Andy Carroll – The £35 million scapegoat.

On the 31st of January 2011, Andy Carroll signed for Liverpool for a club record £35 million, making him the most expensive English footballer of all-time.

Expectation was high, and straight from the off Carroll had a hard time of things. Replacing Torres who had vacated the number 9 shirt and left to join Chelsea, was never going to be easy, and in reality, Carroll was never going to be able to escape his massive price-tag.

There is no way of getting around that Carroll on the balance of things, is not worth £35 million, but there are very few people that actually are. The club were forced to show their hand and secure an out and out striker to replace Torres, and it was left far too late, meaning they would have to pay over the odds for whoever they purchased. The fact they chose an Englishmen only added to the price-tag, and after such a good start to the season, Kenny took a risk and opted for the big Geordie.

Fans reacted well and were pleased to have an old fashioned English number 9 at the helm, something that had been lacking since the days of Robbie Fowler (completely different styles, I know) and the future looked bright.

Carroll got his first taste of the the Anfield crowd on the 6th March, coming on as a substitute in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United. His first touch brought a massive cheer from 40,000 jubilant reds as he attacked every ball sent his way. He left the pitch in high spirits, not knowing that it would be over a month before he would finally get on the score-sheet for his new club.

He started the game against Manchester City on the 11th of April with massive pressure on his shoulders. The press had not let up in their hounding of both Carroll and Torres whose scoring records had been dreadful since making their switches in January. But against Manchester City, Carroll received something he hadn’t done consistently in the previous month. Balls to attack. He opened his Liverpool account with a sweet 25 yard strike, beating Joe Hart with sheer power. He doubled his tally minutes later as Meireles swung an enticing ball into the 18 yard box, which Carroll attacked with great intent, guiding it into the far corner. The crowd erupted, everything had finally began to click.

Unfortunately they would be the last goals he would score in the 10/11 season and he would have to wait until Exeter City away to bag his next for the club, in the second round of the League Cup. He would go on to score nine goals in the 11/12 season, which looks a poor return on paper, but the goals were of the utmost importance.

He scored the opening goal in a 2-0 victory over Everton at Goodison, which many thought would kick-start his campaign. But unfortunately it didn’t and he went through a confidence sapping mid-season, until finally beginning to hit form late on, scoring a late winner in the F.A Cup Semi-Final against Everton, and also a brilliant individual effort in the Final.

His late season form earned him a place at Euro 2012 in which he impressed when given the chance, scoring a trademark header against Sweden, from a brilliant Gerrard cross. The pair looked to have clicked at points during the season, but never enough together to really get going, which could have been a deciding factor in the demise of Carroll.

Carroll returned to Liverpool and made two substitute appearances for the club at the beginning of the 12/13 season, before a season-long loan to West Ham was confirmed, with the option to buy for £18 million at the end of season.

This is extremely saddening from my point of view as a Liverpool fan, for many reasons.

Many pundits and fans alike have never warmed to him, and always based his performances off his price-tag, a peak he was never going to match. When he was asked to perform, he would always run himself into the ground and challenge across the park, even tracking back to help out with the defence.

Liverpool have never managed to give him the service he really needed to thrive off. At Newcastle, they based their game around him, and getting the ball in the air for him to challenge, a ploy that worked with great success thanks to the service of Barton and Nolan. Liverpool were never going to base their side around a 6″3 Geordie, when the centre of midfield was home to Steven Gerrard.

A passing philosophy has always been at the heart of things for Liverpool and due to Carroll’s height, it seemed for the majority of Dalglish’s reign, that the players didn’t think Carroll was able to join in the passing game, as the ball was always hoofed as high as possible in his direction. Often, this was usually extremely wayward and he would be chasing balls with a very slim chance of keeping in, let alone making anything of. Yet due to his price-tag, he was always the scapegoat.

Yes, he wasn’t perfect and he has missed numerous chances for Liverpool. But these misses were far too over-hyped. Go and watch any team in the Premier League, and strikers would be missing chances twice as easy, but they weren’t well-documented due to the price difference. Every miss would be greeted with a collective groan, as if he was expected to score every chance. Every miss would chip away at Carroll’s ever dwindling confidence, and before you knew it he was in an abyss of woe.

He managed to regain form, and showed what he could do when given the chance towards the end of last season, which coincided with the return to fitness of Steven Gerrard, which was no coincidence. Gerrard was often the only player capable of playing a decent delivery from wide, into Carroll. At Newcastle, they were trained to put the ball on the penalty spot, at Liverpool they were trained to knock the ball about and attempt defence splitting passes. So the initial purchase does beggar belief.

When Brendan Rodgers was made Liverpool manager this summer, it effectively spelt the end of Andy Carroll’s Liverpool career. Known for his tiki-taka philosophy which was used to great effect at Swansea, Rodgers likes to keep the ball on the floor with a two-touch passing style.

Many pundits assumed this would be the end for Carroll who they deemed surplus to demands due to the new tactics set to be employed at the club. With the signing of Fabio Borini from Roma, and strong rumours circling for the arrivals of Clint Dempsey and Daniel Sturridge, the end looked near for Carroll. And it was confirmed tonight that he would leaving.

It is with a tinge of sadness I write this, after adoring the big-man for so many years. He was never given a fair crack at the whip during his time at Liverpool and was often plagued by his over-inflated price-tag. Hopefully he will find his feet at West Ham, and with the service Matt Jarvis and Kevin Nolan will provide, I’m sure he will.

He has a great touch, can turn on a six-pence, deadly in the air, and surprisingly quick for his height. His fastest pace last season was 22.37mph, which ranked him one of the quickest players in the Liverpool squad. Intertwine this with his ability to pluck the ball out of the air, the power he can put into his shots and his heading ability, and you have an old-fashioned number 9.

He is a confidence player, and will love the fact that he will now become first choice striker down at West Ham. Sam Allardyce has worked wonders with tactics involving big, powerful strikers, as shown by his time at Bolton with Kevin Davies, as-well as when he was in charge of Carroll at Newcastle. He will be able to utilise all of Carroll’s abilities both on the floor and in the air. Nolan always had a great partnership with Carroll during their time at Newcastle and this could be a key pairing for West Ham’s battle to avoid relegation. The new signing Matt Jarvis has a wand of a left foot and his service to Carroll will be something the Geordie will be massively looking forward to.

Anyway, it looks as though West Ham will be very keen to keep Carroll at the end of the year, and if he helps them stay up, I am sure that they will fork out the £18 million to make him a permanent Hammer, and it’s something he deserves. Treat him well West Ham.

Best of luck Andy. YNWA.

(Suppose I better put some kind of bet here, to justify it going on a betting page..)

1 point: West Ham to finish top 10 – 13/2 Stan James

Liverpool v Manchester City – Match Preview, with Betting Tips.

Liverpool play host to Premier League holders, Manchester City tomorrow, in what will be a tough game for the home side.

Liverpool have began the season very slowly, starting with a  3-0 defeat away at The Hawthorns, although The Reds did have the right to feel aggrieved after some controversial calls from referee, Phil Dowd.

Zoltan Gera opened the scoring just before the break, with a sensational strike from 25 yards, which Pepe Reina could do nothing about. This came against the run of play, as Liverpool had enjoyed a dominant spell in possession, in which Luis Suarez went close to opening the scoring numerous times.

