Weblog: The football punter
Hammers can see their way past sorry Fulham
Sky Sports Main Event & Premier League, 7.45pm Friday
Take as long as you like to pore over the markets for Friday’s Premier League London derby between West Ham and Fulham but it’s hard to ignore that the fixture simply screams ‘home win’.
The Hammers look a perfectly acceptable price as freefalling Fulham are a calamitous outfit, awful at home and far worse away.
The notion that one-time miracle worker Claudio Ranieri might be able to save them is starting to look daft.
West Ham are 16 points superior to their cross-city rivals and with more players emerging from the London Stadium treatment room, they should get better as the season drifts to its conclusion.
Seven-goal Marko Arnautovic is still at the club and knows he will be until the summer, Samir Nasri and Manuel Lanzini are fit after missing the last month and the whole of the season respectively and they give the admirable Manuel Pellegrini scope to find a decent side from a star-studded group.
They are without a win in five games, but four of those matches were on the road. At home they have lost only one of their last seven, a sequence completed with a 1-0 win over Arsenal and a 1-1 draw with Liverpool. Earlier in the campaign they drew with Chelsea and beat Manchester United in front of their own fans.
They are annoyingly inconsistent despite their abundance of match-winners.
The Cottagers, on the other hand, are consistently bad. They too have tools with which to hurt opposition - ten-goal Aleksandar Mitrovic is an admirable centre-forward while Andre Schurrle and Ryan Babel can pose threats. Tom Cairney, another diamond, can’t get a look in for some reason.
Fulham’s problem is a central midfield that offers scant protection to a disastrous back four.
Ranieri’s troops have conceded 58 goals, ten more than the next leakiest side in the top flight.
They have posted two clean sheets in their last 26 games in all competitions and have conceded at least two goals in 20 of their 26 fixtures, a list which includes a 2-0 home loss to the Hammers just before Christmas.
On the road their record is woeful with only two points (from draws at Brighton and Newcastle) from a possible 39.
Given Fulham’s knack of losing by two-goal margins or more – 14 and counting – if you’re a West Ham you might want to consider the Hammers -0.75 on the Asian handicap, which is a 17-16 chance with RedZone.