ANOTHER busy Saturday in the Premier League, Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) picks out his three best bets from the 3pm kick offs.
Chelsea v Swansea | Saturday 15:00
The FA Cup Fifth Round came at the wrong time for Swansea and Paul Clement will be hoping his charges pick up where they left off at Stamford Bridge this Saturday.
The Swans have won three of their last four matches and in their last encounter got the better of Leicester in what felt a symbolic 2-0 win. That victory saw them overtake Leicester in the table and put a four point gap between them and the relegation zone. A far cry from the dark days of December.
Now though Clement’s side face the ultimate task with their visit to Chelsea. Having recently beaten Liverpool in the league, Clement will be hopeful his side can get something from this game but it feels unlikely.
Eight points clear at the top of the table, Chelsea look nailed on for a second Premier League title in three years. It’s just one defeat in their last 19 league games for the Blues and there’s a real sheen of invincibility about them. Hell, they even avoided defeat at Turf Moor two weeks ago!
I can’t see Chelsea passing up the opportunity of three points but my main angle is a stoic Swansea performance. Two bets stand out. Chelsea to win and Under 3.5 Goals plus 2-3 Goals in the Total Goals market. Both are the same price at 11/10.
After working out the perms and possibilities I’ll go for the Total Goals bet. That gives me the fallback of a 1-1 draw or even an unlikely Swansea triumph. The only scoreline I wouldn’t be covered by (in relation to the other bet) is 1-0 Chelsea.
The bet has paid out in five of the last seven Chelsea games and in six of the last eight Swansea games. It all adds up for me.
Crystal Palace v Middlesbrough | Saturday 15:00
One of my worst bets of this season came earlier in the month when I backed Crystal Palace to beat Sunderland at Selhurst Park. They lost 4-0.
Despite that I can’t resist getting involved again on Saturday when they host another bunch of North East strugglers in Middlesbrough in South London.
It’s getting pretty urgent now for Sam Allardyce. They lie 19th in the table after a run of six defeats from his eight matches in charge and with other relegation threatened outfits like Hull and Swansea looking progressive it’s a real concern.
One other lowly side that look far from progressive are Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side look to have relegation stamped across them. They haven’t won in the division since before Christmas, can’t hit the back of the net and look woefully short on confidence.
Yes, Middlesbrough are in the FA Cup Quarter-Finals but they’ve had to beat Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley and Oxford to get this far. Hardly an intimidating set of fixtures.
If we look at their league form since Christmas they’ve failed to win in eight matches and have scored just three goals. Three of the four draws have come at the Riverside and they’ve scored just one away league goal in the last two and a half months.
Of course I appreciate that Palace have also just picked up four points in this period but perhaps naively I feel there’s just a bit more about them than Boro at the moment. Just.
Palace are the only side in the bottom six still to play all of the top six again this season so matches like this are absolutely crucial. The screw is turning for Palace, they desperately need a win here.
West Brom v Bournemouth | Saturday 15:00
An incredibly unsexy pick for me here but when you bring together one of my favourite teams to back with perhaps my worst in the division I just have to get involved.
As I’ve mentioned on many occasions on this here website I always feel Bournemouth go off too short every week and once again that looks to be the case here on Saturday.
The Cherries are 3/1 to win away at a team who’ve been complete flat track bullies this season. Albion have knocked down any side below them in the table week in week out in the Premier League and deserve huge credit.
Bournemouth were in fact the last side outside the Top 6 that beat them this season in the league and that came way back in September. Their last defeat at The Hawthorns to a bottom half of the table side came in April of last year against Watford.
The Baggies lie 11 points clear of their Saturday opponents and have lost just one of their last seven league matches. If Tony Pulis has his troops boiled to the same temperature as usual then they should be too strong for Bournemouth.
The Cherries are winless in seven and have lost five of those matches. Suddenly they’re being mentioned as relegation candidates and all talk of Eddie Howe taking over from Arsene Wenger has mysteriously vanished.
The South Coast club have also lost striker Callum Wilson for the rest of the campaign and need to start picking up points quick.
It’s not ridiculous to assume they’ll challenge here as they tend to be more effective against bigger sides (beat Liverpool and Everton, drew with Arsenal and Tottenham) but at the prices I feel obliged to back Albion at odds against. For me, they should be odds on.