Live on SS1 & 2, ESPN: Sat 12.45, 17.30 & Sun 13.30, 16.00: Man United could be heading for a tough draw at Upton Park this weekend.
Saturday’s early Premier League kick-off holds plenty of significance at both ends of the table as relegation-threatened West Ham entertain league leaders Manchester United. For Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, victory, priced by William Hill at 5/6 would see them temporarily open up an eight-point advantage at the top of the table while the incentive for the Hammers, Stan James’ 7/2 outsiders, is the chance to pull three points clear of the drop zone and climb four places into 13th.
Naturally, as title hopefuls, United deserve to be favourites but remarkably, they have only won four of their 15 away matches this season so the result is far from a foregone conclusion, especially as the hosts are unbeaten in four in the league and have comfortably won their last couple at Upton Park. A stalemate at 13/5 with bet365 isn’t out of the question then and as Avram Grant’s charges always tend to concede, it’s worth pushing the boat out and backing any score draw at 4/1 courtesy of Coral.
For punters undecided in terms of the match result, offer 17/20 for both teams to get on the scoresheet and Betdaq post 1.91 (10/11) against a tally of more than 2.5 goals. Staying in that department, West Ham marksman Demba Ba has made an impact since joining the club in January, notching four times in five league games and the Senegalese striker is 15/2 (Totesport) to break the deadlock, although a better bet is arguably Paddy Power’s 5/2 for Ba to score at any stage.
Arsenal should stay in the title hunt by getting the better of Blackburn in the evening fixture, Sportingbet quoting Arsene Wenger’s men at 2/7 to send out-of-sorts Rovers empty-handed and the rate at which Steve Kean’s men are leaking goals lends appeal to Partybets’ 8/15 for a home win combined with a match total of more than 2.5 goals.
At the Britannia Stadium meanwhile, Chelsea are 4/6 (Betfred) to pass a rigorous physical examination to collect a maximum haul at the expense of Stoke while Manchester City in fourth can tighten their grip on a Champions League place by getting the better of off-colour Sunderland, a result chalked up by Stan James at 1/2 at Eastlands, where Paddy Power make Roberto Mancini’s men 7/5 to win ‘to nil’.
Tottenham hope to maintain the pressure on City but at 9/4 (Betfred) they may have to settle for a draw as they head to struggling Wigan. Also set to share the spoils (23/10, bet365), are West Brom and Liverpool, who face-off at the Hawthorns and Coral make Birmingham and Bolton’s St Andrews clash 9/4 to finish all square.
Elsewhere, a Fulham success is available at 4/7 with Ladbrokes ahead of the Cottagers’ home contest with Blackpool, William Hill quote Everton at 5/6 to make light of their injury woes to see off under-fire Aston Villa at Goodison Park and finally, battling Wolves are 3.5 (5/2) at Betdaq to boost their survival bid by landing a point at Newcastle.