There are slim pickings this weekend with our preferred area of focus the Football League fully set on play off mode. There is the odd game to pick from in the play offs but we’ll have to switch our focus and tweak our approach slightly in the search for a bit of value this weekend.
Stoke +1 on the Handicap at Home to Arsenal – Best Price 6/5
With the limited options on offer due to the reduced fixture list, we’re looking a little deeper into the markets for a bit of value and this is one that stands.
Arsenal may have hit a bit of form and given themselves an outside chance of securing that top-four trophy they always seem to achieve, but I think their recent form could be massively overrated and as such this match is priced up wrong. They may have won a couple of games on the bounce, got a bit of confidence back and the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade have gone a bit quiet, however, they’ve been lucky to be facing teams at the right time. Manchester United were patently not trying and Southampton have had one foot on the beach for the past few weeks, any top half side would’ve probably won those games. If a team turns up with the right attitude and are focused on the game I could easily see a return to the same old flaky Arsenal.
Stoke are a very up and down side, their form fluctuates wildly and although results have been poor of late they’ve still performed fairly well at home. The Bet365 is generally a tough place to go and Arsenal have a particularly poor record here; as their last home game of the season I expect Stoke and the crowd to be really up for this. Stoke might not be such the physical side of the Pulis years, but Mark Hughes has a decent record against Arsenal and knows to target their weakness against a physical approach.
I can easily see Stoke winning this but the odds against with a one goal cushion makes the handicap option an attractive proposition.
Middlesboro v Southampton, Total Goals Over 2.5 – Best Price EVS
This might not immediately seem the most obvious selection at first glance given the lack of goals from either side through the season, but I think the market has maybe not paid enough attention to recent form or taken into account the wider factors that could influence this game.
Middlesboro have been goal shy all season and have only scored 26 all season and conceded 48, resulting in an average of 2.06 per game. However, much of that is based on the foundations of Aitor Karanka’s ultra-defensive approach and since Steve Agnew has been in caretaker charge results have been very different, with the last seven games averaging 3 goals per game and five of those breaching the 2.5 goals mark. Boro fans have had little to cheer about at home this season and if Agnew wants the job full-time he’ll need to get the fans on side, so he’ll surely look to go all out for a convincing and entertaining win, which could lead to goals.
As mentioned in our other selection above, Southampton haven’t really been at the races of late; their season effectively over as they are positioned safely in mid-table. However, with only three points separating ninth to fifteenth position they will surely be looking to secure a top half finish and end the season on a high. This is a winnable game for them and if Boro go all out for the win they could easily get goals on the break.
Neither side are high scorers but as an end of season game where neither really has anything to play for it could end up being an open game with lots of goals. It could also easily go the other way but the Evens on offer make the Over 2.5 the value bet.
Stoke (+1) – 1pt @ 6/5 (Paddy Power)
Middlesboro v Southampton Over 2.5 Goals – ½ Pt @ Evs (Paddy Power)
½ Pt Double @ 3.4/1 (Paddy Power)