World Cup – 32 Best Bets

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

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

Group A:

Brazil;

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

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

Croatia;

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

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

Mexico;

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

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

Cameroon;

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

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

 

Group B

Spain;

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

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

Netherlands;

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

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

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Chile;

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

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

Australia;

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

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

 

Group C

Colombia;

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

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

Ivory Coast;

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

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

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Japan;

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

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

Greece;

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

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

 

Group D

England;

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

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

Italy;

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

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

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Uruguay;

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

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

Costa Rica;

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

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

Group E

France;

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

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

Switzerland;

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

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

Ecuador;

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

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

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Honduras;

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

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

Group F

Argentina;

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

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

Bosnia-Herzegovina;

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

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

Nigeria;

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

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

Iran;

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

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

Group F

Germany;

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

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

Portugal;

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

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

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Ghana;

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

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

USA;

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

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

Group H

Belgium;

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

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

Russia;

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

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

South Korea;

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

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

Algeria;

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

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

Overall;

Group A:

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

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

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

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

Group B:

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

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

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

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

Group C:

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

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

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

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

Group D:

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

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

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

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

Group E:

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

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

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

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

Group F:

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

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

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

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

Group G:

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

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

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

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

Group H:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Liverpool FC – Season Review

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

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

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

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

Beginning to Believe;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They believed.

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

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

It wasn’t meant to be.

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

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

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

Analysis of the season;

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

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

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

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

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

Kolo Toure. The less said, the better.

Aly Cissokho. See above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall;

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

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

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

Liverpool Odds for 2014/15:

Premier League: 11/2

Top 4 Finish: 4/9

 

Cheltenham Festival – Day One Preview

The home of National Hunt racing takes centre stage next week, as all eyes turn to the biggest jumps meeting in the world, the Cheltenham Festival.

Be Brave with Wicklow:

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle always acts as a very apt curtain-raiser, and this year is no different with an array of talent lining up to try and get their names on the winners board at the very first attempt.

Irving represents the best chance of a winner for the home side in the opener, as Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old heads in to the race as a warm favourite following two comfortable Grade Two victories. He looks a solid prospect for the future, but there has to be doubts over his stamina and at 2/1 he is no value at all.

The Willie Mullins pair of Vautour and Wicklow Brave are next in the market, and look the biggest dangers to Irving. Vautour landed the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last time out, beating The Tullow Tank, after dictating the pace from the off.

Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Vautour after feeling he will stay the best of the pair, and will be more suited by conditions. He isn’t likely to get his own way at the front like he did last time out, but Mullins has been very bullish about his chances and he is sure to have many backers at the current 3/1.

However, Wicklow Brave looks like the real deal, and although Walsh has opted to ride the stables supposed first-string, at 7/1, he looks to be tremendous value. He is a very strong traveler which is key in these types of races, and although there are doubts about his jumping (valid after a shaky round last time out), the faster the pace, the better he will jump.

He has a sensational turn of foot, and used effectively this could be the difference, as Vautour is going to be ridden prominently and keep the race at a solid tempo, settling up a late swoop for Wicklow Brave.

Patrick Mullins has been talking very highly of the horse recently, and there are plenty of trends which suggest he is the horse to get on.

The last nine Supreme Novices’ winners have gone off at 5/1 or bigger, and ten of the last eleven winners of the race have been aged five or six (Wicklow Brave is five). The last ten winners had won at least 50% of their hurdles starts (WB is 100%), and as Wicklow Brave shares the same sire as 2012 winner Cinders and Ashes, there is plenty of positivity going into the festival.

The likely firm ground at Prestbury Park should bring out the best in five-year-old, and with Paddy Power offering money back if your horse finishes second, third or fourth, Wicklow Brave surely has to be a solid bet at 7/1.

Time for Trifolium:

The Racing Post Arkle is a race of the highest quality and this year’s renewal has the potential to add another magnificent name to the illustrious list of previous winners.

Champagne Fever heads the market after winning at the festival for the previous two years (Bumper & Supreme Novices’), and he is currently trading at 3/1 to make it a third successful year.

His performance at Leopardstown in December has added an element of doubt into the minds of the backers, as the lackluster display was the first real sign of weakness from the grey.

