Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 21 February 2010

Nearly a Perfect Premier League Weekend

Firstly, I wasn't overly surprised by Everton's victory over Manchester United on Saturday. They didn't wake up for the early away game kickoff against an in-form side at Goodison Park. Their chances of winning the title are very slim now; 4 points behind Chelsea who have the better run in.

Chelsea extended their lead over Manchester United with a 2-0 victory at Wolves. While I wasn't surprised by this, I wasn't brave enough to back a Chelsea side who have struggled on the road recently. Didier Drogba's brace has given them a comfortable lead at the top of the table.

My first tip on Saturday was Arsenal beating Sunderland and they did so, 2-0, cutting the gap behind Manchester United to 2 points. My other 3pm kickoff tip was West Ham to beat Hull City and they backed up their 5/6 odds with a 3-0 victory over a side who finished the game with 9 men. With the bottom 7 losing this weekend, West Ham are now 4 points above the relegation zone. Hull are just 1 point outside of the bottom 3.

In Saturday's evening game I wasn't brave enough to back Stoke to win, so I took a double chance of them to win or draw at Portsmouth. Despite trailing at half time, goals from Robert Huth and Salif Diao won my bet and earned 3 points for Stoke.

Today, Aston Villa gained 2 points on both Manchester City and Liverpool after beating Burnley 5-2 at home. This is what I regarded as the safest bet of the day ahead of the match and I was certainly a bit concerned by the slow start Aston Villa made to the match. They were 11/10 when 1-0 down and I didn't back them, partly because I had already invested heavily into them and partly because I was concerned they may had had next week's Carling Cup final on their mind. Fortunately they equalised before half time and then 4 goals in 13 minutes in the second half won my handicap bet.

Good job I chose not to watch the Manchester City-Liverpool game after reports it was a dull affair. This didn't surprise me with both sides playing not to lose when I thought Manchester City should have been going for the win here. Fernando Torres made his return to the Liverpool side though as a second half substitute. Maybe I should be kicking myself for not backing the draw here, but it's been such a good weekend of gambling I don't need to worry about that.

My final picks on this week's Premier League Betting Tips was on the Tottenham v Wigan game. It wasn't a convincing performance from Spurs on a terrible pitch at the DW Stadium, but Jermain Defoe scored for the first bet, Tottenham won for my highest bet and with a bit of fortune at the end I also won handsomely on a handicap bet. My only lost bet on the weekend was backing Defoe to score a hattrick, but it's nothing worth crying about!

Make sure you come back next Thursday for some more reliable Premier League Tips. I hope you too had a successful weekend and if not let's make it a successful weekend to finish of February.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 20 February 2010

Everton Halt Manchester United 's Title Chase

Goals from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell handed Manchester United a 3-1 defeat at Goodison Park today as the defending champions failed to overtake Chelsea in the Premier League.

Dimitar Berbatov had given Manchester United the lead after quarter of an hour. It was only a few minutes later that Bilyaletdinov capitalised on a poor clearance from Jonny Evans.

Manchester United's defence looked vulnerable without both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. This has been a problem all season and has seen them keep only 3 clean sheets on the road this season.

Going forward, United have relied heavily on Wayne Rooney this season and it showed today. Rooney was quiet with help from an excellent performance by Sylvain Distin. They really threatened the Everton goal, wasting a number of set piece opportunities.

Already with a tough run in, Manchester United will be relying on Wolves to pick up points at home to a Chelsea side missing a number of first team regulars today. Victory for the Blues would extend their lead to 4 points at the top with just 11 games remaining. Arsenal have the opportunity to close the gap to 2 points on Manchester United if they can win at home to Sunderland, as expected. They have a favourable run in.

Defensive problems have been a part of what Manchester United are struggling with this season. They've had injury problems there all season. Edwin van der Sar has only recently return, Rio Ferdinand returned to get suspended and Nemanja Vidic is currently out injured. They were all key players in there championship winning season in 2009. Despite scoring an impressive 63 league goals in 27 games now, they rely on Wayne Rooney far too often going forward. In games like today's when he doesn't perform well, neither do they.

The league is Chelsea's to lose now. Victory today and their odds will shrink dramatically.

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Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Who Will Finish 4th in the Premier League?

The Premier League is as exciting as ever this season. With a dozen games remaining, there are 3 teams still in the title race, 7 teams within 3 points of relegation zone or safety and a race for the illusive final Champions League spot that could come also down to the final day of the season. With that in mind, I'm going to have a look at those teams competing for 4th spot.


Odds: 11/8
Remaining fixtures: Manchester City(a), Blackburn Rovers(H), Wigan Athletic(a), Portsmouth(H), Manchester United(a), Sunderland(H), Birmingham City(a), Fulham(H), West Ham United(H), Burnley(a), Chelsea(H), Hull City(a)

Currently holding 4th spot, 1 goal ahead of Manchester City who are at Stoke City tonight, Liverpool will have their say in the title race as the face the top two before the season is over. The title for fourth spot isn't in their control at the moment, having played two more games than Manchester City, but they travel to Eastlands on Sunday for what will be a big match and one they cannot afford to lose. After that they should be looking for 9 points before they travel to Manchester United, the team they have beat in three straight league meetings. Since Christmas, Rafael Benitez has fixed their defence which has brought them much success. Defeat to Arsenal last week still came as little surprise, but they need to beat the lower placed clubs now if they want to qualify for next season's Champions League. Fernando Torres will be back this month and can take the pressure off Dirk Kuyt's shoulders, with few other players in the team producing goals in the Spaniard's absence.

Manchester City

Odds: 5/4
Remaining fixtures: Stoke City(a), Liverpool(H), Chelsea(a), Tottenham Hotspur(H), Sunderland(a), Fulham(a), Wigan Athletic(H), Burnley(a), Birmingham City(H), Manchester United(H), Arsenal(a), Aston Villa(H), West Ham United(a)

The toughest remaining schedule of these four teams doesn't bare well for Manchester City who have a cup replay at Stoke City to come later this month also. Their run of 7 straight league draws towards the end of 2009 under Mark Hughes included a lot of sides they should have beat. Looking at these fixtures, it's hard to see where they will string a few consecutive victories in a row together. One thing they do well is increase their performances against the big sides. They have home victories over Arsenal and Chelsea in the league this season, and Manchester United in the Carling Cup. They need to beat Liverpool this coming weekend as well as home games with Manchester United and Aston Villa as the season draws to a close. The 3 league games after tonight will have a big say in where Manchester City finish, and whether they come out of those on top or bottom, they need to string victories together in the games after that. There are a few good set piece sides in there which could cause problems for Manchester City, as well as a few tough away fixtures. But home games with the 3 teams they're competing with for fourth spot will be key.

Tottenham Hotspur

Odds: 6/1
Remaining fixtures: Wigan Athletic(a), Everton(H), Manchester City(a), Blackburn Rovers(H), Stoke City(a), Portsmouth(H), Sunderland(a), Arsenal(H), Chelsea(H), Manchester United(a), Bolton Wanderers(H), Burnley(a)

Arguably the toughest of the remaining schedules, Tottenham face all 3 title contenders, 1 fellow competing Champions League side and 5 teams in and around the relegation zone, fighting for their survival. As with Liverpool, a trip to Manchester City in the coming weeks will have a big say in the race for fourth spot. Ideally, Tottenham need to be in fourth place before they play Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in consecutive games. Should they fail to be, they can be ruled out of Champions League football next season. Their recent run of form, or lack of in the Premier League has cost them already in my view. They still have the FA Cup to compete in, but a Champions League spot looks very unlikely for Harry Redknapp's side.

Aston Villa

Odds: 9/2
Remaining fixtures: Burnley(H), Sunderland(H), Stoke City(a), Wigan Athletic(a), Wolverhampton Wanderers(H), Chelsea(a), Bolton Wanderers(a), Everton(H), Portsmouth(a), Birmingham City(H), Manchester City(a), Blackburn Rovers(H)

Currently 2 points behind Liverpool, Aston Villa have a decent remaining schedule to put them in a strong position to compete for a top 4 finish this season. Hopefully for them an FA Cup replay and Carling Cup final won't have a negative impact on their league form. They need 6 points from their next two home games against teams in the bottom half struggling for form. Then come two away fixtures they ought to be taking 4 points from. That will likely see them in 4th spot should they do the business. They have two rivalries, fortunately at home, and trips to Chelsea and Manchester City to come. With Tottenham likely to drop off, Manchester City with a tough fixture list and Liverpool capable of shooting themselves in the foot, Aston Villa are a good shout to snatch that final Champions League spot they have been looking at for the past two seasons.

Who do you think will take the final Champions League position this season?

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Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Arsenal Bet Comes in as They Close in on the Leaders

Abou Diaby scored the only goal of the game as Arsenal closed the gap on Chelsea and Manchester United this evening.

As I posted in my blog earlier this evening, Arsenal were the best bet tonight, as I backed them at evens to win and at 5/2 to win to nil. Both bets came in as little else did this evening. But I ended up with another profit so I won't complain.

Manchester United done well to take a point from Villa Park this evening, having firstly gone behind to a Carlos Cuellar goal. A James Collins own goal tied the game up shortly after before Nani was sent off with a straight red card for a two footed tackle after half hour. A 1-1 draw turned out to be a good result as Chelsea lost 2-1 at Everton, leaving Manchester United 1 point behind the leaders.

