-of-the-match performance in Liverpool’s last league victory against United in March 2011 was in the absence of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Johnny Evans, while the United captain was also absent with injury when Suarez notched at Old Trafford last season.

Perm any two from the aforementioned three defenders to start today, and the talented Uruguayan will have a tough task on his hands in front of what will undoubtedly be an extremely hostile Mancunian crowd. Daniel Sturridge is not match-fit. Liverpool fans haven’t seen their side beat a top-ten team all season and will head down the M62 this afternoon in hope as opposed to expectation, as all roads lead to a United victory with the starring role set to be afforded to the man from the land of the rising sun.

Kicking off at 4pm is the small matter of Arsenal versus Manchester City. The champions are languishing somewhat seven points behind their neighbours in the table - a gap which may go into double figures by kick-off time - but they have proved themselves to be the hardest team to beat in the league away from home. They can boast the fewest number of away defeats - just the one at Sunderland on Boxing Day - and just the ten goals conceded in as many away matches. Only Swansea and today’s opponents have conceded less on their travels.

Both Arsenal and Man City can boast durability away from home, and at terra firma both sides have scored 25 goals so far this season, although this record is more impressive in respect of the Gunners as they have played two home games fewer than City at this moment in time. In fact there is not a lot in it when it comes to the goal statistics, with Arsenal having scored only one goal fewer whilst playing a game less, and conceding only three goals more.

The main reason it seems for Arsenal lagging eleven points behind Man City in sixth place is their propensity for drawing games of football. Only draw specialists Everton have endured more stalemates out of the top eight teams, and today could be another day for shared points. There’s no doubting that City have the better squad, yet even their not-so-meagre resources will be stretched by the notable key absences of Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero, all for differing reasons.

With Mario Balotelli mentally AWOL, City are down to their last two recognised strikers. Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko are not a bad pairing to find at the bottom of your barrel, though. That notwithstanding, Aguero is City’s best striker, Nasri is at his most effective on the counter at away days such as these and Toure is the driving force in the champions’ midfield. There are no ready-made equivalent replacements for those three, and expect City to pit out a more dour formation with unspectacular players such as Gareth Barry and James Milner coming to the fore.

Arsenal are of course not without their problems but they are finding their goalscoring touch of late, and where Arsene Wenger deploys Theo Walcott today will give a massive indication as to how ready the manager believes his young charge is to emulate Thierry Henry in a central striker role.

Walcott should be afforded that chance, and should relish the opportunity to use his pace to snap at the heels of the young City centre-back Matija Nastasic, who has played ably in his first season in the Premier League at the age of just 19 yet has struggled in the bigger games.

With Toure and Nasri absent the midfield battle will be a more even affair as well, with Jack Wilshere working his way back to form nicely, aided in his tripartite partnership with fellow ballplayers Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta, the latter of course scoring the winner in the corresponding fixture last season to ensure City’s Highbury/Emirates hoodoo rumbled on for yet another year.

The hoodoo may well be rumbling on to a fifth decade, as a stalemate seems the most likely outcome in this afternoon’s late fixture.



1) Man United to beat Liverpool 21/20 BETVICTOR
2) Shinji Kagawa Man of the Match 16/1 STAN JAMES
3) Arsenal vs. Man City Draw 5/2 BET 365
4) Theo Walcott Anytime Goalscorer 2/1 STAN JAMES
5) Edin Dzeko Last Goalscorer 7/1 STAN JAMES


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: The First Top 5 Bets of 2013

And a happy new year to you, too.

Weary and bleary-eyed (and that’s just the players) we stumble into the fourth full Premier League matchday in the space of just ten days, and the first of 2013. Three points will be crucial in the eyes of many managers seeing as the Prem ratrace gets put to the back-burner after tomorrow till the middle of the month as the FA Cup and transfer window comes to the fore.

First off, Manchester United look the ideal bet to carry on their winning assault on the title at the DW Stadium today, and with Nemanja Vidic inching towards full fitness and instrumental in orchestrating a rare clean sheet for the league leaders against West Brom on Saturday, it may well be a profitable strategy to fall on the side of the Red Devils scoring unanswered in the second half of the season a lot more often than they did in the first half.

