MLB Picks — September 1 (TB @ Cle; Bal @ KC)

These are the condensed versions of picks for Saturday’s MLB games between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians, and the Baltiore Orioles and Kansas City Royals for Winners and Whiners. Confidence rating is in parentheses.

Game 1: Tampa Bay at Cleveland:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Rays -110 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 8 runs -115 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Under 25.5 R+H+E (4/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Rays -115 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 4 runs (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Rays 1st-inning 3-way win (3/5)

Game 2: Baltimore at Kansas City:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Royals -120 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 9.5 runs -115 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Over 28 R+H+E (4/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Royals -0.5 runs (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 5 runs (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Royals to score first (4/5)

Previous Day’s Record: 6-6
Season Record: 77-85

1-Star Pick Record: N/A
2-Star Pick Record: 0-1
3-Star Pick Record: 44-56
4-Star Pick Record: 22-20
5-Star Pick Record: 11-8

September 1 NCAA College Football Picks

These are the condensed versions of picks for Saturday’s college football games between:

  • UNLV @ USC
  • Old Dominion @ Liberty
  • Bowling Green @ Oregon
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Arizona State
  • BYU @ Arizona

for Winners and Whiners.

Confidence rating is in parentheses. Also note, given the volume of college football games, a “5” rating does not imply the best pick of the day’s games, simply the best pick within that individual game.

Game 1: UNLV @ USC:

Side Prediction/Full Game: UNLV +25.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 62.5 points (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: N/A
Side Prediction/Half Time: UNLV +16 -115 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 34 points (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 2: ODU @ Liberty:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Liberty +6.5 -110 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 58 points (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: N/A
Side Prediction/Half Time: Liberty +3.5 -115 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 30 points -110 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 3: Bowling Green @ Oregon:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Oregon -31.5 -110 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 73.5 points (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: N/A
Side Prediction/Half Time: Oregon -20.5 points -110 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 37.5 points -110 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 4: Texas-San Antonio vs. Arizona State:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Arizona State -18.5 -110 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 54 points -110 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Texas-San Antonio under 18.5 points -125 (5/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Arizona State -10.5 -110 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 28.5 points -110 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Texas-San Antonio under 9.5 points -130 (3/5)

Game 5: BYU @ Arizona:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Arizona -11.5 -110 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 60.5 points -110 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Over 55.5 yards for longest touchdown of game -115 (3/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Arizona -6.5 -110 (5/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 31 points (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Yes to a score in first 5:30 of the game -125 (3/5)

Previous Day’s Record: 5-7
Season Record: 5-7

1-star play record: 0-0
2-star play record: 0-0
3-star play record: 3-4
4-star play record: 1-2
5-star play record: 1-1

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 Preview: Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)

Perhaps there was a method to Tottenham Hotspur’s madness of inactivity in the summer window.

Owning the maximum nine points, the Lilywhites look to open a season with four league victories for the first time in nine years Sunday when they face upstart Watford in an unexpected clash of top-four sides.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Much continues to be made of the Lilywhites’ decision to stand pat in the summer transfer window, an unprecedented stance by a Premier League team in the 15 years of its existence. Yet even coming off a World Cup summer, club chairman Daniel Levy and manager Mauricio Pochettino have been validated by their decision early, the latest evidence provided in an emphatic 3-0 rout at Manchester United on Monday.

Harry Kane scored his first league goal at the “Theatre of Dreams” five minutes after the restart with a perfectly placed header off a corner from Kieran Trippier, and Lucas Moura added a brace as Spurs (3-0-0) made a statement of intent they intend to challenge reigning champions Manchester City and Liverpool for league honours.

Both Kane and Moura have scored in each of Tottenham’s last two matches, with Moura scoring three goals after producing just one in 12 following his move from PSG in January. Kane, meanwhile, has 61 in his last 70 league matches and furthered the proficiency that warranted his new £90 million contract signed in June.

“It’s massive, just what we needed,” Kane told Spurs’ official website. “We need to kill teams off, especially away from home. “As a club, we want to stay top of the league and the only way to do that is by coming to places like this and getting results, so (Monday) is a huge statement.”

Kane has 142 goals with Tottenham, one shy of tying Jermain Defoe for fifth on the club’s all-time list.

