Mike Norman previews Saturday's five Premier League 3pm kick-offs, and he believes that Newcastle are a good bet to continue their recent good form when Norwich visit St James Park...
"Newcastle have been very impressive since losing the Tyne-Wear derby to Sunderland last month; they held Manchester City in 90 minutes of their League Cup tie before beating both Chelsea and Tottenham without conceding a goal."
Nearly a third of the season gone, and not many would have predicted that it would be first v third when Arsenal host Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. But that's what it is thanks to fantastic starts for both clubs, the question now is who will maintain the good form this weekend.
The obvious answer to that question is Arsenal. In fact the Gunners have a real chance to cement their position at the top of the table with their next three league games coming against the Saints, Cardiff and Hull.
Arsene Wenger's men recorded a 6-1 win over Southampton in this fixture last term but it's fair to say that Mauricio Pochettino's team are a much better outfit this time around. Still, it's difficult to oppose the Gunners who are chasing a fifth successive win on home soil in the Premier League.
I certainly don't expect the home side to score six this time however given Southampton's defensive form this season. Opta tell us that the Saints have faced fewer shots on target than any other side this campaign, and they've never conceded more than once in a game in any of their last 14 league matches. Arsenal might be the side to end that run but I'm still not expecting a high-scoring win.
Recommended Bet: Dutch 1-0 & 2-0 Correct Scores @ 4.3100/30
Fulham are in a bit of a mess, but it's not just the defeats that are extremely worrying, it's the manner in which they are losing. They are going two or three goals down very early in matches and are allowing opposition teams to take their foot off the gas and cruise to victory.
You always have a chance of getting out of trouble when you're battling for the cause, but when you're losing with no evidence of a fight then it's a real struggle. Hence why the Cottagers have now called upon the services of former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen to work alongside current boss Martin Jol.
What effect Meulensteen's arrival will have on Fulham remains to be seen but they have to start scoring more goals. Opta tell us they've attempted just 67 shots at goal this season which is the lowest of any club in the Premier League.
This game is tough to call. Swansea are sure to have the majority of possession but I can see Fulham being more resolute than in previous games. I'll sit on the fence regarding the match outcome but I'm not envisaging the net to bulge too often so will wager accordingly that way.
Recommended Bet: Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.855/6
Hull received a good hiding at Southampton a fortnight ago which was rather surprising given that they'd conceded just three league goals in their previous five outings. Steve Bruce will have worked on that aspect of the game you can be sure of that, and the visit of still manager-less Crystal Palace gives the Tigers an excellent opportunity to get back to winning ways.
Palace earned a very respectable draw at home to Everton last time - just their second league game in 11 that they've avoided defeat - but that was at Selhurst Park; away from home the Eagles have lost six consecutive league and cup games with just three goals scored.
However, Opta tell us that Palace are unbeaten in their last six league meetings with Hull so that is something to take into consideration if you're thinking of lumping on the hosts. Also, there have been just five league goals scored in five games at the KC Stadium this season suggesting Palace can do what they did against Everton and keep Hull's score down.
If I had to pick a winner then the obvious way to turn is in the direction of a home win, but at a similar price to that outcome is the Under 2.5 Goals option, and I'm of the opinion that has a better chance of landing, regardless of who comes out on top.
Recommended Bet: Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.728/11
Newcastle have been very impressive since losing the Tyne-Wear derby to Sunderland last month; they held Manchester City in 90 minutes of their League Cup tie before beating both Chelsea and Tottenham without conceding a goal. True, the latter result was down to a superb display from goalkeeper Tim Krul but results like that do wonders for confidence.
The Magpies welcome former boss Chris Hughton and his Norwich side to St James Park on Saturday with the knowledge that they've kept a clean sheet in each of their last three league meetings with the Canaries.
Norwich did well to bounce back from their humiliation at the Etihad Stadium (where they lost 7-0) with a 3-1 win over West Ham, but they've conceded 15 goals in their last three away games now and that is alarming.
I can see Newcastle running out comfortable winners here; they're the 'form' team so to speak, they've had some big scalps in recent weeks, they're full of confidence, and Alan Pardew seems to have settled on a side that are creating lots of chances - and Loic Remy is converting his fair share too.
Recommended Bet: Back Newcastle to Win @ 1.84/5 (best bet)
Another difficult game to call with Sunderland undoubtedly in the better form after registering wins over Newcastle and Manchester City in recent weeks. Stoke have home advantage however, although they've gone eight league games without winning.
I believe the Goals markets are the ones to concentrate on here as Opta tell us that Stoke have conceded just three goals in five league games at the Britannia Stadium this season, whereas the Black Cats have kept three clean sheets in their last four meetings with the Potters.
The 0-0 Correct Score has to be a player here, though I'm never confident about putting that up as a selection becuase it only takes a moment of brilliance, an individual error, or a red card to completely change the course of a game. Instead then I'll back the Under 1.5 Goals option and hope that the game is a dull, lifeless encounter.
Recommended Bet: Back Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.211/5
Season P/L (1pt each bet, 2pts best bet)
Wagered: 69 pts
Returned: 57.4 pts
P/L: -11.6 pts