I took a hiatus from Premier League betting, it was too unpredictable. But I’m back to give it another go now that the season has settled a bit after the bad weather over the winter. Whilst all eyes will be on Chelsea v Liverpool this weekend, it’s not the only game that money can be made on this weekend! I’ll be giving my opinions on Stoke v Sunderland, West Ham v Birmingham and the aforementioned game between Chelsea and Liverpool.
Stoke City v Sunderland – Sky Sports 2 on Saturday - 12:45 kick-off.
West Ham United v Birmingham City – Sky Sports 1 on Sunday – 13:30 kick-off.
Chelsea v Liverpool – Sky Sports 1 on Sunday – 16:00 kick-off.
Stoke City v Sunderland
I quite fancy Stoke here, they’re a strong side and with the added pressure that the Britannia crowd put on away teams it’ll make it very tough for Sunderland. Both teams are coming off a loss, Sunderland forfeiting a lead to go down 4-2 against Chelsea and Stoke were defeated 2-0 by Liverpool. Despite their losses, the two clubs had a relatively successful January with Sunderland unbeatin in the Premier League and Stoke enjoying home wins against Fulham and Everton. Stoke are doing better in the league than what most people would have predicted in August, they currently sit 11th, six points above the relegation zone. Sunderland are eclipsing what was expected of them as they fight it out for a Europa League spot, but could that all have changed after they lost start striker Darren Bent to Aston Villa?
Ricardo Fuller(compassionate leave) and Danny Higginbotham(hamstring) will be unavailable for Stoke, Kenwyne jones is expected to lead the line alongside John Carew. Tony Pulis has the strike force of his dreams in Jones and Carew, to big centre forwards who can have a battle with defenders for long balls and with Pennant and Etherington on the wings who could blame him? I’ve been impressed with both wingers this season and I expect them to be a handful for the Mackem’s full-backs. Bramble and Mensah are quite good centre-backs, but I don’t think they can deal with both Carew’s and Jones’s aerial threat, but it will be a good battle. If Rory Delap plays his throw-ins could have a huge say in the result tomorrow, Stoke’s main threat will definately be from set-pieces as they have tall players all over the field.
The Black Cats’s injury list is somewhat larger than Stoke’s as Bruce’s side will be without Cattermole(back), Turner(knee), Welbeck(knee), Meyler(knee) and Campbell(knee) for their visit to the Britannia. The absence of their forwards through injury and the sale of Bent leaves it down to summer-signing Gyan and the largely unproven Sessegnon to play up front. The loan signing of Sulley Muntari from Inter Milan will bring a boost to Sunderland’s midfield, which isn’t the strongest. Muntari can definately pick a pass and with Kieran Richardson on the wing, there should be some decent balls going into the box for Gyan to get on the end of. Stoke’s goalkeeping selection is probably one of the best in the league, though with Thomas Sorenson and Asmir Begovic vying for the number 1 spot.
Overall I think Stoke should have enough to overcome Sunderland with home advantage playing a part. Stoke’s defence is very strong and goals have been hard to come by for visiting teams this season, when you factor in the injuries up front for Bruce’s team it doesn’t look good for Sunderland.
My money is on:
Stoke to beat Sunderland @ 23/20
John Carew to score anytime @ 12/5
West Ham United v Birmingham City
There should be goals in this. Both clubs signed big name strikers in January, West Ham signed Robbie Kenae from London rivals Spurs, whereas Birmingham went further afield to sign Obafemi Martins on loan from Russian side Rubin Kazan. Keane made an instant impact in the 3-1 victory against Blackpool midweek, Martins wasn’t in the squad for Birmingham’s game against Manchester City. Neither side have been prolific in front of goal this season, but I think that is set to change with their new signing. Both teams have been very suscptible at the back, though.
