The final day of the season has always been a bittersweet day for me, probably more bitter than sweet. That of course has much to do with my allegiances to Liverpool, but also the fact that for the next 3 months I will be without my fix of Premier League football. People will try console me with mentions of Euro 2012, but it’s just not the same is it. There is a silver lining though, the sweet if I may. That of course is the juicy final day we have in store for us. With all games kicking off simultaneously, there is no more drama filled day in the English calendar. With everything still to play for throughout the table, you better find yourself a comfortable seat, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Roll on Sunday.
Chelsea 3/10 v Blackburn 82/10 draw 41/10
Chelsea are one of those teams with plenty to play for on Sunday, their opponents not so much. Blackburn saw the trap door open beneath their feet on Monday night amid chaotic scenes at Ewood Park. The protests that have marred Rovers season were once again in full flow, with a cockerel being set loose during the first half and a plane flying overhead with a tongue in cheek message in tow. It was farcical, the chickens had come home to roost. As for Chelsea, Roberto Di Matteo knows that in order to keep his job, Champions League football is a must. A win here will not guarantee them a top 4 spot, but it will certainly give them a fighting chance. This should be one way traffic, with Chelsea tipped on the ‘cap here.
Everton 13/10 v Newcastle 19/10 draw 24/10
Newcastle for all their endeavour and sparkling football, look like they are going to fall just short in their quest for Champions League football. Written off as relegation contender’s pre-season, Alan Pardew has shocked many, myself included, by showing just what an astute manager he is. You can’t really look any further than the Londoner for Manager of the year can you? This weekend he takes his team to Merseyside, as he faces off against another canny manager. David Moyes has done wonders over the years on the tightest of budgets and now his team are only one win away from finishing above their city rivals. A rasping Ben Arfa drive was all that separated these two in this fixture last season, and I expect another close one here. So close in fact that I can’t call a winner, with the draw looking the most likely result.
Manchester City 3/20 v Fulham 14/1 draw 67/10
Man City are 90 minutes away from their first Premier League title, and despite my constant anti-City rhetoric, they seem destined to break my heart, and my bank account, as they look set to seal the title on Sunday. Their form at the Etihad has been near perfect, while their opponent’s away form has been diabolical. QPR have the worst away form in the league, managing only 3 wins over the course of this season. A draw will be enough to ensure another season in the top flight, but even if they procure themselves a double decker bus to park in front of their goals, I still don’t see it being enough. Man City and their Sheikh will have their day in the sun and Carlos Tevez will swear his allegiance to the club, along with the latest batch of fickle supporters. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Norwich 13/10 v Aston Villa 2/1 draw 9/4
Barring some sort of final day meltdown, Aston Villa have lived to fight another day in the upper echelons of English football. Not that they truly deserve it though. Villa have been a pitiful excuse for a football side, scoring the least goals in the league this season and setting a new record for most draws in a campaign. They have been painful to watch and I hope that Norwich inflict a vicious beating on them come Sunday, savage enough to make their Yank owner realise that Alex McLeish needs to go. Norwich were involved in one of the matches of the season last weekend, and should they attack with the same venom on Sunday, there is no reason why they won’t end the year on a high. A home win at 13/10, surely one of the bets of the weekend.
Stoke 13/10 v Bolton 2/1 draw 9/4
Bolton find themselves precariously perched heading into the final day of the season. Two points adrift of safety, the Trotters need nothing less than a win at the intimidating Britannia Stadium if they are to stay afloat. Having beaten Stoke 5-0 earlier this season, Owen Coyle has more than enough ammunition to throw into his pre-match team talk. Ivan Klasnic hit a dramatic late winner here in 2010 and was sent off after the subsequent celebration, and few would bet against similar drama occurring this time around. Bolton will also be buoyed by their solid away form, although their inability to hold a lead may have cost them their place in the Premier League. I’m going to go exotic on this one, with the Bolton-Draw, HT-FT double looking worth a dabble at 14/1.