Wigan equipped themselves superbly in their dismantling of Aston Villa at the weekend, a result not foreseen by yours truly, but the Latics have struggled to score against the top teams at home this season whilst shipping them in at the other end, and today may be a similar story. Arsenal have rediscovered the joy of scoring as of recent, but look a tad short in the win market away to Southampton in the evening fixture.

A better option would be to stick with Theo Walcott to score anytime against the club where it all began for him. The England man has revelled in his new centre-forward of late, rounding off 2012 with a hat-trick against Newcastle, and may inflict further misery on his former employers who may get jaded late on following their gargantuan efforts at the Britannia Stadium last Saturday.

With Arsenal being just one of several odds-on shots in this midweek matchday, it is difficult to find value bets so a better strategy may well to be stick with the tried and tested. They don’t come more tried and tested than backing both teams to score in an Everton match, as anyone who reads this column regularly knows, and with the opponents being vulnerable Newcastle albeit at what will be a vociferous St. James’ Park, expect the bet to oblige yet again.

That match is the live televised fixture tomorrow evening, and simultaneously there will be another meeting of Mersey and North-East minds when Sunderland visit Liverpool. The Mackems are slowly and surely beginning to click into gear under the wile and guile of Martin O’Neill, and can at the very least avoid a heavy defeat at Anfield.

Manchester City got off the blocks quicker than Usain Bolt with a Visa credit card against Norwich on Saturday, with Edin Dzeko firing his side to a 2-0 lead inside less than five minutes. That scenario has been more anomaly than norm over the course of the season, and with a disciplined Stoke City side arriving at the Etihad this afternoon boosted by the return of key defenders Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron from suspensions, City may well have to play their usual waiting game followed by a possible late show.



1) Manchester United to beat Wigan to nil 12/5 CORAL
2) Southampton vs. Arsenal Theo Walcott to score anytime 11/8 BETVICTOR
3) Newcastle vs. Everton Both teams to score 4/6 LADBROKES
4) Sunderland +1.5 Handicap to beat Liverpool 5/6 PINNACLEBET
5) Man City vs. Stoke 2nd Half Highest Scoring Half 6/5 WILLIAM HILL


Elsewhere, crisis club Aston Villa face a tough task in arresting the slide in the shape of a trip to the Liberty Stadium to play in-form Swansea today, while in the early fixture West Brom and Fulham fans can bask in the enjoyment of watching their respective clubs face each other whilst nursing a new year’s hangover.

A Bale-less Tottenham should still be good enough for three points when entertaining Reading today, and across the capital West Ham will be eager for the same amount from their battle with Norwich in order to ease the anxious looks over their shoulder towards the relegation zone of the table.

Lastly, there is a good old-fashioned West London derby tomorrow evening when Harry Redknapp takes his beleaguered Hoops to Stamford Bridge. It will be interesting to see whether Chelsea or QPR, two clubs expected to be very busy in the transfer market this month, have any new faces in tow in time for their clash. We shall see.


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: This Weekend’s Top 5 Bets

On Boxing Day, Stoke City produced one of the performances of not just that day, but in my opinion the entire Premier League season, in order to come back from going behind after the best part of 90 seconds to defeat Liverpool 3-1 at a raucous Britannia Stadium.

The Potters belied their somewhat harsh attribution as a primitive route one football team by beasting the Merseyside club with a skilful, physical, and technically adept performance, backed by a passionate crowd in a white-hot night atmosphere. Ignore the naysayers - Stoke can play football. Expect them to play some more winning football against Southampton today.

The Saints have only scored one goal from open play this month and will find it extra difficult to break down the Premier League’s meanest defence without talisman Adam Lallana. Stoke to win two-nil.

Both teams have scored in 16 of Everton’s 19 Premier League matches this season, and with Chelsea coming to Goodison on Sunday expect that particular bet to oblige again. Yes, the London Blues have kept clean sheets in their last two matches, but they were against relative goalscoring lightweights in Aston Villa and Norwich.

