Connect in the back of the net

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

Follow him on Twitter @Emelie_Okeke

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