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It’s Premier League overload this week, with a full set of fixtures to keep us entertained on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
Who will enjoy themselves most under the lights? Adrian Clarke previews two of the standout contests…
Manchester United v Everton | 4 April 20:00
Jose Mourinho and Ronald Koeman have both been behaving like grumpy old men this week, picking fights with all and sundry – and I don’t think Everton’s Dutch boss will be feeling any more chipper after Tuesday night’s northwest derby.
The Toffees have been decimated by injuries to key men, and going to Old Trafford with a team full of kids is far from ideal.
While I’ve enjoyed the performances of Everton’s talented young players in recent weeks, I fear chucking so many in together at once (against a United side that’s fuming at dropping points to West Brom on Saturday) could be a disaster waiting to happen.
The Blues aren’t that watertight away from home anyway.
They shipped three at White Hart Lane and Anfield, and even though Manchester United are a little shot-shy, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a repeat here. United to score over 2.5 goals is on offer at 21/10.
There’s also good news to report for the hosts. The returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba are back and bound to lift spirits at the Theatre of Dreams.
Nicely rested, they will be eager to make an impression and I wouldn’t bet against it happening.
Pogba is attractively priced at 13/4 to supply at least one assist, while the main man Zlatan – who has Golden Boot leader Romelu Lukaku in his sights – is red-hot favourite to land the first goal at 27/10.
It just feels like the wrong time for Everton to face this fixture.
In addition to injury worries, Lukaku looked tired and off the pace versus Liverpool, and with just a few days to recover, this test could come too soon for a swift response.
Providing Jose Mourinho’s men get off to a bright start (and I’d fancy that to happen with the boss in such a fiery mood) this could be more comfortable than many expect. Once one goal goes in, Everton’s inexperience could easily count against them.
I’d be looking to back Manchester United to win both halves (31/10) and the final score that’s leaping out at me is 3-0, which is yours to claim at 19/2.
Everton have promise, but because they’re under strength I don’t believe they’re equipped to pass this test.
Chelsea v Manchester City | 5 April 20:00
Round one of Conte v Guardiola went emphatically in the Italian’s favour thanks to a sensational 3-1 success last December, and I envisage the Chelsea boss claiming a famous double this week.
OK they had a wobble when losing to Crystal Palace, but considering this fixture is at Stamford Bridge, the odds-against price of 27/20 for a home win is a real head turner.
Make no mistake, once Pep Guardiola sorts his defence out Manchester City will be one heck of a good side, but for now it’s the leaders who are considerably more rounded.
Just as they did at the Etihad, Chelsea will have to absorb plenty of pressure, but on the counter they can wreak havoc. Without the ball the visitors have fragilities aplenty, and that’s where Eden Hazard and Pedro will come into their own and cash in.
I believe the 53/50 on the Blues scoring over 1.5 goals represents splendid value.
When these two sides last met, Diego Costa was an absolute animal. In a good way.
He battered City’s central defenders into submission, and having gone three league games without a goal, I sense this might be his night to revive form.
The 13/10 on him to score anytime highlights how dangerous the bookies expect the burly Spaniard to be.
Expect a spot of animosity to rear its head too.
Sergio Aguero and David Luiz have plenty of history, and I’d be amazed if the Brazilian didn’t try and seek a spot of sneaky retribution for the Argentine’s horror tackle in the reverse game.
If he takes a gamble and gets caught, referee Mike Dean – a man who leads the pack with five red cards this term – won’t hesitate to take action. So in many respects I’m amazed the 20/1 on the frizzy haired star taking an early bath, isn’t shorter.
For most players I’d suggest they wouldn’t be so daft as to try something so obvious, but with Luiz, I’m not convinced!
City will be bold, they usually are, and in Leroy Sane they have player that’s ripping it up at the moment. With Victor Moses injured, he may have a makeshift wing back marking him too, so it could be smart to back the German at 13/4 to score anytime. He has five goals in his last eight matches.
My head says the leaders will reassert their authority at the top of the table though.
Further advanced in their maturity as a side, they should have enough nous to see off City by a narrow margin.
Costa to score in a Chelsea victory (29/20) is how I picture this must-watch contest panning out.