This weekend is arguably the most intriguing round of the Premier League so far this season. With first v third and second v fourth something has to give this weekend. The excitement and anticipation of Leicester fans will be palpable as they travel to the Emirates knowing that a win would likely put the Gunners out of the running. Spurs fans will be feeling a similar tension as they travel to Manchester with the dream of winning their first title since 1961 (dream for them, nightmare for others). My musings on these and the rest of the weekend’s fare

Sunderland v Manchester United

01:45am Sunday 14 February OD24

Sunderland came back from the dead last week scoring twice in the last 8 minutes to pinch a point at Liverpool. Is that a sign that they are on the up or is it that Liverpool are a shambles at the moment? Probably a bit of both. There has been a lift in the Black Cats efforts of late but they remain in the bottom three and have picked up just two points from their last four games. Their home form has been poor with just three wins from 12 games but they rarely get thrashed, having scored and conceded 13 goals at the Stadium of Light. Jermain Defoe is under a slight injury cloud and his goal-scoring ability would be sorely missed. The nightmare continues for the under-siege Van Gaal who saw his side pegged back in injury time at Stamford Bridge last week. His petulant performances at press conferences are becoming rather tiresome and indicate he is not handling the pressure at all well. His mood will not have been made any better with the strong rumours emerging that Jose Mourinho has already been lined up to replace him in the summer. It has been hard to predict how the Red Devils will perform each week and if the Mourinho rumours are true one wonders how much effort the players will put in to make their outgoing boss look good? Sunderland have won just one of the last 27 league encounters but with their desperation and United’s inconsistency it would not surprise if they sneaked a valuable point here.

One to Watch: Jermain Defoe. He is the sort of player whose nose for goal could be the key to Sunderland survival. Fingers will be crossed in Wearside that he is passed fit to play.

Davis: 1-1

TAB Odds: Sunderland $4.75 Man Utd $1.70 Draw $3.50

Bournemouth v Stoke City

04:00am Sunday 14 February OD

Defeat to Arsenal last week brought to an end an encouraging run that had seen the Cherries pick up seven points from their previous three games. Two goals in as many minutes put them behind the 8 ball and they were unable to dig themselves out of that hole despite creating numerous chances. Bizarrely they have fared better on the road than at home where they have won three and lost five. In Benik Afobe they have goal-scoring potential but he is still bedding down in the Premier League and is not likely to fire every week (although people said that about Jamie Vardy as well). The last month has seen Stoke implode. They have lost their last three league games 3-0, have failed to score in their last four and have been knocked out of both domestic cup competitions. They looked a side totally bereft of confidence last week as they went down at home to Everton. For a side that was on the verge of European qualification just a few weeks back their slump is hard to fathom. They will be desperate to get skipper Ryan Shawcross back and he will have a late fitness test. His return however will not help them too much at the sharp end where goals have completely dried up. Unless Mark Hughes has found a secret remedy to his side’s woes during the last week I can see Bournemouth inflicting more damage to a stuttering Potters’ season.

One to Watch: Marc Pugh. Played his 250th game for the Cherries last week and has grown with the club. Cost a measly 60,000 pounds and worth 100 times as much.

Davis: 2-0

TAB Odds: Bournemouth $2.05 Stoke $3.50 Draw $3.20

Crystal Palace v Watford

04:00am Sunday 14 February OD24

Palace are another side in free-fall. They haven’t won any of their last eight games, have picked up just three points during that run and scored three goals. As I have said before, these sort of runs are a trademark of Alan Pardew sides and take some stopping. He has brought in Emmanuel Adebayor in an attempt to get the goals flowing once more but the Togo striker has not had much football lately and could take time to get up and running. Further positive news is that Yannick Bolasie has returned to training but will likely not be included this weekend. Palace have been terrible at home losing seven times already this season and barely managing to score a goal a game. This is a third London opposition in a row for the Hornets after they drew 0-0 with Chelsea then lost 1-0 at Spurs last week. The lack of goals in those two games will be a concern and is reminiscent of their early season form where they were hard to break down but struggled to bother the scoreboard. Their loss last week was hardly the worst of results considering Spurs’ recent form and they should enter this game confident of getting a result against a vulnerable Palace. With both sides struggling in front of goal this looks like a good bet for a goalless draw. But this is the Premier League so do not be surprised if it is 5-5.

One to Watch: Scott Dann. Impressive central defender who has been making his mark at both ends of the park. Has scored in his last two games and is joint top-scorer at Palace. Probably why Palace are struggling if they have to rely on a centre-half to score their goals.

