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

Monday, January 20, 2020

EPL 2019/20 - Week 24

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

I can punt all day against Liverpool going unbeaten this season. They won't. They might go unbeaten at home but they will flinch one or more times on the road. They rode their luck on their last road trip at Spurs where Mourinho's men had glorious chances to at least tie the match but they were just missing a finisher like Harry Kane upfront. Wolves will present another stern challenge to Klopp's men and it might be worth siding with the home side taking at least a point out of the champions-elect. The Wanderers are one of the form teams of the moment and play with great resilience and purpose under Nuno Santo. Their team sheet is certainly inferior to the Kops but their never-say-die attitude, as Southampton attested to last Saturday, will pose problems for the visitors. A draw-no-bet on Wolves can be rewarding.

Draw-no-bet: Wolves

Friday, January 17, 2020

EPL 2019/20 - Week 23

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

Mikael Arteta is doing a good impression in his managerial debut at Arsenal. The Gunners are playing with renewed confidence and purpose. They seem to have that extra edge to them, something they were sorely lacking under Emery. This Gunners team is on the ascendancy like their manager. Sheffield Utd has often proven a tough nut to crack even for the best teams in the EPL. They are a well organized team that is hard to break down. At current odds, I find it worth chancing with the home team; they should have enough to edge this even without their talismanic striker Aubagmeyang.

Chelsea are on a mazy run, throwing dud games when they are expected to win and getting results in the unlikeliest situations. Lampard's men should have enough in them to go beat Newcastle at St James Park. Steve Bruce's men have over-extended themselves so far but they don't have the quality to compete as a top 10 team. The Blues should be able to control this match and get the points they badly need to have a good hold of the all-important fourth and final UCL spot.

Win: Chelsea, Arsenal

Friday, January 10, 2020

EPL 2019/20 - Week 22


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

Liverpool will win the league but that doesn't mean that they will go unbeaten throughout. Their odds are decidedly way too short as they visit Spurs on Saturday. Ok, Kane will not play and this will be a hard blow for the home team. But even without his irreplaceable striker, Mourinho still has a potent squad at his disposal to breach the Kop defence. The likes of Son, Moura and Ali have goals in them and it will not be surprising if the Portuguese can hatch a plan to inflict a first defeat for the visitors this season. At current prices, it will be rewarding to go for a straight Spurs win and the less-risky draw-no-bet makes appeal as well.

Win, Draw-no-bet: Tottenham

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

EPL 2019/20 - Week 21


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

Happy New Year 2020 everyone!!

Newly-appointed manager Moyes can start his second managerial Hammers career on a winning note as Bournemouth visit the London Stadium. It is always a case of making first impressions whenever a new manager takes over as the players get that extra urge to make their mark. The feeling watching them for the past weeks was that they were not responding to ousted manager Pellegrini. Bournemouth have a pretty mediocre away record and look vulnerable to the wrath of a home team in bad need of a win. At current prices, it looks rewarding to side win a straight home win.

Burnley got burned by Man Utd in their last home match and I've rarely seen them playing that bad at Turf Moor. They will find Aston Villa easier to deal with than the Red Devils. Their solid front duo of Wood and Barnes should present a menace for the wobbly Villa defence. This should end in a comfortable home win.

Win: Burnley, West Ham

Friday, December 27, 2019

EPL 2019/20 - Week 20

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

Anyone out there still thinking that Liverpool won't be crowned champions? There is no more race, the Kops will win it by a canter. Man City will focus on the Champions League while still fighting for second spot in the league. The others are just not good enough.

After a tepid start, Southampton have been enjoying some positive results lately headlined by their away win at Stamford Bridge in their last match. They no longer look like a team primed for the drop. They should have enough of them to dispose of visiting Crystal Palace. The Eagles are a middle-tier team that is gunning for a European spot but they will do well to finish in the top 10 and far from the relegation battle. They were arguably lucky to have beaten West Ham in their last match thanks to a Ayew's sublime solo goal. Their over-reliance on Zaha can often bite them and although the former Man Utd player can always present danger up front, his current form is not as spectacular as in previous years. Might be worth chancing on a home win at current prices.

Leicester's legs might have been somewhat cut off by their recent debacle against Liverpool. After a spectacular unbeaten run, the Foxes are now on a 2-game losing streak having lost to rivals Man City and Liverpool in their last 2 matches. That sequence might extend to 3 if West Ham can regain some level of form. There is much pressure on Hammers manager Pellegrini due to their serious dip of form in the past months but the results have slightly improved in the past few weeks. As mentioned earlier, they should have gotten something out of their last encounter against Palace. If the Foxes are still reeling from their past couple of results, the Hammers have enough in them to cause an upset. A home win will be very rewarding although going to the less-risky draw-no-bet might prove fruitful as well.

Win: West Ham, Southampton