Premier League 3pm Kick-Offs: Back Stoke to deny underpriced Reds

Ex Man United star Mark Hughes will want to beat Liverpool on Sunday
Ex Man United star Mark Hughes will want to beat Liverpool on Sunday

Mike Norman's final Premier League column of the season sees him preview the seven non-televised games taking place on Sunday afternoon, and our man believes Stoke are a great price to spoil Steven Gerrard's leaving party...


"Brendan Rodgers' men have won just three of their last 10 league and cup games, those victories coming against a Championship side, rock-bottom QPR, and hapless Newcastle. The Reds were thrashed by Arsenal in that time, lost to lowly Aston Villa and Hull, and failed to beat West Brom."

Back Stoke @ 3.613/5 to beat Liverpool

Arsenal 1.42/5 v West Brom 10.09/1; The Draw 5.49/2

Incredibly, Arsenal won't have scored a goal at the Emirates Stadium for more than seven weeks come kick-off in this game, and when you think two of the teams they faced in that three-game sequence were mid-table Swansea and struggling Sunderland then that is a huge surprise.

I really don't see Arsene Wenger's men taking their foot of the gas here and risking four consecutive home games without a goal despite almost certainly securing a top three finish.

The Gunners' midweek draw with Sunderland moved them three points ahead of Manchester United with a much better goal difference, so even if Arsenal were to lose here and United win at Hull then it would take at least a seven-goal swing for the Red Devils to snatch third. That isn't going to happen.

West Brom will finish no worse than 13th after a five game unbeaten run that includes famous wins over Manchester United and Chelsea so confidence could hardly be higher amongst Tony Pulis' men.

It's no secret that Pulis and Wenger aren't the best of friends so you can rest assured that even a final-day relaxing fixture with barely nothing riding on it will still be played with a lot of intensity. Arsenal's home form is slightly worrying but I'm confident they'll get on the scoresheet here while the Baggies are in good enough form to get amongst the goals also.

Recommended Bet
Back Both Teams to Score @ 2.0811/10


Aston Villa 2.1411/10 v Burnley 3.8514/5; The Draw 3.65

Trying to second guess which teams have more motivation than others this weekend, who will be trying harder etc, could be the quickest way to the poor house because in these, what are effectively, dead rubber matches it's impossible to know what the thinking is.

The safest option is probably to judge each game on its merits, and if that turns out to be a good approach then I rate Villa as a decent bet at above even money to beat Burnley.

The Clarets registered yet another blank on Saturday meaning they've scored just two goals since Ferbruary, or in match time one goal approximately every 500 minutes of football.

True, Villa were thrashed 6-1 at Southampton last weekend but I believe that will serve as a huge kick up the backside ahead of their FA Cup final against Arsenal next week. Tim Sherwood's men will want to put that shocker behind them immediately by putting in a good performance against Burnley, and whoever is in the starting XI will be desperate to impress and keep their place for Wembley.

Add in the fact that Villa had been in fine form prior to Saturday's defeat then I see no reason not to back a home win in this clash.

Recommended Bet
Back Aston Villa to Win @ 2.1411/10


Crystal Palace 2.35/4 v Swansea 3.55/2; The Draw 3.613/5

Crystal Palace turned party poopers on Saturday when they won 1-3 at Anfield in Steven Gerrard's last ever appearance in front of his own fans. But if truth be told the Liverpool skipper was poor, so too were his teammates, and the Eagles fully deserved their victory.

Following four straight defeats, including three at Selhurst Park, the win at Liverpool has presented Alan Pardew's men with a chance of finishing in the top 10 - they must beat Swansea however and hope that results elsewhere involving Everton and West Ham go their way.

The Swans have been the better side in the last four weeks, winning three straight games before losing at home to Manchester City on Sunday. That defeat ended any lingering hopes of Garry Monk's men qualifying for the Europa League, and following a very successful season Swansea will definitely finish eighth in the table regardless of Sunday's outcome.

Some will see the fact that the Welsh side have absolutely nothing to play for as an opportunity to oppose them, but the Match Odds market doesn't reflect this and is priced up almost as you would expect it to be if absolutely everything was riding on the game - and that's credit to the integrity of the Premier League.

I believe a draw will be a fitting result for two managers who have worked wonders since arriving at their respective clubs. No-one deserves to lose on the final day, and a draw looks the most likely outcome.

