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)

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)

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.

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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

Premier League Football Preview – 14/12/13

One of the biggest games of the season so far kicks off at 12:45, Saturday lunch-time, with leaders Arsenal travelling to Manchester City who are currently sitting in fourth place.

Arsenal have been in great form this year, with the re-emergence of Aaron Ramsey proving pivotal, as the Welshman has been in impeccable form. They are managing to overrun teams in the centre, using three strong midfielders, and two wide man, that can turn into a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 when defending. It is more than likely going to have to be a 4-5-1 tomorrow, as they come up against a City side who are imperious at home.

They have won every Premier League game they have played at the Etihad this season, and will be looking to carry on the tradition in the manner in which they dispatched of Arsenal’s north-London rivals last month.

The fact Arsenal suffered a defeat in Napoli midweek might have been irrelevant in terms of their Champions League qualification, but the mental implications may well follow through into their Premier League performance, and with City beating Munich 3-2 away midweek, momentum is definitely with the Manchester side.

For this reason, we must add the 5/6 on offer for the first part of the treble.

The second selection to go in to the treble is Everton at home to Fulham. Roberto Martinez’ side has been surprising everyone (apart from Everton fans) this season, as they continually play brilliant attacking football, something not seen under David Moyes.

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The front four of Barkley, Mirallas, Deulofeu and Lukaku has the potential to put any team to the sword if they are all given the chance to play. Whereas Fulham have been exceptionally disappointing, failing to fire under Martin Jol. They showed glimpses of hope against Tottenham going 1-0 up before conceding two second-half goals to crumble to a defeat. René Meulensteen did manage to get off the mark at the second time of asking, beating an Aston Villa 2-0, that just failed to turn up.

Everton should have far too much class at Goodison, but at 4/11 they are no value. However when you take into account Fulham’s failure to fire on the road this season and the fact that Everton have kept nine clean sheets in their last twelve league games at Goodison, the 5/4 for Everton to win-to-nil looks great value.

This goes into the treble, with City, and our final selection plays at 4pm on Sunday, in the shape of Tottenham.

Liverpool have been surpassing expectations, flying high in fourth place but with recent injury worries, going to Tottenham and getting something is going to be a difficult ask. Gerrard, Sturridge, Enrique and Henderson (possibly), are all out, and it paves the way for a make-shift midfield of Joe Allen and Lucas, who will find it hard to cope with the strength that Sandro and Paulinho offer in the centre.

Spurs’ attacking full-backs will give Johnson and Flanagan endless amounts of trouble, and with Soldado finally finding his shooting boots midweek, he looks sure to be testing Mignolet on a regular occasion.

Liverpool do have the players to get something from the game, but there will be a lot of pressure on Luis Suarez to keep up his tremendous run of form, averaging a goal every hour (15 goals in 10 games). But Liverpool’s poor record at White Hart Lane looks set to continue, and the 6/4 on offer for Tottenham boosts the price up to 9.31/1.

Midfielders’ any-time scorer patent;

Any-time goalscorers are extremely enjoyable, as as long they’re on the pitch, it doesn’t matter what score it is, you still have a chance of landing your bet. Midfielders’ prices are often great value, and a combination of three to score anytime in a patent (could even add a small first-scorer one to, if feeling adventurous), often result in great odds.

The first midfield maestro to go into our patent is Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko, who is priced at 10/1 to score first, and 7/2 to score any-time. His box-to-box prowess will be key if Newcastle are to win the game, as his direct running style is something that will constantly haunt Victor Wanyama.

Wanyama is used to man-marking attacking-midfielders out of the game, but with Sissoko the king of late surging runs, and efforts from distance, it is a whole new proposition for him to deal with. He will be in confident form, after netting against the Saints’ last season and having recently scored a magnificent strike against West Brom to win his side the game. He goes in at 7/2.

The next man to be added is Ross Barkley of Everton, who is continually attempting to cement a place on the plane for the World Cup in the summer.

He knows a big run of games is all he needs to prove his worth to Hodgson, and by showing he can score goals adds a key part to his game, with the potential to play behind the striker proving his versatility.

Fulham are rather poor defensively on the road, and Everton should be able to control the game in the way they want it to be played. Barkley is young and fearless, and loves nothing more than running at the defences. He will put fear into an aging Fulham defence, and he should manage to get himself on the scoresheet, so at 15/8 at http://sports.williamhill.com he goes into the treble.

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If these pair manage to net, then we shall be waiting until Sunday for the final leg, as hopefully Shinji Kagawa can do the business against Aston Villa.

He hasn’t had a consistent run of games in the number ten role to be able to prove his worth, but now with RVP out, he may well get his wish in behind Wayne Rooney. He is undoubtedly brilliant on his day, and if he is able to replicate his Dortmund form, the 11/4 for him to net any-time against an inconsistent Villa side, looks a great bit of value.

That rounds off the treble, which pays 47.51/1  or if you wish to be extremely adventurous, the first-goalscorer treble pays a whopping 741.5/1.

Selections;

Treble: Manchester City & Tottenham to win, with Everton to win to nil @ 9.31/1

Patent: Sissoko, Barkley & Kagawa to score first @ 741.5/1

Patent: Sissoko, Barkley & Kagawa to score any-time @ 47.51/1

Premier League – Opening Day Advice

Finally, after an excruciating long summer without football, the Premier League returns, and with it, an opportunity to win some money to make Match of the Day even sweeter.

