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  • Jul 23, 2014
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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 November, 2010, 12:00am

A year is not such a long time in the English Premier League, it seems. Twelve months ago, Chelsea were top of the table, followed by Manchester United and Arsenal, with Manchester City and Tottenham a little further back.

The top five is the same now, except that Arsenal and United have swapped places, and for some signs of change we have to look a little further down the table. The biggest talking point is the underperformance of top-six regulars Liverpool and Aston Villa, and the Reds are likely to get another reminder of their decline when they host Chelsea tomorrow.

Liverpool are gradually finding some form, with three wins and a draw from their past four matches in all competitions, but they are still only 13th in the table and Chelsea are playing at a higher level. The Blues destroyed Spartak Moscow in the Champions League midweek, making it six wins and a draw out of seven since their 1-0 defeat at Manchester City six weeks ago.

Chelsea have conceded only two goals during that seven-match unbeaten run. Liverpool have scored nil or one in seven of their 10 Premier League games, while failing to keep a clean sheet in the same number - that looks a fatal combination against Chelsea.

Chelsea's odds are based more on Liverpool's reputation than results and they look good value to end the mini-revival of Roy Hodgson's side. A low-scoring match looks a strong possibility, with none of the past nine league meetings between the sides having produced more than two goals.

Villa, sixth in each of the past three seasons but only 14th now, appear even less likely than Liverpool to get back to their former position and the bet of the weekend in the Premier League is Fulham to beat Villa at Craven Cottage.

Only Chelsea and Manchester United have lost fewer games than Fulham, and both of Fulham's defeats were against teams now in the top six. Villa have not scored in their past three league games and their three wins were all against teams struggling for form.

In the absence of Villa and Liverpool from the upper reaches of the table, it is the three promoted teams that have been quickest to take advantage by moving into sixth (West Brom), seventh (Newcastle) and ninth (Blackpool).

History tells us to take note of the standings after 10 games, when every team has played a good cross-section of the division, and the promoted teams have shown they should not be underestimated.

The three newcomers have accumulated a high proportion of points against teams from the bottom half of the table, which is always a crucial factor in order to avoid going straight back down.

Between them, West Brom, Newcastle and Blackpool have won eight out of 14 games in that category. Throw in the odd surprise result, such as West Brom's stunning 3-2 win at Arsenal, and it is easy to see why the promoted teams are doing so well.

The trio face tough games this weekend, with Newcastle visiting Arsenal, West Brom at home to Manchester City and Blackpool hosting eighth-placed Everton. Another home defeat for Arsenal would be even more shocking, but home wins for West Brom and Blackpool are possible.

West Brom have already beaten City at the Hawthorns this season, 2-1 in the Carling Cup in September, and they could make life hard again for Roberto Mancini, whose side are in a mini-slump with three straight defeats in all competitions.

Blackpool, whose main strength in the Championship last season was their home form, have achieved their best results on the road so far, but they could be open to improvement at home after finally getting a first win in front of their own fans against nine-man West Brom on Monday night.

Everton are unbeaten in five matches, but even at their best it is highly questionable whether they should be odds-on at Blackpool.

The other bet well worth considering is Sunderland for a home win over Stoke. Steve Bruce has been under fire since last week's 5-1 derby defeat at Newcastle.

Teams coming off a heavy defeat often perform much better in their next game and Sunderland can be expected to improve back at the Stadium of Light. They have lost only three of 24 there under Bruce, all against top-six teams, and have a first-rate chance against Stoke.

Goal shy

Of Everton's 10 games, there are this many two goals or fewer: 9

Leaky defence

League games without a clean sheet for Wolves: 13

Shortlist: Mainz, Nurnberg, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Derby, Fiorentina, Cardiff, Dortmund, Marseille, Sevilla

Top five bets

1 Nurnberg home win

Excellent at home and against teams below them in the table

2 Fulham home win

Solid form and they look capable of going higher

3 Cardiff home win

Welsh derby unlikely to dent their winning run

4 Dortmund away win

League leaders can make it six out of six on the road

5 Marseille away win

Have really found their form and still look the best in France

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