Having arrived back in the top flight together, Southampton and West Ham initially embarked on rapidly diverging paths in the early part of the Premier League season.
Now locked together on 37 points in 11th and 12th positions respectively and likely requiring just a couple more positive results to ensure a second season back in the big time, things looked a lot different for Saints and Hammers fans just a few short months ago.
A famous 3-1 triumph over Chelsea on December 1st saw Sam Allardyce’s side in the heady heights of seventh place and pushing for Europa League qualification.
By contrast, defeat to Liverpool that same weekend saw Saints slump to 19th before the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino helped them pull away to the verge of safety.
That form suggests it will be Southampton who first reach the magic 40-point mark with a win and they are clear 4/5 favourites in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with West Ham 16/5 for a rare away success and the draw 13/5.
Much has been made of the impact of Pochettino’s high-pressing style that has earned his new side 13 points from 21, but equally important has been his decision to pair Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez up front.
In games since December where the duo have started together, Saints have an impressive 55% win record and are 11/10 to open the scoring against the Hammers in the first half.
Rodriguez tends to be the fast starter of the pair with nearly three-quarters of his strikes for Southampton and Burnley over the past two seasons being opening goals and he’s 5/1 for another here.
Saints haven’t just been scoring early, they’ve been doing so regularly, averaging two goals a game under Pochettino and they are 7/4 to register in both halves, with Lambert well priced to get the final strike at 9/2.
A two-goal Saints victory offers potential value at 11/5 but Allardyce is not the kind of manager to let his team roll over easily.
The Hammers’ main problem on the road has been a lack of goals with a league-low nine to their credit so far, but that was before Andy Carroll hit form with a double against West Brom.
The England man is 5/2 to continue his scoring streak, but I fancy even that won’t be enough and am backing Saints to take a final step to securing Premier League safety by winning both halves at 4/1.