Fulham, Hammers offer great odds

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2006, 12:00am

Away teams Portsmouth and Charlton look ripe for the taking

The Premiership programme divides into two halves this weekend - mismatches with short-priced favourites, or games that are so close on form that they are difficult to call.

The first category features home bankers Arsenal and Everton, along with Chelsea and Liverpool, who both visit teams stuck in the relegation mire. The difficult-to-call category includes Bolton v Manchester United, Newcastle v Tottenham and Manchester City v Boro. Blackburn v Wigan could be added to this list, though Blackburn should win.

That leaves two games - Fulham v Portsmouth and West Ham v Charlton - where the home teams are clear on form and are good odds as well. Fulham and Portsmouth provided cracking entertainment last season, with 11 goals in two league meetings, and another open game is in prospect tonight.

Portsmouth gained their first away win under Harry Redknapp with a 4-2 win at West Ham on their last trip, and they are likely to be encouraged to attack again.

West Ham fielded an under-strength side that day, however, and Redknapp's tactics will suit Fulham. In seven home games so far against teams with a comparable away defensive record to Portsmouth, Fulham have won five and drawn two.

Before the West Ham game Portsmouth had lost seven out of seven on the road under Redknapp, and Fulham rate a good bet.

West Ham should win their London derby against Charlton. The Hammers have won six out of eight at home to teams below them in the table, while Charlton's away form has dropped since they started the season with five straight wins on the road. Charlton have lost seven out of 10 since then and, despite recent draws at Chelsea and Liverpool, they look likely to struggle against West Ham.

The best bet in Germany is Werder Bremen, who travel to Frankfurt. Werder bounced back to form last weekend with a 5-0 home win over Hannover and this is a good chance to add to their record of 11 wins out of 14 against bottom-half teams.

Nurnberg are worthy chancing for a home win over Mainz. The hosts have improved out of all recognition since Hans Meyer took charge in November, and they can make it five home wins out of eight under his direction. Wolfsburg come with some risk attached too, but they should win at home to Duisburg, who are Germany's worst away side. Wolfsburg have been sinking fast during a tough run of games, but they usually deliver when given a winning opportunity at home.

Two home bets stand out at good odds in France. Lille are only two points ahead of Auxerre in the table, but the hosts have a better chance of victory based on the two teams' home-and-away records. Lille are the third-best home side, while Auxerre are fourth-bottom on away form. Nice should be too strong for Strasbourg. The hosts have won seven of their last 10 at home, and the only teams to leave with anything during that run have been top-six sides Lyon, Bordeaux and Lens. Lyon, as usual, rate as the best away chance in France.

Best homes: Fulham, West Ham, Nurnberg, Wolfsburg, Lille, Nice.

Best aways: Werder, Lyon.

thousand-dollar wager: $150 win on Fulham, Lille, Nice, Nurnberg, Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg. $100 win on Parma.