As the magic of the FA Cup returns to its lamp and leagues around Europe continue to thaw off from their winter breaks, Sunday sees a packed football programme once more as the festive season is forgotten for another year.
The harsh wintry weather has seen soup sales reach their annual high and here’s a four-fold from bwin’s football betting markets to further warm the cockles at odds of more than 20/1.
New customers receive a free £25 bet for joining bwin.com and can potentially earn an impressive £572.30 by using it to back our four selections.
Newcastle United v Queens Park Rangers (1.30pm)
Home win: 3/4 Draw: 5/2 Away win: 15/4
West London provided one of the first shocks of 2012 this week, with Mark Hughes replacing Neil Warnock as the latest incumbent in the managers’ office at Loftus Road.
Hughes will look to make an immediate impact, as he already has in tabloid rumour columns with links to Alex, Chris Samba and Steven Pienaar, but he will travel to the north-east without captain Joey Barton, the injured Alejandro Faurlin, and Adel Taraabt and Armand Traore, who have both left for the African Cup of Nations.
Newcastle have absentees of their own. Top scorer Demba Ba and midfield enforcer Cheick Tiote have also jetted off for Gabon and Equitorial Guinea, while Peter Lovenkrands and Sammy Ameobi are also missing.
That said, the Toon Army’s form at the Sports Direct Arena has been excellent this season and they should have more than enough to defeat a Rangers side without a win since November 19th.
Betting tip: Newcastle to win @ 3/4
Read a full betting preview of Newcastle v QPR here.
Swansea City v Arsenal
Home win: 7/2 Draw: 13/5 Away win: 3/4
After the fanfare of Le King’s return against Leeds on Monday, the fight for the Premier League’s top four returns for Arsenal on Sunday as they travel to south Wales to play Swansea – and that means the return of Robin van Persie.
Thierry Henry’s match-winning return may have left the Emirates crowd buoyant, but there is no mistaking who the Gunners’ main man is nowadays. Van Persie’s inclusion is almost as good as a goal head-start. The Flying Dutchman’s record now stands at 35 goals in his last 39 league starts – 19 of those scored away from home.
Swansea have made the Liberty Stadium a fortress this season though, with their balance of swashbuckling attack and impenetrable defence seeing them lose only once on home soil, against Manchester United. Brendan Rodgers also has a fully-fit squad to choose from for the Gunners’ visit, but faced with Van Persie and Henry, the Swans could end up being gunned down.
Betting tip: Arsenal to win @ 3/4
Read a full betting preview of Swansea v Arsenal here.
Sporting Gijon v Malaga (6.45pm)
Home win: 2/1 Draw: 23/10 Away win: 13/10
Malaga were one of European football’s main stories last summer, with a transfer splurge of over €50 million on the likes of Santi Cazorla, Joaquin, Ruud van Nistlerooy and Jérémy Toulalan, which precipitated hopes of a third team to rival Barca and Real.
The reality hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, however, as Malaga currently sit seventh in La Liga, a massive 21 points adrift of league leaders Real Madrid. Los Boquerones are currently on a five-match winless streak after narrowly succumbing to Madrid 1-0 in the Copa del Rey in midweek.
On Sunday they travel to the team with La Liga’s worst home record, Sporting Gijon, who currently sit 19th and are desperate to arrest a three-match losing streak of their own.
Malaga managed to complete the double over their hosts last season and a similar outcome might be the case on Sunday.
Betting tip: Malaga to win @ 13/10
Read the latest La Liga betting preview here.
AC Milan v Inter Milan (7.45pm)
Home win: 23/20 Draw: 9/4 Away win: 47/20
As if the battle between the two Milanese superpowers over the signature of Carlos Tevez wasn’t enough, two of world football’s biggest rivals will also square off in the most anticipated match in Europe this weekend.
Milan are in good shape heading into Sunday night’s clash. The Rossoneri are top of Serie A on goal difference and have won ten of their last 12 league outings, conceding just eight goals, and the mercurial Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic has struck a dozen times already this season.
Inter are also in excellent form after a stuttering start to the season, which saw Gian Piero Gasperini replaced by “tinkerman” Claudio Ranieri. Inspired by the return to form and fitness of talisman Diego Milito, the Nerazzurri have won their last five Serie A fixtures, including last Sunday’s 5-0 demolition of Parma.
To top it off, playmaker Wesley Sneijder is also expected to return to the first team squad this weekend after missing the last two months with a thigh injury.
There may not have been a draw in the last 15 meetings between these two rivals, but given Inter’s recent upturn in form, the two teams could share the spoils at the San Siro this weekend.
Betting tip: Draw @ 9/4
Read a full preview of AC Milan v Inter here.
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