Wolves host West Ham on Monday Night Football and Mike Norman believes the top-four-chasing Hammers can bank another three points with the help of their on loan star...
"Despite squandering a 3-0 lead against Arsenal last time, right now West Ham are in better form than Wolves, they're a better side in terms of quality, and perhaps crucially, they have far more incentive to win than their opponents."
Wolves v West Ham
Monday 5 April, 20:15
Live on Sky Sports
Not much for Nuno's men to play for
When Wolves host West Ham on Monday night it will be exactly three weeks since they last played a game of football, and prior to that game - the 0-1 home defeat to Liverpool - I pretty much said that Nuno Santo's men were in no man's land.
After four games without a win Wolves have slipped to 13th in the table, and while their current points tally of 35 is unlikely to avoid the drop, it seems inconceivable that Santo's men won't pick up at least a few more wins given that they play Sheff Utd, West Brom, Fulham, Brighton and Burnley in five of their next six games.
So as I said three weeks ago, even if Wolves only take five or six points from the next 27 available, they're still not going to be relegated, while even going on a great run of form won't get them into the European qualification places.
I'm not suggesting for one minute that the Wolves players are already on the beach, but subconsciously performance levels can drop slightly when you know that there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and I'll always be wary of siding with teams in a similar position to Wolves as the season comes to a conclusion.
Hammers very much in the European picture
In complete contrast to the situation Wolves find themselves in, West Ham have absolutely everything to play for and it won't surprise me one bit if they finish the season well.
The main reason I say that is because of the Hammers' nine games remaining, seven of them are against teams that are not traditionally part of the 'big six'. And as I said prior to West Ham playing Leeds last month, David Moyes' men have becomes the most consistent team in the Premier League in such games.
True to form, West Ham beat Leeds that night and then failed to win either of their next two matches against Manchester United and Arsenal.
It means that Moyes' men are now on a run of 17 games unbeaten (W13-D4-L0) against non-'big six' teams; their only league defeats in the last 28 games coming against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd.
If a similar pattern of results continues until the end of the season it's easy to envisage the Hammers getting to at least 66 points, and it's worth remembering that in two of the last five campaigns - seasons where a lot of the big teams regularly beat each other, similar to this season - 66 points was enough for Champions League qualification.
Away win the obvious call
West Ham go into this game as the 2.747/4 favourites on the Exchange, and I believe that's a very fair and understandable price given their excellent record against the Premier League's non-'big six' clubs.
Remember, since losing to Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season, Moyes' men are unbeaten in 17 such games, winning 13 of them. They kept a very impressive 10 clean sheets in that sequence of results, and they conceded more than once in a game on just two occasions.
Wolves' current form can be described as patchy as best, failing to win any of their last four games. Worryingly, but perhaps not surprising because of the continued absence of Raul Jimenez, is the fact that Santo's men have failed to hit the back of the net in seven of their last 11 outings, and they've scored just once at Molineux in their last four games.
Despite squandering a 3-0 lead against Arsenal last time, right now West Ham are in better form than Wolves, they're a better side in terms of quality - the likes of Declan Rice, Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen, Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio are all playing consistently well - and perhaps crucially, they have far more incentive to win than their opponents.
Wolves can be backed at 3.185/40 to take all three points with the draw currently trading at 3.39/4, but it's an away win all day long for me.
Bank on Jesse to shoot Hammers to glory
I struggled to find another wager in some of the more traditional side markets, though Over 2.5 Goals might be worth chancing at close to 2.68/5 given that nine of West Ham's last 13 games have ended with at least three goals being scored. But I'm more interested in some Jesee Lingard-related bets.
The attacking midfielder has been in exceptional form since moving to the London Stadium on loan from Manchester United, and in just seven Premier League starts he already has five goals to his name. That stat alone makes Lingard worth backing to score at anytime in Monday's clash, and he's available to back at 4/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook.
But also catching my eye is the Sportsbook's price boost from 9/1 to 12/1 on Lingard having at least one shot on target in each half.
As well as scoring five times in his seven appearances this year, the 28-year-old has registered 21 shots in that time with 12 of them being on target. That's an average of exactly three shots per game and almost two on target per game.
If Lingard continues in the same fashion then he's a very short price to have at least two shots on target against Wolves, and while we'll need a bit of luck to share those shots out across both halves, the 12/1 about him doing so in a game we expect West Ham to win makes plenty of appeal.
*You can follow me on Twitter: @MikkyMo73
Mike's 2020/21 Profit & Loss
Staked: 26.00 pts
Returned: 22.43 pts
P/L: -3.57 pts
*Based on 2pts main bet (first listed or only bet), 1pts all other bets