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Liverpool v Swansea: The Reds likely to have far too much for visiting Swans

"You'll get a massive 16.00 on the Swansea win, and no wonder. The Swans have never won at Anfield in the Premier League and have only won once on the road since the opening day of the season."

Liverpool v Swansea
Saturday, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports 1

Liverpool


Liverpool toiled again in the cup on Wednesday night, eventually overcoming Plymouth at Home Park 0-1, but not before suffering a scare towards the end of the game when the Pilgrims hit the post and almost took the game to extra time. That's three times now the Reds have looked unconvincing in a cup competition - two of those admittedly with an under-strength side - and their recent league form is fairly average too; two draws, one a creditable one against Man United and one a 2-2 stalemate against struggling Sunderland.

In fairness to Jurgen Klopp's men, they've been without some key players through the spine of their team. Joel Matip is their best defender and he's caught in an admin nightmare with the Cameroon FA and FIFA meaning he can't be risked, lest the Reds get punished with a points deduction, Jordan Henderson is finding his full fitness after absence, and the same can be said of Philippe Coutinho. What's more, Sadio Mane, their most dynamic attacking player this season is away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Swansea present a different challenge, but one that Liverpool should use to get back on the horse and start winning again.

Swansea

At first glance, it was a baptism of fire for Paul Clement in his first league game as Swansea boss. On paper they were hammered by Arsenal, but for the first period of the game they looked ok, and a lot hinged on a penalty appeal they had turned down when losing just 0-1 to the Gunners. Had they been awarded that (and it was a reasonable shout), it may well have been a different story.

It may not have been though, of course, and Clement and his team can't afford to worry about that now. This is probably an even tougher assignment than the Arsenal game given that it's on the road, but a positive result could even see the Swans climb out of the relegation zone should results go their way and that should be motivation enough at this stage of the season.

If Swansea are to get anything here, they'll need to do it without Jefferson Montero and Neil Taylor. Both players are injured. Tom Carroll is available for selection after signing from Tottenham.

Match Odds

I've made a fair amount of Liverpool's dodgy form here, and with good reason, but I don't actually think they'll struggle to beat Swansea on Saturday lunchtime. Unfortunately (and somewhat predictably) though, the market agrees. 1.23 is the price available on a Liverpool win, and it's not surprising given they've not been beaten at home in the league all season.

You'll get a massive 16.00 on the Swansea win, and no wonder. The Swans have never won at Anfield in the Premier League and have only won once on the road since the opening day of the season. It would be fanciful to suggest they can pick up a win here.

The Draw is a chunky-looking 7.60.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

First instinct when looking at these prices is that Overs, at 1.48, is very short. Liverpool have only scored more than twice in a game once in their last eight, and one of their last six (and none of their last four) have gone Overs. There are mitigating circumstances for some of that, but even considering that, those stats are stark.

Unders is available at 2.92, and it might be an angle to back that and look to trade, but we'll only get value on that if no-one scores early. So approach with caution.

Liverpool-1

All things considered, Liverpool are a far better side than Swansea and this looks like the best market to play in, in order to get a bit of a return on a home win. We should be able to back this at about 1.78 nearer to kick off, and that for me represents value. The Premier League table tells us that Clement's side have the worst defence in the top flight, conceding well over two goals a game on average, and that Liverpool are the top scorers in the division.


Recommended Bet

Back Liverpool-1 at 1.78


Manchester City v Tottenham: Slick Spurs can make hay against fragile defence

"Spurs have been on the goal trail of late. Against the combined forces (perhaps not the correct word) of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, it's hard not to see them having some joy"

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Manchester City

There were moments during his side's 4-0 surrender at Everton last weekend when Pep Guardiola could barely bear to watch. The TV cameras caught the Manchester City manager staring straight ahead into space, apparently completely befuddled by what was occurring on the field.

City's line-up told its own story, with a deeply underwhelming back four ahead of the shaky Claudio Bravo, plus Pablo Zabaleta drafted in as an emergency midfielder. Given all the money the club have spent on new players over the last few years, serious questions need to be asked of those in charge of recruitment. This is a top-heavy squad that looks ill-equipped to carry out Guardiola's demanding game plan.

Goals have been an issue in the league over the last three matches, with Sergio Aguero yet to reach top speed since returning from injury and Kevin De Bruyne enduring a quiet patch. But help could be at hand: Brazilian sensation Gabriel Jesus has been cleared to play and could feature on Saturday afternoon.

Tottenham

While their hosts this weekend are up against it, Tottenham travel to the Etihad with wind in their sails after a fine sequence of results. Since a narrow defeat to Manchester United in November, Spurs have won every one of their seven matches in all competitions, overtaking Liverpool, Arsenal and City in the Premier League in the process (ahead of Saturday's games).

