Since 1957 the African Cup of Nations has been a regular fixture in the football calendar. This year is the 30th edition of the event and sixteen teams will compete to be named Africa’s best team.
The 2013 winners Nigeria failed to qualify and so the tournament is wide open. And, with Morocco refusing to host the event after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa the teams will instead head to Equatorial Guinea who make only their second appearance in the Cup of Nations.
Keep reading for our preview of the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
On paper there are a number of teams who seem to stand out from the crowd. The continent’s big hitters Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal boast a smattering of Premier League talent while Zambia and Burkina Faso are recent finalists.
However, the tournament is actually extremely hard to call. If you take the hosts Equatorial Guinea and Algeria out of the equation the remaining 14 teams are all ranked between 22nd and 64th in the world. Any nation is capable of beating another on their day and so this could be an unpredictable tournament.
Of course, with unpredictability comes the potential for profit and it may be worth swerving the short priced favourites. Ivory Coast were clear favourites in 2013 and were knocked out in the quarter finals so the value may lie in some of the lesser fancied teams.
Three of the top six teams in the betting will face off in the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’ and so a couple of major sides will go home before the knockout stages. Ghana (9/1), Algeria (4/1) and Senegal (12/1) all feature in Group C and their chances are made no easier by the inclusion of outsiders South Africa (20/1).
Ivory Coast often go into this tournament as favourites, generally based on the pedigree of their overseas players. However, it’s worth remembering that the Elephants haven’t won the tournament since 1992 and they often flatter to deceive in this competition.
Ghana’s 2-2 draw with eventual champions Germany was one of the matches of the 2014 World Cup but the Black Stars are another team whose performances in this tournament leave much to be desired. New coach Avram Grant wasn’t a universally popular appointment and eyebrows were raised when his squad included striker Kwesi Appiah, currently playing in the fourth tier of English football.
A good outside bet could be the surprise package of the 2013 tournament. Burkina Faso were considered no-hopers when they arrived in South Africa two years ago but gained momentum throughout the tournament beating Ghana and Togo before eventually losing 1-0 in the final to Nigeria.
The Stallions looked in good form in their recent warm-up match and strikes from Jonathan Zongo, Mohamed Koffi, Alain Traore, Aristide Bance and a Maqhawe Dlamini own-goal gave them a 5-1 win over Swaziland.
Before 2013 their record at the Cup of Nations had been awful – they had lost every single match in the previous five competitions for which they qualified – but they could go well here. They have a very favourable draw – they face the lowly ranked hosts as well as Gabon and Congo – and at 20/1 offer decent each-way value.
Would there be a bigger fairytale story than a win for Cape Verde? The island nation qualified for their first ever major tournament in 2013 and were unlucky to go out in the quarter finals. They were one of the first nations to qualify for the Cup of Nations this year and are ranked 40th in the world – ahead of teams such as Cameroon, Mali and South Africa.
They have a tricky group but in an unpredictable tournament could offer superb value at 22/1.
It was a good weekend for Chelsea in the Premier League as their win over Newcastle coupled with a draw for Manchester City and defeat for Manchester United saw them open a two point gap at the top of the table.
Three of the top four have awkward away fixtures this weekend while Sunday’s late kick-off sees title-chasing City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad. Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
Burnley were my outstanding bet of last week to see off QPR at odds-against and I’m sticking with the Clarets to generate a profit again this weekend.
Sean Dyche’s side climbed out of the relegation zone with their win over Rangers last Saturday and this week they face another of the sides scrapping around towards the foot of the table. Crystal Palace are the visitors to Turf Moor and the Eagles also had a good result last weekend when they came from behind to defeat high flying Spurs.
Burnley have only lost one of their last seven home matches – and that to Liverpool – and their recent from includes good results against Palace, Manchester City, Newcastle and Spurs. Palace, meanwhile, haven’t won away from Selhurst Park in the league since mid September and so Burnley look excellent value at 7/5.
Liverpool were good value for their win over Sunderland last Saturday and Brendan Rodgers’ side are now unbeaten in seven matches. They travel to Aston Villa this weekend and will be looking to avenge their 1-0 defeat to Paul Lambert’s side earlier this season.
I still think Villa have a tough job to do to avoid relegation and if results go against them they could end the weekend in the bottom three. Back Liverpool to win at 5/6.
After a dismal run Leicester City have taken ten points from the last twelve in the league and have dragged themselves towards safety. Part of the reason for their revival has been their defensive performances and Nigel Pearson’s side have kept three clean sheets in the last four Premier League matches.