The win also quieted the talk around keeper Hugo Lloris, who turned in his first clean sheet of the season less than 72 hours after being arrested for drink driving. The backstop of France’s World Cup-winning squad retained the captain’s armband and came up with a pivotal save on Romelu Lukaku shortly after Kane’s goal that preserved the slim margin before Moura struck on 52 minutes.

“Hugo knows he made a big mistake,” Pochettino told the BBC after the match. “We will support him, knowing it cannot be justified. He has apologised to fans, us, the whole country. He is punishing himself. He feels so bad.”

Spurs have not opened a season with four league wins on the trot since 2009-10 under Harry Redknapp but faded to a fourth-place finish. Pochettino is understandably pleased with the start but is not getting ahead of himself as Spurs will start gearing up for Champions League opponents Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan after the international break.

“The most important thing is to keep calm,” he said. “If at the end of the season with 10 games to go and we are in a good position then we have already shown we can fight.”

Twenty-four kilometres to the west just outside London’s city limits, Watford (3-0-0) are the unexpected team out of the four on nine points alongside Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs. Javi Gracia’s team has confounded pundits who thought the selling of Richarlison to Everton would result in a fast track to relegation.

The Hornets found a more than adequate replacement on the left wing in Roberto Pereyra as the Argentina international has bagged three goals. An underrated summer acquisition in bringing keeper Ben Foster back to Vicarage Road also has paid dividends — the Hornets are seeking their second four-match winning streak in Premier League play in club history and first 4-0-0 start at any level since 1988-89 in Division Two.

The Hornets continued their bright play Wednesday, advancing to the third round of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 victory at Championship side Reading. Isaac Success and 18-year-old Domingos Quina scored on either side of halftime for Watford, who sport enough depth they overturned their entire starting XI from last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace for the cup tie.

“The atmosphere in the dressing room is incredible, we’re all prepared for the next challenge,” Success told Watford’s official YouTube channel after scoring his first goal since October 2016. “I’m happy for the team, it was a good win for us. It will make us concentrate more, and we will be ready for Sunday’s game.”

Nathaniel Chalobah and Stefano Okaka made their season debuts after recovering from injury, with Chalobah the more likely of the two to be on the bench for this match. Team selection has become a pleasant headache for Gracia as players are competing for spots throughout the side.

“It is a difficult situation for me,” he said. “I try to choose the best options for the next game and I know my decisions are not fair with some players, but I can only take 18. I would take more players if I could, but it is not possible.”

Watford have yet to beat Tottenham in the Premier League era, claiming three draws in 12 overall matches. All three draws, however, have come at Vicarage Road, including last term’s 1-1 stalemate. The Hornets were aided by Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez being sent off in the 52nd minute.

The teams will also face off in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Sept. 24, but Spurs have asked it be moved to Stadium MK – 80 kilometres from White Hart Lane. Their new stadium is still under construction and Wembley is hosting the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin heavyweight boxing fight two days prior and is unavailable.

The EFL board which oversees the cup will review the request next Friday.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Spurs are solid 6/10 favourites to continue their perfect start, and Watford are 9/2 underdogs to pull off a surprise and continue theirs. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 3/1.

Oddsmakers are liking a Spurs victory over 2.5 goals as those odds lead the pack at 27/20. A 1-0 or 2-0 Lilywhites win returns on 16/5 odds, while a 0-0 or 1-0 draw are slightly longer at 21/5. For those thinking Watford can get their first Premier League era win over Spurs, it’s 15/2 odds on over 2.5 goals and 11/1 on under.

For first goal-scorers, Kane leads the line at 12/5, followed by Fernando Llorente (4/1), Christian Eriksen (13/2) and Dele Alli (7/1). Moura is joint-fifth with Erik Lamela at 15/2, just ahead of top Watford option Troy Deeney (17/2).

Kane has 7/10 odds to run his goal-scoring streak to three matches, while Moura is further back at 23/10. Llorente is 13/10 to find the back of the net, and at 21/10, Eriksen edges out Alli (11/5). Deeney is the top option for the Hornets at 13/5, with Pereyra checking in with 7/2 odds. Gerard Deloufeu is also sporting 7/2 odds to score, which is intriguing since he has yet to play a single minute.

PREDICTION

This is a step up in class for Watford after three wins to start the season turned everyone’s head. Gracia’s 4-2-2-2 set-up has given his wingers room to roam on the flank, with Pereyra taking full advantage of the opportunity offered to him with Richarlison’s departure.

