Best Premier League Bets 16/17

The Premier League returns in just over a week and having finally settled down in the aftermath of France’s disappointing Euro defeat (see last post); we’re back and ready to look forward at domestic football once again.

Antoine Griezmann’s heroic effort has ensured we should be heading into the new season with a bit of extra cash to use, so why not make the most of the ante-post markets and try and snaffle some season-long value?

There are a whole host of markets, more than we’ve ever had to enjoy before, yet it may pay to stick down the traditional route and cover Premier League title winner and Top Goalscorer markets to begin with, before moving on to special markets at a later date.

Cup competitions can often be a huge question mark, which each individual manager having their own opinion on how to set-up their sides in-terms of strength, so it may be best left until we see how the new managers bed in during the early rounds.

So, without further ado, onto the Premier League 2016/17 season!

Premier League Outright – Chelsea @ 13/2 (Various)

Firstly, we’ll start with the Premier League outright market in what looks the most competitive season in possibly the history of the league. Usually, there will be a short-price favourite with perhaps one or maybe two sides that could realistically challenge them.

(Excluding last season, which was just an anomaly for so many reasons…)

However this season we have Manchester City, worthy favourites with the addition of Pep Guardiola and recent strong signings in Gundogan and Sane.

Then, ‘The Special One’ returns with the unenviable task of returning Manchester United to their perch, yet the signings of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Bailly with the potential for further (cough *Pogba* cough), as well as the emerging talents of Rashford and Martial.

They have to be serious contenders for the title, while Arsenal and Spurs are always there or thereabouts and both Chelsea and Liverpool can concentrate on solely the Premier League, with no European football as a distraction. Oh, and Leicester could retain the title? Though, not for me.

For me, the prices reflect the Manchester side’s chances fairly well at the head of the market but the value may lie with Chelsea.

Liverpool’s tremendous title challenge when they last had European football showed the benefit of having a week to prepare for games and this is what they and Chelsea will get to enjoy this year. Klopp’s Reds are a work-in-progress and he may need another year until he fully beds in his philosophy.

However Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte, is walking in to a solid unit, who began to realise their roles towards the back-end of last season. They lacked discipline at times and their key players struggled to make an impact early on, however with time to prepare for their big weekend games and the new regimented approach from Conte, Chelsea have to be real challengers,

Michy Batshuayi adds an extra dimension to the side, as does N’Golo Kante, while the potential move for Kalidou Koulibaly and Romelu Lukaku would further add to the strength of the side. There is less emphasis on depth this year, without Europe to focus on, and as we seen with Conte’s Italy side during the Euros, he can form a side that are extremely hard to break down and very hard to contain on the counter.

Nemanja Matic was rather underwhelming in the system used by Chelsea last season but given Conte’s love for a holding midfielder, it would be no surprise to see him build on his earlier promise in a Chelsea shirt.

He is fantastic at breaking up play and provides the stability for the creative midfielders, such as Fabregas and also box-to-box midfielders, such as Kante, to go about and complete their roles to the best of their ability.

Diego Costa is a solid enough striking option, those it would be no surprise to see him used in the same way Pelle was for Italy, creating for the likes of Eden Hazard who will be coming from midfield/out wide.

Last season’s transitional phase will have been a real wake-up call and now with a solid base to start from and no European football to take precedence, Chelsea look value to win the Premier League  at 13/2.

Premier League Top Goalscorer – Daniel Sturridge @ 25/1 (Various)

Next up is the Top Goalscorer market and as usual, it’s headed by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. If the awesome Argentinian stays fit for the entire season he is sure to be there or thereabout come the end of the year, yet with his fitness issues, is it worth taking a rather short price?

It is often worth taking a gamble on fitness, given injury can strike at any stage, yet with our selection, that eventuality appears to have been factored into the price.

The man, of course, is Daniel Sturridge.

Liverpool’s main man has a record of injuries and fitness issues but given when fit, he will almost certainly be Liverpool’s lone striker (supported by two wide men) he looks outstanding value at 25.1,

There is no doubting his superb finishing and natural goalscoring ability and now that Liverpool can focus solely on the league, Jurgen Klopp wont have to balance out his playing time between league and European games. He can manage his star striker, with only one game a week in-store and this may well be key to getting the best out of Sturridge,

There is no questioning his best season came back when Liverpool came within touching distance of winning the league (scoring 21 PL goals) and it was that season when he enjoyed his most consistent spell of playing time.

Liverpool weren’t in Europe and he had a nice break between games which seemed to bode well for his fitness. If Klopp can reproduce this again, now the Reds aren’t in Europe, then Sturridge could be the man to guide Liverpool bac into the Champions League.

Coutinho, Firmino and Origi, as well as the new signings, all offer a creative talent that is likely to ensure Sturridge receives plenty of service and as such, he should be able to make his presence felt towards the top of the goalscorer tables.

At 25/1 he looks big enough to take a chance on and if he stays fit for a large part of the season, it would be a surprise if he were not to at least go close to landing each-way money.

Selections:

Chelsea to win the Premier League 16/17 @ 13/2 (Various)

Daniel Sturridge to be Premier League top goalscorer (each-way) in 16/17 @ 25/1 (Various)

Griez The Mann For Euro Glory

With this summer’s main event in France edging ever nearer, it looks a perfect time to try and snaffle some early (well, kind of early) value ahead of Euro 2016.

The host nation are always a popular port of call for ante-post investments in the Outright Winner market and that certainly looks a sensible ploy ahead of this year’s tournament, given the embarrassment of riches the French side have in every department.

Starting between the posts, where they have Hugo Lloris or, if needed, Benoit Costil and Steve Mandanda, both equally solid back-up options.

Defensively, there is a perfect mix of experience and youth, with stalwarts like Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna joined by the exciting emerging talent, such as Raphael Varane and Lucas Digne (though Digne may find it hard to break past Koscielny/Mathieu this tournament).

Premier League fans will know all about the midfield with Yohan Cabaye, Lassana Diarra, Moussa Sissoko and breakthrough sensation N’Golo Kante and all gaining a spot in the provisional squad. Solid if not spectacular, wouldn’t you say?

Well the added flair of Blaise Matuidi and the world class Paul Pogba adds the much needed star quality and the latter could be just what France have lacked in recent years. Since Zinedine Zidane bid Les Blues farewell, they have failed to have the star name to carry them in major tournaments.

Pogba was on the peripherals of stardom in Brazil but since then, his game has improved and he has matured into a real talent. He will help provide service to the much maligned French attack and this brings me nicely on to the main source of betting value in the tournament. Antoine Griezmann.

The absence of Karim Benzema looked a real blow to the hosts’ chances but it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, with the tremendous talent Didier Deschamps men have to fill in.

Of course the Real Madrid man was a guaranteed source of goals but with young hungry talent hoping to prove a point on a big stage, it would be no surprise to see a number of stars step seamlessly into the void left by Benzema.

Kingsley Coman – Social Media’s favourite ‘look at what he’s won at 19, I couldn’t even turn the washing machine on at 19’ star – may have a plethora of big trophies in his cabinet, but this may be one tournament for him to get his chance.

Anthony Martial’s Manchester United performances could see him get a shot in the forward line, alongside the often hit-and-miss Olivier Giroud, while West Ham’s Dimitri Payet has played well enough this season to give Deschamps a real selection headache. Oh, and Andre-Pierre Gignac also makes the provisional squad. Not a bad choice, eh?

Well, one man who is guaranteed to start, fitness permitting, is Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid man was waiting in the wings to step in for the injured Franck Ribery in the World Cup and this would have been good major tournament experience and he has since put that to good use on the club stage, shining in this year’s Champions League in particular.

He’s scored seven goals in the competition thus far, including both goals when his side knocked Barcelona out in Madrid, as well as the vital away goal against Bayern Munich.

This came a season after he had netted a total of 22 goals in La Liga season, overtaking Karim Benzema for the highest number of goals scored by a French player in a single Spanish top-division campaign.

Quite simply, Griezmann is consistent and he is a big game player. So will he get the chance to start down the middle for Les Blues? He may be forced to play wide but the chance of him being utilised as the main man has increased in the absence of Benzema.

He is quick, strong, direct and has a real sense for goal. The way his season has gone, he will be relishing the chance to maintain momentum in the aftermath of this Saturday’s Champions League final and he has to be respected in all of the main betting markets.

Right, betting, because that’s why we’re here isn’t it?

It’s a bit of a pain, as the main selection I was basing this entire piece around was a standout 33/1 with William Hill for some time but as I’ve sat down to put pen to paper (or, fingers to keys) the best price is now 22/1. Still, a solid enough price and enough to be considered slight value but it is frustrating.

That bet, is Antoine Griezmann to be top goalscorer and France to win Euro 2016.

Yes, yes, I know. How are you backing someone who has scored just seven times for his country and all of those were in friendlies?

Well, he’s grown massively in terms of talent since the last time he was given a chance to shine in competitive international football and with France set for a deep run, he looks a sensible choice.

There are plenty of creative talents surrounding Griezmann, such as Pogba, Payet and Matuidi, which should lead to sublime service to the forward. If he starts as a ‘9’ he will be tasked with finishing the moves and even if he plays wide as part of a front three, the fluidity of the play will see him have a whole host of opportunities to find the back of the net.

France have a rather favourable task in their group and they will be expected to win every game against Romania, Albania and Switzerland. Games against Romania and Albania in particular offer a real chance to pick up goals and this could ensure Griezmann has a nice head start when entering the knockout phases.

Playing in front of a home crowd can have adverse effects on players at times, yet this doesn’t seem to fit with the French way of football. Les Blues have won the Euros in 1984 and the World Cup in 1998, both of which were held in France. So, can history repeat itself?

Deschamps said they were beginning build-up to the Euros during the last World Cup and with this in mind, the recent maturity of the side must come as no surprise.

Players such as Pogba and Griezmann have gained huge reputations around the world while players like Kante and Payet are playing the best football of their careers.

There is a real depth to the French side and a real buoyant mood surrounding their chances. The 7/2 for the hosts to win the tournament is a fair price and it may be worth investing before the tournament gets under way.

So, plain sailing for the hosts and a star performance from Griezmann? Writing this has convinced myself, so I’m off to top up the blue on Les Blues and reinvest on Griez being the mann (apologies), so best of luck with whatever you decide to back this summer!

