Christmas is coming and along with it, frozen pitches, fixture congestion and a slew of injuries and suspensions to players who want to be spending Christmas with their families and not holed away in a hotel somewhere preparing for the Boxing Day games.
But we’ve still got 22 days to go and a whole host of fixtures to get through before you get to open your presents under the tree so let’s get started.
As always, please don’t expect these selections to be “bang on” and make you money, that’s why there are professional tipsters who can help you out. My job is to entertain and inform (a bit).
Newcastle v Chelsea – 12.45
Last weeks draw at Old Trafford showed how far Newcastle have come, ok, they needed a dodgy penalty decision to get there but you won’t hear any Newcastle fans complaining.
Chelsea eased to a 3-0 win against Wolves before losing mideweek against Liverpool, Andre Villa-Boas keeps saying his job is safe but we’ve heard that before and unless Chelsea start to see a turnaround in results then his job will be under even more threat.
Chelsea are still missing the highly influential Michael Essien, early January can’t come quick enough for Blues fans as that’s when he is expected to return. Until then Chelsea will have to make do with what they have, unfortunately what they have is an ageing side unsuited to playing the high-line, pressing game their boss wanted to bring in from his Porto days.
Just as I could see Newcastle getting a point at Old Trafford, I can see a similar result here, Demba Ba should have some fun against a back line containing Terry and Luiz as those two still haven’t managed to get a partnership working yet.
Blackburn v Swansea – 15.00
Blackburn admitted that they threw in the towel against Cardiff midweek as they wanted to “concentrate on the league”, with an attitude like that, it’s no wonder the League Cup has lost some it’s shine. I’m not sure concentrating on the league is going to help them in any way, adrift by a couple of points at the bottom of the table and four points (and a considerable goal difference) away from safety, the Carling Cup could have given them a chance to get into a morale boosting final.
Swansea have yet another injury problem in defence, this time it’s their right back Angel Rangel who has picked up a problem expected to keep him out for a while, if you thought Angel Rangel was a great name, his replacement Jazz Richards will put a smile on your face. Long term absentee Steven Caulker has apparently been deemed fit enough to play but with Williams and Monk forming a good partnership in the middle of defence, Caulker may have to settle for a place on the bench. Joining him on the bench might be top-scorer Danny Graham who is a doubt with an ankle injury.
Swansea have drawn their last two league matches and I expect another draw on the road here for them.
Manchester City v Norwich – 15.00
Last weeks draw against Liverpool showed that City are not completely invincible, they struggled against a Liverpool side that gave very little room to Aguero and Silva, with both having quiet games. Normal service resumed in the midweek Carling Cup game against Arsenal, putting City through to the semi-finals.
Grant Holt came on as a sub to score the goal that gave Norwich all three points against Q.P.R. last weekend but everyone involved with the side from Carrow Road will know that this weeks game will be significantly tougher. Paul Lambert has put together a side that works hard for each other and they will need every ounce of team spirit to come away with any kind of result here.
Odds are far too short on Man City to consider putting a bet on for them here but I do expect them to get all three points from this game.
Q.P.R. v West Bromwich Albion – 15.00
Both of these sides are coming off defeats and will be looking to get back to winning ways, obviously that will leave at least one side disappointed.
Radek Cerny is expected to continue to deputize for the injured Paddy Kenny in goal and you have to think that West Brom are going to keep him busy.
Albion matched Tottenham for long periods last weekend and arguably should have come away with something from the game, their well organized display should give them hope coming into this game and I can see them being the happier of the two sides come the final whistle.
You can find odds of around 3.4 for an away win here and that’s where I’ll be going with my first bet of the weekend.
Tottenham v Bolton – 15.00
Spurs have been a little fortunate recently with penalty calls going in their favour and goals being scored at important moments in games, their luck ran out against a vibrant PAOK side in the Europa League on Wednesday and even though it was mostly a skeleton side, they did end the game with several first team regulars on the field.
Since winning at Stoke, Bolton have once again struggled, failing to pick up any points against West Brom and everton in recent matches, Owen Coyle knows that with his sides current injury crisis, they need reinforcements in January and he just needs to get as many points as he can between now and then to keep them in contention.
I understand that Rafael Van Der Vaart has recovered from his hamstring strain and is expected to start up front with Adebayor, Jermaine Defoe will be disappointed that he is likely to once again drop to the bench but with Van der Vaart unlikely to last the full 90, defoe will get his chance against tiring legs later on in the game.
Bolton will be missing David Wheater after his sending off last season but they do have some strength in depth in that area of the park, it’s more the midfield area where injuries have been so crucial. Reo-Coker and Muamba will provide a combative test to the Spurs midfield but I expect the home sides greater class to come through eventually, picking up three points that could temporarily move them into second place.
Wigan v Arsenal – 15.00
Wigans win at Sunderland was enough to cost Steve Bruce his job and disappoint those who had money on Martinez winning the “sack race”. One win isn’t enough to take the pressure off though and they are still stuck in the bottom 3, effectively three points away from safety.
Arsenal have had their worst start to a season in years and yet they are still only 5 points off third spot, Arsene Wenger has done very well coping with a long list of injuries and a side put together in a bit of a rush. Some of the new signings have bedded down better than others and as their familiarity with their team mates improves, so will their chances of finishing the season in the top four.
Arsenal are still missing a host of injured players with seven possible first teamers in the treatment room, I still think they have enough about them to put Wigan to the sword here and obviously so do the bookies as they have a tight grip on the odds.
Aston Villa v Manchester United – 17.30
Villa will be looking to end a run of two games without a win here but they are up against a United side trying to stay in the title hunt.
With a draw last weekend against Newcastle and a loss in the Carling Cup midweek, Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking to get back on track and a visit to one of his sides favourite hunting grounds looks to be tailor made for the occasion.
The Red Devils have only picked up more points at Old Trafford and Goodison Park in the Premiership era so a trip to Villa Park will not faze them too much.
Villa will be hoping that Stilian Petrov will be fit for this game, his influence in midfield will be crucial if they hope to get anything from this game. The Villa strike force of Bent and Agbonlahor will be looking to take advantage of any indecision in the United backline which will be missing both of the Da Silva brothers, not that either has been a regular so far this season.
Nemanja Vidic scored in both league games against Villa last season and he will continue to be a threat at set pieces in this game.
United odds for this match look positively generous at 1.7 and I’ll be sticking a cheeky tenner on that myself.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know via the comments box below.