Lee Dixon selects the best bets from this Saturday's London derby as two bosses with broad shoulders meet at Upton Park...
These two both failed to fire in midweek, Chelsea are yet to find the net after two games under Rafa Benitez and West Ham have mustered only one goal in their last couple of matches, so the obvious bet is backing under 2.5 goals.
All the talk is about Chelsea fans' resistance to Benitez and the Spaniard will probably come in for more booing on Saturday. I don't have much experience of that kind of thing, having played under very popular managers - George Graham and Arsene Wenger - but, if Rafa wants advice on how to win round the fans, then the man in the opposition dug-out might offer useful advice.
Sam Allardyce has done a fine job at West Ham. He was shoddily treated by Blackburn after transforming them from relegation candidates to solid mid-table competitors. As an ex-Bolton boss there was opposition to his appointment at Ewood Park but the fans were soon grateful for the impact he made. The same is true at Upton Park where there were doubts about the suitability of a northern manager with a reputation for long ball tactics. He got them in to the Premier League at the first time of asking and, following a decent start, they sit tenth in the table, even after consecutive defeats.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are without a win in their last six league matches. They gelled nicely at the outset, the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard looked capable of leading them in to a new era of attacking style, and it looked like Roberto Di Matteo would be in charge until at least the end of the season. That's all changed, there are accusations that the club is tearing itself apart, and Benitez is charged with a tough task. He won't be put off by the fans barracking, he has broad shoulders and he will believe that he can make a decent fist of this job.
Unders might be the way to go on Chelsea for the remainder of the season. However, while Benitez is famous for the tight victories he achieved as Liverpool boss, especially over Chelsea, he was also in charge for their Champions League final comeback and their 4-1 win at Old Trafford. So his teams can play with panache occasionally. A tough Hammers midfield, lead by the tireless Kevin Nolan, probably won't allow that though, and I anticipate a cagey London derby on Saturday. The Blues would love to nick it but the Hammers who, apart from holding Manchester City to a 0-0, have not fared well in matches against the big teams - losing to Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal - would probably be happy with a point.
Allardyce knows that the key to success with West Ham, at the least in the first season up, is to win the games against teams around and below them. At home, where the Hammers have lost only once this season, he'd love to get one over on the Blues. However, after two defeats, a draw wouldn't be a bad result. I'm going to lay Chelsea.
The Tactical View: Michael Cox
I fully agree with Lee on the lack of goals – but I like the look of the half-time market, where 0-0 looks likely to be available at around [3.4]. Obviously, that’s been the scoreline at half-time in Rafael Benitez’s first two matches, while West Ham have generally performed better after the break in the last few weeks. Chelsea will be cautious, while West Ham won’t commit bodies forward for fear of being exposed on the counter-attack – I think this match will take a while to get going.
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
West Ham have only won one of their last five at home and that was against Southampton, but they have only failed to score in those fixtures once this season, when they held Man City to a 0-0. Chelsea will be well prepared for this and have a great record away in recent London derbies, unbeaten in their last six.
I can see why Lee has gone for under 2.5 goals, Chelsea haven’t scored more than once in their last five and West Ham haven’t managed two in their last six, so it looks a fair shout. However, this fixture has produced over 2.5 goals in four of the last six renewals and one of those unders games finished 1-1. I’m backing 1-1 at [7.6] but I will also be looking for a saver on over 2.5 goals after 20 mins to get a better price. If the early goal goes in then you will be able to cash out 1-1.
29 November 2012