Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Barcelona Wow Factor and Tuesday Carling Cup

I don't think I need to add more to what the press have been saying following Barca's demolition of Madrid. Whenever I see this Barcelona's side playing, the words of Man Utd's coach SAF a few years back, always come to my mind "If you let that Barcelona midfield play, they will make you dizzy!". So true! Their passing game is one-touch (or half-touch, as Xavi puts it), yet it is so intricate and elaborate (infuriatingly so at times). And Xavi (I call him the man with short passes), is mainly at the middle of it all. Their pressing and recuperation of the ball is as good as any other team, which is very rare for a team that loves to keep the ball. Simply amazing!

Far from the panache of the Nou Camp, it's back to the rigors of the Carling Cup. Although Arsenal look certain to field a young team against Wigan, they should still have enough experience to go through. Wigan will be without Rodallega who I consider their main player, and one that could have caused problems for Wenger's team. At home, Arsenal should edge this; I'll recommend a draw-no-bet on them against the unpredictable Latics, who are as capable of the good and the bad.

Draw-no-bet: Arsenal.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Perfect week-end results, and awaiting the Super Classico.

A thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding week-end with all recommendations winning. In football, Dortmund, Man Utd, Bayern Munich and Mallorca all won, and in tennis Nadal reached the final of the World Finals. Everything was spot on.

So today's the day the football world has been waiting for; the "Super Classico" between Barca and Madrid. On paper, it promises to be a spectacular celebration of football. So many times however, as in any other sport, the expectations are too high to be met, and such anticipated games often produce a typically tepid tactical affair because of the excessive caution play of the two teams. With Mourinho at the helm of the underdog Madrid, you can be quite sure that his team will try not to lose first. After all, coming back from the Nou Camp with one point will be good cause for celebration in the Madrid camp. Anyway, let's hope the match does not prove as confined as I fear, and we can sit back and enjoy the world's current finest at play. Obviously, this game is too close for me to speculate on the result, but probably Barca holds an edge because they are close to being their old dominating self. They will not find better motivation that to play against both arch-rivals Madrid and Mourinho. For the statistic-aware, Mourinho hasn't won in the Nou Camp in stints with Chelsea or Inter. May the best team on the day win.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Week-end football preview

A rotten result in racing where Diogenes came out 5th. No excuses, it was simply not good enough. It's my second successive bad recommendation in racing, and I have the red flags out. I will have to think things over before I give another racing recommendation. The strike rate has taken a blow, and I need to stop that losing streak in racing. Anyway, confidence so far, is still high in football, and I have a few for this week-end.

Premier League. I can't see Man Utd lose to Blackburn on Saturday. The Red Devils have gotten the winning attitude again, and Blackburn just don't have the team to cause an upset at Old Trafford. Man Utd as draw-no-bet is safe. I don't want to speculate on the Aston Villa/Arsenal match, but I think the Gunners will be in for a tough 90 mins. It won't surprise me if the Londoners lose, but with them, any result is possible, as they are so consistent in being inconsistent! So no recommendation on that one.

Bundesliga. I can't see leaders Dortmund losing at home to last-place Monchengladbach. Dortmund should come out as outright winners in that encounter. Bayern Munich should also be able to overcome Frankfurt at home. With the tough mid-week exertions in Rome, it's safer to have Bayern as a draw-no-bet.

La Liga. Mallorca is a team that can be a handful to anybody, and should come up trumps against Malaga at home. Laudrup's men seem to enjoy the underdog role more, as they won on the road in Sevilla and Valencia. Logically, they should beat this weak Malaga team, but a draw-no-bet is the safe option.

Win: Borussia Dortmund.
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Bayern Munich, Mallorca.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Friday racing preview.

