Goals should be expected when QPR and Wigan clash on Sunday - our tipsters have previewed all the day's games
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard claimed after last Sunday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa that his side faced seven cup finals from now until the end of the season as they continue their push for a European place. Fourth place now looks a tall order for the men from Anfield but fifth could earn a place in the Europa League. It's definitely second best compared to the glamour and glitz of its big brother, the Champions League, but most Liverpool fans will tell you that a season without European football is like a Sunday roast without gravy. The first of those vital seven games comes against West Ham on Sunday and certainly a home win is very much expected by the layers and a very skinny 4/11 is the best on offer. Liverpool have won six of the last eight Premier League clashes between the sides, while West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has lost on his last eight visits to Anfield so an away win would be a huge surprise. The Hammers are six points clear of the drop zone and will be confident of staying out of trouble, but their away record has done them few favours this season with 10 losses in 15 games and only three wins. They have only scored nine times on the road and with striker Andy Carroll, who is just finding some form after injury, unavailable due to the the terms of his loan agreement, then it is easy to see why West Ham are as big as 9/1. Liverpool will be on many accas, but 4/11 does not tempt me one bit. Instead I'll turn to Steven Gerrard, who has been the Reds' driving force this season, having played every minute of every Premier League match. The 32-year-old has been inspirational with 10 goals this season, nine coming in the Premier League, including the winner at Villa last weekend. The midfielder has scored seven goals in his career against the Hammers - only against Villa (12) and Everton (8) has he managed more. The fact he is deadly from set pieces and is also Liverpool's penalty taker makes the 8/5 being offered by bet365 and bwin on him scoring anytime too good ignore.
Are Spurs a one man team? Well, no, but clearly Gareth Bale will be sorely missed. However, I'd be concerned most about the cumulative effect injuries are having on the hosts' squad. The absence of Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon adds to their problems in this one and will certainly have given Everton a mental boost going into what is a big game for both sides. The Toffees will surely get an easier ride at the back now, good news for a defence which has struggled to keep teams out this season. Should Everton win, they will be within three points of Spurs with a game in hand and right back in the race for Champions League football. Has the value already gone though? Within minutes of Bale being stretchered off on Thursday night bookies had adjusted their prices with Everton in from 100/30 to less than 5/2. It should be remembered that the visitors will again be without Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar so that could well be considered an over-reaction. Changing their formation, they were not at their best against Stoke last weekend and a repeat will probably not be good enough. I'm not convinced Everton are now a good price. Where could alternative value lie? Well, figuring out how Spurs will line up could be key. Mousa Dembele has played well of late but hasn't been contributing the goals he did at Fulham last term. With Bale missing, he may be urged to get forward more and the 11/2 to score at any time is at least worthy of consideration.
I just can't get a grip on Chelsea. Wobbly one minute, beating the champions-elect the next. You have to feel that sooner or later the amount of football in their legs will catch up with them - after all only Everton have used fewer players this season. Could it be here? Well, Sunderland's players will have fresh impetus with new manager Paolo Di Canio taking charge for the first time but I'm just not sure where their goals can come from. Danny Graham desperately needs to come to the party now that Steven Fletcher is out for the season. Lee Cattermole will also be missed; he has his faults but is always up for the fight and that's what Sunderland need right now. You can side with Sunderland at 5/2 in the double-chance market, thus getting the draw on side too, but really Chelsea should prove too good here. They do have good players to step off the bench/stands after Thursday's Europa exploits and having won eight of the last nine at Stamford Bridge in all competitions they are taken to pull through. They are no price to do so though and, having re-read my opening line, it's onto the next game on the coupon.
Not the most original of bets this but Dimitar Berbatov to score the first goal looks worth a play at 15/2. He's in a rich vein of form right now and has scored five times in Fulham's last four games and the famous swagger of his play is well and truly back. When he's in this mood he's unplayable, although admittedly you are never too sure when he'll have one of his anonymous games. His first-scorer stats are particularly impressive, the Bulgarian, who takes penalties for the Cottagers, having netted the first goal on five of his last six starts. Yes, it could be co-incidence but to me is reflective of a man in a good mental state, raring to go from the first whistle. He's 15/2 to add to that streak in this match which looks worth taking. Newcastle will again be a tad tired after Thursday's trip to Portugal and they haven't had the best of times is dealing with the post-Europa fixtures. In their previous three post-Europa games they made sloppy starts against Southampton and Wigan, conceding after just three and 18 minutes respectively, while they also had to fight back from going 1-0 down against Stoke. OK, Fulham aren't always the best on their travels but Newcastle's defending on Thursday will give them plenty of hope and with Berbatov in fine firm, they should trouble the hosts.
If ever a game deserved the title of six-pointer, then Wigan's trip to QPR is it. QPR are seven points from safety and can scarcely afford any more slips if they are to remain in the top flight for next season. Wigan are involved in yet another relegation scrap as they go into the game fourth from bottom, out of the drop zone only by virtue of goal difference. What could be their trump card in their battle against the drop is that they've been in this position before and have shown they have the stomach for a fight. The Latics have won three of their last four league games - at exactly the right time - and also have an FA Cup semi-final against Millwall to look forward to. Rangers gave themselves hope with successive wins over Southampton and Sunderland, but all that hard work was undone as they lost 3-2 at both Aston Villa and Fulham in their last two outings. It seems a case of one step forward, two steps back for Harry Redkanpp's side at present. Quite simply, if they lose to Wigan then it surely would be the end for them whereas a point for the Latics would be one I'm sure they would gladly take. Plotting the outcome of this fixture is a massive ask as both can be so erratic, but the layers are going with home advantage - the R's being a best of 17/12 with Pinnacle despite having won just one of their last seven PL games at Loftus Road. However, what I am convinced about is that there will be plenty of goals. Wigan have conceded 56 goals in 30 games so far - only Villa (58) and bottom side Reading (61) have conceded more - and the R's have let in 51. So if you combine two leaky defences with quality strikers like Loic Remy, Bobby Zamora, Adel Taarabt and Arouna Kone, and I also tell you that Wigan have not been involved in a 0-0 Premier League draw since February 2012, then you can see why I believe goals can flow. The 9/4 being offered by bet365 for more than three goals in the match looks a decent bet.
- The games at Tottenham and QPR are being televised live in the UK on ESPN and Sky Sports respectively.