Connect in the back of the net

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

Follow him on Twitter @Emelie_Okeke

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