After the break was more of the same, as Liverpool created chances, but failed to convert. And when Shane Long raced clear on goal and was brought down by Danny Agger, it was game over.  It looked a soft penalty, but one that had to be followed up with a red card for Agger, once it had been given. Although the penalty was missed, there was huge gaps in the defence and the Baggies took full advantage, winning another (very soft) penalty, and scoring another from big-man Lukaku.

There was a few positives to take out of the game for Liverpool fans, with the creativity of Suarez being an obvious one. Joe Allen had a solid game, and was never scared to throw himself into a tackle, and his passing was solid, as-per.

However Agger’s suspension means that Liverpool will be short at the back, with the veteran Jamie Carragher looking set to play along-side Martin Skrtel. Carragher has been a grand servant for Liverpool, but has slowly started to decline over the past few seasons. He lacks pace, and although his reading of the game is still excellent, there is only so far that can get you when playing against the likes of Tevez and Balotelli.

Attacking-wise, the new signing, Oussama Assaidi, looking set to be given a starting role, he will add pace and trickery to a rather flat Liverpool front trio. Borini and Downing are not out and out attacking-wingers, so the fact that Assaidi looks to get at full-backs and is not afraid to cut-in an shoot, is a major plus for Liverpool’s attack.

Suarez if often wasteful, and his poor scoring record is very well-documented, with pundits questioning whether he is an out and out striker. However, something which he most definitely is, is a big game player. He always turns up when Liverpool need him most, and tomorrow is when Liverpool really need him.

They will be looking to send a message out that they will definitely want to challenge for fourth place, with the position looking wide-open this year. A win against holders City will highlight their credentials, but it will be a major ask.

Manchester City managed to scrape through a tricky game against newcomers Southampton at the Etihad last week. They found themselves 2-1 down with twenty minutes to go, but battled back bravely and secured the three-points, winning 3-2.

They constantly looked a threat when attacking, and were unlucky not to score more, squandering numerous decent chances, including a penalty.

However, defensively they didn’t look as strong as they had done previously, and showed they were susceptible to counter-attacking football. Liverpool will look to punish this tomorrow, but it won’t be easy, as they are sure to play a little deeper than they did at home.

Key-man Sergio Aguero will miss the game, after sustaining a serious injury in the opener, meaning Balotelli could be in line for a recall to the starting line-up. Him and Martin Skrtel have never really gotten along, after clashing at Anfield last season, when Balotelli seen red for two nasty challenges. He has matured ever so slightly and will be out to send a message to his manager, as to why he deserves a start.

Overall:

I think Manchester City may just be too strong for Liverpool in the final-third tomorrow afternoon. Joe Allen and Lucas will make sure Liverpool have their fair share of possession in the centre-midfield, but with no real finisher on the pitch, Liverpool will struggle to convert. Whereas Manchester City have a wealth of riches in the attacking department, with Balotelli, Tevez, Dzeko, Yaya Toure etc all known to be deadly in front of goal. But it is Samir Nasri who will be a major threat. The Frenchman has carried on where he left on from the Euro’s and looked extremely lively and creative in and around the penalty box. He will have some fun attacking Liverpool’s full-backs tomorrow, who often like to attack themselves, so there is sure to be space. Balotelli will have too much pace and power for Carragher to handle, and it could be a very long afternoon on Merseyside for the veteran Scouser.

Tips:

3 points: Manchester City win @ 6/4 – Paddy Power/Stan James

1.5 points: Manchester City to win to nil – 4/1 – SkyBet

0.5 points e.w – FGS: Balotelli – 8/1 – Stan James

0.5 points e.w – FGS: Nasri – 12/1 – Stan James

0.5 points: Manchester City 3-0 – 33/1 – Stan James

 

 

25/8/12 – Weekend Football Preview and Tips.

After an opening weekend filled with shocks, hopefully we can thin down this weekends proceedings and find some value bets.

Tasty Treble:

Manchester United struggled to hit top-gear against a determined Everton side, who thoroughly deserved their victory. They will be looking to bounce back immediately and lay down their title credentials against a Fulham side who are coming here off the back of a 5-0 victory. Confidence will be high in the Fulham camp, but United’s attacking prowess should be enough to comfortably see off The Cottagers. 1/3 is a must in any accumulator.

Tottenham also suffered defeat in their first fame of the new season, at the hands of Newcastle. They played good football throughout and were unfortunate not to be leading by the break, after hitting the woodwork numerous times. Spurs lacked the clinical touch in the final third but they have finally secured the signing of Emmanuel Adebayor who will bring much needed goals. They face an in-form West Brom side who comprehensively beat Liverpool 3-0 last weekend. However the first goal was a wonder-goal, and the Baggies constantly looked vulnerable at the back, but Liverpool couldn’t take their chances. When Agger received a red-card in the second-half the game was effectively over, as gaps began to appear in defence as Liverpool attacked, looking for an equaliser and route back into the game. The scoreline flattered West Brom and this is a factor in the current 8/15 for Spurs. If it was going to be played towards the back end of the year, Spurs would be 2/5 – 1/3 to get all the 8/15 you can.

Chelsea have started the season in great form but will face their toughest test on Saturday evening. They host Newcastle at Stamford Bridge and will be looking to eradicate the bad memories from last year when they were defeated by two Papiss Cisse wonder-goals. The defence looked a little frail when they played Reading earlier in the week, but that should have sharpened them up and made them aware of where their problems lay. They attacked with great menace, and with Newcastle’s venture to Greece mid-week, they should be able to take advantage of the tired defence. 8/15 looks a fair price and should mopped up.

Manchester United/Chelsea/Tottenham all to win pays 2.2/1 with Paddy Power and looks an absolute cert to start your weekend. 

Draw Double:

Eight of the last 12 games between Aston Villa and Everton have ended in a draw. Aston Villa know they are in for a tough season and will go all out to try and win games at Villa Park. Everton look solid all-over the pitch and will be difficult to break down, they have one of the best defences in the league and I can’t see them conceding many, but with Moyes’ tendency to play a lone striker away from home, Jelavic looks set to be isolated, with the best chances of goals coming from the midfield. Either-way it looks set to be a stalemate and the 12/5 looks value.

Both Norwich and QPR suffered humiliating 5-0 defeats on the opening day, and both will be looking to bounce back with a win. Neither team played with any real fluency and they both looked as though they needed a few more weeks of pre-season before they would be up to scratch. It is worth taking the chance that their torrid runs continue and I think the two relegation candidates look set to battle out a bore-draw at Carrow Road. 12/5 looks fair.

Aston Villa/Everton and Norwich/QPR both to draw pays 10.56/1 with SkyBet.

Acca:

Southampton came out of their 3-2 defeat at Manchester City, with great credit. They played some brilliant attacking football and looked threatening on the counter-attack. If they manage to sort out their defensive frailties they can make a real push or the top-half this season. They play host to Wigan Athletic who look set to be in for a long season, and the St Mary’s crowd will play a  major part in guiding their team to success this season. The 11/10 looks big, and I would back The Saints to get their first win of the Premier League season.

Arsenal are away at Stoke, and although they haven’t had the greatest success at the Britannia in recent years, I can’t ignore the odds-against for the classy footballing side at the home of the hoof-it specialists.  In recent years Arsenal’s centre-forwards have often been intimidated by the big Stoke centre-backs, but this year they have Lucas Podolski who can handle his own. Behind him is the key-man, Santi Cazorla. He is an outstanding winger, and can play anywhere across the midfield or up-top. He has pace, trickery and an end-product and will run Stoke ragged. The 5/4 is a massive price.

