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Top form seems to favour City, Liverpool in glamour matches

Mancini's side should have enough against Spurs, while Londoners are handicap pick

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 5:59am

Tomorrow brings the glamour fixtures on this weekend's English Premier League programme, with Tottenham versus Manchester City and Liverpool versus Chelsea - both crunch games in the race for Champions League places.

Tottenham and Chelsea may well end up contesting the final place between them, if Manchester City and Arsenal keep up their momentum, and a hammer blow tomorrow could prove crucial.

Tottenham have the more difficult opponents, but they have home advantage, which gives them a reasonable chance of taking at least a point. Their home record against other teams in the top seven is: won two, drawn two and lost just one (against Chelsea) whereas they have lost four out of five in that category on the road.

City have lost only two out of 11 overall against the rest of the top seven (3-2 at home to Manchester United and 2-0 away to Everton), suggesting they will give Tottenham a tough game. A draw is possible, but the balance is tilted towards City because Tottenham have yet to keep a clean sheet against a top-seven team.

City have won the last eight games in which they have scored in all competitions and have won eight out of 11 when scoring on the road in the Premier League.

Liverpool have struggled all season in top-seven matches, with only one win out of 10. That came in their most recent game in that category, a 3-2 home win over Tottenham, and they have lost only one of their last seven in the Premier League, which points to steady improvement under Brendan Rodgers.

It is questionable, however, whether they should be such clear favourites against Chelsea, whose only defeats in top-seven clashes have been against the Manchester clubs (3-2 at home to United and 2-0 away to City). That makes Chelsea a solid pick on the handicap.

Over 2.5 goals is worth considering in both of the big games, as it has occurred in 63 per cent of top-seven matches this season and the figures are higher for host teams Tottenham and Liverpool.

On current form Arsenal should finish in the top four and they look a good bet to get back on the winning trail at Fulham.

The Gunners have quietly compiled an exceptionally strong record against the lesser teams with 37 points out of a possible 39 since their last defeat by a side outside the top seven, including eight consecutive victories.

Norwich and Stoke, two of the teams that have stopped almost dead near the bottom, have good opportunities to grab a much-needed win tonight when they line up against the bottom two, Reading and QPR, respectively.

Even so, it will take a leap of faith to back them because Norwich are winless in six and Stoke in seven. Reading are even worse, with no win in eight, and that makes Norwich versus Reading one of the most unappealing games of the season. But Norwich have won three out of four at home to teams below them in the table, with one draw, and should win this time.

Stoke, never the best of travellers, look vulnerable at QPR despite the hosts' unfortunate habit of drawing. Stoke have lost their last six away games and the two before that were both goalless draws, which means they have failed to score in six of their last eight away games.

QPR have scored in four of their five home games against bottom-half teams under Harry Redknapp and, with attack their only option, they should be capable of outgunning Stoke. Once again, it is worth considering over 2.5 goals in QPR's match.

One of the most intriguing issues is whether Sunderland can back up last week's clear-cut derby win over Newcastle with another good result at home to Everton. There is no substance to Sunderland's longer-term form and there will be no escaping the Paolo Di Canio factor if they can beat Everton.

The weakness in Everton's form is their low away win rate - only four out of 16 in the Premier League and the last of those was back on January 2 - and they would not rate a safe bet even without the likelihood of some improvement from Sunderland. Di Canio's team could be worth chancing on the handicap.

As well as reaching the FA Cup final, Wigan have started their customary late-season push for survival and they have a decent chance on the handicap at West Ham. Wigan are unbeaten in their last six games against bottom-half teams and have not lost away in that category since mid-December.



Arsenal, Norwich, Manchester City, Chelsea, Bolton, Nottingham Forest, Real Sociedad, Hamburg, Freiburg



1 Arsenal away win Drop in class should return them to winning form

2 Chelsea on handicap Solid against a Liverpool side lacking bite in big games

3 Bolton home win Good chance to extend homewinning run to eight 

4 Real Sociedad on handicap Unbeaten in 13 while Osasuna have lost five of the last six

5 Freiburg on handicap Can gain revenge on Stuttgart for cup semifinal defeat 



TODAY (10pm unless stated)
Norwich City v Reading, Sunderland v Everton, Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City, West Ham United v Wigan Athletic, Fulham v Arsenal, Swansea City v Southampton, West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United 

Tottenham Hotspur v Man City (8.30pm), Liverpool v Chelsea (4pm)