There’s nothing worse than conceding an injury time equaliser, to ruin your acca (apart from Garth Crooks), but on the flip-side, there is nothing sweeter than hearing Jeff screaming “there’s been a goal at the Emirates!”, when waiting on Arsenal for the last leg of a tasty treble.

Swings and roundabouts, and there are plenty of ups and downs to be expected over the coming season, but hopefully we can start with a profit.

Under/Over treble;

I’ve never put up any predictions about over/under 2.5 goals before, but looking at the prices this weekend, there seems to be some brilliant value floating around.

Liverpool kick-off the new season versus Stoke in the early kick-off, and the last two games at Anfield between the two sides have finished 0-0.

Liverpool always seem to start the season slowly, but should have enough firepower to see off a Stoke side that will take a while to adjust to the new playing style of Mark Hughes.

I can’t see Stoke troubling new boy Simon Mignolet too much, and a 2-0 victory for the reds looks a solid prediction. However, you can never be too confident on Liverpool bagging too many goals against the Potters, and the under 2.5 goals price at Evens looks a solid bet to add to the multiple.

Swansea v Manchester United is the late kick-off on the opening day, and we can expect goals galore at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea have had the benefit of being back in competitive action earlier than most, with the Europa League qualifying having already commenced.

They looked solid, with new-boys Wilfried Bony and Jonjo Shelvey linking up well with one of the finds of the season Michu. They will cause a rather worried David Moyes some problems, and with United’s pre-season being rather mixed, it would be no surprise to see Swansea bag a couple.

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League

However a side with Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney in will always score goals, so the safe option is to side with over 2.5, and just enjoy the game, which looks set to be a cracker. 4/5 is a fair price, and is worthy of going in the multiple.

The final leg of the over/under treble is the West Brom v Southampton game, which looks set to have plenty of action.

The Baggies’ new signing, Nicolas Anelka will be looking to get off the mark straight away, and with new England front-man, Rickie Lambert on the opposite side, there looks to be goals in the offing.

Both are rather attacking sides, and will be a bit slow defensively earlier on in the season. It is worth risking the front-men being able to stick away the chances they are sure to get. 10/11,. tots up the over/under treble to 5.87/1, and adds a bit of interest during the televised games.

Opening Day BTTS & Win double;

Norwich entertain Everton at three o’clock, and the Blues has been in great form pre-season, showing they can match it with the big boys over in America. Kevin Mirallas looks like he is set for a massive season, and he can lead Everton to an opening day victory at Carrow Road.

Roberto Martinez seems to have fazed in his new passing style seamlessly during the season, and has a solid back four to base it off. Coleman and Baines are arguably the best full-back pairing in the league on their day, and both are set to go on to bigger things unless Everton step up and mount a European challenge this year.

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Norwich have signed well, but still lack defensive depth and a central midfielder to run the show. This is where Everton can take advantage on Saturday, and with Fellaini pulling the strings in the centre, Everton should just have enough to see off the challenge of Chris Hughton’s men.

It’s worth taking advantage of Ladbrokes’ 18/5 about Everton to win, with both teams scoring.

Add this with Manchester United to beat Swansea, with both teams scoring at 11/4 and we have a 16.25/1 double that is extremely enticing.

Any-time scorer treble;

Theo Walcott looked in good nick for England in midweek, getting himself on the score-sheet, and he can replicate this come Saturday, against a rather week Aston Villa defence.

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He is 5/4 to net any-time, and with his pace like to cause the Villa back-four problems all afternoon, he looks good value to start the season with a bang.

Kevin Mirallas can also carry on his pre-season form by getting his name on the score-sheet at the first time of asking. The Belgian has gone from strength-to-strength since arriving in the Premier League, and has excelled under the guidance of Roberto Martinez, slotting in to the fluid formation with great ease.

Employed as a wide-man, Mirallas is keen to link up with the lone striker, and this means the 5/2 about him netting looks a decent prospect.

Tottenham have brought in Roberto Soldado to bolster their attack, and mount a challenge for top-four next season, and he will start his campaign away at Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon.

He has strength, and a sharp finish and although he won’t be used to the physical presence that Palace offer, he had the ability to be able to adapt quickly.

He is set to be penalty taker for Spurs, which could come in handy Sunday, and at 5/4 it’s worth adding him to our any-time trio, which will hopefully result in us having a bit of interest come Sunday.

Advice:

1 point treble (Over/Under 2.5 goals): Liv/Stoke – Under, Swa/MU, WBA/South – Over @ 5.87/1 (William Hill)

1 point double: Everton to beat Norwich & BTTS, Manchester United to beat Swansea & BTTS @ 16.25/1 (Ladbrokes)

1 point treble (any-time scorer): Walcott/Mirallas/Soldado @ 16.72/1 (BetVictor)

Premier League 2013/14 – Preview with Tips

The 2013/14 Premier League season is approaching rapidly, and we can finally indulge in our footballing feasts once more.

There will plenty of thrills and spills along the way, tears will be shed, but where else can you experience the ups-and-downs that 90 minutes of football offers?

