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Thursday, 13th December 2012
Steve's weekend tips will appear here on Thursday but in the meantime you can check out what he tipped up last week.....
Newcastle v Man City (Saturday 15th December 2012)
The first of this weekend's live Premier League matches comes from St James' Park with Newcastle v Man City and this looks a tough one to call. I watched Newcastle lose 2-1 at Fulham on Monday night and they lack a bit of craft with Yohan Cabaye out injured, particularly as the two players in the middle of the park, Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tiote, are so similar. Alan Pardew played Papiss Cisse out wide for the first 35 minutes of that game and it really didn't work so they are still looking for someone to 'unlock the door' from midfield for them.
With Man City they are probably still scratching their heads wondering how they managed to lose to Manchester United last Sunday. Regular readers of this column will know I'm not Roberto Mancini's biggest fan and the only difference last weekend was the fact that one manager got his team selection right and one manager got it wrong. I just don't understand why you'd start Mario Balotelli when you know he might not give you 100% and then go on to moan about it when it happens, it's absolute madness.
Those sorts of decisions are the reason why Man City are out of Europe and six points behind United at this stage of the season. It won't be easy against Newcastle, who are a different kettle of fish at home. Pardew's side haven't won away from home this season which gives you an indication of how strong they are at St James' Park, although having said that Man City should have a bit too much for them and I reckon City can win 2-1, which is 15/2 with Ladbrokes.
Match Result Tip: Man City win @ 8/13 with Ladbrokes.
Correct Score Tip: Man City to win 2-1 @ 15/2 with Ladbrokes.
Tottenham v Swansea (Sunday 16th December 2012)
Moving on to Sunday we've got Tottenham v Swansea and firstly I've got to ask what on earth was Andre Villas-Boas doing at Everton last week? Spurs went 1-0 up and he makes three changes in and around Spurs scoring their goal but it caused them to become so negative. Why change it? They ended up with 10 men behind the ball and not one of them knew what they were doing - for the first goal no one picked the runner up and not one of them challenged to head the ball. It's just so negative and every time he makes a change they seem to fall into a hole.
For this weekend's game Gareth Bale is expected to be fit and he makes all the difference for Tottenham because they are so lopsided without him. He's even more important at home where you have the majority of possession and that's when you need the width to get in behind teams. Swansea are coming off the back of a hard fought victory over Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday but Bale is the key for me on Sunday and I can see Spurs edging this 2-1.
Match Result Tip: Tottenham win @ 8/13 with Coral.
Correct Score Tip: Tottenham win 2-1 @ 15/2 with Coral.
West Brom v West Ham (Sunday 16th December 2012)
These live games don't get any easier to call as it's West Brom v West Ham on Sunday afternoon and there's not much to choose between these teams. I was a bit disappointed with West Ham in their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool last week, particularly after they got back into the game and went 2-1 up. The last few times I've seen them they've come back against Stoke and against Chelsea and they've been really good but they couldn't get that momentum going against Liverpool.
West Brom have lost their last three on the trot and they were unlucky against Arsenal last Saturday, but is that really a barometer of performance nowadays? We've talked about a lot of teams being unlucky against Arsenal, Man United and Man City this season but it might just be that these top teams aren't as good as they used to be. For this weekend's match I can't separate the two sides and I'm going to go for the 1-1 correct at 6/1 with William Hill.
Match Result Tip: Draw @ 5/2 with WilliamHill.
Correct Score Tip: 1-1 @ 6/1 with WilliamHill.
Reading v Arsenal (Monday 17th December 2012)
Monday night's match is Reading v Arsenal and who could forget the last time these two played at the back end of October? Arsenal of course won 7-5 in the League Cup at the Madejski and Reading have struggled ever since. They lost 3-0 to Sunderland the other night and they are favourites for relegation and probably rightly so. You look at the other teams that were promoted last season and Southampton have spent £33 million during the summer, while West Ham have brought big players in on big wages. In contrast, Reading have signed Pavel Pogrebnyak on a free and he's not been fit so it was always going to be tough for them if they didn't go out and spend big.
Brian McDermott will know which of his players are good enough for Premiership football and who isn't at this stage so they have a huge January coming up because they are in danger of being cast adrift. They have to decide whether they are going to spend proper money on players or carry on as they are and get relegated. However, there is also the risk that they spend big money and still go down so it's a bit of a quandary for them.
With Arsenal it's hard to bet on them nowadays but they should win this, despite the debacle in the Capital One Cup against Bradford on Wednesday night. There could be goals at the Madejski again and Arsenal to win 3-1 can be backed at 12/1 with Coral.com.
Match Result Tip: Arsenal to win @ 4/6 with Coral.
Correct Score Tip: Arsenal to win 3-1 @ 12/1 with Coral.
Steve Claridge's Weekend Treble
There's plenty of football coming up this weekend and I've got a couple of trebles that will hopefully pay dividends...
1. Arsenal to beat Reading (4/6); Bournemouth to beat Colchester (8/15); Exeter to beat Plymouth (23/20). A treble with Hills returns a touch over 9/2.
2. Cardiff to beat Peterborough (4/11); MK Dons to beat Hartlepool (2/5); Leyton Orient to beat Scunthorpe (19/20). A treble with William Hill returns a touch over 5/2.
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"You write them off at your own peril"
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