It’s now 20/1 about Manchester United retaining their Premier League title following their shock midweek defeat to Everton at Old Trafford but they don’t have to wait long to try and bounce back as they welcome Newcastle to the Theatre of Dreams in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday.
Everton were ending a run of 21 years without a league win away to United but Newcastle’s wait is almost double that, with the Magpies’ last success coming back in 1972.
So anything less than three points for the Red Devils will crank up the pressure on David Moyes a notch or two further as they’ve already got 12 points to make up on leaders Arsenal and, perhaps more significantly, five to Liverpool who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot.
And while Moyes’ side had gone 12 games without defeat before Wednesday, they’ve been anything but convincing, especially at the back. They’ve kept just three clean sheets (only Fulham and Sunderland have fewer and they are both in the bottom three) and that defensive record is likely to be put under the microscope again by a Newcastle side which had won four on the bounce before a midweek defeat at Swansea.
That run included victories over Chelsea and Tottenham so, despite their outstanding home record against the Magpies, United make minimal appeal at no better than 8/15. However this is a game we expect to feature goals (it’s not just United who are shaky at the back as Newcastle have let in 21 goals, the highest tally in the top 15) and with that in mind there could be plenty of scope in backing Patrice Evra to score anytime for the Red Devils at a generous 11/1 (bwin).
The left back has been in superb form recently, making the most of the licence given to him to get forward as much as possible. Having the full backs maraud down the wings is something Moyes excelled with at Everton and in the last three games Evra has scored from a corner against Cardiff and gone close against both Tottenham and Everton (when he was denied by a brilliant Tim Howard save).
The Frenchman was on the three-man shortlist for United’s player of the month for November (won by Wayne Rooney) which underlines his current well being and against a Newcastle side which can still struggle at set-pieces 11/1 looks too big. The icing on the cake is the fact that Evra netted from a flagkick against them at St James’ last season and repeated the trick in the 4-3 win at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
The one dilemma is whether to take the 11/1 with bwin or accept the 8s chalked up by Hills who refund stakes if a player doesn’t start the game. I’ll be opting for the former as there’s nothing to suggest Evra won’t be in the starting XI.
We’re aiming for a third successful banker bet in a row this weekend and it’s the clash between Crystal Palace and Cardiff which catches the eye, with under 1.5 goals at 85/40 (Stan James) the market in question.
Building from the back was the Tony Pulis method at Stoke and his arrival at Selhurst Park just happens to have coincided with Palace conceding just the one goal in their last four matches.
That’s all the more eyecatching given that they didn’t manage a single shutout in their first 10 matches and while Pulis can only take part of the credit (as he’s only been in charge for the last two games), they are clearly much harder to score against now than they were a few weeks ago.
They picked up a vital 1-0 win over West Ham on Tuesday to boost their survival hopes and Cardiff will be the latest side to discover that Selhurst Park is starting to become a pretty intimidating venue.
The Bluebirds have struggled on their travels in any case, firing blanks on their last three away trips – at Stoke on Wednesday, Aston Villa and Norwich, none of whom are in the higher reaches of the table.
Palace’s last four matches have all dipped under the 1.5 goals mark while Cardiff have scored just four times in total away from home this season so there’s a strong chance that one goal will be enough to nick what is a crucial game for both clubs.
Our final recommendation involves another team who are struggling horribly to find the net and that’s West Ham. They’ve got an excuse of sorts in that key striker Andy Carroll has missed the entire campaign through injury but if they are not careful they are going to be in desperate trouble by the time he’s fit to return.
Manager Sam Allardyce knows the importance of clean sheets and their seven in 14 games has only been bettered by Everton. But up front they look toothless and average less than a goal a game, with the latest setback coming on Tuesday night as they lost at Palace.
They now face a much more daunting trip to in-form Liverpool and while the Reds are no better than 3/10 to take the three points, they can be backed at 6/5 to win to nil with Paddy Power which looks much the better option.
West Ham’s recent record at Anfield shows they’ve failed to find the net in their last five visits and they are running into a Reds side which has become far more ruthless this season against the top flight’s strugglers.
The latest example of that came on Wednesday night when Luis Suarez inspired a 5-1 thrashing of Norwich and it’s now six wins out of six for Liverpool when they’ve played teams from the bottom eight. West Ham start the weekend in 17th place and incidentally we wouldn’t put anyone off backing the Hammers to be relegated at the current 11/2 (BetFred, Bet Victor and Sky Bet) because that price might not last long.
It’s going to be a while before Carroll is fit and firing and if the likes of Crystal Palace, Sunderland and even Fulham continue to improve under their new managers than West Ham could be right in the mire as we head into 2014.
Weekend banker – under 1.5 goals in Crystal Palace v Cardiff at 85/40 (Stan James).
Next best single – Liverpool to win to nil against West Ham at 6/5 (Paddy Power).
Value – Patrice Evra to score anytime for Man Utd v Newcastle at 11/1 (bwin).
Long-term advice – West Ham to be relegated at 11/2 (BetFred, Bet Victor and Sky Bet).