Expert football pundit and analyst Andy Gray joins The Paddy Power Blog to give his insight on the weekend’s Barclays Premier League games as Manchester United look to go 18 points clear in the title race before Manchester City face Newcastle at home at 3pm.
Andy Gray’s exclusive treble
Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton to win: 2/1
Sunderland v Manchester United, Live Sky Sports 2, Saturday, 12.45pm
It doesn’t get any worse for Martin O’Neill. His team are on a terrible run. They’ve got just three points form the last 21 in the league. They’re struggling for form, struggling for goals, they’ve just lost Steven Fletcher their top goalscorer and one of their best players and who is upcoming? The team that are about to be crowned Champions in the next few weeks. So for Martin O’Neill it doesn’t get any worse. But sometimes it takes a game like this to turn your fortunes around. They’ll have to dig in and dig deep but this is a big ask to get something from this game. This is a Manchester United side that know they have won the title and it is just a question of what day. They are playing with confidence, playing with freedom and that makes them even more dangerous than normal.
There is not an ounce of danger that they’ll get complacent. Sir Alex Ferguson will very quickly remind his team of what happened last season if there’s any of that. United were clear, everyone thought they would win it, but then they went to Wigan and lost, they drew to Everton at home and all of a sudden Manchester City caught them. Ferguson will not allow complacency to slip in.
This looks a comfortable win for United on paper. Sunderland don’t look like they can score goals and United can keep a clean sheet every weekend. United to win to nil is 8/5.
Robin Van Persie is a due a goal for Manchester United. He has just scored back-to-back in the two games for the Netherlands last week. When that happens to a goalscorer you very quickly find the net again and he can be the first goalscorer at 3/1.
Manchester City v Newcastle, Live Setanata Sports, Saturday, 3pm
Since January when Newcastle bought four or five players in they look more like themselves, more like they did last year. For Manchester City they have probably conceded that the title is over but they have to be careful. Like United they can’t afford to coast, they can’t afford to be complacent. Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal will feel that if City slip up then they’ll be waiting to pounce. Roberto Mancini will have to keep his side focused. They will be despite that bad result against Everton when Everton beat them easily at Goodison Park, even with 10 men. Mancini has to re-focus his players and at the Etihad Stadium they are a tough team to beat. They should win this game but it won’t be easy.
Roberto Mancini has to get second. He has to start picking Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez up front. If the two lads were fit and willing to play they have to start. They are the best combination; they know each other, they like each other and they play internationally together. Roberto Mancini likes to rotate though and he could give Edin Dzeko a game.
Both teams can score at 5/6. Newcastle are showing enough goal threat to find the back of the net at City. Yaya Toure can get the City goal and score at any time at 9/5.
Arsenal v Reading, Saturday, 3pm
This is a home banker. Arsenal are focused on finishing in the top four, they’ve picked up some form since beating Bayern Munich away. They should win this goal and cover the -1 handicap at 4/6.
Southampton v Chelsea, Saturday, 3pm
If Southampton find the form they had against Liverpool they’ll be really difficult to beat but Chelsea can win this by exactly one goal at 11/4.
Swansea v Tottenham, Saturday, 3pm
The International break came at a great time for Tottenham. This game looks like a draw at 23/10 and the correct score of 2-2 might be worth a nibble at 11/1.
West Ham v West Brom, Saturday, 3pm
There won’t be many goals in this game. West Ham don’t score many and West Brom certainly don’t away from home. The Hammers can edge this one narrowly at 13/10.
Wigan v Norwich, Live Saturday, 3pm
This is a must-win game for Wigan but there won’t be many goals. Wigan have to win and they will, just about, at 10/11.
Everton v Stoke, Live ESPN, Saturday, 5.30pm
Everton have recovered from the Wigan game in the FA Cup. They were really poor that day but showed an excellent response by beating Manchester City at home. The thing David Moyes would have wanted after the City game is another game very quickly, but he has to wait two weeks.
This is a tough side to play against. Stoke don’t give you anything cheaply and you have to earn every little bit against them. Stoke’s away form is really poor. Only one win away from the Britannia in the Premier League this season shows you how difficult they find it. But they do draw a lot of games and so do Everton. People don’t often back the draw but you’d do a lot worse in this case at 14/5.
Nikica Jelavic got a goal against Manchester City and he’d been struggling for goals. But look at van Persie, he hadn’t scored for ages and then got back-to-back goals for his country. Don’t be surprised if Jelavic opens the scoring at 5/1.
There won’t be many goals in this, and there should be fewer than 2.5 goals at 4/6, but Everton can just nick it at 8/15.
Aston Villa v Liverpool, Live Sky Sports 1, Sunday 1.30pm
This is a massive game for Aston Villa but Liverpool have an incentive. They want to catch Everton for the bragging rights on Merseyside. Liverpool are very close to Everton so they won’t want to slip up. They’ll want to respond to that really poor performance against Southampton last time out. They were really awful and Southampton beat them easily. Aston Villa have won back-to-back games for the first time since Gerard Houllier was there so that was a huge couple of weeks for Paul Lambert.
This will be a really exciting game with plenty of goals. It is the type of game that could be a high-scoring draw. Villa winning three games on the spin is very difficult but it is hard to see them losing this match either. This game will be open, attractive, with plenty of chances. It could be a very entertaining high-scoring draw. The correct score of 2-2 is worth a pop at 11/1.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Cristian Benteke scoring first at 6/1 or Luis Suarez opening the scoring at 4/1.
Fulham v QPR, Live Sky Sports 1, Monday, 8pm
Both sides will fancy themselves here so it could have plenty of goals again. The two teams could score at Craven Cottage at 4/6. Harry Redknapp’s side have done alright, but they have done alright getting draws and this could be another one at 5/2. Fulham are not strong enough at the moment to think they can win all of their games, even at home, but they should still get a point. A point is fine for Fulham but it might not be good enough for QPR. This looks like a score draw.