FA Cup thrashing doesn't bode well for Fulham
Relentless Manchester United look set to beat the Londoners for second time in eight days
A mere handful of teams have been able to live with Manchester United in the English Premier League this season and the bulk of the division must be glad to see the back of the runaway leaders so that they can get on with the business of matches they might actually win.
Fulham, however, are in the unfortunate position of a second match against United in the space of eight days when they host the leaders tonight with the memory still fresh of last week's 4-1 thrashing at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.
Fulham also lost 3-2 at Old Trafford in the league, which suggests goals will be plentiful again and mostly in the hosts' net. Most of the difficulty for United has been against the other teams in the top seven (which comprises the big six plus Everton) and their record against the rest of the Premier League this season is 14 wins, a tie and a loss.
In those 16 games so far against the 13 teams outside the elite group, United have scored 44 goals to 19 against, which roughly equates to a 3-1 victory each time for Alex Ferguson's side. In fact, their actual away results in that category have been 3-2, 3-0, 3-2, 0-1, 4-3, 1-1 and 4-0 - the only teams to have stopped them are Norwich (who beat them in mid-November) and Swansea (who drew just before Christmas).
The five away wins in that category have all been high-scoring, although it is notable that only two have been by more than a single goal. Over 2.5 goals looks as good as a win bet on United, but the handicap remains risky.
A better value win bet among the top teams is Manchester City at home to Liverpool. City have faltered on the road this season but their home record remains excellent - 27 wins out of 31 since the start of last season and only one defeat (3-2 against Manchester United this season).
The key factor is that City have scored in every one of those home games and, while it is possible to see Liverpool scoring, it is more difficult to envisage them stopping City.
Chelsea may look a risk at Newcastle, who have the potential to improve with the boost provided by new signings and the midweek win at struggling Aston Villa, but at the odds it is worth taking a chance on Rafa Benitez's side.
Benitez has had only one win in five after his team threw away a two-goal lead again at Reading on Wednesday, but Chelsea remain way ahead of Newcastle on this season's form.
Newcastle's only wins since October have been against the current bottom three and they have lost eight out of 12 overall against top-half teams, with no clean sheets. Tottenham have less appeal away to West Brom, having failed to take advantage of an easier opportunity when they drew 1-1 at Norwich on Wednesday. West Brom's early momentum has stalled but still they have lost only three out of 12 at the Hawthorns and rank behind only the two Manchester clubs on home form.
Sunderland don't quite meet the ratings criteria for a recommended bet, but they are worth considering on the handicap at Reading, whose spirit is admirable but cannot hide their defensive shortcomings. Sunderland have turned the corner, with their only defeats in their last 10 games coming against Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool.
In fact, Sunderland's form all season has been solid against the teams below them in the table, with six wins and only two defeats out of 11.
QPR were the wrong call last week in their FA Cup tie against MK Dons, but they should give a better showing tonight at home to Norwich. The problem last week was that Harry Redknapp left out almost all of his first-choice players, but the real QPR were evident again in midweek when Redknapp's full-strength side held Manchester City to a goalless draw.
QPR have now lost only three of their 11 Premier League games under Redknapp, although the concern for win-backers will be that six of those matches have been drawn. But in the period since Redknapp's appointment, QPR have been a better team than Norwich and the odds do not quite reflect that fact.
Norwich are one of the joint-worst teams in the Premier League on eight-match form (five defeats, plus last week's home loss against non-league Luton in the FA Cup) and it is clear where the problem lies because they have scored nil or one in six of those eight games.
Chelsea, Nottingham Forest, Brighton, Doncaster, Brentford, Freiburg, Hamburg, Torino, Lazio, Pescara.
TONIGHT (11pm unless stated)
Queens Park Rangers v Norwich City (8.45pm), Reading v Sunderland, Arsenal v Stoke City, Wigan Athletic v Southampton, Newcastle United v Chelsea, West Ham United v Swansea City, Everton v Aston Villa, Fulham v Manchester United (1.30am Sun)
West Bromwich Albion v Tottenham Hotspur (9.30pm), Manchester City v Liverpool (12am Mon).
1 Chelsea away win Some risk but they are still a class act
2 Nottingham Forest on handicap Only four defeats in 18 against teams below them
3 Brighton on handicap Only away defeats have been against top-six sides
4 Hamburg home win Worth sticking with after last week’s win
5 Lazio on handicap Very hard to beat and rate the bet of the weekend