Davis: 0-0

TAB Odds: Palace $2.20 Watford $3.20 Draw $3.10

Everton v West Bromwich Albion

04:00am Sunday 14 February OD

After losing at home to Swansea, Everton have got their season back on track in style with back to back 3-0 wins. Their effort at Stoke last week was that of a team that has rediscovered its mojo. New boy Aaron Lennon has fitted in well, notching his second goal in as many games, and Romelu Lukaku scored his first league goal of 2016. Add to that the increasingly impressive form of Ross Barkley and things are looking up for the Toffees. Defender John Stones and goalkeeper Tim Howard are under an injury cloud and face a late fitness test. Bizarrely Everton have lost five times at home this season whilst suffering just one setback on the road. West Brom’s 1-0 loss at Newcastle made it five games without a win and has seen them slip to within six points of the relegation zone. Goals have really dried up (not that they are ever in abundance in any side managed by Tony Pulis) and they have scored just one in their last four games and have managed just eight in 12 previous away games. The Baggies have some injury concerns with Craig Dawson and Gareth McAuley facing late fitness tests. You always expect a Pulis side to be hard to break down but Everton’s current form makes me think they will win this one comfortably, plus the fact that the Baggies have won just one of the last nine meetings.

One to Watch: Aaron Lennon. Looks to be back to his best in his new environment and hitting the back of the net as well.

Davis: 2-0

TAB Odds: Everton $1.57 West Brom $5.50 Draw $3.75

Norwich City v West Ham United

04:00am Sunday 14 February OD

Norwich’s defeat at Villa last week was their fifth on the trot and saw them drop into the bottom three. They have also conceded 16 goals in that run so things are obviously not tickety-boo at Carrow Road. Manager Alex Neil was furious with his side’s capitulation at bottom-placed Villa and is sure to have ignited a rocket in the vicinity of their backsides at training this week. Alexander Tettey is still absent through suspension but Graham Dorrans looks to have recovered from illness and should be in consideration. West Ham went behind early at Southampton and despite dominating the second half against ten men were unable to create any considerable threat on the Saints goal. Andy Carroll looks back to full fitness and looks likely to get a start with Enner Valencia injured and Diafra Sakho not yet match-fit after a long layoff. Defensively the Hammers are stretched with James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Joey O’Brien and Carl Jenkinson all injured. Cheikou Kouyate is also likely to miss out after being knocked out in the FA Cup win over Liverpool. West Ham have lost just one of the last eight league encounters and despite their injury woes should have enough to avoid defeat here. What am I saying. This is my little brother’s team we are playing. We will thrash them.

One to Watch: Matt Jarvis. An exciting winger with the ability to beat defenders. Poorly treated by Sam Allardyce while at West Ham and likely to show his old team what they are missing out on.

Davis: 1-3

TAB Odds: Norwich $2.35 West Ham $2.90 Draw $3.20

Swansea City v Southampton

04:00am Sunday 14 February OD

Swansea’s mini-revival continued last week with a home draw against Palace. That made it four games without defeat for the Swans and keeps them four points above the drop zone. New manager Francesco Guidolin has had an immediate impact at the Liberty Stadium and seems to have  imparted his passion for the game to his players. He still needs to work on the confidence of his strikers who are still missing in action. Three of his side’s last four goals have come from midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. The only injury doubt is Sung-Yueng Ki who is recovering from concussion. Southampton started strongly against West Ham last week but struggled to get a foothold after the dismissal of Victor Wanyama. They did however manage to hold out for a 1-0 win. It was the Saints’ fifth clean sheet on the trot and made it four wins from their last five with one drawn. That run has seen them climb to seventh in the table and looking more like the side that impressed so often last season. Steven Davis is an injury doubt with the ill-disciplined Wanyama missing through a well-deserved suspension. Swansea have won just one of the last eight meetings between these two clubs and have lost four of the last five so the omens aren’t good. Having said that there is a new steeliness about the side and I feel they should be good enough to scramble a point.

One to Watch: Alberto Paloschi. The well-travelled Italian has been brought in to provide the goals that Swansea need for survival. He has had one game to bed in so now it is time to start producing.

Davis: 1-1

TAB Odds: Swansea $3 Soton $2.40 Draw $3

Chelsea v Newcastle United

06:30am Sunday 14 February OD

Chelsea left it very late to nick a point against Manchester United with Diego Costa firing home in injury time. That result meant a run of nine league games without defeat which has seen them reach a season-high 13th on the table. It should be noted however that six of those nine games have ended in draws and would indicate that the Pensioners are still a fair way off the Championship form of last season (still more of the form that will result in you playing in the Championship). With the likes of Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao still injured and new signing Alex Pato still overweight and unfit, Hiddink is limited in his striking options. Standout defender Kurt Zouma will also be missing as his knee injury last week has ruled him out for the season. Steve McClaren got a stay of execution last week as Newcastle scavenged a 1-0 home win over West Brom. That win, along with Norwich’s capitulation at Villa, was enough to see the Magpies sneak out of the bottom three. After failing to lift his side through his management skills, McClaren has resorted to his boss’s wallet to extend his tenure. Newcastle spent more in January than Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea combined. Failure is not an option. In fairness Newcastle have the biggest injury roster in the Premier League, however I get the feeling that they could have everyone fit and still struggle to find the key to success. Whilst a desperate Geordie side will be a chance against a less than convincing Chelsea I still feel that the home side will do enough to take home the three points.

One to Watch: Diego Costa. Slowly starting to find his goal-scoring form with three in his last four games. He is also just as likely to get a red card as score so well worth keeping an eye on.

