Expert football pundit and analyst Andy Gray joins The Paddy Power Blog to give his insight on the weekend’s Premier League games that could see Manchester United go 15 points clear in the title race if they beat QPR before Manchester City play Chelsea on Sunday.
Andy Gray’s weekend treble:
Arsenal, Everton and Reading to win: 13/2 [CLICK TO TWEET]
Fulham v Stoke, Live Sky Sports 2, Saturday 12.45pm
Both teams have had strange seasons. They both started reasonably well but over the last couple of months they’ve not been in the best form. Stoke have had great home form, especially at the start of the season, they weren’t conceding many goals, the goalkeeper was playing very well and teams were finding it hard to get past them. The one thing that Tony Pulis hasn’t been able to address is their away form. Since they came up they’ve really struggled on the road to get results consistently and to get wins. If this game had been at the Britannia you would be looking at a different scoreline. But at Craven Cottage Fulham deserve to be favourites at 6/5.
Fulham were decent at home at the start of the season but they have sort of lost their way since Christmas and the turn of the year. This is a wonderful opportunity because they need to start picking up points and going the other way. They’ve been dropping down the table too often and too quickly now. Martin Jol will be looking at this game and saying to the lads, ‘Come on. We’ve got 12 games left, let’s finish stronger, take that form into the summer and come back next season feeling good’. This is a really good chance to make a statement. Fulham should win this at 6/5 and cover the minus one-goal handicap at 10/3.
Manchester City v Chelsea, Live Sky Sports 1, Sunday, 1.30pm
City have only lost one league game at the Etihad and that was Robin van Persie’s late winner for Manchester United. That apart they are a very difficult side to beat at home. City won’t lose this game and there won’t be many goals in it. This will be a tough affair and could be a real war of attrition. The way Chelsea are playing, they’re not brilliant but they get the job done occasionally despite not being great. They have good attacking players but Rafa Benitez will probably rotate them here. You need to be strong playing City in the Etihad so Chelsea can’t be too lightweight. Chelsea will set their stall out to be difficult to play against and difficult to beat. It will be tough to get goals but City can shade it and 1-0 is a good bet at 7/1.
A Chelsea win means they are right on the coat-tails of Manchester City. But a City win means that Tottenham, and maybe Arsenal and Everton, are right on the coat-tails of Chelsea. This is a huge game for Chelsea because there was a bit of a gap between them and the rest but that gap is closing now. Rafa Benitez will be very aware of this and that is what makes this game so big. Whoever wins it gives them a really bit of distance between whoever is chasing them but if you lose you’re under pressure. City put in probably one of their best performances in the FA Cup against Leeds and they can take that confidence into this game.
Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero are City’s best front men. Aguero can get the winner in this game after a good performance last week and he is 5/1 to score first.
Arsenal v Aston Villa, Saturday, 3pm
This is a huge game for both teams. Arsenal surely can’t lose their third game in a row at the Emirates. That would be unthinkable for Arsene Wenger, the fans and the players. They will be nervy and anxious but they should still just edge this one. Arsenal can win narrowly at 4/11 or by one goal at 13/5 with Paddy Power.
Norwich v Everton, Saturday, 3pm
Everton are in decent form and should win at 23/20. Worryingly Nikika Jelavic seems to have lost his goal touch. When he isn’t on form they don’t really have a replacement. Victor Anichebe isn’t bad but he isn’t an out-and-out goalscorer and could be a doubt. The Toffees do lack a cutting edge at the moment but for me Everton will win.
QPR v Manchester United, Saturday, 3pm
United are the bankers of the weekend. QPR went to Chelsea and won 1-0, they’ve drawn with Tottenham recently but they were massive shocks. They will make life difficult with Manchester United because they will defend in numbers and they won’t look to go forward to often because they won’t want to get exposed. Every way you look at it the game screams ‘Manchester United’. We’re getting into the last 12 games now and Fergie doesn’t want to give Manchester City even a glimpse that United are weakening. He wants to put his foot on the accelerator and get the job done. If that means going and beating one of his old mates who is in trouble, Harry Redknapp, then he will. This will be a comfortable win for Manchester United. They are playing well, they’re playing with confidence. They aren’t a brilliant side but they get the job done and they’ll beat QPR at 8/15.
Ferguson has four strikers and the opportunity to rotate them. He has no problems if one or two of them are injured because he has such quality available. He relates it to 1999 when he had four great strikers who helped him to that famous treble and it could happen again this year. Who knows whether they could? Certainly at that end of the pitch they are very well served with four really quality footballers. He could pick any two of them and United will still win comfortably. They should cover the one goal handicap at 7/5.
Reading v Wigan, Saturday, 3pm
There will be so many goals here it could be a goal-glut! Reading should win at 6/4, they are conceding a few but they will definitely get goals. Their form in the last eight or nine games is fantastic and that should continue. It could be a five-gaol thriller with Reading winning 3-2 at 22/1.
West Brom v Sunderland, Saturday 3pm
There won’t be many goals here. West Brom are struggling in the second half of the season and when Sunderland go away from home they are very hard to beat. They are dogged and determined and difficult to beat. Saying that West Brom can shade it at 11/10.
Newcastle v Southampton, Sunday, 1.30pm
Newcastle have turned a corner thanks to the business Alan Pardew did in January. He has integrated them in to the side well and got a fantastic result in the Europa League on Thursday. Southampton will score because they seem to always score. They have a happy knack of scoring and they are playing some nice football. With the Toon Army behind them Newcastle should win though at 11/10.
West Ham v Tottenham, Monday, 8pm
Tottenham had to put in a very good shift on Thursday against Lyon but they have had till Monday so they should be OK. It is just a short flight from Lyon so they shouldn’t have had too much disruption. West Ham have to get something here because Sam Allardyce is under a bit of pressure. There is talk of unrest amongst some supporters and they are on a dismal away run. But this is at Upton Park and West Ham are a very different side there. This will be an entertaining game though and we should get goals. Over 2.5 goals is a good bet at 5/6 as is both teams to score at 4/6. The correct score of 2-2 might be worth a punt as well at 11/1.
Spurs are rightly favourites but they are missing Jermain Defoe. They lack a cutting edge when he doesn’t play and that was evident against Lyon. If he misses out again the pressure is on the other Tottenham players like Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Gareth Bale to get the goals. West Ham can get something here and the draw is appealing at 23/10.