With Sunderland and Fulham both sitting reasonably comfortably in 15th and 11th places respectively in the Premier League table, the key to their clash this weekend is arguably the striking dual between three prominent forwards.
Between them, Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher, his new partner Danny Graham and Fulham’s talisman Dimitar Berbatov have averaged a goal every 2.1 games this season.
So while the 3Way betting odds have Sunderland as 13/10 favourites, Fulham at 21/10 and the draw 11/5, the outcome will largely depend on which of that trio impose themselves most.
Berbatov proved a great shout for me last weekend against Stoke City, coming in as a £460 winner for new bwin customers using their free £20 bet by scoring the only goal – and what a sumptuous strike it was, too – in the Cottagers’ 1-0 win.
His past record against this week’s opponents suggests the mercurial Bulgarian could again pull out some magic when boss Martin Jol needs it most.
He’s 9/4 to get his seventh strike career strike against the Black Cats and 6/1 to repeat his opening goal from last time out.
But this time, it might not be enough to get the win over Sunderland’s own potent tandem of Fletcher and Graham.
Scotland striker Fletcher has kept the Black Cats in games single-handedly at times this season, contributing over a third of their goals, while the team have picked up an average of over 1.7 points per game when he has struck.
Boss Martin O’Neill will once again be looking to his main man to deliver the opening goal at 5/1.
Yet the goalscoring burden no longer rests solely with Fletcher following O’Neill’s January purchase of Graham from Swansea City.
Despite being pushed out of the Swans’ line-up by the surprise success of Michu, Graham was able to grab seven goals before his transfer window move and will be keen to make his first strike for his new club the final goal of the game at 7/1.
With that duo in place, then bwin punters could really cash in big by backing a 2-1 Sunderland win behind a Fletcher opener at 28/1.
What will give O’Neill extra confidence is Sunderland’s display in the reverse fixture back in December.
On that day, they ended a shocking six-game winless run with a 3-1 success at Craven Cottage, a repeat of which is priced up at 35/2.
And with some added confidence compared to their gloomy early-season travails, home advantage and a new strikeforce, I’m backing a Sunderland win with over 3.5 goals in the game, which looks cracking value at 27/4.