Only one team has ever survived in the Premier League after being bottom at Christmas – Bryan Robson’s West Bromwich Albion in 2004.
On Saturday, the Baggies’ class of 2013 travel to face Reading, who are, coincidentally, this season’s holders of the most unwanted tag in British football after propping up the rest on December 25th, 2012.
Since then, however, Brian McDermott’s side have started to make a bit of a fist of it. Admittedly, they have still only picked up four points from a possible nine in the following three games, but that’s as many points as they managed in their previous nine matches.
They have also hauled themselves off the bottom of the table by virtue of a superior goal difference than that of current incumbents QPR and they are at least now in a position where Premier League safety is just about visible somewhere along the distant horizon.
Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for the Royals this season; it’s at the back where they have serious issues.
When they scored five in the Capital One Cup against Arsenal, for example, their opponents scored seven. When they scored three against Man Utd, the visitors hit four. They also notched three at home to Fulham but took just a point, while they twice breached Chelsea’s defence at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season but lost 4-2.
For this reason, backing more than 3.5 goals in the game at the Madejski Stadium at odds of 2/1 could be a popular option.
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The Baggies, for their part, have surpassed all expectations so far this term but their form on their travels lately has been erratic.
In their last three away matches, they have won one, drawn one and lost one. That trend is fairly representative of their season on the road so far having won two, drawn two and lost five.
So it is difficult to predict with any certainty just what you are going to get from Steve Clarke’s side when they venture away from the Hawthorns and that is why I have left the 3-way betting market alone in favour of a goals bonanza.
West Brom are still the bookies’ favourites despite their inconsistency, priced at 7/5 to take all three points, while Reading are on offer at 19/10 and the draw is 9/4.
However, I will be having a few quid on that 2/1 shout on four or more goals in the game, as has been the case in five of the Royals’ ten home league games since their return to the top flight.
Top bet: Over 3.5 goals in Reading v West Brom @ 2/1