The Foxes welcome Stoke City to the King Power Stadium and look great value at 16/5 to win to nil.
All of QPR’s points this season have come at Loftus Road and there may be one or two tempted to back Harry Redknapp’s side at 5/1 to beat Manchester United on Saturday afternoon. Swansea City are the same price to beat top of the table Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium although the away side should win this at 4/7.
It’s now just one win in eleven Premier League matches for Sunderland and Gus Poyet pulled no punches when criticising his players after last week’s defeat to Liverpool. The Black Cats travel to Tottenham this weekend who were in great form before falling to a defeat at Palace last time out. Spurs have wobbled at White Hart Lane this season but should win at 8/13.
Southampton were excellent value for their win at Old Trafford on Sunday and travel to Newcastle United in Saturday’s late kick-off. The home side have won just one of their last six matches and haven’t won a home tie this season by more than a single goal. If Saints replicate their performance from last week they should win at 23/20.
West Ham’s surge into the Champions League places has come to a bit of a grinding halt over recent weeks. The Hammers are without a league win in four matches and all their games in 2015 have ended in a draw.
Hull City remain in the bottom three after their defeat to West Brom last weekend and I fancy Sam Allardyce’s side to return to winning ways by beating the Tigers at 8/13.
There’s an attractive looking match at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon as Manchester City welcome Arsenal.
City dropped a couple of points last weekend at Everton but are unbeaten in fourteen matches in all competitions. They will have to do without inspirational midfielder Yaya Toure who is on Africa Cup of Nations duty but should have enough to beat the fifth place Gunners at 4/5.
Monday night’s game sees Everton welcome West Brom to Goodison Park. Everton’s point against City last weekend was their first in five league matches while Tony Pulis’ first Premier League match in charge of the Baggies ended up in a narrow win over Hull.
Everton’s form is mediocre although they were unlucky to lose in the FA Cup at West Ham in midweek. It is 5/6 for a home win or you can back West Brom at 7/2.
After a weekend off for the FA Cup it’s back to Premier League action this week. There are some great games to look forward to including Sunday afternoon’s clash between third place Manchester United and fourth place Southampton.
Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
Just two points separates Burnley and QPR towards the foot of the Premier League and the two promoted sides meet at Turf Moor this Saturday.
Suggesting that you back a team that hasn’t won in five matches may not look like great advice but this fails to take into account Burnley’s excellent home record and the fact that QPR have yet to secure a Premier League point away from Loftus Road.
Burnley have only lost one of their last six home matches – and that to Liverpool – while recent good results include draws with Manchester City, Newcastle and Spurs. QPR’s away record is awful and they were well beaten by League One side Sheffield United in the FA Cup last week.
All this means that Burnley look excellent value at 6/5.
It is just one win in ten Premier League matches for Sunderland and the division’s draw specialists host Liverpool in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off. The visitors have improved after a shaky period and are unbeaten in six matches although the 10/11 on an away win doesn’t look like great value. The draw may be a better bet at 13/5.
Just four points above the drop zone, Everton fans didn’t expect their team to be in a relegation battle as they began 2015. Roberto Martinez’s side have lost their last four Premier League games and things could get very tough for the manager if they lose at home to title chasing Manchester City.
Goodison Park is often a tough place to go but the home side’s form is dreadful and City can win at 17/20.
Leicester City stopped the rot over the Christmas period with a win and a draw and can drag themselves nearer to the Premier League safety zone with a win over Midlands rivals Aston Villa. The visitors won the reverse fixture a month ago but I fancy Nigel Pearson’s side to get their revenge at 6/5.
Swansea City are 5/4 to beat West Ham at the Liberty Stadium while there will be plenty of backers for Tottenham at Crystal Palace. Since the 0-0 draw between these two sides on 6 December, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have taken 13 points from a possible 15 and they beat Chelsea in their last league match. Spurs are 6/5 to continue their push for a Champions League berth.
Chelsea can remain at the top of the table with a win over managerless Newcastle United at 1/5 while West Brom could be good value under new boss Tony Pulis to see off Hull City at 21/20.
Arsene Wenger took quite a bit of flak after his team lost to Stoke City a month ago and the atmosphere at the Emirates could get positively mutinous if his side were to lose again. Easily beaten by Southampton on New Year’s Day, Arsenal are in danger of slipping behind their rivals for a Champions League place and really need a good run of form this New Year.
You can back the home side at 4/9 while Stoke sit comfortably in mid table and are 13/2 to record a famous win.
