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SPORTS STORY

Nailed on?

Ross White looks at trends and recent form between opposing teams in the hope of gaining insight into how Septemberís key Premier League clashes will pan out. It makes for interesting reading

The start of any new season is filled with betting optimism, so having avoided those first two tricky weekends we start with a bumper accumulator at the end of August by combining a banker home win with two draws.

The home dead-certs are Tottenham, who thrashed visitors Wigan 9-1 last November in a memorable match that saw Jermain Defoe hit five goals. With Wigan having the worst away defensive record of 2009/10, and Tottenham the joint best home defensive record, Spurs will surely outscore the Latics again.

Meanwhile Chelsea also host whipping boys from last season as Stoke visit Stamford Bridge hoping to avoid a repeat of Aprilís 7-0 embarrassment. But with the Blues starting this campaign with numerous injury problems the home win is a little too risky to back at very tight odds indeed.

A similar argument can be made for not punting on Liverpool and Man United to beat West Brom and West Ham respectively, as the likes of Gerrard, Torres and Rooney are coming off the back of very poor World Cup displays. West Brom might also still be enjoying their newly-promoted honeymoon while West Ham have managed five victories over United over the past decade, including three at Old Trafford.

It would also be dangerous to rely on Arsenal to win at Ewood Park, where Blackburn beat them 2-1 last April and also held Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United to draws as they lost just three home games all season. However, first and anytime goalscorer punters should note that Robin Van Persie has hit four goals in his last four starts against Rovers.

Luckily the remaining weekend fixtures offer plenty of draw potential, not least Aston Villa versus Everton, whose last three either ground meetings have finished level. These two European-chasing teams have shared a few goals in their last two Villa Park fixtures, with a 2-2 draw in April and a 3-3 thriller a year before, so we will add another share of the points to our acca. Again there is promising goalscoring form as John Carew and Tim Cahill both have four-in-four records against their opponents.

We will complete our treble with a stalemate in Blackpoolís first-ever Premier League home match, against Fulham. The Seasiders look well short of top-flight quality and the first few matches could be an eye-opener for them. However, it would be brave to back the Londoners to notch an away win as they failed to do so for all of last season after their opening day triumph at relegated Portsmouth. As Fulham drew five of ten away games at last seasonís bottom-half teams a similar result seems the safest bet here.

There is plenty more draw potential this weekend though so for a huge odds cheeky quid we will add the draws at Villa and Blackpool to stalemates in the Wolves v Newcastle and Bolton v Birmingham fixtures. The latter two matches will surely be closely contested and short of goals.

Finally there is a decent shock-of-the month contender as Sunderland host Man City. Sunderland lead City 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in March until Adam Johnsonís injury-time equaliser but did beat Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs there, so this match would be my shock selection in an average Premier League preview.

However the second weekend of this preview contains several more possible shocks including Birmingham versus Liverpool and West Brom versus Tottenham. Birmingham to beat Liverpool at home was our selection last April and the Blues came close as they held the Merseysiders to a 0-0 draw. In fact Liverpool won just five away Premier League matches in 2009/10 while ninth-placed Birmingham held seven of the top eight teams to draws at St Andrewís. Incredibly the last six league fixtures between these sides have ended all square and I expect a repeat here rather than a surprise home win.

Meanwhile Tottenham have lost 2-0 at West Brom on their last two visits and with Spurs probably preparing for their first ever Champions League match in midweek, Albion will hope for another upset here. But Spurs now have more quality than they did for those previous trips to the Hawthorns and should avoid defeat in a match that promises to be an open affair, which will suit the Londoners.

So for my shock selection this time I will repeat a successful tip from last season of Everton to beat Man United at home. The Toffees won 3-1 in the sidesí last clash at Goodison in February, bringing us an impressive return at odds of 4.50, and the stage looks set for another United embarrassment. The Red Devils are often sluggish in the early stages of the season and have taken just one point from their last four Merseyside excursions to play Everton and Liverpool.

Meanwhile Everton should have less injury problems than a year ago and with no European distractions they will be aiming very high in the Premier League. The Toffees were unbeaten at home from last December onwards, beating United, Chelsea and Man City along the way, and United could be their first major scalp of 2010/11.

Back in Manchester, Unitedís neighbours City have a must-win home game against Blackburn, a fixture that has resulted in comfortable home wins in the past two seasons. Carlos Tevezís hat-trick last January helped the Blues to a 4-1 thumping over Rovers, who lost every game at the top eight clubs of 2009/10 except for a meaningless 1-0 victory at Villa on the final day. Unfortunately for Blackburn, Man City were pretty ruthless at home to inferior opposition last season, going unbeaten at Eastlands against teams below the top eight.

And so City kick off our weekend accumulator on Saturday along with Chelsea, who should be backed to win at West Ham despite only drawing 1-1 there on their last visit. That result though ended a run of four consecutive Blues wins at Upton Park, and as Chelsea have won the most Premier League away games over the last two seasons there seems little reason to doubt them here.

Some people might class Aston Villaís Monday night trip to Stoke as a shock contender because Villa have taken just one point from two Britannia Stadium visits, but I will stick my neck out and recommend the away win as the final leg of our treble.

Villa won more away Premier League games in 2009/10 than any team outside the top two and have the height to deal with Stokeís set-piece assault, as they did in a 0-0 draw there six months ago, and this time should have the pace to hurt The Potters on the counter-attack. Also bear in mind that Stoke have not beaten a top-eight side at home for almost two years and scored the same amount of league goals (34) last season as relegated sides Hull and Portsmouth.

In another interesting fixture this weekend, promoted clubs Newcastle and Blackpool meet at St Jamesí Park. As the Toon Army won this fixture 4-1 in the Championship back in April, and went unbeaten at home all season, they will be well fancied to beat a Tangerines team which only managed six wins from 23 Championship away matches.

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