Davis: 1-0

TAB Odds: Chelsea $1.40 Newcastle $6.50 Draw $4.40

Arsenal v Leicester City

01:00am Monday 15 February OD

Crucial game that could have a major say in the destination of the title. After a spell of over five hours of famine, Arsenal finally managed to find the back of the net in their 2-0 win at Bournemouth. It was also their first win in five games and put some life back into their title challenge. That barren spell also allowed their unwashed neighbours to sneak above them in the table. A win in this game would see the Gunners move to within two points of their table-topping opponents but a loss would see them slip eight points behind with only 12 games left. With most of their injury problems behind them, the Gunners should be in decent shape for the challenge. Leicester are still keeping the dream alive and with the finishing line rapidly approaching must really be fancying their chances of the greatest upset in Premier League history. Their win at Man City last week was arguably the performance of the season and also put a major dent in the Citizens title aspirations. Of their 13 away games they have lost just once, winning a remarkable eight times. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez continue to dazzle and will be sure to test the Gunners defence. History however is against the Foxes with their solitary win in 19 Premier League meetings against Arsenal coming at the first attempt in 1994. Only an idiot would write off Leicester’s chances in this one but I will be that idiot. I have picked Arsenal to win the league so they have to win this one don’t they.

One to Watch: Arsene Wenger. The look on his face if his side lose and blow their title hopes will be priceless.

Davis: 2-1

TAB Odds: Arsenal $1.75 Leicester $4.25 Draw $3.60

Aston Villa v Liverpool

03:05am Monday 15 February OD

Villa’s win against Norwich was just their third of the season and may just provide the spark for an unlikely survival run. Fans never give up hope as long as their calculator says it is possible for their team to survive and another win here would see them possibly move within five points of safety. With only two wins from 12 home games they will need to find an extra gear and hope that the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor can maintain the form they displayed last week. With Jordan Ayew suspended and Rudy Gestede injured, Villa will be sweating on the fitness of Alan Hutton and Carles Gil to bolster their stocks. Liverpool are likely to be feeling slightly beaten up. With an ever-mounting fixture list they would have been further deflated with their last-gasp loss at West Ham and the surrendering of a two goal lead at home to relegation-threatened Sunderland. Their solitary win in their last six league games was that unlikely 5-4 effort at Norwich. Jurgen Klopp must wonder what on earth he has signed up for and perhaps the stress contributed to him having to have an appendectomy (although in true German style he was out of hospital and back on the side-line within two days). Defensively Liverpool will again be stretched with Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel and Steven Caulker all likely to miss out but they could receive a massive boost with Daniel Sturridge looking to have returned to fitness after he came through a cameo role off the bench midweek. This is a make or break situation for both side’s seasons and could go either way. I will plump for the result that I would find most enjoyable. Villa to get an upset win.

One to Watch: Joleon Lescott. Starting to impose himself and could well lift his side in their hour of need.

Davis: 1-0

TAB Odds: Villa $4.25 Liverpool $1.80 Draw $3.40

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur

05:15am Monday 15 February OD

Another cracking fixture which could have a say in the title race. City were humbled by Leicester last week with a late Sergio Aguero goal being a mere consolation. That loss left them six points behind the Foxes and another loss would surely end their title dream. One wonders how much of a disruption the Manuel Pellegrini saga has had on the Citizens. With a new boss already locked in have the players decided to give up on their current boss? Or is the whole club focused on Europe? No better game to find out than this one. Star performer Kevin De Bruyne is still absent as is talismanic skipper Vincent Kompany. With David Silva also likely to miss out, City are without much of their star power. Spurs were far from their best last week but managed to craft a 1-0 win over Watford and make it four wins on the trot. That run has seen them overhaul their North London rivals Arsenal and move into second on the table. Another win here would see an unlikely Premier League title become more of a reality. There is a growing belief in this Spurs side that they are legitimate title contenders and a fearless style of play that makes them very hard to contain. Jan Vertonghen is their only major loss through injury and Kevin Wimmer has proven himself to be a capable deputy. A must watch game that could go either way but I fancy Spurs to inflict a mortal blow to City’s title challenge.

One to Watch: Yaya Toure. If he doesn’t grab this game by the scruff of the neck then he has obviously decided to move on and can’t be arsed to put any effort in. Shame that such footballing talent is
hampered by a weak, self-indulgent human being.

Davis: 1-2

TAB Odds: Citeh $1.90 Spurs $3.50 Draw $3.60

Davis Bets of the Week

Not a great week last week with just one of my three picks coming in but hope springs eternal in the human heart so here goes…

The $3.50 for Spurs to win at City seems overly generous considering both sides current form and injury situations. I am also tempted by the $4.25 for Villa to upset Liverpool although that may be wishful thinking (at that price I am happy to have a crack). Finally I can’t resist a piece of West Ham at $2.90 to win at Norwich.

