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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:39am

Football titans clash in two nail-biting derbys

Winner difficult to call in Chelsea-Tottenham derby, but back overs for a probable return

BIO

Nick has been SCMP’s tipster since soccer betting was launched in Hong Kong in 2003, having previously served as racing editor. He takes a statistical approach to soccer betting, focusing mainly on the English Premier League but also on the other major European leagues and the English lower divisions. Now based in England, he brings a wealth of experience as a punter and writer having also worked for the Sunday Times, Racing Post and Betfair during a 25-year career in sports betting journalism.
 

Two derbies to set the pulse racing are the standout fixtures in the English Premier League this weekend. Along with the usual rivalry, revenge may be in the air when Andre Villas-Boas's Tottenham host his old club Chelsea in today's early kick-off, while there will be no love lost between Sunderland and Newcastle in tomorrow's north-east derby.

Tottenham v Chelsea is the seventh big-six clash of the season and one factor to note is that four of the previous six have had over 2.5 goals, with both teams having scored in five of the six games. That high-scoring trend is in line with last season, when 67 per cent of big-six clashes had over 2.5 goals. Tottenham and Chelsea helped push up the average, as both had 70 per cent over 2.5 goals when they met fellow big-six teams.

The two sides have each played one other big-six team this season and, as well as providing the usual high level of goals and excitement, both won. Tottenham triumphed 3-2 at Manchester United and Chelsea gained a deserved 2-1 victory at Arsenal.

Chelsea's general level of form is a notch above Tottenham's this season, but Villas-Boas has got his team moving in recent games and it could be that he just needed a little time to put his methods into practice. He has certainly made a more positive early impact than he did at Chelsea, where he encountered resistance among the players and ultimately could not avoid the bullet from a trigger-happy owner.

Tottenham's victory against United showed Villas-Boas has the confidence to trust his gameplan and rip up history in the process. He will need to defy the stats again if he is to beat Chelsea, who have won just over half of their 40 Premier League games against Tottenham and lost just three.

Villas-Boas is likely to take the game to Chelsea, as he did at Old Trafford, but this time his team are up against a meaner defence. Roberto di Matteo's side have the lowest goals-against total in the Premier League - four, compared with United's nine and Tottenham's eight.

While Tottenham have the talent to break through at least once, Chelsea were excellent at controlling their away game at Arsenal and they have a more convincing attack with the addition of Eden Hazard alongside Juan Mata to pull the strings in midfield.

Chelsea, at least on the handicap, are the preferred match bet, but over 2.5 goals looks the best option.

Sunderland v Newcastle is difficult to call, with both teams having solid form but without the spark they showed for much of last season. Between them they have drawn more than half their games this season, but neither has yet lost to a team outside the big six. A draw would be no surprise and there looks no edge for punters in this game.

Fulham rate the best bet in the Premier League at home to Aston Villa. Martin Jol's side have won their last five at home to teams outside the big six - and seven of their last eight - while Villa have taken only one point out of 12 on the road this season.

West Ham might develop into a strong home side this season, at least when faced with moderate opposition, as they are tonight against Southampton. The Hammers have beaten Villa and Fulham at Upton Park this season, with their dropped points coming against stronger teams Arsenal and Sunderland. Southampton have lost all three away games, conceding 12 goals, and West Ham striker Andy Carroll could wreak havoc.

The other big-six teams are all short odds and a couple of them might have some difficulty. Manchester City won their last away game, with a late goal against Fulham, but that was only their sixth victory on the road in 14 games since Christmas. This time they visit West Brom, who have won all four home games under new boss Steve Clarke and look a genuine top-half side - last season, City won only three out of nine against top-half teams.

Liverpool are so up and down that it will take a lot of faith to back them at home to Reading. They seemed to have turned the corner with a 5-2 win at Norwich but then slipped up twice at home, losing to Udinese in the Europa League and being held 0-0 by Stoke.

Reading are third-bottom, but they have been beaten only by teams currently in the top six and offer enough goal threat to give Liverpool a fright.

Fulham, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Hull, Blackpool, Swindon, Getafe, Hamburg.

 

Top five bets

  1. Fulham home win Strong home side but underrated at the odds
  2. Crystal Palace home win Surprise high-flyers can beat struggling London rivals
  3. Hull home win Good chance to bounce back from recent home defeats
  4. Blackpool on handicap Have won five out of seven against teams outside the top six
  5. Swindon home win Visitors Scunthorpe look out of their depth

 

Shortlist

Fulham, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Hull, Blackpool, Swindon, Getafe, Hamburg.

 

Fixtures

Today
10pm unless stated:
Fulham v Aston Villa, Liverpool v Reading, Man Utd v Stoke, Norwich v Arsenal (12.30am, Sun), Swansea v Wigan, Tottenham v Chelsea (7.45pm), West Brom v Man City, West Ham v Southampton.

Tomorrow
QPR v Everton (11pm), Sunderland v Newcastle (8.30pm).

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