Advantage lies with away teams

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2006, 12:00am

Odds stacked against home sides with leaky defences

Home advantage is unlikely to count for much in the Premiership this weekend when Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs - three of the top four - travel to opponents who are struggling in the bottom four. Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Sunderland - the respective rivals for the high-fliers - are the worst teams in the Premiership on current form and have the leakiest defences, so the odds could hardly be stacked more heavily against them.

Chelsea's record against Middlesbrough reads well in normal circumstances, with 13 wins and five draws from their last 20 clashes in all competitions, but it looks even more convincing in the context of Boro's dramatic decline.

Since losing 1-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in early December, Boro have won only one of nine (against bottom club Sunderland) and have conceded 14 goals in their last three defeats alone.

Chelsea, as usual, are the Premiership's form side with six wins and two draws from their last eight games, and arguably their odds should be even shorter for this mismatch.

Manchester United might approach their trip to Portsmouth with more trepidation, having lost on their two previous Premiership visits to Fratton Park. Harry Redknapp's second coming has failed to produce any new miracles, however. Portsmouth have lost seven out of 11 against Premiership opposition since Redknapp's return - form that is no better than their record under Alain Perrin, who was sacked in November.

Pompey's two wins under Redknapp have both come at home, where they were always at their strongest during his previous reign at the club. But those wins were against Fulham and West Brom, who rank as two of the worst four away teams in the Premiership.

It is worth considering the United-United double result on the HaFu. United have led at half-time in five of their six away wins against bottom-half teams and have been in front at halfway in 13 of their 25 league games overall - making them the league leaders on that statistic.

Ten out of 13 visitors to the Stadium of Light have left with all three points, so Spurs will be disappointed if they cannot maintain their bid for a Champions League place with victory at Sunderland.

The hosts never lie down, however, and they could make things difficult for Spurs, who have won only two out of six away to bottom-half sides. Spurs rate highly for the win, but they are no certainties.

A better-odds away chance is Blackburn, who make the short trip to Everton. Blackburn are second in the current form table and Everton are third, so this promises to be an interesting game. Mark Hughes's team drew a rare blank at West Brom last weekend and will need to improve on that display, but they represent a serious threat to Everton's resurgence and rate a decent handicap bet at least.

Fulham and Manchester City - the best two home teams outside the top five - can add to their fine records with victory over West Brom and Charlton respectively. West Brom drew at Fulham (and won in extra time) in the League Cup earlier in the season but have scored only four goals in 12 Premiership trips and look unlikely to hold Fulham. City scored five in the away fixture at Charlton and could notch another comfortable win now that they have pulled out of their mini-slump with three straight home wins against Premiership opposition.

Don't forget West Ham, who host Birmingham in Monday's late game. West Ham rate well again - last week's victory over Sunderland made it five home wins out of six against bottom-half sides.

Best homes: Fulham, Manchester City, West Ham.

Best aways: Chelsea, Manchester United, Blackburn.

Low goals: Sunderland v Tottenham, Wigan v Liverpool.

thousand-dollar wager: $200 win on Fulham, Manchester City, West Ham, Cagliari and Lazio.