There is a new look and feel to this season, with Sir Alex Ferguson finally giving up his mantle as the greatest Premier League manager of all-time, handing it down to the extremely consistent David Moyes.

There has always been plenty of questions of how Moyes, would do with money, and this is where we find out.

Last year’s Champions looked imperious, romping the league by a cosy 11 points with very few worrying moments along the way.

Robin van Persie looked sensational, settling in to his new surroundings and bagging 26 league goals, finishing top scorer in his first season at the Red Devils.

Yet, pre-season has not gone very well for Moyes so far. It is only pre-season, and too much shouldn’t be read into the performances, however it’s always nice to begin your reign as boss with a steady few wins.

The players have looked lacklustre, and this could be a big factor in whether or not Moyes will be able to draw in the high-calibre players he needs to, to ensure they stay ahead of the competition, with both Chelsea and Manchester City improving their squads over the summer.

United haven’t managed to bring in any high class players to help boost their side, after failed bids for Cesc Fabregas and Thiago, and non-existent efforts to sign Fellaini and Baines from former club Everton.

There used to be a massive pull to United, to play under one of the greatest manager’s to have been involved with football, Sir Alex, but now there are many who are not feeling the same about playing under someone who failed to win a trophy on his 11 years on Merseyside.

Players are deciding to head elsewhere, and this could play a factor in Manchester United falling behind both Manchester City and Chelsea.

City and Chelsea have both been involved in manager changes as-well, with Mancini leaving Manchester after failing to win a trophy in his final season (the current state of modern football, where money is involved), being replaced by former Malaga manager, Manuel Pelligrini.

Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stefan Jovetic have all been bought in an attempt to bolster the squad at Eastlands, and look to have a great chance of doing so.

They could add the extra spark that was missing at certain parts last season, and on paper, it would seem that City have the stronger side in Manchester. This leads us to believe the Evens currently on offer for City to finish the season as the highest North-West club, looks a solid bet.

However, in terms of winning the league, I do feel they will fall slightly short, due to the magic that one man can work in London.

Step up, the Special One..

mouinho

Jose Mourinho makes his return to the place he once made his own, Stamford Bridge, and has inherited a brilliant squad which he looks set to round off in his own special way.

Romelu Lukaku returning is almost like a new signing in itself, with the 20-year-old returning from a successful loan spell at the Hawthorns, proclaiming his time there ‘made him a man’.

He adds depth to an already strong Chelsea attack, with Torres, Matam Hazard, Ba and the newly signed, and highly-rated Andre Shurrle.

The only thing that was lacking last season for the Blues was a calm head in front of goal, and with Mourinho extremely interested in Wayne Rooney, he could offer the missing link that Chelsea needed to become the complete unit.

They have a brilliant goalkeeper in the shape of Petr Cech, a solid defence, and sensational attack. Another holding midfielder would be the only position that really needs taking care of, however in the shape of David Luiz, they have a more than able deputy, who could slot in their when needed.

His fast feet, surprising pace, and brute strength make him an ideal candidate for the holding role, and playing him centre-half has often caused problems when the Brazilian neglects to curb his attacking instinct.

He is a great passer of the ball and has tremendous vision, so if he is played in what looks to be his best position, he could set the world alight.

This leads me to believe that Chelsea should just about prevail in the race for the title, after a strong battle with Manchester City, while Manchester United take a season to adjust under David Moyes, back in third.

Advice: Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United @ 10/1 (Bet365)

Robin van Persie is a worthy favourite for the top goalscorer market, but 4/1 looks far too short to get involved in, so we have to look elsewhere for each-way value.

With Luis Suarez banned for the opening six games, and maybe even venturing to Madrid before then, Daniel Sturridge is set for a more central role, the kind of which he’s always dreamed of.

With Suarez banned towards the end of last season, Sturridge spearheaded the Reds attack, with great effect.

Liverpool opened up defences with great team moves as opposed to just getting the ball to Suarez and hoping the Uruguayan would create some magic.

sturridge swans

Sturridge scored ten goals in fourteen games, and seemed to strike up a great understanding with the midfield trio of Gerrard, Henderson and in particular Phillipe Coutinho.

He is 20/1 for the top goalscorer prize, and this looks tremendous each-way value, with the Reds seemingly set for a big season.

At a bigger price, Olivier Giroud appeals at a surprisingly large 50/1.

The Frenchman began to hit form towards the back-end of last season, managing to bag 17 goals in his maiden Premier League campaign.

At the moment he looks set to be the central figure of the Arsenal attack, with the Gunners failing to bring any other attackers so far this summer.

They are still attempting to bring Luis Suarez to the Emirates, a move welcomed by Giroud, but even if they are successful with the move the Uruguayan could easily play behind the Frenchman, or on either side of an attacking trio.

Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta are two of the best at threading through balls, and with Jack Wilshere returning to fitness, Giroud is sure to receive to impeccable service.

All in all, the 50/1 looks far too big on a player who will know a lot more about the Premier League, having been here a year. 11 goals in his first season is a solid base, and he now has the ability to kick on, and must be key if Arsenal are to make a bold challenge for fourth spot.

