Friday, September 25, 2020

EPL 2020/21 - Week 3

Brighton v Man Utd - Away

Crystal Palace v Everton - Draw

WBA v Chelsea - Away

Burnley v Southampton - Draw

Sheffield Utd v Leeds - Away

Tottenham v Newcastle - Home

Man City v Leicester - Home

West Ham v Wolves - Away

Fulham v Aston Villa - Home

Liverpool v Arsenal - Home

After last week's surprising defeat at home to Crystal Palace, there is some kind of urgency for manager Solksjaer to put the Red Devils back on track asap. A visit to Brighton might be the tonic they need to kick-start their season. Much of the past weeks has been centered about the "Sancho or no Sancho" question and all sorts of stories revolving around the competence of Utd supremo Woodward to close deals. Looking at it from a bird's eyes view, this man has brought in Paul Pogba via a world transfer record and the likes of big-money Alexis Sanchez and Harry Maguire. So to his detractors that are crucifying him for stinginess, I'm just saying the guy hasn't been particularly reticent to splash the cash. The Red Devils still have a quality first team that should have too much firepower for the hosts on Saturday morning.

The season is still young and Liverpool have shown that they will not relinquish their title without a fight. They are playing like a hungry team gunning for more. Arsenal have improved under Arteta but going to get something at Anfield is different fodder to what they've beaten so far. I expect this match to be a high-scoring affair actually, but as Leeds found out on opening day, the Kops are hard to be out-scored. This should be a terrific match to watch.

Leeds are playing kamikaze football at the moment, having scored and shipped 7 goals from the first 2 matches. The thing is they can score at any time with their potent attack spearheaded by a Bamford in sparkling form. They visit a Sheffield Utd team full of doubt and having yet to score. Biesla will relish this kind of match with 3 points for the taking. I think if the visitors can squeeze things on the defensive end, they can count on their attack to make the difference at the other end. Leeds are the value pick of the week-end.

Win: Leeds, Liverpool, Man Utd 

Friday, September 18, 2020

EPL 2020/21 - Week 2

Everton v WBA - Home

Leeds v Fulham - Home

Man Utd v Crystal Palace - Home

Arsenal v West Ham - Home

Southampton v Tottenham - Draw

Newcastle v Brighton - Away

Chelsea v Liverpool - Away

Leicester v Burnley - Home

Aston Villa v Sheffied Utd - Draw

Wolves v Man City - Home

Leeds showed amazing tenacity away to Liverpool last week and nearly came out of the encounter with a point. I cannot think of any away team scoring 3 goals at Anfield in recent years and that shows that Biesla's men will show their mettle to many teams this year. I believe Fulham's visit at Elland Road will be one of the Peacock's easiest matches of the year. They should finally taste their first EPL victory in years.

I also see an easy home win for Everton against visiting West Brom. Ancelloti's team impressed during their visit win against Tottenham and they could be strong for a Europa League spot this year. 

Chelsea hosting Liverpool is obviously the match of the week-end. The visitors could have some upper hand here as Chelsea are a rebuilding team that has yet to fully gel. Provided the Kops do not repeat the calamitic errors in their last match, they can come out on top. 

It would not impossible for Wolves to create a shocker against Man City. Guardiola's men will start as big favourites although the Wanderers did the double on them last year. Wolves have started the season well getting an away win at Sheffield Utd and should continue to have another fine season. The Citizens will be missing defensive lynchpin Laporte and striker Aguero and after their recent debacle in the UCL against Lyon, I feel it might take a few matches for them to get in their proper rhythm. It will be a tough match for both and it won't be surprising if the host team nicks this one again. At current odds, they look a value proposition.

Win: Leeds, Everton, Liverpool, Wolves


Friday, September 11, 2020

EPL 2020/21 - Week 1

An exciting new season of EPL beckons with many questions on the line:

- Will Liverpool still be as dominant? I think it will be very hard to wrestle the title from them.

- Will Man City be able to regain their lost crown? I think they will focus rather on the Champions League.