(P.s, this was written before Atletico v Real, so if Griezmann gets injured in the final, you may not be hearing from me for a while over the sound of my sobbing.)

Top Selections:

2 points – France to win Euro 2016 @ 7/2 (Paddy Power/Betfair)

1 point – Griezmann top scorer @ 10/1 (Various)

0.5 point – Griezmann/France (Top Scorer/Win) @ 22/1 (Paddy Power)

0.5 point – Griezmann player of the tournament @ 16/1 (Bet365)

The Secret Punter Returns…

After a short break on the punting front, I couldn’t help but be lured back in after reading Steve Palmer’s book, ‘Born To Punt’, brought back to my attention by his recent appearance on Britain at the Bookies.

His diary extract, of which I have been a regular reader (in fact, it’s the main reason I purchase the RP on a Sunday), is filled with the honest highs and lows of a gambler who has to maintain a regular role to fund his passion.

Knowledge, confidence and a drive to succeed is needed to pursue the dream of making it big in any form of life, and it is no different with gambling. After a rather quiet summer, devoid of much quality football, the season is fast approaching so now seems a perfect time to get back on the proverbial horse.

I’ve been in contact with the original runner of this Betting Blog and with his permission I have been given free rein to express my weekly highs-and-lows to his already solid following, so to him I have to thank.

Hopefully you will be join me on what should be a rollercoaster season on the football, with regular trips to my beloved horses, golfing venues and plenty of bookies tied in with managing a regular 9-5. It’s alright this life, isn’t it?

As a treat, I’ve noted down my punting action from Tuesday afternoon onwards to give you a taster of what is set to come. Although be warned, my stakes may not reach the highs of Palmer’s given my financial situation and lack of confidence after a rather sluggish 2015 on the punting front…

Tuesday;

After watching another episode of Britain at the Bookies, it got me thinking – how many different types of punter are there? I could relate to a large amount of those involved in the show, with pretty much all bases covered. I had been reckless, over-confident and pretty much sought after as many thrills as possible in my younger days and my mind back to those dark days with the sad tales on show.

I lacked the clear head needed to gamble coherently, with the chasing stage the worst of all. Fortunately, after forcing a sabbatical on myself a couple of times during rather skint stages of university, I managed to learn a lot. Visits to the bookmakers to just watch the racing, make notes about certain aspects I’d pick up, and try and put those into action without betting a single penny taught me a huge amount of restraint.

Of course there was plenty of urge to punt, and when those I had noted down went on to win, it did hurt, but the pain was invaluable when it comes to developing knowledge of racing without losing a penny. The importance of form, ground, trainers, jockeys, draw and track bias were all jotted down into a book of my own punting pointers and it is something I treasure even to this day.

They are regularly updated with the latest trends and important messages which could help in future ventures, including jockeys worth following. Tom Marquand earned his place in the lost a fair few months ago and he is still worth following even now, with his claim invaluable. He is such good value for the five-pound and it is only a matter of time before he rides it out, with a big future beckoning.

Anyway, after a lengthy break where I was fortunate enough to find full-time work, I have slowly eased myself back into the gambling scene and the new and improved patience appears to be working wonders. Going from somewhere in the range of 10-15 bets a day, to one big bet, or maybe no bets at all has ensured a higher success-rate and no horrible evenings trying to claw back losses at Wolverhampton or Dundalk.

(I’ve had some dark Friday’s there…)

Tuesday was one of those days where I didn’t fancy anything strongly but I still had some money floating in my Betfair account after a successful stab on a Lucky 15 on the previous Saturday (three winners and a place seen a nice three-figure return off a £5 stake), and I decided to begin an ante-post punt that I had been planning for some time.

Darts is a particular punting favourite of mine, with every arrow ensuring adrenaline (both the good and bad kind) is pumping through your veins at a rate of knots. After spending two-years living with a darts fanatic I was subjected to plenty of action and after a while, I began to really enjoy the thrills and spills of the sport, even before the possibility of punting crossed my mind.

Then I came to realise there was so many ways of making money on the darts, with plenty of interesting markets. It is not rare to see odds of 1/20, 1/16 and 1/12 etc in the match market of big tournaments, but the ‘trebles’ section are nearly always odds against. This means a player to hit the most 180’s, the highest checkout and win the match.

Of course, the highest checkout is a tough one to call, as all it means is a 170 from the underdog to completely ruin the bet but you’ll be surprised how often the favourite obliges with all three. Dave Chisnall is a king of delivering the goods, as is Raymond van Barneveld (when he hits a nice streak) but I’ll never forget when I was waiting on Barney for a £16.8k payout off a £6 four-fold during the Premier League, and he hit the most 180’s and won the match, but missed out on the highest checkout.

He had a shot at a 164 and missed by a centimetre. That hurt.

But anyway, I’m getting off topic here, back to the ante-post certainty. Michael van Gerwen to win the 2016 World Championship.

I’ve missed the 9/4, 2/1 and 15/8 and although he is unlikely to shorten too much from his current 7/4, he looks a worthy investment as opposed to frittering away funds. He shortened after his impressive World Matchplay crown and he looks unbeatable on his day.

Gary Anderson has caused him problems with his unique style getting in the head of MvG but he showed he is developing a steely nerve when destroying the Scotsman with a scintillating display at the German Masters.

I’ve had £40 on the Dutchman so far and the dream is to have somewhere in the region of a grand on him by the time December comes, so I can celebrate the start of 2016 with a nice MvG fund.

Wednesday;

Fancied Kachy to confirm his promise at Goodwood but for some reason couldn’t help but be drawn in by a Highland Reel (7/4), Solow (4/6) and King of Rooks (EVS) treble.

That hurt.

It’s always the last one isn’t it? £15 down the drain but I was confident for a return from Galway that evening.

After seeing Alelchi Inois frustratingly finish out of the placing’s following a £20 each-way investment at 11/1, I decided that Marshall Jennings was set to save the day, so I wasn’t too worried.

The colt had solid juvenile form for Richard Hannon and had previously ran an eye-catching race for Jessica Harrington, failing to get a run both times. If he settled nicely early on and was kept prominent I fancied him to run the leaders close, so had £10 each-way at a rather inflated 12/1.

He had to be reshod before the start, then he took a keen hold under Kevin Manning before chasing the leaders. He was hampered (yet again) approaching the final furlong and faded late on. He is likely to be breezed over again next time but I’m adamant he will have his day soon, with a fast run 7f looking perfect after efforts over 10f and a mile previously. He’ll come good at a big price soon.

Thursday;

I was rather surprised to see Trip To Paris fighting for favouritism in the Goodwood Gold Cup and despite having to shoulder a four-pound penalty, he looked the class act in the field who should be out on his own at the top of the market. I opted for a £10 each-way punt at 9/2 as my only bet at Goodwood with my real investment over at Galway in the afternoon.

Diakali would have to be Champion Hurdle standard to shoulder top-weight in the Galway Hurdle and with Quick Jack arriving fit, fresh and in good order, he looked to be the value. He doesn’t know how to run a bad race and after showing he had retained his ability behind the aforementioned Trip To Paris when second in the Chester Cup, he looked too big to resist, especially off an exceedingly generous weight.

Trip to Paris gave me big hope when shooting down the inside rail but that joy was short-lived as Big Orange was as game as a pebble in front and not for passing, with Quest For More even pipping Ed Dunlop’s charge for second. Still, a place wasn’t the worst result, especially with a slight drift to 5/1.

I pressed up on Quick Jack on the Exchange, having £20 on Quick Jack to win at 7.2 (6.2/1) and I was pleased to see the price continue to tumble in the build-up to the off. I bottled it slightly and put a lay order in for £20 at 3.0, cutting my loss should he come there travelling (you’ll see how proficient I am at backing 1.01 losers in time) and as Denis O’Regan got the gelding up the inside two from home, I glanced at the screen to see I had been matched.

Mixed emotions. I knew I had my stake back and I looked likely to win more money, but I was soon kicking myself. He went on to win a shade cosily in the end and I pocketed a tidy sum, but it could have been more, couldn’t it? Sometimes even when you win, you lose. Strange game.

Friday;

I headed up to Edgbaston to watch the cricket with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. I was just happy to be able to see a bit of action after the Aussies looked set to succumb in tame fashion on Thursday afternoon.

Nonetheless we got our money’s worth and after a dig-in effort from the tail, England were set a nice 121 to win. Ian Bell and Joe Root decided to take their time to see out the target, ensuring we forked out more on £4.20 pints whilst succumbing to intense sunburn after foolishly opting against sun tan lotion.

Lovely fellas.

Still… ROOOOOOOOT.

Saturday;

I woke up with the world’s driest mouth and could barely remember my name after an evening consisting of the dogs (first time visit, managed to only lose £20 which isn’t too shoddy in my book), was followed by more pints, whiskey and apple juice, vodka and coke and some kind of watermelon based alcoholic beverage.

I couldn’t force myself to focus long enough to study the form so I just popped in the Hill’s next to New Street Station to unload £40 (all I had left after a rather expensive couple of days) on Legatissimo to gain compensation in the Nassau Stakes.

She had done me for two decent three-figure sums when getting nailed in the Oaks (rather large double with Arod) and in the Irish equivalent (even loftier double with Jack Hobbs), so I had decided to give her one last chance to glue back the heart she had broken.

It appeared I was the only person in the betting shop (and probably the world) who was happy that Wayne Lordan took the ride.

He works closely with David Wachman and is sure to have sat on the filly at home as well as during the early stages of her career. Moore is no doubt a top rider, but he hasn’t seemed to have the best of luck on the filly for one reason or another so the simple tactics Lordan likes to employ just fits.

Seeing him motionless, cruising up next to the leaders on Saturday went some way to curing my hangover and as he pressed the button and Legatissimo shot clear, I let out of a relieved sigh which seemed to relax the pressure on my brain. £120 entered my wallet and I headed back home via a two-hour train filled with excitable hen dos and eager teens excited for their first big-city visit.

It turned out my hangover wasn’t over…

Sunday;

No punting Sunday’s are fun. I woke up, had a dominos, watched a film, had a sleep and then went to play darts for a few hours. Long live no punting Sunday’s.

