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Weekend matches likely to produce new English Premier League leader

Rodgers' side seem handicap pick, while overs is best bet in North London derby

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 4:26am

With Chelsea away on Super Cup duty, the English Premier League is almost certain to have a new leader by the end of the weekend and the likelihood is that it will come from one of tomorrow's big matches as Liverpool host Manchester United and Arsenal take on Tottenham.

The scenario would have appealed to Alex Ferguson, who liked nothing more than to strike a psychological blow against his title rivals as well as knocking Liverpool off their perch, and even at this early stage it will be interesting to see how David Moyes, his successor, handles the situation.

The early signals are mixed for United's new regime. Moyes' first game in the Premier League brought an expansive 4-1 victory at Swansea, but that was sandwiched between a muted Community Shield win over Wigan and Monday's goalless draw at home to Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho's tactics were a key factor on Monday but United had been held scoreless at home in the Premier League only once in the previous three seasons and the result raises the question of whether Moyes will ever be as bold as Ferguson.

Tomorrow's trip to Anfield, where Ferguson's United won more often than they lost in the Premier League and scored in 16 out of 21 visits, will tell us more about the Moyes methodology. Another safety-first game would suggest a further departure from the attacking policy of Ferguson, whose United side were unbeaten away to big-six teams last season and scored in every one of those games.

If Ferguson were still in charge of United, the match would be a good bet for over 2.5 goals, which has occurred in nine of the 12 Liverpool-United meetings in the past five seasons. Moyes, however, could exert downward pressure on United's goal scoring.

Whereas United have been regularly among the leaders for games with over 2.5 goals, Moyes' Everton were top for games with under 2.5 goals in two of the past three seasons. Old habits may die hard, even with the better talent at Moyes' disposal; until we know, United seem a less attractive win bet for big matches.

On Monday night they had only three shots on target and Liverpool's possession-based game under Brendan Rodgers could limit the chances again for Moyes' side. There is a strong correlation between shots and goals scored, which is why Ferguson's attacking philosophy brought so much success.

Liverpool's 100 per cent start to the season means they are now unbeaten in 10 Premier League games and they are the pick on the handicap.

Arsenal are the most likely winners of the north London derby, having won 12 and lost only two out of 21 home meetings with Tottenham in the Premier League, but the best bet is over 2.5 goals. Since their move to the Emirates, none of Arsenal's home derbies has had fewer than three goals and the last three have had five, seven and seven.

West Ham or Southampton could make a surprise appearance at the top of the table if they win by a big enough scoreline tonight and both have decent chances.

The best bet on a tricky Premier League programme might be West Ham, who made a good start at home with a 2-0 win over Cardiff and in 2013 have had six wins and two draws in eight matches at Upton Park against teams outside the big six. Their opponents, Stoke, by contrast, have lost seven out of 10 on the road in 2013.

Southampton have obvious scope for improvement after a good finish to last season and an active summer in the transfer market. Even so, it is difficult to argue they are good-value favourites away to Norwich, who are a dangerous side at home. With only one defeat in 14 at Carrow Road under Chris Hughton against teams outside the big six, Norwich probably should be favourites and they rate the handicap pick.

Cardiff might be worth chancing at home to Everton, as the Welsh side's odds could undervalue them if last week's win over Manchester City is any guide, while the visitors look a risky bet at short odds until they start to show winning form under Roberto Martinez.

The rest of the Premier League matches are difficult, especially Crystal Palace vs Sunderland and West Brom vs Swansea, which feature four of the bottom five.


SHORTLIST

West Ham, Brighton, Derby, Peterborough, Walsall, Moenchengladbach, Nurnberg.


FIXTURES

TODAY (10pm unless stated) Manchester City v Hull City (7:45pm), Cardiff City v Everton, Newcastle United v Fulham, Norwich City v Southampton, West Ham United v Stoke City, Crystal Palace v Sunderland (00:30am Sunday).

TOMORROW (8:30pm unless stated) Liverpool v Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City, Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur (11pm).


TOP BETS

1 Brighton home win Visitors Millwall have taken just two points out of the last 27
2 Peterborough home win Look unstoppable with 23 goals in six games
3 Walsall on handicap Unbeaten in 16 at home
4 Moenchengladbach home win Seven wins from last eight at home to teams outside last season’s top four
5 Nurnberg on handicap Solid chance against poor travellers

 

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