While the seasonal winter break is fast approaching across Europe, English football is gearing up for the most hectic part of its schedule, with 4 games for each team between now and the 2nd of January. The depth of squads will be tested to their limits, and managers will need to rotate effectively to keep their players fresh for each outing. With the festive period upon us and money tight after Christmas spending, it is the perfect time to win some back, so here we take a look at some interesting trends for potential bets this weekend.
Manchester City vs Reading - Match Preview
Second-placed Manchester City host bottom of the table and out-of-sorts Reading at the Etihad, with no room for error given that they are now 6 points behind rivals United at the top of the league. With so many games coming up, City cannot afford to drop points in a game they will widely be expected to win, and they will be in a ruthless mood on Saturday afternoon.
With Reading having lost each of their last 6 Premier League matches, a game at the Etihad is hardly ideal for them to reverse what is a depressing stat for Brian McDermott's men. They are already 6 points adrift of safety and have only picked up two points from 9 away games this season, losing each of their last 3 on the road without netting a single goal. City are huge favourites to win this game and justifiably so. They have won all 13 of the Premier League games that both Aguero and Tevez have started together, and they may well be up front this time around. City should walk it and odds of 1.80 for the home side to win both halves represent decent value.
As for where the goals will come from, they have dried up somewhat for the Argentine duo, with each having bagged just one goal in his last 6 appearances. Yaya Toure, meanwhile, has netted in the last two games, and with Samir Nasri struggling through injury, the recently awarded African player of the year for 2012 could be needed in a more advanced position. With the floodgates likely to open, Toure has a good chance of getting on the scoresheet, and with odds of 2.40 to bag anytime, he could be worth a punt.
Reading have allowed their opponents more attempts on their goal (313) than any other team in Europe's top 5 leagues this season, and City tend to bombard lesser opposition and continue to do so even when ahead. With Reading also having shipped 36 goals this season - a Premier League high - there is every reason to fear the worst for the Royals here, and expect a City rout. City have a fantastic home record, and every so often they blow a team away, having already won 3-0 against Sunderland and 5-0 against Villa this season. We could well see another big win here, and you can find odds of 8.50 on a 4-0 City victory here, which is certainly tempting.
Chelsea vs Aston Villa - Match Preview
After an indifferent beginning to life at Chelsea, things seem to have picked up for Rafa Benitez, with his side having netted at least 3 goals in 4 of their last 5 matches. However, arguably their only real challenge in that time came against Corinthians - a match they lost. They now face a resurgent Villa side who come to London off the back of an impressive 3-1 win at Anfield last week. Villa ended a run of 9 games without winning at Stamford Bridge last season, coming from behind to win 3-1.
There were plenty of goals that day and that is something of a trend in games between these sides, with 32 scored in their last 6 meetings at Stamford Bridge - an average of 5.3 goals per game. With Chelsea having seen 26 goals scored in their last 6 games and Villa having netted 7 times in their last 2 games, both of which have come on the road, a punt on over 2.5 goals here at odds of 1.53 is very likely come through.
Many of the goals in recent games between these sides have come via the penalty spot, with no fewer than 7 penalties scored over the last 5 meetings at Stamford Bridge, 5 of which have been scored by the home team. Very much as a result of that, Frank Lampard has scored 5 goals in his last 2 home starts against Villa, and if he returns to the team, he could be a good bet to bag again. Furthermore, Phil Dowd - who has awarded more penalties (5) than any other official in the Premier League this season - is refereeing this game, so there is every reason to expect another spot-kick this time around. With the home crowd behind them, Chelsea are arguably the more likely to get a penalty, and odds of 5.00 on the Blues to score from the spot on Sunday might be worth a few quid.
As for the overall outcome of the game, it is surprising to see that Villa have a decent record in more recent times against Chelsea, having lost only twice in their last 5 trips to Stamford Bridge. They have upset the odds in their last two games, winning when widely not expected to at Norwich and Liverpool, and while a win might be beyond them, a draw could be on the cards. Chelsea have drawn each of their last 3 home Premier League games, but with the Blues huge favourites to win, you will find long odds on a stalemate in this game. That could be a mistake on the bookies' part but it is there for us to take advantage of, so a bet on Villa to snatch a draw at 5.50 is a good longshot bet.