The frustration was palpable all round Old Trafford on Saturday as West Brom dug in for a point to land another blow on Manchester United’s top four aspirations. Jose Mourinho was in typically barbed mood afterwards, as he lamented the Baggies’ defensive display. It was not at all unexpected though, and the Portuguese manager will welcome the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Everton on Tuesday night. He may also expect a more open match, with the Toffees not they type of side to put eleven men behind the ball.
Live on Sky Sports, the match at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ could have a significant impact on both teams’ finishing position in the Premier League. United are five points adrift of rivals City who occupy 4th place, and with their sworn enemies playing away at Chelsea, the Red Devils could gain ground with three points. However, Everton are hot on their tails in 7th place, and a shock win here could see Ronald Koeman’s side leapfrog United in the league table.
In a cracking line up of midweek matches, some of the Premier League’s lesser lights present decent value bets. West Brom, fresh from that excellent point at Old Trafford, face another away day at Watford. Tony Pulis’ side are no great shakes on their travels, but they are a big price to get the better of a Hornets team that only pulled clear of the relegation zone with a slim victory over Sunderland at the weekend.
Hull are another side deep in the battle to avoid the drop, but a 2-1 victory over West Ham on Saturday has seen them draw to within one point of safety. Wednesday night sees them play a crucial six-pointer against Middlesbrough, who are four points adrift of the Tigers, but there is good value in backing a home win. Hull have won six of the last seven on their home ground, including wins against Man United and Liverpool. Boro ground out a point at Swansea on the weekend, but draws will not be enough to keep them in the top flight.
Manchester United v Everton
United do little other than attack when playing at home, and with the gap to the top four increasing, the stakes get higher as each game passes by. The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic couldn’t have come sooner for Jose Mourinho, and he’ll be hoping the Swedish talisman does what nobody could manage against West Brom.
Tony Pulis is a pastmaster as grinding out Premier League results, and there was a familiarity about the way in which his side defended so resolutely on Saturday. However, Everton are a completely different side under Ronald Koeman, and one doubts that the Toffees will be prepared to spend 90 minutes camped in their own defensive third.
Of more concern for the Dutch manager are the injury problems that have hit Goodison, and four young players were given the nod against Liverpool in the 3-1 Anfield defeat on Saturday. The Toffees have kept just four clean sheets in their 15 away games in the top flight, but have also only failed to score in four of those games as well.
United are unbeaten at home in 24 games since losing 2-1 to rivals Man City back in September, but they have drawn an alarming 8 of 15 at Old Trafford in the Premier League. The likes of Bournemouth, Southampton, Sunderland and West Ham have all found the net in fixtures at the Red Devils – and the signs are good that Everton can do the same.
Watford v West Brom
West Brom don’t win many on their travels but are worth chancing at +220 with Betfair when they visit Watford.
The 1-0 home win over doomed Sunderland was their first since a 2-1 Vicarage Road victory over Burnley, and it was crucial as it established a seven-point gap to the bottom three. That little bit of breathing space is vital for the London club, but as the 3-4 loss to Southampton in their previous home game showed, they are by no means reliable.
Reliable is a word that can be readily associated with West Brom, and they have a strong grip on 8th place in the table – 8 points ahead of next-best Stoke. They’ve lost just three times in the last ten games – away at Spurs and Everton, and at home to a rejuvenated Crystal Palace. They haven’t won away in five road games since beating Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on New Year’s Eve, but a 3-1 win over Arsenal and that Old Trafford draw in the last two games show that the Baggies are in good heart.
Hull v Middlesbrough
Finally, Hull look over the odds at +125 with William Hill to beat goal-shy Middlesbrough.
Steve Agnew has taken over on a temporary basis from Aitor Karanka, and started the 0-0 draw at Swansea with a moree attacking line up. However, it was the same old story as Boro looked poor going forward. The desperate need for survival points may mean throwing caution to the wind for the remainder of the season, but it remains to be seen if that will boost survival hopes or just play into the hands of other teams.
Hull have one of the best home records of 2017 since Marco Silva took over from Mike Phelan, winning 6 of 7 matches in front of their own supporters since the turn of the year. Relegation rivals Bournemouth, Swansea and West Ham have all been beaten here over the last three months, so there is little evidence to suggest the Tigers will crack under the pressure.
Boro haven’t won away from home since the opening day victory at Sunderland, and Hull should not be odds-against considering their recent good form.
Man United v Everton – Both teams to score
Tuesday 4th April, 20:00 BST
West Brom to beat Watford
Tuesday 4th April, 19:45 BST
Hull to beat Middlesbrough
Wednesday 5th April, 19:45 BST
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