CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) picks out his three best bets in the Premier League this weekend.
Stoke v Manchester United | Saturday 15:00
It’s 9th v 6th here as Stoke host Manchester United at the Bet365. My consistent feelings on these sides are that Stoke seem underrated while their opponents are overly feted at the odds. With that in mind, my approach won’t be a surprise to you.
As I mentioned, Stoke lie 9th in the table and if they finish in that position come May it will be the fourth consecutive campaign they’ve finished in that slot. An unsexy, but massively impressive achievement!
When you think how fluid the Premier League can be in terms of clubs standings at the table, it really is huge respect to Stoke and Mark Hughes how their ship has been so steady.
On Saturday they look significantly underrated at odds of 11/2 as they search for a third consecutive league win while aiming to extend a fine home record against their opponents.
It’s just one home league defeat in four months for Stoke and overall they’ve lost just four matches in their last 16 conquests after what was a poor start to the season.
I’m still not feeling the Manchester United love. Their best winning run of the decade came to an end last Sunday in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool and while a stat like that should make me sit up and pay my respects, I just don’t feel like that.
Nine wins in a row is impressive in any language but only one of them came against a Top 7 side (a Spurs side on a downer after Champions League elimination), three were by the odd goal and don’t forget to chuck in Championship side Reading and weird named Zorya Luhansk.
When playing in Stoke, United have struggled recently and are yet to win in the post-Ferguson Premier League era. Have a suck on P3 W0 D1 L2 figures and Stoke backers like me will feel a bit more hopeful. A play on them on the Asians at +1 makes a lot of sense.
Middlesbrough v West Ham | Saturday 15:00
This time last week (Friday afternoon) I was sitting on a rock in a sun-balmed Lanzrote spouting into a phone how much I wanted to take on West Ham. Seven days on, in a cosy East London bedroom I’m going to flip the coin and side with them this weekend.
There’s nothing big or clever about changing your mind like this and I’m a tad embarrassed. Last week was a case of overestimating just how quickly Sam Allardyce could get his positive influence into a shambolic Palace side and paying too much heed to the Dimitri Payet fallout.
Anyway West Ham won 3-0 and it’s pushed them to within four points of the Top 8. Opponents Crystal Palace could be bottom by Sunday night.
The Hammers next assignment is a trip up to Middlesbrough to face a side who don’t look as positive and healthy as they did in the autumn.
A cursory dip into Boro’s recent league form paints a bleak picture. Three wins out of 19, one win in seven and no win in five hardly scream of a side in shape.
They look a side bereft of confidence and somewhat vulnerable to the drop and it feels no coincidence that three of their four league wins this season have come against the current bottom three. At 6/4 I want to take them on.
Let’s not pretend that West Ham are one to follow after their 3-0 win last weekend but that win (especially as it was at the London Stadium) will have relieved some tension.
I’m more passionate about taking Middlesbrough on than backing West Ham here but it’s the Hammers DNB here at 9/7 that I’m plumping for.
West Brom v Sunderland | Saturday 15:00
The vibes feel wrong at Sunderland again after a reasonably encouraging November and December and this looks a stiff hurdle as they take on gritty West Brom on Saturday,
The Black Cats were outclassed and shown up last Saturday at home to Stoke when going down 3-1 and it must be of huge concern to manager David Moyes that they surrendered so meekly in front of their faithful.
It’s no win in six for Sunderland, six defeats in nine to their name and they’re in the bottom three and out of the FA Cup. No wonder Moyes looks fed up!
That meek Stoke loss really has sharpened my mind. Before that game they had a November onwards home record of P6 W3 D2 L1 with the defeat a narrow one and coming against the league leaders. Last week’s 3-1 loss was a huge step down on that form.
If that worries you, then take a look at their away form. Just one league win all season and eight defeats in their last nine matches on the road. It looks grim.
No such worries for West Brom who lie eighth in the table and look in as good a nick as ever in the Premier League era. On paper certainly.
Their last six defeats in the league have all come against the Top 6 and you have to go back to the 10th September to find the last time they lost to a non-elite side. Sunderland are certainly non-elite.
The Baggies have been purring at home too with four wins in their last five league games at The Hawthorns and their record against sides outside the Top 7 reads P13 W8 D4 L1. It’s good enough for me to back them to beat a lacklustre Sunderland side.
Stoke v Manchester United – Stoke +1 Asian Handicap (4/5 Marathon Bet)
Middlesbrough v West Ham – West Ham Draw No Bet (9/7 Marathon Bet)
West Brom v Sunderland – West Brom to win (7/10 Marathon Bet)