The intrusion of the FA Cup means that there is a hectic week in the Premier League with a double round in the space of four days. Those sides that did the sensible thing and exited the Cup in the third round will have had a rest and likely be in better shape than those who stupidly won and progressed. With the season almost two thirds of the way through these next two games are crucial to team’s aspirations whether they be of glory or of avoiding ignominy. Three big questions that will be answered this week will be 1. Can Arsenal get their title charge back on track or are they the same old soft Arsenal of recent seasons? 2. Will Leicester continue to show their title credentials and finally be taken seriously rather than a sideshow? 3. Have Chelsea turned the corner or is there still a soft underbelly? For my thoughts on this and more read on…

Arsenal v Southampton

08:45am Wednesday 3 February OD

Gunners fans are beginning to get that old familiar choking feeling. After looking like the best equipped side to win the title for much of the season they have started to falter once again. Without a win for three games and coming off a loss to bitter rivals Chelsea, Arsenal will be desperate to get their title charge back on track. With the memory of a 4-0 loss at Southampton still fresh in their minds this game also offers the chance for retribution. The return of Alexis Sanchez from injury is a huge boost but the long-awaited return to league action of Tomas Rosicky will have to wait as he pulled up lame after coming on as a substitute in their FA Cup win over Burnley. Southampton on the other hand seem to have turned their season around and come into this fixture on the back of three straight wins including a 1-0 effort at Old Trafford last time out. They kept a clean sheet in all three of those games. The Saints stocks are boosted by new signing Charlie Austin who scored the winner at Old Trafford on his debut, but there is still an injury cloud hanging over Graziano Pelle who may miss out. Another doubt is Victor Wanyama who has asked for a move away from St Mary’s and may be left out of the squad. It is 29 years since the Saints won away at Arsenal and with the home side also desperate to keep in touch at the top it could be another fruitless trip this time.

One to Watch: Alexis Sanchez. Looked good against Burnley and with a run under his belt should only improve. His return could be just the catalyst Arsenal need to fire their title-charge back up.

Davis: 2-1

TAB Odds: Arsenal $1.70 Soton $4.50 Draw $3.60

Leicester City v Liverpool

08:45am Wednesday 3 February OD24

It is undoubtedly time to start treating Leicester as legitimate title contenders and judge them on their form this season rather than the average rabble they have been for much of their history. They have gone five games without defeat since their loss in the reverse fixture at Anfield and have lost just twice all season. Their solitary loss at home is the lowest in the league and they are deservedly three points clear at the top of the table. Although their free-scoring has slowed somewhat, their 3-0 win over a more than decent Stoke outfit might be a sign of it returning. Jeffrey Schlupp is their only significant injury and having had the FA Cup weekend off they should be in top shape for this one. Liverpool somehow managed to come away from Norwich with a win but still look a long way off a side that Jurgen Klopp can be proud of. They are also burdened with an onerous fixture list and are in danger of running out of gas. This game will be their fifth in the last 14 days involving three competitions. With the Europa League also on the horizon there will be much juggling for Klopp as he tries to manage his already injury-ravaged squad. Star of the season so far, Philippe Coutinho, is still injured but skipper Jordan Henderson may return. Leicester have not won any of the last seven meetings but with their confidence high and Liverpool buried under a pile of fixtures they could well be on the positive side of the ledger this time around.

One to Watch: The Leicester defence. Whilst the front line has captured much of the headlines the defence has stepped up in recent weeks. Just one goal conceded in their last five league games has helped Leicester counter-act the effect of their goal-tally slowing down.

Davis: 2-0

TAB Odds: Leicester $2.45 Liverpool $2.85 Draw $3.10

Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur

08:45am Wednesday 3 February OD

Norwich would have been rightfully distraught after their 5-4 home loss to Liverpool. Leading 3-1 then going behind only to equalise in injury time, a point looked to have been secured until Adam Lallana put them to the sword with almost the last kick of the game. The loss made it three straight for Norwich (in which they conceded 11 goals) and sees them just one place and two points above the bottom three. Their lack of an FA Cup game could have been a bonus and given them time to re-group before getting back down to the business of retaining Premier League status. Gary O’Neill misses the game through suspension and Andre Wisdom is unavailable to play against his parent club. Spurs bounced back from their home loss to Leicester with convincing wins over Sunderland and Palace. Their form has been reasonably consistent this season and sitting just five points off the top of the table they are still outside contenders for the title. Travel does not seem to affect them as they have lost just the one game away from White Hart Lane. With seven goals in their last two league games and another six in two FA Cup matches, they are a constant threat at the pointed end. Jan Vertonghen is out with injury and is likely to be replaced by Austrian Kevin Wimmer. On current form this is a game Spurs should win but the Canaries managed to take the three points from the fixture last season and if they have recovered from their Liverpool heartbreak could sneak a point here.

One to Watch: Steven Naismith. I know I have mentioned him before but I really rate this hard-working Sweaty Sock (Jock). Scored last week against Liverpool and looks most likely again this week.