It is now eleven matches unbeaten for Manchester United in all competitions although Louis van Gaal’s side lost ground on the top two with two frustrating draws over the festive period. They can get back to winning ways in Sunday afternoon’s late kick-off as they welcome Southampton to Old Trafford.
Ronald Koeman’s side are just a point behind United in the table and recorded good results against Chelsea, Palace and Arsenal over the festive period. United can be backed at 4/5 while there will be plenty of backers for the impressive Saints at 10/3.
With around half of the season gone the league tables have taken shape and fans of all the clubs now know whether they are in a promotion push or a relegation battle.
Here, we look at the latest state of play in the Football League and pick out our promotion and relegation best for the second half of the 2014/15 season.
While it might be unfancied Bournemouth who lead the Championship at the half way stage it’s the two clubs on their tail that are the bookies’ favourites for promotion in May.
Derby County have shaken off the disappointment of their play-off final defeat well and are 8/11 to be promoted while it’s been a great season for Aitor Karanka and Middlesbrough who sit second and are 5/6 to go up.
With just nine points separating the top 12 teams and the lottery of the play-offs to come there is plenty of value in teams further down the table. Norwich City look good value at 11/4 to bounce straight back into the top flight while Fulham and Cardiff City have new managers and could well go on a run. The 7/1 on offer on the Bluebirds looks tempting.
At the other end of the table Blackpool are eight points from safety and look doomed at 1/12. Surely Wigan Athletic will improve under Malkay Mackay and survive while I also can’t see Brighton being relegated.
Rotherham are 6/4 to drop into League One while Huddersfield Town could be dragged into the mix and look like a reasonable punt at 4/1. A speculative bet on Sheffield Wednesday at 20/1 might also pay dividends considering the Owls have won just six of their first 21 Championship matches this season.
Bristol City have lost just twice in League One this season and Steve Cotterill’s side are just 4/11 to return to the Championship in May. Behind them, there looks to be a three way battle for the second automatic promotion berth between Preston North End, Swindon Town and the MK Dons.
Preston were beaten in the play-offs last spring and look good value at evens while MK Dons have been knocking on the door of the Championship for a few years now and are 10/11 to finally get promoted. Sheffield United should easily make the play-offs and are 13/5 to go up while Peterborough United are always there or thereabouts and could be a good investment at 11/2.
Crewe Alexandra have scored just 16 league goals this season and, having survived by four points last season, are just 1/5 to drop into League 2. They could well be joined by Colchester United at 4/7 and Gillingham at evens while even Fleetwood Town in 11th place are only six points above the drop zone.
Leyton Orient and Yeovil Town should turn their form around in the second half of the season and so perhaps the likes of Port Vale (21/10) and even Barnsley (7/1) could be where the relegation value lies.
Burton Albion may have lost manager Gary Rowett to Birmingham but the Brewers continue to fly high in League Two. They have ever played in England’s third tier and, under new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, this could finally be the season. They are 10/11 to go up.
Having stayed up on goal difference on the final day of last season it has been a stunning change of fortunes at Wycombe Wanderers. The Chairboys narrowly missed dropping out of the League in May but now sit top of the table having lost just three league matches this campaign. They are also 10/11 for promotion.
Luton Town have enjoyed a terrific return to the league and could make it two successive promotions at 8/11 while Southend United could be a good outside bet at 9/5.
Hartlepool United have survived re-election several times and so have never fallen out of the League since their formation. However, with just 12 points from their opening 20 matches this could be the season. Six points away from safety, Pool are 2/7 to fall into the Conference.
It’s been 15 years since goalkeeper Jimmy Glass’ injury time winner kept Carlisle United in the Football League but the Cumbrian club are just 7/2 to go down this season. Mansfield Town are on a bad run and could be dragged into a relegation battle at 6/1 while York City have only won three league games and are also 6/1 to drop out of the League.
The top three all won in the league last weekend and Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United have winnable ties against struggling sides this weekend.
There’s also a local derby to look forward to while there could be further calls for Brendan Rodgers head if Liverpool lose at home to Arsenal. Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
Backing a team that hasn’t won in nine Premier League games and has slumped to 19th in the table might not look like great advice but I believe Hull City are overdue a win and can grab a vital three points this weekend.
Their opponents at the KC Stadium this Saturday are Swansea City who will be many people’s fancy at 6/4 to win the match. However, the Swans haven’t won away in the Premier League this season since their opening day triumph at Manchester United and lost the corresponding fixture 1-0 in April.
Steve Bruce’s side are overdue a bit of luck and look good value at 15/8.
