Ahead of their weekend trip to Anfield to face Liverpool, West Ham United are in 11th position in the Premier League table with just eight games to play and if Sam Allardyce would have snapped your hand off for that scenario at the start of the season, he would have chopped it off with an axe for that before last weekend’s fixtures.
It may have gone under the radar somewhat, but West Ham’s victory over West Bromwich Albion at Upton Park was arguably the most important of the weekend.
With a run of fixtures that sees the Irons meet Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton before the season finishes, defeat to the Baggies would have left Big Sam looking nervously over his shoulder with a tough run-in ahead.
But one thing Big Sam has always been good at is targeting the games he knows he can win and invariably picking up points from those fixtures, and he did so once again, seeing off West Brom 3-1 to give West Ham breathing space in the battle to avoid the drop.
And though another win is probably required to secure another season of top-flight football, with Reading to play at home you imagine that Allardyce will finish the job he started and it would take an incredible turn of events to see West Ham back in the Championship next season.
It might not be enough for his long-term job prospects – Allardyce is out of contract in the summer and the club may well look to a younger man – but the former Bolton manager can already reflect on a job well done.
By winning promotion and securing Premier League survival – all at the time when the club’s move to the Olympic Stadium was rubber-stamped – in the space of just two years, fans may yet look back at Big Sam’s time at the club as a vital one in its history.
Of course, this has been done in typical Big Sam style – safety first, percentage football – and it has meant that while points have been picked up at home, on their travels West Ham have been too powder puff up front, and I don’t see them getting anything from their trip to Anfield.
They are 7/1 with bwin to claim an unlikely win, with the draw at 4/1, but for me this is about getting value on the 17/50 about a home victory.
Liverpool have been tough to work out this year, but I think this is one of the occasions that I can confidently say a comfortable home win is on the cards.
Of course, caution is the watchword when the Reds can perform like they did at Southampton a few weeks ago, but Brendan Rodgers’ side have won five of their last six, scoring 18 goals at the same time, and I like the look of the 13/5 that they beat West Ham by more than two goals.
New customers registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Liverpool to win by three or more goals would return a respectable £62 if successful.
After all, Allardyce’s side have lost ten of their 15 away league games, failing to score in seven of them (only Stoke have drawn more blanks), and have lost six and drawn one of their seven away trips to the sides in the top half.
I don’t see them causing Liverpool any trouble, especially without Andy Carroll, who can’t play due to the terms of his loan arrangement.
It seems to be all or nothing with Rodgers’ side, but when they are good they are very good: eight of the Reds’ 13 league wins have been by three goals or more, including five of their eight home victories.
Only Manchester United (70) have scored more goals than Liverpool (59) this season and only the Red Devils have scored three or more goals on a greater number of occasions, too.
So although it could well leave egg on my face, I am banking on the Reds enjoying one of their good days against poor travellers West Ham, and the 13/5 they win despite giving a two-goal head start is my play.