Davis: 1-1

TAB Odds: Norwich $4.20 Spurs $1.80 Draw $3.45

Sunderland v Manchester City

08:45am Wednesday 3 February OD

On the face of it Sunderland’s recent form looks above average with just one loss in their last four games, two of them wins. Those wins however came against strugglers Aston Villa and Swansea and were not enough to lift them out of the bottom three. They currently sit 19th and four points away from where they need to be come the season’s end. The man with the head of a hippopotamus, Sam Allardyce, has made moves to lift his side by splashing out in the transfer market and bringing in five new players. Whether they can adapt to the league and blend into the team remains to be seen but at least the board have backed their manager when it matters. Two players who won’t be available are Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Larsson who are still recovering from injury. Whilst the Black Cats defence has been reasonably stingy at home, conceding just 12 goals in 11 games, they have won just three times at the Stadium of Light, losing five. Manchester City are unbeaten in their last six league games and have also progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup and the league cup final. They have also started to hit the back of the net with increasing regularity, scoring 13 goals in their last four games in all competitions. Sergio Aguero seems to have shaken off all his injury concerns and looks back to his best which is not good news for Sunderland. Whilst the injury to Kevin De Bruyne is a massive blow it is the continuing absence of skipper Vincent Kompany that looms as the biggest threat to their title charge. Whilst rampant at home they are not quite as dominant on their travels with a four win, four draw, three loss record. City have won the last three league meetings and scored 11 goals along the way. I do not expect a blow-out but with City hitting their straps I would be surprised if the Black Cats picked up anything out of this one.

One to Watch: Patrick Van Aanholt. Looks the class act in this Sunderland side and has popped up with goals in his last two games.

Davis: 1-2

TAB Odds: Sunderland $6 Citeh $1.45 Draw $4.20

West Ham United v Aston Villa

08:45am Wednesday 3 February OD

Despite some key injuries the Hammers are still managing to pick up results and are a remarkable sixth on the table. They have lost just one of their last ten league games and put in a top effort in their 2-2 draw with Manchester City last time out. Dimitri Payet continues to be the standout with a passing ability that was last seen at West Ham when Trevor Brooking ruled the roost. Manager Slaven Bilic has also impressed with his positive approach and willingness not only to take responsibility but to make changes when necessary. Striking stocks are limited with Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll still injured but on the plus side, Enner Valencia seems to have found his mojo. Defenders Carl Jenkinson and James Tomkins look likely to be absent through injury opening the door for Sam Byram who impressed on his debut against Man City. Villa are unbeaten in their last three league games but still look like they are treading water at best. Goals are a problem, failing to score more than one since their 3-2 home loss to Watford last November. Manager Remi Garde has been desperately trying to strengthen his squad but has so far been frustrated in his efforts. Further frustration is there in the form of Charles N’Zogbia. With no future at Villa he has decided not to take a transfer preferring to sit on his backside and pick up 63,000 pounds a week until his contract expires at the end of the season. Villa will be desperate and are guaranteed to put up a fight but having not won away since day one of the season and with the Hammers not having lost at home since August a point may be the best they can hope for. I am hoping for them to get one less than that.

One to Watch: Sam Byram. The former Leeds United youngster looked promising in his debut v Manchester City and if he can back that up could have a bright future in the Premier League.

Davis: 2-0

TAB Odds: WHU $1.80 Villa $4.35 Draw $3.40

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth

00:00am Wednesday 3 February OD

Palace’s home loss to Spurs was their fourth consecutive defeat and made it six games without a win in the league. In that run they have scored just one goal so something is obviously not quite right at Selhurst Park. Alan Pardew sides tend to be either feast or famine and it must be a concern that the famine period looks to be the current vogue. Home has not been where the points are for Palace this season as they have lost six times already at their gaff. The continued absence of Yannick Bolasie has not helped and they will be further hampered by the injury to Yohan Cabaye who has been their major creative force. Connor Wickham will also be absent through suspension after being found guilty of elbowing Spurs’ defender Jan Vertonghen. Bournemouth’s season continues to be a bit of a roller-coaster but considering their injury issues and lack of resources, plus lack of Premier League experience, they should be happy with their efforts. Wins against Manchester United and Chelsea are not to be sniffed at and they have attempted to play football even when things are going against them. New signing Benik Afobe has already made his mark scoring in his last two outings. The hard-working Harry Arter has impressed as has Junior Stanislas but the latter will miss this game through injury. Strangely the reverse fixture earlier this season was the first time these two sides have met in a competitive match. It ended 0-0 and I wouldn’t be surprised if that score-line was mirrored here.

One to Watch: The fans. One of the loudest set of fans in the Premier League it will be interesting to see if their team’s slump has an effect on them.