He didn’t go one yard, and was beaten fair and square by defy logic with Trifolium (who is also Cheltenham bound), ahead of him in second.

Trifolium was the one to take out of the race, as Davy Russell traveled very strongly on the seven-year-old, and looked to be traveling best of all coming to the last where he failed to pick up Defy Logic.

Since then, he has came out and landed the Irish Arkle in tremendous fashion, showing his tremendous jumping and high cruising speed to full effect. He has the best form to offer going into the race, and the 11/2 on offer looks a lot more value than the 3/1 for Champagne Fever.

My Tent or Yours?

The Champion Hurdle is one of the most anticipated races of the entire year, and this year’s renewal is set to be a cracker. Hurricane Fly who has won two of the last three Champion Hurdle’s is back to try and retain his crown, but faces stiff opposition as the young pretenders enter the scene.

tony mccoy la

Hurricane Fly is uber consistent, and loves Cheltenham. He has had a solid build-up, and Ruby Walsh seems very keen on the ten-year-old’s chances, and he should prove very hard to beat.

However The New One is wrestling for favouritism with The Fly, with the pair inseparable at 11/4. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ six-year-old burst onto the scene when landing the Neptune at last year’s festival, in impressive style.

The manner in which he bounded up the hill suggests he will thrive once more, come Tuesday afternoon and he is sure to have a legion of supporters screaming his name over the last.

Yet, My Tent or Yours beat The New One at Kempton, albeit on a flatter track, and looks sure to come on for the run. He is a very strong traveler and looked the likely winner when failing to get past Champagne Fever in last year’s Supreme Novice’, and Tony McCoy will now know how to produce My Tent or Yours, albeit against higher opposition.

He has all the characteristics to suggest he is going to make a bold bid for the big race, and McCoy has highlighted him as his best chance of a winner for the festival. The speed horse has overcame a late injury scare, and if McCoy manages to settle him early on in the race, the late burst of speed he possesses may tip the scales in his favour, meaning the 9/2 on offer, is surely worth a dabble.

Selections;

Supreme Novice’ Hurdle: Wicklow Brave @ 7/1 (Various)

Arkle: Trifolium @ 11/2 (Boylesports)

Champion Hurdle: My Tent or Yours @ 5/1 (Winner)

E.W Patent @ 263/1 (William Hill)

F.A Cup – Fourth Round Best Bets

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

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

Double Delight;

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

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

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

tony pulid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any-time scorer double;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

York Ebor Festival – Day Two Advice

Close, but no 1996 Dubai World Cup winner, on the opening day of the Ebor festival, with our selections performing respectably, but falling just short.

Martin Chuzzlewit failed to settle for much of the race, before plugging on best of all at the finish, making up numerous places in the last furlong. He’s one to keep an eye on next time out, with a truly run race.

Coulsty also stayed on well, and showed plenty of guts to take second off top weight in the nursery, and he should be a major player as a there-year-old, when given a break.

Now, for day two of racing at the Knavesmire with just two selections to choose from.

Wentworth looked potential Group class for a large part of his career, and the manner of his victory at Goodwood suggests a step into Group company is going to come sooner rather than later.

Yet, for now he is still making waves in a lower class, and it’s time to take advantage of the 9/2 on offer for Wentworth to land the Class Two, Clipper Logistics Handicap on Thursday afternoon.

A decent weight, ideal trip, ideal ground and a certain Mr Hughes on his back suggests all things are set for a big run. Queensberry Rules looked a class-act before flopping last time out at Ascot, and anything Johnny Murtagh rides on these shores can not be ignored.

However, he may lack the finishing kick that Wentworth showed to devilish effect last time out, and for this reason, it is worth siding with messrs Hannon and Hughes, and get on board the 9/2 before it disappears.

The Yorkshire Oaks looks set to be a cracker this year with top-class fillies from across Britain turning up to compete.

The Fugue looks a worthy favourite back over a mile and a half, and against her own sex she may prove hard to beat.

However, it is worth taking a chance with Lady Cecil’s Wild Coco, who looked better than ever when landing a big prize at Goodwood last month.