Sunderland held Arsenal to a goalless draw on the opening day and now play host to new-boys Reading. The new signing of Louis Saha gives strength to the Sunderland attack and they should run out comfortable winners over a Reading side who also played mid-week.

Liverpool play host to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon and the Merseyside club are going through a transitional period. The style of play they are looking to play under Brendan Rodgers will come in time, but this is clearly a work-in-progress and at the minute, Liverpool just don’t look like scoring. Manchester City on the other hand have a number of attacking options and should put Liverpool to the sword, with the suspended Daniel Agger a big blow. 6/4 looks big.

Southampton, Sunderland, Manchester City, Arsenal pays: 18.3/1 with Paddy Power.

 

“There’s fantasy, there’s fable and then there’s Frankel.”

I will never forget my first encounter with the beast Frankel. It was the 13th of August 2010, I had been 18 for just over five months and had become a regular in my local bookmakers. My luck was never that great and the older gentlemen had always had a laugh and joke about my tendency to fall one short in doubles/trebles/accumulators etc.

“Friday the 13th, it may be your lucky day” one of the gentlemen quipped. And little did I know how lucky I would become that day. It was a typical Friday night in my area, very grim, results were out the following week, but I had succumbed to defeat and accepted I would be facing a tedious third year in college. It was pouring with rain, and many were taking shelter in the bookmakers, the smell of tea and coffee filled the dimly lit room and the sounds of the games machines were ringing loud.

I had taken my usual stance by the evening meetings sheet in the corner as it ticked to 6:15, “Decent little maiden this, must be a reason this fav (Frankel) is so short.” I said to someone also perusing at the Racing Post. They laughed, “No value, it’s going to be one of the Goldolphin pair.”

I had only popped down to pick up some tea for me and my mum, but was always dragged in my the lure of the bookmakers, the chance to watch some racing and hear stories of what the women behind the desk has seen today. I had £10 on me, and was supposed to be going out the following week for results night. I knew that it wouldn’t be plausible for me to have a night out with that money.

I threw caution to the wind, I had heard many good things in the run-up to the maiden and decided to see if Friday the 13th was my lucky day. I managed to get 2/1 for him and threw it on to win. The weather and ground were atrocious at Newmarket when he lined up at the start. ‘I hope he handles the ground.’ I thought.

The race began and he was held up towards the rear. He cruised up on the bridle two furlongs out, and then powered into the lead travelling well with a furlong to go. Nathaniel (future King George winner) challenged in the final furlong, but Frankel showed a willing attitude and stuck on gamely to win by half a length.

Nobody around me reacted, apart from a few cursed their luck and walked out. Everyone just thought they had witnessed a standard Newmarket maiden. How wrong we were. This would be the last time I would ever be lucky enough to get odds-against in a single race for the Freak. I knew he was going to be special, but just how special, nobody could have predicted.

Since this maiden at Newmarket, over two years ago, he has gone on to win another twelve races, taking his impressive tally to thirteen victories from thirteen races, including nine group-ones.

Frankel had three more races in his two-year-old campaign, following his maiden victory. He went to Doncaster as a warm 1/2 favourite, and destroyed the field by 13 lengths, only being asked the question deep into the final furlong.

This performance seen him installed as the long odds-on favourite for the Group 2 Royal Lodge stakes at Ascot. This was where he would stamp his class and bring massive attention to himself as a potential superstar. Held up in last place coming around Swinley Bottom, Tom Queally gave Frankel an inch of reign and the horse reacted instantly, rounding the field in a number of strides, powering into the lead three furlongs out. It was a moment in which we first got to see just how incredible his turn of foot actually was, as he went clear almost instantaneously, going on to win by a cosy ten lengths.

This was enough to allow him to take his chance in his first Group 1. The Dewhurst, a well known trial for the following years 2000 Guineas. Starting at 4/6, he was facing his first real test in the bookmakers eyes, the well-fancied Dream Ahead (who would later go on to sweep up numerous Group One’s over 6f).

Even though the race was on Channel 4 I had decided to go and watch the race in town, to sample the atmosphere as everyone gathered to see if Frankel was as good as the hype suggested. He was. A special was announced before the race, 4/1 for Frankel to win the Dewhurst/Guineas double. He was already a short price for the next years 2000 Guineas and I knew another win would mean he would crumble once more. What a bet that turned out to be.

The result was never really in doubt as although he pulled early on, he was given space by Queally, and that was all he needed. He powered down the middle of the track, eating up the ground on his rivals, going on to win by two and a half lengths, with the following years Irish 2000 Guineas winner Roderic O’Connor in second. Dream Ahead disappointed down the field.

After Frankel had been put away for a winter break, he re-appeared at Newbury after 182 days, to blow away a Greenham field which had future Group winners Excelebration and Strong Suit in attendance. This was enough to cement his place at the head of 2000 Guineas market, as he was set to go off the first odds-on shot in many years.

30th April 2011 was the day that made Frankel a superstar. A simply magnificent performance in which he blew away his twelve rivals with consummate ease and landed the first classic of the year. He didn’t adhere to his pace-makers tactics and went straight out to the lead himself. His stride lengthened and by half-way he had built up a ten-length lead. No-one could claw it back and although the lead was whittled down slightly in the closing stages, he still landed the prize by six lengths. It was a performance no-one who was lucky enough to witness that day, will ever forget.

He went on to notch up three more Group One victories in his 3yo season, bagging the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot, The Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and The QEII at Ascot. It was his victory over the older horse Canford Cliffs which was the most impressive, as it was his first time up against older horses and followed a barrage of attacks on Henry Cecil for allowing Tom Queally to keep the ride.

Queally allowed Frankel to take it up coming around the bend at Ascot and set sail for home over three and a half furlongs out. He built up a healthy lead before struggling to hold off the late challenge of Zoffany. He did manage to by three-quarters of a length, but questions were raised over Queally’s riding tactics.

He returned at Goodwood for the tricky four-runner field, facing older horses for the first time. The pressure was on Queally and he knew he had to deliver. There was no pace early on and he made the positive move to make the pace himself on-board Frankel, he set a steady pace and then kicked for home over a furlong and a half out. The race was over in an instant, the electric turn of foot we had came to expect from Frankel was in full force and Canford Cliffs had no answer to him, finishing a five-length second. No-one could question Frankel or Queally’s ability now.

After defeating Excelebration in another impressive display at Ascot, he was put away again for a well-deserved winter break.

217 days later, he re-appeared in the Lockinge against old rival Excelbration once more. Many wondered if he would train on and whether a four-year-old campaign would be worthwhile, whereas the majority of the racing public were just pleased they had another chance to witness the superstar in action. He cruised into the lead on the bit over a furlong out, before drawing away once more to bag his first success as a 4yo and make it ten from ten in his lifetime.

Starting at 1/10 for the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, it was definitely not a race for betting, yet it was still a race to savour. There was a big pre-race hype as to who would be more impressive during Royal Ascot, Frankel, or the wonder-mare travelling over from Australia, Black Caviar.

Frankel sent out his message during the Queen Anne, that he was not going to be knocked off his perch. An 11 length demolition of a Group One field was simply amazing. Top hats were flying in the air, cheers were ringing around, people were gob-smacked at what they had just witnessed. And still, the best was yet to come.

