Saturday Premier League 3pm Tips: Burnley can pick off hapless Cherries
A full Premier League fixture list returns after the winter break and Mike Norman has a trio of bets to consider from Saturday's 3pm kick-offs...
Back-to-form Clarets can pick up another three points
Burnley2.26 v Bournemouth 3.80; Draw 3.35
It wasn't that long ago that Burnley were deep in relegation trouble, yet a win over Bournemouth this weekend could take them to within four points of the top four.
The thing with Burnley is that no matter what form they are in you know they are capable of producing a stubborn and defensively-solid performance at any given time, and that on their day they are one of the best organised teams, and hardest-to-beat teams, in the Premier League.
Sean Dyche's men have turned what looked like being a fight against the drop into being in the running to once again qualify for Europe. Three wins and a draw against Leicester, Manchester United, Arsenal and an in-form Southampton is testament to their determination and how good they can be on their day.
A home win against Bournemouth on Saturday is by no means a banker simply because the Clarets can go on a run of poor form just as quickly as they can a good run, but on current form I'd have priced them up quite a bit shorter than the 2.26 available, so on that basis they have to be the bet.
The Cherries themselves are now the team in a relegation battle, and although they've won two of their last three league games we must take into account that those victories were both on home soil and against lowly Aston Villa and Brighton.
The bigger picture is that Eddie Howe's men lost 10 of 12 league games prior to beating Brighton, and away from home they've lost four on the spin, taken just four points from the last 30 available, and failed to score a goal in seven of their last 10 away matches.
Remarkable Blades too sharp for Brighton
Sheff Utd2.00 v Brighton 4.60; Draw 3.50
A bit like when talking about Liverpool's exploits this season, it's hard to say something about Sheffield United that hasn't already been said. In a few words though, they've been absolutely outstanding.
The fact that we're 26 games into the season and the only teams the Blades have lost to away from home are Liverpool and Man City, is quite remarkable. And those are also the only teams Chris Wilder's men have lost to in the last three months.
A reminder then that Sheffield United were playing Championship football last season and that on their promotion to the Premier League they were made favourites to be relegated. They''re not going to be relegated, far from it, and a win over Brighton on Saturday could actually take them into the top four.
The only surprise then is that Wilder's men aren't odds-on to beat the Seagulls at Bramall Lane. They're 2.00 to back and that looks like a bet worth having.
The Blades go into this encounter having won five and drawn one of their last seven games, the defeat coming by just a single-goal margin to Man City. In contrast, Brighton go into this matching having failed to win any of their last seven outings and are now firmly embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation. Chris Hughton's men have won just once on the road in six months.
There's only one winner on the form book then. Let's hope it plays out the same way in reality.
Saints worth taking on
Southampton1.67 v Aston Villa 5.50; Draw 4.40
There's no doubt that Southampton have vastly improved in recent months, putting a string of results together that took them onto the verge of the top six at one stage, but in recent weeks they've reverted back to their early season form, enough for me to take them on here.
The Saints' current form reads just one win in six matches, and that victory came away from home to a Crystal Palace side that are badly out of form themselves at present. So I don't think there's enough to suggest that Ralph Hasenhuttl's men should be 1.67 to win this game, even allowing for the opposition being Aston Villa.
And even when on song Southampton's best form has come away from St Mary's. In front of their own fans the Saints have won just one of their last five in the league, losing to the likes of Burnley and West Ham in that time.
Villa were very unfortunate to lose at home to Spurs last week but the way they play the game - generally giving it a go in every match they play - I always feel they give you a chance, especially on the road.
Dean Smith's men have only failed to score in two of their last 10 away matches, and barring a 3-0 defeat at Watford - the Hornets in great form at the time under their new boss - they've always stayed in the game throughout the 90 minutes.
I'm not saying struggling Villa will go to St Mary's and take all three points - though it's certainly not out of the question - I am saying this game might be a lot closer than the Match Odds suggest, and laying Southampton gets both the draw and away win on our side at around 2.48.