It has been widely reported that Jose Mourinho is set to return to Chelsea in the near future, but Matt Stanger ponders whether this is really a good thing for the Blues and the PL...
Roll up, roll up to have a good laugh at your Football365 scribes, as we look back on our pre-season predictions to see who was wrong, who was right and who was stupid...
Chelsea v West Brom
Did Rafa commit professional hara-kari on Teesside the other night? Red cheeks, shan suit, dead-pan expression, the rotund Iberian gave Chelsea's fans and senior management a verbal shellacking for labelling him an 'Interim' boss when he took over. A (Chelsea fan) mate of mine has been calling Benitez a few things in recent weeks, 'interim' not being one of them. The Blues are 4/9 pokes to beat West Brom here but I wouldn't touch that with a barge pole and feel it would be fitting if former Chelsea old boy Steve Clarke delivered the coup de grace on the Benitez era this weekend, so am quite tempted by current 8/1 quotes on the away win.
Betting: West Brom to beat Chelsea at 8/1
Everton v Reading
The Toffees are struggling just now and I simply can't have them at 2/5 here. A much more sensible bet is the even money quotes currently floating about that both teams find the old onion bag at Goodison.
Betting: Both teams to score at evens (Boylesports)
Manchester United v Norwich City
The last time Norwich won at Old Trafford I was a 10-year-old boy with no pubes who was bang into shell suits and my ZX Spectrum 48K. Amazingly Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm back then and Taggart leads his team out this weekend hoping to make it 16 games unbeaten. Ryan Giggs of course will make his 1000th senior appearance if he gets a gig this weekend and I might just whack a few quid on his scoring against the Canaries. If the Red Devils are cruising and grab themselves a second half penalty I reckon fan power could well see him taking it. Giggsy, isn't it? Giggsy-wiggsy. Small boys in the park? Jumpers for goalposts? Marvellous.
Betting: Giggs to score anytime at 9/2 (Paddy Power)
Southampton v QPR
I'm amazed by the amount of ex pros and media pundits who are backing QPR to avoid the drop. They are six points adrift at the bottom and have scored fewer goals (comfortably) than anyone else in the league. 'Arry Redders's decision to splash the cash on a defender is looking more laughable with every passing week they fail to find the net. Put simply, they have to win this weekend. However just because a team 'has' to win doesn't necessarily mean they will. If I was having a bet on this (I won't be, I'll hopefully be drunk in Doncaster) I would personally be all over Rickie Lambert to score first at 5s.
Betting: Lambert to score first at 5/1 (Coral)
Stoke City v West Ham
I've bet on most things down the years. Sports, elections, the Oscars, whether I could put my flaccid senderos into a pint glass and touch the bottom (I lost that one by the way). But surprisingly one thing I have never really punted on is corner betting in the football. My mate swears there is an earner in it and surely when these two beefy mammals lock horns at the Britannia Stadium it will be corner heaven? Big Sam and Tony Pulis are renowned long ball merchants so I am thinking Bet365's even money quote about their being more than nine corners needs smashing into.
Betting: Over 11 corners at evens (Bet365)
Sunderland v Fulham
It's one win in five for the Black Cats at the SoL so excuse me if I swerve them completely this weekend. If you must have a punt on a North East team this weekend then surely Hartlepool are the bet at 4/1 to win at Doncaster? The Chimp Chokers might be second bottom but are on a fine recent run and have picked up 17 points from a possible 21. They made it three wins off the belt by beating Crewe 3-0 on Tuesday and in Jack Baldwin have a teenage midfielder who could definitely by plying his trade in the top flight in a few years. Donny are top so it's blatantly not a mortgage job. What is though is me to be on the 0855am train bound for South Yorkshire with a bag of Stella and mischief in my eyes.
Betting: Hartlepool to beat Doncaster at 4/1 (Coral)
Swansea v Newcastle
Swansea secured the first major silverware in their history last weekend as they gubbed Bradford City to win the Capital One cup. The pressure is off them this Saturday and unless they have been hitting the peeve hard all week I reckon they are a good bet to turn over a Newcastle side who are regularly gash away from Tyneside.
Betting: Swansea to beat Newcastle at 23/20 (Blue Sq)
Wigan v Liverpool
The Reds are rightful favourites to win this against a Wigan side who are struggling and who may not be at full strength. The Camel Coats fancy goals too but I feel both teams to score is chalked up at a rather skinny 4/6 in places. In life sometimes it tends to go against the grain and therefore I'm happy backing that at least one of these two fails to find the net in Saturday's late kick-off.
Betting: Both teams to score - no at 5/4 (Hills/Paddy Power)
Tottenham v Arsenal
Absolutely huge game on Sunday as these two bitter North London rivals renew hostilities at White Hart Lane. The Gunners of course have won the last two meetings between the teams 5-2 and if you fancy lightening to strike thrice you can have 200/1 with several layers. A win for Arsenal would reinvigorate their chase for a Champions League berth while a Spurs win would put clear daylight between themselves and fifth place. No prizes for guessing who the focus will be on before the off. Gareth Bale has scored eight goals in his last six matches and has looked absolutely unplayable at times in recent weeks.
The Bale-Meister looks to be playing at the absolute peak of his powers. Fast, direct and playing his football with a swagger, comparisons have inevitably been made between him, CR7 and the boy Messi. The Welshman is a fair way off those two in my eyes but he is unquestionably, head and shoulders the best player in this country just now. Furthermore, he has produced the goods for this column on more than one occasion so I am happy to have another dabble on old monkey chops finding the net at odds against.
Betting: Bale to score anytime at 11/8 (Stan James)
Ooh, jumpers for goals posts, isn't it? Isn't it? Hmmm, marvellous, simply marvellous.- varicoseregent