WEST HAM V BOURNEMOUTH
16:00 Sunday, 21st August 2016
The London Stadium, Premier League
Can West Ham win their first game at their new home?
No matter how you want to paint it, moving from the almost 19th Century Upton Park (or, The Boleyn Ground to use its official name) after 112 years into the 21st-Century Queen Elizabeth London Stadium is going to be mightily weird for The Hammers and their fans.
I hope the 3.3 mile (5.3km) move doesn’t take the down-to-earth cor blimey Guv’nor honesty away from a proper footballing club and replace Dave’s Jellied Eel and Dickensian Orphan Pie Stall with Roy Keane’s Prawn Sandwich and Champagne Bar.
The Olympic Stadium will seat 22,000 more fans than Upton Park, an amazing amount of revenue even if they only reach half those numbers. Slaven Bilic is a lucky man as West Ham are on the up, and could even finish in the top four this year.
IF they learn to stop conceding late goals that is. Twice in three days, The Hammer’s defence let points slip as first Chelsea on Monday, then Romanian outfit Astra Giurgiu in Thursday’s Europa Qualifying game as they scored late on.
New signing Andre Ayew (thigh) looks to have been sidelined for months so they will be hoping Payet is available from the whistle. For Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, Tyrone Mings, Callum Wilson, and Max Gradel are long-term absentees but will be boosted this year by some good signings – £15 million Jordon Ibe is joined by Brad Smith, Lys Mousset and Lewis Cook.
The Cherries lost in a 1-3 reverse to a new-look Manchester United last weekend but with Zlatan et al playing under a rejuvenated Jose, they were always going to lose, so put that result out of your mind as we look at the two teams’ form…
West Ham (Home) W9, D7, L4.
Bournemouth (Away) W7, D4, L9.
It’s worth taking into account that in this game last season, Callum Wilson fired home a hat-trick to see Bournemouth win 4-3. The Hammers have allegedly asked “Please, Sir can I have some more?” with a £25M double-bid for Wilson and fellow Cherry-popper Matt Ritchie… which has been fervently denied by Slaven.
Most bookies have pegged a West Ham win. I say, yes they might be at home, but it will not feel like home to them… yet. Combine this with their leaky defence and Callum Wilson and I see this game ending in a draw.
Draw 11/4 (3.75) at BetFred
Both teams to score 3/4 (1.75) over at 188Bet
SportingBet have Callum Wilson to score anytime at an eye-popping 19/5 (4.80)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR V CRYSTAL PALACE
15:00 Saturday, 20th August 2016
White Hart Lane, Premier League
Harry Hotspurs v Eddie the Eagles…
For some reason in my head Spurs and Palace clashes contain far more rivalry and passion than they probably actually do, but for the life of me I don’t know why. Perhaps I remember Alan Pardew strutting along the touchline too confidently or there’s a rash tackle at the back of my mind. Either way, I always look forward to these teams meeting.
Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season after Spurs conceded to Everton and the not-so Super Eagles lost 1-0 to ex-manager Tony Pulis’ West Brom. In that game it became evident they would struggle going forward and in fairness to Pardew, Palace have signed Christian Benteke from Liverpool who must be laughing all the way to the bank after somehow only losing a few million on a player that was frozen out of the team.
And with Adebayor, Chamakh and now (amazingly) Bolasie gone, boy will they need Benteke’s aerial threat. They need to do the opposite of Liverpool and build their team around him. But seeing as he may not even be available to play, let’s stop gossiping and move on to the game!
James McArthur, Bakary Sako, Fraizer Campbell, Jonny Williams, and Pape Souare are all doubts for Crystal Palace while Tottenham’s hero Hugo Lloris is hamstrung and midfield engine Moussa Dembele remains suspended, probably to be replaced by Victor Wanyama.
Spur’s home form reads W13, D6, L3 against Palace’s W6, D6, L8 over the last 20, failing to score in more than 33% of last season’s away games. Most bookies have Spurs down as winners and I cannot disagree. Football writers have also pegged Crystal Palace for relegation, but I don’t see that happening. If Harry Kane didn’t take so long at the start of each season to get his engines warmed, I’d have a cheeky tenner on him scoring, but he won’t score for a game or three yet. Sorry – not today, Harry.
William Hill have odds of 1/2 (1.50) on a Spurs win.