Tom Queally has opted for the filly over the likely improver Riposte, and her high cruising speed and staying qualities indicate it may be the correct decision.

She arguably wants further than the mile and a half tomorrow, but she does have winning form over the trip and any pace in the race is sure to be welcomed by the Cecil camp.

She should go very close, and the 11/2 currently on offer looks an each-way steal with the filly sure to stick on to the places at the very least.

Advice:

1 pt win: Wentworth @ 9/2 (Various)

1 pt win: Wild Coco @ 11/2 (Various)

1pt e.w doube: Wentworth/Wild Coco @ 34.75/1 (Racebets)

 

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)

Confederations Cup Final – Preview With Advice

After a thrilling tournament in Brazil, the final has came down to the two, pre-tournament favourites, Spain and the host national Brazil.

It is the final of dreams for the neutrals, with the level of football on offer set to be sensational, as arguably the two best footballing nations battle it out.

Brazil have home advantage, and that can’t be underestimated as the lively Brazilians cram inside the Estadio Maracana to escape the reality of their protest-hit nation, for ninety minutes of sweet footballing salvation.

They have no injury worries, and Luiz Felipe Scolari looks set to name an unchanged side, from their 2-1 victory over Uruguay last week.

neymar

Fred seems to be hitting a bit of form, bagging three goals in the tournament, including the opener against their south-american rivals in the semi’s.

Brazil have score 22 goals in their last 8 games, and certainly offer the most fire-power going forward, and with Spain’s defence looking slightly vulnerable throughout the tournament (Casillas kept them in it early on v Italy), it may be worth taking a punt on the out and out striker, Fred, to bag the first goal at 15/2.

Spain have looked their usual classy selves, often dominating in terms of possession, but falling short in front of goal (with the exception of Tahiti), often wasting chances that they should have stuck away.

They are content to pass the ball around the midfield, and keep the game in their own hands, but against Brazil that will be hard to manage, with Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho working tirelessly to break up the play, and free the creative talents of Neymar, Hulk and Oscar to launch attacks.

The sides surprisingly haven’t met since 1999, when the result was a mundane 0-0 draw, but with Spain likely to have been affected by the 120 minute marathon with Italy on Thursday evening, in the tough climate, Brazil look set to exploit any signs of fatigue and the over 2.5 goals market looks a definite play.

Surprisingly over 2.5 goals is odds-against, with the layers seeming to think there will be a maximum of two goals. Yet, if Brazil manage to get a goal early on (or vice-versa), the opposition will have to attack, and it will free up plenty of space all-over the pitch, for the quality players to exploit and this is a certain recipe for plenty of goals.

The 6/5 with Coral looks very fair, and should accompany a Brazil win, which is currently trading at 13/8. They are 10/11 to lift the trophy, which of course covers a win in extra-time or penalties, and could be the safer option.

Elsewhere, the third place play-off will be an interesting affair, with the disciplined Italian side, taking on the creative flair of the South-Americans, in the shape of Uruguay.

Italy are often content to sit and pass around their half of the pitch, before attempting to play the killer-pass late on, whereas Uruguay are often a brilliant counter-attacking side.

It should be a really entertaining game, but ‘open’ isn’t one way I would describe it, and the under 2.5 market could be a play here, with the current 11/10 on offer looking great value.

Italy drew a blank against Spain, and without Gilardino or Ballotelli, they look set to come up short in the attacking third once more.

El Sharaawy looks an intriguing talent, but I wouldn’t be entirely confident on him as a lone striker, at this stage in his career, and the attacking trio of Cavani, Suarez and Forlan look set to have things their on way on Sunday evening.

Uruguay to win 2-0, looks a likely scoreline, and it 16/1 it may be worth a small punt.

South Americans look set to reign supreme on an evening that will captivate the audience, and provide a much needed football fix to the millions around the world, who can’t wait for the football season to get back underway.