- Is Man Utd finally ready to challenge again? Sancho or not, I don't think they are on a par with the top 2. But Ole's job is on the line and he needs a trophy and a top 4 finish to hold on to it.

- Is Chelsea a threat after their summer spending? The Blues have been overly impressive in the transfer market but it will take time for them to gel. Lampard's job depends on the Blues being at the forefront from the start.

- How will Spurs do under Mourinho? Much will depend on the goalscoring prowess of Kane. He will need to keep banging the goals for Spurs to keep pace with the aforementioned.

- Have Arsenal's fortune finally turned under Arteta? The Spaniard is doing fantastic work for the Gunners but they will need a more talented squad to aspire a top 4 finish. 

- Finally, how will Biesla fare for newly-promoted Leeds? The Argentinian maestro is considered a coaching genius and Leeds will certainly cause trouble to some of the top teams above. Expect them to nick a win or two from them and I very well see Leeds being a mid-table team at season end.

Have a great season everyone!

Fulham v Arsenal - Draw

Crystal Palace v Southampton - Away

Liverpool v Leeds - Home

West Ham v Newcastle - Home

WBA v Leicester - Draw

Tottenham v Everton - Home

Sheffield Utd v Wolves - Home

Brighton v Chelsea - Away

Win: Tottenham/Chelsea/Liverpool

Friday, September 4, 2020

Racing galore

There's the UEFA Nations League for football fans, Italian Grand Prix for Formula 1 fans, US Open for tennis aficionados but this week-end is all about, at least for me, the racing; Enable is making her last British outing before a well-deserved retirement to the paddocks, the Kentucky Derby will finally run with an emerging superstar towering over all comers, and yet another race (this time in Paris) with serious aspirations of being the "best race of the year to date". 

So the September Stakes at Kempton will see queen Enable's last outing on British soil before her attempt to racing immortality in the Arc at ParisLongchamp. There is absolutely nothing to stop her in the field. No Group 1 challenger of any sort. Prince of Arran is a marvellous stayer but not a serious caliber at the mile and a half distance. Enable will win and only the manner of her win will matter; a gauge of whether she still has what it takes to be still reckoned as a potent force in a few weeks in Paris. She can be backed blind-folded bar any freak accident.

On the other side of the pond, Kentucky will hold its delayed Derby 4 months late due to the Covid-19. Tiz the Law is the only exciting name to pick from this rather dull 3-year old crop. He's won the shortened Belmont already and is very well on his way to the Triple Crown. Ok, naysayers are pointing to his 17th stall, from which no equine has ever won! That's fine, that makes his odds even more appealing. There's always a first to everything and post 17 is better than any of the inside posts. Tiz the Law is pretty much push-button and should be close to the pace before unleashing his kick in the straight. Unless he's on an off-day for some reason, he should be very hard to beat.

We've been talking about the race of the season so many times this season but the Prix du Moulin on Sunday clearly fits the bill. I mean, all 6 participants are legitimate contenders by all means. If only Kameko and Mohaather and Palace Pied had made it, it would have been the mile race of all seasons. I feel the winner will need an ounce of luck to prevail in this one and it could very well be a blanket finish. To pick one, I will go with Siskin; the best miler from Ireland and looks not to have peaked yet. This will be a treat of a race to watch.

Win: Enable, Tiz the Law, Siskin

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Juddmonte International - In pursuit of Ghaiyyath

Barring the absence of `the Queen` Enable,  York's Juddmonte International has assembled a high-quality field that promises to be one of the races of the season. The front-running monster Ghaiyyath is the deserved favourite, having gotten the scalp of no other than Enable herself in the Coral Eclipse. If the son of Dubawi has maintained his great form to date, he will be almost impossible to be headed. His camp certainly sound positive, which is not good news for the rest of the field.

Magical, the wonderful mare from Coolmore is unbeaten this year but her victories haven't been as eloquent as Ghaiyyath. The daughter of Galileo rarely runs a bad race but there always seem to be someone better than her in the top races. She might aspire to a placing.

