This weekend promises to be a thrilling one for the neutral and what better way to add a little excitement to it than having a cheeky flutter.
With two derby matches on the cards it is only right to focus on these for the weekend’s tips. But I will also be sharing my picks for the heavyweight clash at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Spurs.
Newcastle v Sunderland
This week’s tip off competition focuses on the North East derby between Newcastle and Sunderland, a fixture which was sorely missed during Newcastle’s journey into the ‘other place’ last season.
Having lived in Newcastle myself, I can confirm, this is quite simply one of the most potent examples of footballing rivalry anywhere in the world. Not only that, but it is notoriously difficult to call. The statistics read as follows: Newcastle wins – 49, Sunderland wins – 41, and just to prove that history really cannot separate the two teams, they have drawn the fixture on 40 occasions.
My pick for this one is going to be a draw, and in the interests of the tip off competition, I am going for a 2-2 scoreline with Darren Bent scoring first on 15 minutes.
A further point to note is that the Magpies matches have featured over 2.5 goals on nine occasions in all competitions this term, delivering under 2.5 goals only three times.
For this reason, and because I’m a sucker for an old fashioned, ‘open’ derby match, I will be backing over 2.5 goals at a price of 10/11.
Tip off picks:
Draw – 2-2
First goalscorer – Darren Bent (15 mins)
Over 2.5 goals (@10/11)
Aston Villa v Birmingham
Sunday’s other derby sees Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa take on their city rivals Birmingham in a midday kick off that looks set to be the perfect appetizer for the Tyneside clash.
Judging from Aston Villa’s open training session at Villa Park on Monday, Houllier’s organisation and commitment to his own brand off football seems to be rubbing off on the squad. But extra time with ten men in their midweek League Cup clash with Burnley is almost certain to play a role.
I am a fan of Birmingham’s defensive capacity but am weary that they have not been able to produce such quality further up the pitch. Sunday’s derby will be tight and scrappy. I am backing a draw (@5/2) and if I had to suggest a correct score I would plump for 1-1 (@6/1).
The under/over 2.5 goals market again offers some interesting statistics for this match. I will be backing under 2.5 goals (@4/5) on the basis that 13 of Villa’s 19 home matches last season ended with this outcome.
Under 2.5 goals (@4/5)
Manchester United v Spurs
And so to my final pick of the weekend’s matches. Manchester United take on ‘arry’s Spurs at Old Trafford in the late kick off on Saturday.
You have to go back as far as 2001 for the last time Tottenham beat United in the Premier League, and all the way back to 1976 to find the last Spurs victory at Old Trafford in the league. With that said, these two are widely regarded as being closer today than ever before and are currently separated by just two points in the Premier League table.
In recent weeks, United have scraped draws against the likes of West Brom, Bolton and Sunderland, whilst they secured the three points against Stoke last weekend with the help of a late goal from Javier ‘the next big thing’ Hernandez.
This form shows that Spurs have a real opportunity of getting that elusive win at Old Trafford and at odds of 5/1, it is a bet worth considering. I personally will once again be backing a draw (@11/4), but also taking a dip into the first goalscorer market.
Hernandez is a man on form and is certainly making the most of his run in the side in the absence of Wayne Rooney. Backing the Mexican to score first at 9/2, or even to score in the 90 minutes at 5/4 are good value bets for a man that cannot keep his name off the scoresheet. I also fancy Nani to continue his scoring form and will be backing him at 5/2 to score in 90 minutes.
To score in 90 minutes – Hernandez (@5/4) and Nani (@5/2)