They turned in their most impressive display of the season so far last time out, thrashing a solid West Brom side at White Hart Lane. With Harry KaneDele Alli and Christian Eriksen all in fine fettle, Mauricio Pochettino's side are beginning to look like the most likely challengers to Chelsea at the summit.

There was a cloud to the silver lining a week ago, however: Jan Vertonghen was forced off with an ankle problem and is expected to be absent for six weeks or so. Kevin Wimmer or Ben Davies could come into the side if Pochettino elects to stick with a back three, but he may be tempted to bolster his midfield with Moussa Sissoko or Harry Winks.

Match Odds

Given City's form, it is perhaps a touch surprising to see them as short as 2.20 to win this one, even factoring in home advantage. They have won their last three at the Etihad, beating Arsenal just before Christmas, but Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Southampton and Everton have all taken points from them in Manchester this season. Of those, the table would suggest only Chelsea are better than Spurs.

Recent matches between the sides have gone Tottenham's way: they've won the last three league meetings. They are clearly the form side and will be hopeful of heaping more misery on struggling opponents. Our only doubt is over how Spurs cope with Vertonghen's absence, which could unsettle the backline against quality attackers.

The Tottenham win holds appeal at 3.70, but a more sensible play is to back the away side on the Asian handicap. By backing Tottenham 0 & +0.5 at 2.10, you earn a small profit if they draw and a bigger one if they win.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Spurs have been on the goal trail of late, with five of their six consecutive league wins since have gone over the 2.5-goal line. Against the combined forces (perhaps not the correct word) of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, they ought to have some joy.

City will need an improvement in attack if they are to get a result, then, but it's worth noting that they've scored in every home game to date. With that in mind, the overs holds a little more appeal at 1.86. A better bet, though, might be Both Teams to Score at 1.71. That would have paid off in 14 of City's 21 Premier League matches.

Tottenham Total Goals

In terms of goal betting, this is the market that really stands out. City have conceded eight goals in five meetings with the current top six, including two to Tottenham at White Hart Lane and three against Chelsea at the Etihad - the latter game provided a nice winner for this column.

Their only clean sheets this term have come against Bournemouth, West Brom, Watford and Hull, so it's almost unthinkable that Spurs won't break through. We'll back them to get at least two goals against a fragile defence at 9/5 on the Sportsbook.

To Score

Eriksen has scored in both of his two Premier League visits to the Etihad and is worthy of consideration at 3/1. The romantics may also want to look at Jesus, who is 7/4 to snaffle a debut goal. Really, though, it is hard to look past Kane. He has six goals in his last four games and is available at 5/4.

Recommended Bets

Back Tottenham to score two or more at 9/5
Back Tottenham 0 & +0.5 at 2.10


Middlesbrough v West Ham United: Hammers offer value to blunt hosts

"The hosts are without a win in their last eight league clashes against West Ham. Boro are five points below the Hammers in the table and have won just one of their last seven league games."


Middlesbrough 2.52 v West Ham 3.30; The Draw 3.25
Saturday, 15:00

Middlesbrough

Aitor Karanka's side may not be the crowd pleasers of the Premier League but Middlesbrough have proved durable opponents this season. The side have built from the back and come into this game off the back of three successive clean sheets. But their lack of end product has been an issue with the side held to goalless draws in their last two league matches.

The target is survival this season following promotion from the Championship and Boro have given themselves a decent chance of avoiding the drop. Karanka's side are 16th in the table and have a four-point cushion over the bottom three. The lack of goals are a concern, with 17 the fewest by some distance in the league, which has led to the recent arrivals of strikers Rudy Gestede and Patrick Bamford.

West Ham

It has been a turbulent season for the Hammers and this has been summed up by the drama involving Dimitri Payet this month. The playmaker has refused to play for the club and insists he wants to return to France with his unsettled family. But West Ham showed togetherness in adversity last weekend to claim a much-needed 3-0 home win over Crystal Palace.

Most of the Irons' problems have come at their new home, the London Stadium, where they have struggled to settle following the move from Upton Park. West Ham are still working their way back up the table after a very poor start to the campaign. But four wins from their last six league games is something to build on for the remainder of the season.

Match Odds

Boro are the 2.52 favourites for this weekend's game but there is little to justify backing them at this stingy price. The hosts are without a win in their last eight league clashes against West Ham. Boro are five points below the Hammers in the table and have won just one of their last seven league games.

West Ham are 3.30 for the victory and this is a much more tempting proposition. Slaven Bilic's side are steadily climbing up the league and will take confidence from last weekend's win over the Eagles. While Boro are stuttering, the visitors at least have some momentum and this trip will hold no fears.

The draw is priced at 3.25 and will probably also attract some interest considering Boro are involved. Karanka's side have been held more than any other team in the league with eight draws this season. But only one of West Ham's last ten matches have finished level so this lessens the appeal of this outcome.

