Having both surged into European contention on the back of great starts to the season, West Ham and West Brom’s struggles in 2013 look set to give their clash this weekend an end-of-season feel.
Sat in 14th and eighth places respectively, relegation or Europa League qualification appear to be only minor possibilities for either the Hammers or the Baggies.
But you’d be hard pushed to find two managers less inclined to let their sides coast to the finish than Sam Allardyce and Steve Clarke.
Combine that with the striking dual between loan stars Andy Carroll and Romelu Lukaku, plus a raft of other players looking to lay down markers for next season, and the match may be more competitive than expected.
The home side, who’ve picked up three-quarters of their points at Upton Park this campaign, start as 5/4 favourites, with Clarke’s visitors and the draw both 11/5.
Much of the Hammers’ success this season has depended on Carroll, with their win-loss record improving by 12% when the Liverpool loanee is in the starting line-up and with his place looking assured, 17/20 for West Ham to open the scoring is good value.
Allardyce will want a fast start to allay any lingering fears of relegation but West Ham have often left their best efforts for later on in games, scoring one-third of their goals in the final 20 minutes, so it may be worth going for a goalless first half at 2/1.
The former Bolton boss will also expect more goals out of Carroll to go with his influential performances and lining up against a side he has scored against for Newcastle and Liverpool should give the England man confidence to grab his fourth strike of the season at 7/4.
New customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin stand to win £120 should Carroll open the scoring at 5/1.
The other issue for the Hammers will be keeping out Clarke’s own loan star, Lukaku, who has been on a roll of late with four goals in his last four games.
The Chelsea front man is 9/4 to get on the scoresheet once again and 7/1 to grab the game’s final goal, as he did in the Baggies’ recent wins over Liverpool and Sunderland.
Any strike from either Carroll or Lukaku might prove key in a game which is unlikely to be a high-scoring affair, with the reverse fixture back in December finishing 0-0 – another under 2.5 goal clash is 83/100.
That was the fourth straight draw between the two teams, but on this occasion I feel home support and a slight greater urgency for points will just see West Ham over the line in a game decided by a single goal (or draw in the 0-1 handicap market) at 27/10.