Kameko, the Guineas winner, was oh-so-unlucky in the Sussex Stakes. He might still not have beaten the impressive winner Mohaather, but second place was ripe for the picking if he did not encounter traffic problems. Ten furlongs will be right up his alley and his weight allowance as a three-year-old gives him a live chance to be at the finish.

Finally, Lord North, this year's Prince of Wales Stakes winner, cannot be underestimated as he's also running an undefeated campaign this year. His progression from the handicap ranks to Group 1 winner is all the more remarkable and he should not be out of his league in this company. The way he won going away at Ascot was visually impressive and being trained by John Gosden gives more impetus to his chances. 

This is going to be a fantastic race to watch. Will Ghaiyyath falter in the straight or will the others be able to keep up with the torrid pace he customarily sets? The Godolphin star can put an exclamation point to his Arc aspirations with another dominant performance. I think he will.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

PSG - A trap called Atalanta

PSG fans must have thanked their lucky star when their team drew Atalanta in the next draw of the UCL. The Italian minnows were considered to be the Cinderella left in the tournament and the French could be heard voicing an "Enfin" to signal a new beginning or an end to their miserable and luckless past campaigns.

Fast-forward a few months later and the draw suddenly does not look so favourable for the French champions. Atalanta has been rocking towards the end of the Italian championship where they finished a very honourable third. More importantly, they have proven to be a match for any team in Italy and with a few more matches to spare, would have given Juventus a run for their money in the title run-in. Well organized and blessed with a potent attack that boasted the best goal difference in the Serie A, they cannot be considered minnows at this stage.

PSG are still going as favourites because of their pedigree and talented squad on paper. There are some cracks to consider though. Their superstar striker Mbappe will play but his level of fitness is questionable as he has just recovered from an ankle injury. Without him at his best, the potency of the PSG attack is highly diminished. But more importantly, the team might be missing a run-in of seriously competitive matches compared to their Italian counter-parts. Unlike most other major leagues, the French Ligue 1 was stopped with PSG handed the title. Their lack of competition showed when they had trouble overcoming the likes of St Etienne and Lyon in their last matches. That is not to say they won't beat Atalanta but it will just not be a straightforward affair.

At current odds, I see value favouring in some way Atalanta. For the risky, it might be worth side outright with Atalanta to go through. Or have them as a draw-no-bet option or with a 1-goal advantage on the asian handicap market. I find PSG odds too short at all levels.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Final Week - EPL 2019/20

The EPL comes to an end this Sunday with the dice still rolling for a few teams. They don't come more important than the clash between Leicester and Man Utd for a spot in next year's UCL.

The Red Devils have been in sublime form since the restart and although they seem to have sputtered slightly lately, they will go with the favours of the market in this crucial match-up. They certainly did not produce the dominant display that was expected of them in their last match against West Ham; they looked tired and devoid of any creative ideas. Against Leicester, this kind of performance will be lethal. The Foxes are not in great form themselves and will need a last hurrah at home to guarantee that final UCL spot. They are badly missing the injured Maddison in the middle of the park and seem to have an over-reliance on Vardy to score. How they will contain Bruno Fernandes and the dynamic trio of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood will be key to their chances. A win is required for the hosts and they will need to ensure they are not trailing in the match. If Utd produce their form of a couple of weeks back, they will be hard to beat. It will be a testament of the mental toughness of this team if they can pass this hurdle convincingly. I think they will.

Chelsea need at least a draw to ensure UCL qualification but Wolves is not going to be easy to overcome. I am not at all convinced with the quality of the Blues at the moment. Take Pulisic and goalscorer Giroud out of the equation and I think they will have struggled mightily in the last few games. If Kante comes back to boss the midfield on Sunday, that gives them a leg up but the French will certainly not be at 100% fitness. It might be worth going for a visitor win here or maybe Chelsea will work tooth and nail to cling to a draw if they are at pains against tenacious Wolves.

I think Watford and Bournemouth will accompany Norwich and go down. Obviously, no one knows the inside details but the Hornets sacking manager Pearson last week looks as dumb a decision as any. Putting an interim manager days before facing Man City proved the dumbness of the decision as they shipped in 5 goals that put them in relegation zone because of inferior goal difference! I don't see them getting a decision at Arsenal. Maybe a draw can save them but it will be a hard-earned draw.