Advice:

1pt e.w: Daniel Sturridge @ 20/1 (Various)

0.5pt e.w: Olivier Giroud @ 50/1 (Various)

The bridge between Championship football and Premiership football is something many find hard to adapt to, and Crystal Palace and Hull look set to struggle again this term.

Palace only just managed to make it to the promised land, via a very dramatic play-off final, and failing to replace their key man Wilfried Zaha looks set to come back to haunt them.

Hull as though they have failed to make enough moves in the transfer window so far to ensure survival next year, whereas Cardiff’s squad looked as though it could have stake a claim for a solid placing in the Premier League last year, and with high profile names such as Dirk Kuyt being linked, they look as though they should manage to escape relegation.

This means there is one team left to fill the bottom three, and at the time of writing the most likely candidates look to be Stoke City.

After looking as they were going to be Premier League stalwarts under Tony Pulis, the Potters finishing between 11th and 14th on four successive occasions under the Welshman.

mark hughes

However heading in to their fifth successive campaign, now under the tutoring of Mark Hughes, Stoke look as though they may well struggle over the coming season.

A massive dip in form seen the Potters pick up only five points in thirteen games during 2013, which managed to draw them into what could easily have escalated into a relegation battle. The fans were nervous before back-to-back victories over Norwich and QPR ensured Premier League survival for another year.

However they needed to improve during the transfer window just to make up for the rather dubious managerial expertise of Mark Hughes whose QPR side (30) were the only team to score less than Stoke (34) in the Premier League last season.

Goals win games, and if Hughes attempts to change Pulis’ tactical style of play too much, the Potters may well be in trouble. Stoke are not an overly footballing side, but do the basics very well. However Mark Hughes is renowned for making sides his own (usually negatively) and this could well spell trouble for Stoke City and it’s fans, with Hughes already offering a false dawn of ‘a new brand of attacking football’.

Advice: Crystal Palace/Hull/Stoke @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes)

ALL ADVICE:

2 points: Tri-cast: Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United @ 10/1 (Bet365)

1 point: Relegation treble: Crystal Palace/Hull/Stoke @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes)

1 point e.w: Top scorer: Daniel Sturridge @ 20/1 (Various)

0.5 points e.w: Top scorer: Olivier Giroud @ 50/1 (Various)

Sunday 9th December – Preview with best bets.

Sunday Betting Preview

This Sunday looks set to be one of the best footballing days of the year, with three great games.

Manchester City v Manchester United

The highlight is no doubt the Manchester derby and the table is nicely poised, with City knowing a win will reinstall then as League leaders on goal-difference.

Last year Manchester City did the double over their counterparts, winning 7-1 on aggregate. This year it looks set to be a lot closer, and with Van Persie and Rooney b beginning to click up-top, it could be a very long afternoon for the City defence.

Manchester United's English striker Wayn

Wayne Rooney has been in great goal-scoring form recently, and is very much a confidence player. When he is on top of his game, he is extremely hard to stop, and always comes alive when needed most for his club, and the 9/1 for him to open the scoring looks big.

Ex-United star Carlos Tevez looks set to line-up for City, and he and Aguero always look a constant threat when they’re in the final third together. Yaya Toure has had a quiet spell after a blistering start to the season, and with you add in the creativity of the magician David Silva and Samir Nasri, City always look likely to score goals.

Despite the sensational attacks of both sides, defensively they have both looked incredibly suspect, United in particular.

They have lacked a real leader in the absence of Rio Ferdinand, and often looked shakyfrom set-pieces, conceding three goals from dead-balls against Reading alone.

This means the height of Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany may provide a massive problem, and the 5/1 for Toure any-time, and 16/1 for Kompany any-time, looks incredible value.

Toure never fails to cause United problems, and given a more attacking role, his pace and strength will mean the United centre-half pairing will be in for a long afternoon at The Etihad.

It is certain to be a free-flowing attacking game, as both teams strengths focus mainly on attack, so the 7/10 for over 2.5 goals looks a banker.

Everton v Tottenham 

Elsewhere, Everton entertain Tottenham in what is set to be a tight affair on Merseyside. Both sides are doing well in the league, and Everton know a win on Sunday will put them back into the top four.

This will be a major catalyst in what will be a big day for David Moyes’ men, and he will be looking for a big performance from Nikica Jelavic who has been on a quiet spell over the last few weeks.

jelavic everton

The Croat scored the only goal in the fixture last year, and the 13/2 for him to open the scoring again this year looks value.

Maraoune Fellaini looks set to line-up just behind Jelavic in a 4-4-1-1 formation, and he will be key in creating chances for the striker.

It will be a big test for Tottenham, who are beginning to pick up a head of steam, and given the fact they had a tough game against Panathinaikos on Thursday, they may struggle to hit top form.

If Spurs go 4-5-1, it will be a very defensive encounter and they will rely heavily on counter-attacking football. So if they fall behind, they will be forced to commit more and more men forward, and allow Everton to begin their own counter-attacking football, which they have used to great effect so far this season.

This means that the 10/1 on offer for the 2-0 Everton score-line looks a solid bet.

West Ham v Liverpool

The final game of the afternoon takes place at Upton Park and sees West Ham host Liverpool, with both teams without their first choice centre-forwards.

Luis Suarez is missing for Liverpool, after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Southampton. This means Liverpool are without a recognised centre-forward and will be forced into fielding Jonjo Shelvey in a false-nine role, a formation used to great effect by the Spanish team in the Euro’s.