Manchester City are on a run of seven straight wins in all competitions and get this weekend’s action under way as they welcome Crystal Palace in Saturday’s early kick-off. Palace have just one win in ten and so even without their leading attacker City should still win at 3/10.
Leicester City have fallen to the foot of the table after a poor run and they also face a tricky away tie at West Ham United. The high-flying Hammers have been in excellent form – particularly at home – and can win this one at 4/6.
Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Liverpool last Sunday was their sixth league win in a row and Louis van Gaal’s side can make it lucky seven on Saturday with a win at Aston Villa. United are just 8/13 to prevail on a ground where they have had a fair bit of success in recent years.
All of QPR’s 14 points this season have come at Loftus Road and while Harry Redknapp’s side lose away they have been solid in front of their home fans. They face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and despite the Baggies winning last week I fancy the home side to bag another vital three points at 13/10.
Southampton’s bubble has well and truly burst and they have lost four Premier League matches in a row and were knocked out of the League Cup by League One Sheffield United on Tuesday night. They welcome an inconsistent Everton side who, if they play well, should win at 11/5. The draw may offer better value at 23/10.
Tottenham have been pretty poor at home this season and so the 1/2 available on them to beat Burnley looks pretty skinny. The away side are a tempting 6/1 to continue their recent run of decent form.
There’s a local derby on Sunday lunchtime as Newcastle host Sunderland in the battle of the North East. The home side’s recent good run was ended by Arsenal last week while Sunderland are the draw specialists having already recorded 9 league draws this season.
Alan Pardew’s side beat Chelsea in their last match at St James’ Park and can win at 10/11.
Liverpool have just eight points from the last eight matches and Brendan Rodgers has been forced to defend his squad this week as their poor run continues. They welcome Arsenal on Sunday afternoon who themselves are on an inconsistent run.
While Liverpool seem to be unable to either defend or score goals, it’s only Arsenal’s defence that is the concern. This could be a good match and the 6/4 on an away win looks tempting.
Chelsea remain three points clear at the top of the Premier League and travel to Stoke City on Monday night. In the past this may have been a tricky encounter but Stoke’s home form this season has been poor – even if they beat Arsenal in their last Britannia fixture – and Chelsea should win at 8/13.
With almost half of the Premier League season gone, it’s time to have a look at the current form and league table to try and work out where the value lies for the rest of the campaign.
Can anyone catch Chelsea? Can Southampton and West Ham keep up their challenge for a Champions League spot? And can the like of Leicester City and QPR survive? Keep reading for our preview.
From early on this season it has looked like a one horse race for the Premier League title. Chelsea have been head and shoulders above their rivals so far this campaign and are as short as 1/2 to win the title.
Their nearest challengers are Manchester City who are just three points behind with fifteen matches played. City have hit some form in recent weeks although they will miss their talismanic striker Sergio Aguero over the busy Christmas period. City are 11/4 to retain their title.
Below the title contenders there is a fierce battle for the two remaining Champions League berths. After a shaky start to the season Manchester United have dragged themselves into the top three and are now as short as 1/5 to return to Europe’s premier club competition. A top four finish should be the least of Louis van Gaal’s ambitions.
So, who can nab the fourth spot? The 8/15 favourites are Arsenal who, over recent seasons, have always done enough to secure their top four berth without ever really looking like potential champions. But, could this finally be the year that Arsene Wenger’s luck runs out? Liverpool have had a shaky start to the season but are only a couple of points behind the Gunners and could prove good value at 9/2 to secure a top four finish.
It looks to be a transitional season for Spurs (8/1) and Everton have been too inconsistent to mount a serious top four challenge (the Toffees are 14/1).
Southampton were many people’s pre-season relegation favourites and are just 7/2 to qualify for Champions League football while surprise package West Ham are as long as 20/1 to secure a top four finish.
Despite their decent run of form the 1/3 favourites to drop into the Championship are promoted Burnley. Sean Dyche’s side have adapted well in the top flight after a slow start and, if they can strengthen in January, could survive.
A better bet would look to be Leicester City who have slumped to the foot of the table having not won since September. The Foxes look doomed and the 8/11 on them going straight back down looks like good value.
QPR are 6/4 to drop back into the Championship and the London club will have to improve their away form if they want to survive. They have yet to pick up a point away from home and their home form may not be good enough on its own.
Hull City and West Brom should have enough to survive while Sunderland should eventually turn some of their draws into wins. Crystal Palace are 2/1 to go down and this could start to look like good value if they have a tricky patch over Christmas.
