West Ham v Tottenham
Sunday 21 February. 12:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Happy Hammers dreaming of Europe
If you ask West Ham fans what their favourite moment of this season so far has been, I suspect well over half would point you in the direction of the Hammers’ stirring comeback in a 3-3 draw at Spurs. West Ham were 3-0 down with eight minutes left, and yet they remarkably snatched a point. Given that Irons fans hold Tottenham in particular contempt when it comes to London rivals, it was a sweet result indeed.
Since then, David Moyes’ side has gone from strength to strength. They have lost just six league games all season (only the top two have lost fewer), and they go into this weekend outside the top four merely by virtue of goal difference. They are six points ahead of Tottenham having played a game more, and they were also ahead of the champions Liverpool going into this weekend. They have already earned three more points than they did in the whole of last season.
Liverpool are the only team to have beaten West Ham in the last ten Premier League games, and the East Londoners have kept clean sheets in half of those matches.
Moyes isn’t a fashionable manager or indeed one who is going to play particularly thrilling football, but he has finally found a way to harness the potential of a talented squad that had underperformed for quite some time.
The main concern is that Moyes does find it hard to beat the top sides – West Ham’s six PL losses this term were against Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool (twice) and Arsenal, with a home defeat to Newcastle a bit of an outlier.
Star striker Michail Antonio could slot into the starting XI after missing a couple of games with fatigue, while defender Fabian Balbuena could return after recovering from a calf injury.
Cup king Mourinho must find league impetus
Whatever you think of Jose Mourinho’s demeanour, his tactics and his mind games, it cannot be denied that he wins things. He has collected trophies at almost every club he has coached, and big ones too: he has been a league champion In England, Portugal, Spain and Italy, he has won multiple Europa Leagues and Champions Leagues, and he has lifted domestic cups aplenty.
This term, Spurs are on the cusp of reaching the last 16 of the Europa League after their 4-1 midweek win over Wolfsberger AC, and they have reached the final of the League Cup. If Mourinho fulfils his brief and wins a trophy, it will paper over some cracks that have opened up in the league. Spurs have lost four of their last five top-flight matches, and if you look at their underlying numbers when it comes to performance, they do look some way off the pace when it comes to qualifying for the Champions League. According to the Infogol Expected Goals figures, Tottenham should be 11th in the table, and they are overperforming xG in both the goals-for and goals-against columns.
Of course, when you have top-class players like Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, you can turn plenty of games that are going against you. Kane has been involved in two-thirds of Tottenham’s PL goals, while Son has 13 goals and nine assists. Without those two, the picture would be grim indeed.
Full-backs Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier are both struggling with injury, while Kane looks almost certain to return to the starting XI.
Tough to choose between old foes
The Match Odds market is split, and I can understand why. West Ham are 2.8815/8, and although they are having a great season, they do still struggle against sides with high technical quality. It’s also worth considering that David Moyes has never beaten Jose Mourinho, his worst such record against one particular manager.
However, can we really get behind Tottenham at 2.727/4? Their form in the league is poor, they have won one of their last seven PL away games, and a hectic schedule is surely now taking its toll. They may well come out on top if Kane and Son work their magic, but they’re just not winning enough top-flight games to be confident.
High-noon clash should bring goals
These two shared a 3-3 draw earlier this season, and five of the last nine meetings between the sides have featured four goals or more. Tottenham aren’t defending well (they gave away some horrible goals at Manchester City last weekend), while West Ham have Antonio back and have seen five of their last six PL games featured three goals or more.
At 1.981/1, I think Over 2.5 Goals is an outcome worth backing.
Kane to hit Hammers hard again
Our friend at Opta tell us that Harry Kane has scored 11 goals in 15 PL meetings with West Ham, and if you look at his overall form, the England superstar has scored in six of his last 11 appearances. At 2.47/5, Kane is always worth backing to find the net.
Antonio is surprisingly shorter here, trading at 2.021/1. That’s curious when you consider he’s only scored twice since the end of October.