Liverpool however, are not Spain, and Jonjo Shelvey is unfortunately, not Fabregas. It is hard to see where a goal will come from for the Reds, and they could be relying on set-pieces.

West+Ham+United+v+Liverpool+Premier+League+fmmqYdEvNURl

This means that free-kick and penalty-taker Steven Gerrard may get an opportunity from the spot, to net his first goal since September and as he is set to take a more attacking role on Sunday, the 11/1 for first-goal looks huge.

West Ham are set to start Carlton Cole as a lone-striker, with Kevin Nolan sitting in behind, and former Liverpool trainee Nolan always looks good value for a goal.

Liverpool have always looked suspect from set-pieces, and this is where Kevin Nolan manages to get the majority of his goals. His late runs into the box are a constant threat and given his desire to show his boyhood club what they are missing, the 3/1 for Nolan any-time looks fair.

It will be a very defensive affair and the under 2.5 goals looks a banker at 4/6, with the most likely outcome being 1-1 which is a solid 11/2 shot.

Advice:

1 point: Wayne Rooney FGS @ 9/1 – (William Hill, Ladbrokes)

0.5 points: Vincent Kompany any-time @ 16/1 – (William Hill)

0.5 points: Jelavic FGS & Everton 2-0 @ 40/1 (William Hill)

0.5 points: Gerrard FGS @ 1-1 @ 60-1 (Various)

1 point: Y.Toure & Nolan any-time double @ 23/1

1 point: Manchester City/Everton/West Ham – Liverpool Draw – treble @ 16/1 (Various)

0.5 points: Rooney/Jelavic/Gerrard – FGS treble @ 899/1

The Premier League – Who to follow, and updated bets.

The Premier League is well under way and it is clear to see there are numerous surprise packages and potential superstars in the offing, as-well as established top class players, cementing their status.

Five Key Men:

1) Nikica Jelavic: The Everton man has started this season, the way he finished the last. He has bagged 4 goals already, even with missing out two weeks of the season through injury. His one touch finishing is a key factor for Everton’s success this season, and with the support he is receiving from Fellaini he looks set to continue shooting up the goalscoring charts. I advised a bet on the Croatian before the season started to finish top-scorer at 28/1 and he is now a best priced 16/1, so you can afford to lay the bet off for a small profit if you wish. But with Everton’s fixture list, it may pay to wait until more towards Christmas time after the Croat has banged in a fair few more goals.

2) Santi Cazorla: The Arsenal creative midfielder has been one of the finds of the year. After impressing in his first season at Malaga last year, Arsene Wenger seen enough potential to bring the Spaniard to the Emirates in an attempt to fill the void left by Fabregas. He is key to any success Arsenal will have this year, with the link-up play he is going to have, between Ramsey/Arteta and the front three. He knows where the goal is, as shown by his return of 9 goals last year from Midfield when still at Malaga. He has already scored two this year for new club Arsenal and could reach double figures before the end of the season.

3) Fernando Torres: After enduring a torrid opening to his Chelsea career, El Nino has finally began to regain the form he showed at Liverpool. His finishing is exceptional, and he will create chances out of nothing. His partnership with Eden Hazard is enough to scare any defenders and the fact that Chelsea are already four points clear is partly down to the Spaniard finding his shooting boots. He has bagged four so far this season in the Prem, and the 11/1 I advised pre-season has now disappeared and he is now a best priced 13/2. This still looks a brilliant bet, with the way Chelsea have started the season, and I expect him to score 20+.

4) Rickie Lambert: The ex-Beetroot factory worker has answered all his critics who questioned just how well he would when stepping up to the Premier League. The Liverpudlian has been key in Southampton’s opening few games, and has managed to help his side out of the relegation zone, although they still sit in a precarious 17th place. He can play as a lone striker with great conviction and comparisons with Grant Holt at Norwich are fair, as both have magnificent hold up play as well as tremendous power and a deadly finish. If Southampton are to stay up, Lambert will be the key man to keep them up.

5) Joe Hart: Many people’s choice as the Worlds best goalkeeper, and it is hard to disagree after the consistent performances the Englishman has put in. He has started the season in inspired form and although City have conceded a lot more goals than they would have liked, it could have been a lot worse had it not been for Hart. His positioning is second-to-none and it allows him to make plenty of saves that other ‘keepers would have no chance of getting near. Manchester City have conceded twice as many goals as Chelsea have, and Mancini will be looking to shape up his defence. However, if Manchester City are to retain their title, a lot of it will come down to the performances of Joe Hart.

Five to watch:

1) David de Gea: David de Gea has responded well to the heavy criticism he faced due to a number of poor performances last year, staking his claim to keep the number one spot this year, ahead of Anders Lindegaard. De Gea has always been renowned as a brilliant shot-stopper, but his positional awareness and command of his box, has often been disappointing. He lost his place against Spurs, as Fergie opted to give Lindegaard his chance between the sticks, but after conceding three, it looks likely he will be be relegated to the bench once more. If United are to mount a serious challenge to claim their 20th league title, a lot will rest on clean sheets, so de Gea will be of key importance. He knows this is his chance to prove himself as a world-class ‘keeper, and this will be a massive season for him.