Florent Malouda had given Chelsea the lead inside 20 minutes and my lay bet wasn't looking too good. But Louis Saha equalised from a corner, quarter of an hour later before having a penalty saved by Petr Cech on half time. It was Saha who scored the winner 15 minutes from time as Everton moved back up to 9th in the table.

Arsenal's 1-0 victory over Liverpool sees them close the gap to 6 points behind Chelsea with a dozen games remaining. With all the big guns out of the way now, their fans may fancy their chances for the title.

My biggest loser was on Tottenham this evening. That's two 1-0 defeats to Wolves this season, both I never saw coming against strong Tottenham line ups.

Manchester City's 2-0 victory over Bolton last night moved them into 5th position where they stay tonight. They are level on points with 4th place Liverpool with 2 games in hand. They travel to Stoke next week after hosting them in the FA Cup at the weekend.

In the other Premier League fixtures that I overlooked this evening, Blackburn beat Hull City 1-0 and West Ham beat Birmingham City 2-0.

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What Do Tonight's Odds Tell Us?

At the beginning of the week, Arsenal could be found at evens and above from nearly all of your top online bookmakers. Now, less than 3 hours before kickoff and some bookmakers aren't even giving you evens.

Since Monday there hasn't been any negative Liverpool team news, and now fitness boosts for Arsenal. So the shortening of Arsenal's odds has come from a large number of punters backing Arsenal. Despite their bad form, I am one of those jumping on the bandwagon for tonight's game.

Morale may be low at Arsenal, and they may have been held here 1-1 by Liverpool in the past two seasons, but they're a better side than Liverpool this season. Arsenal's two defeats in their past two games have come against the top two teams in the league. Hopefully they will have learnt something about being left exposed on the counter attack ahead of tonight's game too.

Andrey Arshavin hasn't been his influential self in their last two games, but he has a fantastic record against Liverpool (mainly based on the 4 goals he struck at Anfield last season). He is one to watch in this game, as will Cesc Fabregas, whom also went quiet in Arsenal's last two games. And that is part of the reason for their defeats. If/when these two get back to their usual ways tonight, Liverpool are going to have more than their fair share of work. Cesc Fabregas will likely match up in the centre of midfield against Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano and Lucas. I don't doubt his ability to take it passed either one of those nor pass his way through the Liverpool team. Expect Fabregas to shine if Gerrard pushes too far forward. Arshavin meanwhile has looked lost at sea playing as a lone striker. Arsene Wenger should think twice about doing the same tonight. Instead I can see him dropping back or to the right hand side of midfield and Nicklas Bendtner taking the lone role up front. A position he is more suited for.

Between Arshavin, Fabregas, Bendtner, Samir Nasri and whoever else plays for Arsenal, they should be able to break down this Liverpool defence, regardless of their 6 clean sheets in 7 games. Arsenal have beat Liverpool 2-1 twice this season.

Apart from Steven Gerrard's long range efforts, Liverpool's best opportunities should fall from set pieces. Manuel Almunia is one of the most unconvincing keepers at dealing with them in the Premier League. And the small group of players with a lack of physicality doesn't help either. Add that to the lack of a player at the far post on Sunday, allowed Didier Drogba to score from close range following John Terry's flick on.

Liverpool don't have much quality going forward. Steven Gerrard has only 1 goal in his last 11 Premier League games. David N'Gog isn't doing much better (1 in 10), and lacking confidence and self belief seemingly. As well as talent. Dirk Kuyt is a man in form (4 in his last 4), but the Arsenal centre back partnership of William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen, protected by Alex Song should keep him off the scoresheet tonight.

Arsenal are evens to win with Skybet tonight. If you're feeling more confident, they're 5/2 to win to nil.

If Arsenal can win, they will be considered title contenders again should Chelsea and Manchester United fail to win their tough away fixtures this evening. Manchester United travel to Aston Villa, a side they use to dominate. That mastery is beginning to attenuate. They were held here 0-0 last season and were beat 1-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season. It took a stoppage time winner from Federico Macheda to snatch all 3 points from Aston Villa last season. Manchester United's odds have taken a small drop since Monday where they could be found at evens. With Wayne Rooney's form, can they keep in touching distance of Chelsea by beating Villa tonight? They are 5/6 to do so.

Chelsea themselves are at a morale-beaten Everton. Beaten by their most-hated rivals Liverpool on Saturday, with an extra man for most of the game. Everton can't be feeling too confident ahead of this match against the high-flying Premier League leaders. Chelsea's odds have shortened to 8/11 ahead of kickoff. But can they beat the same Everton side who held them at Stamford Bridge back in December?

Another bet I am going with this evening, is Tottenham to win at Wolves. They have something to prove following their home defeat by the midlands side back in December and I can see Harry Redknapp getting the best out of his team in this match. And the best from them would prevent Wolves from picking anything up from this match. Tottenham too are another side who have been well-backed over the past couple of days ahead of this match.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 6 February 2010

Review of Today's Premier League Bets

Manchester United have gone back on top of the Premier League this evening following their 5-0 victory over a hapless Portsmouth side.

Although it took a while to open the scoring, no one will have been surprised by the result at Old Trafford. Fortunately it was Wayne Rooney who opened the scoring, having tipped him in my Manchester United-Portsmouth preview. They also came through on the handicap that I tipped in that preview also. One I didn't mention, having seen it this morning was the few cheeky pounds on them to win both halves at evens. It could only be a small bet though with Manchester United's record of being level at half time in a number of games this season.

In other Premier League games, Stoke's victory over Blackburn was another good bet I had on this afternoon and I hope you took my advice in my preview for that game too.

As for Hull City beating Manchester City, I hope you laid them instead of putting them in a draw double (with Tottenham) as I did. As I wrote in my Manchester City preview, their odds weren't valuable and id the result was down to a slack performance that really won't surprise me.

West Ham were a big let down for me, but I guess everyone will point to Burnley's home record and tell me “it was obvious Burnley would win”. Oh well, it wasn't the biggest bet in the world.

Now to watch Tottenham-Aston Villa in what I expect to be a tight game and of few chances...

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Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Chelsea Unconvincing on Their Travels This Season

The Premier League top another surprising twist last night as Chelsea dropped points at relegation-placed Hull City.

Steven Mouyokolo headed Hull City into the lead after half an hour. Remarkably, 15 of Chelsea's 20 goals this season have been conceded from set pieces (75%). The league average is 38.5%.

You could have been forgiven for thinking Chelsea would turn up the pressure and put a couple past Chelsea. After Hull scored Chelsea did finish the half on top. And Didier Drogba struck a free kick just before the half to take Chelsea in level at half time. Very similar circumstance to when these met on the opening day of the season.

Hull gave it their own and must have fancied their chances from set pieces again in the second half. They had chances too. Chelsea put in another lacklustre performance on the road and this time couldn't rely on a late John Terry header to pick up all 3 points. And this time they left me with a losing bet (Tottenham will do me proud tonight – couldn't ignore their odds even if it is the FA Cup – Harry Redknapp gets the business done in the cup).

Since a solid start to the season, Chelsea's away form is less than impressive. The Blues started the season with 3 straight away wins. All were impressive; at Sunderland, Fulham and Stoke City. That was ended abruptly with a 3-1 defeat at Wigan that saw the home side open with a goal from a corner and Petr Cech later sent off.

That was followed by a hardworking 1-0 win in Cyprus in the Champions League that was far from convincing. Their other two Champions League games weren't convincing either. First relying on Didier Drogba to earn a 2-2 draw at Atletico Madrid and rounding the group off with a 1-0 victory in Porto.

Chelsea have won just one of their last five league games on the road since thrashing Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates. That was thanks to John Terry's late header at Burnley on Saturday. They were unfortunate to lose 2-1 at Manchester City, unconvincing in their 1-1 draw at West Ham. They drew 0-0 at an in-form Birmingham side who they would beat 3-0 at home a few weeks later. Tuesday nights draw at Hull was the latest of their travelling woes.

Chelsea are favourites by man to beat Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. The follows a trip to Goodison Park on a Wednesday night that they won't be as heavily-fancied in. After that, trips to Wolves, Portsmouth and Blackburn in the league is where they will need to sort out their away form and set piece defending. They also have a trip to Milan thrown in there to face Jose Mourinho's Inter in the Champions League!

Defending set pieces have been a big criticism of Chelsea. They have certainly been exposed from them. While away games are traditionally much tougher than at home for the obvious reasons, some of Chelsea's displays have let them down. Having said that, only Manchester United have picked up more points on their travels so far this season. But Chelsea are the odds-on favourites to win the Premier League. And their final three away games of the Premier League season are at Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and Anfield.

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Posted by Barrie on Monday, 1 February 2010

John Terry Odds-On to Lose England Captaincy

Paddy Power have made John Terry odds-on to lose his England captaincy following the revelations of his private life over the weekend.

The English FA took their time to make an announcement, in which they made a good decision to leave it down to the manager, Fabio Capello.

Fabio Capello took 4 games and 5 players before deciding John Terry would be the captain of the England national team back in August 2008. Terry lead England to victory in a friendly over Germany at the end of that year, scoring the winner himself.

