European matches have been full of drama for English fans, with three out of our six representatives in the Champions League and the Europa League eliminated. The matchday opens with the London derby, as Tottenham and West Ham finally battle it out on the pitch, after their long row over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
The Spurs are going through their most glorious days in the European stage, but their qualification on next year’s edition of the Champions League is yet to be secured. Lying three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, a win is imperative to keep within a victory’s distance from the Blues. After initial fears of a hamstring injury for William Gallas have been put to rest, Harry Redknapp has one headache less ahead of the weekend derby, even if the Frenchman’s position in the starting 11 is still in doubt.
The Hammers have been eliminated from the FA Cup semi-finals, so they can focus on the last remaining target of the season, which is to avoid relegation. Avram Grant’s men are on the drop zone only on goal-difference and a potential victory, or even a draw, can lift them out of the last-three. West Ham’s determination is undoubted, but the Spurs have the upper hand at White Hart Lane. Bold players should also consider the 3/1 for the draw by Betfred.
Arsenal goes through their worst period of the season, as they have lost three of their goals in just a fortnight (lost the Carling Cup final by Birmingham, eliminated from the CL by Barcelona and from the FA Cup by Man U). They now face West Brom away, aiming only for the three points which will allow them to reach the top spot of the table. Roy Hodgson’s men come from a 1-3 victory at Birmingham and as they fight to avoid the relegation zone (being only a point above it), they will pose a serious threat to the Gunners.
Arsenal’s successive shortcomings don’t make them the definite favourite, but at 8/11 compared to WBA’s 4/1, they are still the bookmaker’s choice.
Chelsea host Manchester City is one of the most important meetings of the matchday. It’s not just the name of the opponents, but also the fact that a victory for either means third place – a safer route to the 2011/12 Champions League group stage. The Londoners have the advantage, not only as hosts, but also as the side with the higher moral, after City were eliminated from the Europa League at the hands of Dynamo Kiev.
Fellow west Londoners Fulham travel to Merseyside to face Everton. It’s a tough match to judge, between two equally performing mid-table sides. Their last three matches’ record is identical (1-1-1), but the main focus of the press is expected to be Mark Hughes. The Welshman has been linked with a move to Bayern Munich’s bench, to replace Dutch maestro Luis Van Haal and as he stated, he is flattered, but happy at Craven Cottage. Bet365 offers a very optimistic 1/1 for Everton, 3/1 for the Cottagers and 9/4 for a draw.