One of these years it surely has to be Aston Villa’s time to go down? They have narrowly escaped the drop in the last two seasons and are 5/1 to be relegated this time around. If they can keep Christian Benteke fit then they ought to be OK but without him Villa could really struggle.
Manchester United’s win over Southampton on Monday may have been undeserved but it was their fifth win on the spin. United are now just eight points behind leaders Chelsea and feature in one of the matches of the weekend as they welcome old rivals Liverpool on Sunday.
At the other end of the table there are tough matches for Leicester City, QPR and Hull City. Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
There is an attractive looking match on Sunday afternoon this week as Swansea City welcome Tottenham.
Swansea sit eighth in the league after a good campaign so far while Spurs are tenth after some inconsistent results. While some of Spurs best performances have been away from home this year I fancy Swansea to keep up their good run with another win.
Garry Monk’s side are unbeaten at home since mid September and look great value at 6/4 to grab another three points.
The relegation candidates in the Premier League face some tough matches this week against the leading sides.
Leicester City haven’t won since their 5-3 triumph over Manchester United in September and have ended each of the last two games with ten men. They are desperate for a win but welcome Manchester City on Saturday afternoon. City will have to do without the injured Sergio Aguero but should win comfortably at 1/2.
Hull City have fallen into the bottom three having won just once since the opening day of the season and Steve Bruce’s side face a daunting trip to Chelsea. The league leaders’ long unbeaten run ended at Newcastle last weekend but they should record another home win at 2/11.
Burnley have produced some good performances in recent weeks and will have to be at their best to get something from their home tie with Southampton. The Saints have lost three in a row but are just 4/5 for the win. You can back the home side at a tasty 7/2.
Arsenal fans who travelled to Stoke last week made their feelings clear to boss Arsene Wenger after their defeat and it could be all out mutiny if the Gunners lose again this weekend. They welcome the in-form Newcastle United but if they can reproduce their midweek form – and spectacular goals – they should win at 4/9.
Sunderland have drawn 9 of their 15 matches this season and it is 23/10 that they secure a point against high flying West Ham. Stoke City’s form is up and down and they look good value to beat struggling Crystal Palace at 9/5 while West Bromwich Albion are good value at 9/5 to end their winless run with a home victory over Aston Villa.
Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off is a derby between two sides determined to restore former glories. Manchester United welcome Liverpool and the home side have won five in a row despite some mediocre performances. Liverpool, on the other hand, have just eight points from their last seven league matches and went out of the Champions League in midweek.
Gary Neville said that this could be a ‘pub match’ and I fancy the home side to make it six wins out of six at 4/5.
Monday evening’s game sees Everton face QPR. Everton’s form has been inconsistent this season and they dropped points against Hull in their last Goodison fixture. QPR have lost all of their away matches this season, however, and so this looks like a home win at 4/9.
After a busy week of football action there are some intriguing matches this weekend at both ends of the Premier League. The title challengers all have winnable matches while there are some six-pointers at the other end of the table.
Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
After a great start to the season culminated in a 5-3 win over Manchester United, Leicester City looked as if they would have no trouble surviving back in the top flight. However, the Foxes have failed to win since that September afternoon and have slumped to the bottom of the table.
In contrast, Aston Villa are back on an upward curve and haven’t lost in four matches following six straight defeats. Christian Benteke’s superb goal was enough for them to earn all three points at Crystal Palace in midweek and Paul Lambert’s side will fancy their chances of taking all three points against struggling Leicester on Sunday.
Villa look great value at 5/4 to win the Midlands battle.
Chelsea continue to set the pace in the Premier League and travel to Newcastle United in Saturday’s early kick-off. Newcastle have been excellent over recent weeks and the league leaders struggled to overcome North East rivals last weekend, drawing 0-0 at Sunderland.
Considering their recent form there will be plenty of backers for Newcastle at 11/2 but Chelsea should keep up their title push with a win at 8/15.
Hull City and West Bromwich Albion have just five wins between them this season and last season’s FA Cup finalists have slipped into the bottom four having won just once since the opening day of the season.
The Baggies have lost their last four matches and so this promises to be a nervy battle between to out-of-form sides. Hull are 11/8 to win, a result which could see the end of Alan Irvine’ short reign as West Brom manager.
Liverpool got a much needed win in midweek and welcome draw specialists Sunderland this Saturday. Gus Poyet’s side are hard to beat – they have drawn 8 out of 14 matches this season – and it is 10/3 that they grab a point at Anfield.