2) Matt Jarvis: Jarvis turned heads in the summer when breaking West Ham’s club record transfer fee, for over £10 million. He had a successful career but will be under a substantial amount of pressure from the Hammers faithful to deliver. However, he seems to have slotted in to the way Allardyce goes about his football perfectly. Last season he was the most accurate Premier League crosser, and the most frequent, with 56 finding a team-mate out of 218 crosses, and with the loan addition of Andy Carroll, he will have a brilliant target to aim at. He never fails to track back and his work-rate is excellent, he looks set to be in for a brilliant season which could really kick-start the 26 year-old’s career.

3) Suso: Brendan Rodgers has put his faith in the products of the Liverpool youth academy and Suso is possibly the most exciting prospect. The Spaniard slipped under the radar following all of the fuss about 17 year-old Raheem Sterling, but the creativeness of Suso is something that Liverpool have lacked for a long time. He is one step ahead of defenders and has the talent to actually create an end product in the final third. His debut against Manchester United was incredibly impressive, and he didn’t let the occasion overwhelm him as he showed he was fearless, with his direct running at some of the best midfielder’s and defenders in the world. He has put in numerous brilliant performances at Youth and Reserve level, and the partnership he struck up with Suarez during the Norwich game was enough to excite Liverpool fans across the globe. He looks set to be given plenty more chances by Rodgers and by the end of the season he could well have established himself as a key first-team member.

4) Romelu Lukaku: The West Brom forward who is on-loan from Chelsea is one of the rawest talents in the league. His physical presence is massive and the 19 year-old Belgian has the perfect mix of pace and power. He failed to cement a starting place at Stamford Bridge but Steve Clarke has said Lukaku will be getting a number of first-team opportunities at The Hawthorns. He often brushes past defences with his direct running style, but his finishing often lets him down. Clarke will aim to get the best out of the big man during his time at the club and if he can improve his finishing, he will be a massive hit. He has the potential to become one of the best target-men in the league, as he has incredible pace to go with his strength and tremendous aerial ability. It is going to be a massive season, and it would be no surprise to see him become a massive success, and we could well see him partnering Fernando Torres up-top next season at the Bridge.

5) Michu: One of the shrewdest pieces of business during the transfer windows has to be Laudrup bringing in ex Rayo Vallenco star Michu. He was the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga last season with 15 goals, alongside his 3 assists and 5 Man of the Match performances. He has adapted well to the English game and has already scored 5 this season, impressing pundits with his passionate performances, intricate passing and brilliant finishing. He will be key to Swansea’s attempt to avoid relegation and he is more than a fitting replacement for Gylfi Sigurdsson. A big season is in store for the Spaniard and he will be hoping his decision to turn down bigger clubs for the Swans, will be a worthwhile venture.

Tips:

0.5 points: Santi Cazorla – PFA Player of the Year @ 14/1 – Paddy Power

0.5 points: Fernando Torres – PFA Player of the Year @ 16/1 – Paddy Power

3 points: West Brom – Top Midlands Club @ Evens – BetVictor

Champions League 2012/13 – Preview with Best Bets.

Last year’s Champions League was as eventful as ever and eventually went the way of Chelsea, for the first time in their history. They hit 33/1 after losing the first leg of their last-16 game against Napoli 3-1. This result played some part in the sacking of AVB, this led to Di Matteo taking the reigns at the South London club, before guiding them through the second leg in dramatic fashion before going on to lift the trophy three months later in Munich, after beating Bayern on penalties.

This year they will be looking to emulate their success and are currently a best-priced 16/1 to do so. It will be a big task to land back to back Champions League’s, as no team have done so since the brilliant AC Milan side back in 89/90. However after landing the job on a permanent basis, Di Matteo has already done some brilliant business during the transfer window so far, bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. Chelsea often lacked the cutting edge in the final third last year, failing to break defences down and not scoring as many goals as they should have done. The departure of Didier Drogba will pave the way for Fernando Torres to step up to the mark and prove to the world he is still the same magnificent player he was at Liverpool. He has never managed to get a decent run in the Chelsea team, with the amount of striking options that was at AVB/Di Matteo’s disposal, but this year he is set to be first-choice in the absence of Drogba and coming in off the back of winning the Golden Boot at the Euro’s, his confidence will be sky-high. He has always been a confidence player, and the past 18 months, he has looked someone who lacked self-belief, but following the Euro’s, he looks to have found his shooting boots, and with that comes confidence. He will be a key man for Chelsea, and will be key in any success they are to have this year.

Runners-up Bayern Munich have also been busy in the transfer market in an attempt to go one better than last year. They have brought in a number of new faces, which has given their squad tremendous strength in depth. The aquisition of Mario Mandzukic is superb one and the Croatian front-man looks set to have a massive season. He scored on his first competitive start for Bayern in the German Supercup against Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund, notching the first after six minutes in a 2-1 win for Munich. The 14/1 on offer for Bayern may tempt many, but they lack the flair against defensive opposition so I can see them coming up short again. But when the top goalscorer markets are released, it may pay to have a little flutter on Mandzukic being top.

