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

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.

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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.

lallana

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.

barkley

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.

shinj

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

World Cup 2014 – Ante-post Selections

At the time of writing it is 185 days until the World Cup begins in Brazil. This means we have plenty of time to rack our brains, trying to select what look ‘absolute certs’, and watch the monster gambles unfold.

There are plenty of perils of ante-post gambling, yet the lure of watching your selection get shorter and shorter in the betting is something that we can never escape. There are plenty of stories of gamblers sitting on three figure prices for Belgium to win the competition, as-well as monster bets on the Columbian’s to reign supreme this summer.

However, it is not too late to get involved, and there is still plenty of value to be had.

Bark-ing up the right tree;

Let’s start with England, and the selection headache that Roy Hodgson looks set to face when sitting down to select his 23-man squad for Brazil.

The ‘to make England 2014 World Cup squad’ has been a popular market so far, and there is a surprising amount of disparity between bookmakers, with many seemingly having different squads in mind.

The battle to get on the plane looks intense for the batch of centre-midfielders Hodgson has at his disposal, with Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Carrick, Cleverley, Barkley, Henderson, Morrison etc. all vying for realistically, five places.

This has meant that Ross Barkley has been pushed out to a surprisingly large 3/1 with William Hill to make Hodgson’s World Cup squad, in comparison to the 11/10 on offer with Paddy Power.

He has been played as a ‘number ten’ at times for Everton, excelling in the hole behind the striker as opposed to an out and out centre-midfielder, which automatically enhances his chances of getting on the plane, as versatility is key when there are so few places. His direct running and fearless nature are big assets to have when coming against such lorded opposition, and his style of play looks set to fit well with fellow Liverpudlian, Wayne Rooney.

barkley

With Everton continually surprising people, more and more people are taking note of his performances, and if he can continue his rich vein of form, he will certainly have to be on the short-list.

Gerrard can’t escape his hamstring troubles, and with Manchester United seemingly struggling of late, Tom Cleverley could come under serious pressure for his place on the plane. This does make the 3/1 for Barkley to book his ticket, rather large.

Straight Forecast Treble;

Predicting the winner of many of the group’s looks difficult, let alone  the top two in the correct order. However the odds on offer mean it is a difficult bet to get away from, and one that could prove very rewarding.

Group B has been heralded the ‘group of death’, with Chile and Australia joining the 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and Holland, to battle out for a place in the next round.

Spain are currently trading at 7/1 to win the tournament outright, which is the largest they have been for a long time. With Barcelona failing to light-up like they used to, with Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas looking leggy of late, the price is drifting to a rather attractive one.

They should have enough class to see off Holland and Australia, and while Chile will run them close, the 5/6 on offer for Spain to top Group B looks extremely tempting.

This means realistically it is between Holland and Chile for second place, and it may well pay to side with the South Americans.

A magnificent pressing game, mixed with a batch of flair players with tremendous technical ability mean they are going to be very hard to contain. They are already adept at playing in the climate, and with a large contingent of South American fans, they may well prove too strong for an aging Dutch side who flopped at the last major international competition.

Key man Alexis Sanchez adores the limelight, and he can guide Chile to second place, meaning the 4/1 for the Spain/Chile forecast goes into our treble.

The next selection comes from Group D, where England line up against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.

Uruguay will have an advantage over the other two real competitors in the group (sorry Costa Rica), as humidity, South American fans and sheer skill on the pitch should guide Uruguay to top of the group. Luis Suarez is fantastic, and if he stays fit he should have a sensational tournament, meaning the 21/10 for them to win the group looks tasty, as their defensive frailties shouldn’t be tested too much as neither England or Italy are renowned as excessively attacking sides.

Then, it looks set between Italy and England to battle for the runner-up spot. Italy are favorites to win the group outright following on from their unbeaten qualifying campaign (winning six, drawing four), and fantastic performance in the Euro’s where they finished runner-up. Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon are still fantastic players, however they are not getting any younger.

Mario Balotelli is one of the most inconsistent players on the planet, and if he puts his mind to it, he could be one of the greatest around. However there are two sides to Mario and England will be going all out to rattle him, and attempt to get him out of his comfort zone. The fact that there is no real expectation on the English will only benefit them, and the mix of young fearless individuals mixed with a seasoned spine of model English consistency should mean England will be able to contain Italy in the opener, and then it comes down to the final game against Costa Rica.

Costa Rica will be comfortable in conditions, but do lack the quality of their group opposition, and with England’s attacking threats, they should have what it takes to gain the vital goal difference, which is what it may well be decided on. Uruguay/England forecast pays 11/2, and is the second leg of the treble.

