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Monday, 12 November, 2018

Early signs not good for Hammers boss Bilic

Our experts answer the week's big football betting questions

Slaven Bilic will be hoping for a response from his West Ham players
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What’s your best bet of the weekend?

Michael Cox Tactics expert 
Inter to beat Fiorentina. Luciano Spalletti, one of the most underrated managers in Europe, should work wonders with his new club Inter, while Fiorentina have sold their best five players and have barely replaced them.

Steve Davies Racing Post Sport tipster
Having played two, won two, and not conceded, it looks like Fleetwood are carrying on where they left off last season. They were outstanding defensively on their way to the Sky Bet League One playoffs last terms and are so again. If they can find one goal against AFC Wimbledon, it’s quite possible that will be enough.

Didi Hamann Ex-Liverpool ­midfielder
Arsenal to win at Stoke. There is often a big deal made about Arsene Wenger’s sides not fancying the scrap against teams like Stoke but results last season suggest that isn’t the case. Mark Hughes’ side are far less rugged than they used to be and Arsenal, who did the double over them last term, are no longer intimidated. This is the kind of fixture which the Gunners can win at a canter.

Ian Wilkerson Racing Post Sport tipster
Burnley shocked the football world with their victory at Stamford Bridge last week but they still looked shaky towards the end of that game, even though Chelsea had nine men. A trip to Turf Moor should be right up West Brom’s street and I think Tony Pulis’s side are good value to put in a disciplined performance and claim a win.

Chris Wood Coral odds-­compiler
The price is not as juicy as it was at the beginning of the week but there has to be some mileage left in Cambridge away to Harry Kewell’s very shaky Crawley in Sky Bet League Two.

Which team are the most vulnerable favourites?

Michael Cox Barcelona were so catastrophically bad against Real Madrid in midweek that I wouldn’t go near them at 2-9 to beat Real Betis. It feels like they’ll start the league campaign slowly.

Steve Davies Stevenage have had a pair of draws against Newport and Colchester sandwiching a League Cup defeat at Millwall. That’s now eight straight in Sky Bet League Two without a win so I’m not sure I’d be rushing to take a short price about them at home to Grimsby. The Mariners’ 3-1 win at Chesterfield shows what they are capable of.

Didi Hamann Leicester against Brighton. I was quite impressed with Albion for long periods at home to Manchester City last week. They rode their luck but they were organised, never lost their shape and weren’t embarrassed. Leicester aren’t anywhere near the Man City bracket and were pretty awful at Arsenal in their opener.

Ian Wilkerson Aston Villa have not lived up to their billing as Sky Bet Championship ante-post favourites and questions are already being asked about Steve Bruce’s ability to get them back into the top flight. They lost just three times at Villa Park last season but Norwich are capable of extending the Villans’ sticky start.

Chris Wood Leicester looked unlucky to the casual observer in their first game but Arsenal dominated and they could still be in for a long season under a rookie manager. Their season starts properly this weekend and Brighton will be no pushovers.

What’s your prediction for Tottenham v Chelsea?

Michael Cox Chelsea have their brilliant front three from last year all out, plus Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill missing. Antonio Conte is at war with Roman Abramovich and on the verge of quitting, so odds-against for Tottenham looks good to me.

Steve Davies It’s not easy to fancy Chelsea minus so many key players. Spurs will be thrilled if Eden Hazard misses out again, and they finished superbly against Newcastle last week. But the Wembley factor is clouding the view. This isn’t a Spurs home match and Antonio Conte would definitely be rather playing the game at Wembley. I’ll go for a low-scoring draw.

Didi Hamann Based on last season, you would think Chelsea at long odds was a no-brainer. But if I was chucking one dart at this game, it would be Tottenham. That’s not a massive thumbs-up for Spurs, who took a while to get going at Newcastle. This is about Chelsea where much is wrong. They have let Matic go to a title rival and the Costa situation is really unhealthy.

Ian Wilkerson Tottenham have a great chance to beat the champions, who have a whole host of absentees to deal with. The fact Spurs are playing at Wembley is going to be overplayed this season and they can stretch a patched-up Chelsea team still reeling from what happened to them against Burnley last week. 