John Terry put all his troubles behind him at the weekend, the day after the news made the headlines as he scored an 82nd minute winner for at Burnley on Saturday. He will play at Hull tomorrow night too as he looks to take Chelsea 4 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

This was not the first time Terry or his family have put a negative image on the England captain. Incidents in clubs and parent arrests have been part of his past. And none of those had a negative effect on the field. Saturday's performance came as no surprise to me. Stripping him of his England captain 4 months before the World Cup was be a disruption that the English media would love. That means it would be a bad story for our national team. He's a true leader on the field and a very talented defender.

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Transfer Deadline Roundup

Most January transfer windows do not see many major transfers. Put it down to mid-season, cup-tied players or the lack of money, it has been a quiet start to 2010.

Manchester City's capture of Adam Johnson is the biggest Premier League signing on this year's deadline day. Johnson has been Middlesbrough's top scorer this season, with 11 goals from the wing. I've seen him a couple of times in this division and I was always confident a Premier League side would sign him this month. He was too good for the Championship. With Robinho's departure there will be less competition on the left wing from him (Martin Petrov) as he looks to break into their first team. Talking about Robinho, he arrived at Santos today with Pele in front of a large crowd inside their stadium!

Stoke City completed the signing of highly-rated goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from Portsmouth for £3,500,000 today. 22-year old Bosnian Begovic kept 2 clean sheets in 8 starts for the Premier League's bottom club, had also been linked to Chelsea and Tottenham recently. Many expected him to leave today following Portsmouth's decision to start David James in goal at the weekend. Portsmouth sold Mike Williamson to Newcastle earlier this month and Younes Kaboul back to Tottenham at the weekend to help Pompey pay their wages.

Robbie Keane looks set to be loaned out to Celtic from Tottenham. Keane has not played 90 minutes for Tottenham since Ireland were eliminated from the World Cup in controversial circumstances to France in November. He never scored in the few appearances he has made since. 4 of his 6 goals this season came in one game against Burnley. This would be a good move for both Keane and Celtic. Tottenham captured Eidur Gudjohnsen a few days ago and already have Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch playing well in the first team. Robbie Keane should find the less competitive league a breeze and if Kris Boyd had left Rangers this month I would have backed Keane to finish top scorer in the Scottish Premier League! Celtic confirmed the loan signing of Diomansy Kamara from Fulham earlier today. Fulham have loaned in Nicky Shorey from Aston Villa and Stefano Okaka from Roma.

Sunderland missed out on Robbie Keane but completed the loan signing of Alan Hutton from Tottenham today. They have not yet confirmed the signing of Benjani from Manchester City as of yet, despite the transfer deadline having passed.

The deal of Victor Moses from Crystal Palace to Wigan was confirmed today, expected to be in the region of £2,500,000. A highly-rated youngster, he has scored some spectacular goals in the Championship over the past two and a half years. When I saw Moses in person last year, he was sent off a little harshly for a second yellow for a tackle from behind. His first yellow card was for a dive. He certainly has a chance to break into the first team immediately with Wigan as they currently offer little going forward. He may be battling directly with Scott Sinclair, their loanee from Chelsea who is a great dribbler but hasn't hit the heights in the Premier League so far. Jack Cork was loaned out from Chelsea to Burnley today.

Benni McCarthy completed his permanent move from Blackburn to West Ham today for an undisclosed fee. This is a good buy for West Ham who have struggled for goals up front, especially during Carlton Cole's time on the sideline. He scored 18 Premier League goals in his first season with Blackburn, but only scored once in 14 games this season. With a World Cup in his back garden this summer I was expecting better from him this season and with a new club with some creative midfielders I can see him doing well at Upton Park. I do question the loan deal of Mido from Middlesbrough though to West Ham. A lazy striker who was a poison for Middlesbrough when they were relegated last season. The Hammers have also confirmed the signing of Brazilian free agent Ilan. Gianfranco Zola has certainly shown his intent of bringing in strikers today!

Neither Arsenal, Birmingham or Liverpool's managers spent any money today after entering the transfer window having been linked to a number of players. Arsenal loaned out Jack Wilshere to Bolton and Philippe Senderos last week. Birmingham loaned out Marcus Bent to Queens Park Rangers today. They signed Craig Gardner from Aston Villa and Michel from Sporting Gijon last month. Liverpool signed Maxi Rodriguez in January. Ryan Babel remains with the Reds.

Stephen Hunt, who scored a penalty against Wolves at the weekend remains at Hull despite numerous bids this month up to the final day from the West Midlands club. Neither Hull or Wolves made any panic buys today.


Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 26 January 2010

West Ham Must Fancy Beating Portsmouth Tonight

Looking at the starting line ups, for tonight's match at Fratton Park I am more confident now in backing West Ham to beat Portsmouth when I wrote my preview on Sunday.

Asmir Begovic continues in goal for Portsmouth, in front of him he has the experienced Hermann Hreidarsson who has been clumbsy this season and goes up against the team who have won the most Premier League penalties this season. Frank Nouble and Alessandro Diamanti should find success running against him, so would substitutes Junior Stanislas and Carlton Cole if brought on.

Marc Wilson, Aaron Mokoena, Hayden Mullins and Angelos Basinas also start for Portsmouth who are backing up their status as relegation favourites for a starting eleven like this.

West Ham have Matthew Upson and the underrated James Tomkins in the centre of defence to block anything Portsmouth may throw at them (Frederic Piquionne their only starting striker – Danny Webber on the bench). I'm expecting Jack Collison to be a key player tonight, while I won't be surprised to see Frank Nouble to score his first West Ham goal.

West Ham are 2/1 win and this represents good value. My biggest bet of this evening is on Bolton Wanderers to beat Burnley at 4/5.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 23 January 2010

Wayne Rooney Fires Manchester United Top

Wayne Rooney was inspirational form at Old Trafford today as he scored all 4 goals in their 4-0 thrashing of Hull City to fire Manchester United to the top of the Premier League.

Boaz Myhill was inspired last weekend as he made save after save to help Hull City come away from a White Hart Lane with a 0-0 draw. However it took Wayne Rooney and Manchester United 8 minutes to break the deadline today. To think Hull were to fold at this point, they took the same scoreline into half time. In fact, it wasn't until the 82nd minute before United doubled their lead. And before you know it Rooney was completing hattrick and then adding a 4th.

Rio Ferdinand played his first game in 3 months due to injury and played the full 90 minutes alongside Jonny Evans. His fitness and a clean sheet for Manchester United will be a boost ahead of their Carling Cup final second leg with Manchester City on Wednesday, and then a big game at Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.

Arsenal's time at the top of the Premier League was short-lived, but travel to Aston Villa midweek looking to restore their lead. Chelsea are down to third, 2 points behind Manchester United, but with 2 games in hand. The first of those is at home to Birmingham City on Wednesday.

With Manchester City and Arsenal to come over the course of the week, it's really a crucial stage of Manchester United's season despite only being at the end of January. While the Carling Cup has never been one of Sir Alex Ferguson's priorities, they don't want to go out to their closest neighbours, having already gone out of the FA Cup to Leeds. Defeat to Arsenal in the league could see them fall far behind both Chelsea and Arsenal and potentially kill off their Premier League title chase.

Hopefully for England fans, Wayne Rooney can maintain his form over the summer after he took his goal tally up to 19 in the Premier League this afternoon.

After another 100% record with out Premier League Betting Tips this weekend we hope you come back for more. Ok, there was only 1 game, but we hope you took at least 1 of the 3 winning tips :)

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Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Arsenal Go Top of the Premier League

A 4-2 come-from-behind victory for Arsenal over Bolton this evening sent the Gunners to the top of the league on goals scored.

Gary Cahill and a Matt Taylor penalty gave Bolton a surprise 2-0 lead at the Emirates this evening before Tomas Rosicky pulled an important goal back just before half time. I took a risky bet with their odds of 11/10 being very tempting at half time. Goals from Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen and Andrey Arshavin in the second half won my bet and handed Bolton a second defeat to Arsenal in 4 days.

Manchester United can return to the top of the league on Saturday if they beat Hull. Although United would have played 1 more game than Arsenal and 2 more than Chelsea who are currently 1 point ahead of them.

Despite Robin van Persie's long-term injury, goals from midfield have aided Arsenal's run that has got them in the position they are in. Cesc Fabregas is in a run of form that puts him amongst the Player of the Season award. His fitness and form are vital for Arsenal's title challenge that has become serious over the past few games.

Arsenal's next 4 Premier League games are crucial to them are their competitors for the title, as they visit Villa Park in a week's time, having beat Villa 3-0 on boxing day. Hosting Manchester United is their next game before a trip to Chelsea and back home to play Liverpool.

Liverpool tonight got their chances of a top 4 finish back on track and eased the pressure on Rafa Benitez with a 2-0 victory over Tottenham to put them within 1 point of their opponents who hang on to 4th spot. Dirk Kuyt scored both goals. Liverpool's next Premier League game is a trip to Wolves on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa beat Blackburn Rovers 6-4 in their second leg of the Carling Cup semi final, winning 7-4 on aggregate and booking their place in February's final.

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Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 17 January 2010

Should Ashley Young Go to the World Cup?

With Fabio Capello selecting his teams based on forms, I admit it's too soon to be debating whether specific players should or shouldn't be going. In the 5 months between now and then, we can expect a few injuries and even a player or two come out of the blue into some hot form.

