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Best Premier League bets: value to be found as campaign nears its end and relegation picture comes into focus

With teams scrapping for their Premier League lives, there is still plenty of opportunity to beat the bookie

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 4:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 8:20pm

This could be the weekend when almost everything is settled in the English Premier League and there are two key games at the bottom involving the three teams still fighting to avoid the last remaining relegation spot.

The first sees Sunderland, bottom of the table and already certain to go down, at home to Swansea tonight. The visitors clambered out of the bottom three last week and have their destiny in their own hands with two games to play, but they are still under intense pressure to win again.

A Swansea victory would turn up the heat in tomorrow’s Crystal Palace v Hull clash, fifth-bottom versus third-bottom. A win for Palace would guarantee safety for Sam Allardyce’s team and, if Swansea have already taken three points, Hull would go down in that scenario.

On the other hand, a Hull win would put them only a point behind Palace going into next Sunday’s final set of matches and the Tigers would move out of the relegation zone if they beat Palace and Swansea failed to win at Sunderland.

The odds are stacked against Hull following last week’s surprise 2-0 home defeat by Sunderland, which allowed Swansea to overtake them with a home victory over Everton. Yet it is incredible that the Tigers are still fighting for survival at this stage of the season considering they were bottom of the table when Marco Silva took charge with 20 games played and Hull on just 13 points.

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Silva, a newcomer to English football, engineered such a dramatic turnaround that only two teams who were in the bottom half of the table when he arrived have outperformed Hull over the past 16 games. Those teams are Leicester and Palace, who have both taken 22 points in that period to Hull’s 21.

Swansea are next best in that group with 20 points, and it is only the improvement by Swansea and Palace under their new managers that has prevented Hull from making a great escape. Not all hope is gone but their nerve failed them last week at home, where their standards under Silva had been so high, and they will have to find a new level of away form to win at Palace.

By kick-off, Hull may find that a point would be enough to keep them in the hunt – if Sunderland pull off another upset win over Swansea – but in all likelihood they will have to go for a win over Palace, which would be their first on the road since their 2-0 victory at Swansea in August.

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There have been promising signs in Silva’s recent away games but still it is a big ask to beat Palace, who have put themselves back in danger with three straight defeats but had lost only one of their previous eight games in a run that included wins at Chelsea and Liverpool.

Arguably Palace are still better suited to counter-attacking in away games, just as they were under previous boss Alan Pardew, but they could find the match against Hull plays to their style.

Allardyce’s target will be to keep a clean sheet above all, as that would ensure Palace stay up, and Hull’s need to go forward in search of a winning goal may well open up gaps for the speedy home attackers.

Despite their recent slump, Palace look a decent bet for the win and scorelines of 1-0 and 2-0 are worth considering given Allardyce’s likely preference for a tight game.

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Swansea should win at Sunderland, but the hosts are more difficult to rule out after last week’s win at Hull even when they were doomed to relegation. The Swans look short odds for a side of their quality, even with the imperative of three points to drive them on.

The battle for the final promotion spot to the Premier League gets under way this weekend with the first legs of the Championship play-offs as Fulham, the team most fancied to reach the promised land, host Reading tonight and Huddersfield take on Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow.

Huddersfield look the best bet in the first legs at the odds, despite having lost home and away without scoring against Wednesday in the regular season. David Wagner’s side will be refreshed after their best players were rested once a play-off place was secured and they can raise their game at home, as they proved by being the only top-six team apart from champions Newcastle to beat promoted Brighton.

Since the end of November, Huddersfield have lost only four out of 16 at home in all competitions, which suggests they will be tough to beat.

Best bets

Crystal Palace home win

Worth backing at the odds

Bournemouth home win

Decent shot on recent form

Huddersfield on handicap

Solid chance with fresh team

Hoffenheim on handicap

Consistent scoring record a big plus

Juventus on handicap

Can seal the title in style

Shortlist

Wolfsburg, Sampdoria.

Big number

6

Points for Hull in 18 away games