Mel must make West Brom gather momentum in relegation race
Yet another Premier League matchday, and the scrap for survival will take another twist. The spotlight shines brightest this time on Hull hosting West Brom and Norwich taking on Sunderland.
The Baggies’ wait for a win under Spanish head coach Pepe Mel finally came at the eighth attempt, and Albion have a pretty decent record against their next opposition in the Tigers.
West Brom (7/2 to go down) have lost just two of their last encounters in this fixture, and travel to the KC Stadium in buoyant mood after beating Swansea on the road.
Coral make Mel’s men a tempting 12/5 for another away day delight in Hull. Steve Bruce, whose charges have an all-Yorkshire FA Cup semi-final clash coming up in April, has masterminded home wins over more illustrious opposition than this, however.
If the Tigers (9/1) can trounce Liverpool – as they did on their own patch back in December – then they start as deserved 6/5 favourites to beat West Brom. A draw is price at 11/5, and that has been the outcome in the last two meetings of these teams.
Hull January signing Shane Long faces the club he left in the winter window here. Back the Republic of Ireland frontman to remind the Baggies what they could have kept hold of by scoring against them anytime at 5/4.
Chris Hughton’s Canaries, meanwhile, entertain Sunderland at Carrow Road, having won each of the last four league meetings that have taken place in East Anglia.
Norwich are 6/5 favourites for three precious points during a season where they have conceded twice as many goals as they have scored so far. Both are 7/4 for the drop.
The Black Cats, beaten Capital One Cup finalists under Gus Poyet, should be able to net on this trip, then. An away win is rated as likely as a draw, however, at 23/10 apiece. Punters’ best bet here is backing a home victory and both teams to score at 21/5.
Elsewhere in the bottom half, West Ham (12/1) host Manchester United. Since Carlos Tevez kept the Hammers up by scoring a winner on the final day of the 2006/07 campaign against his subsequent club, they have beaten the Red Devils just twice in 14 attempts in all competitions.
Despite injury ruling Robin van Persie out of this trip to Upton Park, punters should be sanguine about Sam Allardyce’s chances and avoid odds of 3/1 on a home victory.
Fulham (odds-on 2/7 favourites), still in the Premier League basement, are massive 14/1 outsiders to beat Manchester City at the Etihad. The west London outfit won there under Roy Hodgson in 2009, but have lost seven of the 10 meetings since.
Cardiff City (1/3) were victorious in their last home game against Liverpool, but that was way back in 1959. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Bluebirds are 13/2 for three points here, but expect the rampant Reds to earn their first win in the Welsh capital since 1929.
Swansea (8/1), meanwhile, are at Everton and have no hope whatsoever of a victory, as they have never beaten the Toffees – home or away – in any competition. Again, punters should steer clear of placing any faith in odds of 4/1 for managerial novice Garry Monk mastermind a win.
Promoted team Crystal Palace (6/4) have a rotten recent record against Newcastle United. The Eagles have lost six of their last seven meetings, and odds of 7/2 for an away victory are not sufficient enough to suggest this will change.
Since Palace last beat the Magpies, they have scored just once, so a win to nil the hosts – even if manager Alan Pardew is banned from St James’ Park – at 15/8 is your best bet.
Last, and least, is a Midlands derby pitting Aston Villa (11/10) against Stoke City (5/2). Six of their 11 Premier League meetings have been draws, so pile money on that outcome again at 23/10.