A perfect record over the first half of the Easter weekend. First, Newcastle won at Swansea on Friday. Then Stoke came from behind to beat Wolves 2-1, scoring both goals from set pieces as we suggested they may in our preview. And the on Sunday Manchester United beat Queens Park Rangers by more than 1.5 goals. Title race over? I think so…
Here are this week’s Premiership Tips:
Everton vs Sunderland
I have been critical of David Moyes’ tactics over the years but I am finally coming around to the former Preston manager. He is getting the best out of what his budget allows to bring in, and although Everton required a controversial second goal in a draw with Norwich on Saturday, the point ensured they stayed above Liverpool in 7th place heading into Monday’s games.
Nikica Jelavic, whom I had doubts over following his January transfer is looking deadly from 8 yards. His pin-point finishing has brought him to 4 goals – Everton’s joint-top scorer and 1 more than £35 million Liverpool-signing Andy Carroll this season. Will he get 90 minutes on Monday? I have my doubts.
I expect Everton to field a weakened side for this one, as they did against Liverpool prior to their FA Cup quarter final match. With their FA Cup semi final on Saturday I cannot see David Moyes fielding his strongest side ahead of such an important match, 2 days after their last game.
Sunderland are playing for position and a victory on Monday will see Martin O’Neill’s side end the day in 7th position. A dramatic improvement from when Steve Bruce was in charge. Harry Redknapp was full of praise for James McClean after Spurs’ goalless draw at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Both he, Stephane Sessegnon and Nicklas Bendtner are playing well going forward for the Black Cats.
Sunderland’s defence hasn’t been playing too well on the road of late, but assuming Jelavic won’t be up front for Everton in this game, the home side won’t have any consistent goal threat on the pitch. A reminder that after 32 games, the Toffees top scorers have 4 goals this season…
Newcastle United vs Bolton Wanderers
Papiss Cisse is giving Demba Ba a run for his money in the signing of the season category. The January signing has scored 9 goals in his 8 Premier League games having added a brace at Swansea on Friday.
Newcastle continuing to overachieve this season are genuine contenders for a top 4 finish and will be odds-on favourites for their next 3 league games. Cisse, Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa had been combining well until the trio failed to get many touches of the ball at the Liberty Stadium. Bolton certainly aren’t going to have 77% possession in this game, and therefore I expect this attacking trio to combine well against one of the league’s poorest defences, and score a couple between them.
Bolton Wanderers were hammered 3-0 at home by Fulham on Saturday, 24 hours after Newcastle’ victory. Curse of the manager of the month award to Owen Coyle or not, I cannot see Bolton’s defence shutting Newcastle out, whilst they’re facing a defence that has conceded just 1 goal in their last 4 games. It’s a tough ask.
A top goalkeeper, a defence playing well and a frighening attacking trio… against relegation-threatened Bolton. I think these odds are excellent on Newcastle to win. The Magpies are 43/40 to win -1 on the Asian Handicap, and 15/8 to win to nil.
Aston Villa vs Stoke City
Stoke City are kicking off at 5.30 for the second time over these Easter holidays, but this time are not on UK TV. Tony Pulis’ side were worthy 4/6 winners over Wolves on Saturday’s live game, and were better value in-play after falling one down.
Robert Huth volleyed in Stoke’s equaliser as Wolves failed to clear a free kick, before Peter Crouch headed home the Potters winners from a Jermaine Pennant free kick.
Aston Villa have conceded 13 goals from corners this season and once again I expect Tony Pulis to exploit this. With the likes of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross to aim at, there’s every chance this game will go the way of the stats, and Stoke score from another set piece.
Chris Herd produced a top finish to give Aston Villa the lead at Anfield before they were pegged back by Luis Suarez’s close range effort. Alex McLeish’s side had some fortune in hanging onto a point and not conceding a penalty throughout the match. A decent point, but not the most convincing of defensive performances.
Peter Crouch has scored a couple recently and I expect Stoke to score from at least one set piece in this match. There’s value to lay the home side in this match, who sit 6 points above the drop zone heading into Monday’s fixtures.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Arsenal
Mikel Arteta’s stunning late strike on Sunday all-but handed the Premier League title to Manchester United, as extended Arsenal’s lead over North London rivals Tottenham to 2 points.
With Tottenham hosting Norwich on Monday, Arsenal could well be back in fourth place by the time these two kick off on Wednesday. The Gunners were frustratingly held to a 1-1 draw when these two met at the Emirates earlier this season. Wayne Hennessey played the game of his life, but the Welsh number 1 hasn’t shown any form of late. He’s been at fault for a number of goals lately and I cannot see he and the Wolves defence keeping this Arsenal attack quiet.
Robin van Persie has now gone 4 Premier League games in a row without a goal. He hit the outside of the post on Sunday and positioned himself for a tap in but for Aaron Ramsey’s selfishness in stoppage time. Wolves are one of three sides the Premier League’s top scorer have not scored against this season (excluding Arsenal), with Manchester City and Fulham being the other two.
On top of that, Theo Walcott’s pace down the right wing will be a menace to the Wolves defence. Arteta, Alex Song, Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun are all creative players and with the time the Wolves midfield and defence have been giving opposition players under Terry Connor, these Arsenal players will enjoy possession in their opponents half on Wednesday.
Arsenal’s price is nice against a side who have lost their last 6 and don’t look like picking up too many points for the rest of the season. Yes, without Laurent Koscielny (suspended), Wolves may get a strike or two on goal, but the visitors are more than capable of outscoring the bottom of the league team in this game.
Arsenal are 1.78 to win -1 on the Asian Handicap, but halves is better value to win outright.