The final selection comes from Group C, where Colombia line-up against Japan, Ivory Coast and Greece.

The South American’s are ranked third in the World, according to FIFA, and should prove their class against slightly lesser opposition. Falcao, Martinez and Rodriguez are three class-acts and should guide their side to top of the group.

Then it is seemingly between Ivory Coast and Japan to battle for second. Japan have looked brilliant in qualifying, and in their recent friendlies however the smart money will be siding with Ivory Coast to get out of the group.

Many will be familiar to Premier League fans, with Bony, the Toure’s and Tiote still in England, whilst Gervinho and Drogba are recent departures. They are a magnificent unit and their attacking threat should see them get out of their group for the first time in their history.

The 100/30 for Columbia/Ivory Coast forecast completes our bet and rewards us with a 139.83/1 treble.

Top Goalscorer;

In terms of the top goalscorer market, you have to find the right balance of a weak defensive group and a player in a side that are likely to have a deep run in the competition.

Group F consists of Argentina, Bosnia, Nigeria and Iran. You would have to expect Argentina to qualify comfortably, and with that they should be able to capitalise on the rather weak back four’s of Iran and Nigeria in particular.

sergio aguero

This means that it would make sense to side with one of the Argentinian forwards, and it is up to personal opinion on who to select out of a shortlist of Messi, Higuain and Aguero.

Messi has never really done it in a big international tournament, so he will be out to silence doubters that he is the greatest to ever live, and answer the questions about his international form. Higuain got more game time than Aguero in qualifying, playing eleven games to Aguero’s eight, scoring four more goals in the process.

However given Aguero’s form for Manchester City this season, and likeliness to carry on improving in a side that looks set to go very close to winning the Premier League, he is sure to get the nod come the summer.

This makes the 20/1 for him to finish top goalscorer, extremely tempting, given the creative players he will line up beside. Argentina are sure to have a deep run in the tournament, with conditions in their favour, and the fact they have such a magnificent side means the 40/1 on offer for Aguero to land the top scorer prize and Argentina to win the World Cup, is tempting enough to have a small interest bet on.

Selections;

Ross Barkley to make the England World Cup squad @ 3/1 – William Hill

Straight Forecast Group Treble; Spain/Chile, Uruguay/England, Colombia/Ivory Coast @ 139.83/1 – Ladbrokes

Sergio Aguero to be top goalscorer @ 20/1 – Various

Sergio Aguero top goalscorer & Argentina to win the World Cup @ 50/1 – BetVictor

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.

fellaini

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.

walcott

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)

Merseyside Derby Betting Preview

As the season draws to a close, many may be questioning just how important this Merseyside Derby really is.

Extremely important.

There is an element of a power shift occurring on Merseyside, with Everton attempting to finish above their local rivals in successive seasons for the first time since 1936/37.

However it will be no easy feat, with the reds fighting back in the best possible way, following Luis Suarez’ ten-game ban, following the biting incident with Branislav Ivanovic.

The 6-0 victory over Newcastle will inspite the side to know that they can deliver without the Uruguayan, and it will give the chance for Dan Sturridge to steal the limelight, and stake a claim for a starting role down the centre, when Suarez does return.

His greedy style of play is something Liverpool have lacked over the years, with more selfless strikers often being employed up-top.

He is sure to receive service with Gerrard and Coutinho sitting in behind him, and he looks a great bet to score two or more tomorrow afternoon, at 15/2 with Totesport.

sturridge swans

His confidence is sky-high after his double last weekend at St James’ Park, carrying on from his magnificent 45 minutes against Chelsea the week before.

He is sure to get the chance to get on the score-sheet, and he could enhance his already budding reputation, by bagging a brace in front of the Kop on Sunday.

Everton will not be walked over however, and have the class to sit deep and make it as difficult as possible for Liverpool to break them down.

Coutinho

However, with Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool seem to have found a magician, who can see things others can’t.

His performance against Newcastle was simply magnificent, and the Brazilian showed he had the characteristics to make a massive impact on Merseyside.

His vision, dribbling ability and accuracy with his through balls make him the perfect Number 10, to sit behind the lone striker.

He will be up against Fellaini, Osman and Gibson in the centre, with Gibson being given the likely task of sticking to the 20-year-old.

He is 8/11 to be shown a card tomorrow, which looked nailed on, but very little value. However if he is carded, he is more likely to give Coutinho more space, which will reflect even better on the Brazilian, and the 10/1 for him to be given Man of the Match, looks a solid bet.

Everton’s Croatian star Nikica Jelavic has been out of sorts this season, and it would be no surprise to see Moyes opt to start Victor Anichebe as the loan striker for the blues, in an attempt to outpace the aging Jamie Carragher.