Steven George Gerrard – Liverpool Legend

Steven George Gerrard. The name has become synonymous with Liverpool Football Club and all its success since the late 90’s.

Today, the skipper announced he would be leaving the club that he has shared his entire career with, good times and bad, to depart to sunnier climbs… and who can blame him?

He owes nothing to Liverpool Football Club.

He has stood by them (just about at times) through thick and thin and dug deep to drag his side through games they really shouldn’t have won. He is a freak talent who inspired so many with his raw, dynamic displays from the centre of midfield.

He began his career back in 1998, coming on as a last-minute substitution against Blackburn Rovers. No-one knew just how much influence this short-haired rough-looking youngster would have on the future of the Reds.

He quickly emerged as a versatile performer, slotting in at right-back and right wing-back among his sparse performances in the centre, but when he was given a true chance, he took in typical Gerrard fashion. A mazy run from deep against Sheffield Wednesday seen him drift past Des Walker before slotting home for his first Liverpool goal, one that would be the first of many at his beloved Anfield.

He quickly established himself as a leading talent, putting in hard-hitting performances from the centre of midfield, looking as though he would blossom into a leading midfielder.

I was really getting into football around this time and although I had been to a few games before (hazy memories) the first real game I take crystal clear memories from was the 4-1 victory over Coventry back in 2000.

Steven Gerrard was something else. As a player who was trying to add a physical edge to my game, watching Gerrard would teach more than any coach could. He marauded around the field with such confidence, with big tackles, sharp dashes, magnificent passes and deft finishes. He had it all.

I strolled around the park with my ‘Gerrard 17’ white away shirt, attempting to replicate the maestro. While others were more interested in the Michael Owen and Emile Heskey’s (yes, seriously), I would always be throwing in crunching tackles and turning defence into attack thanks to styling myself (fairly poorly) off Gerrard.

His career took giant strides, as he established himself as one of the first names on the team-sheet for both club and country. In the year of 2001, he won five trophies, scored in the UEFA Cup final and opened his account for the Three Lions with a stunning strike in a 5-1 win over Germany. Not bad, eh?

Then come the captaincy, where he led Liverpool with the armband following Gerard Houllier’s decision that Gerrard was the man to take the Reds forward. He was vocal but didn’t always need to be, as his performances gave his side the added edge to emulate the skipper and up their performance that extra 10%.

He began to turn in world-class performances, week-in, week-out, meaning Liverpool fans became accustomed to match-winning efforts and anything else was considered ‘an off-day’, as his pedestal that fans put him on continued to rise.

Then, in 2005, the performance that ensured he will go down in Liverpool folklore.

At 3-0 down and little hope remaining, Liverpool looked to their skipper (in hope more than expectation) for some inspiration. They soon had it, as he powered in a header, before making gestures to the fans to up the noise and make it a cauldron of red. They hardly had enough time before Vladimir Smicer had scored and Gerrard was brought down after a driving run through the centre. Xabi Alonso converted the penalty at the second time of asking and the rest is history.

Gerrard played almost every position on the park that night, including a match-winning shift at right-back, where he halted the constant attacking threat of the Milan side down the left. He walked off the pitch with all muscles aching, yet still holding belief. Liverpool went on to win on penalties and Gerrard became the first man to lift the trophy Graeme Souness in 1984. And this time… it was for keeps.

The ‘Gerrard Cup Final’ in 2006 was the last time he was really rewarded with the plaudits to match his performance as he led his side to F.A Cup glory. After going 2-0 early on, he responded with a fantastic defensive splitting lofted through ball, which Djibril Cisse converted first time, to get his side back in it. Gerrard then got in on the act himself, rifling home a volley to equalise and give his side momentum for the first time in the game.

It was short-lived however, as Paul Konchesky’s cross found itself lobbing an unsuspecting Pepe Reina and into the back of the net to give West Ham a 3-2 lead, delivering a hammer blow to the Reds’ hopes. As the clock ticked into added time, many had begun to give up, but not Stevie.

As the ball dropped out of the air, with the Cup seemingly heading back to London, Gerrard’s fatigue meant that instead of taking a touch and setting himself up… he simple had to hit it first time. And boy did he hit it.

As the ball nestled past a diving Shaka Hislop, the game was tied and momentum swung back into Liverpool’s favour.

Fitness told at the end of a hard season and the game petered out to a 3-3 draw, with neither side showing too much in extra-time.

Up steps the skipper, to blast in his third goal of the game from the spot and put his side in a commanding position in the shootout. The Reds went on to win thanks to Pepe Reina heroics in the shootout but it will be forever remembered as the ‘Gerrard Final’ as he put in one of the greatest individual performances in recent years. No-one could have won that final for Liverpool apart from Steven Gerrard.

Many thought that would the pinnacle of Steven Gerrard but the skipper continued to prove them wrong. The arrival of Fernando Torres in 2007 seen Gerrard pushed up into a more attacking role behind the Spaniard and the pair struck up a successful partnership for nearly four successful years. Gerrard added a cutting edge to his game with an almost telepathic link-up with Torres, bringing plenty of goals and assists during arguably the peak of both players’ careers.

The 4-0 demolition at Anfield summed the pair up. Frightening. Gerrard led by example, bagging a brace after Torres had opened the scoring and the skipper’s drive and determination seen him swagger around the pitch in complete control, against some superb rivals.

Then came the title challenge of last season. Gerrard was instrumental in getting his side through edgy games, using his experience to retain possession and motivate players who were emotionally and physically drained. He lost his pace over the last few years and although he failed to make driving runs and pitch in with goals from open play, his set-piece finesse won Liverpool plenty of points throughout the run.

Unfortunately Liverpool fell short and his slip which allowed Demba Ba to score and essentially secure three points for Chelsea, which is often revered by fans (most of whom, the result made no difference to, which is baffling) who forget that without the skipper, Liverpool wouldn’t have been in the position to even come close to winning the title. They had massively overachieved.

Over the years Gerrard played a number of roles for the Reds, with his early full-back days behind him, he often slotted in defensive-midfield before making his name as an out-and-out box-to-box midfielder. It was here his true ability was able to shine with his tacking, vision; execution and all-round technical play allowed to take centre-stage. Over the years he changed games with a big tackle, an unbelievable pass or a finish from out of this world.

He dragged Liverpool through games they shouldn’t have won. At times he was surrounded by poor quality players but he made them play above themselves, securing results by taking the game by the scruff of the neck and being relentless with the tempo that he ensured his side played at.

He is without doubt, the greatest midfielder I have had the pleasure of witnessing for Liverpool.

He was fortunate as he had the likes of Didi Hamann, Javier Mascherano, Momo Sissoko and more recently Lucas, to do his ‘dirty work’ in-terms of breaking play up and giving him the confidence to rein with plenty of freedom; however he worked to deserve that. The team realised how much benefit it would be to release the shackles on Gerrard and let him loose on the opposition. He was a freak of a talent.

Now he has made the difficult decision to leave Merseyside and it has been met with a mixture of emotions; sadness, fear, relief and downright angst. He is a hero of the club and one that will be very hard to replace.

However he has made the right decision in leaving Liverpool as it will allow his hero status to live long in the memory and ensures he goes down as a club legend. He is just a local lad with an extremely magnificent talent. Someone who the fans can relate.

In recent weeks and months, Gerrard’s deterioration has become more and more apparent. He is still the greatest passes at the club and his technical ability is second-to-none however his legs have gone.

He hasn’t got the pace to maintain the high-pressing game that Liverpool set-up with under Brendan Rodgers and he was simply a passenger when tried out in the defensive-midfield role. He unbalanced the side and fans and pundits were growing uneasy with Gerrard in the starting eleven, which shouldn’t really have happened given the talent he has.

It would be a sad state of affairs to watch someone who has given so much to the side, rot away his remaining days as a bit-part player, causing more harm than good to the Reds.

So, he has opted to acknowledge he has given Liverpool his best days and as the side looks to move on past the Gerrard era (with much needed help from the board, but that will be for a different post) he has unselfishly decided to step down. He could have easily signed another contract knowing he would be able to collect a nice amount of money to do minimal work but he has opted to shoot off to sunnier climbs and actually make a difference, if expected he is to arrive in the MLS, in a league which lacks the pace and intensity of the Premier League.

He will be in his element, picking up balls and being given time to find his target, something he is still magnificent at. In a game which is less physically taxing over there, he is prolonging his career as he could easily have another three years in the States, cementing himself as a hero over there.

The skipper has led by example for so many years but it is the right time to say goodbye. He has gotten Liverpool Football Club through many dark days and his career is something our generation can look back on with great fondness. I was never fortunate enough to witness Kenny Dalgish playing live for the Reds, but I was told to never expect anyone to get near his achievements or talent in a red shirt. Steven Gerrard did just that.

In a game that is increasingly involved with off-the-field matters, Gerrard delivered on the pitch, making football look so simple. His performances picked Liverpool up from the brink of mid-table mediocrity to push into the top level and challenge for European places, almost singlehandedly at times.

I have no doubt he will warm the Anfield dugout in the future, as a member of backroom staff or maybe even the gaffer. He is one in a million and one that Liverpool were extremely lucky to have.

Steven George Gerrard. Liverpool Legend.

 

Premier League – Opening Weekend Preview

Alas the Premier League is back, and so is the unbridled faith that this OUR year. Our team will outperform their odds, and in doing so, help us make it a profitable year.

Well, I can’t ensure your team do the business in their respective leagues, but I can certainly attempt to you help you make it a profitable year. Whether it eases the pain on a Saturday evening or adds that extra bonus for a few beers toasting your team’s success, the lure of the accumulator is back.

We hear the monster success stories, often alongside the hashtag #bookiebashing (revolutionary, I know..) but these are fairy-tale bets, which require mass amounts of luck. There is no harm in throwing ‘a life-changer’ on, but small stakes are required, with trebles, doubles and singles looking the best way to make money this season.

Opening Day Treble:

The first bet of the season is a fair value treble, in the shape of Stoke, Tottenham and Everton, which pays 8.62/1 with Sky Bet.