Sceptics had always stated that Frankel needed to race over a longer trip to truely test himself and prove his worth at the top level. Henry Cecil obliged and stated that Frankel would be heading to York for the Juddmonte International over 1 mile 2 furlongs. He gave his superstar a prep run in the Sussex Stakes, which had won 12 months previously, and it was a precession once more as Frankel demolished his three rivals at odds of 1/20.

This set him nicely for a crack at today’s Juddmonte International. The real test of how good he is. Could he handle the step up in trip? The bookmakers certainly thought so, as they priced him up at 1/10.

The anticipation was massive, as the crowds all clamoured for a photograph of the beast. The parade was packed, and Henry Cecil had made an appearance after his recent battle with cancer. There was only one thing the crowd wanted to see, and that was a Frankel victory.

There were three pace-makers declared, so there was never going to be a shortage of pace, and St Nicholas Abbey was going out to test Frankel’s reserves. Could he handle it.

Coming into the straight, Frankel was around ten lengths off the pace as he began to follow St Nicholas Abbey towards the stand rail. Queally didn’t move a muscle on his mount as he edged ever closer to St Nic. With two furlongs left to go Frankel cruised into the lead and when asked by his jockey, Frankel bounded clear to win by six lengths and showed no signs of stopping.

The crowd erupted, millions of viewers at home and in betting shops all smiling as they understand just how good this horse is. 13 wins in 13 races, including nine Group Ones. Once in a lifetime. I am 20 years of age and have already come to terms with the fact that I am very unlikely to ever witness another horse quite like Frankel.

He is a machine and over the two-years we have been luckily enough to follow him, he has changed horse-racing forever. He has brought in fans from all-over the world, who have been en-captured by his magical story and meaning to both Cecil and Prince Khalid Abdullah. He was named after the legendary American trainer Bobby Frankel, who sadly died of leukaemia in November 2009, and he has lived up to his ever so special name.

Racing fans around the world are screaming for Frankel to go to Paris in October to contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and I for one think it would cap off a marvellous career for both Frankel and Sir Henry, who is yet to win the big race. The whole of the world would unite and the majority would be hoping for the same outcome and what could become a very emotional afternoon in Paris.

However regardless of what Frankel does next, or if in fact he does even race again. No-one can dispute he is the greatest racehorse we have encountered in this generation, and it will take something special to top him in my lifetime. Long live ‘the freak’ Frankel. 

York Ebor Meeting – Opening Day Preview

It’s that time of year again, when trainers’ from all-around England and Ireland set-sail for the Knavesmire to do battle. It’s always been regarded as one of the highlights of the flat racing season, and this year is no different.

Juddmonte International

There has been a bigger build-up than ever to this years Ebor meeting, thanks to one horse. ‘The freak’ Frankel. Officially the greatest racehorse in the world, Timeform have given him a rating of 147, the highest the have ever given to a flat horse.

He has demolished every field he has ever faced, winning 12/12 including eight group-ones. He is a horse that only comes along once in a lifetime and must be treasured by racing fans across the globe.

Tomorrow is the first time that the the son of Galileo will be stepping up to 10f and if he will answering the sceptics who have always said we would not get to see how good he is, until he is stepped up above a mile.  He is facing a high-class field and it is not going to be easy for Frankel, as trainer Henry Cecil has stated he is going into ‘unknown territory.’

Cecil said: “Frankel seems in good order at the moment leading into the Juddmonte. I do not think the distance is going to be a problem, although we are going into unknown territory.”

His main competition comes in the shape of the classy St Nicholas Abbey from the Aidan O’Brien yard. He rounded off last years campaign by landing the Breeders Cup Turf, and has managed to add the Coronation Cup to his haul this year, landing it in impressive fashion. His best races have came over 12f and he is yet to win over 10f, failing twice when long-odds both times. Both of these races came on heavy ground however, and he can be forgiven. It will take a lot to beat the mighty Frankel, but with Frankel’s stamina being an unknown, you can guarantee St Nic will be staying on at the death to try and catch him and 11/2 looks a solid each-way bet.

Farhh has progressed massively since landing the Thirsk Hunt Cup in May, going on to fill the runner-up spot behind Frankel and Nathanial in two group-ones, and third behind So You Think in another group-one. He is clearly a horse on the up,  stays 10f, as is proved by his two placings in Group Ones at 10f, and he is partnered by Frankie Dettori. All these factors mean that the current 12/1 on offer may be snapped up by shrewd each-way punters, and Frankie fans.

Last years winner Twice Over reappears, attempting to emulate his success last year when he handed Khalid Abdullah his first Juddmonte International . However he looks up against a mammoth task, after struggling to land a major blow in Group 3’s this year. He seems to have regressed slightly and it would be a surprise to see him battling out the finish.

Planteur arrives on the back of a disappointing run in the Prince of Wales’s stakes at Ascot when he was well-fancied. He never looked likely to land a blow. Trainer Marco Botti has indicated he needs the ground to ease to be able to run, as he would be willing to take his chance on good ground, but nothing firmer. He is clearly a talented horse on his day but has lost his way since finishing third in the Dubai World Cup, a return to that form would see him challenging for a place, but it looks a big risk to bank on him returning to form and his 33/1 price indicates this.

Sri Putra is an interesting candidate. Ultra-consistent and often over-looked and over-priced in these type of events, his 50/1 price is far too big. He bagged a Group 2 over course and distance last time out, battling on gamely to defeat Afsare. It wasn’t the strongest of Group 2’s, but the manner in which he battled suggested there is more to come from Roger Varian’s 6-y-o.

The remainder of the contenders look set to be pacemakers with Bullet Train looking set to make the pace for Frankel and Twice Over’s benefit, and Robin Hood and Windsor Palace helping set a good gallop for St Nicholas Abbey.

Overall, it looks set to be the crowning of Frankel as the greatest racehorse of our generation and possibly even of all-time. He has enough class to get him through the extra-two furlongs and his turn of foot will be too much for his opposition. St Nic does his best racing when he is held up, so if they attempt to test Frankel by keeping him up with the pace in an attempt to kick for home early and test Frankel’s reserves, they may be in fact ruining their best chance of beating him anyway. Farhh could be the best bet for the forecast in this case if rain comes, and Sri Putra may manage to snatch the third place.

My Prediction: 1) Frankel. 2) St Nicholas Abbey. 3) Sri Putra

Great Voltigeur Stakes

It will take an incredible performance to rival that of Sea Moon’s demolition in the Great Voltigeur last year, when Sir Michael Stoute’s colt routed the field with consummate ease, going on to win by eight lengths.

This year, Main Sequence, runner-up behind Camelot in the Investec Derby, will hoping to emulate this. He ran a great race to get as close as he did to Camelot who looks a real star, before going on to finish fourth in France behind Inperial Monarch after having a luckless run. He encountered trouble in running on numerous occasions, and without this occurring he would have been a lot closer, and challenging at the death.  He will be hoping to make up for this tomorrow and 9/4 looks a brilliant price.

Henry Cecil’s pair of Thomas Chippendale and Noble Mission are next in the market. The highly-rated Thomas Chippendale stepped out of handicap company and landed a Group 2, staying on best of all to land the spoils ahead of stable companion Noble Mission. Noble Mission has since come out and landed a Group 3, battling on well to beat Encke by a nose, who also reappears tomorrow. Both of Cecil’s horses will stay the trip, and enjoy the ground. But it is whether or not they will be able to go with the classy Main Sequence, who looks the one to beat.

