Arsenal gunning for fourth spot with New Year win over Southampton
Arsenal (odds-on at 2/5 with Coral for top four finish) are hoping to leapfrog Southampton into a Champions League spot with a New Year’s Day victory, while Liverpool aim to continue their end of year form, and condemn under-pressure Nigel Pearson to further misery with a win at Anfield over Leicester City.
Meanwhile, Everton and Hull City will be hoping that the turn of the year represents a change in fortune as they meet at the KC Stadium.
Southampton v Arsenal
Southampton have not defeated Arsenal in a league game since November 2002, and only goal-difference separates these two sides going into the New Year, but it’s the superb Saints who occupy the crucial final Champions League spot.
The Gunners toppled Ronald Koeman’s men earlier in the campaign, with a narrow 1-0 victory, thanks to a very late strike from star man Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean is 5/1 to net the first goal in the latest encounter at St Mary’s.
Despite some heavy pressure from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea on Sunday, the Saints held on to safeguard a 1-1 draw, making it three matches unbeaten for Koeman’s team.
Southampton, 15/8 to win, have a tremendous record at St. Mary’s this term, having only lost twice at home all season, with only the top two of Chelsea and Manchester City boasting a better home record in the top flight.
Morgan Schneiderlin was shown a late red card in the draw against Chelsea and so misses this match through suspension, while Nathaniel Clyne is an injury doubt.
A trip to the South Coast is a difficult prospect for Arsene Wenger’s side, but they go into the game in fine form having won four of their last five in all competitions. Santi Cazorla netted in Arsenal’s last outing, a 2-1 victory over West Ham United, and the sensational Spaniard is 7/2 to score at anytime against the Saints.
Arsenal, 6/4 for victory, will be, once again, without suspended Oliver Giroud, as he continues his ban from head-butting Nedum Onuoha.
Theo Walcott could be set for a return to the bench against his former club, after eight weeks out injured, and the former Saint is 2/1 to score at anytime.
Liverpool v Leicester City
Liverpool, odds-on 4/9 favourites, have not been beaten by Leicester since March 2001, when goals from Ade Akinbiyi and Muzzy Izzet earned them victory.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are currently occupying eighth place in the table after an unexpected poor start to the Premier League campaign, the Reds are eight points worse off than they were at this stage last season, and already a massive 18 behind leaders Chelsea.
However, Liverpool looked to have possibly turned a corner heading into the New Year, after sealing an impressive 4-1 victory over Swansea City in the last outing.
Adam Lallana, who scored in the Swans smashing, also netted in the reverse fixture against the Foxes in December, when the England international helped secure a 3-1 win at the King Power Stadium. The in-form England attacker is 2/1 to fire against the Foxes yet again, at Anfield.
Daniel Sturridge is still injured, but Rodgers may recall skipper Steven Gerrard for the clash, while Martin Skrtel is missing through suspension.
Nigel Pearson has striker Jamie Vardy back after serving his ban, but will be without Kasper Schmeichel, Andy King and Matthew Upson, who are all injured.
The Foxes, 15/2 outsiders, still enter 2015 bottom of the table, but they ended a 13-match winless run, including 11 defeats, with a 1-0 victory at Hull on Sunday.
That result will relieve the pressure on under-fire manager, Pearson, amid the series of managerial sackings, with two top-flight bosses having lost their jobs in the past week.
Hull City v Everton
Everton, 13/10 to win, have lost only one of their last 12 matches with Hull City in all competitions, with the reverse fixture, at the beginning of January, ending in a 1-1 draw.
After ending a 10-match run without a win, with a 3-1 victory at Sunderland, it was a case of one step forward and two steps back for Steve Bruce’s men, following up the Black Cats triumph with a loss to Premier League’s basement side Leicester.
The Tigers, 23/10 for the win, now stay adrift of the relegation zone only on goal difference heading into another key clash at the KC Stadium, where Bruce will be without suspended Stephen Quinn and Tom Huddlestone, while Mohamed Diame is sidelined through injury.
Roberto Martinez’s Toffees were eight places and 16 points better off at this stage last term, and need to start rediscovering their first-season form if they are to challenge for the highly-competitive European spots again this campaign.
However, the Everton boss has a few absences of his own, with goalkeeper Tim Howard ruled out for six weeks with a calf problem, joining Phil Jagielka and John Stones on the casualties table.
Arouna kone scored on his first domestic league start for 18 months in the 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United last time out, and the striker is 7/4 to net at anytime on New Year’s Day.
Belgian bruiser Romelu Lukaku has a habit of scoring against the Tigers, bagging a goal in each of the last two league meetings between the sides. The terrific Toffees target-man is 5/1 to get the opening goal of the game, in the latest encounter.