The Mersey Blues have notched in every game bar one in 2012/13, and can sufficiently trouble a defence that is missing their organiser-in-chief in John Terry, but is better for having David Luiz moved to midfield. By 5pm this evening, perhaps the only bunch of London-based professionals who would be thankful for the Boxing Day tube strike may well be the motley bunch at West Ham United.

Well-rested after the postponement of their London derby against Arsenal which was originally scheduled for what is known in my household as ‘cold turkey day’, the Hammers can overcome the Royals at the Madjeski today.

The other beneficiary of crucial unplanned rest during this hectic period of games may well be the Gunners, who take on Newcastle in the evening kick-off tonight. The Geordies have probably the toughest festive fixture line-up of any Premier League side, with long tough trips to Old Trafford and the Emirates whilst many clubs have either home fixtures or local derbies with little travelling time. They finish off against Everton on Wednesday.

What may be forgotten in the midst of the Sir Alex Ferguson refereeing controversy is that Newcastle ran Man United so close before succumbing at the last, and Alan Pardew’s depleted squad may well be feeling that expansive yet fruitless effort come late on at the Emirates. The fresh Gunners can make hay, especially Theo Walcott with his pace and his new centre forward position.

After heavy defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham, I see that a couple of bookmakers have made Wigan favourites to defeat Aston Villa at Villa Park today. Absolute nonsense. Yes, Paul Lambert’s young side got taught lessons by two of the Premier League best and in-form clubs, but you simply won’t face a rampant Bale or a Lampard and Luiz masterclass every week.

Wigan, who can be currently found in the relegation zone, are in no great form themselves having lost three on the trot and five out of the last six. Only West Ham have scored fewer away goals (although that may change by the time they’re done with Reading today) and let’s not forget, Villa’s three home defeats have come at the hands of top five sides in Man United, Spurs and Everton.

Against sides of Wigan’s quality, Benteke, Agbonlahor and the young guns can make hay and the Villains can be backed to return to form at a ridiculously generous price this afternoon.


1) Stoke to beat Southampton to nil 23/10 CORAL
2) Everton vs Chelsea Both teams to score 4/6 LADBROKES
3) West Ham 0 Asian Handicap 88/100 LADBROKES (Stakes returned if match is drawn)
4) Arsenal vs. Newcastle Walcott to score anytime 11/8 BETVICTOR
5) Aston Villa to beat Wigan 9/5 WILLIAM HILL

Elsewhere, in the early kick-off today the Gareth Bale rolls up at the Stadium of Light as a rejuvenated Sunderland entertain Spurs. I don’t think either side would turn their nose up at a point apiece from that encounter.

A Michu-less Swansea are hosted by Fulham later in the afternoon, and while one club are missing their lead scorer, the other club’s leading marksman is adamant that his team-mates should ‘keep calm and pass him the ball’. If they take that advice then Dimitar Berbatov may well be inspiring his team to a much-needed victory today.

The Manchester clubs continue their title chase ding-dong today, with United hosting West Brom and champions City going to Norwich. Roberto Mancini’s men go to Carrow Road knowing they cannot afford to lose and see their neighbours win as per the events of Boxing Day, otherwise the gap in points between the two will increase to double figures. Expect the top two sides to utilise their massive squads to good effect today.

Finally, bottom club QPR take on Liverpool at Loftus Road in the Sunday evening match, a match which Harry Redknapp must be targeting three points from. Liverpool need to show more fight than they did at the Britannia in order to deter Harry’s boys.


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Premier League Betting Preview: Top 5 Boxing Day Tips

Looking for a brilliant bargain in the bank holiday sales? Then look no further than a little investment on Swansea to pick up all three points from the Madjeski Stadium against an increasingly doomed Reading side, reeling from seven Premier League defeats in a row, during which the Royals have conceded 18 goals.

Whilst Brian McDermott and his charges have continually demonstrated skills of character and resolve during tough periods of the season, they will undoubtedly feel hard done by after putting in such a valiant shift at the home of the champions on Saturday, only to be beaten at the very death by a questionable goal. Swansea, by contrast, would have enjoyed the fillip from taking a point off the league leaders on Sunday when Michu scored again to become the stand-alone top goalscorer this season with 13 Premier League strikes.

