After another three winners from four, Neil Harvey is getting brave. He’s dipped into Spain’s La Liga and is making a whopping five goals to be scored in the Barcelona game his top pick of this week’s Overs or Unders…
QPR v Tottenham Hotspur – 15:00
If you take one statistic away from this fixture, then it should be this – that Tottenham’s last nine away games in the league have all been high scoring. And it’s worth noting that the goals were shared around in those fixtures, with both sides scoring in seven of the nine matches. Tottenham’s hopes of Europe now hang by a thread, so Mauricio Pochettino’s team will have to start taking chances from here on in. And that should result in plenty of opportunities all round.
Some might see the name QPR and immediately think we’re in for a low-scoring match here. And that approach could be forgiven considering four of Rangers’ last five home games in the league ended up exactly that way. But let’s not forget their most recent match at Loftus Road, a 2-1 loss to Arsenal. I suspect that particular result will be much more indicative of what’s to come. QPR can no longer afford to play cautious. Three points adrift from safety and with just 11 games remaining, they need to start forcing the pace more aggressively in home games and that should mean more goals.
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.784/5
Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion – 17:30
Live on BBC1
Meanwhile in the FA Cup, we could be in for a full throttle Midlands derby. Both Villa and West Brom have been unimpressive in the league and this offers an opportunity to get away from their day jobs for a while. But the lure of progressing should be strong, not just financially but also in terms of boosting morale. So we could see both sides taking this as seriously as any game this season.
Tim Sherwood certainly won’t be throwing the match, having only just taken over at Villa Park. And his team will of course be hoping for a repeat of the 2-1 league win they enjoyed against the same opponents, at the same venue, earlier this week. Therein lies my point though. Tuesday’s league match was fiercely fought, with six bookings handed out. And it had looked destined to end in a 1-1 draw until a penalty for Villa in the fourth minute of injury time changed things.
The Baggies have five points in hand on Villa in the relegation scrap but are still far from safe. So they too should see this as a rare moment of reprieve from the annual struggle for survival. Both teams should want this, but neither looks strong enough to take it. So personally, I’ll be aiming low.
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.625/8
Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano – 11:00
Live On Sky Sports 5
Sunday morning sees us make a rare sortie into the Spanish League, but it should be one worth waking up for. Barcelona screwed up royally in their last game at the Nou Camp, losing face and important points in a 1-0 defeat by Malaga. So they should be looking to make amends to the home fans this time out and Vallecano would appear the perfect team to play the role of fall guys.
For example, Rayo’s goal difference of -15 is much lower than that of any of the teams around them, which suggests they’re punching a little above their weight. If so, then Barca will be quick to expose them, just as Real Madrid did in a 5-1 win earlier this season.
Certainly Barca know how to put teams to the sword. Seven of their 12 home games in La Liga have contained at least four goals. And against the more vulnerable teams, such as Vallecano, things can get especially ugly. Just ask Grenada, Sevilla, Espanyol, Cordoba and Levante – all of whom conceded five goals or more away to the Catalans.
Back Over 4.5 Goals @ 2.0621/20
Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers – 16:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Liverpool will be strong favourites to win this FA Cup tie, but I’m not sure they should be. Brendan Rodgers’ priorities clearly lie in the league, where he currently has his hands full in the battle for a Champions League place. Certainly Liverpool having been making hard work of their cup run to date.
Wins over Wimbledon, Bolton and Crystal Palace were all secured by just a one goal margin, with Bolton even taking it to a replay after they forced a 0-0 draw at Anfield. Those are not the performances of a team dedicated to lifting the trophy and I suspect we will see Liverpool’s lack of commitment exposed sooner or later.
Blackburn of course still have their hands full trying to get a result here. But there’s no doubt in my mind they have what it takes. Certainly they should have the desire, now that their play-off hopes have been all but dashed. And they also seem to have the fight.
Gary Bowyer’s team don’t score many goals on their travels, but they are fairly robust, as suggested by the fact four of their last five away games were low scoring. So Blackburn might just fancy their chances of doing a Bolton and taking this to a replay. And even if they don’t pull it off, they could still keep the score low enough for our needs.
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.47/5
2014/15 Season P/L