Visitors hold the upper hand

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 12:00am

The home sides should find the going tough tonight when they play host to some in-form teams

The better bets on tonight's Premiership programme appear to be on the away teams, with home bankers difficult to find.

Manchester City are in terrible form and look set for another defeat at home to Liverpool, who beat Bolton comfortably on Boxing Day and have a fairly solid record on the road (two wins and three draws in their last five away games).

Another good away bet is Fulham, who travel to Aston Villa having moved back up to fourth place on Boxing Day with a 2-0 home win over Southampton. Fulham's recent form is patchy but four points from their games at Manchester United and Arsenal is proof of their dangerous quality on the road and their price is too big to ignore.

Villa are in better form now and have a good home record, but they remain suspect against good attacking sides who can outscore them, and Fulham certainly fit the bill.

Charlton can also be fancied to get at least a point at Tottenham, where they have never lost in four Premiership visits (one win and three draws, though it took a late goal to deny them a second successive victory there last season). Spurs are a decent home side but they haven't beaten an in-form side at White Hart Lane this season (their wins under David Pleat have come against Everton, Villa, Manchester City and Wolves).

Leeds, now unbeaten in five games after their home 0-0 with Villa, will be another popular away bet at Wolves, who have slumped again after a mini-revival and will be at least six points adrift at the bottom unless they get something from tonight's game. Leeds are not reliable enough, however, and a low-scoring draw looks a likely result.

Leicester have shown some good away form in recent weeks, scoring seven goals and collecting six points from their last three trips, and could be fancied for a win at Bolton but for their alarming tendency to throw away leads (they have done so in six of the last eight matches in which they led, losing a total of 10 points to goals scored in the last 10 minutes). Bolton's home form remains solid but they are a short price after their 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Boxing Day. A draw looks the best bet again.

The most attractively priced home team are Everton against Birmingham City, whose comeback 2-1 win over fragile Manchester City on Boxing Day cannot disguise their own poor form (just four points from their previous six games, at bottom club Wolves and against 10-man Leicester). Everton put up a decent display in their 3-2 defeat at Manchester United - their only loss in five games in December - and should be backed.

Chelsea are a solid option even at short odds at home to Portsmouth. Chelsea might be reeling after their 4-2 Boxing Day defeat at Charlton but even their current form is too good against most of their Premiership rivals and this looks a perfect opportunity to get back in the groove. Portsmouth are coming off a morale-boosting 2-0 home win over Spurs, but their away form has been dreadful since their 1-1 draw at Arsenal in September (no goals in six subsequent away games, and only one point). Their suspect defence might even allow Chelsea to hit a few goals.

Manchester United are hard to oppose in their current form but they look too short at Middlesbrough, where they have lost on their last two visits. Likewise Arsenal hold little appeal at Southampton, where they have lost 3-2 on two of their last three visits, though last season's game swung only after Sol Campbell's controversial sending-off. Arsenal hold the edge overall, having won the return fixture 6-1 and also beaten Southampton 1-0 in the FA Cup final, but a draw would not be a surprise.

Newcastle should have the edge at home to Blackburn but their recent displays inspire little confidence and Arsenal or Manchester United would make better selections at around the same odds.

Best homes: Chelsea, Everton, Newcastle.

Best aways: Fulham, Liverpool.

High goals: Chelsea v Portsmouth.

Low goals: Wolves v Leeds.

Nick Pulford's tip for a $1,000 wager on tonight's programme: $250 win on Fulham, Everton, Liverpool, Charlton.