Sunday’s League Cup final between Manchester City and Sunderland at Wembley Stadium means the English Premier League shares the spotlight this weekend, but the latest round of fixtures will still attract plenty of attention with so much at stake at both ends of the table. The top two teams, Chelsea and Arsenal, are in action, while virtually every side involved in the relegation battle will play, as well.
Each week I deliver my picks for the best bets of the weekend, incorporating numbers from ESPN Insider’s Soccer PickCenter.
Let’s take a look at this weekend’s five best bets.
Everton (home) vs. West Ham United
Asian Handicap: Everton -1.0 (-111) vs. West Ham United +1.0 (+102)
3 Way Line: Everton -263 / West Ham United +650 / Draw +280
PickCenter public consensus money line pick: 75 percent Everton
Total: 2.5 (Over -120, Under EVEN)
With his brusque manner and unyielding self-belief, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has always divided opinion. So it was no surprise when critics lined up to put the boot into him as the east Londoners floundered during the first half of the season. Now, as usual, the former Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United boss is biting back -- the Hammers are 4-1-1 in their last six matches, making them one of the EPL’s form sides. West Ham has done well on the road against top-half sides all season, avoiding defeat in four of six games (one win, three draws).
Everton, on the other hand, picked up 1.95 points per game in match days 1-19, but only 1.19 since the start of 2014. The Toffees have scored just three times in their last five fixtures, with individual absences a major factor. Leading scorer Romelu Lukaku has missed the last month through injury, and he scored just once in his 10 EPL outings before being sidelined. January loan signing Lacina Traore, who arrived as an understudy, has yet to make his EPL debut because of a hamstring strain.
Everton’s personnel issues, West Ham’s goal pattern in away fixtures (six away games against top-half opposition have produced just 2.00 goals per game) and the fact that the Hammers have kept more clean sheets (13) than any other English top-flight side make the under...