I don't see Bournemouth getting the miracle they need to stay up. They will have to go beat Everton and hope for Aston Villa and Watford to falter. The Cherries have been a great to watch  in the EPL for the past years but it looks a tall order for them to stay up.

Friday, July 24, 2020

King George 2020 - Enable for the 3-peat

What a disappointing field in this year's King George! Three-horses are surely tactical affairs but I just cannot see Ballydoyle's Sovereign playing the party pooper here. This will be a match-race between Enable and Japan.

Back in the Coral Eclipse, I penned that Japan could have the upper hand on Enable as he had the benefit of a run. It turns out that both played second fiddle to Ghaiyyath with the mare prevailing a head over the Ballydoyle representative. Enable's run was eye-catching as it showed she still had it in her to play at the highest level at an age where many think horses are past their peak. Japan's outing was honourable confirming he's indeed one of the best from the older brigade this year.

Listening to their trainers, it seems both will have improved from their Coral Eclipse showdown. The King George seems to have been Japan's target for a while so he's bound to be close to his utmost peak on Saturday. Enable's main aim is the Arc, so this will be a springboard for her to peak come Arc time. Who the extra 2 furlongs will benefit the most is anyone's guess; many think that it will favor Japan but Enable has a sterling record at the mile and a half. She is the reference from a mile and a quarter to a half.

This looks to be a close one. I see Enable three-peating here. Japan is a worthy opponent but there is no-one at the level of Enable. At least, until she runs into something called Love maybe in the Arc...

Win: Enable

Friday, July 17, 2020

FA Cup 2019/20- Towards a Manchester Final

It would take a brave one to favor Arsenal over Man City in Saturday's FA semi-final. The hopeful can cling to the fact that manager Arteta had an inside view of the powerful Mancunian team but other than that all the boxes tick in favour of the latter. There is a gulf of class between the 2 teams; the Gunners are trying to re-build while the conquering Citizens are a well-oiled machine trying to win the remaining honors of the season that are the FA Cup and Champions League. It might go to the distance but Guardiola's men should prove too good in this one.

The other semi-final between Chelsea and Man Utd is a more competitive affair. While the Mancunians have the market favours because of their explosive form, this match can swing both ways. It is true that the Red Devils can now rival any team; the arrival of playmaker Bruno Fernandes has unleashed the best offensive attack in the EPL with Rashford, Maritial and Greenwood at the forefront. The Portuguese maestro has formidable support from Pogba and Matic and add to that a solid rear-guard and Solksjaer has a team that fears no-one.  Chelsea are in so-so form of late and they will have to play an intelligent match if they are to go through; they will stand no chance if they play toe-to-toe with their explosive rivals. If the match is close by the end, they will fancy their chances. This is bound to be a close one.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Derby, Jockey Club, Coral Eclipse, F1, EPL, Sports at its best

Glorious, simply glorious week-end of sports coming up. Premier League, Derby, Oaks, Coral Eclipse, Prix du Jockey Club. Formula 1. Just fantastic!

Let's start with the EPL. Late rumours of Fernandes and Pogba being injured in training today have surfaced but even without the pair, the Red Devils should be too good for Bournemouth. Looking at the remaining matches, Man Utd look to have an excellent chance to sneak into that 4th UCL spot but Fernandes must stay injury-free. Leicester can finally start some much-needed momentum by beating visiting Crystal Palace.

Let's go racing; I cannot recall a more exciting week-end of racing than this. First, the Derby where I really like how English King is going into it. He hit the line really well in the Lingfield Trial and he is certain to stay. If he takes to the cambers of Epsom, he must have a leading chance. People talk of Kameko, the Guineas winner. I am not certain this fellow will stay and the predicted rain will not help his chances. I like each-way chances of Mohican Heights and Russian Emperor as well.

Now the Oaks. Sure, Love looks a worthy favourite after a tremendous 1000 Guineas romp. She won't like the wet conditions though. If there is a filly I have been impressed with, it's Frankly Darling from the Gosden stable. Her Ribblesdale victory at Ascot put her a class of her own. I think she can upset Love.

