Chance to steal march

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2005, 12:00am

Seven Premiership matches top the bill in midweek, along with the conclusion of the Champions League qualifying stages and the Intertoto Cup.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton are all in European action - hence the shortened Premiership list. That gives Chelsea and Arsenal the chance to steal a march in the title race, and they should have no problem taking advantage by scoring comfortable home wins over West Brom and Fulham respectively.

Chelsea managed only a 1-0 win over West Brom last March, but at least a two-goal margin can be expected this time. Chelsea put at least three goals past bottom-half teams in six out of 10 clashes last season, and this is their first chance to let rip this season.

Arsenal rate as a firm banker against Fulham, who lost to the Gunners by an aggregate of 5-0 last season and have since sold top keeper Edwin van der Sar. A stupendous display by the Dutchman at Highbury two seasons ago earned Fulham their only point in eight Premiership attempts against Arsenal, and his departure has removed one of their main strengths. Expect Arsenal to win by two goals or more, with high goals another way to play.

At the other end of the scale, the bet that appeals most at this stage is low goals between Blackburn and Tottenham. This fixture tends to be low-scoring, with seven of the 11 Premiership meetings at Ewood Park featuring two goals or fewer. Manchester City will be well worth considering on the handicap at Sunderland if they can continue Stuart Pearce's good start at Birmingham first, while another misfiring display by the Birmingham attack would open the way for stubborn Middlesbrough to land another handicap bet at St Andrews in midweek.

Recommended bets: Arsenal, Middlesbrough and Manchester City on handicap. Low goals - Blackburn v Tottenham.