A midweek win over an obstinate but unadventurous Brighton has put Tottenham in pole position to claim third place in the Premier League, although with three games to go just six points separates them from sixth-placed Manchester United.
With Spurs on 70 points, Chelsea on 67, Arsenal on 66 and United 64, there is still plenty left to play for, with the prize for third and fourth being a lucrative place in next season’s Champions League.
So, while Tottenham still have the small matter of a two-legged Champions League semi-final against Ajax to come, they still have work to do before they can be assured of a place in next season’s competition.
In an ideal world, Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pochettino would have been resting players this weekend ahead of the clash with the Dutch champions, but the prospect of missing out next season means the risk of resting his key players is too great.
TOP TIP! – Spurs & West Ham to draw 1-1 @ 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10 / Antonio as first goalscorer @ 13/114.00+130013.0013.00-0.08
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Therefore, West Ham can expect to face a Tottenham side that, while may not be at full strength, will contain most of its big names. To slip up against the Hammers is simply something they cannot afford to do.
West Ham, by contrast, are the epitome of mid-table and have been free of relegation worries for some time. On the flip side, they have also fallen well short in the battle for seventh place – aka ‘the best of the rest’ – and they are left with three games that mean very little other than pride and Premier League prize money.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini may decide to experiment and have a look at players whose futures are uncertain and some of the club’s talented young players, which in many ways makes this a tricky game to call.
Sometimes in these circumstances a team can embrace the fact there is no jeopardy involved and play with a freedom and expression that’s impossible when there is something at stake, and this may be the case as the Hammers make their first visit to Spurs’ grand new home.
The West Ham fans too, whose relationship with their Tottenham counterparts is fractious, will be keen to see their team turn up and put a dent in the Lilywhites’ quest for a top-four place.
Of course, there is also the possibility that some West Ham players could be ‘on the beach’ and not play with the intensity required when taking on London rivals, and it only takes a couple of players operating at 90% instead of 100% to impact the whole team.
Pellegrini will, of course, be keen to prevent this happening, but it wouldn’t be the first time a team has suffered in this way in the closing weeks of the season.
So, it’s a tricky one to call and it’s a question of whether Spurs will in fact have one eye on Tuesday’s game, even sub-consciously, and whether West Ham will be up for it.
Spurs have yet to concede a goal in their new stadium, but we think West Ham will change this on Saturday, and with Tottenham misfiring in front of goal for most of the Brighton game, we can see it being a 1-1, which at 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10 offers some good value. Also worthy of consideration is West Ham’s Michail Antonio – who scored twice last weekend – as first goalscorer 13/114.00+130013.0013.00-0.08.
Burnley v Manchester City – 28th April – 14:05 GMT
TOP TIP! – City to win 3-1 @ 12/113.00+120012.0012.00-0.08 / Barnes to score in the game @ 9/25.50+4504.504.50-0.22
It’s fair to assume that Liverpool will make light work of Huddersfield on Friday night, so this will remain a must-win for Man City.
Following their midweek win in the Manchester Derby, City hold a slender one-point lead over the Reds, although, perhaps crucially, they also have a significantly better goal difference than Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Burnley, following their own midweek heroics when they picked up a priceless point at Chelsea, are now safe from the threat of relegation and will enter the City game with no fear. For them it will be a free hit and, as such, it could be a trickier afternoon for City than it may initially appear.
Equally, if City can go to Old Trafford and outplay their neighbours, there looks, on paper, nothing for them to fear from this trip to Turf Moor. The Clarets will not, however, be guilty of downing tools at this stage of the season, with manager Sean Dyche being among the most fearsome and demanding in the Premier League.
So, if Guardiola’s men are going to get the three points, they are going to have to earn them and we happen to think they will with something to spare.
Burnley will be committed and will play with fire in their belly, but we don’t think they’ll have sufficient quality to really dent City’s chances. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood – Burnley’s front two – are lively though and we can see them getting a goal between them, but even without the injured Kevin de Bruyne, City are bursting at the seams with quality and creativity.
We can see a 3-1 City – on offer at a very nice 12/113.00+120012.0012.00-0.08 – with Ashley Barnes grabbing himself a goal for the Clarets at 9/25.50+4504.504.50-0.22.
Manchester Utd v Chelsea – 28th April – 16:30 GMT
TOP TIP! – Chelsea to win 2-1 @ 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10 / Hazard as final goalscorer @ 9/25.50+4504.504.50-0.22
United will be smarting after the midweek defeat by City. Not only was it disappointing for them to lose 2-0, but even more disappointing was the manner of defeat.
Despite a lively start from United, who were roared on by a noisy Old Trafford, the game was for long spells men against boys. City looked superior in almost every department and after a flying start to his spell in the Red Devils’ dugout, Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s Old Trafford tenure has taken a worrying turn with four defeats in their last six Premier League games.
City’s class was evident enough for the game to end with a half-empty stadium, and with Chelsea up next, things could turn really ugly for Solkjaer and his under-performing players this weekend.
Chelsea, while not pulling up any trees themselves, are in better form than United and will head north looking for the win that will strengthen their grip on fourth place. And, quite frankly, we can see them getting it.
With Eden Hazard on what’s likely to be his farewell tour in a Chelsea shirt, he’ll be desperate to deliver on what could be his final appearance at Old Trafford, and we can see him grabbing the winner at 9/25.50+4504.504.50-0.22 in a 2-1 win for the Blues 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10.
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Carl is the original ‘Special One’ and uses his statistical knowledge of football to gain the upper hand over the bookies on a weekly basis. A student of odds and probabilities, ‘Wrighty’ pinpoints the value bets in the top leagues across Europe. A big signing for the SBO.net sports team, Carl brings his vast experience of playing the odds and beating the bookies to a weekly column highlighting the very best football bets.
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