Unsurprisingly, the two joint-favourites for the competition come from Spain. Barcelona have a great record in recent years, having won the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011, beating English opposition in each final. They will be hoping for a repeat performance this year under new manager Tito Villanova, who had previously been assistant under Pep Guardiola from 2008 until taking over as the manager in June of this year. He has inherited arguably the greatest squad on the planet, headed by the worlds greatest, Lionel Messi. Messi is immensely talented, and never fails to make a difference. While he is on the pitch, anything is possible, and with David Villa returning to the squad, the team is sure to get goals. Their defence has often been highlighted as a potential weak spot, but when looking at the arrivals:

Alex Song
Defensive Midfield
24
Arsenal FC
  Premier League
16.720.000 £
Jordi Alba 10.000.000 €”>Jordi Alba
Fullback, left
23
Valencia CF
  Primera División
12.320.000 £
Marc Muniesa 2.500.000 €”>Marc Muniesa
Centre Back
20
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Martín Montoya 4.000.000 €”>Martín Montoya
Fullback, right
21
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Marc Bartra 2.500.000 €”>Marc Bartra
Centre Back
21
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Jonathan dos Santos 2.500.000 €”>Jonathan dos Santos
Central Midfield
22
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Henrique 3.000.000 €”>Henrique *

You can see Tito is attempting so sure up the defensive side of the team, and Jordi Alba is a massive signing. He can attack with menace, as shown by his goal in the Euro Championship final but he can also defend extremely well and is regarded as one of the top three left-backs in the world. Alex Song has been brought in to hold in the midfield, but can also adopt to a centre-back role, meaning along with Mascherano, they have versaitaile holding midfielders who can play anywhere across the back. This could be the difference, and with the wealth of riches Barcelona have in midfield and attack, with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabgregas, it would take a brave man to back against them. However, they have began the new season slowly and other teams will be hopeful of explointing any weaknesses they find, especially with the new manager. They look to have the best squad in the world, but at a best price 7/2, there may be better value elsewhere.

Real Madrid on the other hand, look as steady as ever, with ‘the special one’ Jose Mourinho still at the helm. Los Blancos are the most successful club in the competitions history, with nine wins and Mourinho will be confident of adding a tenth. Madrid have strengethened their already exceptional midfield, by acquiring arguably the best deep-lying play-maker on the planet, Luca Modric. He will give the side that added creativity in midfield, and will help turn defence into attack in one smooth move. His range of passing is superb, and the attackers will be excited to be able to feed off his service. He is likely to line up next to the always solid and consistent Xabi Alonso, who now have a midfield strong enough to challenge Barcelona’s. With Europe’s greatest player, Cristiano Ronaldo, spearheading the attack, there is sure to be goals, and Madrid will be as confident as ever to build on last years unfortunate semi-final loss, and add the tenth Champions League in the clubs glistening history.

There will be an extremely strong challenge from Italy this year, in the shape of Juventus and AC Milan. Last years Serie A winners Juventus will be out to prove a point after not playing in Europe at all last season. They managed to fight off the challenge of AC Milan in the league, and secure their first Scudetto since the ’02/03 season, possibly helped by the lack of European distractions. This year, they have added to their squad, with numerous strong signings from across the world, most notably purchasing the other 50% of Sebastian Giavinco’s transfer rights from Parma. He will add that goalscoring touch alongside Mirko Vucinic. They look solid, and the Juventus Stadium is always a tough place to go, but I doubt their ability to go away from home and score goals, which could cause problems in the latter stages. So they would need to be considerably bigger than the current 16/1 to tempt me.

AC Milan have gotten rid of two of their key-men, in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. The club raked in £55 million from PSG during these sales and are yet to re-invest it. Milan have started their Serie A campaign very slowly, going down 1-0 at home to Sampdoria. They will need to pick up the pace and make two or three world class signings to be in the position to mount a serious challenge.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal complete the strong English challenge, along with holders Chelsea. Both Manchester United and Manchester City will be out to make amends on rather disappointing showings in last years competition, when they bowed out in the group stages. Manchester United have strengthened their squad massively, acquiring the highly-rated Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund as-well as Robin Van Persie from rivals Arsenal. RVP is sure to bring goals to the side, which is something, at times,  they lacked last year, as-well as the creativity in the final third that Kagawa will bring. The return of Vidic is massive, as is the form that De Gea seems to have started the season in. Expect a bold showing from United this year, as Ferguson will be going all out to land the European Cup at least once more before he finally retires. With the group they have, RVP will have many chances to get on the score-sheet in the opening games and he could be a value bet for top-scorer.

Manchester City were well fancied by many last season, when they flopped in the group stages. Going away from home, they looked extremely vulnerable and their defence has started the season in the exact same fashion this year. They have immense attacking quality, with Aguero, Tevez, Balotelli, David Silva etc, but their defence has often let them down. Joe Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and will give his defence confidence that they have a pair of safe hands behind them, and he will be key to any success that City have. They have been dealt an extremely tough draw and at a best-priced 10/1, it would be difficult to hammer into them knowing they face a mammoth task, to even get out of their group.