He is a strong, pacy, old-fashioned centre-forward who will cause Carragher plenty of problems if he is given the nod to start up-top, and the 11/2 for him to be Everton’s first-goalscorer appeals massively.

In terms of the final score market, I do feel as though Liverpool have the measure of Everton, especially in front of what is sure to be a lively Anfield crowd, and with Moyes likely to be content to settle for a point, an early goal will change the entire game.

For this reason, the 3-1 Liverpool scoreline appeals, at odds of 16/1.

Everton are likely to exploit Carragher’s lack of pace, and should be able to grab at least one goal, however Liverpool’s new found attacking confidence is clear for all to see, and there are sure to be goals on Merseyside tomorrow.

Advice:

1 point: Daniel Sturridge to score two or more @ 15/2 (Totesport)

0.5 points: Phillipe Coutinho to be Man of the Match @ 10/1 (BetVictor)

1 point: Victor Anichebe to score Everton’s first goal @ 11/2 (BetVictor)

0.5 points: Correct Score: 3-1 Liverpool @ 16/1 (Various)

2013 = +29.21

Champions League – Last 16 – Value Bets

As I have been away from the blog for a little while, I have decided to adopt a slightly new approach to proceedings, by keeping up to date with the profit/loss made. Last year we made a healthy profit, but I never included actual figures, which could effectively help make your decisions as to whether you trust my judgement, with my tips.

This week signifies the return of Champions League football, with the feature game undoubtedly being Real Madrid hosting Manchester United at the Bernabeu.

ronaldo

The pre-match hype has surrounded Cristiano Ronaldo facing his former club (and rightly so..), and he also takes centre stage with one of our main bets this week. Since moving to Madrid from Manchester United, the Portuguese hit-man has notched up a staggering 136 goals in 123 games, including a hat-trick  against Sevilla last Saturday. He is currently in an incredibly hot streak of form, and will be looking to send a message out to his former employers about what they’re missing (if they didn’t already know..).

With Ronaldo in the side, Madrid look a cut above United, whose defence has already struggled against the likes of Andy Weimann this season. This all points to a Madrid victory and the current 13/8 on offer with William Hill, for Ronaldo to score in a Madrid win, looks too good to ignore.

The other game to be played on Wednesday looks set to be a tasty fair as the gritty Shakhtar Donetsk entertain the classy Borussia Dortmund. It looks set to be an open game, as Dortmund have failed to keep a clean sheet in all but one of their last 19 Champions League away games.

No Ukrainian team has ever beaten Borussia Dortmund in European competitions in six games, however Shakhtar are unbeaten in their last 4 encounters with German clubs in European competitions. These statistics mean that the game looks set to be a draw, and this is backed up by the fact that Dortmund are still unbeaten in the Champions League despite only winning one of their last six away from home, and that Shakhtar have only won two of their last seven Champions League games at home.

The draw is currently a best-priced 5/2 with Bet365, and looks tremendous value.

The ITV fixture of the week takes place at Celtic Park, as Celtic host Juventus. It looks set to be a very tense affair as Celtic know to have any realistic chance of going through, they have to take a lead to the Juventus Stadium. The atmosphere will be electric as Gary Hooper leads the line and attempts to get the all important first goal, however the Italians are renowned for their ability to soak up pressure and hit sides on the break.

The Juventus defence is incredibly disciplined, and should be ready to handle all that Celtic can throw at them. They never look likely to score too many, and for this reason, the 11/4 on offer with Ladbrokes for Juventus to win by exactly one goal appeals.

The final game I will be previewing this week, is the Valencia v PSG game, which is set to be a tight affair, full of attacking flair. PSG arrive in Valencia on the back of six consecutive victories, only conceding two goals in the process.

ibra

The French side play free-flowing attacking football, which mirrors the type of football often played at the Mestalla, where goals are always on the menu.

The fact that Thiago Silva, and Thiago Motta, two key defensive figures for PSG are both missing,means the likelihood of Valencia having more luck down the centre has dramatically increased.

It is set to be a footballing feast with Ibrahimovic, Soldado, Gameiro etc all gracing the same pitch, and the result looks extremely hard to call. For this reason, the 13/10 for over 2.5 goals with BetVictor looks a steal, and will allow the viewers to sit back and enjoy what has the potential to be a fantastic game of attacking football.

Advice:

1 point: Ronaldo to score and Madrid to win @ 13/8 (William Hill)

1 point: Shakhtar/Dortmund draw @ 5/2 (Bet365)

1 point: Juventus to win by exactly 1 goal @ 11/4 (Ladbrokes)

1 point: Valencia/PSG – Over 2.5 goals @ 13/10 (BetVictor)