West Ham v Portsmouth, Premier League, December 26, 2009
(Posted by Tom Ratchford)
Traditionally, the sides occupying the bottom two places of the Premier League would expect to be struggling for form and confidence at this time of year. However, after morale boosting performances against two of the â€˜big fourâ€™ teams, both West Ham and Portsmouth will feel that they can gain enough points to steer themselves out of the relegation zone over the festive period.
Indeed, West Hamâ€™s hard-earned point against league leaders Chelsea ensured that they did not occupy the dreaded bottom position on Christmas Day. Following three consecutive defeats, they will be looking to build on their point and record only their third home victory of the season.
Still without the injured Carlton Cole, the burden will fall heavily on Alessandro Diamanti to continue his goalscoring exploits. (Diamanti is 11/2 to score the first goal)
In fact, no other West Ham players have scored in 385 league minutes, so the likes of Franco (15/8 to score anytime), Parker (11/1 to score anytime) and Collison (6/1 to score anytime) will be expected to start chipping in.
James Tompkins will continue to cover for the injured Danny Gabbidon in a porous West Ham defence that has failed to keep a clean sheet for 15 league games. (West Ham are 1/2 not to keep a clean sheet)
Facing the imminent prospect of losing key players to the African Cup of Nations and the looming transfer embargo, Portsmouth will know that they must accumulate points whilst their squad is strongest if they are to avoid mimicking the fate of 17 of the 18 clubs bottom on Christmas Day. (Portsmouth are 16/5 to finish season bottom)
They will be looking to continue the form, which has seen them score in all 5 league games since Avram Grant has taken over. Key to this will be Frederic Piquionne. He lead the line superbly against Liverpool and with Avram Grant likely to employ the same formation, Piquionne will be looking to make it 3 goals in 3 Premier League outings. (Piquionne is 7/1 to score first) Nadir Belhadj is also finding some good form of late, profiting from Avram Grantâ€™s change in formation. He will be looking to add to his strike against Liverpool before he jets off to join up with the Algerian national side. (Belhadj is 9/1 to score anytime)
Keeping things tight at the back will be paramount if Portsmouth are to gain anything from this fixture. They have lost a staggering 11 out of 12 games in which they have conceded the first goal. With the veteran David James still nursing a calf injury, Asmir Begovic will continue in front of a defence protected by the in-form Younes Kaboul. (Portsmouth are 100/30 to keep a clean sheet)
Both sides know that, depending on other results, a win could see them clamber out of the relegation zone. Despite their recent upturn in form, Portsmouth cannot hide from the fact that they have just a solitary victory away from Fratton Park this season. As such, West Hamâ€™s attacking flair, backed by the Upton Park faithful should see them just edge this one. Expect tension, hard work, passion and goals. (Over 2.5 goals 11/10)
101gg predicts: West Ham 2 – Portsmouth 1 (9/1)
Full match odds here.