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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 2009, 12:00am

Liverpool's pair of 4-4 draws against Chelsea and Arsenal proved once again why English football is such a major attraction around the world, and another captivating factor about the Premier League is that at this late stage of the season every match is significant in terms of the title race, European qualification or relegation.

With all still to play for, fans and punters alike can be sure they will get total commitment from the teams and plenty of twists and turns as the season draws to a dramatic end. From today's London derby between West Ham and Chelsea to Newcastle's crunch relegation clash with Portsmouth on Monday night, this is a weekend to savour.

Chelsea's title chance appears to have gone after the midweek goalless draw with Everton and, even though second place is important too, their thoughts might be turning now to next week's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. That could open the door today for West Ham, who are leading the chase for the seventh place that will bring entry to the Europa League.

On form, though, a West Ham victory would be a surprise, as they are winless in nine games against the teams above them in the table and have failed to score in six of them. They have lost all four at home in that category, by an aggregate of 7-1, while Chelsea have won 10 out of 12 away to teams outside the top six.

Chelsea are a little short for the win, however, and a better bet might be under 2.5 goals. All bar one of West Ham's nine games against the teams above them in the table have had two goals or fewer, and both teams rank in the top four for games with under 2.5 goals.

Liverpool are the shortest-priced away team for their trip to Hull and, as long as there is no hangover from the Arsenal game, they should win to keep some pressure on Manchester United. Hull have won only one of their last 12 at home (against third-bottom Middlesbrough) and lost seven, while Liverpool have won six out of eight on the road against bottom-half teams.

Next-shortest on the away list after Liverpool and Chelsea are Aston Villa, even though they go to Bolton on an eight-match winless run. Most of Villa's opponents during that run have been more difficult than Bolton, and this is a good chance to get back on track. Villa have won nine out of 10 away to teams ranked outside the top six on home form and, with Bolton 14th in that ranking, Martin O'Neill's team look overpriced.

Fulham are another solid bet at home to Stoke. Fulham rank joint-fourth for home-win percentage, and they have won six out of eight against teams ranked in the bottom half on away form (Stoke are second-bottom in that ranking).

Among the teams whose motivation might be open to question are Everton, as the battle for fifth place with Villa is largely academic, but they host poor travellers Manchester City. The visitors are in the hunt for seventh place but they have won only once on the road and have lost six of their last eight away games.

The other early kick-off tonight is West Brom v Sunderland, which is difficult to call with both teams struggling to find form - West Brom have taken only four points (all draws) from the last 33 available, while Sunderland are winless in seven on the road. This could be one of those late-season games that goes over 2.5 goals - both teams will see this as one of their best remaining chances to take three points and that could produce an attacking game. In any case, West Brom have the joint-highest percentage (69) of home games with over 2.5 goals.

Tonight's late game is Manchester United v Tottenham and, while the leaders deserve to be strong favourites, this could be closer than the betting suggests. Tottenham rank top on current form (last eight games) with six wins and only one defeat and they have given United three close games this season - goalless draws in the Carling Cup final and at home in the league, with a 2-1 FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford after they had taken the lead.

United don't look the safest banker for All Up combinations, with Arsenal a more solid option when they host Middlesbrough tomorrow. Arsenal have won nine out of 12 when scoring at home and, with Boro having kept only one clean sheet on the road, the Gunners will be hard to stop.

The final two games on the Premier League programme are crucial to the relegation battle, with Blackburn hosting Wigan in tomorrow's late game and then Newcastle v Portsmouth on Monday night. Both of the host teams are desperate for points, but neither has the form to justify their short odds - even under Sam Allardyce, Blackburn have won only three of eight at Ewood Park, while Newcastle's home-win percentage is 25 and Portsmouth are resilient on the road.

In summary, the best bets in the Premier League are Villa and Fulham to win, and Wigan and Portsmouth on the handicap.

Villa, who have won nine out of 10 away to teams ranked outside top six on home form, look overpriced at Bolton

Trotting along nicely

Defeats for Aston Villa in their last 12 league meetings with Bolton: 1

It's Hammers time

Seven wins and one draw for Chelsea against West Ham in the past (seasons): 5


Aston Villa, Barnsley, Millwall, Juventus, Villarreal, Reading, Portsmouth.

Best bets

$200 Barnsley (handicap, Sat), Millwall (HW, Sat). Last week: two winning bets out of six.

Form fact

The first goal is crucial for Newcastle: they average 2.1 points per game when scoring first but average just 0.3 points per game from the 20 matches in which they have conceded the opening goal.