City should have just too much for Liverpool

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Manchester City and Liverpool played out an entertaining and lively 2-2 stalemate at Anfield back in August.

Roberto Mancini’s men pegged back the Reds twice to earn a point that day but as the pair prepare to face-off again at the Etihad Stadium, bookies aren’t anticipating another inconclusive affair, Ladbrokes posting 11/4 against the draw.

Aided by home advantage, it’s the champions that are fancied to come out on top, BetVictor making them odds-on at 17/20 for the points and Stan James installing Brendan Rodgers’ side as 4/1 outsiders.

That looks about right and indeed it’s difficult to see past the hosts but if you ignore the humbling at League One Oldham in the FA Cup, Liverpool’s form has been pretty solid of late so they can certainly ensure City have to work hard for the victory.

Subsequently, bet365’s 11/4 for the hosts to shade it by a one-goal margin is worth considering for punters seeking something more substantial than the odds-on quotes for a straightforward City success and as the Reds pose a significant attacking threat making it likely that both teams will score (8/13, Stan James), BetVictor’s 17/2 for Mancini’s troops to register a 2-1 triumph also appeals.

In attack meanwhile, after a brief injury lay-off Sergio Aguero forced his way back into the first 11 at QPR and as the Argentine attacker has struck in two of his last three starts, he’s the eye-catching first scorer flutter at 9/2 (Paddy Power).

Fulham and Manchester United met just last weekend in the FA Cup with Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges running out comfortable 4-1 winners and although it should be slightly closer when the duo meet again at Craven Cottage, United remain bankers at 13/20 with BetVictor.

A more modest 2-0 success for the visitors can be backed at 9/1 courtesy of bet365 and the league leaders are available at 11/8 in Skybet’s handicaps, when start a goal in arrears.

Both managers are under pressure as Newcastle and Chelsea square up at St James’ Park but it’s Blues boss Rafa Benitez that should be feeling a little more relaxed on Saturday night, his team warm-looking favourites to prevail at 5/6 via Coral. A maximum haul for the European champions could also see them extend their lead over fourth-placed Tottenham, who might have to settle for a point at West Brom, an outcome Stan James offer at 5/2.

Hoping to close the gap on Spurs are neighbours Arsenal and Coral rate the Gunners at 1/2 to get the better of a Stoke outfit not in the best of form at the moment while Everton, a 4/9 chance – this time with Stan James, can maintain their interest in the race for European places by sending beleaguered strugglers Aston Villa home from Goodison Park empty-handed. The Gunners and Toffees double up at 11/10 (William Hill).

At the bottom, bet365 post even money against QPR boosting their survival hopes by seeing off Norwich, Reading are 6/4 courtesy of the same bookie to ease their own relegation worries with a victory over Sunderland and Stan James quote 5/2 for Wigan and Southampton to be inseparable at the DW Stadium.

A stalemate meanwhile, at 12/5 (Skybet), may also be on the cards at Upton Park, where West Ham entertain Swansea.

Despite being without influential centre Manu Tuilagi, England are emphatic favourites at 1/12 via William Hill to get the better of Scotland as they get their Six Nations campaign under way in the Calcutta Cup showdown at Twickenham.

Tuilagi’s absence undoubtedly blunts the hosts as an attacking force slightly but Stuart Lancaster’s men should still have too much for the visitors so England are a confident selection in Stan James’ handicaps, where they’re 10/11 when starting 15 points in arrears.

It should be closer in Cardiff as Wales and Ireland face-off but the away side get the nod at 10/11 (Skybet) aided by a three-point advantage while BetVictor penalise France by a dozen at 10/11 in Italy.

Switching codes, the new Super League season starts this weekend and runners-up in 2012, Warrington, are Coral’s 5/2 favourites to go one better by winning the Grand Final.

Champions Leeds are 11/2 (BetVictor) to capture the title for the sixth time in seven years and Stan James rate Wigan at 4/1.

The Rhinos begin the defence of their crown against Hull, bet365 making them just 1/3 to kick-off with a victory at Headingley, where Paddy Power price the hosts at 10/11 to cover an eight point start in the handicaps.

Bet of the week: Warrington to win the Grand Final – 5/2 (Coral)

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