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A full programme of Boxing Day fixtures is the perfect excuse for football fans to get out of the house and escape from visiting relatives in the hope of seeing their team pick up three valuable points which would be a much better present than what they received from their family. With three games scheduled in a week, seasons can be defined by how teams do over the festive period. Nine points from nine from the games scheduled for last weekend through to this weekend’s fixtures could turn a season around for some teams and help others keep their promotion hopes alive. Charlie Mullan has analysed the first round of fixtures to be played after Christmas.
BTTS & over 2.5 goals between Aston Villa and Norwich @ 20/27
Both Aston Villa (11/10) and Norwich (23/10) had their hopes of enjoying Christmas Day with a win dashed on Saturday when they lost to Southampton and Wolves respectively. The Canaries looked to be heading to victory when they led 1-0 at half-time before Wolves staged another of their second half comebacks to win 2-1. Todd Cantwell gave City a 17th minute lead before two goals in the final half hour denied the home side the three points. It was the fifth successive game in which there were goals for both Norwich and the team they have been playing. Villa were 3-0 down after 51 minutes of their home game against the Saints before Jack Grealish managed to pull a consolation goal for Villa to make it four times in the last five games in which BTTS has landed in games involving Villa.
Watford’s 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday in the shock result of the weekend, moved the Hornets level with Norwich on 12 points while Villa are three points ahead of their Boxing Day opponents. When these two sides meet, there are normally goals for both sides who both won promotion to the Premier League in May. The last five meetings have seen a total of 22 goals scored and at least one goal in each game for each side which is why there is a good chance of BTTS and 2.5 goals occurring for the sixth successive meeting. SportPesa are offering odds of 20/27 for BTTS and over 2.5 goals in a game both sides will be targeting for a much-needed win.
BTTS: Leicester v Liverpool, Cardiff v Millwall, Carlisle v Bradford
Leicester will be hoping to bounce back from their 3-1 loss at Manchester City on Saturday evening as they failed to close the game on leaders Liverpool who were busy winning the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time in their glittering history. For Brendan Rodgers, it’s another meeting against the club he led to a second-place finish in the Premier League in 2014. A victory for the Foxes will put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, but with a 10-point lead, Jurgen Klopp’s men can afford to lose the odd game here and there. Leicester could see this as the perfect time to face the Reds after the league leaders’ successful trip to Qatar and they will hope Liverpool’s players will be fatigued by the extra-time win over Brazilian side Flamengo.
Leicester (51/20) and Liverpool (21/20) met earlier this season at Anfield on October 5 when a James Milner penalty gave the Reds a 2-1 win to make it five meetings in a row where BTTS has landed. SportPesa are offering odds of 29/4 for Liverpool to win this game 2-1 while Leicester are 11/1 to win by the same score. There is a good chance of both teams finding each other’s net based on recent games. Eight of Liverpool’s last 10 Premier League games have seen goals for both the Reds and their opponents while Leicester’s 3-1 loss at the Etihad was fifth time in their last six league and cup games in which they and their opposition found the net. Both teams to score is trading at 20/33 while a score draw like the 1-1 draw at Anfield last season is priced at 3/1. The home side are 9/2 to win with at least one goal for Liverpool who are 12/5 to win with both sides scoring.
Christmas is all about giving and it remains to be seen if Millwall and Cardiff will be in the mood to gift each other a goal or two. Recent games suggests both sets of fans will be celebrating at least one goal when the two sides meet at the Cardiff City Stadium. In the first meeting of the season, Millwall twice came from a goal down to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw at the Den in October thanks to two goals by Tom Bradshaw. Cardiff and Millwall are next to each other in the table with the Bluebirds sitting 12th – one place above their opponents thanks to their better goal difference. Cardiff go into the game with one defeat in their last seven while Millwall have been beaten once in their last eight, but that came on Saturday at home to struggling Barnsley which lifted the Yorkshire off the bottom of the table.
The Lions thought they were on course to take a point from the game until Patrick Schmidt popped up with Barnsley’s winner four minutes into injury time. It was the fifth time in six Championship games in which BTTS has landed in games involving Gary Rowett’s side. Meanwhile, Cardiff (13/10) held Preston to a goalless draw which ended a run of three successive games in which there were goals for both them and their opponents. And if you want another twist in this fixture, this will be the first time Millwall (23/10) will face their former manager Neil Harris who left the Lions’ Den in October and became Cardiff manager in November. SportPesa are offering odds of 4/5 for both Cardiff and Millwall to find the net while a score draw is available at 3/1. The home side are 7/2 to win this game with at least one goal for Millwall who are 21/4 to win and BTTS land.
