A point at home? It won't be that difficult

Form suggests visiting West Ham will cause few problems for Manchester City ... the league's most expensive squad

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 10:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 10:18pm

Remember what happened the last time Manchester City went into the last match of the English Premier League season with the title on the line? They almost blew it.

It was only two years ago when City led neighbours United merely on goal difference (albeit eight goals) before the 38th and final game.

With United taking an early lead at Sunderland, which they held to the end, the onus was on City to win. They led 17th-placed QPR 1-0 at half-time but midway through the second half they trailed 2-1 and it stayed that way until the tumultuous stoppage-time period that saw City score twice to secure a 3-2 win.

City fans may have come to expect their team to follow the path of most resistance but Sunday's task - taking a point at home to West Ham - is surely straightforward for the Premier League's most expensive squad.

The form lines suggest West Ham will cause little problem for City. The teams have met on three occasions this season and City have won every time, an aggregate score of 12-1

One crucial difference between then and now is that West Ham have nothing to play for, whereas two years ago QPR needed a point to be sure of staying up. It was only when the news came through that Bolton, having led until the 77th minute, had failed to beat Stoke that QPR knew they did not need that point after all. The form lines suggest West Ham will cause little problem for City. The teams have met on three occasions this season and City have won every time, an aggregate score of 12-1. The three matches all had over 2.5 goals, with City winning each time by at least two goals and leading at half-time and full-time, a strong pointer towards those outcomes again.

West Ham have won only twice in 13 previous attempts against top-seven teams this season, both against Tottenham. Their only other point came in the goalless draw at Chelsea that left Jose Mourinho enraged by West Ham's tactics, but Sam Allardyce's team were desperate for every point at that stage.

Eight of West Ham's 10 defeats by top-seven sides have had over 2.5 goals and eight have been lost by at least two goals.

Finding the best bets in the Premier League is far from easy, as most teams have nothing to play for and there could be one or two strange results - on the final day of last season, Manchester United drew 5-5 at West Brom and City were beaten 3-2 at home by Norwich.

The most reliable team might be Sunderland, at home to Swansea, while Southampton look worth chancing on the handicap against United.

If there is a big upset, Chelsea or Arsenal could be on the receiving end away to Cardiff and Norwich respectively, although that seems possible only because it is difficult to be sure of their commitment.

Arsenal have the FA Cup final to come next week, which is likely to mean Arsene Wenger will not put out his first-choice side at Norwich. The same goes for Hull, their FA Cup opponents, at home to Everton.

The play-offs in the lower English leagues are much more competitive and Derby, 2-1 winners at Brighton in the first leg of their Championship semi-final, can book their place at Wembley with a home victory.

Derby have an outstanding chance of promotion and they have won 14 out of 18 at home since Steve McClaren took charge, including a 1-0 victory over Brighton in January.

The League One play-offs start on Saturday night and the best bet is Preston at home to Rotherham. The two teams are closely matched overall and Rotherham's excellent away form merits respect (they drew 3-3 at Preston in the regular season) but Preston have the stronger momentum going into the play-offs and their recent home form is extremely solid.

Simon Grayson's side are unbeaten in 12 at home in the league - their last defeat was against runners-up Brentford - and they have won six out of seven since the draw with Rotherham. At the odds they look good value.