January continues to be a fascinating match both on and off the field.
After the midweek FA Cup matches, we return to league football and there are a number of high-profiled games across all four divisions. Here’s a Saturday treble that we hope will get your weekend off to a cracking start.
WEST HAM UNITED V NEWCASTLE UNITED
At Upton Park, West Ham United need victory to pull away from the relegation zone and entertain Newcastle United in what could be one of the more entertaining games from the Premier League this weekend.
Three points in Cardiff dragged the Hammers out of the bottom three for the first time in weeks and Big Sam will be looking to capitalise on that boost in confidence with a repeat outcome on Saturday. Although he won’t admit it publicly, this game also holds an extra incentive for Allardyce due to the manner in which Newcastle dismissed him from his job back in 2008.
Returning faces is the theme of the day and Hammers fans would love to inflict a fourth successive defeat on former manager Alan Pardew. Meanwhile, Andy Carroll could earn his first start of the season against his boyhood club.
With Carroll back, the likes of Downing and Jarvis will be licking their lips at the thought of claiming more assists. The re-signing of Carlton Cole is another source of pleasure for the wingers, as well as West Ham supporters.
West Ham’s form prior to the win in Cardiff was horrific and the odds reflect that. However, with the likes of Noble and Carroll returning there will be reason for optimism. The Magpies haven’t even scored in their last three matches, although the home side’s defensive problems may afford the away team more opportunities than usual.
Nonetheless, I fancy West Ham to sneak this one. At St James’ Park, Allardyce got the tactics spot on as he led the side to a decent 0-0 stalemate and Big Sam could well get it right again here.
WEST HAM Win @ 2/1 with Bet 365
MIDDLESBROUGH V CHARLTON ATHLETIC
In the Championship, Middlesbrough look to continue their impressive start to 2014 with three points against relegation threatened Charlton.
Chris Powell’s Charlton are just two places above the drop at current despite being unbeaten in four. The problem has been converting draws into wins, with the Londoners recording just five victories in 24 games; it’s a problem that haunted them again on Tuesday as they drew in the FA Cup with Oxford to set up an unneeded replay.
Up until recent weeks, Boro suffered a similar problem. However, the side has been rejuvenated since the arrival of new boss Aitor Karanka. Middlesbrough’s first non-British gaffer has acclimatised to the English game almost immediately and 13 points from the last available 15 has dragged them away from danger and into mid-table obscurity – a position fans would have given their right arm for just six weeks ago.
During that run, Boro have beaten title-chasing Burnley but more significant is their ability to overcome those sides below them. Even when they struggled for victories, they somehow managed to claim the spoils against the bottom sides – including their 1-0 win over Charlton at the Valley in August – and you’d expect them to get the job done again here.
Boro are one of the Championship’s in form sides; they shouldn’t have much trouble against Charlton.
MIDDLESBROUGH Win @ 5/6 with Bet 365
SCUNTHORPE UNITED V AFC WIMBLEDON
League 2 leaders Scunthorpe will aim to preserve their position at the top as they welcome an out of form Wimbledon to Glanford Park.
The Iron are in a favourable position as they attempt to bounce back to League 1 at the first try and are on an undefeated league run of nine games; a sequence that includes three straight home victories, most notably a 3-0 triumph over fellow promotion-chasers Rochdale.
Today’s treble pays £99 for a £10 stake. Get your bets on now at Bet365
Scunthorpe have started 2014 superbly with two straight with a 100% record on the pitch, and plenty of additions off it. Manager Russell Wilcox has already acquired the services of Paddy Madden, Gary McSheffrey and David Syers this month as the Iron look to continue their ascent towards the third tier.
Conversely, Wimbledon are having a nightmare at the moment. After a tremendous start to the campaign, their form has dipped dramatically and a single win in nine League 2 outings highlights their current lack of confidence – particularly in front of goal where they’ve recorded six blanks within those matches.
Four draws in that time shows that they aren’t easy to beat but Southend – the only top 6 team to face the Dons recently – claimed victory at Kingsmeadow and, at home, Scunthorpe will be particularly confident.
With the firepower of Madden and McSheffrey being added to the already potent Scunthorpe attack (38 goals in 25 games), there should be no reason that the home fans won’t be cheering a few goals here. Neil Ardley’s Dons are unlikely to have a response.
SCUNTHORPE Win @ 4/5 Bet 365