Top two form teams promise goals galore on 'Super Sunday'
The English Premier League is going to throw up a host of 'Super Sundays' now that the Manchester clubs have been shunted into the Europa League, and tomorrow's menu will be hard to beat.
First up are Manchester United, away to QPR, followed two hours later by Liverpool's visit to Aston Villa, and two hours after that by the blockbuster clash between Manchester City and Arsenal. Sandwiched in between is Tottenham at home to Sunderland, which is hardly a filler as Martin O'Neill pits his wits against Harry Redknapp.
The best seems to have been saved until last, with Manchester City v Arsenal rounding off the weekend action. An entertaining game will be expected, as six of City's seven home games have had over 2.5 goals and Arsenal have matching figures in away matches.
City's matches have produced an average of 4.27 goals per game and Arsenal are not too far behind with 3.6, and a high-scoring game would be in line with the trend in big-six clashes this season. Ten out of 13 have had over 2.5 goals and all three with under 2.5 goals have involved Liverpool, whose games are much lower-scoring than the other big-six teams.
This is City's first home game of the season against a big-six team and they have a little to prove now, having drawn 1-1 at Liverpool (when they were perhaps a little fortunate to avoid defeat) and lost 2-1 at Chelsea in their most recent elite matches.
City were rampant earlier in the season, winning 6-1 at Manchester United and 5-1 at Tottenham, while Arsenal's form was at the other end of the spectrum with defeats at United (8-2) and Tottenham (2-1). Arsenal's form has turned around and they are top of the eight-game form table in the Premier League, with 22 points out of the last 24, while City are second with 19 points in that period.
That means this is a match-up between the top two form teams in the Premier League, but Arsenal seem to have more to prove than City. Most of their recent run of good results has been achieved against bottom-half teams and City are unlikely to give the Gunners the freedom they enjoyed in the 5-3 win at Chelsea.
City clearly deserve to be favourites with home advantage, as their form slippage appears far from significant, and their odds are reasonable. Sergio Aguero is the pick in the first scorer market.
Manchester United's four remaining games of 2012, starting tomorrow at QPR, are all against teams in the bottom eight and it is vital they look for maximum points.
Victory at QPR would be a good result because Chelsea lost 1-0 at Loftus Road - albeit with nine men in a controversial encounter - and Manchester City had to dig deep for a 3-2 win. United broke their seven-match run of scoring just a single goal with last week's 4-1 home win over Wolves, but their recent defensive outlook still makes them a risk at short odds.
QPR have taken something from seven of the 10 matches in which they have scored and United may need more than one this time.
Liverpool go to Villa having lost there last season for the first time in 11 years. That was a 1-0 defeat on the final day of the season and since then Villa have appointed Alex McLeish, who has made his team hard to beat against bottom-half teams (one defeat in 10) but has struggled to make an impact against the better sides (one point from a possible 12 against teams above Villa).
This is a winnable game for Liverpool, but their scoring record remains a worry - they have scored one or none in nine of their 15 Premier League games. McLeish is likely to opt for a tight formation and that is a strong pointer to under 2.5 goals. Liverpool have had 11 out of 15 under 2.5 goals this season and this fixture has a history of low scores (eight of the last 10 have had under 2.5 goals).
Tottenham v Sunderland has become a more intriguing fixture in the wake of O'Neill's appointment as manager of the Black Cats and last week's 2-1 defeat for Tottenham at Stoke. Sunderland scraped a 2-1 home win over Blackburn the same day, giving them some much-needed breathing space in the relegation battle, but this will be a much tougher test.
The hosts have won all seven matches against bottom-half teams this season, by an aggregate of 18 goals to five, and six of those games have had over 2.5 goals. At the odds, over 2.5 goals looks a solid bet and Tottenham are well worth considering on the handicap, having won their two previous home games against bottom-half teams by two or more goals (as well as three out of five away in that category).
Among the lesser teams, the two that stand out as potential good-value bets are Norwich and Stoke. Norwich have been a surprise team but they are well organised and could do well at Everton, who are winless in eight games against teams above them in the table.
Stoke's form dip was associated with their Europa League campaign, but they did not have to play a first-choice side in midweek and should be fresh for the visit to Wolves. Tony Pulis' side look a solid bet on the handicap.
Away points for Swansea, the lowest tally in the Premier League
Shortlist: Norwich, Manchester City, Blackpool, Brighton, Peterborough, Inter Milan, Parma, Schalke.
TOP 5 BETS
1. Manchester City home win
Overall form is much stronger than Arsenal's
2. Blackpool home win
Rank fourth on home form in the Championship
3. Brighton home win
Have won their last three home matches
4. Peterborough home win
Too much firepower for low-scoring Coventry
5. Schalke home win
Visitors Werder have been poor away recently