The Hammers are without Da Costa (ankle), Edgar (knee), Hitzlsperger (thigh), Collison (knee) and Kurucz (knee) for the game, but there are no new injury worries for them. Keane is expected to play alongside mis-firing Piquionne who is looking to get back on track after a decent start to the season. I’d imagine that Scott Parker and Keane will build a great partnership as Parker is capable of playing excellent through balls, the kind of passes that Keane has built his career on. Obinna will be hoping to storm ahead after scoring a brace against Blackpool with two well taken goals, he and Keane looked to have linked together well. Wayne Bridge is a huge bonus to the weak Irons defence. James Tomkins, while he has improved, is still a bit of a liability at the back and with Robert Green between the sticks, who knows what could happen.
Birmingham have great potential and they should be a lot higher up the table, in my opinion. Having said that, the performance against Manchester United a couple of weeks back was abysmal. They showed no spirit or determination to win the game, they were beaten within five minutes of the kick-off. They have a potent strike force in Martins and Nikola Zigic and with David Bentley on the wing, they should get some decent opportunities. Martins’ speed could cause a lot of problems for Tomkins and Upson in the West Ham defence and he also knows where the goal is when he gets one-on-one with the ‘keeper. I think there could be problems at the back for Birmingham if Davies plays as he’s still only settling in and hadn’t been playing much at Aston Villa before he signed for the Blues, even though I rate him quite highly as a player I think he could be a weak link.
I’m going for goals in this game, it’s too close to predict a winner but I definately think that it’ll be an entertaining game for the neutral with both teams being relatively even. The wings will be important, Bridge and Boa Morte on the left for West Ham could be dangerous as David Bentley isn’t known for his tracking back.
My money is on:
Over 2.5 goal @ evens
Robbie Keane to score anytime @ 6/4
Chelsea v Liverpool
There’s little question that this is the game that will hold most football fan’s attention this weekend as Liverpool travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Chelsea have well and truly overcome their bad run of form with three win from their last three Premier League game with a 7-0 thrashing of Ipswich Town added into the mix. Liverpool haven’t bee too shabby either it has to be said ‘King Kenny’ seems to have revitalised the Merseyside outfit, who have also won their last three league games. The game has added bite to it this time as Fernando Torres left Liverpool to join the Londoners on deadline day of the January window. He added fuel to the fire himself when he said he was glad to finally join a big club, not the brightest move Fernando.
Chelsea will be ready for this from the get go and I expect them to constantly pressure the Liverpool midfield. If Chelsea line up with Mikel and Essien in midfield I envisage a rough day for Lucas and Meireles, who have shown to be technically sound but not the most physical duo in the league. Liverpool have been terrible away from home this season, there’s no sugar-coating it. They’re only won two away games all season, Chelsea have been strong at home and have the third best home record in the league this season, only behind Liverpool and Manchester United. Chelsea probably have the best atacking options in the league right now with Anelka, Drogba, Torres, Kalou and Malouda all ready to fight for their place. Whoever plays will want to impress to try and cement a place in the starting eleven. Ancelotti’s side have proven themselves to be strong at the back and with the addition of Brazilian defender it looks an even tougher prospect to score against them. Although, Ancelotti has hinted that Luiz could be deployed as a holding midfielder for the game.
A mid-week win against Stoke is just what the Reds needed coming into this game. A debut goal for £24million striker Luis Suarez is exactly what Kenny Dalglish will have wanted to see. If Meireles can withstand the inevitable barrage of tackles from the Chelsea midfield, himself and Suarez could be a big danger to the Chelsea defence, but I don’t hold out much hope. Liverpool have tightened up at the back recently, which is a major advantage as they could be facing a trio of Torres, Drogba and Malouda, who have amassed twenty-nine Premier league goals between them this season. If Dalglish keeps Glen Johnson out of defence it will be a huge bonus, in my opinion as I don’t think the man can defend, he’s much more suited to being a winger. Lucas will have a tough job trying to keep tabs on Frank Lampard for the game, who as we all know has quite the knack for scoring long range goals. Whatever happens with the outfield players, Pepe Reina will be kept on his toes for the game.
I think Chelsea will outclass Liverpool and will be right at them from kick-off. Liverpool will be dominated in the midfield if Mikel and Essien play, they’re very strong and well Liverpool’s midfield isn’t, whatever combination they put out.
My money is on:
HT/FT – Chelsea/Chelsea @ 6/4
Chelsea clean sheet @ 11/10
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