Sunderland 6/1 v Manchester United 9/20 draw 33/10
Questions were raised at the beginning of the season over the composition of this Man Utd squad, and their lack of a creative central midfielder. Those suspicions were only heightened with the SOS sent out to Paul Scholes at the beginning of this year, and it seems that the pundits weren’t far off the mark. The fact that this United team is still in with a shot on the final day is a credit to Sir Alex Ferguson and his unparalleled managerial skills. On Sunday they travel to The Stadium of Light for one last battle in the defence of their title. It is out of their hands now, but they will effect what they can, and that means a victory against Sunderland. Matches between these two are often low scoring affairs, something not reflected in the Under 2.5 goals market. At 12/10, it seems well overpriced given Man Utd’s lack of cut and thrust in recent weeks.
Swansea 2/1 v Liverpool 5/4 draw 24/10
One match that is of very little importance on Sunday is the meeting between Liverpool and Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans have been a joy to watch this season, with their free-flowing football garnering the small Welsh club many new admirers. Liverpool on the other hand have been rather insipid at times and are destined for their lowest league finish since the advent of the Premier League. These two played to a 0-0 draw at Anfield, with Michel Vorm picking up the man of the match thanks to a couple stunning saves. With this article being written before Liverpool’s midweek clash, I’m unable to say whether they’ll be in with a shot of overtaking their city rivals, but chances are slim. Irrespective, I expect the Reds season to end with a whimper, as it so often does. Swansea at 2/1 seems a solid enough bet.
Tottenham 4/10 v Fulham 63/10 draw 34/10
Spurs were handed the initiative in the race for 3rd spot last weekend, only to hand it straight back to Arsenal. Somewhat unfortunate to be down to 10-men, they fought back admirably to claim a draw at Villa Park, but that slip-up could prove vital. With 4th spot no longer guaranteed Champions League football, Harry could be in for a long summer, with Modric and Bale likely to get itchy feet. They will end the season at home to Fulham, with the returning Martin Jol having a point to prove. Fulham though are not even half the team away from Craven Cottage and have rarely offered any resistance on the road. It could very well be Clint Dempsey’s final match in the Lilywhite kit, with a number of clubs keeping an eye on the bug-eyed American. It’s the final day of the season so what the hell, let’s go big or go home. Spurs to win 2-0 at 6/1 has caught my normal sized eye here.
West Brom 36/10 v Arsenal 7/10 draw 28/10
It’s been a strange old season for Arsenal. After losing two of their key players, including their captain, many Arsenal supporters would have taken 3rd place and Champions League football if they were offered it at the beginning of the season. They would have bitten your hand off if offered it a couple weeks in, yet here they are on the verge of claiming 3rd spot. It’s not done and dusted by any means, having failed to win in their last 4 matches. This week they travel to the Midlands to face West Brom, whose late comeback last week all but condemned Bolton to life in the Championship. A win will guarantee them a top-half finish and give Roy Hodgson just the send-off he would want ahead of Euro 2012. When these two meet it is often an open game with plenty of goal mouth action and this will be no different. Arsenal will surely do enough to seal that 3rd spot, but as has been the case all season with them, nothing is certain.
Wigan 11/20 v Wolves 52/10 draw 11/4
Well as I’ve gone through this in alphabetical order, the worst has been left ‘til last. In a match of absolutely no consequence, Wolves will travel to The DW Stadium as they complete their farewell tour of the Premier League. The Latics secured their place in the top-flight with a win away at Blackburn midweek, their 6th in their last 8 matches. Wolves have improved since being condemned to the drop, but only just. They are without a win in 13 matches, although they did manage a Soccer6 ruining draw against Everton last time out. There’s not going to be much in the way of excitement here, but the way that Wigan are playing, they should pick up another win here. At 11/20, this may just be my banker bet of the weekend.
So there you have it, a season that has offered us much in the way of football and even more in the way of betting. My pre-season predictions have been spot on, barring one. Man Utd to win the league. That is a warning to all those that think the league title is wrapped up, nothing is for certain. It has been far from a vintage year in the Premier League, with a number of teams struggling through transitional periods, making it a two-horse race for the title. It will be interesting to see what happens over the summer, especially in the wake of Euro 2012. Looking for some value, you could do a lot worse than backing the French to come good at 12/1. With Laurent Blanc at the helm, Les Blues are looking more and more like the world beating side of yesteryear. Well this is where I bid you adieu. Until next season, happy punting. Sala Kahle.