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West Brom attitude has relegation implications

Attitude the Baggies take into the Wigan clash will have an impact on other weekend matches

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 4:49am

Plenty of issues are still to be resolved in the English Premier League and the key tonight may well be held by West Brom, one of the few teams with nothing to play for.

The Baggies are comfortably in mid-table and it will be interesting to see how they perform at home to Wigan, especially for the teams immediately above Wigan who are worried about being sucked into the relegation zone.

If West Brom slip up against Wigan, the stakes will be raised even higher in Norwich v Aston Villa and West Ham v Newcastle tonight and then in Sunderland v Stoke on Monday.

West Brom's motivation is open to question, as teams placed from eighth to 12th in the table often go to sleep once they are safe from relegation and out of contention for a European place. The teams in those positions at this stage of last season won only five of their final 17 games, with eight defeats.

West Brom were one of those teams, drawing two and losing one of their final three games - the two draws were against teams battling against relegation, as Wigan are this time. With only one defeat in their past eight games against teams outside the big six, Wigan have the form to get at least a point even if West Brom are fully committed. Wigan on the handicap looks a decent bet.

If Wigan win, a loser in Norwich v Villa would have a lot to worry about. This match is hard to call, with Norwich unbeaten at home to bottom-half teams (four wins and four draws) and Villa unbeaten in their past four away to bottom-half opposition (three wins and one draw).

A draw might suit both sides and the stats point that way, although there is a slight leaning towards Villa on the handicap. When weighing up the possibility of a safety-first draw, another factor to take into account is that Villa boss Paul Lambert is unlikely to do his former employers any favours, and vice versa.

Newcastle are the team in poorest form near the bottom (apart from already relegated Reading and QPR) and they have a difficult trip to West Ham.

Alan Pardew's strugglers have taken just four points from their past six games and their only win was 1-0 at home to Fulham - another team in dire form. Newcastle are poor on the road and they have lost four of their seven away games this year, with just one clean sheet.

West Ham rank ninth on home form and are unbeaten against teams ranked in the bottom half on away form, with four wins and three draws. It is worth noting that they have scored in all of those games, which suggests Newcastle will find it hard to stop them.

The action should be of a higher quality tomorrow in Manchester United v Chelsea and the Merseyside derby.

United's motivation is questionable now record points is out of reach and Chelsea will take confidence from their FA Cup quarter-final replay home win over the champions, which followed a fight-back to 2-2 at Old Trafford.

Chelsea are worth a bet on the handicap, although over 2.5 goals looks the best pick. The score has gone over that mark in nine of the 11 meetings in the past three seasons. Liverpool showed no sign of missing Luis Suarez in last week's 6-0 win at Newcastle and despite facing much stronger opposition tomorrow, their record against Everton makes them the pick.

David Moyes has never won at Anfield in 11 attempts, although six have ended all-square. Liverpool have won five of the past eight overall, and look good at the odds.

Swansea, although not safe yet, are another to be wary of after a run of one win (against Newcastle), two draws and four defeats since their League Cup final victory and visitors Manchester City rate a solid bet. City have won their past four against teams outside the top six, conceding only one goal.

Arsenal are on an even better run against teams outside the top six, with 13 wins and two draws since their most recent last defeat, and they are a clear banker at QPR.

Sunderland v Stoke will be tense if Wigan have taken something at West Brom and could be low-scoring. Sunderland have had 11 of 17 under 2.5 goals at home and Stoke 12 of 17 on the road.

West Ham, Liverpool, Sheffield Wednesday, Malaga, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hannover, Stuttgart.