The highlight of the Premier League this weekend is undoubtedly the North-West derby at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Liverpool, but the tension is sure to be at the opposite end of the table. The two giants of English football are 2nd and 3rd in the table, but with Man City holding a seemingly unbreakable lead, the Reds and the Red Devils are merely jockeying for position.
It’s the relegation battle where hearts will be in mouths on Saturday as several sides are involved in proverbial ‘six-pointers’. Fixtures like Huddersfield v Swansea and Newcastle v Southampton would not always whet the appetite of neutrals but those matches, among others, could have a significant bearing on the final shake-up. The Magpies are just a point ahead of the Saints, who in turn are a mere point above the bottom three.
West Ham is another club is serious danger after a crushing 4-1 defeat at Swansea last week. The Hammers host the high-flying Clarets on Saturday afternoon, and only a win will keep the locals happy. However, Sean Dyche’s side has been a revelation this season and remain in a strong position to finish ‘best of the rest’ and take 7th spot in the Premier League table.
There’s only one place to start though, and that’s in the big lunchtime kick off at Old Trafford where odds of +235 with 888Sport about the stalemate look fair value.
These two played out a fairly dire 0-0 draw back in October when Mourinho’s Red Devils were accused of playing an overly-defensive game. The Portuguese manager has been renowned for many a defensive masterclass in his career, but would he adopt the same tactics at home in front of fans which consider theirs to be a bigger club than the visitors? It seems unlikely, and of course, the circumstances are different this time around. A draw away from home at Anfield might have seemed a fair result in pursuit of Man City back in October, but now the title is all but over, this match is much more about reputations and final positions. United have won the last four at home, they’ve won 11 of 14 at Old Trafford in the Premier League, and their only defeat came at the hands of their city rivals.
Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw against Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday – one day after United’s last-gasp win at Palace – but Klopp’s side were already through courtesy of their 5-0 win away in Portugal. The German manager was able to mix up the squad and rest a few players so there should be no worries about a quick turnaround. The Reds have won 7 of the last 10 on the road, with the only defeat a surprise 1-0 loss at Swansea.
Manchester United have a Champions League tie against Sevilla to look forward to on Tuesday, but Mourinho is too well aware of the importance of this match among supporters to risk fielding a weakened side. The last four meetings between the two have been drawn and another stalemate could be on the cards.
Bookmakers may be taking a risk on the both teams to score market when West Ham host Burnley, with odds of +110 available with Betway.
It is true that neither the Hammers or the Clarets are exactly prolific but recent form and the circumstances of this game point to goals. West Ham had a slight resurgence under David Moyes and even flirted with the top half at one point, but back-to-back 4-1 defeats to Liverpool and Swansea have seen them dragged back into the battle. They are just three points above the drop zone, and with 30 points, have plenty of work to do to ensure survival. Both teams have scored in four of West Ham’s last five games and as they will be chasing a win here, there could be plenty of opportunity for Burnley to hit back on the break.
The Clarets broke a 12-game winless run with the 2-1 win over Everton last time out, but their form hadn’t been quite as bad as the raw data suggests. They have already reached the hallowed 40 point mark and are clinging on to 7th place in the league ahead of Leicester and Watford. Both sides have also scored in four of Burnley’s last five matches and it is actually nine games since they last kept a clean sheet.
With the pressure all on West Ham, both teams to find the net looks a great bet in a match that could get more and more frenetic as it goes on.
The same bet applies when Southampton visit Newcastle at odds of -105 with 888Sport.
These two are 16th and 17th and are only just hovering above Crystal Palace and Stoke who are in the relegation zone. Both sides have experienced an upturn in form recently, although wins have been hard to come by.
Southampton have only managed one win in the last 17 Premier League fixtures, despite three victories in the FA Cup. However, the Saints have only lost on of the last ten and are unbeaten in six on the road. Both teams have scored in the last four of those away games.
Newcastle are also struggling to find wins but are now unbeaten in five at home after a run of five straight defeats in front of the Geordie faithful. Both sides have found the net in three of those last five at home. Rafa Benitez will surely be looking at this fixture as a chance to take three points and keep a close rival behind so we can expect an attacking outlook from Newcastle – hardly uncommon on their own patch. they will also be buoyed by their most recent home result – a 1-0 win over Man United.
Time is running out for Southampton too though, and they will be desperate to get something from this game. With both teams is serious danger of exiting the league, this match could turn into an unexpected thriller.
Manchester United and Liverpool to draw
Saturday 10th March, 12:30 GMT
West Ham v Burnley – Both teams to score
Saturday 10th March, 15:00 GMT
Newcastle v Southampton – Both teams to score
Saturday 10th March, 15:00 GMT
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