But after watching the stalemate between Aston Villa and West Ham just now, Ashley Young doesn't look like the player he was 12 months ago when he was linked to Real Madrid.

Back then, manager Martin O'Neill was claiming Ashley Young was a “world class” player, a statement that I never agreed with, even when he was banging in goals for many fantasy team in the first 4 months of the 2008/09 season. Since then, over the last 12 months he's not been scoring and setting up goals as frequently as he was, and hasn't come into consideration for my fantasy team since.

In today's game, the third consecutive Premier League game in which Aston Villa haven't scored (and the fourth in a row that has been 0-0 at half time), Ashley Young was ineffectual. His work on the wing reminded me of Joe Cole in the last world cup... predictable. He didn't want to take on players and get the cross in from the byline, but to cut inside to cross it. West Ham's defence read and dealt with this effectively. Today was Young's 9th straight league game without a goal, although he does have 3 assists during that time.

Ashley Young has half a season to get back into form and should he, I will be supporting him for the world cup squad selection. But right now, he's far from the form he needs to be at to be selected. He's not a match winner now and England have a number of players who can deliver the good quality set pieces that Young offers.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 16 January 2010

Rafael Benitez: The Premier League Would Miss Him If He Left

Rafael Benitez is the favourite in the Premier League sack race following the horrible form that is constantly repeated in the media and myself.

His side took the lead at Stoke today when Fabio Aurelio's free kick was forced over the line by Sotiris Kyrgiakos before the hour. In what was a dreadful game to watch, perhaps we should have been looking towards set pieces to open the scoring. The free kick given that lead to the goal was harsh on Danny Higginbotham and Stoke as the defender won the ball.

But Stoke cannot look to the referee for excuses, in fact it's what Liverpool will be doing after Lucas was booked after being brought down in the penalty area in what was the only incident worth talking about in the first half.

Then Stoke's equaliser came from a corner that shouldn't have been; Robert Huth tapping in at the back post. It was the only set piece Liverpool failed to deal with, with Sotiris Kyrgiakos worth mentioning for dealing with them prior to the last minute. The big Greek defender was a good selection from Rafa Benitez, with his aerial ability a match for Stoke's tactics. Deep in stoppage time Dirk Kuyt hit the post when he should have done better, but Liverpool could have been awarded a penalty in the build up as Lucas was knocked down in the penalty area. Perhaps Rafa Benitez won't be calling Lee Mason perfect this week ;)

Thankfully that late goal won my bet I mentioned earlier and made a good start to my Premier League betting tips this weekend.

It's Rafa Benitez's personality that you have to like. He's a character and the Premier League doesn't have enough characters. From his famous January rant last year to all his action on the touchline, what can you not love about the Spaniard?

His selection was strange today, with numerous defensive players in the starting lineup. Philipp Degen had a shocker and lasted nearly 80 minutes before their new, exciting signing Maxi Rodriguez was introduced. If he was given more time on the pitch, maybe Liverpool would have scored from open play and won the game. That's easy to say, but they looked poor going forward and created few chances. Players who were wide open at times weren't passed too and a number of crosses were poor. David N'Gog should have been subbed earlier as he continues to offer little in attack.

January is a big month for Rafael Benitez and Liverpool. He has received good money for Andrea Dossena and sold Andriy Voronin. Maxi Rodriguez has come in, but they still need a few more signings this month as well as shipping a few out.

Rafa Benitez's personality would be missed by me and many Premier League fans should he lose his job at Liverpool.

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Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Should Manchester United Sign Sebastien Frey?

Talk has been on the cards since pre-Christmas that Manchester United are looking to sign Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey.

With a reported £16,000,000 buy out clause in his contract, it should depend on whether United want to pay that much and whether the Frenchman wants to play outside of Italy for the first time in over a decade.

Frey made a name for himself, at least in my eyes at Parma from 2001. They signed him after a season as Inter Milan's first choice. Frey has been a star for Fiorentina since joining them in 2005, originally on a loan spell during Parma's days of financial problems.

He's been an underrated goalkeeper for many years, despite playing for a Champions League side. Amazingly he only has 2 international caps for France, but the Lyon number 1 looks very good from what I have seen of him, I will give him that. Now one of the biggest teams in world football is looking at him, finally he is being linked to a club as successful as one he belongs at.

Frey is very agile and does have a decent commanding presence in the area from set pieces, something that Tomasz Kuszczak lacks. With Edwin van der Sar only fit enough to have played 5 of Manchester United's 21 Premier League games this season, aged 39 and having considered retiring for a few seasons now, looking towards the future is the only thing Sir Alex Ferguson can do. He seems to have lost faith in Ben Foster, while Kuszczak who's currently their first choice isn't reliable enough to be playing with the top 4 in my opinion.

Sebastien Frey would be a great asset to the Premier League and one I would like to see happen. Arsenal have also expressed interested, but can we see him leaving Fiorentina any time soon? He would be cup tied for the Champions League should he switch this month.

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Sol Campbell... Returning to Arsenal?

First Patrick Vieira returns to the Premier League. And now Sol Campbell is poised for a return to Arsenal. Yes, this is a blog being written in 2010 and not 2004!

According to Sky Sports, the former England international and Notts County centre back is playing for Arsenal in their reserve team match against West Ham this evening. Presumably he has been training with the side recently too.

Sol Campbell played for Arsenal between 2001 and 2006, winning the FA Cup 3 times, the Premier League twice and a Champions League runner up in his final season with the Gunners. He then moved to Portsmouth for three seasons.

In his day, Campbell was one of the top English defenders in the league. His strength mixed with his heading and tackling abilities were a big part of the Arsenal invincibles in 2003/04. While you would expect him to retain those abilities, his pace and fitness will be the big questions, now 35 and having been without a club since leaving Notts County in September. Campbell only played once for Notts County, a 2-1 defeat at Morecombe before walking out on the club.

Everyone who is freaking out about this trial should calm down and look at the big picture. Campbell would only be signed as backup to William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen who have paired up in every one of Arsenal's Premier League games this season. Campbell's services would then likely be limited and his experience could help their young reserves whom he plays with tonight. But Campbell is only on trial for now.

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Posted by Barrie on Monday, 11 January 2010

Carlos Tevez is Welcome in Manchester

One of the hottest strikers in the Premier League currently, Carlos Tevez continued his excellent form with a hattrick for Manchester City in their 4-1 demolition of Blackburn Rovers this evening.

The first came courtesy of Paul Robinson's flap on a City corner with Tevez deflecting in Benjani's wayward effort. His second two were top class. One first time into the corner from 20 yards and the second, to complete his hattrick in stoppage time, from a similar distance and the same corner, only from a stationary position as he showed great technique to guide it past the defender and goalkeeper.

Carlos Tevez now has 12 goals this season; Manchester City's top scorer with as many goals as Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy combined (6 each). Benjani was involved in all 3 of Manchester City's goals whilst he was on the pitch in the absence of Adebayor. Robinho was an unused substitute for anyone interested.

4 wins in 4 games now for Roberto Mancini that boosts City up to 4th in the Premier League table. Who thought they made the wrong decision in firing Mark Hughes? I bet all those City fans who complained just a few weeks ago are keeping quiet now. But there is still along way to go.

A heavy first touch from Vincent Kompany allowed Morten Gamst Pedersen to score a consolation for Blackburn; the first goal Manchester City have conceded under their new Italian manager.

What must Sir Alex Ferguson be thinking at Manchester United for not perusing Carlos Tevez after his loan expired at the end of last season? Manchester United are really lacking another high goalscorer other than Wayne Rooney this season and could do with the skillful, hardworking and goalscoring Tevez. We will wait to see if Mame Biram Diouf turns out to be that after their new signing made his debut in the closing stages of their 1-1 draw at Birmingham on Saturday, leaving Michael Owen as an unused substitute.

Tonight's result and Manchester United failing to beat Birmingham on Saturday left me with 2/3 correct tips this weekend. With the weather getting better and the likelihood of the Premier League returning to it's normal ways this weekend, please come back to check out my Premier League Betting Tips in a few days time as I aim to make you more money from gambling.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 9 January 2010

Surprised Manchester United Dropped Points at Birmingham?

Back on Christmas Day I read smug Manchester United fans tweets, laughing at Chelsea dropping points at Birmingham. I even had to console a Chelsea fan that evening with the words “Manchester United go to Birmingham in early January – they're not going to win there”. He looked back at me like I was an alien. Yes, it's easy to be smug now as Manchester United failed to win at Birmingham, leaving me with a winning bet on laying them and for backing the game to have under 2.5 goals. But who really thought Manchester United were going to win at Birmingham today?

Birmingham City set a club record unbeaten 12 games in a row in their 1-1 draw with Manchester United. It was actually the first time Birmingham have dropped points from a winning position this season, but if a draw with the reigning champions leaves you disappointed, it's always a sign of how good they're playing right now. Pre-season relegation contenders; their Premier League status can be all-but secured in the next few games!

Manchester United started the game well, but failed to take advantage of all their possession and eventually fell behind to a Cameron Jerome goal after some poor Manchester United defending. United grabbed a second half equaliser, but didn't look like winning especially after Darren Fletcher's second yellow card in the final minutes, before the 6 minutes of stoppage time.

