The 2011/12 Premier League continues on Saturday as champions Manchester United host Norwich, but the big clash of the day is the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool.
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Everton v Liverpool (12:45pm)
The last time the Reds went to Goodison Park they had Roy Hodgson in charge and lost 2-0, a result which dropped them into the relegation zone.
Less than a year on and Liverpool are looking up, rather than over their shoulders, after the return of Kenny Dalglish and a spending spree that would make most clubs jealous. While Dalglish’s new recruits haven’t completely gelled yet there are signs the Reds will challenge for top honours this season.
In contrast to Liverpool’s spending spree Everton haven’t had two coins to rub together recently. David Moyes has done the best he can with the tools on offer and while the Toffees have made a good start you get the sense injuries will begin to take their toll.
Already Moyes is waiting on news over whether or not Tim Cahill will be fit to start. If he doesn’t you can’t see the Blues threatening Liverpool too often. The Reds have a good squad at their disposal and should have too much strength in depth for their local rivals.
Match Bet – Draw HT/Liverpool FT @ 9/2.
Manchester United v Norwich City
Could United’s near-perfect start to the season be coming to an end?
Back-to-back draws might have brought the Old Trafford faithful back down to earth a bit after flying out of the blocks, especially after throwing away a 2-0 lead against Basel.
They now welcome a Norwich side who have won their last two matches, making up for a rocky start to the season.
The Canaries have already shown their quality against the top teams in the division, giving Chelsea a bloody nose before eventually losing 3-1.
A similar result at Old Trafford looks to be on the cards, and with Wayne Rooney back Sir Alex Ferguson’s men look to have too much for Norwich.
Match Bet – United with a -1 handicap @ 1/2 and United to score in both halves @ 8/11.
Aston Villa v Wigan Athletic
Alarm bells should be ringing at Wigan already given recent performances, four straight defeats in all competitions sending them towards the wrong end of the table.
Roberto Martinez says he doesn’t regret turning down the Villa job in the summer but if his charges don’t pick up their games soon then he might start.
The Latics have looked poor recently and while Villa haven’t been pulling up trees they should be too good for Wigan.
Alex McLeish’s men were dreadful in the first half against QPR but improved after the break to keep their unbeaten start to the season going.
It will be tight at Villa Park but the home side should once again just do enough to secure maximum points.
Match Bet – Villa to keep a clean sheet @ 11/10.
Blackburn Rovers v Manchester City
All is not well at Eastlands and Roberto Mancini will probably be glad for the distraction of this game, rather than having to answer more questions about Carlos Tevez.
The Argentine has been suspended and as such won’t be able to disrupt City’s preparations for the trip to Ewood Park.
City’s excellent start to the season is over after the defeat to Bayern Munich but they should keep their Premier League title campaign on track against Blackburn.
If City were poor on Tuesday night then Blackburn were worse when meekly losing to Newcastle last week.
Steve Kean’s time in the Ewood Park hot seat could soon be coming to an end and this game will only hasten his exit.
Match Bet – Man City with a -1 handicap @ 11/8.
Sunderland v West Brom
Both teams have failed to get into their stride this season and are in desperate need of a win to kickstart their campaigns.
Sunderland have struggled for consistency, following up their 4-0 win over Stoke by losing to Norwich.
Steve Bruce has also had to deal with off-field problems involving Titus Bramble so, like Mancini, will be glad of the distraction of a game.
The Black Cats’ record against West Brom isn’t great, losing the last three, while Bruce has never beaten a side managed by Roy Hodgson.
However, given both teams have been struggling a draw looks to be the obvious choice.
The Baggies will take a point but the result is unlikely to relieve the pressure that is building on Bruce at the Stadium of Light.
Match Bet – Draw @ 12/5.
Wolves v Newcastle United
The Toon have probably been the surprise package of the season so far, lifting themselves into fourth with three wins out of six.
Alan Pardew looks to have recruited well and with Hatem Ben Arfa fully fit Newcastle should have no fears over relegation.
At times the Toon have struggled on the road but this season they have won three out of five away from St James’ Park in all competitions.
With Wolves struggling for goals in the league recently a Newcastle win seems the obvious choice, the Toon having conceded just three goals in the league.
Mick McCarthy’s men made a bright start to the campaign but three straight defeats have given Wolves fans a dose of reality.
Match Bet – Newcastle win @ 2/1.