Friday, December 29, 2006

Pinnacle Weekend Premiership Analysis

Matches Played December 30th
Saturday’s fixtures are the last of 2006, so if one of your New Year’s resolution is to be a more successful gambler, sign-up with Pinnacle Sports offering up to 60% better odds than the opposition, and a smarter way to bet.

Chelsea Struggling Without Inspirational Captain
After riding their luck over the Christmas period fortune finally turned against Chelsea on Boxing Day. The Blues’ 2-2 draw at home to Reading leaves them four points behind Manchester United at the top of the Premiership table. Jose Mourinho’s side have now conceded twice in each of their last three league games, something that has never happened under his management, and this defensive frailty is clearly linked to the absence of captain, John Terry. In the 16 Premiership games played by Terry this season, Chelsea conceded nine goals and kept 10 clean sheets.

The Champions’ next game is a London Derby at home to Fulham, where despite the recent wobble, they still boast an unbeaten home record stretching back 54 games; Pinnacle Sports has them as favourites 1.820 (-1.5 & -2.0). This price is backed up by Chelsea’s impressive record against Fulham. The Cottagers have won just one of eleven Premiership meetings and have one of the division’s worst away defensive records. Chris Coleman’s side have lost their last two away games without scoring, and have won just once on the road this term (all they managed in the whole of last season). Given that record, Pinnacle Sports rate Fulham 2.12 (+1.5 & +2.0).

Royals Face First Ever League Fixture at Old Trafford
Chelsea will be hoping Reading repeat their heroics at Stamford Bridge facing the Red Devils at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. Manchester United are unquestionably the Premiership’s form side, scoring three times in winning each of their last four home ties in all competitions. Pinnacle Sports clearly expect United to do a better job against Reading than Chelsea did on Tuesday rating them 2.02 (-1.5 & -2.0).

Though the Royals’ draw at Stamford Bridge was creditable, and in part the reward for a tactical rethink by Coppell, the only team to win at Old Trafford this season is Arsenal, and Reading’s recent form is uninspiring, as they are without a win in their last five games. Reading’s players should be motivated by the fact this is the club’s first ever league meeting with Manchester United. The inspiration of playing in front of 76,000 fans should lift the visitors’ players, and ensure that the home side don’t have it all their own way. Pinnacle Sports rate the away side 1.909 (+1.5 & +2.0).

Champions League Contenders Clash at White Hart Lane
Two resurgent sides, with excellent chances of grabbing a Champions League place, meet at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Spurs have the same home record as the league leaders - Manchester United - and are now unbeaten in 13 consecutive home games in all competitions, including a win against Chelsea.

Martin Jol should be feeling confident having qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup, and semi-finals of the Carling, where he could meet Saturday’s opponents, Liverpool. The Reds have also turned their domestic form around, keeping clean sheets in seven of their last eight Premiership games, and should have got more out of their last game away to Blackburn, where they squandered a number of opportunities, eventually losing 1-0.

Rafa Benitez received a lot of criticism earlier in the year for his continual experimentation with players, but the Spaniard seems to have settled on a successful formation. With both sides in such excellent form Pinnacle Sports are unable to separate them. Liverpool are marginal favourites 1.901 (0/scratch), with Tottenham 2.03 (0/scratch). The history of recent encounters doesn’t provide any evidence of a clear winner either. The last three meetings at White Hart Lane have all been drawn. However, the home side are likely to be without two of the players credited with their excellent recent form – Defoe and Lennon – which, in such a finely balanced game, could be crucial.

Fourth Meets Fifth at Reebok Stadium
Few punters would have wagered that at the turn of the year, Bolton and Portsmouth would meet occupying fourth and fifth places respectively in the Premiership. The Trotters’ success should not be a great shock as Sam Allardyce has made the Reebok one of the division’s hardest venues to get a result. After struggling in November, Bolton were in excellent form leading up to Christmas, winning their last four games, conceding just once. The improved form of Nicolas Anelka has been influential, with the much travelled striker chipping in with four goals in as many games.

Portsmouth looked relegation certainties last season, until Harry Houdini Redknapp returned to rescue the club, so it has been a huge surprise to see the South Coast Club maintain their position close to the top of the Premiership table. Pompey are now unbeaten in their last six fixtures, including visits to Liverpool and Arsenal, venues where last season they were canon-fodder. Goals are coming from all over the pitch, and they will be confident of leap-frogging Bolton in the table with a victory, priced 1.877 by Pinnacle Sports with a 0.5 goal Asian Handicap start, while the home side are 2.05 (-0.5) looking to continue their excellent festive form.


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