Davis: 0-0

TAB Odds: Palace $2.15 Bournemouth $3.25 Draw $3.15

Manchester United v Stoke City

09:00am Wednesday 3 February OD24

It was rather amusing to see the reaction of many Man Utd fans after their side’s 3-1 FA Cup win at Derby. The joy of winning more than tempered by the realisation that the result meant an extension of Van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford. Despite MVG’s obvious failings (which only he fails to acknowledge) his side sit fifth on the table and are in the last 16 of the FA Cup. Perhaps the statistics hide the true merit of the side. Their win at Anfield was a bit of a smash-and-grab effort and was followed by an awful effort at home against Southampton which saw them go down 1-0. A major plus is the return to goal-scoring form of Wayne Rooney. Five goals in his last five games in all competitions has seen him close in on the legendary Bobby Charlton’s all-time Manchester United scoring record. The back four that turns out will be a bit of a mish-mash considering at least five top-line defenders are out of action, joining Bastian Schweinsteiger on the sidelines. Stoke looked to have turned their season around and had lifted themselves up to seventh but have dropped to ninth after a draw with Arsenal and a big loss to Leicester. Considering the lofty status of that opposition one can give the Potters a bit of leeway but if you add in the exit from both Cup competitions then there may be cause for concern. Stoke will be without inspirational skipper Ryan Shawcross but hope to have Austrian livewire Marko Arnautovic available. Whilst the Potters have lost just one of the last four against United and won the reverse fixture 2-0, it is 40 years since they triumphed at Old Trafford. Expect more misery for United fans who want rid of MVG as they scrape another win.

One to Watch: Louis Van Gaal. Is it just me or does LVG indulge in regular botox? Just asking.

Davis: 1-0

TAB Odds: Man Utd $1.70 Stoke $5 Draw $3.40

West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City

09:00am Wednesday 3 February OD

Although currently seven points above the drop zone, West Brom will be anxiously looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack. After gaining a worthy point at Chelsea, they were thumped at Southampton and put in a turgid display at home to Aston Villa. Failing to register a single shot on target against the bottom side in the league is definitely cause for concern. There is also the fractious issue of Saido Berahino still hanging over them. Desperate for a move but none yet secured, Berahino needs to be re-integrated and do a job for his current club. He got a run in their FA Cup game against Peterborough and scored twice although the rest of his side didn’t contribute enough as they were held to a draw. The Baggies will be sweating over the fitness of Darren Fletcher who has been their star this season. Meanwhile at the Liberty Stadium the local team were doing their version of a dying Swan. Confidence was low, points were scarce and relegation was looming. Enter Francesco Guidolin to take the helm and back to back wins against Watford and Everton have seen indications that the Swan may yet live. The cards are being shuffled by Guidolin with Jonjo Shelvey being sold to Newcastle and Bafetembi Gomis a possibility to go the same way. In comes Italian striker Alberto Paloschi from Chievo. The last seven meetings between these sides have resulted in alternating wins. Although it is West Brom’s turn to win I feel their lacklustre form and the Swans mini-revival may see that sequence broken.

One to Watch: Saido Berahino. If he starts, he stays.

Davis: 1-1

TAB Odds: West Brom $2.40 Swansea $3 Draw $2.95

Everton v Newcastle United

08:45am Thursday 4 February OD

Everton have gone five games without a win in the league (albeit three of them draws) and continue to produce some exhilarating football without an end result. Their confidence would have taken a knock after getting so close to the League Cup final before getting dumped by Manchester City but they bounced back with a win in the FA Cup. Although Carlisle may not be the toughest of opposition the win would certainly have lifted Toffee spirits. Kevin Mirallas will undergo a late fitness test and his inclusion would lift the side as he has been looking sharp when given his chance. Goodison Park has not been kind to Everton this season however with five losses and just three wins. Newcastle remain trapped in the bottom three and have won just one of their last seven games. They have also been knocked out of the FA Cup (to concentrate on the league as the old saying goes). It is amazing to me how Steve McLaren still has a job considering the cut-throat nature of football management these days and the fact that he has failed to improve the side from last season. The Magpies are also poor travelers having lost eight of eleven on the road. Everton won the reverse fixture at St James’ Park and unless they have a really bad day at the office should complete the double this weekend.

One to Watch: Ross Barkley. Gets better each week and really starting to fulfill his promise. Makes and scores goals and sure to be a major presence in the England squad that goes to Euro 2016.

Davis: 2-0

TAB Odds: Everton $1.60 Newcastle $5.25 Draw $3.75

Watford v Chelsea

08:45am Thursday 4 February OD24

Watford’s 2-1 win over Newcastle brought to an end a run of four straight losses and leaves them 10th in the league. The Hornets continue to be the best performers among the promoted sides and have also progressed through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. The strike due of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney remain a potent force although Deeney has not scored in the league for five games (his last goal came from the penalty spot in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge). Having already drawn with Chelsea earlier this season and with the losing streak now behind them they should enter this game with confidence. Chelsea are on a bit of a resurgence which has seen them fly up the table to a lofty 13th (which still leaves them four points shy of Watford). Since their loss at Leicester they have gone seven games without defeat, including a draw at Old Trafford and a win at Arsenal. They have also made it through to the last 16 of the FA Cup and are still in contention for the Champions League. The Pensioners goal-power has been boosted by the arrival of Brazilian Alexandre Pato but whether he is included in the squad remains to be seen. Word on the street is that he is carrying some excess baggage around the waistline. An intriguing tie with Watford definitely capable of getting a result but I feel Chelsea’s turnaround may give them the momentum to get across the line. Just.

One to Watch: Troy Deeney. Likes to score in the big games and will be sure to have a royal rumble with John Terry so worth keeping an eye on.