Draw No Bet

West Ham appear to have a lot more in their favour and are a better team than Boro. The hosts' advantage at home has been overplayed considering they have lost five of their ten league games at the Riverside Stadium. The Hammers appear galvanised by the Payet saga and are worth supporting to back up their win over Palace. But with Boro's record of stalemates, it is worth having the draw on side as a safety net at 2.28.

Ref Watch

Martin Atkinson takes charge of this weekend's game with the referee only sending off one player in 20 games so far this campaign. This was the same number of red cards he dished out in 46 matches last season.

Opta Stat

Michail Antonio has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than any other West Ham player this season scoring eight goals. Antonio can be backed at 3.35 to score this weekend.

Recommended Bet
Back West Ham draw no bet at 2.28


La Liga Betting: Back improving Barcelona to keep things tight against Eibar

"The Catalans have not been convincing for much of the season so far, meaning Real are strong favourites to take the title. But for now at least, as the Spanish papers love to shout, 'Hay Liga!'"

Real Madrid v Málaga
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Betfair Live Video

This time last week, Zinedine Zidane had won more trophies than he had lost matches as Real Madrid manager. It was a record so ludicrous that it sounded made-up, and testament to the Frenchman's fine start to life in the dugout.
But it is no more: Los Merengues succumbed to two defeats in the space of four days, first to Sevilla in the league, then to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey.

Zidane claimed after the latter game that Madrid are "in a bad moment", but that looks a little rash. His side were decent enough at the Sánchez Pizjuán until their late blackout, while the loss to Celta - impressive though the Galicians were - owed as much to their own poor finishing than it did to anything else. Zidane will expect a reaction, of course, but there's no real need for crisis talk as things stand.

Madrid should get back on the horse against a Málaga side that has fallen to pieces in recent weeks. They have not won a match since November and Uruguayan coach Marcelo Romero has struggled to bring about an improvement in form since stepping up in the wake of Juande Ramos' exit. They have slipped to 13th in La Liga and there's every chance they could get dragged into a relegation battle, not least because top scorer Sandro Ramírez - the only player to have scored more than three times for them in La Liga - has been ruled out for a month.

Real's recent record against Los Boquerones is exceptional: they've lost just one of the last 30 meetings between the sides, winning 21. This represents a great chance to get recent disappointments out of their system and they should make hay against a flimsy defence.

Recommended Bet
Back Real Madrid -2.5 at 1.96

Athletic Club v Atlético Madrid
Sunday, 15:15
Live on Sky Sports Mix

It has been an underwhelming season for Atlético Madrid, who find themselves six points (and a game in hand) off the summit going into the weekend. Speculation over Diego Simeone's future has been mounting, with many questioning whether his tenure in the capital is reaching the end of its natural life cycle. The intensity that has defined the side's performances over the last few seasons certainly appears to be on the wane.

But there have been signs of improvement recently. With Antoine Griezmann back among the goals (if not back to his effervescent best), Atleti have won three on the spin in La Liga, keeping three clean sheets in the process. If a title bid looks far-fetched, they at least seem determined to make sure they're in the Champions League conversation come spring.

Their opponents on Sunday, Athletic Club, are having a solid season, but could struggle this weekend. Star striker Aritz Aduriz is suspended, as is Beñat Etxebarria, their most creative midfielder. That will reduce their threat markedly, meaning Atleti will be hopeful of another shutout.

Rather than backing the away win, though, we're going to opt for 'No' in the Both Teams to Score? market. This would have paid out in five of Athletic's last eight league games, plus every one of Atleti's last eight.

Recommended
Back 'No' in the Both Teams to Score? market at 1.84

Eibar v Barcelona
Sunday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 3 and Betfair Live Video

They may still be trailing Sevilla, but Barcelona will be thankful to Jorge Sampaoli's side for blowing the title race open last weekend. The Catalans have been unconvincing for much of the season so far, meaning Real must still be considered strong favourites to come out on top, but for now at least, as the Spanish papers love to shout, 'Hay Liga!'
A 5-0 win over Las Palmas last weekend took Barça's goal difference to +30 (equal to Real's at the start of jornada 19), but in some respects the best news came at the other end, in the form of an overdue clean sheet. They then followed it up with another against Real Sociedad in the cup, grinding out a useful 1-0 victory in San Sebastián.

Javier Mascherano is suspended for the visit to Eibar after picking up his third booking of the season, but that should not impinge upon their newfound defensive stability; Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Piqué looked solid in midweek and will happily continue their partnership.

The Gunners have picked up some handy away wins in recent weeks and are sitting pretty in ninth going into the weekend, but they have disappointed in their last few matches at the cosy Ipurua, failing to score against Deportivo Alavés (0-0) and Atlético Madrid (0-2) in the league, plus Osasuna (0-0) in the cup. Eibar have also failed to score against Barça in three of their four La Liga meetings, so with Luis Enrique's side as short as 1.31 to win, we'll take a chance on them to win and keep a clean sheet at more appealing odds.

Recommended Bet
Back Barcelona to win to nil at 5/4