Aston Villa v West Ham United – 15:00
Aston Villa have been unrecognisable since Tim Sherwood took over in February. The goals have started to flow, at both ends of the pitch. And more importantly, Villa have started to win games. The rise in entertainment levels has been tangible for the home fans who, since Sherwood arrived, have witnessed six high scoring games from eight at Villa Park.
It seems that Villa are now able to compete with anyone, recently beating Spurs away and then narrowly missing out to Man City at the Etihad. But despite their improved form, Sherwood’s side still remain at the heart of the relegation battle. And so I’m expecting an aggressive and confident Villa to take the attack to West Ham on Saturday.
Given that the Hammers haven’t won an away game in the league since December, it’s hard to make a case for them to win here. And so I won’t. But I do think they could make an entertaining time of it. For starters, the Londoners have conceded at least two goals in four of their last five on the road. So there should be plenty of chances in the offing for Villa. But that said, Sam Allardyce is under pressure to turn things around following a dire run of form and so we could see his side also being encouraged to get on the front foot. Either way though, goals look inevitable.
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ [2.02]
Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion – 15:00
The relegation quicksand continues to suck in Newcastle boss John Carver, whose claim that he is the best coach in the division could be born as much of nerves as it is buffoonery. The reality is, Carver has taken Newcastle in the wrong direction and it amazes me that he’s been allowed to do so for so long.
That said he could still get the club out of the hole they’re now in. But it won’t be easy. For starters, Newcastle’s home form doesn’t inspire. In only one of their last seven matches at St James’ Park have they scored more than a single goal. They’re also now on an eight game losing streak.
And they’re sure to get no mercy from West Brom, even though they’ve effectively already been guided to safety by Tony Pulis. The Baggies would like another point just to tie the ribbon on their survival efforts. And they could well get it this weekend when you consider that they kept three clean sheets in a row in their recent games against Man United, Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ [1.79]
Manchester City v Queens Park Rangers – 13:30
Live On Sky Sports 1
It’s hard to envisage how there would not be a glut of goals in this game. For starters, Man City have scored an average of two goals a game at home this year. They remain highly motivated to earn a Champions League place. And they’ll now face a QPR side that’s lost all but three of its 17 away games this season.
Rangers don’t just lose, they usually lose in style, conceding more than two goals a game on their travels. And often that happened when they were playing with a defensive mindset. Now though, they have to get a win if they’re to dodge the relegation bullet. It’s a predicament that clearly positions them deep in the mire, and liable to get a spanking from the Premier League’s top scorers.
The fact that QPR have scored in all eight of their away games since New Year only adds to the expectation of goals. Yes, Chris Ramsay’s team look doomed to go down. But they’re sure to go down fighting. And as they are forced to take more and more risks, this game could easily turn into a shootout.
Back Over 3.5 Goals @ [2.04]
Chelsea v Liverpool – 16:00
Live On Sky Sports 1
Chelsea have bulldozed their way, slowly and methodically, to the Premier League title. But now that he has the trophy secured, will Jose Mourinho let slip the dogs of war? I’d like to hope so. But the sad thing is I don’t actually think he will.
In the back half of the season, Chelsea have played out seven low-scoring games from eight at Stamford Bridge. It’s been a relentless grind towards to the title. Even when leading 1-0 and cruising last week, Mourinho still chose to employ three defensive midfielders to see off Crystal Palace. It’s a pragmatic mentality that I don’t expect to change any time soon.
And so we must prepare ourselves for more of the same against a Liverpool side who’ve seen precious little goal action themselves lately. Brendan Rodgers’ team have been involved in seven low-scoring games from eight on their travels since New Year. It’s been an unexpected trend for the Reds. But it’s one I’ll be backing to continue, especially given that it’s against cautious Chelsea.
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ [2.16]
2014/15 Season P/L