The Hornets have shown they have the potential to be a mid-table team with the victories over Burnley and Palace, now they can show whether they will be a team with potential to make a run at something bigger.

Tottenham have looked the part of a well-oiled machine, though the listless stretches of play that came in their wins over Newcastle and Fulham again were evident against Manchester United before breaking them down early in the second half and taking advantage of a back line bereft of confidence.

This will be an intriguing challenge since Watford’s back four have conceded just twice in the three league wins while playing all 270 minutes together. Spurs are always going to be the more likely of the two teams to leave it late for all three points, but the hedge here is Watford plays over their heads and grab a point.

Predicted final score: Watford 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)

August 31 NCAA College Football Picks — (Western Kentucky @ Wisconsin; Colorado vs. Colorado State)

These are the condensed versions of picks for Friday’s college football games between Western Kentucky and Wisconsin, and Colorado and Colorado State, for Winners and Whiners.

Confidence rating is in parentheses. Also note, given the volume of college football games, a “5” rating does not imply the best pick of the day’s games, simply the best pick within that individual game.

Game 1: Western Kentucky at No. 4 Wisconsin:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Wisconsin -35.5 (-110) 4/5
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 52.5 (-110) 5/5
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Wisconsin over 45 points (-140) 3/5
Side Prediction/Half Time: Wisconsin -22.5 (-110) 3/5
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 29.5 (-110) 4/5
Prop Prediction/Half Time: N/A Wisconsin over 27 points (-130) 3/5

Game 2: Colorado vs. Colorado State:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Colorado -7.5 (-110) 3/5
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 65.5 points (-110) 5/5
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Colorado under 36.5 points (-120) 3/5
Side Prediction/Half Time: Colorado -4 (-110) 4/5
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 34 points (-110) 3/5
Prop Prediction/Half Time: YES to score in first 5:00 of game (-105) 3/5

Previous Day’s Record: 0-0
Season Record: 0-0

1-star play record: 0-0
2-star play record: 0-0
3-star play record: 0-0
4-star play record: 0-0
5-star play record: 0-0

August 31 MLB picks (Boston @ Chicago White Sox; L.A. Angels @ Houston)

These are the condensed versions of picks for Friday’s MLB games between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, and the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros for Winners and Whiners. Confidence rating is in parentheses.

Game 1: Boston at Chicago White Sox:

Side Prediction/Full Game: White Sox +151 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 9 runs Even (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: White Sox over 3.5 runs -120 (5/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: White Sox +130 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 4.5 runs -125 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: No to 1st-inning run -120 (3/5)

Game 2: Los Angeles Angels at Houston:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Astros -190 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 8.5 runs +105 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Under 27.5 R+H+E -115 (4/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Astros -0.5 runs (-155) 5/5
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 5 runs -120 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Astros 1st-inning win 3-way (+215) 3/5

Previous Day’s Record: 2-4
Season Record: 71-79

1-Star Pick Record: N/A
2-Star Pick Record: 0-1
3-Star Pick Record: 40-53
4-Star Pick Record: 21-18
5-Star Pick Record: 10-7

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 Preview: Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)

About the only thing worse than facing the reigning Premier League champions on their own grounds is facing them there when they’re angry.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

(WRITER’S NOTE — Lascelles has been confirmed as available by Benitez, who also ruled out Shelvey and Ritchie. That leaves the door open for Yoshinori Muto on the right in Ritchie’s spot. The bigger question remains four or five at the back and where exactly Lascelles’ place on that row is.)

Rafa Benitez may need to park more than just the bus Saturday at the Etihad, where an aggrieved Manchester City squad look to take out their frustrations on Newcastle United ahead of the international break.

Pep Guardiola’s side surprisingly dropped points last weekend at Molineux as new boys Wolverhampton held out for a 1-1 draw. Manchester City (2-1-0) slipped to fifth in the table – no big deal so early in the season – but what stuck in Guardiola’s craw was the manner in which they were held to that point.

Two non-calls went against the Sky Blues, Willy Boly’s goal for Wolverhampton in the 57th that should have been called a handball, and the penalty shout City had shortly thereafter when Ruben Neves felled David Silva.

Definitely the first and most likely the second would have been reversed had VAR been approved in the offseason – something Manchester City voted in favour of. Silva, one of the most even-tempered players on City, was booked for dissent as he hotly pleaded his case to referee Martin Atkinson.