Burnley continue to climb the table after a good recent run but their mini revival could come to an end at Loftus Road on Saturday. QPR scored three times at home last weekend and can grab another three points at 11/10. Man City are 8/15 to beat inconsistent Everton while Spurs are 4/7 to see off Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane.
The Britannia Stadium used to be an intimidating place for away sides but with Burnley, Leicester and Aston Villa all winning there this season visitors no longer seem to feat a trip to Stoke City. Arsenal are the away side this weekend and this could be a good match. The Gunners are evens to record a win but I fancy this could be an entertaining draw at 5/2.
West Ham and Swansea City have been two of the Premier League’s surprise packages this season and both continued their push for a European spot with excellent wins in midweek. The two sides meet at Upton Park on Sunday in what promises to be an excellent match.
West Ham’s home form has been good this season and so I like the chances of Sam Allardyce’s side at 11/8.
Southampton’s great start to the season took a couple of knocks this week as the Saints lost to two of their European rivals. Their recent run of tough fixtures gets no easier on Monday night as they welcome Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal’s side have now won four matches in a row and look to be improving as they get to grips with the Dutchman’s methods. City proved that St Mary’s doesn’t need to be an intimidating away trip last weekend and United are great value at 13/8 to make it five wins in a row.
With the Premier League giants entering the Cup draw after this weekend’s ties, the FA Cup second round gives plenty of minnows the chance of ending up drawn against one of the game’s greats. This weekend the likes of Warrington Town, Blyth Spartans, Worcester City and Telford United have the chance to book their place in the third round draw and, perhaps, a trip to Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool.
The FA Cup always throws up some surprise results and so there’s plenty of value in this weekend’s fixtures. Keep reading for our FA Cup second round preview.
After their giantkilling heroics in the first round, Conference North side Worcester City have another chance to take a League scalp this weekend when they travel to Scunthorpe United.
Worcester took 3,220 travelling fans to the Ricoh Arena in round one where they upset 1987 Cup winners Coventry City 2-1. Now, over 2,000 fans will head to Glanford Park for the tie against the League One strugglers.
“Given the support we had at Coventry, I’m not surprised we’ve sold out our allocation,” City boss Carl Heeley told BBC Sport. “The fans were incredible that day. They gave us such a tremendous lift. But what does surprise me is just how quickly we’ve sold out for the Scunthorpe game. It’s a smaller, more compact ground and the atmosphere should be brilliant.”
Worcester are on an excellent run which has seen them climb to 8th in the Conference North after thirteen games unbeaten. They are 7/1 to cause another upset and, having won their last three matches 3-0, are 175/1 to make it four 3-0 wins in a row.
Another non-league side looking to claim a second major scalp are Maidstone United. A late Frannie Collin header gave them a 2-1 win over League Two side Stevenage in round one and the Isthmian Premier League outfit are just 90 minutes away from a potential tie against one of the Premier League big guns.
Maidstone won’t have the advantage of their 3G home pitch against Conference side Wrexham and are 7/2 to win.
The weekend’s FA Cup action gets underway at Victoria Park where there is a North East derby between Hartlepool United and Blyth Spartans. Hartlepool sit rock bottom of the Football league with just 12 points and this could be an opportunity for the Northern Premier League side to cause an upset.
Spartans have recent FA Cup form. They reached the third round in 2008 only to narrowly lose to then Premiership side Blackburn Rovers and could well cause an upset at 11/2. Robbie Dale has scored in every round of the competition so far this season and is one to keep an eye on in the ‘first goalscorer’ market.
Mansfield Town have won just two of their last twelve matches and so the 10/11 on Cambridge United looks great value. Sheffield United should see off Plymouth at 8/13 while two divisions and 215 miles separates Bradford City and Dartford with the home side just 3/10 to prevail.
Warrington Town’s reward for a win over Exeter City in round one is a trip to Gateshead which guarantees a non-league side in round 3. “Newcastle’s a good night out, so I’ll be worried about my lads” said Warrington boss Shaun Reid ahead of Sunday’s match. Gateshead are 3/10 to win.
Cheltenham Town have won just three of their last 16 matches and it is this poor run that prompted the club to part company with boss Mark Yates, the third longest-serving manager in the Football League. Paul Buckle will hope his side recreate the form that saw them thrash Swindon 5-0 in the last round as they welcome Dover Athletic.
Chris Kinnear’s side knocked out Morecambe in the last round and are 10/3 to cause another upset.
It’s the time of year when managers come under increasing pressure and there’s been plenty of debate about the futures of Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers this week after costly league defeats last time out.
