This week's Two And a Half Goals columns turns its attention to four games across the Premier League this weekend...
Southampton have 39 points, a figure often bandied around as the magic number to secure league safety. But it seems a little premature to be taking their foot off the gas, given Wigan´s record of escape acts. It´s also no fun for the fans.
Last week´s 3-0 home loss to West Brom offered the third straight indication that the Saints are already mentally on their holidays. Failure to win at home to West Ham, a goalless draw at Swansea, and rolling over at home to a woefully out of form West Brom suggests Southampton are there for the taking by any side with any kind of motivation.
Step forward then, a Tottenham team who have all the motivation in the world. Three points away from a possible Champions League spot, Spurs have to win. They also wouldn´t mind knocking in as many goals as possible, to boost their inferior goal difference. Andre Villas Boas´ side have scored a minimum of two goals in each of their last four games, including a 3-1 victory against Manchester City. Expect Southampton to get equally rough treatment on Saturday.
Back Over 2.5 goals @ 1.758/11
Swansea v Manchester City
Talk about little motivation. Here are two teams who must be close to going through the motions. Swansea appear to have been doing that for a quite some time in fact. With their league status long secured, and their big day at Wembley long gone, the Swans seems to have been mentally absent without leave for some weeks now.
And now it´s Manchester City´s turn to switch off, having seen their title dreams turn to dust. Roberto Mancini´s job is probably on the line, if it hasn´t already gone, but the players may not care enough to help him out with that particular problem.
And recent results suggest neither side will be too bothered. Swansea scored just two goals in their last four home games, with three of those matches ending up low-scoring. Man City scored just four goals in their last four away, and have now of course lost all of their title-winning motivation.
With two strong defences being challenged by a couple of attacks with nothing to gain, it´s hard to see their being two many goals in this one.
Back Under 2.5 goals @ 2.1211/10
Liverpool v Everton
While Liverpool´s Euro dream looks over, Everton´s seems to be still alive and well, but that´s only if they can secure a crucial three points at Anfield.
In order to do that, the Toffees will stick to the gameplan they´ve employed in recent weeks. That´s one that involves packing the midfield and trying to nick a win. It´s also an approach that´s produced six low-scoring games out of their last seven. David Moyes side bagged three 1-0 victories during that run and would be more than happy to settle for more of the same against their arch rivals.
Whatever their approach though, Everton would be likely to struggle for goals against a Liverpool side that concedes on average less than a goal a game at home. Liverpool themselves have been known to struggle for goals as well though. Indeed, they´ve failed to find the net in three of their last nine matches. Yes, they sometimes strike goalscoring gold too. But don´t expect a repeat of last week´s thrashing of Newcastle, especially not now they have nothing to play for and with Everton having so much on the line.
Back Under 2.5 goals @ 2.166/5
Manchester United v Chelsea
But while some teams find themselves with nothing to play for as the season draws to an end, others find it to be a time of celebration.
For Manchester United, this is the footballing equivalent of an end of season party, and a chance to show-off in front of their fans. The presence of Chelsea though, guarantees that United will definitely be motivated to win, especially given Alex Ferguson´s personal feelings for Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez. Be sure that there is little that would cheer Ferguson more on Sunday, than to shatter Chelsea´s Euro campaign and help ruin the finale to the Spaniard´s Chelsea tenure.
Seven of United´s last ten home games have been high-scoring, so Old Trafford is usually a place to go for goals. Chelsea meanwhile have had eight high-scoring matches out of their last ten on the road, so action would seem to come almost guaranteed for this clash. And that of course was exactly the case when these sides drew 2-2 in Manchester in the FA Cup in March.
Back Over 2.5 goals @ 1.715/7