Justice was served in the 69th minute through Aymeric Laporte’s bullet header off a free kick by Ilkay Gundogan. Sergio Aguero nearly won it at the death, but his free kick – one of three City shots to hit the woodwork – cannoned off the crossbar and the match ended 1-1.

Guardiola refused to be drawn into a post-match debate about the two momentous decisions, simply saying “The Premier League will decide when VAR will be here, it’s none of my business.”

While Wolves deserve credit for being the rare side able to disrupt City’s preference to play out from the back, Guardiola noted his team was sloppy on both sides of the ball.

“It was a good game for the spectators, but we conceded too many counterattacks and missed simple passes,” he said. “We tried, created chances but sometimes the final ball wasn’t good, but we will improve because defensively we weren’t as solid as we normally are.”

Guardiola opted for a four-man back line versus Wolverhampton but given the overwhelming advantage in possession they are expected to have in this contest, it would not be surprising to see him revert to the 3-1-4-2 utilised in City’s 6-1 rout of Huddersfield a fortnight ago. Laporte, John Stones and Vincent Kompany gave wide backs Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva the freedom to range forward practically into the attacking third.

The City boss could also reunite Aguero with Gabriel Jesus in the first XI considering the pair have combined for 17 goals in the eight league matches they have started together. Aguero in particular has been lethal in City’s last two home wins over Newcastle, racking up eight goals to give him 14 in 12 career meetings.

Even with Kevin De Bruyne a long-term injury absence, Guardiola has a wealth of attacking permutations which are likely forcing counterpart Benitez to burn the midnight oil for a second straight week.

Benitez’s relentless toil to neutralise the best sides of the Premier League is born from necessity due to the chasm in talent. He came under fire for using a five-man back last Sunday at home versus Chelsea, ceding more than 80 percent possession, yet Newcastle (0-1-2) very nearly nicked a point.

The Magpies were denied that draw as DeAndre Yedlin deflected a cross into his own net on 87 minutes, undoing the work he did four minutes prior when he whipped a cross from the right Joselu clinically headed for the equaliser.

“My job as manager is to analyse my squad, then decide what is the best approach to each game. Chelsea spent more in one window than we did in six,” Benitez said Tuesday in taking another shot at owner Mike Ashley for his lack of funds this summer.

“Everyone has different ideas and options, but for the squad we have this approach is fine. We almost got a draw.

“I am not happy that we didn’t get the points we deserved, but we are in a good position in terms of confidence in the team and the way we work.”

There was also much ado about the absence of centre back Jamaal Lascelles, whom Benitez claimed had an ankle injury amid media reports he dropped the captain after a disagreement over tactics. Benitez insisted Tuesday “we are fine” when asked about their relationship, but the defender is questionable.

Newcastle’s hangover continued Wednesday with a 3-1 loss at Championship side Nottingham Forest in the second round of the Carabao Cup. Salomon Rondon gave the Magpies a lifeline with a stoppage-time equaliser, but they quickly conceded a second.

Ayoze Perez had to be restrained by Benitez after the final whistle when referee Jeremy Simpson did not award a potential tying penalty after being pulled back by Forest defender Luke Steele which came seconds before Newcastle conceded a third.

Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey will miss his third straight match due to a calf injury, with Mo Diame the leading option to take that playmaking spot deeper in the midfield. Matt Ritchie has also been ruled out due to injury. Kenedy will return after being ineligible to face his parent club, but midfielder Isaac Hayden will finish serving his three-match ban for a direct red card against Cardiff City.

The Sky Blues are unbeaten in their last 21 league matches (18-3-0) versus Newcastle since a 1-0 road loss Sept. 24, 2005. The Magpies’ lone win in the last 23 contests (1-3-19) across all competitions was a 2-0 upset at the Etihad in the fourth round of the 2015 League Cup.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Man City are staggering 1/9 favourites to bounce back with a victory, while Newcastle United are 28/1 long shots to pull off a shock scoreline and return to Tyneside with three points. Even getting one point for the Toons seems a reach with 17/2 odds for a draw.

Oddsmakers also seem fairly confident in City’s ability to ring up goals against Newcastle, with 4/9 odds on a Sky Blues victory and over 2.5 goals. There are 16/5 odds on Man City winning 1-0 or 2-0, and the third-highest choice would be a 0-0 or 1-1 draw returning 11/1 odds.

