Saturday 20th December
12.45 Manchester City v Crystal Palace
A scan across the coming matches this weekend doesn’t throw up a huge amount of festive cheer in terms of enticing, should-I shouldn’t-I odds so rather than give in to seasonal stupidity we’ll see if we can find the nailed on wins to keep yr struggling pocket with more pennies than not. First up in the nailed-on-no-doubt-about-it club sees struggling Palace take on resurgent City. What makes this game interesting is that both sides are coming into the game without much in the way of strikers.
In City’s case, they should be without Aguero, Jovetic and Dzeko. Manager Pellegrini may feel that fourth choice striker, Angel Pozo, is too young to lead the line from the off in a match that City should feel that they must win.
If that turns out to be the case, viewers could be treated to the sight of lots of brilliant, attacking midfielders confusing the life out of Palace all match long. Palace are without Chamakh, a fact that is unlikely to have City’s defenders dancing with joy but may be reason enough for Neil Warnock to park all manner of large vehicles across his back-line in what would be an heroic effort if it got them even a point from this encounter. You should consider that highly unlikely. Best price for the City win is 3/10 and can be wrestled from Paddypower amongst others.
15.00 Aston Villa v Manchester United
Next up for the kill are Aston Villa, thanking the gods of Christmas for bringing the flailing win-machine that is Man Utd to visit them at Villa Park. Villa have managed to arrest the losing streak (six games on the bounce) which saw them plummet from an early season high to languishing around the bottom of the table.
They have only lost once in their last six, albeit away to a pretty dire West Bromwich Albion last week. When the biggest news from the club concerns ex-assistant manager Roy Keane and his unusual house-calling habits, you know there’s not much worth writing about. Having said that, they are only two points behind Liverpool & Everton and are even with Stoke so make of that what you will.
However, United are coming into town with the swagger of someone’s who’s winning it all but can’t properly explain why. Granted, having better, more expensive players will usually win out in the end but even when United were suffering their annus horribilis last season, they still managed to hammer the Villains home and away. In fact, they haven’t dropped points against Villa since November 2010 and you wouldn’t imagine they’ll start doing so tomorrow. United winning seems to be a banker, 8/13 from Bet365 should do the job.
15.00 Southhampton v Everton
The wheels have well and truly flown off Koeman’s wagon. Southampton are the envy of no-one (bar Leicester) with an awful five losses from their last five games. Although they weren’t soundly thrashed in any of these games, the last two defeats have been to Burnley and Sheffield United. Ouch. To add to the seasonal misery, due to injuries and suspension, they are without mainstay midfielders Schneiderlin, Wanyama and Cork. Anyone who watched Everton midweek would have been impressed by the midfield pairing of Muhamed Besic and Jesus Christ, sorry, Ross Barkley.
Between menacing tackles and danger from deep, they will surely prove too much of a handful for a makeshift Southampton defence, should Martinez retain their services there. Although Lukaku seems to be struggling to make an impact at the moment, the same cannot be said of Naismith who buzzes with purpose and attacking brio.
The Scot may well be joined in attack by half-man half-biscuit McGeady, who still, after all these years, continues to baffle and befuddle opponents and team-mates alike. Going on form and availability of players, it looks like Everton may have the edge in this one. The price is nice, too. A heart-warming 21/10 can be wrangled from Betvictor.