The first horse on Friday's Dundalk card is one that I have an eye on. Diogenes, from the Ballydoyle camp, has been unplaced in both of his starts, but has however shown great improvement on his second start. After 26 days rest, I think he's bound to improve further. He will be ridden by apprentice jockey JP O'Brien, and so will be given a 5-pound allowance. As far as the jockey himself is concerned, I think the jury is still out on the performances of the son of the Ballydoyle maestro. Because he gets so many seemingly-quality rides on paper, the expectations are very high. So whenever he performs poorly on a highly-regarded or market-backed Ballydoyle horse (something that I have witnessed), it's easy to unleash the hounds after him. Anyway, provided he gives the Galileo colt a proper ride on the all-weather track (i.e., properly use his outside stall position for breathing space and not get stuck in traffic in this 14-horse race), Diogenes should be in the frame. It has the benefit of 2 runs, unlike a few that will be having their first outing. The danger most probably will be from the Shamardal filly Asheerah. So, Diogenes to place is the recommendation for Friday.

Place: Diogenes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Barcelona walk-in-the-park, and a Tennis word.

I just witnessed Barcelona give a real thrashing to Panathinaikos, and I don't think that it could have been a  nicer stroll for them. I've very rarely seen players play with such ease together and toying disdainfully with the opposition at this level. But against Madrid next Monday it's going to be an entirely different matter... I can't wait! Anyway, Barca's win was good for my strike rate.

Ok something novel here, I am going to put on my Tennis hat! Yeah, football and horse racing are what I really follow for giving sure recommendations, but I'm always on the look-out for whatever value I can see in other sports. And I think I have one screaming in tennis! Nadal to Reach-the-Final of the World Tour Finals. To me, when he's on top form, Nadal is un-beatable whichever the surface. And he seems to be in really good form after the first 2 matches (I always gauge how well he's doing in a tournament after a few matches). To me, he'll probably win the whole thing; but I'm looking for 'certainties' and for him to reach the final definitely removes all the risks related to playing a final; so I recommend on the Spaniard to at least reach the final.

Don't expect frequent tennis advice from me though; I only follow the big 4 (Nadal, Fed, Murray & Djokovic) in the 4 Majors because that's when I think they play best and are above the rest. Hence, the value in following them then.

Reach-the-final: Nadal.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wednesday football preview.

Chelsea won, so the draw-no-bet on them was good. But it was a nervy night for the Blues. One thing that stands out from watching their match is that Drogba is not currently in form. At his best, he would have buried the chances that came his way. When Drogba struggles, so does Chelsea. It would have been nervy until the last minute for punters who had money on them as outright win.

On Wednesday, I like Barcelona's chances against Panathinaikos. There are 2 things that can really prevent them from taking the match spoils; if Guardiola fields a totally weakened team in anticipation of next week's match against Madrid, then I would seriously consider not punting on them. The second negative is that Panathinaikos will start the match with a new coach, and usually that does have a galvanizing effect on any team. Still, Barcelona is in full flow right now, and if their backbone of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa are in the starting line-up, I think they are good draw-no-bets. To guarantee their qualification, they can't lose this game. I'll leave it up to you to check the team sheet at game-time to see if only 2-3 first-team players at most are being rested. If so, the recommendation stands.

Draw-no-bet: Barcelona.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Week-end results, and Champions League Preview

The 3 football recommendations with Man Utd, Barcelona and Madrid winning were correct. In racing, Fettuccine was unplaced, after having missed the break. Losing ground getting out of the stalls is pretty much unforgivable in a 5 furlong race, and she lost the race at the start. Real bummer on this one!

What I take out of this week-end's results in the Premier League is Harry Redknapp's observation that Spurs can win the league. It's not that I agree with him on this outcome, but I cannot recall such optimism from managers outside the "usual" Top 4 (Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool) for a long time. And he's right that the way the Top 4 have been throwing away points, has given other teams hope to land the trophy come May 2011. The gap between the top teams in the Premier League has definitely shrunken this year, for the many reasons I was enumerating in a previous post. I still think that it will be between Utd and Chelsea.