This weekend both Arsenal and Liverpool are once again vulnerable to mid-table teams who could prove to be great value at long odds. Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
Last week I suggested that Crystal Palace were outstanding value at 10/3 to see off struggling Liverpool and the Eagles duly obliged with a 3-1 win. This weekend there’s another home side who look great value at similar odds to beat a struggling ‘big four’ team.
West Bromwich Albion may have just one win in seven and haven’t won at the Hawthorns since September but the Baggies look great value to beat Arsenal in Saturday’s early kick-off. After a shaky start to the season Alan Irvine’s have improved and looked good in wins over Spurs and Hull and in their narrow defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool.
Arsenal have just four league wins this season – all against teams in the bottom seven – and have won just twice in their last seven league matches. While neither side are in great form the 3/1 available on West Brom looks too good to ignore.
Burnley have now won back-to-back Premier League matches and can make it a hat-trick of wins on Saturday as they welcome Aston Villa. It’s been over ten weeks since Paul Lambert’s team recorded a league win and the confident home side can pile more misery on Villa at 5/4.
Liverpool’s defeat at Palace last weekend was their third in a row and the Reds sit 12th in the Premier League table. Brendan Rogers desperately needs a win but faces a tricky home match on Saturday with Stoke City the visitors.
Mark Hughes’ side have been inconsistent this campaign but have recorded their best wins away from home. The Potters beat Manchester City and Spurs away and there will be plenty of people backing them to do the same against Liverpool at 9/2.
Manchester United looked a shadow of their former selves last week but found a way to win at Arsenal and should see off struggling Hull City at 3/10. Chelsea should also win comfortably and are 2/5 to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in Saturday’s tea-time kick-off.
QPR look good value at 13/10 to see off goal-shy Leicester City while Swansea City can keep up their assault on a European place with a win over Crystal Palace at 4/5. Newcastle United can make it an astonishing seven wins in a row with a win at West Ham at 5/2 but I like the 23/20 available on the home side.
You’d have got decent odds on Southampton v Manchester City being a clash for second place in the Premier League in late November before the season began and the two teams meet at St Mary’s on Sunday lunchtime.
Southampton have 16 points from the last 18 available in the league and they are unbeaten at home this season, scoring 11 goals without reply in their last three matches at St Mary’s.
Considering City’s stuttering form the home side look great value at 11/5 to record another win.
Sunday’s late match sees Tottenham face Everton. Both teams sit on 17 points heading into this match with the visitors on a good run of five matches unbeaten. Spurs woes at White Hart Lane this season are well documented and so Everton look great value at 2/1 to continue their good run.
After the international break the Premier League returns this weekend with some intriguing fixtures at both ends of the table.
Chelsea and Manchester City look to have winnable home matches while the battle for a Champions League spot continues as Arsenal host Manchester United. Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
Liverpool’s poor start to the season continued last time out with a home defeat to Chelsea. And, Brendan Rogers’ problems could get even worse this week as his side travel to Crystal Palace.
The away side are overwhelming favourites to win considering Palace haven’t won since September and sit just outside the relegation zone. However, Liverpool themselves have won just one of the last four league matches and will again be without talismanic striker Daniel Sturridge.
Palace is not always an easy place to go and Liverpool have lost at both West Ham and Newcastle this season. There won’t be much in this game and so the 10/3 available on the home side looks like terrific value.
Chelsea continue to lead the way in the Premier League and all the talk is now of the club going the season without losing. Jose Mourinho was less than happy with the Stamford Bridge support recently and will hope for a better atmosphere as his side take on West Bromwich Albion.
West Brom have won in London this season but Chelsea should secure another three points at 2/9.
It’s been rather a hit and miss season for Everton so far and the Toffees have drawn their last two league fixtures. They welcome West Ham United this week and can climb to within a point of Sam Allardyce’s side with a win at 4/5.
On current form there’s not much to like about Manchester City and so there may well be plenty of people tempted by the 7/1 on Swansea City to win at the Etihad. Swansea have won in Manchester this season and beat Arsenal last time out so are full of confidence. City should win but the away side look to be where the value lies.
Newcastle United can make it a stunning six wins out of six with a home win over QPR at 3/4 while I also fancy Stoke City to see off Burnley at 7/10. Sunderland are the draw specialists and it is 23/10 that it ends up all square at Leicester City.
Saturday’s big match is the late kick-off which sees Arsenal host Manchester United. On current form it’s impossible to pick a winner here as both teams have been both occasionally brilliant and defensively awful in recent weeks.
