Sam Hendry with the weekend’s best football bets
With West Brom all but down, that leaves a titanic tussle at the foot of the Premier League with eight teams still fighting to avoid the other two relegation spots.
The crunch meeting of the weekend sees David Moyes’ troubled West Ham United host Southampton at the London Stadium.
Moyes started his tenure with the Hammers positively, only to see injuries and their well-publicised off-the-field issues halt their momentum and a run of five defeats from their last six has left them perilously close to the relegation zone.
West Ham have the toughest run-in of any side and so a win here is a must, but it won’t be a gimme against a Southampton side who will hope Mark Hughes’ arrival can revitalise their season.
Their victory over Wigan two weeks ago to book an FA Cup semi final spot would have been a confidence booster and the two-week international break will have given Hughes some valuable time to stamp his authority on the squad.
This one will likely be a tight and tense affair but with West Ham in the form they are, I’m backing Southampton to claim a precious three points.
St James Park plays host to another key match in the battle at the bottom where victory for either Newcastle United or Huddersfield Town would be a massive boost for their respective chances of survival.
Newcastle’s success this season has relied on their ability to take points from the teams around them in the table.
Since a 1-0 defeat in the reverse fixture against Huddersfield in August, Newcastle haven’t lost any of their 11 fixtures against sides currently below them.
Huddersfield’s inconsistency is what has blighted their maiden Premier League campaign – big recent wins over Bournemouth and West Brom followed up by a return of only one point and no goals from home fixtures against Swansea and Crystal Palace.
In terms of quality the two sides are hard to separate but Newcastle’s recent upswing in home form should give them the edge and I’m backing a 1-0 win for Rafa Benitez’s side.
19th placed Stoke City may have to look beyond this weekend for the points the need as they face a daunting trip to North London to take on Arsenal.
For all their faults, Arsenal have been a reliable bet when playing at the Emirates and over half of their total goals tally has come in their ten home games against sides below them in the table.
It’s difficult to envisage the Gunners having much trouble here up against the league’s worst defence and January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be the man to benefit most.
The Gabonese forward has netted three times in his five league appearances thus far and I’m backing him to grab a couple more on Sunday and backing him to score two or more.