Encke (blue) and Noble Mission battle it out.

Godolphin’s pair of Encke and Energizer are ones to take closer looks at. Encke went down to a nose to Noble Mission last time, but looks on the upgrade and it would be no surprise to see him reverse the placings tomorrow. Michael Barzalona was still learning about how to ride him last time, and after seeing him battling from the front for the entire last furlong, it may pay to ride him positively tomorrow and maybe even make the running. Dettori is riding the former German trained colt, Energizer. He made a big impact on his British debut, landing the Hampton Court at Royal Ascot, and it is interesting to see that the boys in blue have acquired him. They clearly rate him highly, and he will be wearing the blue cap, with Frankie on-board, but I think Encke will be too strong for his stable-mate.

The John Gosden trained Thought Worthy completes the field, in what is a very competitive race. Thought Worthy was very highly thought of by Gosden, and began his career very impressively, landing his maiden at the first-time of asking, before finishing second in a Group 3 behind Imperial Monarch. He then beat Noble Mission in his prep race for the Derby, where he went on to finish a respectable fourth behind Camelot. He then went on to finish behind Thomas Chippendale and Noble Mission on his most recent start, in which it seemed he didn’t completely get the trip. The step up to 12f seems to have stretched his stamina slightly and with the good gallop likely to be set by Encke, he may be found out.

I fancy Main Sequence to stamp his class over his rivals and indicate his claims for the St Leger next month. 9/4 seems a brilliant price on the basis of what he has already achieved, and the amount of improvement he is open to. Encke is a battler and if Barzalona manages to dictate the pace, he will be very dangerous and not many will get past him and I think Thomas Chippendale looks set to get the better of stable-mate Noble Mission for third.

1) Main Sequence. 2) Encke 3) Thomas Chippendale

Acomb Stakes

This year we have a very competitive five-runner field for this years Acomb Stakes, headed as usual by an Aidan O’Brien juvenile. Afonso De Sousa began his career, finishing third in a very competitive maiden at the Curragh. O’Brien clearly saw some potential in ADS s he chose to bring him over to Newmarket for a strong maiden, where he was sent off 7/2 second favourite, finishing a respectable third. He then went back to Ireland and finally got rid of his maiden tag at the third time of asking, routing the field by nine-lengths after being eased down late on. He looks set to play a major part in tomorrows proceedings.

Ebn Arab is next in the betting, having only had one start, but producing arguably the most impressive performance of the field to date. He won his maiden over course and distance last month, producing a deadly turn of foot, going on to win by a comfortable five-lengths. The runner-up had since been out and franked the form, and the 9/4 on offer now isn’t likely to last very long. I can imagine he will start favourite, with the help of Paul Hanagan in the saddle.

The most interesting candidate for me is Dundonnell. Roger Charlton’s colt finished third on his racecourse debut, in the same maiden that Afonso De Sousa had came over from Ireland for. He finished ahead of the current favourite in that race without having had a run before-hand. Since then Dundonnell has absolutely destroyed the field in a Lingfield maiden, winning by 12 lengths. He showed a good burst of speed, and the ability to maintain the pace right to the line. With Jack Doyle in the saddle, one of the classiest jockeys in the weighing room, the 5/2 looks huge.

Steeler, from the Mark Johnston stable, also holds a slight chance in proceedings. He has run twice to date, finishing second in his maiden before running out the winner in a very competitive affair at Goodwood. Kieren Fallon is in the saddle and his powerful drive has been known to make all the difference in tight races. Raven’s Pass’ first crop have been doing very well, and the firm ground could help him emulate the success of his father.

American Impact completes the field, but he looks up against it having not shown anything special in two starts, scraping through a weak four-runner maiden at Musselburgh 11 days ago.

1) Dundonnell 2) Ebn Arab 3) Afonso De Sousa

Advised Bets:

1 point win treble – Frankel/Main Sequence/Dundonnell – 11.3/1 – Various

2 point win – Main Sequence – 9/4 – Various

1 point – Frankel to win by less than 5 lengths – 2/1 Paddy Power

Return of the Acca.

The Premier League season finally returns tomorrow, and so does the chance for everyone to get on their favourite £1 to a three/four-figure acca.

Nothing can beat the excitement of sitting in front of Gilette Soccer Saturday, with Jeff Stelling reeling off the latest scores, desperately flicking down your slip to see if it’s one of your games. Hearing Paul Merson scream like a girl in the background and knowing he’s commentating on one of your games, the dreaded wait to see if it’s for or against your boys.  Or sitting at the back of the coach on the way back from an away game, desperately checking your phone for the Yeovil score, as it’s the last one you need to and your bet. (They will probably have conceded an injury time equaliser if my luck with accumalators is anything to go by.)  And once a season, you might be lucky enough to get one up.

Everyone loves an accumulator, but if you want to win money consistently, you will have to reduce your selections to doubles and trebles, as this is the only real way to make money from football betting.

With the unpredictability of English football, every added selection turns the odds into the bookmakers favour, so it key to keep them to a minimum.

Right, on with this weeks selections.

Tasty Treble:

The first week of the Premier League season is often a rusty, cagey afffair with most teams still struggling with match fitness, so it usually pays to side with teams who have already played in competitive matches. I.e European qualifying or the Community Shield. This leaves us with Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. Looks a solid treble.

Chelsea are away at Wigan and look set to condemn the Latics to their first defeat of what will be a difficult season. 4/7 seems a fair price, but with Manchester City 1/6 to get the better of new boys Southampton, It hardly seems worth it.

This is until you see that Liverpool are Evens to beat West Brom. Liverpool have had a brilliant pre-season, and Brendan Rodgers seems to be getting the best out of his players with his new tiki-taka philosophy. His new aqcuisitions look as though they will slot in perfect to his new 4-3-3 formation and Joe Allen will be able to dictate the play in what should be a dominant Liverpool performance. West Brom are often wasteful with possesion, and may take a while to trutly settle under their new manager Steve Clarke. Lukaku looks a solid signing on loan from Chelsea, but Agger and Skrtel should have enough to stop the big man. This treble pays 5/2 with SkyBet and looks as  solid as any 5/2 shot you will find this weekend.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool – all to win – 5/2 – SkyBet

Draw Double:

Elsewhere many teams won’t be as sharp, and it is likely there won’t be too many goals in certain games this weekend. This is where the value is, to back teams to draw. The first game that fits into this mould is Reading v Stoke. Reading play nice attacking football on the floor, which is going to be countered by Stoke’s long-ball philosophy. Reading will try and get off the mark positively, knowing that these are the types of games they will have to win, but they will struggle defensively against the height and power. It looks set to be a stalemate and at 12/5, it looks a fair bet.

Newcastle v Tottenham is arguably the game of the weekend. Both teams finished in the top 5 last year and will be out to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. Newcastle have brilliant attacking options in the shape of Ba and Ciise, whereas Spurs attacking options are limited, with Defoe looking the only real threat. Siggurdson looks set to make his debut and will cause problems, but Modric being left out is a huge blow for their hopes this year. Defensively, Spurs look to have a solid back line, with a perfect mix of pace and power, unlike Newcastle who always seem to look prone to conceding. This being said, I think the brilliant attack of Newcastle will be thwarted by the solid back-line of Spurs, and although Newcastle’s defence is often a bit shaky, Spurs’ attacking threats don’t look up to really troubling them. It looks set to be a low-scoring affair, and it is worth taking a punt on the draw at this stage of the season.

