Griez The Mann For Euro Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Selections:

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

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

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

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

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