Advice:

Brazil & Uruguay double: 1 point @ 5.56/1 (Coral)

Fred to score first: 1 point @ 15/2 (BetVictor)

Over 2.5 (Brazil), Under 2.5 (Uruguay) double: 3.62/1 (Coral)

Brazil 2-1, Uruguay 2-0: 0.5 points double @ 186/1 (William Hill)

 

 

 

Wimbledon Preview – With Tips

It’s that time of year again, when the strawberries and cream suddenly take a sharp increase in price, as the best of the best gather in SW19 for Wimbledon.

But here we will hopefully be able to earn some pennies back, to pay for our Pimm’s and Strawberries! (Just kidding, I’m Northern, I don’t drink Pimm’s..)

First up is the men’s singles, and Britain’s hopes lie on the broad shoulders of Andy Murray, who enters the tournament with arguably his best chance yet.

He managed to break his major voodoo when landing the US Open in September last year, and has since gone from strength to strength.

He sat out of the French Open, due to a back injury and this could prove sensible, as it allows him to arrive in peak condition.

He has reached the final of the last three Grand Slam events he has appeared in, and he looks set to make it a fourth next month.

He has importantly avoided the warm favourite Novak Djokovic, and should be able to navigate his way through to meet the Serbian and aim to become to first Briton to land the prize since Fred Perry.

However the nation’s hope cautiously raise each year, with bitter disappointment seeming inevitable, and this year it could happen once more, as Djokovic looks an extremely strong favourite to regain the Wimbledon crown he won in 2011.

Although Novak arrives at the tournament on the back of a roller-coaster five-set defeat by Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros, in the semi-final of the one major that has eluded the 26 year-old his entire career, he has enough mental fortitude to put it behind him.

His mental resilience has always been a major positive, and there is no real need for punters to put much emphasis on his recent clay form.

He is more than 3000 points clear than the second placed Andy Murray, and should be able to prove his class once more, back on grass.

His side of the draw is relatively simple compared to Murray, Federer and Nadal who are all drawn on the same side.

Djokovic will hypothetically meet Tomas Berdych in the quarter-final, and then David Ferrer in the semi-final. Both great players in their own right, but a much simpler task than either Murray, Federer or Nadal.

At odds of 5/4, he is a little on the skinny side, however if you take a chance on Andy Murray to reach the final, alongside Novak Djokovic, the price is currently 7/3 on Betfair.

Nadal and Federer both warrant big respect, yet I feel they will feel slightly short against Murray, and they are both short odds to land their quarter’s.

So if we look elsewhere, we can find extreme value in the shape of Juan Martin del Potro.

The 6 foot 6 giant, is the only other man apart from the big four (Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, Federer), to land a Grand Slam title since 2005, when he landed the 2009 US Open.

del potro

Persistent injury troubles had initially brought a halt to del Potro’s blossoming career, but he bounced back last year when pushing Federer all the way in the Olympic semi-final, at SW19.

He has form at Wimbledon, and arrives in high hopes of a big performance. He has the ability to worry the big quartet on his day, and if he turns up, his current 55/1 will look massive.

Yet to ensure we have a better chance of making a profit, take a chance of del Potro to win his quarter at 100/30 with Coral.

His main competitor is David Ferrer, who is the current favourite, but if the Argentine’s troublesome wrist holds up, he has more than enough in the locker than to take down Ferrer.

Ladies Championship:

Serena Williams looks nailed on to land the Ladies prize at SW19, but at odds of 4/9, there is no value in having a single on her.

So we look elsewhere, and number two seed Victoria Azarenka fits the bill as a decent value bet to reach the final.

azarenka

The Belarusian is extremely consistent at Wimbledon, and has reached the semi-final in the last two years.

She lost to the eventual winner both times, yet she doesn’t meet Serena Williams until the final this year, so if she is to continue her trait, the 9/4 for her without Serena Williams looks much better value than the 5/4 for Sharapova.

Advice:

2 points win double: Djokovic & S.Williams (Outright) @ 2.25/1 (youwin)

1 point: Djokovic v Murray final @ 7/3 (Betfair)

0.5 points e.w: Del Potro @ 55/1 (youwin)

2 points: del Potro to win his quarter @ 100/30 (Coral)

2 points: Victoria Azarenka (w/o Serena) @ 9/4 (youwin)

Royal Ascot – Day One Tips

It’s finally that time of year, where the Royal’s descend to Berkshire to get involved with five of the greatest flat racing days of the year.