Davis: 1-2

TAB Odds: Watford $4 Chelsea $1.90 Draw $3.25

Davis TAB Bets of the Week

One set of odds that jump out are those offered in the Leicester/Liverpool game. With Leicester making every post a winner and Liverpool up and down and drowning under a heavy fixture list, I think the $2.45 for a Leicester win is great value.

Two draws also appeal with West Brom/Swansea offering $2.95 and Norwich/Tottenham @ $3.45

The football frenzy continues as we head into a midweek round of Premier League action. Time is fast coming to make a move whether you are top or bottom of the league and with another round coming up this weekend there could be some major shifts come Monday. Villa looked doomed but we said that about Leicester last season and were much mistaken. Swansea are moving rapidly in the wrong direction but can either of the two North-East sides below them take advantage? And can Liverpool show a glimpse of the golden days, when games were shown in black and white? For my thoughts on this and more… Continue Reading

Is it just my skewed perspective or is this season’s Premier League the most engaging for years? We have the Champions being reduced to relegation fodder. We have last season’s relegation certainties rampaging to the top of the pile. We have the Morris 1000 that is Bournemouth outpacing the Ferrari that is Manchester United. Playing at home no longer seems to be the advantage that it was in days of old and, apart from Aston Villa, anyone could beat anyone else. The magic continues this weekend with some magnificent fare on the menu. Top of the list is Arsenal v Manchester City but I fancy Everton v Leicester to be the game of the round. My views on these and more are below. Do remember that this is only one man’s opinion and if you feel I have been unfair to your club or cast aspersions on its integrity feel free to debate on twitter @milesdavislive Continue Reading

Tally Ho chaps, the Fox Hunt is on. Leicester have not only kept their run going, they have now moved 2 points clear of the chasing pack. What, for me, makes their feats even more enjoyable to witness is the joie de vivre in their game. They all seem to be enjoying themselves and are playing without fear (or as we used to say in the old days ‘with gay abandon’). Equally enjoyable is the continuing demise of Chelski. Their home loss to Bournemouth was one of the highlights of the season. Can the Foxes inflict more damage on their increasingly damaged reputation? For my thoughts on that and this weekend’s other fixtures, please read on. (NB: Do not put any faith in my score predictions as so far this season I can barely pick my nose let alone a result). Continue Reading

Congratulations to Peter Carroll and his fantasy footy side Arfur Fulksayke on a magnificent Gameweek 14 which saw him rise to the top of the heap and claim the auspicious title of Fantasy Football Manager of the Month for November. Well done Peter, your trophy and $100 worth of adidas vouchers are in the mail!

Make sure you join our league for the chance to win hot prizes. Enter this code and join the Premier League Pass League: 595269-148482 (Private Classic League).

 

 

As Christmas approaches and Santa prepares his sack there are several managers waiting to receive the sack. There are several candidates who may even receive that gift before the 25th. Top of that list is Garry Monk. The jungle drums have been beating in South Wales and the message has not been good for the likable Monk who is likely to be well and truly Friar-Tucked if they lose this weekend. Another who should start trawling the Situations Vacant column is Steve McClaren, who has brought nothing so far to Newcastle other than a penchant for impersonating the accent of wherever he is domiciled. Remi Garde will undoubtedly get the boot eventually but surely it’s too early for him even in this modern Premier League era. An outsider would be the Special One. Surely a home defeat to Bournemouth is enough to get him the boot? For other musings on this weekend’s games
Continue Reading

Don’t know about you but picking results in this season’s Premier League seems harder than ever before. The sides seems closer than ever, home form has gone out of the window and many sides are struggling to find any consistency. Whilst it has made for an exciting league it has played havoc for most people’s picking competitions. Without doubt the stars of the season have been Leicester City and Jamie Vardy. Two unlikely candidates, their success has been the stuff of Boys Own. Their game against Manchester United this weekend gives the Foxes the chance to not only write another chapter in their history but increase their shock lead at the top of the table. Spurs also get the chance to rewrite the record books as they seek a 13th game without defeat when they take on Chelsea at White Hart Lane… Continue Reading

As yet another international break ends (seems far too many of them getting in the way of important club matters) we now hold our breath to see how many of our warriors return in worse shape than when they left. As well as injuries, those sides with multiple international stars may find their squad’s energy levels are lower than usual. Alternatively they could return inspired by playing for their country and set the Premier League alight. Whilst most eyes will be on Man City’s battle with the Klopp-ites there will be much interest on the happenings at Stamford Bridge. Canaries were used to detect dangerous gases down mines. Whilst they chirped all was well. If they are chirping at the end of the weekend it will indicate all is not well in West London… Continue Reading

Congratulations to Dave Harper of ‘Hit and Hope. He’s our Fantasy Football Manager of the Month for October, our latest champion of the 2015/16 season cracked the ton and stormed home in Gameweek 11. As usual, we have assembled a super mega prize pack of varying quality including a $100 voucher from adidas! Congrats again Russell, well done!

Make sure you join our league for the chance to win hot prizes. Enter this code to join the Premier League Pass League: 595269-148482 (Private Classic League).