The Coral Eclipse Stakes on Sunday looks as good a race as any in the past years. I mean, we have Enable, the best horse of the past couple of years, Japan, Deidre and Ghaiyyath, all fantastic Group 1 winners in their own right. I think Enable will need the race and is thus beatable on her return. Her main aim is the Arc, so getting beat here will be no issue for connections. Deidre will be vulnerable too on her return and the Arc is also her main aim this year. This leaves Japan and Ghaiyyath. I laid Japan at Ascot as he was always going to need the run in a hot contest. He did well to finish not too far off the winner. He should be very fit for this one. Ghaiyyath must show he can put in 2 great races in a row. Apparently he should now be able to, according to trainer Appleby. If he can now consistently put in his relentless front pace without fading, he can be the monster Godolphin fans want him to be. I will side with Japan here. Enable really looks vulnerable on her seasonal bow.

The French will be having their Derby as well in the Prix du Jockey Club. Victor Ludorum should be at the finish although he might be vulnerable to an outsider. I will opt for Ludorum for the safe place. The Fillies equivalent, the Prix Diane looks too competitive to call.

Finally, Formula 1 is back and Lewis Hamilton should be the dominant again; unless Red Bull or Ferrari have tremendously improved their cars. Unless contrarily proven, looks best to side with Hamilton again this year.

Happy punting!

Win Derby: English King
Each-way Derby: Mohican Heights, Russian Emperor
Win Oaks; Frankly Darling
Win Coral Eclipse: Japan
Sell Coral Eclipse: Enable
Place Jockey Club: Victor Ludorum
Win: Man Utd, Leicester

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

EPL 2019/20 - Week 32

Brighton v Man Utd - Away
Bournemouth v Newcastle - Home
Arsenal v Norwich - Home
Everton v Leicester - Draw
West Ham v Chelsea - Away
Sheffield Utd v Tottenham - Draw
Man City v Liverpool - Home

So Liverpool are finally champions. A big question mark will be on the focus of the players till the end of the season. There might be talk of setting the overall points record but the motivation will certainly not be up to par with persevering to win the league.

On the other hand, Man Utd are motivated. They need a UCL spot and seem to have good momentum building after an ecouraging draw at Spurs and demolishing Sheffield Utd in their last match. With forwards Martial and Rashford backed by the dynamic duo of Fernandes and Pogba, the Red Devils have a lot of ammunition in their arsenal. They should beat Brighton fair and square.

Arsenal should start a good sequence of positive results after 2 terrible defeats. There is no better team to play right now than Norwich which looks destined for the drop. This should be a canter for the Gunners.

Finally, I see outgoing champions Man City defeating newly-elect champions Liverpool. They should do their utmost to come on top as a badge of honor while the Kops are probably still in party mode as I write this. Not the best preparation when visiting Guardiola's men.

Win: Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal

Saturday, June 20, 2020

St James Palace Stakes 2019 - It will be a P in the win column

I think Saturday's St James Palace Stakes will be a battle between the P's; I cannot find anything else other than Pinatubo or Palace Pier to win this. Many favour Wichita from Ballydoyle after his excellent second place in the 2000 Guineas but I believe that was a one-off and the 2 above-mentioned are better milers.

Pinatubo was the biggest loser that day, losing his invincible record and glossy reputation in the process. In my view, although he disappointed somewhat, he still proved to be a leading miler of his generation. If that outing prepped him up well, he will definitely be the one to beat. I also believe the soft ground will play in his favour and the ground at Newmarket might have been a bit too quick for him.

The dark horse of the race is Palace Pier, an unbeaten son of Kingman. He has won all his 3 races to date with relative ease albeit in rather minor company, but has shown the trademark of a top-class horse. He's now thrown in the deep end and I think he's the progressive type that can challenge the Godolphin star.  He might be the horse with the least rating in the field but it wouldn't surprise me if this race puts him as one of the leaders of this year's mile category.

At current odds, I would double on both as to win.