With Arsenal 2-2 Everton the only other game played today, Chelsea are big winners at the top of the table, now 1 point ahead of Manchester United with a game in hands (away to Hull). Laying the favourites as mentioned in my blog earlier today, including Derby in that (ok, I got Leeds wrong today, sorry) was where the money was to be made in betting on the Premier League today.

The West Ham-Wolves game was called off today too which means there is no Premier League football tomorrow. Manchester City vs Blackburn Rovers hasn't been called off as of yet, a Monday night game at Eastlands.

Hopefully football will return to normal next weekend and that my weekly Premier League Tips will be worthwhile. As for today, I hope you made money on the lays!

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A Season of Lay Betting

Half way through the English domestic football season, I notice it's been the best season so far for lay betters.

The top 4, odds on favourites for the majority of their games have lost more at the half way point than they usually do in a full season. This has left many punters disappointed, but may lay betters with a huge smug smile on their face.

Last night I enjoyed more success myself as out-of-form West Brom were odds on to beat the in-form Nottingham Forest. While I wasn't expecting a route I was confident in laying West Brom, and I was never in doubt after Dexter Blackstock gave the visitors an early lead. I've noticed this season so far, more than any previous has been the best time for lay betters to enjoy success laying the favourites.

The weather has corrupted the fixtures this weekend, with only Arsenal vs Everton and Birmingham vs Manchester United going ahead today in the Premier League. While the number of games to lay is down to a minimum (and I wouldn't recommend laying Leeds or Norwich either! Maybe Derby, but that's another story), there's a number of punters laying Manchester United at in-form Birmingham. I myself think Manchester United's odds are far too short to justify both side's performances of late.

For any newbies to this type of betting, we have a guide to lay betting on our website, and a review of Betfair, the most popular and well-known bookmaker for lay betting. These will help you make a great start.

As the season goes on there will be many more great lay betting opportunities. I will help you identify these in the Premier League though our weekly Premier League Tips.

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Posted by Barrie on Monday, 4 January 2010

Who Should Liverpool Buy This Month?

4 points off a top 4 finish, Liverpool aren't out of the Champions League race just yet. While Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa look stronger at this point, there's nothing to say those teams won't have a blip between now and the end of the season and allow Liverpool back into top 4 contention.

For Liverpool to make a serious run at the top 4, they need to strengthen their squad during this transfer window.

They haven't played well in defence this season, but the potential to do well is there. They have been able to rely on Jamie Carragher for many seasons now, and alongside him is Daniel Agger who isn't as good as other defenders in top teams. Both both are solid in the air. When either of them is missing, I don't think Martin Skrtel is good enough to fill in the gap admirably, and Sotirios Kyrgiakos is too slow for the Premier League. He is more of a hindrance than an asset when he plays. Glen Johnson is a solid right back, even if he is caught out of position one too many times. Help from the player in front of him, usually Dirk Kuyt would help out defensively. Emiliano Insua receives a lot of credit at left back but I still think he is a bit suspect. Even against Reading in the FA Cup at the weekend, Rafa Benitez played Fabio Aurelio in front of him to help him out, instead of playing an attacking player on the left side of midfield to show intent for winning the game.

Their midfield was downgraded over the summer with the sale of Xabi Alonso. A tough one to replace. Alberto Aquilani hasn't had enough playing time for us to say he cannot fill those boots. But on the few occasions I have seen him it is clear he is taking his time to adapt to the Premier League. Javier Mascherano protects the back 4 well, but too many times this season has he played alongside Lucas. We're all very critical of the Brazilian, who's role at Liverpool still remains undefined. It appears he should be protecting the back 4 because he creates very little chances and doesn't score himself. But Benitez should not be playing these two side by side, especially when you're playing the likes of Portsmouth. Lucas needs to be moved on and Mascherano can be left to protect the back 4. His range of passing is also an asset to the side. I cannot criticise Steven Gerrard. The team should be built around him, but Benitez is doing a poor job of that. He works well with Fernando Torres, while he helps out his defence well too.

On the wings, Albert Riera hasn't lived up to his early promise. He is still their best left winger though and adds natural width. Dirk Kuyt has been forced out on the right wing which he should be better adapted too by now. He's not suited to it there with his lack of pace and skill to create chances for the strikers and most right wingers do. He needs to be replaced. Ryan Babel shows glimpses of what he is capable of but his lack of effort lets the team down. Liverpool may be able to get a decent price for him if they wanted, but it seems Benitez is happy to keep him. Yossi Benayoun is a top player but needs to be settled in at one position. Preferably behind the striker, but Benitez doesn't know where to play him and sometimes doesn't play him at all.

Up front, Fernando Torres is one of the best strikers in the world. Unfortunately he is struggling with injuries and fatigue. He needs a few weeks off to recoup but the manager seems unwilling to do so. The lack of quality in this position has given him no other choice. David N'Gog runs around like a headless chicken despite showing potential. He's certainly not a top 4 striker at the moment, but with more experience he could live up to his potential. Andriy Voronin needs to be sold on.

Liverpool have a few youngsters breaking into the first team this season. Hoping to find the next Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher, it is important they do so and not need to spend big money again in positions where Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have brought through talent from their youth systems.

Who would I bring in this January?

It's easier said than done. And too many changes in January could unsettle the squad. Liverpool have been linked to both Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roman Pavlyuchenko already this month. The first is an ageing star of the past. If they can get him cheaply and his fitness holds up, then van Nistelrooy will be a great snip. But whether they can do either remains to be seen. Pavlyuchenko has been a flop at Spurs and would be a bad gamble. Already in a crisis, the amount of criticism from pundits and fans alike would only make the task more difficult. Benni McCarthy has been linked to Celtic for £2,500,000 this month – I would see him as a good acquisition for Liverpool. A Champions League winner and proven goalscorer. With the World Cup in his home country approaching, he'll want to get in form for that. At a small price he could knock in a good number of goals for Liverpool for the remainder of this season at least.

With reports that Liverpool don't have much money to spend, building quality on a budget won't be easy. West Ham are in a financial problem themselves and because of this they may be able to poach Scott Parker from the Hammers for a reduced fee. He has top 4 experience at Chelsea, if somewhat limited. An experienced player in the Premier League, Parker is good at both protecting his defence and creating chances. I wouldn't compare him to Steven Gerrard, but adding him into the same midfield would make their team much better. If the price is too high for him, Jack Collison and Mark Noble wouldn't be bad options, also from West Ham.

To add attacking flair to their midfield, Liverpool have been linked to Real Madrid's Rafael van der Vaart and Atletico Madrid's Maxi Rodriguez. I couldn't argue with either of these signings as they're both big upgrades on what they currently have.

Raiding West Ham in defence would be for Matthew Upson. He's previously been linked to Liverpool, has experience at International level and is one of the best defenders in the Premier League. He alongside Carragher would strengthen Liverpool's defence immediately.

There's a lot of building work to be done at Liverpool and it must start immediately. Looking at the 11 they fielded against Reading on Saturday, there is plenty of room for improvement as they aim to finish in the top 4 this season.

Who do you think Liverpool should buy this month?

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Posted by Barrie on Monday, 28 December 2009

Wayne Rooney Shows the Right Attitude

Since he began playing professional football, Wayne Rooney's attitude has come into question. Some previous foul tempers, continuous arguments with referees and the odd nasty challenge.

Yesterday, his attitude was perfect in Manchester United's 3-1 victory over Hull City that moved the defending champions within 2 points of leaders Chelsea.

Rooney scored the opening goal in first half stoppage time to give Manchester United the lead against relegation-placed Hull City. But 15 minutes into the second half a Steven Gerrard-like backpass was intercepted by Craig Fagan who's cross ended with Rafael giving Jozy Altidore a slight nudge in the back to which referee Alan Wiley awarded Hull a penalty. Craig Fagan tucked it in as Tomasz Kuszczak dived the wrong way.

Watching on TV, it was clear to see Rooney's disappointment with himself. Rooney admitted after the game he felt he'd let the team down and didn't want to be on the end of Sir Alex Ferguson's wrath. So he went about a changed it. Helped by Andy Dawson keeping him onside from a through ball, Rooney sent the ball across goal in the path of Park Ji-Sung only for Dawson to slide home and restore United's lead. And in the final 10 minutes, Rooney played a perfect pass into the path of Dimitar Berbatov who tucked the ball into an unguarded goal and give Manchester United a 3-1 victory.

This was the attitude and leadership Wayne Rooney is capable of showing. Steven Gerrard has a reputation of dragging results out for Liverpool, and Wayne Rooney provides the same for Manchester United. People doubt his world class status, but he is up there in my books. That's 13 goals in 18 league games for him this season. He does need to put in similar performance against the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool when they meet again this season. He was ineffectual against Liverpool in their 2-0 defeat earlier this season, and similar in Manchester United's 1-0 loss to Chelsea. Though there is one thing you can't question about Rooney is his desire to win.

It wasn't a vintage performance from Manchester United yesterday, but you'd have to question if they would have won the game without Wayne Rooney. Defensively they were much stronger with the returning pair of Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown.

Chelsea face a tough Fulham side today as they try to extend their lead to 5 points before Manchester United host Wigan Athletic on Wednesday. Arsenal travel to Portsmouth that same evening before a home game against Bolton the following Wednesday as they catchup the number of games over the 2 teams above them.

