Sam Hendry looks ahead and picks out the weekend’s best football bets
Strangely, for a team that have gone 20 games without a win, West Brom can consider themselves fortunate that they are not further than four points from safety.
The teams in the bottom half of the table are so evenly matched and the points tally’s so congested that a good run of form over a one or two-month spell would easily see them climb out of the danger zone.
But that run will have to come soon, though, for Alan Pardew before a fresh rot starts to kick-in meaning their home fixture against Brighton this weekend most definitely falls into the “must-win” category
The Baggies were professional in their victory away to League 2’s Exeter City in the FA Cup last week and a full week’s preparation for the visit of Brighton should do them some good.
Brighton have been fairly consistent against the sides around them this season, losing only two games to other bottom half teams.
Those defeats, to Bournemouth and Huddersfield, both came away from home and I think this will be their third in a tight contest. West Brom to win by a single goal is my bet at odds of 5/2 (SkyBet and Boylesports)
There has been talk in some areas of the press of Burnley being on a “slump” and while it’s true that Sean Dyche’s side have gone six games without a win, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
Their three defeats in that time came against Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City while they kept two clean sheets in their draws away to Brighton and Huddersfield and were only denied three points at Old Trafford by an injury time Jesse Lingard equaliser.
While luck has not quite been going their way as it was earlier in the season, their performance levels and philosophy remain unchanged and I am backing them to get back to winning ways when they visit Crystal Palace.
Roy Hodgson has done a remarkable job in turning Palace’s fortunes around and they have only lost once in their last eleven matches.
But their style is suited more towards exploiting space as opposing teams come at them, something Burnley will not do. A Burnley win is 16/5 with Betfred and William Hill while under 2.5 goals could be a shoe-in at odds of 4/7 generally.
Undoubtedly the most anticipated game of the weekend is on Sunday at Anfield as LIverpool attempt to become the first team to inflict a domestic defeat upon Manchester City.
They will have to do so without the influential Coutinho, although Jurgen Klopp will be hopeful that Virgil van Dijk can contend with City’s brutal attacking force better than his teammates did in September’s 5-0 defeat at the Etihad.
Having gone through a golden goalscoring spell in November and early December, Liverpool have shown a different side to their game recently by grinding out three consecutive 2-1 victories over stubborn opposition.
City, meanwhile, show no signs of letting up, powering their way to a ridiculous 15-point lead. However they were one penalty miss away from going down to Crystal Palace and if they’re ever going to lose then this is as likely a place as any for it to happen.
Neutrals expectantly await a showcase of goals and entertainment and while I hope that is what we’ll get, ultimately I can’t split the two sides and will be backing the draw at odds of 11/4 with BetVictor and Betfred, a result that both managers would probably privately accept.