Reading/Stoke and Newcastle/Spurs – Draws – 10.22/1

Acca:

Athough I’ve stated it is not the way to make money, it is the unwritten rule that every male must place an accumalator on a Saturday morning, in the hope of a free night out in the aftermath. So we have to have a crack at it.

Everton predominantly start the season slowly, and United will be out to prove a point with their new strike-force. The 10/11 on offer seems fair and looks one to be thrown into any accumalators.

Arsenal have had a tricky transfer window, losing their captain and talisman RVP, but Santi Cazorla has gone under the radar and is arguably the signing of the window. They should comfortably brush Sunderland aside at The Emirates. 2/5 is a banker.

Add these with the already chosen treble and you have yourself a SkyBet special, currently an 8/1 enhanced accumulator.

Arsenal, United, Liverpool, City, Chelsea – 8/1. SkyBet

Arsenal, United, Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Fulham and QPR – 32/1 SkyBet

First Goalscorer’s:

The first goalscorer market is always a popular market, and with good reason. There is often tremendous value to be had and this weekend is no different, with some seemingly massive prices.

Robin Van Persie has hit the headlines after his big money move to Manchester United, and will be out to prove his worth. He is currently 5/1 with Coral, which looks massive, when you take into account the service he is going to receive. With a selection of brilliant wide players, Young, Valencia and Nani, they will be able to attack Baines and Hibbert who are not the quickest full-backs. This will ensure they can get deliveries into the box for RVP to attack, and he is usually deadly in front of goal. With Rooney and Kagawa sitting behind him, he is sure to be given the best possible chance to get off the mark and 5/1 seems massive.

Fernando Torres seems to have found his scoring touch again after collecting the Golden Boot at the Euro’s and netting in the Community shield. He is up against a poor Wigan defence who lack pace and he should have a field day, 4/1 looks value.

Finally Luis Suarez has looked as tricky as ever during pre-season and his nimble footwork will cause all kinds of problems for West Brom’s usually static defence. He looks set to play as the main striker in a forward three and will torment the Baggies all afternoon. 11/2 looks huge.

RVP/Torres/Suarez FGS treble – 194/1 

RVP/Torres/Suarez any-time treble – 13/1 

 

Bets advised:

2 points: Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool – all to win – 5/2 – SkyBet

1 point: Reading/Stoke and Newcastle/Spurs – Draws – 10.22/1 – SkyBet

1 point: Arsenal, United, Liverpool, City, Chelsea – 8/1 -SkyBet

0.5 points: Arsenal, United, Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Fulham and QPR – 32/1 – SkyBet

0.5 point: RVP/Torres/Suarez FGS treble – 194/1 – Coral

1 point: RVP/Torres/Suarez any-time treble – 13/1 – Coral

 

Liverpool – Premier League 2012/13 – Preview and best bets.

Last season was one of bitter disappointment on the domestic front for everyone involved with Liverpool football club. Not even managing to win the Carling Cup and reaching the F.A Cup final could mask just how much finishing 8th and behind rivals Everton had hurt the fans.

Going into the season, the team had high expectations after big money signings Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Jose Enrique all arrived Anfield. It was thought that the team now had the perfect balance and had acquired a high-class winger, something which had been lacking in the past, but it wasn’t to be as many of the big money signings disappointed.

Andy Carroll had a dreadful start to the season and found goals extremely hard to come by, before managing to turn it around and become a fan favourite with his gritty, determined performances and managing to score the winner in the F.A Cup semi-final against rivals Everton. Stewart Downing managed to go throughout the whole season without scoring a goal or even getting an assist in the Premier League. Henderson and Adam both struggled to impress the fans and it looked destined to be ‘one of those seasons’ as Liverpool struggled to pick up wins at Anfield.

A lot rested on the shoulders of star-man Luis Suarez who had started the season brightly, but following a controversial race-row and subsequent eight-game ban, it took him a while to regain his form and the team had succumbed to a disappointing eighth placed finish. This was enough to convince the Anfield board to get rid of manager and fan-favourite Kenny Dalglish, a decision which was not taken lightly.

New Manager:

However, it was the right decision, regardless of how much sentiment the fans all have for Dalglish. He was never a master tactician, and this was something which Liverpool desperately needed. Step forward, Brendan Rodgers. The former-Swansea manager was renowned for playing attacking free-flowing football and administering the tiki-taka football seen at the illustrious Barcelona. He was a major part of the surprising success Swansea achieved last season and in June 2012, he signed a long-term deal to become the new Liverpool manager.

New Signings:

His first steps in pre-season have been to bring in the highly-rated Fabio Borini who has worked with at both Chelsea and Swansea and former Swansea midfield general Joe Allen.

Borini looks the type of player Liverpool were crying out for, a poacher. He certainly knows where the net is, scoring 9 in 24 games during a short loan spell at Roma last season, and he has already opened his Anfield account on his first game on Merseyside, opening the scoring against FC Gomel in the Europa League qualifying game. He is a tireless worker and works well off the ball, tracking back and creating space for other players to run into. He is a brilliant addition to the squad, and due to his relatively small transfer fee in today’s market of just over £10 million, means there is little pressure on his shoulders, which is sure to help him.

Joe Allen has followed his former manager to Anfield and he has said working with Rodgers’ was one of the main factors that finalised the deal.

To join back up with him was definitely a big pull for me,” said Allen. “Brendan is so passionate about his football. He works day in, day out to improve the team and everyone individually. Everyone wants to work alongside someone who has that way about them. One of his best things is his man management. He commands the respect of everyone. I have a lot of faith that Brendan can bring success. I wanted to be part of this project and I’ve really got a good feeling this football club is going to go from strength to strength in the next couple of seasons.”

The Welsh-man has raised many eyebrows with his £15 million price-tag but it looks set to be a wise investment over years to come. The 22 year-old had a 91% success rate last season, higher than Barcelona and Spain star Andres Iniesta. His ability to keep the ball in tricky situations and look to build moves from a deep-lying role, is something Liverpool have missed since the departure of Xabi Alonso three years ago. Last season he managed to make 110 tackles, the third-highest in the division, and he looks set to take some of the defensive pressure off Lucas, and free-up Steven Gerrard, allowing the skipper to revert to his favoured free-role.

Goalkeepers:

Pepe Reina was rather disappointing last season, by his own high standards. The Spaniard began to allow silly mistakes to creep into his game for a spell around the middle of the season, but managed to shake it off and began towards like his old self coming into the latter parts of the year. However he got sent-off in a league game against Newcastle, which resulted in him missing the F.A Cup semi-final against Everton, which Liverpool went on to win 2-1. He returned for the final, which Liverpool lost, but was also in goal for the Carling Cup final victory against Cardiff. This taste of silverware is sure to inspire him next season, and wet his appetite for more success and although he was part of the Spanish Euro winning squad, he didn’t take part in a game, so will return to Anfield fresh after a nice break. On his day he is in the top 5 goalkeepers in the world, without a doubt, so the team can have the faith in Reina bailing them out of sticky situations. Brad Jones, Doni and Peter Gulasci are competing for the second spot behind Reina, although unless Pepe gets injured or suspended, it is likely they will be competing for appearances in the earlier rounds of cup competitions, and none look set to threaten him for a first-team position just yet.

