Jonathan Turner of bettinglive.com remains in fine form, and gives his expert opinion on the weekend’s Premier League action…
The Premier League returns after the latest international break and it looks a set of fixtures on which to tread carefully.
Teams have been affected to differing degrees by international call-ups, with some players having far more extreme travel plans to deal with than others. Near the top of that list is Liverpool’s Luis Suarez who played the full 90 minutes late on Wednesday night in Uruguay as his side became the 32nd and final country to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals.
Suarez, even with the use of Liverpool owner John W Henry’s private plane to speed up his return, only arrived back on Thursday night so has less time than most to readjust as his Liverpool team make the short trip to Goodison Park to face Everton, with the 221st Merseyside derby kicking off the weekend’s action on Saturday lunchtime.
It’s always one of the biggest games in the domestic calendar and all the more so this season as both sides have made excellent starts to the campaign, with the Reds in second place in the table and their arch rivals just three points back in sixth. It’s also a first derby clash for Everton boss Roberto Martinez, who was strongly linked with the Liverpool job in 2012.
But from a punting point of view it’s littered with pitfalls – Liverpool have had much the better of this fixture in the last few years, yet Everton are unbeaten at home in the Premier League in 2013. And the one thing you could usually bank on in this fixture was a red card (9/4 with Bet Victor on Saturday), yet the last four clashes have failed to produce a single dismissal.
It was honours even in both matches last season and everything – including the betting – would suggest another tight contest is in prospect on Saturday and the good news is that there may be a slightly unorthodox way to try and take advantage.
And that’s by backing Everton’s Gareth Barry to be the highest rated player in the game at 12/1 with Ladbrokes, with the bet settled on the rankings on stats website www.whoscored.com.
He’s the same price to be man of the match but that’s a far more arbitrary market whereas whoscored’s rankings are – to quote them – based on “each event recorded in the game calculated live automatically using our own algorithms, which comprise of over 200 raw statistics. All events are valued based on a researched perception of the effect on the outcome of the match. Positive events are valued against negative events”. Crucially that means we have form to go on as we can delve back and look at the ratings for each individual player on both sides for every match so far this season.
And they underline that Barry has been something of an unsung hero for the Toffees this term since joining them on loan from Manchester City.
The seven games which Barry has started have seen Everton go unbeaten, claiming 17 points out of 21, while when he’s missed out it’s been just three points out of 12. His absence also coincided with their only loss – and most subdued performance of the campaign – as they went down 3-1 to his parent club Manchester City. Putting those stats another way, they have a 63% win rate when he starts and 0% when he doesn’t.
All of which illustrates his importance to the Toffees so it’s no wonder that he tops Everton’s whoscored.com average ratings for the season as a whole at 7.65/10, ahead of more obvious contenders such as Phil Jagielka (7.50), Leighton Baines (7.39) and Romelu Lukaku (7.35), all three of whom are shorter in the betting than Barry this weekend.
Perhaps just as crucial though is that journey back from South America for Suarez as this is a market – especially when Liverpool take three points – where you can usually mark him down as banker bet material. He’s had a couple of 10.0 ratings in recent weeks and is nearly a full point clear (8.71 to 7.78) of his closest challenger at Anfield in the season-long figures.
But the Reds striker looked increasingly frustrated as Uruguay failed to break down Jordan on Wednesday night and this is a rare opportunity to oppose him, with Barry standing out as the outstanding candidate, especially as we give Everton a decent chance of getting something out of the game to extend their unbeaten home record.
For if Liverpool’s stellar front two of Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are kept in check then the chances are it will the experienced Barry plus midfield partner James McCarthy who will be responsible as the pair form the shield in front of the back four.
And don’t be too concerned by the fact that this is Barry’s first taste of a Merseyside derby – he played in Manchester City’s historic 6-1 win over United in 2011, and also in Aston Villa’s 5-1 mauling of Midlands rivals Birmingham in 2008 so has prime form in these sorts of showdowns.
As we suggested at the start this isn’t a weekend to be overly bullish – and this may be a market which holds little appeal to some – but 12/1 should give us a decent run for our money.
Elsewhere we can’t help feeling William Hill are taking a chance offering 10/1 about no first goalscorer (effectively 0-0, with any own goals in our favour) in Hull v Crystal Palace.
The pair have had contrasting fortunes since last season’s promotion from the Championship, with Hull collecting 14 points from their opening 11 games whereas Palace prop up the table after suffering no fewer than nine defeats and are still waiting for manager Ian Holloway’s permanent replacement to be named (though there’s a chance Tony Pulis could be in place in time for this).
But one common theme has been their lack of goals – Hull may be the UK’s next City of Culture but creativity on the football pitch has been relatively limited this term as they’ve managed to find the net just nine times, with their five matches at KC Stadium producing just five goals, easily the lowest tally in the top flight. Not surprisingly the Eagles are the league’s lowest scorers with six and, just for good measure, this duo have played out a goalless draw against each other in each of the last three campaigns in the second tier of English football.
This season has seen a marked dip in goals – especially in matches between bottom-half outfits – and this looks a prime candidate for the latest bore draw.
We’re hoping for something very different in the live game at 4pm on Sunday which features the other promoted team as both sides to score at 4/5 in Cardiff v Manchester United is our banker bet of the weekend.
Rather than be fazed, Cardiff seem to have relished playing in front of the Sky cameras in their first season in the Premier League as they’ve notched their two most significant results so far in front of a live TV audience – a 1-0 success in the first-ever all-Welsh top-flight derby against Swansea and a memorable 3-2 defeat of title favourites Manchester City.
Next up are United and, like their noisy neighbours, the Red Devils continue to be worryingly vulnerable on their travels for a club with title ambitions.
In every single one of their away games in the league this campaign they’ve conceded, which includes one trip already to Wales to face Swansea as well as matches against struggling pair Fulham and Sunderland.
It’s a problem which goes back way before David Moyes’ arrival (just six clean sheets in 26 away matches last season in all competitions) and is unlikely to be reversed in the short term, especially as they’ve now got to do without influential midfielder Michael Carrick because of injury.
Their display last time out against Arsenal at Old Trafford was uncharacteristic as after taking the lead they retreated into a defensive shell in order to eke out a vital three points but Sunday’s game is likely to revert to type and be far more open, meaning 4/5 about both teams finding the net is the way to go.
Weekend banker – both teams to score in Cardiff v Manchester United at 4/5 (Bet365, Sky Bet and Stan James).
Value bet 1 – Gareth Barry to be highest rated player in Everton v Liverpool at 12/1 (Ladbrokes, market settled on www.whoscored.com figures).
Value bet 2 – No first goalscorer in Hull v Crystal Palace at 10/1 (William Hill).
Get a full break down of all the Premier League games this weekend at bettinglive.com