Aguero’s proficiency against Newcastle has created a separate list of prop bets, the most eye-catching one being just 5/1 odds on the Argentina international recording a hat trick. There are 10/3 odds on him scoring on both sides of halftime.

As for first goal-scorer, Aguero is the easy frontrunner with 19/10 odds, followed by Jesus (3/1) and Raheem Sterling (7/2). There are nine City players listed — even Phil Foden — before finding Joselu and Rondon as Newcastle’s joint-top options at 16/1.

Aguero (4/11), Jesus (3/4) and Sterling (10/11) are heavy favourites to find the back of the net at some point in this match, with Mahrez (21/20) nearly an even-money selection. Rondon and Joselu are getting 4/1 odds to beat Ederson over the course of 90 minutes.

PREDICTION

You want to believe in Benitez, that he’s not losing the plot and simply playing these two matches against Chelsea and Manchester City simply to get them out of the way while trying to simply steal a point against either and/or both. He nearly got one against Chelsea, but that was due more to Eden Hazard failing to be patient when in possession.

The Citizens are a much different animal and are likely going to have eight players in the attacking third with Kompany and Laporte mopping up clearances Newcastle launch as City will recycle with the ball. That 80 percent possession figure Chelsea enjoyed is at risk of being topped at the Etihad.

It would not be a surprise either way if Lascelles starts or is dropped entirely from the 18. Federico Fernandez did not do anything horrific versus Chelsea as the middle man on the back line, so there is cover for Lascelles. Having Kenedy means there is at least an outlet for clearances up the sideline as opposed to Rondon being stranded without service. How Newcastle utilise that option may determine the competitiveness of this match.

Look for City to play wide through Mendy and Bernardo Silva. At some point, Yedlin is going to get caught too far upfield, and it likely will happen on more than one occasion. That is the space Guardiola’s side has exploited in the past and will do so again here.

Predicted final score: Manchester City 3, Newcastle United 0.

Other Match Day 4 Previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 Preview — West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)

Having averted a full-blown crisis just four matches into the season, West Ham United look to begin their climb off the foot of the Premier League table Saturday when they host promoted Wolverhampton at London Stadium.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

WRITER’S NOTE — West Ham’s lineup is obviously fluid pending the status of Arnautovic. If he is able to play, he replaces Chicharito leading the line. If not, another option for Pellegrini is to switch to a 4-4-2 in which Noble is dropped for Snodgrass and Jack Wilshire to partner in central midfield. Anderson replaces Antonio on the left and Yarmolenko starts on the right. Chicharito and Lucas Perez would then be up front.

The Irons (0-0-3) are the only team without a point as the flurry of late signings totaling £100 million as part of Manuel Pellegrini’s arrival in London has yet to coalesce. That has been most evident on defence, where West Ham has shipped nine goals.

That worrying trend looked set to continue in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday when Joe Pigott staked League One side AFC Wimbledon to a lead in the second minute, but the Irons caught a break when Rod McDonald was sent off for his second yellow card on 18 minutes.

West Ham then laid siege as the match became one-way traffic toward the hosts’ goal. Centre back Issa Diop, whose own goal proved decisive in West Ham’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal last Saturday, launched a 25-yard screamer in the 63rd minute to pull the Irons level.

The £22 million man from Toulouse nearly added a second two minutes later when his header on a corner by Felipe Anderson thumped the crossbar, but West Ham would not be denied as Angelo Ogbonna converted a Robert Snodgrass corner seven minutes from time.

Chicharito added a third late, and the east London side could finally exhale after breaking their duck.

“We needed a win after three defeats in the Premier League, especially to bring back confidence to the players, the staff and everyone,” right back Pablo Zabaleta told the club’s official website. “We know we are improving every day and now we need to get three points against Wolves.”

Diop and Snodgrass were the only holdovers from Saturday’s XI at Wimbledon, but Pellegrini may be forced into at least one change from that first 11 against Arsenal since Marko Arnautovic – who has both of West Ham’s league goals – suffered a knock versus the Gunners.

Chicharito would be the most likely replacement to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation, though Arnautovic has trained with the team during the week and could at worst be available off the bench. New signing Andriy Yarmolenko could be in contention for his first league start after following up his 15-minute stint versus Arsenal with a solid effort Tuesday.

