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Back the draw as struggling Chelsea take on Man Utd

Thursday, 2nd February 2012

Manchester City v Fulham kicks off this weekend's live action from the Premier League on Saturday evening and I have to say I certainly won't be queing up to back Roberto Mancini's side at odds of 3/10 for this one! I'm not convinced by City at all and their 1-0 defeat at Everton on Tuesday was a game where they seemed to revert to type. There was no urgency from them, no fluency and because of this they lacked tempo. Other than the first three months of this season where they played with flair and gusto, the team once again seems to be playing like individuals and their results are suffering. Their first pass is always sideways or backwards and you don't see them counter-attacking teams like you would a Manchester United. Add to this the rather bizarre comments from Mancini following Tuesday's defeat and there's plenty of reasons to oppose them for the title.

Fortunately, City probably couldn't have asked for a better game this weekend on paper, as Fulham arrive at the Etihad with just the one away win all season. To be fair to Martin Jol's side they have improved on the road having picked up five draws on their travels but they aren't the force at Craven Cottage they were under previous managers. I'm not sure about Fulham's transfer business in January, Bobby Zamora will be a big loss and something must have been awry for him to leave to QPR for just £4m.

This is a difficult game to get into from a betting perspective as you'd usually want a long odds on shot like City to be on good form if you were considering piling in at that price. The 11/10 about a City win to nil probably represents better value and that's available to back at 11/10 with Paddy Power.

Newcastle v Aston Villa is the first of two live games on Sunday afternoon and should be a cracker. Both sides picked up points midweek and Alan Pardew wil probably be able to call upon the services of Demba Ba following his return from the African Cup of Nations.

I don't think anyone really knows where to pitch Aston Villa at the moment and I'm not sure what the expectations are of their supporters. Their results have picked up since the start of the year on the road but they do seem to struggle at Villa Park. They played well the other night by all accounts coming back from two goals down to earn a point at home to QPR and tio be honest they do have the kind of players which means they should be able to give anyone a game.

I get the feeling there will be goals in this and can see a bit of value in backing over 2.5 goals at odds of 4/5 with Sporting Bet. I'm also keen on both teams to score and you can back that outcome at 8/11 with Bet 365.

Sunday's big game is Chelsea v Man Utd at Stamford Bridge and I'm struggling to look past anything but a draw here. We're still waiting for Chelsea to start playing well, to give us a performance that shows us they've turned the corner. We thought we saw it when they beat Man City just before Christmas but there have been some horror results since then. There's something missing at Chelsea, whether it's the way the manager is setting them up or the players just don't understand what he wants from them, they are so hit and miss which means they are easy to oppose in the betting.

It's difficult to see Chelsea winning the match and if you offered Man Utd the draw now they'd probably take it. If Chelsea were to play to their best ability then you could consider backing them but in all due respect that's been a rare occurence this season. United cruised past Stoke 2-0 on Tuesday without breaking into a sweat and I think they'll get at least a draw on Sunday. The draw is the biggest price of the three outcomes at 19/10 with Betfred and I also think it's the most likely.

Finally, Liverpool host Spurs on Monday night in what looks like being an intriguing match. I know it's strange to be saying this in February but we're still finding out about these two sides and Monday's match could really tell us a lot. It's a real test for both teams and it'll be interesting to see whether Spurs have what it takes to go away and get a result at Anfield, or if Liverpool can go on and convert a draw into a win at home against a quality side like Tottenham.

Luis Suarez will be back so it will be interesting to see what happens with him, especially with Andy Carroll scoring midweek. I feel that Liverpool are better off playing on the counter attack at Anfield and can see this being another tight affair. I like both teams to score at 4/5 but I'm tipping up a 1-1 correct score at odds of 6/1 with Blue Square.

This week I've picked out four teams from the lower divisions to put in my acca. I fancy Burnley to beat Peterborough who were poor last week in defeat to Pompey. In League Two I think there'll be home wins for Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday against Rochdale and Yeovil respectively, whilst I reckon Gillingham will be too strong at home to Hereford in League Two. A £20 accumualtor pays just under £125 with bookmaker Boylesports.

Steve Claridge's Weekend Football Tips

Tip #1: Man City v Fulham (4th Feb 2012) City to win to nil @ odds of 11/10 with Paddy Power.

Tip #2: Newcastle v Aston Villa (5th Feb 2012) Both Teams to score @ odds of 8/11 with Bet365.

Tip #3: Chelsea v Man Utd (5th Feb 2012) The draw @ odds of 19/10 with Betfred.

Tip #4: Liverpool v Tottenham (6th Feb 2012) 1-1 Correct score @ odds of 6/1 with Blue Square.

Steve's Weekly Multi: Burnley to beat Peterborough (8/11); Charlton to beat Rochdale (4/9); Sheffield Wednesday to beat Yeovil (1/2); Gillingham to beat Hereford (4/6). A fourfold with Boylesports pays just over 5/1. 

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