Stoke have had a solid pre-season, and have improved their squad with the perfect balance of Premier League stalwarts with a wealth of experience at the top level and young exciting attackers, who could cause havoc among defenders this season. They face a rather disjointed Aston Villa, who look as though they may well struggle in the Premier League this year. Paul Lambert faces a stiff task and his sides are often slow starters, with Villa’s 3-1 win over Arsenal last season the only time he has picked up three points on the opening day. Stoke are unbeaten on the opening day at the Britannia, and 22/23 looks a good price.

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Tottenham struggled against West Ham last season, losing on all three occasions they faced the Hammers, however this season they are in a good position to get off to a flyer. A solid pre-season has gelled the side and there is no longer the ruggedness that appeared towards the early parts of last year, with so many players to integrate. This is in contrast to Sam Allardyce, who has the pleasure of being one of very few managers whose fans have called for the sack solely on pre-season performances and should Spurs play their game, they should be able to compile big Sam’s misery and turn up the pressure on David Gold.  Tottenham performed well away from White Hart Lane last year, winning 10 on the road (only Arsenal won more, with 11), so the venue shouldn’t be a factor. They are shades of odds-on in places, so the 11/10 with Sky Bet comes as a welcome surprise.

It will come as a surprise to many that Everton are trading at such a big price on the opening weekend, as they travel to newly promoted Leicester. Injury worries to Lukaku and Mirallas have plagued their pre-season, however they still have class in abundance and Roberto Martinez is one of the best in the business at making sure his systems are performed to a tee. Leicester will attempt to control the game, as they did on plenty of occasions last season during their climb to the Promised Land. However should Gareth Barry and James McCarthy manage to break up the play, and cut off the passage between midfield and attack, Everton should be able to make their class tell and win the game, even without some of their big names. The atmosphere will be electric at the King Power, however take the 13/9 for Martinez’s men to get off to the best possible start.

First Goalscorer Patent:

Manchester United entertain Swansea at Old Trafford in the first game of the new Premier League season, and Wayne Rooney will be leading the side out for the first time since being given the armband permanently by Louis van Gaal.

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The 28-year-old will be given a more attacking role in the absence of the injured Robin van Persie and he could well lead the line. He needs two more goals to join Thierry Henry at third in the table of all-time Premier League scorers with 175, and he could well have done that come Saturday afternoon. His fantastic accuracy and intelligent position means he is a nightmare for any defender and he will be out to prove his manager was right to make him the new skipper. The 7/2 with Ladbrokes looks fair, and this is the first selection in the patent.

The second selection comes in the late kick-off, with Arsenal taking on Crystal Palace. Alexis Sanchez will be the centre of attention in the build-up to the game following his big money move from Barcelona; however it is Olivier Giroud who is the selection. The Frenchman has netted six times in his last six appearances at the Emirates and has started pre-season well, netting in the 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield.

Sanchez will be a valuable provider for the forward line, and Giroud should be able to capitalise. He is a stand-out 9/2 with Boylesports to net first, and this looks massive value.

It will be an edgy wait to Sunday if the first duo deliver, as the final selection doesn’t line up until early Sunday afternoon, as Daniel Sturridge completes the patent.

The 24-year-old is set to spearhead the attack with Luis Suarez no longer at the club, and he is 4/1 to net first, as he did on the opening weekend of last season. He has slowly been hitting some form towards the end of pre-season and with the service he will be getting from the midfield/attacking wingers, he is sure to get the opportunity to terrorise a rather depleted Southampton defence. The patent pays a best-priced 114.5/1 with Boylesports, while the any-time scorer treble of the same trio is also worth a small bit of interest 7/1 with Bet 365.

Win-to-Nil Double:

Manchester City travel to St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon, a place they have a fantastic record in recent years. Although their Community Shield loss to Arsenal showed very few signs of positivity, they will be aiming to come out and prove a point to those raising questions of their class. They are 11/5 with Coral to win-to-nil against a Newcastle side that look rather weak defensively. Add this to Chelsea to win-to-nil on Monday night against new boys Burnley, and you have yourself a tasty 5.88/1 double.

Selections:

Win Treble: Stoke/Spurs/Everton @ 8.62/1 (Sky Bet)

FGS Patent: Rooney/Giroud/Sturridge patent @ 114.5/1 (Boylesports)

Any-time Treble: Rooney/Giroud/Sturridge @ 7/1 (Bet365)

Win-to-Nil Double: Manchester City & Chelsea @ 5.88/1 (Coral)

Premier League 14/15 – Ante-Post

After a summer of magnificent football (excluding England’s mundane showing), the Premier League looms large and with it the tremendous minefield of ante-post There is value a-plenty with bookmakers competing against each-other, to offer promotions to tempt the punters into siding with their firm. This is seen to full effect with the Top Goalscorer market, with Paddy Power offering a £2 free bet, every time your selection scores, should you bet £20 (£10 e.w works) on your selected individual.

Top Goalscorer:

Chelsea fell short last year, as their creative midfield talents were undone by the lack of a world-class finisher. Diego Costa has been signed by ‘The Special One’, to fill the void and he is sure to get the service of the magnificent Oscar, Fabregas, Hazard, Willian etc. The Spaniard hit the headlines last season after successfully guiding Atletico Madrid to their first league title in 18 years. His direct style of pace, power and deadly accuracy from inside the box propelled his side to the Champions League final, and he is a brilliant addition to Chelsea’s side. He is 15/2 to top the scoring charts on his first season in the Premier League and with the chances he is likely to find coming his way, he is sure to prove a success. If (more like when) he scores 10 goals, he has instantly paid for the bet, as Paddy Power will have dished out over £20 in free bets, so even if he doesn’t end up finishing top of the charts, a tally of 15 or more, will still provide a solid return. Also, Betfred are offering a rather unique ‘Top Goalscorer Handicap’ in which players are handed certain starting goals. Robin van Persie goes off scratch, and the rest have been given rather tight amounts to keep the lead. Costa has been handed a +4 figure, and at 15/1 this is worth a small punt. Lukaku

The next selection in the market is an ex-Chelsea marksman, in the (rather large) shape of Romelu Lukaku. He has had two successful loan spells in the Premier League in the past two seasons, scoring 17 in 35 for West Brom, and 15 in 31 for new club Everton. He is perfectly suited for Everton’s attacking game, as his intelligent runs allow him to drift out wide to free up space for his counterparts, whilst his menacing build helps him shrug off defenders and create chances for himself. As a lone striker, he is supported from midfield and with Barkley and Mirallas likely to be sitting behind him this season, he will get the chance to carry on his impressive scoring record. The 21-year-old is improving with every season, and the experience is helping improve his finishing, which is going to help make him a very successful stereotypical ‘number nine’. Roberto Martinez will be keeping Lukaku fresh for the Premier League, with bit-part players like Arouna Kone and others being given the chance in the cup competitions, so burn-out is not an excuse as it could be with other strikers in the market, who are going to be heavily tested by Premier League and Champions League football. At 20/1 he looks a fair each-way bet, and he is definitely one to keep onside.

Outright & Tri-Cast:

Now, onto the outright betting, and following a rather disappointing (by their standards) showing in the league, Chelsea will be aiming to reclaim the title for the first time since the 09/10 season. Costa is a massive plus, as is their experienced addition to a rather youthful midfield, with Cesc Fabregas adding a cool head to proceedings following Frank Lampard’s departure. They have a solid defence, and Thibaus Courtois looks set to be one of the best shot-stoppers in recent years. With ‘The Special One’ at the helm, they are imperious at home and look solid favourites at 19/10 to land the title.

Manchester City are consistent under Manuel Pelligrini, and they are sure to be there or thereabouts. However, with fitness worries plaguing their main man, Sergio Aguero, and question marks over Yaya Toure’s desire to wear the City shirt, they are too short to be backing with massive confidence. Yet they do slot in as valuable members of the ‘tri-cast’ selection, with Manchester United taking third spot.

Louis Van Gaal looks set to bring a strict regime to Old Trafford, a total contrast to David Moyes’ embarrassing term. The Red Devils have looked sharp in pre-season, with Wayne Rooney looking set to flourish under the 3-5-2 formation his manager plays, and without Europe to focus on, United look set to mount a big challenge for the Premier League. They are still two or three signings away from matching the sides at the highest echelons, however they should improve massively on last year, and they have the ability to finish at least third, with Liverpool and Arsenal having European competitions to contend with, in an already busy season. The tri-cast of Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United pays a very fair 16/1, and is definitely worth a small punt, with the price as short as 9/1 in places.

Stoke’d to be here: mark hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Hughes has transformed the ideology of Stoke being perceived as a hoof-it team, into a side that plays a nice brand of attacking football, whilst still maintaining their fearsome image at home. The Britannia has always been a tricky place to go, and it is set to be a case of more of the same this season.

Outside of the ‘big seven’, the remainder is rather open and there are no real stand-out teams who look to have eighth place cemented. With the fantastic addition of Bojan to the ranks, Stoke could make a real push and continue a solid upward curve with Hughes, who seems to be getting there slowly but surely.

The signings of experienced pair Steve Sidwell and Phil Bardsley will help bolster the side and ensure the Potters continue to grind out results, whilst Dionatan Teixeira and Mame Biram Diouf signal solid intent for the future.

Hughes’ men should have a much more comfortable season, and with Newcastle too short to get involved with as favourites, take the 6/1 in the ‘without big seven’ market.

Relegation Treble:

The relegation battle looks set to be a long and torturous ordeal for plenty of clubs in this season’s Premier League, as there are more sides than ever, in with chance of facing the drop. Burnley surprised many last year with their fantastic performances, which seen then fill the runner-up spot behind Champions, Leicester. However this is a different kettle of fish, and with so much pressure on key-man, Danny Ings, they look set to fall short of meeting the required points total to survive. They fill the first spot on the relegation treble, and are joined by the side they finished behind last season, Leicester.

Nigel Pearson’s men oozed class when running away with the Championship, however they dominated most games, before breaking down sides with swift attacking creativity. They will not be given the opportunity to control many games this season, and will be forced to stay tight at the back, before attempting to counter late on. This is a dangerous ploy, and they may well fall short. This, coupled with the lack of real Premier League experience, means they will struggle to see out games the way fell new-boys QPR will, with their wealth of former Premier League talent. They should definitely fair better than Burnley, but they are worth a dabble to return to the Championship at a fair price.

