For all the exciting build up to last weekend’s fixtures, many of the matches turned out to be dull spectacles with disappointingly unsurprising results. In the most anticipated matches, United looked comfortable for most of the match when dispatching Liverpool, while City were easy victors against Arsenal after Laurent Koscielny had been sent off early in the game. So looking at the table going into this weekend, the two Manchester clubs have distanced themselves further from the also-rans, with Chelsea hanging onto their coattails six points adrift of second place and a depressing thirteen points off top spot. So on Sunday, for the good of the league, let’s hope that Tottenham can claim three points against Man United and thus complete the double over them, having beaten them already at Old Trafford earlier this season.
For the good of our pockets however, we’re going to have a look at a 12/1 treble, kicking off at the DW Stadium where Wigan host a rejuvenated Sunderland side, who have been quite good this season in beating the teams around them at the lower end of the table. Since December, they have recorded important wins against West Ham, Fulham, Reading and Southampton, consequently improving their league position steadily. Both sides have only 4 days to recover from their Tuesday night FA Cup replays, but whereas a weakened Wigan side overcame Bournemouth, Sunderland had an altogether different experience as their full strength team succumbed 2-0 at home to Championship side Bolton. However a major boost for the Black Cats during this game was the substitute appearance of Lee Cattermole and he should return to the team against Wigan at the weekend and he should bolster their defensive play even further. Contrarily, centre-back Ivan Ramis has suffered a knee-ligament injury and is out for the rest of the season for Wigan. Sunderland, erratic as they may be, have been strong in recent games against bottom-half teams, and I will be backing them at 5/2 to win.
Chelsea are another team who had to play during the week, registering a miserable draw against Southampton on Wednesday evening. They face another tough test on Sunday when they welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge. The Blues’ away form has been outstanding of late, culminating last week with a 4-0 thumping of home rulers Stoke City. Their home form has been less consistent. Having knocked eight past Aston Villa, their next home game proved a goalless outing for the Blues and they fell victim to a Shaun Wright-Phillips goal and dropping two points against Southampton is hardly ideal. The shrewd purchasing of Demba Ba should reduce the chances of more fruitless endeavours and he will prove a handful for the weakened Arsenal defence if he once again starts ahead of Fernando Torres. Along with Koscielny, who is absent through suspension, Mikel Arteta will be sorely missed by the Gunners for this game as he is injured. Abou Diaby made a welcome return to the team and he will have his work cut out in his defensive-midfield position if he is to hinder the influence of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and the evergreen Frank Lampard. Arsenal’s performances against stronger opposition is notoriously bad, they haven’t picked up a single point from their meetings with the top three teams this season, so I’m sticking with Chelsea at 5/6 to pick up the three points.
Our three bets this weekend are all spread out, so far one from Saturday, one from Sunday and to round it up, we’re looking at the Monday night game when Southampton take on Everton at St. Mary’s. The home side are unbeaten in their last five matches, recording notable draws against Fulham, Stoke, Arsenal and Chelsea and beating Aston Villa but I think this good run will come to an end when the Toffees come to town. The away side were very unlucky not to beat Swansea at the weekend, Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic looking particularly dangerous but just failing to score. With Kevin Mirallas on the brink of return after a long spell out with injury, the situation for David Moyes’ side is only looking rosy. If the manager can hold on to his big Belgian afro-man during the January transfer window, Everton should be playing European football next season and they can continue on this prosperous road on Monday night with victory over Southampton. They are priced at even money to do so.