Recommended Bet
Back The Draw @ 3.55/2


Everton 2.466/4 v Tottenham 3.185/40; The Draw 3.613/5

Everton are my idea of the most likely winners in this game and that's simply because they've been the better of these two teams in recent months.

In all honesty Tottenham have been disappointing since a top four finish started to look beyond them. They've won just four of their last 10 league games and perhaps it tells a story that the teams they defeated were QPR, Leicester, Hull, and Newcastle - four sides that were in very poor form at the time and deep in relegation trouble.

It suggests that Mauricio Pochettino's men have stepped off the gas a little, but even an average performance from the Lilywhites is still good enough to beat the poorer sides in this division.

Everton aren't one of the poorer sides despite enduring a relatively poor season. Roberto Martinez's men were a bottom half side until six league wins from their last nine matches has seen them rise to 10th in the table. Only a win will guarantee a top half finish and I'm backing them to sign off with exactly that.

Recommended Bet
Back Everton to Win @ 2.466/4


Leicester 1.625/8 v QPR 6.25/1; The Draw 4.47/2

I said earlier that we should approach each match on its merits rather than try and fathom who will be busting a gut and who won't be. And if that approach was applied here then Leicester would simply have to be the bet given their current form.

But if there is one side in the Premier League this weekend that you really would excuse a below par performance then it would be the Foxes.

Nigel Pearson's men have performed miracles to avoid the drop. They were detached at the bottom before embarking on a run of eight games that yielded six wins and a total of 19 points to secure their Premier League survival. It would only be natural for them to suffer a bit of a lull after such a mentally tiring run of games.

QPR are fighting to avoid finishing the season with the wooden spoon and they certainly showed they are up for the battle last Saturday when coming from a goal down to beat Newcastle. If Leicester do suffer a slightly negative reaction then Chris Ramsey's men could easily take something from this game.

Recommended Bet
Lay Leicester to Win @ 1.635/8


Man City 1.584/7 v Southampton 6.611/2; The Draw 4.67/2

Manchester City are certain to finish second, Southampton ideally need a result to have a chance of qualifying for the Europa League, but again I'm going to approach this game by ignoring the nothing/all to play for factor.

I'm not sure if Manuel Pellegrini's fate has already been decided but if he does want to remain at the Etihad next season then he'll be desperate to end the season on a high, which is exactly what his team is doing.

It has slightly gone under the radar that City have now won five games on the bounce, scoring three against an in-form Aston Villa, six against QPR, and four last week at Swansea no less. They're playing with a swagger again and scoring goals and I won't be surprised one bit if they scored at least a few against Southampton on Sunday.

Ronald Koeman's men have enjoyed a terrific season and last Saturday put six past Aston Villa, so they'll be confident of going to Manchester and making a game of it, but an on-song City are an extremely tough nut to crack and in their current mood they are a confident selection to overcome the -1 goal handicap.

Recommended Bet
Back Man City -1 to Win @ 2.26/5


Stoke 3.613/5 v Liverpool 2.26/5; The Draw 3.65

There is very little sentiment in football, we witnessed that last week in Steven Gerrard's final game at Anfield, and I don't expect there to be any here either in what will be the Liverpool legend's last ever appearance for the Reds.

In fact, given what we witnessed last week on Merseyside I can't have Liverpool to win this game at 2.26/5 any day of the week. They may win of course, but on current form they should be a bigger price than what they currently are. So for that reason alone I have to back Stoke.

Brendan Rodgers' men have won just three of their last 10 league and cup games, those victories coming against a Championship side, rock-bottom QPR, and hapless Newcastle. The Reds were thrashed by Arsenal in that time, lost to lowly Aston Villa and Hull, and failed to beat West Brom. I'm staggered that they are such a short price to win at the Britannia Stadium against a very solid Stoke side.

Mark Hughes' men have lost just one of their last six on home soil and last time recorded a superb 3-0 victory over Tottenham in front of their own fans. Ex Red Devil Hughes certainly won't be telling his players to relax just because this is Gerrard's final appearance for Liverpool - if anything, Sparky will be desperate to put one over the Anfield club.

And on current form, the Potters have to be backed to do exactly that.

Recommended Bet
Back Stoke to Win @ 3.613/5
(best bet)


Premier League 2014/15 Season P/L

Staked: 207 pts
Returned: 237.19 pts
P/L: + 30.19 pts

*based on 1pt each bet, 2pts best bet

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