Chris Wood Chelsea obviously looked woeful in their first game and are missing a whole host of players but an outfit of their quality should not be such a huge price against Tottenham at Wembley.

Which team or player caught your eye in the Premier League last week?

Michael Cox Alexandre Lacazette’s debut for Arsenal was fantastic – not simply for his goal against Leicester, but for his movement, link play and tracking back to dispossess opponents quickly.

Steve Davies As Chelsea were disintegrating against Burnley, one of their many midfield old boys was running the show against Swansea for Southampton – as he always does. Put Oriol Romeu in a side who can score and he would be dynamite. The clean sheet was no surprise, however, since Romeu is a class act in front of their back four.

Didi Hamann Steve Mounie and Huddersfield. You have to give David Wagner credit for what he’s doing – he’s signed half a dozen players from Germany over the last 12 months or so and I can’t tell you much about any of them. But he’s seen something and has hit the jackpot. As for Mounie – what an impact that was. He could prove to be an absolute bargain at £11m.

Ian Wilkerson I was impressed with the strength Steve Mounie showed for Huddersfield against Crystal Palace, even though he should have scored from a one-on-one to complete a hat-trick. It will be intriguing to see how he performs against better opposition but the early signs were encouraging. 

Chris Wood It has to be Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker-Peters. He made a cracking debut at Newcastle and is great news for any Spurs fans who already had Walker on the back of their shirts.

Which Premier League manager has most to worry about after the first round of matches?

Michael Cox I think Frank de Boer is an excellent coach, but the intended turnaround at Crystal Palace is, stylistically, among the most radical we have seen in recent years. I hope he succeeds.

Steve Davies Antonio Conte. He’s already unhappy after the summer and with the Diego Costa saga worsening his mood, he really didn’t need Chelsea’s 3-2 home loss against Burnley. Defeat at Wembley against Tottenham would really test the Italian’s resolve.

Didi Hamann I’d be worried if I was Slaven Bilic given the way West Ham capitulated at Old Trafford. I don’t think his players have ever got used to their new stadium where any home edge looks to be negligible and a team who fell away badly last season aren’t showing many signs of coming back to life.

Ian Wilkerson As impressive as Manchester United were on Sunday, West Ham were a shambles and things could soon get uncomfortable for Slaven Bilic. Playing their first few games away will not help and you don’t need a long memory to recall that, the win over Spurs aside, they showed little in the second half of last season.

Chris Wood Probably Slaven Bilic as West Ham seem to have signed a team that would have been half-decent five years ago and have owners noted for a great many things but sadly patience is not among them.

Give us a winner for the midweek matches

Michael Cox Napoli to win at Nice in the Champions League. They won the first leg 2-0 in Naples, but it should have been about six.

Steve Davies A big-priced winner in the League Cup? How about the MK Dons at home to Swansea. The Dons have yet to get going in League One with a couple of one-goal defeats either side of a cup win at Forest Green. Maybe a visit from Swansea will inspire them. The Swans looked useless at Southampton last weekend and with their best player now at Everton, they could be a side in freefall.

Didi Hamann Lay Liverpool at home to Hoffenheim. The tie is far from over. There were chances galore in Hoffenheim and Liverpool’s suspect defence pretty much got away with it. But that won’t necessarily happen again against a side who have got carte blanche to go for it. It’s a tricky situation for Jurgen Klopp with a 2-1 lead to defend and it may well make for an uncomfortable evening.

Ian Wilkerson Crystal Palace are still getting to grips with the tactics new manager Frank de Boer wishes to adopt and it would be no surprise to see him have a big switch in personnel for the EFL Cup game at home to Ipswich. The Tractor Boys have had a good start to the season and could be value to qualify for the third round.

Chris Wood It obviously depends massively on team news but I’d have Astana as favourites at home to Celtic in the Champions League if Brendan Rodgers does the sensible thing and saves his big players from a nasty midweek trip to Kazakhstan after their 5-0 win in the first leg. 

I don’t think his players have ever got used to their new stadium where any home edge looks to be negligible
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