With the number of dropped points this month in particular from the top teams, it has made for a very exciting season so far with the order of the top 4 hard to predict. Make sure to check out our regular Premier League Tips to keep on top of all the action.

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Posted by Barrie on Thursday, 24 December 2009

Premier League Boxing Day Special

As 2009 draws to a close, the Premier League season is cram packed with a few additional games in what is meant to make the Christmas period even more exciting.

Perhaps it is for fans with the usual increase of attendances expected over the next couple of games. But some players don't handle this period too well. Remember the 3 Brazilians at Manchester City last season who wanted to go home for Christmas? Or the Dennis Wise/Robbie Savage, Hayden Foxe and Joey Barton Christmas party incidents to mention a couple.

While we can expect a couple of games to be lacklustre as we occasionally get in the Premier League, I am expecting a number of exciting games once again from your usual weekly Premier League schedule. Hopefully the ones on TV!

And the Premiership Tips team have been working hard again this year to provide you with our weekly tips. Expect to see previews of all the games over the Christmas holidays in time for you to place your bet pre-kickoff for each game.

Our NFL Tipster has also promised me to have his tips up for week 16 of the NFL schedule before the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans kickoff on Christmas Day. He has a fantastic record this season and continues to make a living off NFL bets. I plan to sit him down and interview him for some tips to becoming a professional gambler next year. All for your benefit!

For now, seasons greetings. Enjoy the festive period, whether it be with the football, NFL or whatever you may be up too!



Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 19 December 2009

Where Did It All Go Wrong for Mark Hughes?

Manchester City fans who went to today's game may not have been aware they were seeing Mark Hughes final one in charge of their club. With Roberto Mancini in the stands today and an announcement set to made shortly after the match, it was clear what was about to happen.

Guus Hiddink had been linked with a move to the City of Manchester Stadium but he seemed more keen on staying with Russia. Jose Mourinho wasn't a write off but the big money spenders went with the former Inter Milan manager and not with his replacement.

Mark Hughes had spent over £200,000,000 in a season and a half at Manchester City, finishing in a disappointing 10th position and currently lying in 6th with 2 wins in their last 11. They were performing below expectations with the owners presumably wanting at least a top 4 finish. There were signs of the club moving in the right direction with signings of Shay Given, Craig Bellamy, Nigel de Jong and Carlos Tevez. However, inconsistencies lead to his downfall.

The only consistency Manchester City have had this season was when they tied the Premier League record of 7 straight draws. They looked good in victories over Arsenal and Chelsea this season, but the team in whole have looked disinterested in games against lesser sides. With Liverpool struggling this season and even Manchester United losing 5 already, Manchester City have had the opportunities to be in the top 4 right now and haven't taken it.

Getting the best out of his team had been a problem for Mark Hughes. While it was obvious from his early days that Robinho was interested, with his lacking away performances coming to the media's attention last season, Hughes stuck with him. Whether Robinho had promised him better performances behind closed doors, I haven't heard. Maybe there was pressure on Hughes from the owners to play him. Emmanuel Adebayor was another gamble, on a striker who looked disinterested when he was at Arsenal. Since scoring against his former team against Arsenal, Adebayor has given little effort and was part of the problem at City. Hughes seemingly couldn't motivate Robinho or Adebayor but they were still playing.

Other problems Hughes had at City were defensive. Over £30,000,000 was spent on their centre back pairing of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott. Toure had looked good when the rest of Arsenal's defence was poor and Lescott had an outstanding season with Everton the year before. For a team aiming to compete for the title these were questionable signings. They've proved this season to be bad ones. The sale of Richard Dunne also proved to be another bad decision but how much control Mark Hughes had over that was questionable.

Building a team overnight is just not going to happen in the Premier League. Claudio Ranieri didn't do it with the money he had in one season at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho then had a building block to work on. Tottenham and Aston Villa have been working on their squads for a few years to get in this position of competing for a top 4 spot. Arsene Wenger is continually building a team to challenge for the title again.

Manchester City are taking a gamble on Roberto Mancini. He has won trophies with all 3 Italian teams he has managed. First was the Italian version of the FA Cup with Fiorentina in his first season as a manager. He did lead them to relegation however with a team struggling financially. He also won the same trophy with Lazio in his 3rd season. Lazio finished between 4th and 6th during his tenure and have only done better once since he left. Mancini guided Inter Milan to 3 straight titles helped by the problems at fellow title contenders at Juventus and AC Milan. He was sacked after not getting to the latter stages of the Champions League.

Mancini certainly has a good history in a short spell back home. But what can he do under the pressure of Manchester City having only spent a few weeks in England as Leicester City player 9 years ago?

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What Manchester United Lack This Season

I was hoping/planning to write this before Manchester United lost another game this season and start fading out of the title race, but waiting until midweek proved to be too long. I don't mean to sound like I'm writing United off just yet but they are looking weak right now.

To say Manchester United relied on Cristiano Ronaldo last season would be unfair. Yes he was involved in just about every goal they scored last season. And yes it was impossible for Sir Alex Ferguson to replace him after he left for Madrid in the summer.

Instead Ferguson brought in Antonio Valencia to play on the right wing. Valencia had previously looked very good in an average Wigan side. But the Ecuadorian was never a goalscorer at Wigan. After taking his time to settle into the squad he's looking ok now, but far from a world beater and more importantly he hasn't proven to be a game changer. That's what Manchester United are missing this season.

When things were going for them last season, they looked unstoppable. When things weren't going for them, Ronaldo was able to step up and make things work. And in one game he had already scored twice in but not given Manchester United the lead, Federico Macheda came off the bench and scored the winner.

Wayne Rooney in the past has been a match winner for Manchester United, and continues to do that but the supporting case is lacking this year. Valencia as stated doesn't replace Ronaldo. Dimitar Berbatov doesn't replace the hardworking Carlos Tevez. And while Michael Owen is making the runs, no one is playing him the balls to slide him through on goal and tap in from close range.

Everyone was singing the praises of Michael Owen following his Champions League hattrick earlier this month. He hasn't done anything since. I'm not putting the fault on him, Michael Owen can still be a great striker, fitness permitting. He needs players to give him the chances because when you see him play, he still makes great runs off the ball and gets in space. His teammates aren't getting the ball to him enough when he is open though.

Recently their defensive injuries have hit them hard. Darren Fletcher has slotted in at right back this month and Michael Carrick at centre back for 5 games in succession now. While the aforementioned have slotted in well, there has been a big hole in their midfield. Carrick's creativity has been missing, and Fletcher's ability to break up opposition attack's would probably have prevented Danny Murphy scoring today (“probably” means I haven't watched it and am assuming).

I feel embarrassed to have tipped Manchester United on Thursday ahead of today's game. As soon as I saw Nemanja Vidic was missing today I had a feeling they wouldn't win today, but it was too late to change my mind and I apologise (please forgive me with my correct Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City tips today)!

United will recover from their defensive injuries and will sharpen up at the back in the process. In doing so, Fletcher and Carrick can come back into midfield and improve that. As for creating chances, they haven't proven they are capable of doing that. An example was in their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in November, where they had lots of possession and didn't create much from it.

The January transfer window is coming up. While Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't usually spend much in this period, he should seriously be looking to add some attacking flair to his side. Franck Ribery has previously been linked to the club and would be a good acquisition in my book. As would his Bayern Munich teammate Arjen Robben who was once linked to Old Trafford, before moving to Chelsea. He is unlikely to move considering he only moved to Germany this summer.

Currently in the midfield, they have Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes whom are both capable of winning a game, but at they don't have the fitness anymore to play week in, week out at a high level. Scholes has been inconsistent for over a year now to add to that. Anderson isn't a creator of goals, neither Darren Fletcher. Michael Carrick hasn't been a regular starter this year but should be in the centre of the park every week in my opinion. Park Ji-Sung doesn't create enough chances and Nani isn't consistent enough to play at this level. Darron Gibson is still young but I feel Ferguson will put pressure on him to step up to become a Frank Lampard-like player in their midfield. It's too early to say whether he will be that or not but he looks to have a bright future ahead of him at least. He is not an immediate answer for the problem however. Manchester United are lacking in that area and I see it preventing them from winning the Premier League right now unless they can raise their levels immediately.

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Portsmouth Add to Liverpool's Worries

Troubles continue at Liverpool after they suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth today.

In today's early kickoff, Liverpool started the brighter team but didn't take advantage by scoring and allowed Portsmouth to grow into the match halway through the first half.

On 34 minutes Liverpool paid the price as Nadir Belhadj struck a sweet shot to give Portsmouth a 1-0 lead. Things got worse for Liverpool on half time as Javier Mascherano was sent off and injured in a bad tackle. A red card may have been harsh but he looked far from comfortable leaving the pitch and may have picked up a long term injury.

Rafael Benitez stuck with him and Lucas, two holding midfielders in the starting lineup against the team bottom of the league and whom they should be attacking. Yossi Benayoun was left on the bench until early in the second half while big summer signing Alberto Aquilani was left out with a reported calf strain.

Liverpool created little throughout the match as their long ball style didn't affect the Portsmouth defence. Portsmouth with Asmir Begovic in goal today kept just their 4th clean sheet of the season and move level on points with West Ham before the 3pm kickoffs and can move up to 19th if West Ham lose at home to Chelsea tomorrow.

