• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:29pm

YOU BET

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am
 

This is being billed in England as Grand Slam Weekend as the 'Big Four' teams go head to head. Chelsea have the chance to narrow the gap at the top to three points when they visit Liverpool tonight, before leaders Manchester United go to Arsenal tomorrow night.


Both games are very tough to call, with home advantage for Liverpool and Arsenal largely cancelling out the superiority in overall form of Chelsea and Manchester United. In fact, any value in these matches probably lies with the home teams.


Chelsea rate at their lowest for any trip to Liverpool since Jose Mourinho became manager, which is a worrying sign for the champions given the close nature of most of their matches against Rafael Benitez's team. Chelsea won 4-1 at Anfield on their last visit in the league, but before that the record stood at one win, one draw and one defeat, with just two goals scored and each of the wins hinging on controversial incidents.


Chelsea's away league record since the start of 2006 is 11 wins, four draws, six defeats. Even allowing for the fact that two of the defeats came at the end of last season when the title was won, that record compares unfavourably with their away form in Mourinho's first season and a half of 22 wins, four draws and just two defeats.


Liverpool's strong home form (30 wins out of 38 in all competitions since Chelsea's last visit) gives them a great chance and they rate the pick on the handicap at least.


If Chelsea lose, Manchester United will have the opportunity to stretch their lead to nine points with victory at Arsenal, but the leaders also face a very difficult task.


Arsenal's record in big games has been excellent this season. They won 1-0 at United, would have repeated that result at Chelsea but for Michael Essien's wonder goal, and have beaten Liverpool three times. United have played the other 'Big Four' members only at home and have managed just one victory (against Liverpool).


United have a little to prove still, and Arsenal are the pick on the handicap. The first goal could be crucial, as Arsenal have won their last 24 at home when opening the scoring.


The best bet in the Premiership, though, is Reading at home to Sheffield United. Reading have reaffirmed their hold over the Blades from last season's Championship by securing a top-half position in the Premiership, as well as winning 2-1 at Bramall Lane in September. Last season Reading won both home games in league and cup , as well as drawing away.


Real Madrid rate the best bet in the rest of Europe when they visit struggling Mallorca in Spain's Primera Liga. Real's away form is good under Fabio Capello and they should outscore Mallorca, who are winless in seven at home.


Homes: Reading.


Aways: Real Madrid.


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