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The final side in the treble is a rather surprising choice, in Swansea. Garry Monk eased into the position smoothly, following the exit of Michael Laudrup, however he faces a stiff task next year. His inexperience may cost the Swans dear, and with talisman Wilfried Bony looking for a swift exit, goals may well be hard to come by at the Liberty Stadium. If the Ivorian stays, they will have a much better chance of surviving the dreaded drop, however should he be granted his wish to leave, the lack of transfer activity that has taken place and the rather thin squad, point to the price of the Swans to return to the Championship, being very tempting.

The relegation treble of Burnley, Leicester and Swansea being pays a rather large 50/1 with Bet365, and it should give us a solid run for our money.

 

Top Goalscorer:

Diego Costa @ 15/2 (Paddy Power)

Lukaku @ 20/1 (Paddy Power)

 

Top Goalscorer Handicap:

Diego Costa (+4) @ 15/1 (Betfred)

 

Tri-Cast:

Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United @ 16/1 (Bet365)

 

Without the ‘big seven’:

Stoke @ 6/1 (ToteSport)  

 

Relegation Treble:

Burnley/Leicester/Swansea @ 50/1

World Cup – 32 Best Bets

The World Cup is fast approaching, and it is often the one time that punters really splash out, with such brilliant value occurring during the quadrennial event.

So, in this piece I am going to offer 32 fantastic odds-against bets, one for each team taking part in this year’s World Cup, ranging from a wide variety of different markets.

Group A:

Brazil;

The hosts are in scintillating form, and for the first time in a long time, have a fantastic balance, with both exceedingly strong defence and attack. They should coast out of the group comfortably, and they will prove extremely hard to peg back in the latter stages. Neymar and Hulk are often used as the wide-men as part of a front three, and this gives freedom to Fred to take up the typical ‘number nine’ role. He is 7/2 to finish top scorer for Brazil, and this looks like a brilliant bet.

Fred to be top Brazilian scorer @ 7/2 (Coral)

Croatia;

Croatia enter the tournament in good spirits, after a solid qualifying campaign, finishing runners-up to group winners Belgium. They comfortably beat Iceland in the play-off to enter the tournament, and they should have enough about them to get the points needed against Mexico and Cameroon to get out of the group. However, they will then come up against the winner of Group B, containing Spain, Chile, Netherlands and Australia, so you would fancy any of the big trio in the that group to see off the Croatians. So for this reason, take the 11/5 with Ladbrokes about Croatia exiting in the second round.

Croatia to exit in the second round @ 11/5 (Ladbrokes)

Mexico;

Javier Hernandez will be attempting to impress new boss Louis van Gaal, or potentially put himself in the window for clubs who may be tempted to bid for the 26 year old. He is currently trading at 9/2 to be his nation’s top scorer in Brazil, as Oribe Peralta is clear worthy favourite. It is worth taking a chance on Chicharito showing his magnificent tactical awareness and predator like finishing from inside the box, at 9/2, as with Mexico likely to find it difficult to get out of the group, two goals may end up being the top scorer for El Tricolor.

Javier Hernandez to be top Mexican scorer @ 9/2 (Various)

Cameroon;

The Indomitable Lions managed to snatch a 2-2 draw with Germany in the build-up to Brazil, and this will give them tremendous confidence they can mix it at the top level as they head into the tournament mammoth underdogs to get out of their group. They are 5/1 to get 0 points during the group stages, and this could well appeal. They look certain to lose to Brazil, and Mexico in the opener looks their best chance of getting a result, as Croatia are also looking very sharp in the build-up. So it is essentially getting 5/1 for Mexico to beat Cameroon, which would look a sensational bet on a coupon.

Cameroon to get 0 points @ 5/1 (Paddy Power)

 

Group B

Spain;

The Spanish have been utterly dominant in the last three major international tournaments, winning the last two renewals of the European Championships, and entering the tournament as current World Cup holders. They still have plenty of class flowing through their side, and the addition of Diego Costa is a massive bonus as they are set to battle it out in a tough group with Netherlands, Chile and Australia. They should manage to come out on top, and then they have a fairly decent run to the semi-finals, are they are likely to play Croatia and then possibly Colombia or (here’s hoping) England in the quarter’s. They should manage to breeze through to the semi’s where they will face a big South American side. This is where they are set to come unstuck, and the 11/2 for them to exit in the semi-final’s looks a bet worth chancing.

Spain to exit in the Semi-Final’s @ 11/2 (Bet365)

Netherlands;

There have been plenty of injury troubles for Oranje in the build-up to Brazil, as they bid to go one better than their runner-up finish back in 2010. They disappointed massively in the Euro Championships two years ago and will be aiming to prove they still have something to offer at the top level in van Gaal’s swansong. Robin van Persie is still the talisman, and everything will be based around his finishing in and around the 18-yard box. He is 13/8 to be top Dutch scorer and this looks the safest bet surround the side this year.

Robin van Persie to be top Dutch scorer @ 13/8 (Sporting Bet)

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Chile;

The Chileans are set to be the entertainers of the tournament, with their free-flowing attacking football, and magnificent pressing game. They are likely to surprise many, and I think they should be too strong for the Dutch, and potentially score more against Australia which could be the difference between qualification. It’s 9/2 for Spain/Chile/Netherlands/Australia quadcast, which looks an attractive proposition.

Spain/CHILE/Netherlands/Australia @ 9/2 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Australia;

Australia have been very unfortunate to be placed with three very high quality teams, and they will be hoping to amass at least one point during the group stages. This is not very likely however, and the 7/5 for Australia to fail to gain a single point, looks one of the safest bets of the tournament.

Australia to get 0 points @ 7/5 (Paddy Power)

 

Group C

Colombia;

News filtering through that their talisman Radamel Falcao will be missing the World Cup through injury is obviously detrimental for Colombia’s chances, however they should still have too much about them to qualify comfortably. Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece make it an intriguing group and with the absence of Falcao, Jackson Martinez can step up and take the crown of top Colombian goalscorer, at a tempting 7/2. He has been in fine form, scoring 20 in 30 for Porto, and he will given the role of goal poacher, where he should be served by the creative influences of James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca.

Jackson Martinez to be top Colombian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

Ivory Coast;

This looks to be the final chance for Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho to leave their mark on the World stage, and they will be giving their all to get out of the group at the very least. They will be aiming to get something out of their first two games to give themselves something to fight for going into their final group game against Greece, who could well be out of the competition by then. The 7/5 for the Ivory Coast to beat Greece looks a solid bet, as if this is the case, they will be a lot shorter come the day.

Ivory Coast to beat Greece @ 7/5 (Ladbrokes)

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Japan;

The Japanese have been impressing many football fanatics with their all-action style, attacking in numbers which makes for high-scoring games. They are currently 7/2 third-favourites to score the most goals in Group C, and this appeals thanks to the emergence of Osako has helped, with that clinical edge. Their high-pressing game often pays dividends, and as Colombia, Ivory Coast and to an extent Greece, all try and play attacking football, expect Japan to score plenty on the counter.

Japan to score the most goals in Group C @ 7/2 (Various)

Greece;

Greece had a successful qualifying campaign, only just missing out on automatic qualification on goal difference, finishing level on points with Bosnia-Herzegovina.  They may struggle against the speed of Japan and Ivory Coast, whilst Colombia’s class is sure to prevail. They will set up to contain, and although this may work defensively, they are going to find it hard to score many, and this means the 13/10 with Paddy Power for Greece to fail to win a game appeals massively.

Greece to fail to win a game @ 13/10 (Paddy Power)

 

Group D

England;

Roy Hodgson surprised many by picking a youthful and exuberant squad, in an attempt to make a deep run in the tournament, although for once there is very little expectation from the English media. Daniel Sturridge is expected to take the starting lone striker role, after impressing in the build-up to the tournament, and the 3/1 for him to be top England scorer looks a solid bet, with favourite Wayne Rooney set to play a deeper role.

Dan Sturridge to be top England scorer @ 3/1 (Various)

Italy;

Mario Balotelli is key to Italy’s chances, as the eccentric striker has magnificent ability combined with an impulsive side that often is to his and his sides detriment. He is 13/8 to be top scorer, which is fair, however the value is with the 5/1 for him to pick up the most card points for Italy. He has the tendency to throw in a rash tackle when things are not going his way, and also the opportunity to be carded when celebrating in a ‘Mario manner’ means he is the logical choice.

Mario Balotelli to gain the most card points for Italy @ 5/1 (Bet Victor)

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Uruguay;

Uruguay are boosted by the inclusion of star man Luis Suarez, who will help his side battle through to the latter stages, as they have the benefit of being used to the South American climate. They lack pace in defensive areas however and they were the most carded side during the CONMEBOL qualifying, by some distance. They are prone to fouling, to save their weary legs in their defensive third, and they look a tasty proposition at 12/1 to be the most carded side at this year’s World Cup. A lot is riding on them making a decent run in the tournament, which looks plausible, and should they get out the group, the 12/1 will crumble, considering it is already 6/1 in places.

Uruguay to be the most carded side in the World Cup @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)

Costa Rica;

Costa Rica come into the World Cup as massive underdogs, and should live up to their name, showing little in qualifying to suggest otherwise. They are 7/4 to fail to collect a single point, and this looks as fair a shout as any.

Costa Rica to get 0 points @ 7/4 (Sky Bet)

Group E

France;

The French are often hit-and-miss at major international tournaments, which spells danger to plenty of gamblers. However the team really seems to be gelling under Didier Deschamps and a bit tournament is expected, even without a fully fit Frank Ribery, who may yet miss the competition with an injury. Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras is a slightly tricky group, but with the balance France have, the 9/2 for them to collect 9 points looks a bet worth getting involved with.

France to get 9 points @ 9/2 (Various)

Switzerland;

Josip Drmic has been in fantastic form this year, netting 17 times for the relegated Nuremberg, with little service. He has been snapped up by Bayer Leverkusen, and has continued to emerge as a big talent, netting three times in six appearance for his country. He is set to get the nod up-top and the disparity between bookmakers in-terms of odds for top goalscorer is staggering, so get stuck into the 7/2 with William Hill for Drmic to be top scorer for the Swiss.