Opening Day Double:

Five days of brilliant Group One action kicks off on Tuesday with the Queen Anne Stakes.

Animal Kingdom is the odds-on favourite, and it seems impossible to oppose the Breeders Cup Mile runner-up, who went on to land the Dubai World Cup in tremendous fashion, destroying a classy field.

He has been working well since coming over to England, and the straight mile should cause no problems for the International raider.

Elusive Kate and Trade Storm are interesting contenders at a price, but Animal Kingdom looks nailed on, and is the beginning of our opening day double.

The second horse in the double is Epsom Derby flop Dawn Approach.

The son of New Approach looked a superstar in the making during his unbeaten 2yo career which included a win in the Coventry Stakes at this meeting 12 months ago.

ascot

He carried this form into his 3yo career, landing the 2000 Guineas with sumptuous ease at Newmarket, before going on to disappoint in the Derby, after failing to settle early on.

A drop back to a mile is sure to suit, and he should arrive to the race fresh, after Kevin Manning eased the colt down a long way from home at Epsom.

His magnificent cruising speed and turn of foot make him a worthy favourite, especially with doubts over Magician’s fitness, following reports of bruising on the colts’ shin.

He looked a special horse when landing the Irish 2000 Guineas, and will prove stiff opposition, as will Toronado from the Richard Hannon stable.

Richard Hughes has always maintained confidence in his mount, and said in his Racing Post column this week, if they can get over their own problems, they will win.

However, they now face a bigger problem in the face of Dawn Approach, whose course form, unbeaten record over a mile, and the shrewdness of his trainer Jim Bolger, suggests 11/8 is too big to ignore.

If he arrived here without stepping out at Epsom, he would be around the 1/2 mark, so if you can forgive him that one run, he seems a worthy bet.

Don’t Abandon the Reckless:

Overseas raiders have a brilliant record in the Kings Stand Stakes, but this year, the short priced favourite Shea Shea, does not appeal at the odds.

Instead, we should turn to Clive Cox’s raider, Reckless Abandon at 5/1. He won over course and distance at last year’s Royal meeting, and has since gone from strength to strength.

He’s notched up three group wins, two of those group one’s, since last June, and went very close to making it four, when finishing a narrow third behind Kingsgate Native at Haydock last time out.

That was his first defeat on a racecourse, and he was extremely unlucky, having been stranded down the far side before finishing with a flourish, but Kingsgate Native and Swiss Spirit, who both re-appear at Ascot, having the benefit of the stands side rail.

Spirit Quartz and Morawij have both been out since and franked the form, having both raced with Reckless Abandon on the far side, they have both gone on to land pattern races, which provides a timely boost.

He faces stiffer competition today, but with the weight allowance for three-year-old’s, and a decent draw, the 6/1 looks a solid each-way bet.

Arise Sir John:

The Coventry is as competitive as ever this year, with sixteen quality 2yo’s going to battle it out over a stiff six at the Berkshire track.

The favourite, Stubbs from the Aidan O’Brien stable, looks an interesting prospect, and landed the same prep race as last year’s winner Dawn Approach.

aiden

However, he has a tendency to hand left under pressure, and the fact he’s coming from stall 1, means that is arguably the worst draw possible for the son of Danehill Dancer.

This leads us to look for a bigger priced raider, and one who fits the bill perfectly, is O’Brien’s supposed second-string, Sir John Hawkins.

The pedigree of the colt is simply superb, with the four-time Group One winner, Henrythenavigator being his sire, and his dam being none other than former Irish Oaks winner Peeping Fawn.

He showed great promise on debut, when showing great natural speed, beating a fairly competitive field with a tad in hand.

He will come on massively for the run, and with Ryan Moore on board, the confidence can only increase.

The 13/2 looks a solid each-way bet, and it would be no surprise to see the colt emulate his father, by winning the Group Two on Tuesday.

Advice:

2 points win double: Animal Kingdom & Dawn Approach @ 3.12/1 (Paddy Power)

1 point e.w double: Reckless Abandon @ Sir John Hawkins @ 51.5/1 (William Hill)