After yet another seemingly endless International break this weekend sees the return of the good stuff, and we are in for some cracking matches. This week’s ‘Tip Off’ competition fixture is the Merseyside derby, so I will be highlighting my picks for the competition as well as seeking out some value in the two other televised games this weekend.
Everton V Liverpool
The Merseyside derby is one of the highlights of the footballing calendar and the fact that Liverpool and Everton have each taken only six points from their first seven league fixtures means this Sunday’s early kick-off is the most significant derby for years.
Questions over whether Liverpool’s players will be distracted by the ongoing soap opera involving the club’s ownership are, in my eyes, wide of the mark. If anything the sheer passion of the fans inside Goodison Park will help the players focus on the job in hand.
But Liverpool’s problems run deeper than an ownership crisis. On the pitch, a new manager, new players and a new system remains to be gelled and a home defeat to Blackpool last time out was greeted with boos from the Anfield faithful. Even the news that Fernando Torres is to be fit for this weekend’s derby has been met with more mooted response than would normally be expected.
My gut feeling is that this is not going to be a pretty football match and despite the fact that Liverpool have 13 wins in this fixture since the turn of the century compared to Everton’s two, this weekend is nigh on impossible to call. So for my ‘Tip Off’ competition prediction this week I’ll be sitting on the fence and calling a scrappy draw.
Result: Draw (@11/5)
Correct score: 1-1 (@5/1)
First goalscorer: Steven Gerrard (@15/2)
Blackpool V Manchester City
Despite Man City being second in the Premier League after seven games, they have, on occasion, struggled to deliver the free flowing, attacking football we all want to see. Of course with an Italian manager this is no real surprise. But City’s failure to control matches after they have taken a lead has raised a few eyebrows. They have been seen on more than one occasion this term to be making life a little more difficult for themselves than needs be.
This issue could once again rear it’s head against Blackpool on Sunday with the Tangerines riding a wave of confidence after defeating Liverpool at Anfield two weeks ago and cementing their refreshing approach to keep on attacking even when three or four goals down.
However, I am still finding it hard to believe Blackpool can go one step further and pull off victory against Man City. In truth I think Man City will dispatch of Blackpool with ease, and by more than one or two goals.
I am backing City in the half-time/ full-time market at odds of 7/5. Extra value is available in the handicaps markets, with Man City -1 priced at 8/5 and -2 priced at 4/1. The latter of which should be approached with caution but I am confident City can win this by more than two goals.
A final bet is to back Adam Johnson to score the last goal. The young Englishman has been starting on the bench recently but has been on good form. Coming on for the last half an hour provides a great opportunity for him to run at tired defenders and have a few efforts on goal, two things we all know he is not afraid to do. At odds of 15/2 this is a great speculative bet which will keep things interesting right up until the final whistle.
Half-time/ Full-time: Man City/ Man City (@7/5)
Handicap: Manchester City -2 (@4/1)
Adam Johnson to score last (@15/2)
Aston Villa V Chelsea
Last season 13 of Villa’s 19 home matches ended in a result of under 2.5 goals, and despite Chelsea’s free scoring form this season coupled with Aston Villa’s struggle to keep a clean sheet in recent games, I am a big believer in Gerard Houllier’s ability to organise a team well for the big games and fancy this one to follow suit and end in under 2.5 goals (priced at 10/11 with Paddy Power).
Having said this, I would still be happy to back a Chelsea win, however, at odds of 7/10 there is little value in doing so. For more value, I would be inclined to back a 1-0 or 2-0 win in the correct score market, priced at 11/2 and 7/1 respectively.
Under 2.5 goals (@10/11)
Chelsea to win 2-0 (@7/1)