Bet365 are saying that Spurs will win to nil at 6/5 (2.20)
ASTRA GIURGIU V WEST HAM
19:15 Thursday, 18th August 2016
Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu, Europa League
Lightning never strikes twice…
It’s the Play-off round of the Europa league and if you’re thinking there’s a familiar smell in the air, that’s the iron in the rain because a storm is coming…
This same time last year, and at this same stage of the competition, Astra Giurgiu dumped West Ham out of the Europa League, drawing 2-2 at Upton Park then beating them 2-1 at home in Romania.
But lightning can’t strike twice in the same place, can it?
Or can it?
There’s a buzz around West Ham even though they lost to Chelsea on Monday, Slaven Bilic guided them to a respectable 7th, which, with a bit of luck saw them qualify for the Europa League. It would be an awful shame and damned unlucky to see them go out early twice in two years.
Those two important games in the space of three days for The Hammers could prove to be their undoing. Chelsea’s last-minute winner would have knocked the stuffing out of them, Andre Ayew is injured (thigh) and they play Bournemouth on Sunday, meaning Bilic faces that old poker player’s dilemma – Stick or Twist?
If he plays a weakened team in order to focus on The Premiership, it could backfire and they’ll lose out on a very lucrative cup competition. If he twists, however with games coming this thick and fast, the players could burn themselves out!
I say play Andy Carroll and pump some route one balls and crosses in for him. Allow Payet to get into his stride by playing him from the start and don’t play Michail Antonio in defence! Fortune favours the brave.
As for Marius Șumudică’s Astra, they won the Romanian Liga 1 last season, beating powerhouse Steaua Bucharest (who lost 0-5 to Man City) into second place. They might be 9th in the Liga 1 after four games, but Astra have gone six matches without defeat on home soil in European competitions.
Romania didn’t fair too well in France this summer, but what I do know is that Denis Alibec has a dangerous left foot. Always calm and relaxed, whether he’s smoked a cigarette during the game or not, with 16 goals for Astra last season, he looks like he can always score.
West Ham to cheat the lightning and win away in front of an 8,500 capacity Astra crowd = 3/4 (1.75) at William Hill.
If Manchester City’s Champions’ League result is anything to go by, over 2.5 goals and both teams to score sounds highly likely (11/8 or 2.38 at Bet188) especially considering last year’s two matches between West Ham and Astra saw 7 goals.
BRISTOL ROVERS V BOLTON WANDERERS
19:45 Thursday, 18th August 2016
The Memorial Ground, League One
Champions versus Contenders?
I love The Premiership, I really do but when it comes down to it, I love the lower leagues just as much, if not more. I’d take League One’s crunching tackles, bad refereeing decisions and genuine camaraderie any day.
And games like this are the reason why – it’s got “Barnstormer” written all over it. The league’s biggest club, Phil Parkinson’s Bolton Wanderers travel to North Bristol with a 100% record and happily sit in 2nd spot.
Rovers, on the other hand, began the season with a loss at Scunthorpe before bouncing back with an incredible extra-time win against Cardiff City in the EFL Cup; setting up a lucrative tie with Chelsea. Also beating local(ish) rivals Oxford United 2-1 on Sunday meant they climbed into 12th – ten places separate The Pirates from Wanderers… but all that could change within these 90 minutes.
I know it may be premature, but Rovers seem to have found some of Darrell Clarke’s hilarious, infectious never-give-up-attitude that saw them gain back-to-back promotions: Their last two season can be summed up like this: Rovers attacking 4-4-2 formation often saw them go ahead early, but they’d panic and concede to an individual defensive error only for Matty Taylor to save them with a late winner. Final score 2-1. Always.
Conversely, before Bolton beat AFC Wimbledon by the same scoreline this weekend, they hadn’t won away in 500 days under three different managers!
Here’s the form guide over the last 20 matches:
Rovers (Home) Won 15, Drawn 2, Lost 3
Bolton (Away) Won 1, Drawn 3, Lost 16
I know that’s Bolton’s last season’s relegation form, but can Bolton really break the hoodoo and win away from home twice in four days? No, I say! Both teams are well-drilled and hard to break down, but Rovers will have met their match. Bolton will score against an ageing Steve Mildenhall in Rovers’ goal with Billy Bodin or Matty equalising for Rovers.
A Barnstormer of a game will, unfortunately, see the two teams fight a hard-fought battle which will end in stalemate. Bolton will be happy with a point, and may even play for it, their more experienced players shoring up defences in the latter stages.
Draw = 5/2 (BoyleSports)
Draw with under 2.5 goals = 17/17 (188Bet)