City set to bounce back from derby disaster against shaky Magpies

NEWCASTLE
MANCHESTER CITY

Tomorrow 12.45pm

IT WAS always going to be difficult for Manchester United fans to wipe the smile off their local rivals’ faces following the dramatic finale to last season. However, they did a pretty good job of it at the Etihad last Sunday with Robin van Persie’s injury-time winner inflicting Manchester City’s first defeat of the season and first home league reverse in almost two years.

Roberto Mancini praised his team for showing the character to come back from 2-0 down. But privately he would have been fuming with Gael Clichy’s naivety to give the ball away and absolutely furious with Samir Nasri’s game of hide and seek in a three-man wall.

It was another example of City’s poor defending this season that has marred a number of their league performances and nearly all of their Champions League efforts. A six-point gap is hardly insurmountable but the Italian will know full well that his side can’t give away any more points to United, and that starts with tomorrow’s lunchtime kick-off at St James’ Park.

Newcastle, one of the stories of last season, are in the middle of a rocky patch. Aside from a home win against a struggling Wigan side earlier this month, the Magpies have lost their other five most recent Premier League games, none of which have come against a team currently in the top seven.

Alan Pardew has done a tremendous job on Tyneside but he has been crippled by injuries and suspensions to his squad and criticism is starting to surface about the strength in depth at his disposal. A fixture against the current champions, angered by the derby defeat, wouldn’t be high up Pardew’s Christmas wish-list and the wounded animal theory could be felt in full force tomorrow.

City really should have taken a point from last weekend’s match and although it’s been a disappointing campaign so far, there is still a long way to go. I fully expect them to bounce back in this one and they are worth a decent bet at 4/6 with Coral in a fixture they simply can’t afford to fail to win.

Mario Balotelli was desperately disappointing against United and he is likely to make way for Carlos Tevez who turned the game for City. The Argentinian is in good form and he is worth backing at 9/2 with Coral to score the first goal.

Correct score punters should snap up the 15/2 Coral offer about a 2-1 away victory as you can’t confidently back City not to concede at the moment. Sporting Index’s total goals quote of 2.8-3 looks bang on the money.

Pointers…

Manchester City at 4/6 with Coral
Carlos Tevez first goalscorer at 9/2 with Coral
Manchester City to win 2-1 at 15/2 with Coral

WEST BROM
WEST HAM

Sunday 4.00pm

JUST a few weeks ago West Brom were sitting pretty in the Champions League places and although they’ve now slipped to sixth after three straight defeats, Baggies fans can hardly be disappointed with where they stand approaching Christmas.

That said, Steve Clarke will be wary of slipping any further and the next three games against West Ham, Norwich and QPR give them decent opportunities to pick up points.

It looked for a long time in West Ham’s game against Liverpool last Sunday that they were going to follow up the previous weekend’s home victory against Chelsea. However, two late goals gave the Reds the points and confined the Hammers to their third defeat in four.

In fairness to Sam Allardyce’s men, they are in the middle of a horrible run and there is no disgrace in losing to Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool. A trip to the Hawthorns isn’t going to be easy for them, although they do offer some value at 11/4 with Coral.

The Baggies have an excellent home record this campaign with six wins from eight games and there will be plenty of people willing to take the even money generally on offer. I’m not one of them, though, and I find these sides difficult to split in the outright market.

The draw is a definite runner at 12/5 with Coral, but a more sensible bet is to back both teams to score at 8/11 with the same firm.

West Brom have found the net in all but one of their home matches this term and with both of these sides conceding plenty in recent weeks, it looks like a game where the goalkeepers will be kept busy.

For that reason I’m also going to buy total goals at 2.8 with Sporting Index.

Pointers…

Both teams to score at 8/11 with Coral
Buy total goals at 2.8 with Sporting Index

READING
ARSENAL

Monday 8.00pm

IT’S BEEN a week to forget for Arsenal and their season is quickly sliding into a full-blown disaster.

Tuesday’s defeat to League Two Bradford City in the Capital One Cup could have been passed off had Arsene Wenger’s men been sitting pretty in the Premier League. However, a poor start to the season sees the Gunners in seventh place and any aspirations of winning a first league title since 2003-2004 have gone.

Therefore, it was no surprise to see Wenger play a full-strength team at Valley Parade as he bid for the club’s first trophy in eight years. The Frenchman’s admission after the penalty defeat that he wasn’t embarrassed at the loss only infuriated supporters, who are running out of patience with his management style.

Reading are in no great shape themselves and memories of their Championship win last term look a distant memory. Brian McDermott’s side have struggled for creativity and their marquee summer signing, Pavel Pogrebnyak, has failed to deliver up front. Adam Le Fondre is another striker guilty of wastefulness.

However, despite losing nine of their 16 games so far, the Royals have been a tough nut to crack at the Madejski Stadium. Only Tottenham and Manchester United have got the better of them on home turf in seven games. They’ve drawn four of the other five and I can see that trend continuing when they host Arsenal on Monday night.

The Gunners’ new attack hasn’t set the world alight and I don’t predict many goals. A sell of total goals at 3.1 with Sporting Index is advised and Coral’s 7/1 for the 1-1 correct score makes appeal in what could be a cagey encounter.

Pointers…

Draw at 3/1 on Betfair
1-1 correct score at 7/1 with Coral
Sell total goals at 3.1 with Sporting Index