Defence:

Liverpool have always been renowned for their imperious centre-half partnerships and this year looks no different. There hadn’t been a stand-out partnership since the days of Hyypia and Henchoz, but now Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have struck up a partnership that will be key to any success Liverpool have this year. Both players were reported to be City-bound, but with Daniel Agger’s recent tattoo of ‘YNWA’ across his knuckles and the £27 million price-tag slapped across his head, it looks as if he will be staying at Anfield for at least another season.

The football that Rodgers is looking to be playing next year will suit Daniel Agger perfectly. He is one of the greatest footballing defenders on the planet, and always looks comfortable with the ball at his feet. He has always liked to bring the ball out from the back, and never been scared to get forward, something Rodgers will be looking for his defence to do. Skrtel has began to follow suit and could often be seen making forward runs towards the end of last season, and also frequently during pre-season. The pair are disciplined when they need to be, brilliant in the air, powerful, quick and arguably the best centre-half partnership in the league.

In terms of full-backs, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique are both quick attacking-minded players who will join in with attacks which is important when playing a rather compact midfield three. They will offer width when the midfield and attackers get sucked into the centre, as-well as being quick enough to track back and make sure they fulfil their defensive duties. Johnson managed to get on the score-sheet against FC Gomel and Rodgers seems keen to allow both him and Enrique the freedom to go forward which will benefit the team, by being able to attack in numbers which didnt happen often enough last year.

Midfield:

Liverpool look set to play a three-man midfield for the first time in a long time, which is already pleasing the fans. Gone are the days of the rigid 4-4-2 or defensive minded 4-5-1, Rodgers  looks set to play a free-flowing attacking 4-3-3. Joe Allen and Lucas are expected to be the sitting pair, who will slot in to defensive duties when Agger or Skrtel begin to attack. Their discipline and range of passing will be major assets to the team after Livepool have attempted to play attacking-minded player in a defensive position in the shape of Gerrard, Henderson, Shelvey and Aquilani (when played), with very little success.

With the pair likely to sit deep, this will give Steven Gerrard his favoured free-role back, which is where he has had the greatest success so far in his career. The last time he was given the free-role with Didi Hamann in the squad, Gerrard made his name, getting forward and scoring double figures consistently each season. In the fixture against FC Gomel, Gerrard was often found drifting wide allowing the attacking players to cut inside and turning the formation into a fluid 4-2-4.

Their is substantial strength in depth in terms of central midfielder’s with Shelvey, Henderson, Adam and Spearing all able replacements in the centre, yet it is likely one if not two of these players will be sent on loan to gain some first team experience.

Forwards:

Luis Suarez is the key-man for Liverpool this year, after signing a new long-term contract at the club to quash any lingering doubts about his future on Merseyside. El Pistelero has already scored 15 Premier League goals for Liverpool alongside numerous assists, but will be hoping for a bigger return next year, playing at the head of a front three.

Last year he was often the lone striker, short of support but he looks set to have Borini and Downing alongside him to help create chances this season.

Each of the three can play anywhere along the front, with the players likely to drift between positions during the game, which will keep the opposition defence on their toes. Downing has had a lot of unfair flack due to his performances last season, in which his failure to score or get an assist was well-documented. He created the second highest amount of chances in the Premier League, behind only Leighton Baines. It was the final attempts from Carroll/Suarez etc which let down Downing and made his statistics look a lot worse than his performances warranted. He has began to attack defenders a lot more and isn’t scared to get the byline and get the ball into box, as-well as cutting inside and firing in shots from distance, which is how he got his first goal of Brendan Rodgers’ reign as manager, away in Belarus.

Borini’s movement and quickness along the ground, as-well as his touch and finish means he is likely to be selected ahead of Andy Carroll, who sadly doesn’t fit into the mould needed for tiki-take football. However he will still be a key member of the squad, as there are times when tiki-taka won’t suffice, such as on a cold Tuesday night at the Britannia. His height and power in the air will be a huge asset when coming up against tiring legs in the last 20 minutes of games also.

Overall:

Considering the bitter disappointment of last year, Liverpool fans will be heading into the new season with a new found optimism courtesy of Brendan Rodgers’ free-flowing attacking football that he is trying to implement. This was seen to an extent during his first game at Anfield, against FC Gomel, with two touch football seemingly being the aim.

Suarez looked on great form, and next year he will have lots of support, so the current 40/1 for him to be top assist maker in the league looks massive. His creativity often means he can find space where others wouldn’t, and now with the poacher Borini next to him, he will have someone to help convert the chances.

This leads on to the next stand-out bet, which is Borini at 5/1 to be Liverpool’s top league scorer. It looks set to be a two-horse race between Suarez and Borini for the crown, and the odds should be a lot closer, with Borini looking likely to be the furthest forward for most of the season, with Suarez being allowed to drift out wide.

With the added bonus of playing competitive matches before the Premier League has started, due to the Europa qualifying, it is likely that Liverpool will be able to start the season in good fashion and get off the mark quickly. September looks a difficult month with both Arsenal and Manchester United at home, and Norwich and Sunderland away, but Liverpool will have the added bonus of being much fitter. BetVictor are offering Liverpool to pick up over 7 points at 12/5 which looks massive. Rodgers will be disappointed if he can’t get his side to beat Norwich and Sunderland, which would mean only a point would be needed against Arsenal and United. Both have gone through a transitional period and the Anfield crowd can make such a difference, so a draw is the minimum expectation from both games, with both seemingly being there to be won.

TIPS:

1 point e.w – Luis Suarez – Top Premier League Assist Maker- 40/1 Boylesports

2 points – Fabio Borini – Top Liverpool Premier League Scorer – 5/1 SkyBet/Bet365

2 points – Liverpool to gain more than 7 points in September – 12/5

The Premier League Season – 2012/13.

With just under two weeks until the 2012/13 Premier League season kicks off, the bookmakers are still in the midst of finalising their current prices, and this is often the period of time in which value is there to be had.

Some clubs are yet to finalise transfers, so there is a still a slight gamble in hammering into anything with great force, but there are still some seemingly great odds on offer.

Firstly, this year looks like a three-way challenge for the title in my opinion. Reigning Champions Manchester City look set to hold a big hand in the title-race, as do runners-up Manchester United and last seasons F.A Cup and Champions League winners, Chelsea.

Manchester City have been surprisingly quiet in the transfer window so far, but when you look at the strength in depth of every aspect of their squad, I suppose new faces aren’t really needed. They played some brilliant football under Roberto Mancini last year and look set to carry that on, after impressing during pre-season so far. The spine of the team, in the shape of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure and Aguero, are four of the best players in the world in their positions, and with all four looking set to stay with the club for the foreseeable future, it is not out of the question that City will come to dominate English football in the manner in which Manchester United have done in recent years. The current price of 13/10 seems fair, but having the patience to wait so long for such a short price, is something which many find difficult.