Champions League matches resume as from tomorrow, and for all of Chelsea's recent troubles, I cannot see them lose their home game to Zilina. The English club is in turmoil after 3 defeats in 4 matches, is  in controversial waters with the sacking of Ray Wilkins, and Ancelotti now has to fend off rumours he's about to quit. Also, since it has already booked its ticket for the next round, I wouldn't be surprised if Chelsea don't field their first team. So lots of negatives on Chelsea's side. But still, losing at home to Zilina would defy all odds. It's Chelsea to win for me, but because this match really means nothing to them in terms of advancing, a Draw-no-bet on the English side is advised.

For other Champions League match-ups, I would caution that because a few of the sides have already advanced, the results of the matches are likely to be skewed. For example, don't expect Madrid to field their strong side against Ajax. You can be sure that they would not want injuries, just before they play the El Classico...

Draw-no-bet: Chelsea.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week-end Preview: Man Utd to start rolling.

Football players are back in their club fold after their international stint, and caution is always advised after this kind of break. In the Premier League, I cannot see Man Utd losing to Wigan. Historically, Wigan has never snatched a point from the Red Devils. But this is not a statistic that I'm relying upon when analyzing this game. Man Utd have an excellent record at home, and I have a feeling the team is starting to get their football together after a slow start. They will be galvanized from Chelsea's recent debacles, and be thankful that they are only 3 points adrift, after having thrown so many points away. I think they should win this game tomorrow, but I'll edge on the safe side with a draw-no-bet on them for the main reason that the game comes after an international break; you just never know how only 2 days training has affected the team form. Rooney should be back as well, so it will be an interesting game to watch.

The same sort of caution applies to La Liga. Spain's debacle in Portugal would have affected mostly the Barcelona players than Real Madrid players since they form the backbone of the national team. I however see both of these clubs snatching at least a point over the week-end. Madrid should win at home, but their coach is still suspended from the bench; Barcelona has a trickier match on the road; I still think they'll win, or at worst come out with a draw. So a draw-no-bet on the 2 leaders should be safe.

In racing, I like Fettuccine in the Lingfield 11:45am race. It will be her first start on a synthetic surface after 3 stints on grass. Provided she takes well to the new surface, she should have too much class for this lot. The 5 furlong distance will suit her. The only issue might be her outside stall position. For that reason, a Place on this Jeremy Noseda filly is advised.

Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid.
Place: Fettuccine.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cartier Awards - Goldikova is the Queen, but where is Harbinger?

The Cartier Racing Awards rewarding the best European horses, came out this week, and for the most part I agree with the winners. Goldikova being Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse makes sense. The mare was and is simply sensational. As I look down the list of winners, I can't see any mention of Harbinger, this year's highest-rated horse (rated135, 6 pounds more than the second one at 129!). How can that be? If Starspangledbanner is top Sprinter, and Rite of Passage is top Stayer, shouldn't there be a category for top Middle-Distance horse? It seems to me that since the middle-distances are the most sought-after races in Europe, it is a serious omission not to have an award for the best horse at those distances. The fact that this year, it happens to also be the highest-rated horse in the world makes this omission most glaring. Oh well, not that this would affect the horse's stud value, or connections' pockets, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday results, and woeful England.

It seems quite a few of yesterday's musings and predictions came true! I was talking runner-up syndrome yesterday, and Fashionable Gal came up second again! Purtuis, the winner of the race, was the one I mentioned was the main danger. Hence, the Place recommendation on the Gal was spot on. When a horse hasn't learnt to win yet, it's very hard to have an outright Win punt on it.

At Kempton, Cape Classic validated the Place prediction I placed on it by coming out third. Having a run of accurate predictions and recommendations as of late really does boost the confidence level for betting.

Now let's talk football with England losing at home to France. Remember what I mentioned about friendlies? Although I thought England would edge that one, it feels good that I did not recommend a bet as I explained yesterday. Friendlies are real mine-fields I have stayed away and will stay away from. Anyway, back to the game, and I watched a woeful, pitiful England. France were deserving winners, they had more zest, more energy and they were enterprising from the start. This England team (especially the midfield) looks shackled, devoid of any inspiration. The only bright spot was Andy Caroll, who I thought had a brilliant debut. I don't want to be an England-basher (the press will do enough of that), but they really play like robots. No brilliance, except maybe some flashes in injury time. Sigh sigh...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wednesday racing and football

I like Fashionable Gal in the Lingfield 2:50pm on Wednesday. She was hampered when beaten by Colour Scheme in her last race, and she should be winning among this average lot. The main danger should be from Purtuis. Since this is a maiden race, it's safer to have Fashionable gal as a Place bet (she's been runner-up twice and you never know about the perennial runner-up syndrome).