Liverpool are 5 points behind Aston Villa in 4th, whom have a winnable game at home to Stoke from 3pm and Arsenal host Hull in the evening kickoff. If both teams win as expected, Liverpool will be 8 points off a Champions League spot after Rafa Benitez guaranteed a top 4 spot earlier this week.

Can things get any worse for Liverpool this season? Now losing to the side bottom in the league, it's 7 defeats in 18 league games for them this season.

Portsmouth, with their transfer embargo have given themselves a massive boost for avoiding relegation with this result. However if they can't sort themselves out financially players may need to be sold in January, wages may not be paid and then the side will surely fall apart.

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Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Chelsea Avoid Scare on Avram Grant's Return

Chelsea were thrown a lifeline after Marc Wilson's lunge on Branislav Ivanovic inside the penalty box gifted the Blues a winning penalty to maintain their 3 point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Nicolas Anelka had given Chelsea an early lead, but they were pegged back at the start of the second half by Frederic Piquionne and were made to work for their victory in the second half. This put similes on the faces of several gamblers worldwide I'm sure as their odds to win went up to evens with 15 minutes remaining. Less than 5 minutes later Frank Lampard's penalty sealed the deal. Avram Grant had made 7 changes to his Portsmouth side from their game at the weekend but they didn't rollover.

Yesterday, Manchester United had temporarily levelled Chelsea's points tally with a 3-0 victory over Wolves. This victory for Chelsea may get their momentum started ahead of their trip to Upton Park on Sunday. Potentially a tricky task on boxing day as they travel to Birmingham, but their defence will be up against it when they face Didier Drogba in particular. Other than that, there is potential for a few comfortable wins between now and they end of January.

Aston Villa's move up into 3rd place following their 2-0 victory at Sunderland yesterday was only temporarily, but they are in a better position than when they week started after Arsenal were held 1-1 at Burnley. Cesc Fabregas gave Arsenal an early lead but failed to take several chances to double their lead shortly after and were made to pay when Thomas Vermaelen gave away a penalty from which Graham Alexander equalised. After Fabregas departed before half time, Arsenal failed to create any real threat to Brian Jensen's goal.

Liverpool returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Wigan that saw goals from David N'Gog and Fernando Torres. This moves Liverpool up to 6th in the league after Manchester City were stuffed 3-0 at Tottenham. Mark Hughes' decision to start Robinho backfired and we apologise for a poor tip on that match, although we did warn Hughes not to play the Brazilian! This is only City's second Premier League defeat of the season. Birmingham's victory over Blackburn moves them above Manchester City and into 7th; making up part of our 100% record on Tuesday.

Arsenal look to get back to winning ways this weekend when they host Hull, looking for revenge after last season's shock result. Manchester United face a tricky trip to Fulham who will feel warmer at home on Saturday after winning in sub-zero temperatures in Basle, Switzerland this evening to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League. Be sure to check out our Premier League Tips for these games and the full Premier League schedule from tomorrow.

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Mick McCarthy Doesn't Need to Explain Anything

Picture this: Your first season back in the Premier League. You've just escaped the relegation zone at the weekend and have a big home match against fellow relegation contenders on Sunday. In between that, you have a midweek trip to Manchester United. What do you do?

What Mick McCarthy done last night was good man management, good tactical decision, call it what you want. He made a good choice. He knows who his side needs to beat to avoid relegation and he's realistic about it. He knows he has to beat the Bolton's and Wigan's of the Premier League. The long term goal is in mind. A trip to Old Trafford isn't a possibility for picking up a point even in his most optimistic mood.

Giving 10 fringe players the run out last night gave them the opportunity to impress their boss and gain top flight experience and match fitness in the process. In the meantime, the first team got a rest from their hardworking result on Saturday and time to rest any niggles and get back to 100% before a big match with Burnley at Molineux on Saturday. What's the big deal?

I recall West Brom and Liverpool doing similar previously. And how many regulars played for Manchester United at Hull on the final day of last season? I don't recall these teams receiving the same treatment as Wolves who now have to explain to the Premier League his decision to make substantial team changes. What a joke.

The Premier League, fans and journalists alike who are claiming McCarthy has “cheated football” don't know what they're talking about. The 10 outfield players selected by Wolves were under full time contract. They weren't trialists or the kitman. They were players like Ronald Zubar who was returning from injury, Chelsea loanee Michael Mancienne making his 10th start of the season, former Everton loanee Segundo Castillo and Stefen Maierhofer, an ideal fit for a big target solo striker, making his first start after several substitute appearances. Would the likes of Richard Stearman, Karl Henry and Kevin Doyle really have made a big difference for them on Tuesday?

Extra pressure will be on Mick McCarthy and Wolves to get a result against Burnley on Sunday now. Be sure to check out our Premier League previews for this game and the 9 other Premier League games this weekend when they go up from Thursday.

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Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 15 December 2009

That Man Klasnic Scores Again

Ivan Klasnic scored the second goal as Bolton Wanderers picked up a valuable victory over West Ham this evening to move them out of the relegation zone.

It was less than a week ago I was talking to a friend and saying Bolton looked like strong relegation contenders and value at (then) 4/1. I described them as a team looking very poor at the back and not scoring too many. There were 2 players I suggested could be their lifeline.

The first was the obvious choice of Jussi Jaaskelainen – one of the most reliable Premier League goalkeepers of the last decade. He's still got it, even if he doesn't get the best help from his defence.

The other was Ivan Klasnic. Although I haven't seen a great deal from home, what I have seen looks to be a shining light for Bolton. While Kevin Davies can win Bolton free kicks, score the occasional goal and hold the ball up, and Elmander can hold the ball up too and create chances, he is struggling to score in the Premier League. Klasnic offers a different threat. He's scoring goals. 3 in his last 2 now.

Klasnic doesn't have an outstanding scoring record in Germany or France at Werder Bremen or Nantes respectively, but if he can get into double figures for Bolton this season it will be a good return.

The Croatian striker, who some may remember scored Croatia's only goal in their final group game against Poland at Euro 2008, has great technique as demonstrated with his first goal for Bolton, against Fulham where he got infront of the ball before Brede Hangeland and spun 180 degrees to smash home. His instinct was shown in his first goal against Manchester City at the weekend, but don't mention that infront of Mr. Hughes ;)

This evening's goal is described as a howler from Robert Green in the West Ham goal, but I haven't seen it yet, so cannot comment. Either way, he has scored in 3 of his last 4 games in which Bolton have picked up 5 points in those fixtures and moved out of the relegation zone.

Where would Bolton be right now without Ivan Klasnic? I admire the start he has made to his Bolton career and I believe he is more capable of keeping this team up than Gary Cahill, Tamir Cohen and Kevin Davies who are doing well for Bolton.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 12 December 2009

Chelsea Extend Lead in Unpredictable Premier League Weekend

Aston Villa won at Old Trafford for the first time since 1983 moving them into 3rd in the Premier League and leaving Manchester United 3 points behind Chelsea.

Gabriel Agbonlahor scored the only of the game, early in the first half, when Ashley Young was able to get a cross in on his right foot from the left wing.

Manchester United dominated the possession but barely tested Brad Friedel in the Aston Villa goal. Dimitar Berbatov the only player forcing a good save from the experienced American.

It was arguably Aston Villa's best performance this season as they defended well as a team. This game last season infamously saw Federico Macheda score a vital stoppage time equaliser in their successful title run. But it was not to be this evening as neither Wayne Rooney or substitutes Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov failed to register a goal for Manchester United.

This has been the most unpredictable weekend in the Premier League this season, ourselves only getting 2 tips correct today. Chelsea were held by Everton, Manchester City were held at Bolton while Tottenham suffered a home defeat to Wolverhampton.

Arsenal can move back into 3rd position with a point at Liverpool tomorrow, while they can move into 2nd by winning their 2 games in hand on Manchester United.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United have great opportunities to get back to winning ways during the week as they host Portsmouth and Wolves respectively. Be sure to check out our Premier League Tips for those games and the other half dozen games midweek.

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Manchester City and Chelsea Prove to be Bad Bankers

Manchester City were suppose to be the bet of the day today. Back-to-back victories against Arsenal and Chelsea last week done them a world of good and a fixture with out-of-form and dire looking Bolton Wanderers looked to give them a great opportunity to string back-to-back victories in the Premier League as they maintain their push for a Champions League finish. While the argument not for backing City coming into this match was their poor form against sides outside the top 4, I really felt the Bolton defence wouldn't be able to cope with City's attack after the way they'd been playing lately. I didn't see their attacking being able to keep up, but I was proven wrong. I was talking to a friend last night about Ivan Klasnic being Bolton's hope of a bright spark and someone who may be able to keep them up. He scored 2 goals today that helped them get an unexpected point. While I bit on City's odds of 4/5 to win prior to kickoff, I did take them at evens and later 12/5 (after Craig Bellamy's red card) on a double chance to make a profit from this match.