Arsenal have started the season in mixed fashion, initially failing to score in their opening games before hitting form and showing what we all know they can do. They have a wonderful set-up, with a beautiful passing game. The departure of RVP is a massive loss for Wenger’s men, but in Podolski and Giroud, they have two apt replacements. They have a pair of forwards who have the potential to link-up and finish the chances provided by the solid midfield behind them. Santi Cazorla is one of the captures of the season, and his creativity is something Arsenal has definitely lacked in recent years, in the absence of Fabregas. They should be able to comfortably escape their group and the 25/1 may be some each-way value for small-stake punters.

Group Overview:

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain (11/10), FC Porto (15/8), Dynamo Kiev (7), Din Zagreb (25)

PSG will be pleased with their group, after avoiding many of Europe’s big guns. The French side have been splashing the cash in the the summer transfer window, bringing in many high class players in an attempt to land the Champions League for the first time. Lucas Moura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi have all signed for the club for massive transfer fees and expectation will be huge. They should comfortably come through their group with the amount of class they possess and it would be no shock to see them progress very far in the competition.

It looks as though Porto, Kiev and Zagreb will all be battling it out for second place, and 2004 winners Porto, look set to take that role. Seeded first in the draw, they will be fairly pleased with the draw, although trips to the Ukraine and Croatia will not be easy. They should be able to beat both Kiev and Zagreb on their own turf, and providing PSG do the same, all Porto would have to do, is stop the sides from beating them, which they should be able to do.

Group B: Arsenal (4/5), Schalke 04 (3), Montpellier (7), Olympiakos (14)

Arsenal will be hopeful of getting out of this group, but they do have to face tricky away days across France, Germany and Greece. They should be able to get maximum points at the Emirates however and as long as they pick up points at Montpellier and Olympiakos they should be able to top the group.

Of the rest, it looks a straight battle between Schalke and Montpellier for minor honours. Schalke have tremendous strength in depth, and with the likes of Huntelaar and Affelay (who is on loan from Barcelona), the German side should progress as runners-up.

Group C: AC Milan (13/11), Zenit St Petersburg (2), Malaga (5), Anderlecht (22)

It looks a straight battle between Milan and Zenit as to who tops the group, with Malaga close behind before a massive gulf in class between the rest and Anderlecht. Milan have started the season slowly and I can imagine it will take a while they hit top gear, so it may be wise to take a little risk on Zenit, who have recently acquired the highly-rated Hulk and Axil Witsel. They are 2/1 to win the group and this looks decent value, with Milan expected to fill the runners-up spot.

Group D: Real Madrid (10/11), Man City (5/2), Bor Dortmund (7), Ajax (33)

The group of death includes four champions from four different countries. Any team that wants to progress will have to be on top of their game and it would be no surprise to see the eventual winner, to come from this group.

Madrid always put in a major showing in whatever they take part in and they should have too much class for the opponents, and the 10/11 for them to top the group looks tremendous value. They host Manchester City first game, and a victory here would set them on their way to topping the group. Manchester City have never impressed in European competitions but should be able to see off Dortmund and Ajax, which would be enough to secure the runners-up spot.

Group E: Chelsea (20/19), Juventus (13/8), Shakhtar Donetsk (9), FC Nordsjaelland (100)

Chelsea have impressed so far this year in the Premier League, and Eden Hazard looks set to show his class on the big stage. Stamford Bridge is always a difficult place to go and the fact they are odds-against is a shock for me. The group could well go down to goal difference, and Juventus have never really been known as a team that scores many, as it is the strength of their defence that often gets them out of trouble. The pair should draw clear of Shakhtar and FC Nordsjaelland and it looks a banker forecast, for it to finish Chelsea/Juventus.

Group F: Bayern Munich (1/2), Valencia (3), Lille (10), BATE Borisov (33)

Essentially Group F is Bayern Munich’s group to lose. They should comfortably have enough to see off the declining giants Valencia and Lille who have lost their star-man Eden Hazard. Bate Borisov will struggle to get anything out of the group, and look set to finish in a distant last place.

It looks between Valencia and Lille for the runner-up position, and Valencia should be able to progress, as they look to  have too much fire-power for their French opponents, in the shape of Soldado and Jonas.

Group G: Barcelona (2/13), Benfica (9), Spartak Moscow (20), Celtic (66)

Barcelona should comfortably win the group, with Benfica filling the runners-up spot. Spartak and Celtic both lack the strength-in-depth to compete with Europe’s big guns at this stage, and it should be a procession.

Group H: Man Utd (2/7), Braga (8), Galatasaray (10), CFR Cluj (50)

Manchester United have managed to avoid all of Europe’s big-guns and will be extremely pleased with their group. They face tricky away ties across some tough parts of Europe, but they should top the group comfortably, with the strength of their current squad.

It will be extremely close between Braga and Galatasaray as to who fills the runner up-spot, and I think it may pay to side with Galatasaray. The Türk Telekom Arena as it is now known, is always a tough place to travel, and the Galatasaray fans will play a key part in making it a fortress, and an extremely difficult atmosphere for the away teams to come to.

BETTING TIPS:

Manchester United to win the Champions League: 0.5 point e.w @ 10/1

RVP top scorer and Manchester United to win UCL: 1 point @ 66/1 

Madrid, Barca, Chelsea, Munich, United to win their groups: 2 points @ 13/2

PSG, Arsenal, Zenit to win groups: 1 point @ 10.34/1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall:

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

Tips:

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

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

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

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

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