Another weekend in the Premier League, another huge Sunday as four of the top six lock horns over the course of what may be a pivotal few hours in the race for the title and Champions League qualification places. The team currently placed fifth, Everton, make their move on Monday when they will be the first opponents in the Premier League management career of new Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino, who replaced the deposed Nigel Adkins in highly controversial circumstances yesterday.
Adkins can regard himself extremely hard done by to have been sacked less than 48 hours after taking a point at the home of the champions of Europe, and on a wider scale being the architect for the revival of one of this country’s iconic football clubs. The Liverpudlian dragged the South Coast club up from their knees and back to the division in which the club feel they belong.
His successor Pochettino will therefore arrive at St. Mary’s amidst hostility from all angles, though his recent top-level playing reputation and good record at his previous job as boss of Espanyol may arguably provide the Saints with more clout, both commercially and in the transfer window, than Adkins could ever have provided. That is no substitute for success on the pitch, however, and the Argentine may well struggle initially to impose his fresh ideas on the Saints players. For that reason, Everton, who seem to have finally mastered the art of keeping a clean sheet, can complete a trio of Sunday and Monday away wins.
Manchester United can be heartened by the unfortunate news of Sandro’s abscence for the remainder of Tottenham’s season. The beefy Brazilian has been a rock in the heart of the Spurs midfield in this midfield and Andre Villas-Boas’s men will be weakened in his abscence, especially with likely replacements Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone undercooked.
A defensive steel is steadily returning to United’s play, and returning ex-Lilywhite Michael Carrick, along with partner-in-crime Tom Cleverly can overpower a Sandro-less Spurs if they replicate their performance from last week’s victory over Liverpool. Or the first 60 minutes of it, at least.
Arsenal are a value bet to claim a second successive victory at Stamford Bridge against stricken Chelsea. Home victories are fast becoming a collectors item for Blues fans, with the midweek Southampton draw surely sealing their title fate. Even if the West London club win all of their remaining league games – which they almost certainly won’t – they will finish the season on 90 points. United finished second last season on 89 points, and that was an inferior model to the one that can now boast the irrespressible Robin van Persie in their ranks season.
The flying Dutchman destroyed Chelsea in an Arsenal shirt last season and of course won’t be available to the Gunners tomorrow, yet Jack Wilshere is returning to his best and Theo Walcott has the pace to trouble a ponderous Chelsea defence that are shipping too many goals of late. Laurent Koscielny will be a miss, but Arsene Wenger has the defensive strength in depth and can be pleased by his side’s character in returning to winning ways against Swansea in the week after their non-match against Man City last weekend.
It’s been two months since freefalling Wigan last won at the DW Stadium, and improving Sunderland can extend the Latics’ home misery by picking up at least a point today. The Fletcher-Johnson-Sessegnon trident is finally starting to show its obvious sparkle and if captain John O’Shea can overcome a late fitness test then that can be even more of a boost for Martin O’Neill and company.
Five of the last seven matches between West Brom and Aston Villa have finished in a 2-1 scoreline and the Baggies can oblige in that respect again tonight. Villa’s problems are well-documented but they do score regularly on the road – its just the other end which is the issue.
Steve Clarke has enjoyed seven wins already at the Hawthorns this season in the league, and in-form Romelu Lukaku can propel his boys to victory number eight against their Midlands rivals. Place your bet in a Coral shop if you can, ask they are refunding stakes on losing correct score bets on televised games if the actual scoreline is the reverse i.e. if Villa win 2-1 you would get your money back.
TOP FIVE PREMIER LEAGUE BETS
1) Everton to beat Southampton 21/20 (William Hill)
2) Manchester United to beat Tottenham 6/4 (BetVictor)
3) Arsenal to beat Chelsea 10/3 (Betfred)
4) Sunderland 0 (Asian Handicap) 15/8 (188Bet)
5) West Brom to beat Aston Villa 2-1 7/1 (Coral)
Elsewhere in the Premier League this season, Daniel Sturridge aims to build on his positive start for Liverpool in his home debut against Norwich today. His former club Manchester City can close the gap on their bitter title rivals United today with a home win against struggling Fulham.
Michael Laudrup and Tony Pulis will no doubt have plenty of chances to discuss the future of Kenwyne Jones when Swansea and Stoke meet at the Liberty meet at the Liberty today, while QPR fans will get their first opportunity to see new star signing Loic Remy in action against West Ham in a Loftus Road London derby.
The club Remy jilted meanwhile, Newcastle, host a Reading side with their tails up after an unlikely comeback victory over West Brom late last Saturday.
Written by Emelie Okeke
Follow him on Twitter @Emelie_Okeke
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