MIDDLESBROUGH - WIGAN
There are normally very few goals when these two meet, the last four h2h games have all produced just a single goal and it is hard to see this game being any more prolific. Wigan's last seven league starts have had two or less, with six of them containing just one or zero goals. They cannot even call upon on loan striker Mido today, as he is not allowed to play against his parent club and it is hard to see where their goals are going to come from.
Boro are in big trouble, without a win in 13 league starts and two points from safety. However, it is not yet a lost cause and a couple of recent performances, especially in the FA Cup and at Manchester City in the league, where Shay Given saved the home side time after time, have given hope of a revival. They are set to be unchanged today, for only the second time this season and with many of the senior players now back in the team, they have a real chance to kick start something today, in Alves and Downing they have a couple of potential match winners and I back them to win a tight, tense encounter.
6.5 points Middlesbrough -1/4 ball 2.10 + asian line.
2.5 points Middlesborough to keep a clean sheet 2.875 William Hill..... other companies have very similar offers and you might find bigger on the exchanges nearer kick off.
ASTON VILLA - CHELSEA
Incredibly, Villa sit in third spot with 51 pts, two ahead of fourth placed Chelsea, this would have seemed unthinkable a few months ago, when Chelsea were trading as short priced favourites for the title.
The Blues have a key Champions League meeting with Juve in midweek, but surely Guus Hiddink will want a big result in his first game in charge and he has had a full, uninterupted week with his players, who have not played since the win at Watford on Saturday night. Amazingly, Villa have been in action twice since then, losing 3-1 at Everton on Sunday and drawing 1-1 at home to CSKA on Wednesday night.
It is hard to see the home side stripping fully fit for this lunchtime kick off tomorrow. Martin O'Neill doesn't have the biggest squad at his disposal and Heskey and Milner ( in fantastic form) are doubts for tomorrow, between them they have scored 6 of Villa's 14 goals in 2009 and Laursen will again be missing from the centre of defence and that leaves a big hole through the middle.
MON's team have only collected 41% of their points at Villa Park, where there ability to hit teams on the break and make the most of their pace going forward, is not as important, with visiting teams looking to do likewise. Chelsea have also collected the bulk of their points on the road and seem happier this season away from the pressure of Stamford Bridge.
Hiddink and Abramovich were at the CSKA game in midweek (Roman has recently given the Russian club some spare change ... £30m) and although Villa created chances, they would have seen little to worry them. I expect us to see the best of Chelsea in the coming weeks and certainly do not see them losing tomorrow, against what must a weary team, making their third start in less than six days.
7.5 points Chelsea -1/4 ball 1.93 asian line..... this was my strongest news of the day and was sent to subscribers on Friday.....winner 1-0
NOTTINGHAM FOREST - DERBY COUNTY
These two are massive rivals and are meeting for the third time in as many weeks, the two previous encounters have been very open affairs and produced seven goals. It is very difficult to see this being any less prolific, as both are finding it impossible to keep a clean sheet and are far happier going forward.
Forest have played 13 straight games with two or more goals, County have done likewise in 8 from 9, the only "failure" was a 1-0 loss at Birmingham, when they could/should have scored three at least. They are on fire offensively and have scored 13 in their last five, with the on form Commons and Hulse contributing eight between them. Forest have almost no chance of keeping these two quiet and this full blooded derby game seems certain to produce fireworks.
6.5 points "over" 2.25 goals 1.80 asian line. ......winner, 3 goals inside 70 minutes
TRANMERE ROVERS - MK DONS
"If it ain't broke don't fix it" and following that old adage, I see no point in opposing Dons on the road. I wrote this before their last away start at Stockport :
Dons got back on track with a 5-3 win at Cheltenham on Saturday, but the winning margin could easily have been greater. They now have incredible figures of 29-5-5 in their last 39 AWAY games, scoring 80 goals. A win tonight would give them a four point cushion in the automatic promotion spot and with two easy looking (on paper) home games up next, that would leave them in a very strong position. Roberto Di Matteo has assembled a very classy squad of players, especially Luke Chadwick, Jemal Johnson, Jason Puncheon and Aaron Wilbraham, all of whom are capable of playing at a higher level. They make the very most of all the chances they create and have the highest ratio of attempts on target, to those created (60.13 %), in the division. Di Matteo has used his Chelsea contacts to bring a couple of promising Chelsea youngsters in on loan, the latest Carl Magnay, who signed this week, has just been called up into the Northern Ireland U21 squad and after coming off the bench at the weekend, is in line for a start tonight.
They won that 1-0, making 30 wins from 40 away starts, just 5 losses, truly astonishing stats and they will not want to slip up today, ahead of a match against leaders Leicester City next weekend. Understandably, they are playing with so much confidence, especially on the road and pose so much offensive threat, scoring three last week without top scorer Wilbraham, who returns today, that it is impossible to oppose them.
Rovers are a decent enough side, maybe just below playoff level, but the goals have dried up for them recently and it is difficult to see them scoring the two, or more likely three, needed to see off the visitors.
6 points MK Dons level ball 1.97 asian line.
GLASGOW RANGERS - KILMARNOCK
Rangers have been accused of negativity recently and they have pledged to attack today and provide entertainment for their loyal fans. They currently sit two points off the pace in the SPL and a win will take them top and put some pressure on Celtic, who face a tough looking game tomorrow. The Gers have a tremendous record against Killie, winning 14 of 15 at Ibrox, with an amazing 12 wins coming by two or more goals. They are unbeaten in six and have tightened up considerably at the back, with five clean sheeets.
It is impossible to see beyond them facing a Kilmarnock side who have not won in six and who are without a couple of key players.
Rangers top striker Kris Boyd has 20 SPL goals to his name this season and tends to score most of them against the division's "lesser" lights and simply loves to face Killie, his former employers. He is always on the scoresheet against them and already has three from the two earlier meetings this season, even at 3.75 he looks great value to notch the first goal and each way, this is virtually a bet to nothing.
7 points Rangers -1.75 goals 1.96 asian line.
3 points each way Kris Boyd to score the first goal 3.75 general quote 1/3 odds 4 or 5 places.