In addition, only the champions Manchester City have conceded less away league goals than the Welsh outfit so far this season, so while we know the obvious goal threat available in Michu and wingers Lloyd Dyer and Wayne Routledge, we can also be confident of a decent display from their defensive line. Back Swansea to come back from their trip to Berkshire with something nice.

Nice is not a word that would be used to describe Fulham’s recent form, in fact abysmal would be more accurate if you consider the Cottagers have only picked up seven of the last thirty points available. Having said that, all three points can be picked up at home to Southampton on Boxing Day you would have to think.

The lustre and energy from the Saints’ play seems to have evaporated as of recent, as exemplified in their flat display in defeat at home to Sunderland on Saturday, and as I disclosed here in the last column, their recent fortnight’s hiatus from competitive play did them no favours in terms of gaining momentum at a crucial part of the season.

The South Coast side have lost six out of their seven away league fixtures this season, and have not kept a clean sheet in any of the seven, which must be statistical music to Dimitar Berbatov’s ears. With captain Adam Lallana a big miss for the St. Mary’s outfit, Fulham is the way to go at a shade of odds-on.

While not all managers are thrilled with the idea of playing four matches over 10 festive fun-filled days, Aston Villa must be champing at the bit following their Stamford Bridge horror show on Sunday, where over the course of 90 minutes they conceded as many goals - eight - as they have shipped at Villa Park over the course of the whole season. That home stat is slightly misleading if you factor in that the Villains have entertained only three of the current top eight this season and not won against any of them.

Admittedly they did keep clean sheets against Stoke and Arsenal, but you do wonder how the young bucks of Villa will cope against seasoned marksmen such as Defoe, Adebayor and Bale, quality not readily available to the Potters or the Gunners. Only Manchester United have scored more away from home than Spurs, and with their recent good record in the Second City they look decent good things to win in the early evening clash. And win well.

Newcastle have a tough looking festive period on the road and en route to a Saturday clash with what will be a well-rested Arsenal side, its the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford for the Magpies. Alan Pardew’s men are still yet to win away from home in the league this season, however they have notched on six of their last seven road trips, and while Nemanja Vidic returns back to full fitness the red United may well still be susceptible. Both teams to score in that one.

While the nation tucks into leftover mince pies on Boxing Day, Fernando Torres may well be forgiven for not resisting the temptation to bake a massive humble pie for his doubters. The Spanish marksman has been the butt of many a joke from his detractors during his well-documented malaise, but he predictably new Chelsea broon Rafa Benitez is wringing out some vintage drops akin to the Fernando Torres circa 2008-09.

The rejuvenated striker is a decent price to notch against a Norwich side that have lost their defensive halo of late, having conceded in each of their last six league fixtures.


Top Five Tips

1) Swansea to beat Reading 6/4 LADBROKES
2) Fulham to beat Southampton 11/12 PINNACLEBET
3) Tottenham -1 Handicap 7/4 BET365 (Stakes returned if Spurs win by one goal)
4) Manchester United vs. Newcastle United Both teams to score EVENS STAN JAMES
5) Norwich vs. Chelsea Fernando Torres to score anytime 11/8 BETVICTOR


Elsewhere on Boxing Day, Everton hope to maintain their top four push when they entertain struggling Wigan. The Toffees cannot buy a clean sheet at the moment so it is a good thing that they are scoring for fun, even without the talismanic Marouane Fellaini.

The champions return to the Stadium of Light nearly a year to the day Ji-Dong Won (remember him?) scored a last-minute winner to inflict a shock defeat on the Manchester City. Can Sunderland do it again? Probably not.

In the night fixture, Liverpool visit the miserly defence of Stoke at the Brittania Stadium, although expect Begovic and co to be kept busy by the Reds’ improving attack, with Brendan Rodgers’ men netting in each of their last five league fixtures.

Lastly, QPR host West Brom and since the Rangers never do what I predict them to do its pretty much pointless forecasting result in this fixture so I won’t.

And that’s that. Merry Christmas everyone.


Written by Emelie Okeke

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