The bookies will anticipate a deluge of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal trebles as all three play arguably “easy” matches although there is better value to be found at Craven Cottage and Upton Park. There could also be more Midlands derby misery in store for Aston Villa on Sunday at tempting odds.
Friday 14 April
Manchester United vs Sunderland
United’s rousing 2-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday was their ninth in a row and they could not have better opponents to make it a perfect 10. Sunderland are out of their depth at this level and will be relegated on Saturday if they lose. Kevin Ball’s side took just nine minutes to concede against a Fulham side without an away win all season last weekend and are in danger of being on the receiving end of a thrashing. United’s recent league record against the Black Cats at Old Trafford reads 2-1, 4-1, 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0. Bar the close encounter in 2002/03 season, United could well hit the three goals necessary to cover a two goal handicap but at odds-on it’s no value is backing them outright at 1/10 (Bet365). If you want a run for your money, Wayne Rooney, who was magnificent against the Gunners, could be a good bet to score the first goal.
Walker’s Word: Wayne Rooney to score the first goal @ 3/1.
Saturday 15 April
Bolton Wanderers vs Chelsea
Chelsea showed great commitment to come back from both a goal and player down to crush West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and know they can’t suffer any slip ups with Manchester United hot on their heels. Bolton have lost their last four Premiership matches in a row, although three of them were away with the home reverse coming against a resurgent United they have their work cut out to stop the rot against Jose Mourinho’s side. Chelsea have won their last two visits to the Reebok Stadium 2-0 and a similar result is expected this weekend.
Walker’s Word: Five defeats in a row – back Chelsea @ 8/13.
Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion
After losing to Manchester United on Sunday, Arsenal cannot afford to lose any more ground on fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur and maximum points are required against the relegation-threatened Baggies. There is no value in an Arsenal win at 2/9 especially since Brian Robson’s side earned a 1-1 draw at Highbury last season while Thierry Henry may be rested with the Champions League semi-final against Villarreal the following week in mind. Another goal scorer bet could be best investment here and prior to Sunday’s defeat, Emmanuel Adebayor has scored twice in his last two matches against Charlton and Aston Villa and is value at odds-against to score at any time during the match.
Walker’s Word: Emmanuel Adebayor to score at any time @ 5/4.
Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur
Everton are undefeated at Goodison Park this year and are on course for a top 10 finish while Tottenham have won just once in their last six away matches as they strive to claim fourth spot and a potentially lucrative Champions League place. Four of the last six meetings between have pair have been draws, although Spurs won last season 1-0 while season before Everton hammered them 3-1.
Walker’s Word: Another stalemate looks the likely result here @ 9/4.
Fulham vs Charlton Athletic
Fulham may be cannon fodder on their travels but at Craven Cottage they are a force to be reckoned with, winning 10 out of 16 matches on home soil and accumulating 32 of the 36 points gained this season in front of their own fans. Charlton have not won at Fulham since 1983 and have not won away in the Premiership since beating Portsmouth at Fratton Park 2-1 in October.
Walker’s Word: Another home win for Fulham @ 6/5.
Newcastle United vs Wigan Athletic
This is the first time the pair have met in the league at St James Park but Wigan have beaten the Magpies 1-0 on two separate occasions this season in both the Premiership and Carling Cup. While Newcastle look to have turned around a sticky patch with two successive victories, including the derby win at Middlesbrough on Sunday, Wigan look like a side running out of steam. They have won just twice in their last 10 games, although both were away from home at Manchester City and Sunderland, two sides arguably on a downtrend.
Walker’s Word: Newcastle to make it three wins in succession @ 5/6.
Portsmouth vs Middlesbrough
If Portsmouth are to avoid relegation then they need to make their home matches count. Pompey have won the last two fixtures between the pair at Fratton Park, including a 5-1 drubbing two seasons ago which saw now-Boro striker Yakubu score four times. Middlesbrough have also played through a congested fixture list recently which has seen long runs in both the FA and UEFA Cup and may be susceptible to defeat a long way from home.
Walker’s Word: Not attractive at odds-on, but Portsmouth @ 5/6.
West Ham United vs Manchester City
After a stunning collapse against 10-man Chelsea on Sunday, West Ham should be backed to return to winning ways against flagging Manchester City. Stuart Pearce’s side has lost five matches home and away in succession and have not won at Upton Park since 1991/92 in the old Division One. The Hammers are without a win in three Premiership matches at Upton Park to give them an added incentive.
Walker’s Word: Stuart Pearce to go psycho – West Ham @ Evens.
Sunday 16 April
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Villa host their second Midlands derby in a week and again may not give their supporters much to cheer about. An improving Birmingham side have enjoyed the better of the results in recent derbies, winning twice and drawing once at Villa Park in the last three seasons. Villa have kept three successive clean sheets on home soil, including two goalless draws, so another low scoring encounter is anticipated. Birmingham are unbeaten in their last three but have not won away since their 1-0 victory at Sunderland in November. The Villains are without a home win since crushing Everton 4-0 on Boxing Day and the odds on Steve Bruce’s side inflicting even more misery are too tempting to be ignored.
Walker’s Word: Birmingham’s run to continue @ 9/4.
Blackburn Rovers vs Liverpool
With Liverpool comfortably in third place, the onus will be on Blackburn Rovers to try and win to keep up the pressure on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. It will be a tall order as the Reds have won their last five in succession and are unbeaten at Ewood Park in the last six meetings between the pair. Four matches have ended all square with Liverpool winning 3-1 in both the 2003/04 and 1998/99 seasons. However, Rovers are unbeaten in their last five league matches and Craig Bellamy is the Premiership’s form player with six goals in as many games.
Walker’s Word: A fifth draw in seven meetings @ 9/4.
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