Whilst the players are centre-stage most of the time, there will be a lot of interest on the sidelines this weekend. Several managers are vying for the dubious honour of being next for the chop and results this weekend could see at least one of them on his way. Jose Mourinho has lost a fair portion of his Special One tag and could well be a shock casualty if his rabble get beaten at Stoke. In a further twist he will be watching this crucial game on TV as he has received a one match stadium ban. Steve McClaren is another boss under the microscope and a loss at lowly Bournemouth would keep the Magpies in the bottom three and cast serious doubt on his future at the club. Despite it being early days in their new positions there is also a need for Sam Allardyce at Sunderland and Remi Garde at Villa to pick up some points. Whose team will save their bacon and whose will send them to the knackers yard? For my thoughts on this and more Continue Reading

Some great match-ups this weekend with 3 local derbies leading the way. At the top end of the table we have the clash of the Manchester duo with more than bragging rights at stake.  Citeh want to hold on to their lead whilst United know a win will not only see them rise above their noisy neighbour (and keep them quiet for at least a week) but also may see them top the Premier League. At the wrong end of the table there is the north-east clash between Sunderland and Newcastle. Can the Black Cats find their first win of the season and make Sam Allardyce a legend in a place other than his own mind? Finally we have and East versus West battle in London as high-flying West Ham take on struggling Chelsea (been a long time between drinks for the Hammers). Can Chelsea cause an upset or will the Cockney Boys give more grief to Jose Mourinho’s ulcer?
Continue Reading

Some great results for UK fans in the International break with Northern Ireland, Wales and England qualifying for next year’s Euros in France but some awful results for Premier League managers. Several players out for long periods after suffering injury and there will be many bosses wishing they had pulled the ‘he’s not quite fit enough for duty’ ruse that LVG used regarding Wayne Rooney. Whilst I fully support players turning up for their country I do feel sympathy for club managers who have their plans disrupted as a result. Another problem with the break is that it can stall momentum. Whilst there are some clubs that welcome a chance to regroup (Newcastle, Sunderland and Villa for example) there are others that had just got up a head of steam and were left kicking their heels for two weeks and have to hope they can maintain their form. Which camp does your team fit in and how do you think they will fare as we approach the quarter stage of the season? For my thoughts Continue Reading

Congratulations to Russell King of ‘Team Russ’ fame. He’s our Fantasy Football Manager of the Month for September, our latest champion of the 2015/16 season. As usual, we have assembled a super mega prize pack of varying quality for each of our monthly winners, and this season it definitely does include a $100 voucher from adidas! Congrats again Russell, well done!

Make sure you join our league for the chance to win hot prizes. Enter this code to join the Premier League Pass League: 595269-148482 (Private Classic League).

Congratulations to Ethan Hillis of ‘Lads on Toure’ fame. He’s our Fantasy Football Manager of the Month for August, our first champion of the 2015/16 season. As always, we have assembled a super mega prize pack of varying quality for each of our monthly winners, and this season it definitely does include a $100 voucher from adidas! Congrats again Ethan, well done!

Make sure you join our league for the chance to win hot prizes. Enter this code to join the Premier League Pass League: 595269-148482 (Private Classic League).

We have finally cobbled together a super-mega-prize-pack worthy of our 2014/15 Fantasy Football Manager of the Year! A massive congratulations to Russell McLeod of Gisborne, who has prevailed in what we all know is a long and grueling season. After taking out the title in 2013/14, our first champion Dan Winter has kindly returned the trophy which is now with the engravers, etching our latest winner’s name into history. Of course, it’s not just a trophy we play for folks. Coming Russell’s way is also a pair of footy boots for him and his kid, as well as a whopping $500 voucher from adidas!!! It doesn’t stop there either, Russell can also look forward to drying his dishes with our limited edition 2013/14 FPL Champions Tea Towel.

If you’re new to Premier League Pass, make sure you join our league for monthly prizes as well as the big season long cherry. Find the PLP League with this code: 595269-148482.

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Dan Winter, PLP Fantasy Football Manager of the Year, 2013/14.

11:30am Friday (12/6/15) Chile v Equador
11:30am Saturday (13/6/15) Mexico v Bolivia
07:00am Sunday (14/6/15) Uruguay v Jamaica
09:30am Sunday (14/6/15) Argentina v Paraguay
07:00am Monday (15/6/15) Colombia v Venezuela
09:30am Monday (15/6/15) Brasil v Peru
09:00am Tuesday (16/6/15) Equador v Bolivia
11:30am Tuesday (16/6/15) Chile v Mexico
09:00am Wednesday (17/6/15) Paraguay v Jamaica
11:30am Wednesday (17/6/15) Argentina v Uruguay
12:00pm Thursday (18/6/15) Brasil v Colombia
11:30am Friday (19/6/15) Peru v Venezuela
09:00am Saturday (20/6/15) Mexico v Equador
11:30am Saturday (20/6/15) Chile v Bolivia
07:00am Sunday (21/6/15) Uruguay v Paraguay
09:30am Sunday (21/6/15) Argentina v Jamaica
07:00am Monday (22/6/15) Colombia v Peru
09:30am Monday (22/6/15) Brasil v Venezuela

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