Manchester United will have to regroup after the heartache of losing out to their arch-rivals in incredible circumstances last year. Leaving the pitch at Sunderland they thought they had their 20th title wrapped up, until Aguero popped up at the Etihad in the 94th minute and sent the title to Eastlands for the first time. Ferguson has since came out and stated his side will be doing everything in their grasp to wrestle back the title, and has gone about doing so in the best way possible. He has aquired the highly-rated Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, who looks set to make a big impact on the Premier League. He is highly skilled, and does his best work from just behind the striker, but can also play on the wing if needed. He has all the makings of a great, and his creativity is something United desperately lacked last year, he will definitely make a big difference to the side. Ferguson has also lined up a £50 million swoop for Lucas Moura and Robin Van Persie, which will definitely boost their title credentials if he can finalise the deals. Rooney and Van Persie would undoubtedly be the best strike-partnership the League, possibly even the World if it came to fruition, and with the creativity of Kagawa, Moura and Young behind the front two, they are sure to consistently get goals. The 13/5 won’t last long if the £50 million swoop does happen.

Chelsea are the team I am most interested in betting-wise. The bookmakers have seemingly underestimated their chances, offering 5/1 for the London giants to win the league. But it’s not this bet I am particularly interested in, it’s the range of match-bets that are on offer. Chelsea have arguably been doing the best bit of business during the transfer window so far, in bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. Chelsea often lacked the cutting edge in the final third last year, failing to break defences down and not scoring as many goals as they should have done. This is what cost them dearly in the earlier parts of the season under AVB. Roberto Di Matteo changed the fortunes of the blues’ season last year, coming in at a difficult time in the season, and guiding them to both the F.A Cup and Champions League success. He is clearly a great man-manager and the players look up to him, this hasn’t been the case for Chelsea managers since Jose Mourinho, and Di Matteo could be the man to guide Chelsea to a brilliant domestic season, something which their fans crave desperately. The departure of Didier Drogba will pave the way for Fernando Torres to step up to the mark and prove to the world he is still the same magnificent players he was at Liverpool. He never managed to get a decent run in the team, with the amount of striking options that was at AVB/Di Matteo’s disposal, but this year he is set to be first-choice in the abscense of Drogba and coming in off the back of winning the Golden Boot at the Euro’s, his confidence will be sky-high. He has always been a confidence player, and the past 18 months, he has looked someone who lacked self-belief, but following the Euro’s, he looks to have found his shooting boots, and with that comes confidence. He will be a key man for Chelsea, and he can guide them to success.

Arsenal and Tottenham have failed to strengthen their squads with enough force to really challenge for the title this year. Arsenal have captured Santi Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski are all class players, but will not make up for RVP if he does leave, which looks likely. They haven’t performed on the big stage for many years now, with the fact they haven’t won a trophy in seven years, proving this. They look set to be in a scrap with their North-London rivals, Spurs, for fourth-place , and it certainly won’t be easy for either side.

Spurs look set to lose their key man to Real Madrid, with Luca Modric expected to sign for the Spanish giants this week. On top of this they are losing patience with Adebayor who had a major impact following his loan move from Manchester City, which means their choice of striking options look very limited. At the current time, they look set to be in a battle for fourth place with Arsenal, but unless they make two or three new signings, they look set to lose out. The fact that although they finished in 4th, they didn’t get Champions League football, means that big targets are choosing to go elsewhere so that they can play in Europe’s elite competition. The latest rumours are that Spurs are interested in Luis Damiao, which would be a tremendous aquisition, as the young Brazilian looks set to have a massive future.

Newcastle surprised many last year, finishing in 5th, with the partnership of Ba and Cisse being one of the highlights of the season itself. They notched 29 goals between them, despite the fact that Cisse only signed for the Toon in January, half-way through the season. The pair will have to be on fine form to maintain the high expectations, but I feel that next year defenders will be more aware on how to defend against them, and Newcastle will have to make do with 7th.

Liverpool are looking to add Joe Allen to their already predominantly British side, showing the emphasis of Brendan Rodgers’ tiki-taka philosophy. Rodgers’ himself will be Liverpool’s best transfer this year, regardless of who they sign. As the Merseyside club always had the players that could attack and score goals, but they were often thwarted by previous managers defensive tactics. With Rodgers’ free-flowing attacking football, the club will flourish and he will get the best out of the likes of Suarez, Downing, Henderson etc. It is very much a building process for Liverpool and this year, the aim with be 5th place, but expect the reds to mount a serious challenge for the Champions League again in years to come.

At the bottom of the table, the newly promoted clubs, Southampton, Reading and West Ham all come into the Premier League with high-hopes of staying up, after looking at the weaknesses of some of the clubs at the lower end of the table. West Ham have invested in some Premier League talent, and with the fan-base they have being so important, I think they should safely stay up. It will be extremely difficult for both Reading and Southampton to stay up, but at extremely short-odds to go down they offer no value. The team I am most interested in, is Fulham. They have gotten rid of some of their most important players, the likes of skipper Danny Murphy, second-top goalscorer Pogrebnyak and Andy Johnson. They look likely to lose Clint Dempsey to Liverpool and if this happens, I think Fulham could be in some serious danger of being relegated. They finished an impressive ninth last year, thanks to Dempsey’s 17 goals, but they often looked shaky defensively and with the league’s newcomers looking extremely strong, the 11/1 on offer looks too big to ignore.

In terms of top goalscorer, it is extremely open as any year, but there seems to be some over-priced players across the board. Fernando Torres is my main bet of the year, as he looks as if he has regained his confidence after a brilliant performance at the Euro’s, and as he is now the first-choice striker, following the departure of Drogba. This means he will get a decent run in the side, and with the creativity of Mata, Hazard, Lampard etc, he looks set to have some brilliant service to thrive off. He is 11/1 and looks a cracking each-way bet if he manages to stay fit.

Sergio Aguero looks an extremely safe each-way bet, at 8/1. He is the talisman for the Champions, and after scoring 23 in his first season at the club, he looks sure to improve as he settles into the English game, and he will be around the top ofthe goalscoring chart come May.

In terms of bigger prices, there are two players in particular which look incredibly over-priced. Nikica Jelavic was one of the buys of the year last season, after David Moyes brought the Croatian in from Rangers in January, many were sceptical of whether or not he would adapt to the English game, but he answered his critics in style. He scored 9 goals in 13 appearances for Everton and was key in guiding the toffee’s to a seventh placed finish, ahead of rivals Liverpool. Moyes has purchased Jelavic’s former strike partner Steven Naismith from Rangers, which means Jelavic will have yet more service and the pressure will be taken off, which often leads to more goals. Signing the creative Pienaar on a permanent deal, means the Croatian will be able to link up with the South African to great effect as was seen last year, and the 28/1 for top goalscorer looks massive.

Demba Ba was outshone by Senegalese team-mate Papis Cisse in the second half of the season, as Cisse embarked on an incredible goalscoring run. This meant that many forgot just how much Ba worked, and how much of a talented finisher he actually is. He managed to bag 16 goals last year, with most of these coming in the early part of the season. If he manages to stay fit, the partnership woth Cisse is likely to come to fruition once more, and the 40/1 for Ba looks much better value than the 16/1 for Cisse. There is not that much between the pair, and it is worth taking a chance on Ba.

TIPS:

Manchester City to win league: 3 points win @ 13/10 with Coral.

Chelsea to be top London club: 2 points win @ 11/10 with Bwin.

Fulham to be relegated: 0.5 points @ 11/1 with BetVictor.

Fernando Torres top goalscorer: 1.5 points e.w @ 11/1 with BetVictor.

Nikica Jelavic top goalscorer: 0.5 points e.w @ 28/1 with various.

Demba Ba top goalscorer: 0.25 points e.w @ 40/1 with various.

Sergio Aguero top goalscorer/Manchester City to win league: 2 points @ 12/1.