Jonathan Turner of bettinglive.com was in excellent form last week, and gives his expert opinion on the weekend’s Premier League action…
There are some fascinating showdowns in the Premier League this weekend but it’s one of the lower profile matches which might just provide the best betting value.
And that’s Aston Villa at 5/2 to come out on top in the battle between the claret and blues when they square up to West Ham at Upton Park.
It’s not just the kit which links this pair – just one place and a single point separates them in the table but that doesn’t fully reflect the fact that Villa have made the more encouraging start.
No team in the top flight have had a tougher opening set of games – they’ve played all of the top seven apart from Southampton – so it’s no wonder results have been a little up and down.
The high points have been victories over both Arsenal and Manchester City and the only defeat on their travels was a closely-fought 2-1 reverse at Chelsea.
And don’t read too much into last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Everton – Villa had a penalty brilliantly saved by Tim Howard early on and the Toffees keeper denied them again and again in the first half before they were made to pay for their profligacy in the second period.
That match also saw the first start in over a month for top scorer Christian Benteke following his injury and in horse racing parlance he should come on massively for the run.
That also highlights one key difference between Villa and West Ham as the Hammers are still missing Andy Carroll, with the striker on the sidelines for at least another couple of weeks because of a heel problem.
In his absence they’ve struggled badly for goals – just eight all season and that includes a ‘freak’ 3-0 success at Spurs.
And what was once something of a fortress at Upton Park is now anything but as they’ve lost three on the bounce in front of their own fans.
All of which suggests the layers are paying West Ham far too much respect in making them no bigger than 6/5 for the three points and were happy to oppose them with the Villans at 5/2.
Another side at a similar price who could prosper on their trip to London on Saturday are Liverpool.
The early table shows it’s first v third when Arsenal welcome the Reds to the Emirates but the view that both teams have improved in leaps and bounds this term is worth contesting.
There’s been a definite upturn for Liverpool as they continue to blossom under Brendan Rodgers and their progress has been all the more impressive given that Luis Suarez sat out the start of the campaign through suspension.
Since his return the striking partnership with Daniel Sturridge has become arguably the best in the top flight and they combined brilliantly again last weekend as they bagged all four goals between them in the 4-1 win over West Brom.
All initially looks rosy for Arsenal too as they proudly top the table with 22 points out of 27 but if you compare their results to the identical fixtures last season they are actually five points worse off (Liverpool are +5 using the same method).
The Gunners have played just one top eight outfit but things are suddenly starting to get a lot tougher and the signs must be a little worrying for their fans as the last couple of weeks have seen them come off second best to first Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and then Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, both of those matches taking place at the Emirates.
Liverpool’s visit is followed by the return with Dortmund and then Premier League clashes with Manchester United and surprise packages Southampton so this is a key period for Arsene Wenger’s men and we’re keen to take them on.
They may have an embarrassment of riches in midfield but Mathieu Flamini is probably the hardest to replace as he offers a vital defensive shield in front of the back four so the injury he picked up last week at Crystal Palace couldn’t be worse timed.
Liverpool have won one and drawn the other two in their last three at the Emirates and 12/5 about them notching the three points on Saturday evening looks positively generous.
An identical comment could apply to the 13/10 chalked up about Wayne Rooney finding the net for Manchester United when they face Fulham at Craven Cottage.
While United have endured a seriously shaky start under David Moyes, they should still have way too much for a Fulham side which has been abject for the bulk of the campaign.
Martin Jol is favourite in the ‘Sack Race’ and understandably so as their three wins have all come against teams in the bottom four and they’ve managed just one point from the other 18 available.
They are still conceding way too many scoring chances while creating little at the other end of the pitch and that’s a combination which usually leads to relegation.
So there’s got to be a strong chance that Rooney, who has been in fine scoring form for both club and country in recent weeks, is able to extend his record of having netted in each of the last five games he’s started against the Cottagers, including the only goal of the game in this fixture last season.
Finally we’re going to suggest a double on under 2.5 goals in both Hull v Sunderland and Stoke v Southampton at a fraction bigger than 17/10. Starting with the KC Stadium clash and it may pay not to get carried away with Sunderland’s first win of the season last time out against Newcastle in what was Gus Poyet’s second match in charge. Those derby games are invariably one-offs and the bottom line is the Black Cats have managed just one point and two goals in four away trips while Hull’s four home fixtures have generated the grand total of four goals.
A tight contest therefore looks on the cards in that one and also at the Britannia where Stoke’s last three results have been 0-0, 0-0 and 0-1. Visitors Southampton boast the meanest defence in the land (just three conceded) and, while they are flying high, their nine games have produced an average of under 1.5 goals.
Weekend banker – Aston Villa to beat West Ham at 5/2 (BetFred, BetVictor, Coral).
Next best singles – Liverpool to beat Arsenal at 12/5 (BetVictor and Sky Bet), Wayne Rooney to score anytime for Manchester United at Fulham at 13/10 (Bet365).
Double – Under 2.5 goals in both Hull v Sunderland and Stoke v Southampton at 1.71/1 (Sportingbet).
Get a full break down of all the Premier League games this weekend at bettinglive.com