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Manchester City v Sunderland (Saturday, 3pm)
Imagine you’re a Premier League manager, three points off the leaders, with some patchy form of late, but 1/4 with Paddy Power for a home win that will take you joint top. How do you prepare?
Well, it’s doubtful Alex Ferguson would take off to Medjugorge for a three-day pilgrimage or be overly impressed if his star striker gate-crashed his former club’s press conference, but that’s exactly how Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli limbered up for this crunch clash against Sunderland.
Given City’s unbeaten home record, Mancini probably feels a little ‘down time’ will help City in the title race but if they fail to pick up maximum points here against 12/1 outsiders Sunderland, the City boss will need to sat more than his prayers to catch great rivals United. And Balotelli might want to ensure he scores the first goal at 7/2 with Paddy Power to deflect any awkward questions.
Blackburn v Manchester United (Monday, 8pm)
Now that Rovers boss Steve Kean can actually leave his house between matches after his side have hauled themselves off the foot of the table, he could have done without the arrival of title-chasing and 4/11 favourites with Paddy Power Manchester United on Monday night to have him drawing the curtains again.
Ironically though, it is 8/1 shots Rovers who are looking to complete the double over United after putting a spanner in the works when they beat them 3-2 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve to put a major downer on Fergie’s birthday celebrations.
As the old saying goes ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’, and Sir Alex will want his players to signal their intent in front of the TV cameras with in-form Wayne Rooney 13/5 to score the opening goal.
Newcastle v Liverpool (Sunday, 1.30pm)
Local boy Andy Carroll (22) will have mixed feelings on his return to his hometown club Newcastle on Sunday, since his dream move to Liverpool has turned into a nightmare.
Paddy Power are offering a Money Back Special: if Liverpool lead at anytime during the game, but fail to win, all losing first/last goalscorer, correct score and scorecast singles on the match will be refunded.
The Reds’ league form is in freefall since their Carling Cup penalty shoot-out win over Cardiff City last month, with five defeats in six Premier League games. An extra-motivated Carroll to score at anytime on his return is 23/10 with the Irish bookmaker.
Better to stick with Newcastle at 9/5, who will want to stick it to them for prising their one-time star striker away for a paltry £35m and who are determined to secure European football next season.
QPR v Arsenal (Saturday, 3pm)
Oh how Arsene Wenger and his team must be rueing their poor early season form! The Gunners are flying at the moment and playing the type of football the fans love to watch, without the howlers in defence to undermine it.
They have won their last four league games and will be many punters idea of an away-win banker at 8/13 with Paddy Power against a QPR side that has slipped deeper into the relegation zone since Mark Hughes’ arrival.
Rangers, who are 5/1 shots with Paddy Power could do without this fixture right now was their relegation rivals in Bolton and Blackburn are picking up points at the right time in the season. Van Persie at 3/1 with Paddy Power to score first has an inevitable look about it.