Sinking Newcastle looking at a nightmare before Christmas
Festive advice from the former Premier League star
1 What’s your best bet of the weekend?
West Ham to beat Newcastle, whose freefall doesn’t look like ending. One point from a possible 27 is wretched stuff and all that hype and happiness from last season just looks like a blip in a decade of misery and disquiet. Rafa Benitez is not happy and it’s hard to see him sticking around. They are going to West Ham at completely the wrong time with the Hammers buzzing.
2 Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
I’m a layer of Chelsea at Everton. What Sam Allardyce is doing at Goodison is sensational and a bit of old-school management is working wonders. He’s got the shape right, the mentality right and a half-time rollicking from him will have an impact. I also think Sammy Lee is the most astute of additions to the staff. Chelsea aren’t on fire and they look way too short for me.
3 Where’s the value in El Clasico?
Real Madrid know they have to win this one or they can kiss goodbye to any hope of winning the league – and I think they will. Real have had a week off after beating Gremio to win the World Club Cup and the travelling won’t have bothered them. This is the game they have to win against a Barcelona who are flying, and I’m expecting the ultimate show of aggression from the hosts who need to knock Barca out of their stride.
4 Can Swansea stay up?
They’ve probably got a better chance now that Paul Clement has gone. Clement is what he is – a good right-hand man, and they don’t always make good managers. The Swans have given themselves a bit of time, with a transfer window to come, to address weaknesses and presumably they’ve got an idea of the type of manager they want next. They are only four points from safety and Palace and West Ham have demonstrated that is nothing.
5 Should Stoke keep faith with Mark Hughes?
I think the next couple of weeks will determine Hughes’s fate and I’d at least give him the next three matches. The problem with Hughes is that I’m not entirely sure he knows what sort of side he wants Stoke to be. They were a successful long-ball team under Tony Pulis and I don’t mind watching that kind of game. It clearly bothered Hughes more, hence his desire to bring in a few playmakers. Maybe he needs to go back to basics.
6 What's your best bet for Boxing Day?
Leicester at a decent price at Watford. The Foxes threw in a stinker against Palace last weekend but that was a rare poor effort in Claude Puel’s brief but successful reign. That match aside, Leicester look good and the pace they have makes them a massive danger in away games. Watford have overachieved, concede too many and are a team to start taking on.
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