With a vast £800,000 up for grabs once again in this weekend’s 1X2 Pick 15 football pool, our resident tipster Ed Acteson has analysed the three featured Premier League matches to try and uncover an angle.
West Ham vs. Southampton
The Saints finally confirmed their safety last weekend with a hard fought 3-3 draw against south coast rivals Bournemouth. It was their second consecutive tie and confirmed their reputation as the division’s draw specialists, with 11 stalemates from 36 fixtures, two more than anyone else.
West Ham continued being West Ham, utterly unpredictable. They became the first side to either score or win at Tottenham’s revamped White Hart Lane stadium, breaking a personal streak of four matches without a victory. Admittedly, though, those matches c agaameinst Leicester, Man Utd, Chelsea and Everton, a tough run.
My first instinct was to back the draw, given Southampton’s propensity to achieve that result, but then I looked a bit closer at the form.
Not only have Southampton struggled away this season, losing ten of their trips away from St. Marys, but West Ham’s results possibly looks worse on paper than they actually are. Even ignoring the impressive win against Tottenham, they achieved a credible draw against Leicester before that and weren’t outclassed in either of their narrow defeats to Chelsea or Man Utd, both of which were away from home.
My suspicion is that, with safety now assured, Southampton will take their foot off the gas and as such I’m going to back West Ham to defeat them here.
Verdict: West Ham
Wolves vs. Fulham
Two sides that were separated by just 11 points and two places last season, as both won promotion from the Championship, find themselves heading in opposite directions this time around.
The gap has widened to 28 points this season. Whereas Wolves are on an upward curve, sitting in seventh place after a fantastic first season in the Premier League, Fulham are destined to play Championship football once again next season.
Both sides come into the fixture in decent form. Fulham have won three on the bounce, having finally gained some defensive solidarity under Scott Parker and, possibly, due to the pressure having lifted.
Wolves have won their last two, against Watford and Arsenal, and four of the last six in total.
Though Fulham’s resurgence has been impressive, and bodes well for next season, I think Wolves will have that added quality that sees them nick a win. You have to factor in motivation and Wolves still need points to secure a spot in the Europa League next season so that could play a part.
Even more significantly, Fulham sit at the foot of the divisional away table, having taken just five points from 18 matches. Molineux isn’t likely to be a happy hunting ground for them and Wolves shouldn’t have too many issues.
Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace
Having already relegated Huddersfield this season, Palace have the opportunity to make it a double in Saturday’s late kick off, as they travel to Cardiff.
Cardiff, managed by former Palace boss Neil Warnock, are four points behind Brighton with two games remaining but their goal difference is so much worse that nothing but a win will do for the south coast side.
With Brighton facing tests against Arsenal and Manchester City, Palace could put their rivals in serious jeopardy by rolling over and allowing a Cardiff win but I can’t see it.
Only two sides have a worse home record than Cardiff this season, whereas Palace have been sensational on the road, taking 26 points which is the sixth best in the division.
Palace have won at Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester and Wolves whilst also picking up a point at Old Trafford. They remain the only side to win at the Etihad in the league, so will not fear a trip to Cardiff.
The dynamic of the match should play into Palace’s hands. Cardiff are in last chance saloon and no longer have any option but to attack. This is not how they have played all season and you do not want to suddenly introduce a new attacking approach against one of the best counter-attacking sides in the league.
If Cardiff score first they will retreat into their shell and defend their lead. If Palace score first, Cardiff’s desperation will only increase and I think Palace will go on to win comfortably. I’m backing the second scenario, with Roy Hodgson holding all the cards here.
Verdict: Crystal Palace