The race for the Premier League title may have been wrapped up for some time but there’s still ample drama to be taken in by football betting fans down towards the other end of the table, where there are a host of teams involved in a scrap for survival.
With only a handful of games left at this point, each one takes on added significance and the meeting of West Ham United and Stoke City at the London Stadium on Monday night will be no different. David Moyes has endured a troubled start to his life in East London, with unconvincing displays and mixed results causing Hammers fans to - more or less - take up arms against the club’s hierarchy.
A precious win against Southampton and a hard-earned point at Chelsea in their last two ties, though, have seen the mood sweeten somewhat around E13 and a win at home to Stoke would nudge them onto the revised magical points total of 37.
Life isn’t quite as rosy up the M6 for Paul Lambert’s Stoke City. They sit bang in the middle of trouble in the relegation zone and only West Brom prop them up from the table’s stoop. A recruitment policy that’s brought in a cast of talented but seemingly uncommitted players to Staffordshire in recent years has backfired spectacularly and they look like a side without direction.
Three points for either side here, then, would be priceless and we’ve run through the markets around the game to see what value we could squeeze out of the bookmakers. There’re some decent prices to be had in the win-draw-win market, with the hosts available at 42/41 at 888Sport, the visitors trading at 3/1 on Matchbook and the stalemate priced up at 5/2 over at Unibet. We’re going to swerve that traditional market for a few alternative plays.
The hosts sit in a comparably comfortable position here; even a point would see them edge towards the promised land. What they can’t countenance is a loss to one of the safety-chasing pack. Similarly, Paul Lambert, who is a naturally cautious coach, will be wary of the repercussions of coming away empty-handed from this one and is likely to set his side up accordingly.
A tense, low-scoring affair therefore looks in the offing and we’re keen to take up a position on that eventuality in one manner or another. The humble under 2.5 option in the Over/Under Goals market is how we’ve elected to do that this time around.
That selection is priced up at a shade off odds-on with Bet365 at 8/11. We’ll make this our main interest in a game that’s forecasted to be shy on goalmouth action. Those with a similar vision for how this one will play out but more ice in the veins can take under 1.5 at 2/1 with Blacktype.
For all that we envisage this being a tight, low-scoring match, West Ham have superior form on the book and are in a better place as a team. They might well edge this by the odd goal. One way to support a team in this scenario is by backing their key goal threat in the First Goalscorer market and that’s how we’ll play our hand this time.
Javier Hernandez has struggled with life in the capital since his move but came up trumps for his side when coming off the bench at Stamford bridge last time to score the equaliser. That puts him in line for a start and, should he line up here, he rates as a canny wager at 5/1 with Bet365. However it’s best to wait until some team news starts to emerge before pulling the trigger on this one.
Michael Oliver caused quite the stir in Madrid in midweek, flashing cards like a tarot reader while marshalling Real’s two-legged defeat of Juventus at the Bernabeu. He returns to domestic action for this one and, never a shrinking violet, might be up for cracking the whip once more.
Two sets of players grafting for safety at clubs where more is expected will bring a certain edge into this and, with the atmosphere around the London Stadium a touch on the toxic side at times, this one could get a bit naughty (to borrow a colloquialism). The 3/1 available at some of the best online bookies for there to be a penalty awarded by the theatrical Englishman appeals as a novelty bet alongside our two main wagers.