Gunners bid to extend Boro mastery
Little reason to believe Arsenal have lost tag as most dangerous away team in Premiership
Head-to-head records should never be ignored in football betting, and one of the most profitable to follow in recent years has been Arsenal's dominance over Middlesbrough. That is just one reason to back Arsenal when they visit the Riverside for tonight's late live game against Boro.
Arsene Wenger's team have won all 10 meetings between the teams when it has mattered in the past four seasons - that includes eight league games and two FA Cup clashes, which Arsenal are always keen to win, and excludes a League Cup semi-final when Boro won both legs but against a largely second-string Arsenal side.
Most of Arsenal's 10 wins have been conclusive - they have scored at least four goals in five games, and won by at least two goals on seven occasions.
Boro have failed to score in six of the 10 games.
Arsenal have lost their only away game this season, but that was at Chelsea, and there is no reason to believe that they have lost their tag as the most dangerous away team in the Premiership. They controlled possession for long periods against Chelsea and, granted similar ball tonight, can be expected to cause serious damage.
Boro have been disappointing. After drawing blanks against Liverpool and Spurs, they appeared to have found their form with a 3-0 win at Birmingham, where Mark Viduka was excellent. But then they lost by the same score at home to Charlton, whose fast counter-attacks exposed the lack of pace in the Boro defence.
Arsenal are sure to take advantage if the same cracks appear tonight, but Steve McClaren will have taken steps to repair the problem, and this could well follow the pattern of last season's meeting at the Riverside, which was 1-0 to Arsenal.
It used to be said that Manchester United had cast a spell over local rivals City, but that is no longer the case and tonight's derby at Old Trafford is not easy to weigh up. A City win looks unlikely, but the draw rates fairly high (as it often does for derby matches) and United don't look the safest bet, even if they are likely winners.
The bet of the weekend in the Premiership is Everton, at home to Portsmouth.
Everton are one of the most effective home teams against bottom-half opposition, dating back to David Moyes' arrival as manager 31/2 years ago, while Portsmouth remain a poor away side.
Tottenham Hotspur rate as the next-best home bet, through a combination of their own strong home form under Martin Jol and Liverpool's poor away record.
Liverpool did draw on both visits to Spurs last season, but they remain an away team to take on for now. The safe play is Spurs on the handicap.
Newcastle are the other highly rated home team this weekend, though the fact that they have failed to score in four games this season (even at home against 10-man West Ham) reduces confidence in their ability to beat Fulham.
Newcastle are always short odds and they won't be any shorter for this sort of match in future, so it might be better to judge Michael Owen's impact before regarding Newcastle as a safe bet.
Best homes: Everton, Newcastle, Spurs.
Best aways: Arsenal.
High goals: Chelsea v Sunderland.
Low goals: Middlesbrough v Arsenal.
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