Josip Drmic to be top Swiss scorer @ 7/2 (Ladbrokes)

Ecuador;

The South American outfit have a real chance of getting out of the group due to their aptitude to the climate, and magnificent pacey athletic players such as Enner Valencia, who will be a key-part of their success. He has been in magnificent form playing in the ‘Number 10’ role for Pachucha in Mexico, netting 18 times in 22 appearances. He will be given his familiar role once more, and with his pace, power and brilliant finishing, he looks a massive danger to opposition defences. He is 10/1 to be top Ecuadorian scorer, and this looks a massive price for someone who is going to be hot property in the aftermath of the World Cup.

Enner Valencia to be top Ecuadorian scorer @ 10/1 (Sporting Bet)

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Honduras;

Los Catrachos are going to find it extremely difficult to mount a real challenge to get out of the group, as France are extremely classy, Switzerland have been in great form, and Ecuador are adept to the climate. This all points to Honduras struggling, and for this reason the 13/5 for Honduras to fail to get a point looks fair.

Honduras to get 0 points @ 13/5 (Ladbrokes)

Group F

Argentina;

La Albiceleste are current second-favourites to win the tournament, and look set for a massive run. This is the time for Lionel Messi to step up and put in a performance everyone knows he is capable of, to answer critics who constantly mention the fact he is yet to show his true colours in a major international tournament. They should sail out of the group comfortably, and then ease into the final where they are likely to come up against Brazil. They may fall just short, so the 18/1 for a Brazil/Argentina straight-forecast looks a definite play.

Brazil/ARGENTINA straight forecast @ 18/1 (Sky Bet)

Bosnia-Herzegovina;

The side have enough quality in the shape of Dzeko, Pjanic, Ibisevic etc, to ensure they get out of the group. Argentina will have too much class for them, but you would have to fancy them to get the best of both Nigeria and Iran, so the 4/1 for Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish the group with six points seems a solid bet.

Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Bet365)

Nigeria;

Nigeria have had a successful qualifying campaign, and the heat will be no bother to them as they line up in Group F. However, they have plenty of defensive frailties, which will be exploited by both Argentina and Bosnia. This means their only major winnable tie looks to be against Iran, so take the 7/2 for Nigeria to end up with three points.

Nigeria to finish on three points @ 7/2 (Bet365)

Iran;

A rather boring final selection for Group F, but it is one to maximise profits if the others do fall into place. Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina should get the better of Iran, which means that Nigeria v Iran is going to be a massive tie for who finishes third and fourth. There is 14/5 on offer for Iran to get 0 points, which would fit with Bosnia getting six points, and Nigeria getting three points, resulting in a decent pay-day.

Iran to finish on 0 points @ 14/5 (Sky Bet)

Group F

Germany;

Joachim Low has been incredibly brave, and selected only one out-and-out striker to take to Brazil, in the shape of World Cup specialist, Miroslav Klose. He will be the pinnacle of a magnificent German attack, which encorporates fantastic young creative talent, that will be relying on the calm shoulders of Klose to finish off the chances they will be making throughout the tournament. He will have plenty of opportunities to net, and the 9/2 for him to be top German scorer appeals massively.

Miroslav Klose to be top German scorer @ 9/2 (Sporting Bet)

Portugal;

Cristiano Ronaldo will have the hopes of Portugal on his shoulders, as he lines up in Brazil and at 1/2 he is no value to be top Portuguese scorer, so attentions turn to a tri-cast bet, with Portugal fancied to finish runner-up in the group, with Ghana taking the third spot ahead of the USA, which pays 19/5.

Germany/PORTUGAL/Ghana tri-cast @ 19/5 (Betfair Sportsbook)

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Ghana;

Asamoah Gyan was integral in the success story of Ghana back in the 2010 World Cup, and yet again he is the talisman as they head into the 2014 tournament. His goals have helped Ghana qualify, including a brace against Egypt in the play-off. All attacking play will be based around him receiving the ball in a shooting position, so for this reason, the 100/30 for him to be Ghana’s top scorer is fair.

Asamoah Gyan to be top Ghanaian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

USA;

Jurgen Klinsmann has his work cut out massively, is if he is to get out of this difficult group, and the first game against Ghana is massive. He knows realistically they need a result in order to progress, and even a draw may not be enough. If he attacks, Ghana’s pace and power will be too much, and for this reason, take the 7/1 for USA to get no points during the World Cup campaign. The games against Portugal and Germany are going to prove very difficult, and Ghana have never lost against the US at a World Cup and that trend looks set to continue.

USA to finish with 0 points @ 7/1 (Sky Bet)

Group H

Belgium;

The Red Devils can no longer be labelled as ‘Dark Horses’ as they enter the tournament fifth favourites, after their magnificently talented young squad have matured over the past four years. They are likely to top their group, and should be able to progress past the runner up of Group G, which looks set to be Portugal. It will be then they are really tested against the elite of the world, and they look as though they may fall just short against Argentina, should they progress as expected. It will be a big learning curve and the 4/1 for Belgium to exit in the quarter-finals looks worth a go.

Belgium to exit in the quarter-finals @ 4/1 (Coral)

Russia;

Fabio Capello will be hoping to improve on his efforts with England back in 2010, as he lines up again with Russia who look set to qualify from the group, securing the runner-up spot. They should be able to get three points against both South Korea and Algeria, but may fall short against the mighty Belgium. This means the 4/1 for Russia to end with six points is a decent bet to side with.

Russia to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Various)

South Korea;

The South Koreans will be content to show the world their attacking game, when lining up against quality opposition. They don’t look to have the quality to replicate their 2002 performance and get to the semi-finals, and they may well depart in the group stages, finishing in third place. The tri-cast of Belgium, Russia and South Korea is also at 4/1 and looks a solid bet.

Belgium/Russia/SOUTH KOREA @ 4/1 (Betfair)

Algeria;

To complete Group E, and the surprising 4/1 selection for each team, Algeria to end the group stages with 0 points massively appeals. They will certainly struggle against Belgium and Russia, which leaves a key battle between Algeria and South Korea which looks set to go the way of South Korea. Algeria managed to get one point back in 2010, at the expense of England, but that doesn’t look likely to happen again this year, so get stuck into the 4/1 for Algeria to end the tournament with 0 points.

Algeria to finish with 0 points @ 4/1 (Various)

Overall;

Group A:

Fred to be top Brazilian scorer @ 7/2 (Coral)

Croatia to exit in the second round @ 11/5 (Ladbrokes)

Javier Hernandez to be top Mexican scorer @ 9/2 (Various)

Cameroon to get 0 points @ 5/1 (Paddy Power)

Group B:

Spain to exit in the Semi-Final’s @ 11/2 (Bet365)

Robin van Persie to be top Dutch scorer @ 13/8 (Sporting Bet)

Spain/CHILE/Netherlands/Australia @ 9/2 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Australia to get 0 points @ 7/5 (Paddy Power)

Group C:

Jackson Martinez to be top Colombian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

Ivory Coast to beat Greece @ 7/5 (Ladbrokes)

Japan to score the most goals in group C @ 7/2 (Various)

Greece to fail to win a game @ 13/10 (Paddy Power)

Group D:

Dan Sturridge to be top England scorer @ 3/1 (Various)

Mario Balotelli to gain the most card points for Italy @ 5/1 (Bet Victor)

Uruguay to be the most carded side in the World Cup @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)

Costa Rica to get 0 points @ 7/4 (Sky Bet)

Group E:

France to get 9 points @ 9/2 (Various)

Josip Drmic to be top Swiss scorer @ 7/2 (Ladbrokes)

Enner Valencia to be top Ecuadorian scorer @ 10/1 (Sporting Bet)

Honduras to get 0 points @ 13/5 (Ladbrokes)

Group F:

Brazil/ARGENTINA straight forecast @ 18/1 (Sky Bet)

Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Bet365)

Nigeria to finish on three points @ 7/2 (Bet365)

Iran to finish on 0 points @ 14/5 (Sky Bet)

Group G:

Miroslav Klose to be top German scorer @ 9/2 (Sporting Bet)

Germany/PORTUGAL/Ghana tri-cast @ 19/5 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Asamoah Gyan to be top Ghanaian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

USA to finish with 0 points @ 7/1 (Sky Bet)

Group H:

Belgium to exit in the quarter-finals @ 4/1 (Coral)

Russia to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Various)

Belgium/Russia/SOUTH KOREA @ 4/1 (Betfair)

Algeria to finish with 0 points @ 4/1 (Various)

 

Obviously I am not suggesting that you should bet on every selection, however I hope that the reasoning and pricing of the selections have helped you decide on your own bets for this World Cup. Best of luck with your punts, and if you have any bets you would like to share, tweet me @JoshBradley10

 

 

 

Liverpool FC – Season Review

The 2013/14 season ended in a daze of bittersweet disappointment for Liverpool fans, as Brendan Rodgers allowed supporters to be seduced by the illusions of grandeur once more.

If you had imagined reading that statement before a ball had been kicked this season, you would have guessed Liverpool had suffered final day heartache, being pipped to the final Champions League spot by neighbours Everton.

However the strides taken under Rodgers meant that Liverpool went in to the final day this season with title aspirations still (just about) intact. It wasn’t meant to be as Liverpool ended the season with a 2-1 victory over Newcastle after going 1-0 down, whilst City strolled to a comfortable success over West Ham at the Etihad.

It has been a magnificent season under Rodgers as the manager has managed to stamp his style on the club, and adopt a free-flowing attacking style reminiscent of the old days. His ability to incorporate young British talent into the side has been beneficial to the chemistry of the side, and gained many plaudits from across the media. Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Dan Sturridge have been excellent for the most-part, and have provided hope of a solid base for the future.

Beginning to Believe;

Liverpool’s first game of the season was against Stoke in the 12:45 kick-off of the opening weekend. A Dan Sturridge goal and a late Simon Mignolet penalty save allowed Liverpool fans to indulge in the old ‘We are top of the League’ jokes until the later games got underway. However as two more Dan Sturridge goals, resulting in two more 1-0 victories, over Aston Villa and Manchester United respectively, Liverpool endured their best start to the season in living memory, even without the services of talisman Luis Suarez for the first six games and the future looked bright.

