CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) eyes up three Hogmanay bets to hopefully sign off 2016 off in style.
Burnley v Sunderland | Saturday 15:00
Ah, a Burnley home match? Time to get stuck into the Clarets again then eh? Well, no actually, because they’re a fair price here. We know the market doesn’t really like Sunderland so Sean Dyche’s side are 7/5. They were 9/4 against Middlesbrough on Boxing Day. That was the wrong price.
This looks a vital match for both sides. Another strong home performance from Burnley would put them on 23 points and potentially nine points clear of the relegation zone. A significant number.
Sunderland have eked out four wins from their last eight matches and this looks the kind of match David Moyes will be targeting for some reward. A win could see them climb out of the bottom three.
With the prices about right, I’ll turn to the Unders instead. Perhaps it’s not the most ambitious of bets but at 3/4 it makes sense. This looks a tight, gritty match where narrow margins will be prevalent.
Only Hull have scored fewer goals than the Black Cats this season and Burnley have notched just one more goal than the North East side. Both sides also perform well defensively with Burnley having the 11th best defence and Sunderland 14th (four places higher than their league position).
The Clarets have gone Under 2.5 in three of their last five games while it’s three in six for Sunderland. This should be tense and tight and Unders seems logical to me.
Manchester United v Middlesbrough | Saturday 15:00
It’s a goals call again here as Manchester United host Middlesbrough on Saturday. It’s hard not to be drawn towards the Red Devils at the moment. They’ve now won five games in a row and sit just four points off the Top 4.
This looks another three points teed up for them as Jose Mourinho takes on his former assistant Aitor Karanka. Boro have lost three of their four matches and look for the taking here.
United look confident at the moment, and while I’m still not massively impressed by them, they are starting to win the games required and avoiding unjust draws.
Their victory over Tottenham seems to have given them belief and they were much better than West Brom and ground out results against Crystal Palace and Sunderland too.
They’re unbeaten in 12 at home and have lost just once at Old Trafford in the league in the last 11 months. It seems unfathomable that Middlesbrough get anything here.
Boro’s loss at Burnley on Boxing Day was a sore one and they find themselves four points off the relegation zone. While it’s been a decent first half of the season they still look vulnerable.
The angle I’m taking here is for the visitors to keep it tight. They’ve lost by more than one goal just twice this season and the fact that only Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd and Spurs have better defensive records says it all.
Their performances against the elite sides has been encouraging in this opening half of the season. Liverpool gave them a going over before Christmas, but they managed to hold Arsenal and Man City and suffered narrow losses to Chelsea and Spurs.
Yes, Manchester United are improving, but Crystal Palace have scored more goals than them. They’ve struggled to smash up teams and have gone Over 2.5 Goals on just four occasions.
There are a number of bets I like here. A Manchester United win and Under 3.5 Goals is the pick of the bunch at odds on, but in the interests of finding better odds I’ll side with Exactly 2-3 Goals in the Total Goals market at 21/20.
Swansea v Bournemouth | Saturday 15:00
Bit of a punt this one, but I’m always a fan of assessing sides whose situation has changed very recently and that leads me to Swansea on Saturday.
Bob Bradley has gone after a very short stint at the helm and that might just be a relief to the Swansea players. I don’t really have any evidence to suggest this but there’s just a feeling there that he’s struggled to connect with the players.
His rigid, more direct approach may not have been what was required and he seems quite an authoritarian figure. A million miles from the more friendly feel of Garry Monk.
So, it may be that the Swansea players feel liberated now and, aware of their perilous position, put on a show on Saturday. It’s a hunch. It’s a punt.
The reason I like taking on Bournemouth is because they always feel so short in the betting and indeed are 13/8 to win in Wales this weekend. The home side are 19/10.
Like I said, bit of a chance here, but the change in Swansea’s circumstances and the fact their opponents feel so short leads me to Draw No Bet on the Welsh side.
Burnley v Sunderland – Under 2.5 Goals (3/4 Marathon Bet)
Manchester United v Middlesbrough – Exactly 2-3 Goals (21/20 Marathon Bet)
Swansea v Bournemouth – Swansea Draw No Bet (27/25 Marathon Bet)