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Thursday, 15th December 2011
As we get ever nearer to Christmas and the halfway point of the Premier League, Chelsea's win over Manchester City last Monday breathed some life into the Championship race and it's the Londoners who feature in Saturday's live match. Wigan v Chelsea is the evening kick off and I still don't really know what to make of these two teams. Roberto Martinez's side threw a spanner in the works last week when winning away at West Brom, just as everyone was beginning to write them off. They lost 4-0 to Arsenal in their last game at the DW however and now Chelsea are the latest visitors during a tough run of fixtures.
It seems as though the Wigan team have to be in the right mood to play the style of football their manager demands. Their results suggest that they are capable but on their day can be very bad. If they can play without the ball and chain on this weekend they could cause Chelsea some trouble, despite the London club's recent upturn in fortunes. I think it's fair to say that the game went for Chelsea on Monday, with City denied as blatant a penalty as you'll see when leading 1-0 and Chelsea equalising at the right time. That saying they should be too strong for Wigan and the betting suggests this making Andres Villas Boas' side 2/5 to win the game. That's far too short for my liking and I'd say this current side might win this match on three out of five occasions, rather than the 5/5 when in their pomp a few seasons ago. Ladbrokes are going 15/2 about a 2-1 Chelsea win and that looks like the best bet to me.
There are three live games back to back on Sunday afternoon and QPR v Man Utd kicks things off at Loftus Road in what could be a really good game. United could go top with a win here, for a few hours at least but Rangers have the ability to be a real banana skin for the champions, especially at home. Neil Warnock's side have done well this season against the top sides and aren't under any significant pressure in the league, so I'd expect them to give this a real go. You always know what you're going to get from a Warnock side and that's something you can't necessarily say about Man Utd at the moment, despite moving within two points of the league leaders last weekend.
It was a morale boosting win over Wolves at Old Trafford a week ago but United haven't scored more than once away from home in the league since the 10th September. Sir Alex Ferguson's team were uncharacteristically dumped out of the Champions League, from a group in all honesty QPR could have won. It seems the United boss underestimated the opposition and possibly overestimated his own team and it was unusual for him not to put out a strong line-up early in the campaign and secure the group before resting players. The Premier League will now be United's main focus and injuries dictate that he'll have to play his strongest line-up week in, week out. United look very short here at 1/2 on current form and like Chelsea at Wigan, it's not necessarily a game you'd expect United to win every time, like you would have when they were at their best. I'm going to go for a 1-1 draw at 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
Aston Villa v Liverpool is a tough one to call in Sunday's second match. I watched Liverpool lose 1-0 at Fulham a fortnight ago and witnessed a very strange managerial performance from Kenny Dalglish. He approached the game very cautiously with eleven men, but after the sending off he threw two wingers on with ten men which made the game very open and ultimately resulted in a Fulham win The three up front of Carroll, Bellamy and Suarez didn't work to begin with but these bizarre tactics seemed to be the exact opposite to what you'd expect when playing with ten men opposed to eleven. A similar negative approach from the start on Sunday could work against Liverpool and as always I'd advise on waiting to see the teams before placing your bet. To be honest Alex McLeish has been similarly guilty of fiddling with his team and formation this season which makes this game a pretty tough betting proposition. I don't have any real confidence in either of these two teams so I'm going to tip another 1-1 draw here at odds of 6/1 with William Hill.
The weekend's big game is the Man City v Arsenal clash at the Etihad on Sunday. This is an intriguing contest considering City lost their first league game of the season last Monday and Arsenal are on this good run of form. Roberto Mancini's side are now 5/6 to win the Premier League out from as short as 4/7 this time last week. City have already played a lot of their away matches to the top sides this season and on paper they have the easier second half of the campaign compared to their rivals. I'm interested to see how they react on Sunday and although Arsenal are on a fine run and have someone in Robin Van Persie who can win games, I'm not sure they can defend well enough for ninety minutes. Man City could be going into this match as second in the league depending on the United result earlier in the afternoon, but I expect them to bounce back with a win here and will have a bet on City to win 2-1 at odds of 7/1 with Bet365.
For my weekly treble this weekend I've plumbed for Charlton to beat Oldham, Burton to beat Dagenham and Swindon to beat Morecambe. A treble with William Hill pays just over 4/1.
Steve Claridge's Weekly Premier League Football Tips
Tip #1: Chelsea to beat Wigan 2-1 @ odds of 15/2 with Ladbrokes.
Tip #2: QPR and Man Utd to draw 1-1 @ odds of 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
Tip #3: Aston Villa and Liverpool to draw 1-1 @ odds of 6/1 with William Hill.
Tip #4: Man City to beat Arsenal 2-1 @ odds of 7/1 with Bet 365.
Steve's Weekly Treble: Charlton to beat Oldham (6/10); Burton to beat Dagenham and Redbrige (4/5); Swindon to beat Morecambe (4/5). A £50 treble returns £210 with Williamhill.com.
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"You write them off at your own peril"
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