Bradford are one of three League Two sides within two points of third-placed Crewe and a win at Carlisle will keep them in the mix for automatic promotion in May. Carlisle are in danger of dropping out of the league if they don’t find a way of picking up points to pull away from the relegation zone. Carlisle have not won any of their five league games and they face a side that beat them 3-1 at the Northern Commercials Stadium in September when both teams finished the game with 10 men.
Jack Bridge was dismissed in the first half for Carlisle while Ben Richards-Everton received his red card for the Bantams in the second half. Carlisle (41/20) led in the 14th minute, but the home side responded with three unanswered goals. Of the 21 league games Bradford (5/4) have played this season, BTTS has landed in 13 of them including 10 of their last 13 so it was no surprise to see their home game with Salford on Saturday finish 1-1. SportPesa have odds of 20/27 for this game to see goals for both teams while a score draw is on offer at 3/1. Carlisle are 19/4 to win with at least one goals for the visitors who are 3/1 to win with both teams scoring.
Over 2.5 goals: Wolves v Man City, Luton v Fulham, Bristol Rovers v AFC Wimbledon
It seems every game Manchester City play these days is guaranteed to produce a minimum of three goals. And City fans are delighted to see their side scoring the majority of those goals in recent games. Since losing 2-1 at home to neighbours Manchester United, City have scored three or more against Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal, Oxford and Leicester. Saturday’s come-from-behind win against Leicester moved them to within a point of the Foxes in second place in the Premier League. Wolves, in their second season in the top flight are looking to finish in the top four and swap the Europa League for Champions League action next season.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, who won the first meeting 2-0 at the Etihad, were sixth after the weekend’s results just five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and a win at Molineux will certainly boost those European hopes. Wolves (7/1) are 12/1 to win with at least three total match goals scored while City are 20/21 to extend their run of winning games with three or more total goals scored in the game. Odds of 23/20 are available for both Wolves and City to register a goal and combine for over 2.5 total goals.
There was a sense of Deja vu for Luton (3/1) on Saturday when they lost 1-0 at home to Swansea. It was the 11th game in a row in which the Hatters conceded the first goal and while they managed to turn things around and win two of those games, they have lost the other nine. Needless to say, that run of bad form has seen them drop to 21st in the Championship and they face a Fulham side riding high on a crest of a wave after beating promotion-chasing Leeds 2-1 after losing their previous three games. Fulham (4/5), who have seen seven of their last eight games decided by one-goal margins.
This will be the second meeting this season between Fulham and Luton with the Londoners taking the three points following a 3-2 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alexsandar Mitrovic who leads the Championship with 17 goals. Mitrovic is 14/5 to be the game’s first scorer like he was in the first meeting. The visitors are 7/5 to win this game with at least three total match goals scored while Luton at 9/2 to collect three valuable points in a game with three or more total goals scored. Both teams to score and over 2.5 total goals is trading at 20/23 while another 3-2 win for Fulham is 18/1.
AFC Wimbledon’s (33/10) trip to Bristol Rovers (20/27) could be one of those games that produces goals, and plenty of them. In the reverse fixture at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in September, it was Rovers who took the win after coming from a goal down to win 3-1, but only after Marcus Forss, who gave the Dons the lead, was sent off in the 66th minute. Rovers capitalised on their extra man advantage by scoring their final two goals against 10 men. That is one of 12 League One games for the Dons in which three or more goals were scored while five of the Pirates last six games have seen over 2.5 total match goals scored.
Both teams need the win for different reasons. Wimbledon are too close to the bottom three for their own liking with just three points between them and the MK Dons who occupy the final relegation place. Rovers can go second in the table with a win and defeats for Ipswich and Peterborough who are both one point ahead of the Bristol club. SportPesa are offering odds of 5/6 for over 2.5 total goals scored in this game with both AFC Wimbledon and Rovers to score and combine for three or more goals is trading at 23/20. The visitors are 6/1 to win with a minimum of three total goals scored while Rovers are 8/5 to win and over 2.5 total goals scored.
A £10 bet on the BTTS accumulator has potential returns of £52.70
A £10 bet on the over 2.5 accumulator has potential returns of £48.51