Premier League betting preview: Baggies to take full bragging rights

 

Roy Hodgson has knocked West Brom into fine shape when they hit the road this season and the Baggies look a decent bet at 11/5 to land maximum points in the Black Country derby at Molineux on Sunday.

Albion have won six and drawn three of their ten away matches against teams outside of the top six this term - beating the likes of Aston Villa, Newcastle and Stoke along the way - and you do fear for Wanderers in light of those statistics given how nervy they can be in front of their own supporters at times.

The Old Gold have only picked up one point from the last five matches on home soil and though we should expect them to seize the initiative and set out with all the right intentions against their arch rivals, only one team is likely to grow as the contest wears on and fatigue brings out the demons and those nagging voices of self-doubt.

The Baggies are set up to play on the counter, so it's no surprise their home record pales in comparison to those impressive figures in enemy territory. However, the fact that one of their two wins at Hawthorns came against Wolves only puts extra pressure on Mick McCarthy's men.

Wanderers were well beaten in the reverse fixture last October and now the onus will be on them to strike back, while the visitors can approach the game with much greater freedom, knowing that a draw wouldn't be considered a bad result.

Throw in the fact that West Brom are relatively detached from the relegation battle with a six-point cushion, whereas Wolves could be in the bottom three by kick-off and desperately need the points, it all amounts to a precarious psychological position that the hosts find themselves in.

In short, Albion are the better side, they have their local rivals exactly where they want them and they won't be short of incentive knowing that a league double will put a gloss on their season that is unlikely to be washed away whatever happens between now and May.

Meanwhile, Manchester City haven't been having things their own way on the road for a couple of months now and we think there's some value to be found in the 10/1 quotes on the Draw/Aston Villa double result in the weekend's final offering at Villa Park.

Conventional wisdom says that a long season and the loss of key players at crucial moments is starting to take its toll on the title favourites and there's obviously some mileage in that argument but we also believe there's an interesting pattern to their results that few pundits have picked up on and it points towards their match against Alex McLeish's men being anything but a formality.

City's 100 per cent home record tells you Roberto Mancini has found ways to conquer the defensive strategies of mid-ranking teams in that environment but those teams have now taken to deploying the same tactics in their own backyard with the full blessing of their own supporters and City are finding those teams much more resilient with packed grounds roaring their approval every time a visiting attack is snuffed out.

A quick look through City's away results reveals all. Beyond those standout victories at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane when they made a mockery of cavalier hosts, the Blues have only beaten bottom-five sides Bolton, QPR, Blackburn and Wigan - and three of them by the odd goal.

The residue shows they have failed to win all six away games (three draws and three defeats) against teams who currently sit between fourth and 15th in the division. In the three most recent examples - against West Brom, Sunderland and Everton - they have failed to score a single goal. Therefore, we also see value in the 14/1 available on Aston Villa to win 1-0.

One thing we can be sure of is that a Villa side managed by Alex McLeish won't be gung-ho and play right into City's hands. They will be cautious and get bodies behind the ball, while they also list three City cast-offs in their ranks who are bound to have a point to prove, not to mention the long-serving players driven on by the paranoia that their careers have stagnated while Gareth Barry and James Milner prosper among the elite.

The key to all City matches, it seems, is the first half. If Villa can get to half-time level, then they have every chance of success but it doesn't necessarily translate that an interval lead in their favour is a good thing - it merely gives City longer to throw the kitchen sink in search of an equaliser. If City score first, then all sorts of correct score outcomes are possible but few of them offer any real value.

Recommended bets:

1.5pts West Brom to beat Wolves at 11/5 (Betfred, Totesport)

0.5pt Aston Villa to beat Man City 1-0 at 14/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt Draw/Aston Villa double result at 10/1 (general)

For more betting news and views, please visit Bestofthebets.com. You can also follow Mike Holden on Twitter: @Miguel_BOTB

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