It is just 4/7 that both teams score at the Emirates but this could finally be the week that United record a decent result. The away side are 11/5 to grab three points and leapfrog Arsene Wenger’s side in the table.
I’ve backed Hull City twice in as many matches to no avail with Steve Bruce’s side stuttering to defeats against Southampton and Burnley. Couple the Tigers’ poor form with Spurs’ decent away record and there looks to be only one winner in Sunday’s late kick-off. Tottenham are 6/5 to prevail.
Monday night’s match sees struggling Aston Villa take on high-flying Southampton. Villa have scored just once in 711 minutes of Premier League football although they ended their awful winning streak with a dogged 0-0 draw at West Ham last time out.
With one point from the last 21 available Villa have slumped to 16th but it could get even worse this week. The Saints have won five in a row in the Premier League by a combined margin of 15-2 and should be too good for Paul Lambert’s side at 4/5.
The fluctuating fortunes of Premier League managers can be perfectly highlighted in the contrasting narrative surrounding two sides currently on 13 Premier League points.
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United have spent £160 million and are a ‘work in progress’ with the Dutch boss under no pressure. Compare this to Alan Pardew, who never seems more than 90 minutes from the sack and has spent buttons taking his Newcastle side to the same number of points as their North West rivals.
It is Chelsea however that continue to set the pace in the Premier League and the Blues feature in one of the matches of the weekend. Keep reading for our preview of all this weekend’s action.
Premier League bet of the weekend
Last week I tipped Hull City to continue their recent run of good results by beating Southampton at a standout 5/2. The Tigers failed to reward my support, however, going down 1-0 in front of their home fans.
This week it’s possible to back Steve Bruce’s side at odds against in an eminently more winnable match. Hull travel to Burnley this Saturday looking to improve on their recent record which has seen them record just one win in ten Premier League matches.
Burnley are the only side in the four divisions of English football yet to record a win although they were disciplined and organised for two thirds of their match at Arsenal last week. Scoring goals remains an issue and Hull can grab a much needed win at Turf Moor at 17/10.
All Saturday’s matches
Chelsea continue to lead the way in the Premier League and look excellent value at 23/20 to win Saturday’s early kick-off at Liverpool.
Jose Mourinho criticised Reds boss Brendan Rogers for fielding a second-string side at Real Madrid in midweek but even a rested Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling might not be enough for the misfiring home side to get anything out of this match.
Manchester United now have their worst points total after 10 matches than at any time since 1986. Louis van Gaal has defensive problems ahead of Saturday’s visit of Crystal Palace with Michael Carrick likely to partner youngster Paddy McNair in the home side’s defence.
Palace have just a point from their last four Premier League matches but you can back them at 8/1 to heap more pressure on United by winning at Old Trafford.
After a bright start to the season Leicester City now sit in the bottom three. The Foxes travel to high-flying Southampton on Saturday and Ronald Koeman’s side can continue their brilliant run with a win at 4/9. I also fancy West Ham to beat Aston Villa at 3/4.
Saturday’s tea-time kick-off sees Manchester City travel to QPR. Rangers were a little unlucky to lose at Stamford Bridge last week and have certainly improved in the last couple of weeks after a poor start to the season.
City’s win in the Manchester derby was just the fillip they needed after a bad run and the away team should win this one at 2/5.
It has been an inconsistent few weeks for both Sunderland and Everton who meet at the Stadium of Light in Sunday’s early kick-off. The Black Cats ended a bad run with a win at Palace on Monday night while Everton couldn’t find a way past an obdurate Swansea side in their last outing.
Everton are the classier side but there is value on backing Sunderland at home at 5/2.
Spurs are another side that have been maddeningly inconsistent this season although have generally performed better away from home. Indeed, boss Mauricio Pochettino has blamed his side’s poor home form on the small White Hart Lane pitch.
Stoke City are the visitors on Sunday and look overpriced at 9/2 considering Spurs have already lost at home to Liverpool, Newcastle and West Brom.
Newcastle United banners at the weekend read ‘Alan Pardew – Back from the Dead’ and after four consecutive wins Newcastle now have the same number of Premier League points after ten games as Man Utd.
The Magpies travel to West Brom on Sunday and are 11/5 to make it five wins out of five. The home side are in good form, however, and I fancy their chances at 13/10.
Sunday’s late kick-off sees Swansea City host Arsenal. The Swans will leapfrog their opponents in the table with a win and you can back Garry Monk’s side at an attractive 11/5.