So, we arrive at the final week of the OptaJoke Betting Blog as the Premier League draws to a conclusion and there is still plenty to play for as teams jostle for European places and more importantly, those at the foot of the table attempt to preserve their top flight status. Sky’s build up of ‘Survival Sunday’ is sure to be extensive and this year they do so with good reason; two out of three of the relegation places are still to be decided and with so many different permiations possible, it’s sure to be an enthralling afternoon of action. This weekend there is just the one selection. An over 2.5 goals treble involving some of the teams still with something to play for.
Bolton v Manchester City (over 2.5 goals)
Manchester City demolished Stoke 3-0 in the week and in doing so put themselves in the driving seat for finishing third in the Premier League. If they can maintain that position after Sunday’s game with Stoke, they will automatically qualify for The Champions League and avoid a potential banana skin in the qualification round. They looked as if they could score at every opportunity on Tuesday night and with Carlos Tevez looking to secure the golden boot trophy for the season I think we could see another attacking performance from City here.
Bolton were involved in a thriller last week when they drew 4-4 with Blackpool in what was arguably one of the games of the season for me. That performance showed both the strengths and weaknesses of the side in equal measure, the craft of Davies and Sturridge going forward was sublime, some of the football they played would not look out of place at any top European stadium. That said, they are still defensively fragile and can be caught out if the opposition continue to probe and press which Manchester City certainly have the personnel to do. Even if Roberto Mancini rotates his squad somewhat I still believe they have the quality to trouble Bolton and I think the home side will want to finish on a high so I can see this one being a fairly high scoring encounter.
Wolves v Blackburn (over 2.5)
One of the games that will no doubt play an integral role in Survival Sunday is Wolverhampton Wanderers against Blackburn. These two teams sit just outside the relegation zone on 40 points, normally the benchmark for safety. Wolves have put together a run of games which have given them a chance of staying up when they looked likely to face the drop, 3-1 wins against West Brom and Sunderland have seen pull away from the dreaded bottom three. But it may well be too little too late with two of the bottom three places still to be decided. 5 out of the last 7 games have gone over the 2.5 goals mark and although Steven Fletcher is leading the line extremely well with 3 goals in his last 2 games, Wolves defence is far from unbreakable and Blackburn’s presence in the air and at set pieces could cause problems.
Blackburn are unbeaten in three games with a vital 1-0 win over Bolton meaning they looked pretty good coming into the end of the seaosn. It may of seemed enough when they played out a drab last 10 minutes against champions Manchester United last week but results around both of these relegation candidates meant they could face the drop if they lose or draw this one. I think Wolves will have the edge, they’ve got home advantage, are free scoring in recent weeks and I just think they’ve got the momentum going into this one, but Blackburn will not lay down, knowing that a loss could seal their relegation if other results go against them. Either way, I foresee a frantic game with at least three goals.
Manchester United v Blackpool (over 2.5 goals)
United will be in celebration mood as they look to end their season in style on Sunday. Although Sir Alex may field a somewhat weakened side the replacements for the likes of Scholes, Giggs or Rooney will be looking to impress in what is traditionally a great opportunity for youth and squad players to make an impression in light of next season. As every man and his dog knows, United’s home record is formidable, with only West Brom being the minor blot on the Old Trafford copy book. I don’t think Ferguson will make wholesale changes but there will certainly be quality in all areas of the pitch and Blackpool will need to be at their very best in order to get the three points and give themselves a chance of staying up.
Ian Holloway’s side may have captured the imagination of many of the Premier League neutrals over the last 8 months or so. They have proved their ability to score and in recent weeks have looked a bit more solid at the back, until they went and conceded 4 against Bolton in a thrilling draw last week. This game is going to be an intriguing one as Sir Alex will know Blackpool are out for the three points, I think they will look to pick off The Seasiders on the counter attack and with a fairly ageing defence in place, this could be a good tactic. This one could be another great game in Blackpool’s season and I think it’ll cover the over 2.5 goals line.
This treble is the long shot of the weekend at around 5/1 with most bookmakers.