A Champions League finish is going to take a lot of work after they drew 3-3 at Bolton today. While proving they can score, Manchester City failed to defend adequately as they conceded 3 goals to the relegation-threatened side. Selling Richard Dunne has proven to be a big mistake so far for Mark Hughes as he has got his form back at Aston Villa. Carlos Tevez scored a brace today as he

Further up the table, Chelsea were held 3-3. It could have been seen as one to spoil accumulators, but with Tottenham's shock home loss to Wolves, it was a bad day for the short-odds accumulators today. The Blues were made to pay from bad set piece defending once again, and bad, unorganised defending in general as they handed Everton 3 goals. I took Chelsea at 4/6 when 1-0 down after a Petr Cech goal and later at 6/4 when at 3-3 but this turned out to be a loser. After Chelsea looked like Champions a few weeks ago, it's now 4 games without a win in all competition and Manchester United can go level on points later this evening if they beat Aston Villa.

Not only has Chelsea's draw with Everton opened the door for Manchester United, but Arsenal could get right back into the chase, now 9 points behind the leaders with 2 games in hand. Arsenal play at Liverpool tomorrow, with a good record recently at Anfield and playing a side in dire form and pressure on their manager that Arsenal could increase with a victory.

At the bottom of the table, it was a bad day for West Ham who lost 1-0 at Birmingham, while Younes Kaboul rescued a late point for Portsmouth at Sunderland, Hull drew 0-0 at home to Blackburn, and Wigan took a point back home from the Britannia Stadium in the early kickoff today. Wolves' victory at Spurs moves them out of the relegation zone at West Ham's expense. Birmingham's victory moves them level on points with Liverpool. Burnley and Fulham drew in the other Premier League 3 o'clock kickoff.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 5 December 2009

Manchester City End Draw Sequence with Impressive Victory

Manchester City ended their 7 straight Premier League draws with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea this evening.

Mark Hughes' side had to do it the hard way after Shay Given's save deflected back in off of teammate Emmanuel Adebayor to give the visitors the lead after 8 minutes. Chelsea failed to build on that as Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott in the centre of the City defence held Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka's chances down to a minimum.

Emmanuel Adebayor fired home an equaliser before half time, and for the remainding 10 minutes of the first half and early in the second half they started to take control as their confidence was clearly flowing. And it paid off, in controversial circumstances after Howard Webb awarded the home side a free kick and a yellow card to Ricardo Carvalho after seemingly do nothing but connect with Carlos Tevez after clearing the ball. Tevez drove the ball low and into the net after Petr Cech moved the wrong way on instinct, seeing the ball late.

City created few chances after taking the lead, although Carlos Tevez had a chance on the counter attack and a better pass could have gifted either Shaun Wright-Phillips or Emmanuel Adebayor a one-on-one close to the end, but for playing it straight to the defender.

Chelsea pressed late, and were awarded a penalty when Nedum Onuoha's clumbsy tackle brought down Didier Drogba in the area. Frank Lampard stepped up to take it with less than 10 minutes remaining but a poorly placed penalty was saved by Shay Given. Aruna Dindane and Cesc Fabregas had penalties saved in earlier Premier League games today. 6 goalkeepers kept clean sheets in the Premier League today, not including Peter Kurucz who kept out Manchester United in the final 20 minutes after replacing the ill Rob Green who'd conceded 4.

A vital win for Manchester City that moves them up into 6th, 1 point behind 4th placed Tottenham Hotspur. Expect to hear complaints about referee Howard Webb today who booked all 5 Chelsea defenders in this game and who's strange decision to give Manchester City a free kick for the winner. Importantly for Chelsea, John Terry limped off injured late in the second half.

Manchester United's 4-0 victory at West Ham closes the gap to 2 points on leaders Chelsea. They kept a clean sheet with a patched up defence that saw Michael Carrick drop into central defence alongside Wes Brown after Gary Neville went off injured in the first half, and Darren Fletcher at right back.

Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Stoke City brings them to within 8 points of Chelsea with a game in hand to keep their chances alive, while Liverpool were held 0-0 at Blackburn with big summer signing Alberto Aquilani sitting on the bench for the whole match.

In the early kickoff, Portsmouth's vital 2-0 victory at home to Burnley brings them to 10 points and within 4 points of safety. Another team who picked up a crucial victory was Wolves; 2-1 winners over Bolton as they swap positions in the relegation zone.

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Posted by Barrie on Thursday, 3 December 2009

Carling Cup Exit Plays into Chelsea's Hands

I saw disappointed Chelsea fans last night as they were eliminated on penalty kicks by Blackburn from the Carling Cup.

The cup that most teams have had little interest in over recent years, but Chelsea fans were perhaps hoping to win this one in a desperate need for wanting to build a history, one things that they have been taunted for by opposing big 4 fans for having a bare trophy cabinet.

But this competition may play into their hands now that they've been eliminated. Just like our five senses, when one goes another improves. One competition is over for Chelsea, more focus can be paid on the other 3. And being that the second leg of the Carling Cup semi finals are played during the African Cup of Nations, and the first so close to the start of the competition, Chelsea players may already be on their way. These are two fixtures Chelsea wouldn't appreciate, having to make changes to their first team already during their Premier League campaign with the absentees of first team regulars Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel amongst others. Chelsea's Premier League fixtures however are kind during this tournament.

Not only has that been kind to Chelsea, but the semi final draw that sees Manchester United face rivals City. Will Sir Alex Ferguson stick to his reserves in those fixtures against a City first team? It will be a tough decision, with fan pressure for him not to add a few key and experienced first team players to those fixtures, that potentially upsetting his plans for the league in January. The good news for United is these fixtures come either side of games with bottom half and relegation-threatened sides, which may allow him to put stronger sides out in the cup without dropping points in the league. Although a weakened side at home to Sunderland earlier this season dropped 2 points and Ferguson cannot afford to do the same again.

Manchester United have a good run of fixtures between now and their Carling Cup fixtures which is the making of a long running streak for them to put pressure on Chelsea's lead at the top. The current leaders and Premier League favourites have a trip to Manchester City this weekend, before a run of fixtures they will be fancying their chances of maintaining and even extending their lead at the top before the African Cup of Nations in January.

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Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 29 November 2009

Can Anyone Stop Chelsea Now?

Chelsea ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at the Emirates this afternoon, with help of a brace from Didier Drogba to extend their lead back to 5 points at the top of the Premier League.

Arsenal had good spells of possession, but were unable to seriously threaten Petr Cech's goal and were made to pay, firstly when Didier Drogba scored 5 minutes before half, setup by Ashley Cole. 4 minutes later it was an Ashley Cole cross aimed for Didier Drogba that was deflected into his own net by Thomas Vermaelen. Drogba completed the scoring 5 minutes from time and left the pitch with a huge smile on his face.

His strength was clearly a difference between the two sides. Arsenal don't have a strong player like him or several of the Chelsea side who can knock players off the ball, or in Drogba's case, knock them out of their way. It seems to be what is missing from them being able to compete for the title.

This result leaves Arsenal 11 points behind Chelsea, albeit with 1 game in hand, but are their championship chances over once again before the half way point?

Chelsea look immaculate under Carlo Ancelotti, having conceded just 8 goals in 14 games this season, and 6 clean sheets in a row at home. Arsenal were aiming for 100 Premier League goals not long ago, now haven't scored in their last 2 and sit 4th in the table. Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin and very little influence in the game. Can anyone stop Chelsea when they play like this?

Birmingham won the West Midlands derby earlier today thanks to a goal from Lee Bowyer, whilst Liverpool were 2-0 winners at Everton in the Merseyside derby, moving them up into 5th.

Chelsea go to Manchester City next week aiming to end their 7 game drawing streak. Will that be another 3 points for Chelsea? Check out our Premiership Tips during the week to get our thoughts on it.

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Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tottenham Hammer Wigan 9-1 in Premier League Thrashing

Jermain Defoe and Tottenham Hotspur made a serious threat to the top 4 this afternoon by thrashing Wigan Athletic 9-1 at White Hart Lane.

Aaron Lennon's pace down the right wing caused Erik Edman endless problems in the first half as he setup Peter Crouch for the opening goal as Spurs went into half time 1-0 up.

Harry Redknapp must have given his side a strong half time team talk as they came out early for the second half pumped out. And it worked as Jermain Defore scored a hattrick in the space of 7 minutes, the 3rd after Paul Scharner with his noticable haircut had pulled one back with help from the use of his hand.

Jermain Defoe added two more late on to tie the Premier League record of 5 goals in one game (with Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer), a Chris Kirkland own goal and Niko Kranjcar in stoppage time completed the scoring as Wigan had already shut down before.

Tottenham remain 4th in the Premier League, now 7 goals behind Arsenal, and 3 points ahead of Aston Villa.

Spurs become only the second side to have scored 9 goals in a single Premier League game, with the record scoreline being Manchester United 9-0 Ispwich Town in 1995; a game in which Andrew Cole scored 5 goals in - Craig Forrest the unfortunate goalkeeper. Chris Kirkland will be grateful there are no international games for a while as he hopes to put this one behind him and produce solid performances in the future leading up to the World Cup.

Wigan's recent form has brought them back amongst the relegation contenders, now 3 points above the bottom 3, with the worst goal difference in the league. It will be interesting to see how their young manager, Roberto Martinez will bounce back from this defeat as his side host Sunderland next weekend. Sunderland's odds may be cut short after this weekend's results, but we must remember that Wigan beat Chelsea 3-1 not so long ago.

The pace of Tottenham; Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe in particular was what caused the main problems for Wigan, as we correctly predicted in our Premier League preview for this game, as we expected a comfortable win for Spurs.

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