Win: Pinatubo/Palace Pier

Thursday, June 18, 2020

EPL 2019/2020 - Week 30

Welcome back!

The EPL gets back to normality after a 3-month break that rightly put football to its status of non-necessity compared to the difficulties everyone was facing during the pandemic. Hope every one is safe and staying safe. If the EPL season had folded, it would have been an ok decision to leave with but playing behind closed doors looks a right decision as well. The motive may have been political with broadcast rights and potential penalties at the forefront of the reasoning, but I'm sure that the majority of fans will appreciate the resumption of matches, however hollow it looks like watching empty stadiums.

From a punter's perspective, home advantage might be of less significance with the withdrawal of the supporters, a team's 12th man. This has to be factored in the predictions for sure. What also will factor are the dynamics facing the teams for the remainder of the season. Liverpool will have won the league in the coming weeks and will surely put off their foot from the pedal gas. Clubs vying for a Champions League spot will tbe the ones with most to play for. At the bottom end of the spectrum, the specter of relegation will motivate the ones fighting for survival. Happy rest of the season!

Norwich v Southampton - Draw
Tottenham v Man Utd - Home
Watford v Leicester - Home
Brighton v Arsenal - Away
West Ham v Wolves - Away
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace - Home
Newcastle v Sheffield Utd - Away
Aston Villa v Chelsea - Away
Everton v Liverpool - Home
Man City v Burnley - Home

I think Tottenham have a nice hand to play against visiting Man Utd. The Red Devils have been one of the in-form teams before the break but I fear they will have to work over again to regain their momentum. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes has been a major boost to Solksjaer's team and I expect them to get even better as the weeks go by with the returns of Rashford and Pogba, but going to White Hart Lane for a first match is going to be tough. Mourinho will have Spurs ready with an air of revenge against his former employers. This match also marks the return of Harry Kane after a lengthy layoff although the England marksman is bound to be rusty. I believe Spurs will edge this, I just don't see the Red Devils snatching the full points.

Win: Tottenham

Friday, February 21, 2020

EPL 2019/20 - Week 27

Chelsea v Tottenham - Home
Burnley v Bournemouth - Home
Crystal Palace v Newcastle - Away
Sheffield Utd v Brighton - Home
Southampton v Aston Villa - Home
Leicester v Man City - Home
Man Utd v Watford - Home
Wolves v Norwich - Home
Arsenal v Everton - Home
Liverpool v West Ham - Home

I see a lot of home wins this week-end, make your pick really.  Leicester looks the best value of them all as they entertain Man City. The defending champions have clearly given up on the Premier League and will rely on the Champions League to salvage a somewhat disappointing season so far. Their battle off-field against a 2-year UCL suspension is proving to be a distraction they could do without. Leicester have nothing to lose going into this match and any point will be a bonus. With Vardy upfront and the shrewdness of manager Rogers, they are capable of landing all 3 points. A below-par Citizens team will have problems against a home side with a strong record at the King Power stadium. It might be worth going for a straight home win here.

Win: Leicester

Friday, January 31, 2020

EPL 2019/20 - Week 25

Leicester v Chelsea - Home
Bournemouth v Aston Villa - Away
Crystal Palace v Sheffield Utd - Away
Liverpool v Southampton - Home
Newcastle v Norwich - Home
Watford v Everton - Home
West Ham v Brighton - Draw
Man Utd v Wolves - Draw
Burnley v Arsenal - Away
Tottenham v Man City - Draw

Wow! Ighalo for Man Utd. I am not sure how that is going to work for the Red Devils. The coming of Bruno Fernandes looks, however, promising; the Portuguese looks really a great addition. That said, Man Utd have a tough match on Saturday against Wolves. The visitors are gunning for a European place and are in good form with the likes of Jimenez and Traore firing on all cylinders. I believe they can squeeze at least a point out of Old Trafford. The Red Devils are in much need of firepower in attack after the injury to Rashford and although Fernandes will eventually make his mark as an offensive weapon, the match will probably come too soon for him to make the impact needed. A draw-no-bet or outright win on Wolves could be rewarding.

Draw-no-bet or Win: Wolves