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Fans were enjoying heading to games, a stark contrast from the Hodgson and Dalglish days, were some games felt like chores (being there for Blackpool doing the double over us in the ‘10/11 season springs to mind), and there was plenty of faith in Rodgers as a long-term prospect.

Champions League qualification was the aim and fans were in buoyant mood as the season began to progress, with only defeats at Arsenal and a 3-3 draw at Everton leaving bitter tastes in the mouths of Reds before the Christmas period.

The Everton result on paper, wasn’t a bad result, however Joe Allen’s miss from six yards to put the game to bed at 2-1 up is a haunting image, which did linger in the mind for a while after result. Everton battled well and probably should have gone on to win the game but for the magnificence of Simon Mignolet, and a late Dan Sturridge header rescued a point for Liverpool and meant supporters went away with a silver lining.

Two defeats in three days during the Christmas period put paid to Liverpool fans getting ahead of themselves, yet the performances allowed fans to take some solace in defeat. They led in both games against Manchester City and Chelsea, before going on to lose 2-1 in each encounter. A dubious offside for Raheem Sterling against City, and an individual error from Simon Mignolet left the fans feeling frustrated at the Etihad, and a blatant foul on Luis Suarez in the box at Stamford Bridge left many feeling aggrieved, and questioning how they came away from both games without a point.

However the turn of the year would be kind to Liverpool, as they would only go on to lose one game during in 2014, racking up eleven straight wins in the Premier League.

A key game that really kick-started the progress was the 4-0 win over neighbours Everton, who at the time rivals for the final Champions League spot, as it signified the season was going in the right direction and the victory typified what Brendan Rodgers was string to instil in his players. Fast-paced, free-flowing attacking football, as Liverpool got out of the blocks early and managed to get a goal, meaning Everton were forced to attack and were then torn apart on the counter-attack. This is where Liverpool fans began to think Champions League was a definite, and confidence was bounding through the veins of the players.

The unbeaten run gathered pace, as teams were swept aside with consummate ease. Then leaders Arsenal were beaten 5-1, in a game that sent a message to the rest of the league, that Liverpool were to be taken seriously as title contenders. The Reds travelled to Old Trafford on the cusp of starting the game as favourites for the first time during the Premier League era, and United were quickly dispatched thanks to a Steven Gerrard brace from 12-yards, and one from the magician Luis Suarez.

Games were coming thick and fast and the media were suggesting ‘they will falter soon’, however with every game that passed, Liverpool managed to ensure they returned to Anfield with three points and confidence to ‘go again’.

A 4-0 win over Spurs and chants of ‘Now you’re going to believe us’ bellowing around the ground, was extremely fitting. Members of the older generation seemed to be genuinely happy their children were in the process of witnessing Liverpool returning to their perch, and in the process of witnessing something special.

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West Ham were the next port of call, and after going 1-0 up after yet another Steven Gerrard penalty, things were seemingly going to plan. However Andy Carroll had other ideas and after a ludicrous challenge with Simon Mignolet just before half-time, Guy Demel swept in the equaliser and left players, fans and manager all aghast at what they had just witnessed.

It was a fifteen minute interval that had Liverpool’s chances in the balance. They had to put their sheer frustration and anger behind them and keep going to try and get the vital three points. They did that and the skipper stepped up and swept home another penalty to take Liverpool to the top of the league.

Manchester City travelled to Anfield in a must-win clash for Liverpool, if they were to stretch their advantage at the top, and put down a marker for both Manchester City and Chelsea to attack at the tail-end of the campaign.

It was all going to plan for the Reds as they raced into a 2-0 lead before half-time thanks to Sterling and Skrtel, as-well as the imperious Yaya Toure limping off with a minor injury. However City did what champions do and fought back to level the game up at 2-2 with over 20 minutes remaining. It had the feel of something special was needed to resurrect Liverpool’s flailing title ambitions and his name is Philipe Coutinho. The Brazilian wizard popped up with a magnificent curling effort from 18-yards, capitalising on a rare Vincent Kompany mistake, and sending the Anfield faithful into raptures.

They believed.

After coming through the difficult encounters home and away, they saw off Norwich in a thrilling 3-2 victory, and all eyes turned to the Chelsea clash.

It was avoid defeat, and Liverpool would have one hand on the title.

It wasn’t meant to be.

A Steven Gerrard slip allowed Demba Ba sweep in and score on the stroke of half-time, to the shock of the Kop, after Liverpool had dominated the early proceedings without creating much. It was a weakened Chelsea side to add insult to injury, and after Iago Aspas had been brought on to try and get a late equaliser, his poor corner allowed Chelsea to break and ex-Red Fernando Torres rolled the ball to Willian to make it 2-0 Chelsea in the dying embers of the game, and hand the initiative back to City.

After City had did all they had to, Liverpool travelled to Palace knowing a win was needed, and any big margin would keep the extremely feint hopes of catching the Citizens superior goal difference. As Sturridge made it 3-0, then was urged to get back to the centre-circle as opposed to celebrate suggested Liverpool still believed. Fast-forward twenty minutes and a calamitous collapse has seen Palace claw back the deficit and Tony Pulis’ men were celebrating a 3-3, which all but ruled Liverpool out of the title race.

Going for a draw at Chelsea and shutting up shop when 3-0 up against Palace might well have seen Liverpool win the league, however it isn’t Rodgers’ style. This will be a massive learning curve for the manager, and the players who just lacked that ability under immense pressure in the closing three games. It was a step into the unknown for Liverpool, which will serve them well into the future and next season.

Analysis of the season;

Fast frenetic starts were the flavour of Liverpool’s success this season, as the Reds scored 57 of their 101 goals in the first-half of the game, smashing the Premier League record. The side managed to net 15 goals in the first 15 minutes of games and it is a trait which has served them well so far under Rodgers.

However it often masked Liverpool’s inferior fitness levels to other sides towards the later part of the season. The squad consisted of around 13/14 players that looked comfortable in the top level games, however Reds fans could never really feel confident with Victor Moses and Iago Aspas as impact players, who were to be relied on to get a late goal. Rodgers factored this in to his game-plans, and ensured that Liverpool flew out of the blocks early, and built up a lead to fall back on later in the game.

It was often referred to as ‘taking their foot off the gas’ but in most cases, they just couldn’t keep up their high intensity levels for more than 50 minutes at most. This is something that needs to be looked at over the summer, and although the World Cup will be a hindrance, the fact that Liverpool have cemented Champions League football means they are much more of a pulling power than in previous years, and if Rodgers is to be believed, he is attempting to bring in six new faces to help bulk out with the squad and share the weight of pressure and intensity out between the players.

Another aspect that needs to be looked into is the defence.

Sakho was signed as the saviour; however he never looks comfortable on the ball for the style of play Rodgers likes to practice, with Mignolet rolling the ball out to his defence. He has shown signs of tactical awareness and is an intimidating unit in the air; however he needs to work on his ball-work massively if he is to figure. He is only young and will improve, yet he needs to show signs of improvement to feature as a starting centre-half.

Kolo Toure. The less said, the better.

Aly Cissokho. See above.

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Skrtel and Agger had previously cemented their place at the heart of the defence with great effect in previous years, and when they were paired up this season, they looked the best partnership the Reds had at their disposal.

The lack of consistency surely paid its part in the poor defensive performances, with so much pressure on the back four. There seemed to be very little confidence in Mignolet, who often failed to command his box and as a result Liverpool conceded a large amount of their goals from set-pieces.

Flanagan has been a revelation at left-back and looked strong for the majority of the season, however he looks set to be a short-term solution in that position as he was the most dribbled past player in the entire league. He has a tendency to show players inside onto his stronger right-foot, and they glide down the touchline and more times than not, manage to get a cross into the box. He possesses the ability to be a top Premier League full-back in the future, but he looks a lot better at right-back, which looks set to be for the best judging by Glen Johnson’s terrible season.

He’s always shaped as a better right-winger than a right-back, and his inability to defend has been costly on plenty of occasions this season. He has never looked overly interested and with his contract nearly up, it would be a surprise if he was to stay on next season.

Steven Gerrard answered plenty of critics (including myself) in the best possible way this season, putting to bed the ‘he’s lost his legs’ claim, excelling in his new deeper role.

He has been dictating play and pulling the strings for many of his side’s attacks this season, often dropping in between the centre-halves to allow freedom to the full-backs and the ever impressive Jordan Henderson.

He has offered the stability in the centre that Liverpool had been lacking since Lucas suffered his injury two seasons ago. Gerrard’s technical ability is second-to-none and his clinical finishing from set-pieces has been ultra-impressive. He still has another season or two left in him, and he has made that holding midfielder role his own this season.

gerrard lirdThis has allowed Jordan Henderson to shine, and show off his outstanding engine. His box-to-box role has been one he has been crying out for since joining the Reds, and he has slowly became one of the first on the team-sheet. He is technically gifted and has the ability to progress into a very special player if he begins to believe in his own ability. He is prone to panic in the final third, however he is definitely improving in this area, and is sure to be keep his place in the side next year. If he hadn’t had been sent-off against Manchester City, would Liverpool have won the league?

Coutinho starred yet again, showing glimpses of his skills-set when given the chance in an attacking role; however he has been overshadowed this season by Raheem Sterling.  The 19-year-old has matured into a valuable first-team player, either out wide in a front-three or as the spearhead of a midfield diamond where he has thrived, scoring plenty of valuable goals. He looks set for a bright future, and the World Cup will be a fantastic learning curve for him to take into next year, as the squad begins to strengthen once more.

The attacking duo of Suarez and Sturridge took the league by storm, and were the most impressive strike partnership the Premier League has seen in many a year. Luis Suarez missed the first six games of the season following a suspension, and there were question marks of whether or not he will be putting in his upmost efforts after taking to the media to air his desire to leave Anfield. However those rumours were quickly dispelled as Suarez took to cutting down Premier League defences instantly, bagging two at Sunderland on his return to the side. He ended the year with 31 goals, taking the PFA Player of the Year, Golden Boot and Football Writer’s accolades, and Liverpool must be prepared to receive plenty of offers for their Uruguayan superstar.

