As the Premier League season enters its last full month, Southampton, Arsenal and Aston Villa have it all still to play for, with the Gunners desperate to finish in the top four, while the Saints and Villa will just be happy to be playing in the top flight once again next season.
All three sides take to the road this weekend, and each looks to have a good opportunity to return home with all three points.
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Southampton to beat Reading @ 23/20
Since going down to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to bottom club QPR at the beginning of last month, Southampton have responded in fine fashion, drawing 0-0 away at Norwich before securing victories on the south coast over Liverpool and Chelsea.
Saturday’s success against the Blues saw the Saints move up to 12th position in the league, albeit just four points above the bottom three, and they will fancy their chances of boosting their survival hopes when they travel to struggling Reading this weekend.
The Royals sit bottom of the table after their recent 4-1 thrashing at Arsenal, which was their sixth successive league defeat.
They look almost certain for a swift return to the Championship, with seven points separating them and safety with seven games left.
Reading went down 1-0 when these two sides met earlier in the season, and in just his second game in charge of the club, Nigel Adkins will come up against his former employers, who harshly sacked him just after the turn of the year.
He has taken over a side that have been leaking goals for fun this season, as their defence has been breached 61 times in just 31 league matches and recorded just three clean sheets in total, their last coming back on Boxing Day at home to Swansea.
In Rickie Lambert, the Saints possess the league’s highest scoring Englishman with 14 goals in his debut Premier League season, including two in his last two, and his side will head into this game in high spirits and look good for all three points.
Arsenal to beat West Brom @ 87/100
Not once since Arsene Wenger’s arrival at the club have Arsenal finished outside of the top four, but that record is under threat with the club currently in fifth position, two points behind Chelsea and four behind Spurs, who have played a game more.
Unlike their two rivals, however, the Gunners’ attention will be fully focused on the league and they have been in fine form of late, winning their last three matches, the first an impressive 2-0 triumph away at Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Despite not being enough to see them progress in the competition, that result will have given them a major boost and they followed that result with a 2-0 success at Swansea and a comprehensive 4-1 win against Reading at the Emirates on Saturday.
Next up for Wenger’s men is a trip to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom, who have picked up one point from their last six available, securing a 0-0 draw at Stoke before going down 3-1 to West Ham at the weekend.
Steve Clarke’s men were seen off 2-0 in North London back in December and haven’t beaten their visitors in their last four meetings – the previous three encounters ending in defeat – so they’ll have their hands full against a side brimming with confidence.
Only leaders Manchester United have found the net more times than the Gunners, who have notched 59 goals in 30 games, while also possessing the fourth tightest defence, so it’s no surprise they have been priced as odds-on favourites here.
Aston Villa to beat Stoke City @ 14/5
This is far from what you would call a banker, and it will take a brave man to back Villa to win away from home given their current league position, but they have a great chance of doing so this weekend against a Stoke side on an abysmal run of form.
While Paul Lambert’s men may sit inside the bottom three on goal difference, the Potters are just four clear of their hosts having picked up just one point from their last five league matches, and one win this calendar year, against bottom club Reading.
Villa head into the game on the back of two wins in three, which has boosted their survival hopes, and they narrowly went down 2-1 at home to Liverpool on Sunday despite taking the lead through Christian Benteke to head into the break a goal up.
The summer signing has been a revelation for the Midlands club, notching 14 goals in the league to give Lambert’s young side a fighting chance of staying up, including one in each of his last three outings.
Stoke could certainly do with someone like him in their ranks as they are the league’s lowest scorers, with the Potters averaging under a goal a game, having found the net 27 times in 31 league matches, and just once in their last five league outings.
Villa’s ventures away from home since the turn of the year have seen them earn credible draws at Swansea and Everton, a narrow 2-1 defeat at Arsenal and a 2-1 win at Reading, and at 14/5, they look a great price for the win on Saturday.