ARSENAL VS MANCHESTER UNITED
SUNDAY – 4.00PM, SKY SPORTS 1
THE next few weeks are absolutely crucial for Arsenal in their battle to win the Premier League title for the first time since 2004/05. They were disappointing at Stoke last weekend and although they hit the woodwork twice at Villa Park on Wednesday night, they didn’t really deserve more than a point. Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are their next three opponents and they will be desperate to start with a bang against United on Sunday.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side received a boost in midweek by beating their local rivals Manchester City to make it to the Carling Cup Final. That was an emotional game for the Red Devils and will surely have taken something out of them. However, perhaps a bigger worry for Ferguson might be that his team have taken just one point from their last six away league games at the Big Four.
Arsenal lost at Old Trafford earlier this season, but their home record – both this season and in recent games against United – is very strong. They’ve only dropped four points at the Emirates so far this campaign, have never lost here to United in the league and have only tasted defeat once against them in their last nine home league games (W4-D4-L1). United, while also being strong at home this term, have been disappointing on their travels, losing four of their 11 league games.
We have seen all season that games involving Arsenal tend to be high scoring – Wednesday’s goalless draw apart. This is also the case in games between these two clubs in North London with 10 of the 13 league meetings since Arsene Wenger took control producing three or more goals. The Gunners have also only kept one clean sheet in their last 10 home matches against Big Four opposition across all competitions.
The stats point to a high scoring Arsenal victory, but another bet to be had is for there to be more goals scored in the second half at 11/10. That has been the case in seven of the last eight league meetings between these sides. Another interesting fact is that in all three league contests here there has been a goal scored in the 90th minute. Spread bettors may therefore be interested in buying the time of the last match goal at 68 minutes with Sporting Index.
It’s not my type of bet, but William Gallas has scored more goals against United than any other Arsenal player and he is a 33/1 chance to score first on Sunday.
Arsenal to win at 6/4 with Boylesports
Second half to be highest scoring half at 11/10 general
Buy total match goals at 2.7 with Sporting Index
BIRMINGHAM VS TOTTENHAM
TOMORROW – 3.00PM
BIRMINGHAM go into tomorrow’s match against Tottenham after suffering their first loss in 16 games at Chelsea on Wednesday night. It’s been an incredible run by Alex McLeish’s side and they are now practically certain to stay up, and could well sneak a European place. There is no disgrace in losing at Stamford Bridge but McLeish will be eager to avoid back-to-back defeats.
Harry Redknapp will have been pleased to see his side pick up their first league win of 2010 against Fulham in midweek, but with recent draws at home against Leeds and Hull, as well as a defeat at Liverpool, confidence probably isn’t as high as it was. St Andrews isn’t an easy place to go this season and the last time the Blues tasted defeat on home turf was against Bolton way back in September.
All looks set for a tight contest between these top-half sides and a bet on no goalscorer at 8/1 with Boylesports seems decent value. There have been three nil-nils at St Andrews so far this season and it is the ground which has seen by far the fewest goals in the league. In 11 games there have only been 15 goals and the Blues have conceded two goals on only one occasion.
Birmingham have set out their stall to frustrate the top sides at home this season and it has worked. They have drawn with Man United, Chelsea and Man City at St Andrews so far this campaign and only two goals were scored in those three games.
The outright market is interesting in this one as Spurs are priced at around 11/8 with the Blues as big as 9/4. I’d rather be with the home side at those prices, but the draw is obviously a big runner. For those reasons I’d be happier to back no goalscorer and also wouldn’t put anyone off laying Spurs on Betdaq at around 11/8.
No goalscorer at 8/1 with Boylesports
Sell total match goals at 2.4 with Sporting Index
MANCHESTER CITY VS PORTSMOUTH
SUNDAY – 1.30PM, SKY SPORTS 1
ROBERTO Mancini was understandably deflated after Wednesday night’s rollercoaster ride against local rivals Man United. His side battled throughout the two legs, but were caught out by sloppy defending in the end. They are desperate to end a trophy-less 34 years, but now have to rely on the FA Cup if they are to get the United fans to bring down that banner.
A Champions League spot is still firmly on the agenda, though, and Mancini couldn’t have wished for an easier fixture than Portsmouth at home after the United defeat. Pompey are languishing at the foot of the table and although Avram Grant has brought a small semblance of stability to Fratton Park, he will have to be a miracle worker to avoid the drop. Some of his players will also remember the 6-0 hammering dished out to them at Eastlands last season.
Man City have won 16 of their last 20 home games with eight of those victories coming by at least two goals. They have also won six of their last eight home contests against bottom-six opposition since the start of last season with four coming by two or more goals.
Going back to the tail end of last season, Pompey have lost 10 and won only one of their last 14 away games in the league, their solitary victory against Wolves. Six of those defeats have come by a minimum of two goals. They have also lost their last six visits to top-six opponents and the three this season have all been settled by the half-time / full-time double result.
Man City HT / FT at 10/11 on Betdaq
Buy Man City supremacy at 1.8 with Sporting Index