Wolverhampton (0-2-1) also advanced to the third round of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 victory at Championship side Sheffield United on Tuesday. Leo Bonatini ended a 27-match goalless drought dating to December in the 53rd minute, and Helder Costa added a late penalty after winning a foul for Wolves.

Last term’s Championship winners have not conceded in their five Carabao Cup matches under Nuno Espirito Santo – Wolves lost in the fourth round last season on penalties to eventual trophy winners Manchester City after 120 scoreless minutes.

“For us it was a good game,” Nuno told the Express & Star. “Every time a player wears the shirt of Wolves he knows what he has to do, he’s inside of the shape and works very hard.

“It keeps our identity and our philosophy,” he added to Wolves TV. “No matter who you play you always try and put your idea on the pitch and make it stronger than your opponent.”

Nuno gave four players their Wolves debuts, most notably right back Leander Dendoncker, a £12 million signing from Anderlecht. Despite his late penalty, Costa is fighting for his starting spot on the right wing against record signing Adama Traore, who assisted on Bonatini’s goal and impressed as a reserve in Wolves’ 1-1 draw against reigning champions City last Saturday.

While the point against Pep Guardiola’s club is something to treasure for a promoted side – and it came with plenty of controversy since Wolves had two non-calls in their favour which would have been overturned had VAR been approved for use in the offseason – it also served notice Wolverhampton are not the typical promoted side simply trying to survive in the top flight.

Their Portuguese-heavy roster, in large part created by super agent and club adviser Jorge Mendes, has provided a strong talent base that has many pundits believing Wolves can challenge for a top-half finish come May.

The sides have not met since West Ham recorded a 1-0 victory at Upton Park in the third round of the 2016 FA Cup. It will be the first league match since the Irons won 2-0 at home on New Year’s Day in 2011. Wolverhampton’s lone top-flight win in four tries (1-1-2) over West Ham was a 3-1 road victory March 23, 2010.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, West Ham are slight favourites at 29/20 odds while Wolverhampton checks in at 9/5. It’s a bit longer for the teams to split the points at 23/10.

Oddsmakers are convinced there are going to be goals scored in this game as each team and the over are the most likely outcomes. West Ham are getting 14/5 odds on a win with over 2.5 goals and Wolves are returning 10/3 on such an outcome. A 1-1 or 0-0 draw squeezes between the two options at 17/5, though a 1-1 score line returns 11/2 odds compared to a nil-nil finish at 10/1.

Chicharito and Arnautovic are joint-top options for the first goal of the match at 9/2, while West Ham striker Lucas Perez and Wolves centre-forward Raul Jimenez are joint-second at 11/2. Yarmolenko (13/2) is tipped just ahead of Anderson (15/2) to make it 1-0 for the Irons, and Bonatini has 7/1 odds after breaking his lengthy scoring drought in Wolves’ mid-week victory.

For any time goal-scoring, Arnautovic (6/4) edges out Chicharito (8/5) as the favourite. Jimenez leads Wolverhampton’s options at 9/5, colosely followed by Diogo Jota at 2/1. Traore and Ruben Neves also offer appeal for Wolves at 7/2, while West Ham winger Michail Antonio is getting 5/2 odds.

PREDICTION

Complain all you want about how Wolverhampton got lucky in getting their point against Manchester City. Complain about the two non-calls that went Wolves way, complain about City’s three shots off the woodwork. The bottom line is Nuno’s team belongs in the top flight. They refused to back off against the reigning champions, and their 3-4-3 set-up is giving teams problems.

The next step for Wolverhampton is to get a goal through the middle of the pitch. All three of their goals originated on plays from outside the penalty area — a pair of well-placed crosses were met and Neves curled a free kick home versus Everton. After a strong Carabao Cup victory that doubled as their first win of the season, Wolves look ready for bigger things.

West Ham, on the other hand, are still a work in progress. A serious work in progress. Their match against Arsenal looked more like an eight-year-old’s game of tag than a football match as the sides raced up and down the pitch trying to exploit the other’s back line. The Irons are capable of playing beautiful football, they have yet to prove capable of stopping it when it’s turned on them.

This game could be decided by one save in either direction. Right now, there’s more belief Patricio will make that save for Wolves than Fabianski will for the Irons.

Predicted final score: West Ham United 2, Wolverhampton 3.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)
Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)