Dan Sturridge also played his part in the success of the side, as his prolific nature in-front of goal helped the Reds rack up plenty of points, especially during the opening stages of the season when Suarez was missing. He enjoys dropping deep, and drifting wide to make diagonal runs behind the back four of the opposition, which works well with Suarez’ direct nature. He went off the boil towards the end of the season, following an injury he picked up against Manchester City, however he is still set for a starring role for England at the World Cup, and with the acquisition of one more striker over summer, he will be able to have a breather at stages next season, to ease his workload.

Overall;

The season has been a massive success regardless of the fact there was no silverware won for the Reds. Brendan Rodgers has given faith and belief back to the fans and the players, who mixed it at the top level for the first time in many a year. They battled it out with the richest side in the league at the death, with a far less talented squad. So, with money at his disposal in the summer, and the Champions League pull should help attract top quality players to strengthen the squad, and Rodgers’ tactical nous should help ensure Liverpool can balance the pressures of Europe with a solid league campaign once more.

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He is already ahead of the projected target, with the promise of Champions League football being delivered a year ahead of schedule and a title challenge showing just how far the club has come under his guidance. There players that need to leave the side, such as Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho, Kolo Toure, Victor Moses, Iago Aspas and the dead wood. Then new additions will be important to the side, with plenty of rumours flying around about Michel Vorm, Ashley Cole, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Marcos Rojo, potentially joining the ranks.

The summer transfer window is going to be extremely exciting for Liverpool, as for the first time in a long time; they look a really attractive proposition for many footballers. A young side, playing attacking football with young British talent. The future looks bright for Liverpool.

Liverpool Odds for 2014/15:

Premier League: 11/2

Top 4 Finish: 4/9

 

F.A Cup – Fourth Round Best Bets

Following a rather disappointing third round, with very few upsets, attention turns to the fourth round of England’s most prized cup competition.

Sticking with the trend of last rounds predictions, it may pay to delve into a mixture of outsiders and goalscorers, with teams now stepping up the hunt for glory and putting out as strong a starting eleven as they can muster.

Double Delight;

Tony Pulis has done a fantastic job since taking over at Crystal Palace, and his side travel to holders Wigan on the back of a solid run of form which has seen them climb out of the relegation zone to 16th place.

Wigan on the other hand have found themselves floundering in eleventh place in the Championship, way below expectations. They have struggled to show the spark which seen them win the trophy last year, and it took a replay to see of MK Dons in the last round.

All this added together, means the current 27/10 for Crystal Palace seems exceptionally large. Usually it pays to steer clear of bottom-half Premier League sides travelling to Championship opposition, with questions asked over desire and commitment.

tony pulid

However, you can guarantee Pulis will have his men completely motivated and up for the challenge, and he will hope to improve on his record in the competiton, having guided Stoke to the final in 2011, before being beaten by Manchester City.

They should have too much class to see off Wigan, and they become the first selection in an enticing double.

The second selection is ironically, also a bottom half (relegation threatened) side, travelling away to a Championship side.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over the reigns at Cardiff City and guided his side past Newcastle in the previous round, and he has pinpointed a cup run as important to instilling confidence around the club, which will help them fight against relegation later in the season.

His side travel to Bolton, who are currently struggling in the Championship, and come into the game on the back of a 7-1 defeat at the hands of Reading.

You can be certain confidence will be extremely low, and Solskjaer’s men may well be able to take advantage of this. The Bluebird’s should realistically be favourites, yet are currently being offered at 9/5 to beat Dougie Freedman’s men.

Cardiff have managed to take the scalps of many big Premier League sides this season, and although they are currently sitting at the foot of the table, they have the belief and ability to be able to beat any side in the league on their day, which should mean they can surpass Bolton Wanders, and it is worth chancing at the prices.

This means that the double pays 9.36/1 and is definitely worth a small punt.

Any-time scorer double;

Any-time goalscorer bets are becoming increasingly popular with punters, and it is easy to see why. It gives hope throughout the entire game, as you know regardless of the score, if your player is on the pitch, you have a chance of winning your bet up until the ref blows the full-time whistle.

The first member of the elite duo we are going to back, may well be a surprising choice. The early kick-off is between Bournemouth and Liverpool, in which Liverpool are firm favourites to go through.

However, the Reds always look prone to conceding of late, and with Simon Mignolet’s current form being questioned, it would be no surprise to see the magic of the cup occur, and Bournemouth net a goal at some stage of the afternoon.

This means siding with Lewis Grabban (7/2), to net any-time could well be a profitable venture. The striker recently celebrated his 26th birthday by holding talks with Brighton about a potential move to the fellow Championship side, however he turned them down and signed a new contract at the Cherries.

It would be perfectly fitting for him to show his loyalty to the fans, by netting a goal against such esteemed opposition and his pace and prowess are sure to give Liverpool defenders a torrid time at Victoria Park, and he is definitely worth chancing at odds of 7/2 to score any-time.

The second part of the double comes in the shape of Adam Lallana, with the Englishman likely to be starting in an attacking role against Yeovil, on Saturday.

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His ability to find the right spaces and class to choose the right pass or finish, has led the 25 year-old to be given his first chance in an England shirt this season. He will be looking to try and barge his way into Roy Hodgson’s plans for Brazil, and he knows the F.A Cup is one of the best ways to do it.

He netted in the previous round against Burnley, and will be hoping he can do the same against a weaker defence. The bookies are split with his odds ranging from 11/8 to a top-priced 2/1, and this should be exploited and added to the other selection of Grabban to form a 12.5/1 double.

Highest Scoring Game;

It is always difficult to predict the highest scoring game in an F.A Cup weekend, with thrillers being played out left, right and centre.

However, this particular market looks of great interest this round, due to a rather generous price on Manchester City taking on struggling Watford.

City have been sweeping all before them at the Etihad this season, and they have already registered over one hundred goals so far this season. They may not play their first string against Watford, but they have class in abundance and could well run riot.

Aguero will be given the nod to continue his return to fitness, and he alone will cause Watford some serious problems. They are 5/1 to be the highest scoring game, with Southampton v Yeovil at the same price. The Saints may well rest a few players, and take their foot of the gas when they establish a decent lead, whereas you can be certain City will be out to knock up a massive margin.

So, the 5/1 does look extremely tempting, and should be taken on City v Watford to be the highest scoring F.A Cup game this weekend.

Selections;

Crystal Palace & Cardiff both to win @ 9.36/1

Grabban & Lallana to score any-time @ 12.5/1

Man City v Watford to be the highest scoring game @ 5/1

F.A Cup – Third Round Best Bets

The magic of the F.A Cup is one thing that continues to give hope to teams and fans-a-like during their dark periods of supporting their club.

There’s nothing more that excites neutrals than the possibility of a big upset, and their looks set to be a few potential candidates this weekend.

Underdog Double;

Leicester City have been in fantastic form this season, mounting a serious title challenge in the Championship, and they travel to Mark Hughes’ Stoke this weekend.

Following on from a solid start to 2013, with a 3-1 win away at Millwall, Nigel Pearson’s men will be in great form and travel to the Potteries in buoyant mood.

Whereas Hughes’ men, have struggled of late, winning only one of their last six in all competitions. They come into the game having conceded a last minute penalty against Everton, throwing away a potential three points.

Their isn’t a massive difference in squad strengths between the two sides, and the pricing structure is based solely on the fact that the game is being played at the Britannia. Pearson will have prepped his players in dealing with the intense atmosphere, and the 27/10 on offer for Leicester looks too big to ignore, albeit not being too much of a ‘potential upset’.

The other team to go into the ‘Upset double’ is struggling Cardiff to beat in-form Newcastle. Yes, I know that’s not exactly what you want to hear going into the bet, but there is method in the madness.

Newcastle have been exceedingly strong in recent weeks, constantly surprising whilst racking up wins and shooting up the table. This is in a stark contrast to Cardiff’s dip in form, which ultimately (along with other things) cost Malky Mackay his job.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks set to be appointed the new Cardiff boss, and his wealth of experience on the pitch will come in very handy with the current squad at his disposal. Vincent Tan is sure to be offering hefty bonuses for impressive performances in cup competitions, and with the pressure of a league struggle put on the back-burner for a weekend, the freedom that Cardiff can play with will surely suit their expansive team.

The fairy-tale of the F.A Cup looks fitting to thrust Tan and his wild antics back into the limelight, and the stage looks set for a big game after Newcastle struggled to a defeat at the hands of West Brom, whilst Cardiff managed to keep Arsenal at bay for 88 minutes at the Emirates before conceding two late goals. The 9/2 for Cardiff looks generous, and the double pays 19.35/1.

Any-time scorer treble;

There are often selection issues from the so called ‘big sides’ in the competition, with many players being rested, with the league deemed more important. So it will pay to side with Championship sides and lower, who are guaranteed to put out their strongest eleven, as-well as paying attention to sides who are likely to play potential fringe players.

The first player to add to our treble, is Britt Asombalonga who has scored four times in only two appearances in the F.A Cup so far in his blossoming career. The 21 year-old has been in good form for Peterborough, and looks set to lead the line as Posh travel to Kidderminster hoping to avoid a potential upset. He is odds-on to net any-time in many places, with Bet365 going a stand-out 6/5, which becomes the first leg of the treble.

The second leg is a fringe player, who may potentially be sent out on loan this January, with the game acting as a potential shop window. The man is Nikica Jelavic at Everton, and although he is not guaranteed to start, the 6/4 on offer for him to net any-time looks too good to miss if he is to be given the nod.

The Croatian hasn’t been given much of a chance due to the emergence of loan signing Romelu Lukaku, and he will be looking to take advantage of any chance he is to be given. He is sure to get the service from a great footballing Everton side, who have began to thrive under Roberto Martinez. QPR are not great defensively, and Everton should be able to control the game, meaning Jelavic will be inundated with chances. The 6/4 with Bet365 is another best price, and is the second leg.

The final leg of the treble comes in the late kick-off on Saturday evening, and is Danny Welbeck who is currently 6/4. David Moyes will be taking no chances with team selection, knowing an early exit from the competition could be very cost to both him and his team. Welbeck is likely to start, and after netting twice away at the Swans on the opening day of the season, he will be confident of finding the net once more.

This means the treble pays 12.75/1 and looks a decent proposition to kick-start the new year in style.

Selections;

Leicester & Cardiff double @ 19.35/1

Assombalonga, Jelavic & Welbeck any-time treble @ 12.75/1

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