One other horse to take a look at is Cape Classic in the Kempton 5:40pm. Again, the lot here is very average, and this colt had a very encouraging debut at Newmarket around a fortnight ago. If it has improved expectedly since then, it should be in the frame. However I cannot put a sure recommendation based solely on its debut. It's a horse to follow, if you are thinking long returns.

England-France friendly match. As I was mentioning before, friendlies are a far cry from real qualifiers regarding the predictability of the results, and hence the betting. France are a building team and if that were a real qualifier, I would find no way for them to beat England at Wembley. In fact, even in this friendly, I still strongly fancy England's chances as a draw-no-bet. I am not sure what's running in the mind of Capello in terms of team selection over 90 mins, but I would be surprised if he does not put in 11 men that can win the match. England as draw-no-bet if you fancy some football punting, but it's impossible to give guarantees for friendlies.

Place: Fashionable Gal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great week-end results, and 1-month blogging birthday!

Great week-end indeed with Barcelona and Bayern Munich winning, and Man City drawing with Birmingham for a voided bet. This puts our strike rate to 88% for a total of 30 winning recommendations out of 34 (I don't count voided bets), after exactly one month of blogging. I mentioned some time ago that I would like to hover around the mid-90% mark, so there are still lots of work to do to reach that goal in the first place, and then try to maintain it. I am not there yet, but the past month has been really fun analyzing the football and race-cards and sharing recommendations. Hope you jumped on the winners.

This week will be full of international football friendlies; in terms of both game-play and punting, friendlies are a totally different ball game than real qualifiers, so caution is advised. There will be all-weather cards to look for opportunities as well. So thanks for staying tuned, and may the good run continue!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another winner and week-end football preview

Another winning prediction as La Concorde easily won its race at Lingfield. A nice stalking ride by Jimmy Fortune, although any other jockey would have won on that horse as well.

Another busy week-end of football coming up. In the Premier League, Man City should not lose to Birmingham, who've been producing seesaw results lately. The problem with the Midlands team is that they are uncharacteristically leaking goals at the moment. So, I will advise Man City as a draw-no-bet.

In La Liga, I see Barcelona overcoming Villareal. Since the latter don't usually go down without a fight, a draw-no-bet on Barcelona is a safer bet than an outright win. Real Madrid will be without Mourinho on the touchline for their road game at Sporting Gijon. This is rather negative news for Ronaldo and co; so although they should be able to dominate this average Gijon side, I will not speculate on the effects of the coach's absence on the outcome of this match.

In Germany, on Sunday, Bayern Munich should overcome Nurnberg at home. This Munich side is still not operating fully with so many key players absent, so a Draw-no-bet on them should be safe.

Draw-no-bet: Man City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Friday Lingfield selection

One selection for Friday; at Lingfield, I like La Concorde in the 2:05pm race. This is a very average field and this Stoute filly should have no problem to be in the first 3. In fact, it should win the race, but given it's been out of the courses for more than 2 months, I'll stick with a Place recommendation. It should have too much class for this field, and the distance will suit her well.

Place: La Concorde

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Punting on La Liga and Premier League.

Real Madrid won easily and the Manchester derby ended in a draw, so it's one more winning prediction and one full refund. I will take those kinds of winning nights anytime.

Since the beginning of this blog, you will realize that I've been recommending Madrid (win or draw-no-bet) quite regularly, and so far they've been great to follow because they are undefeated. Although they are not bound to remain that way, I really cannot see them lose many games this season. Last year, they total-ed record points and still lost the league to super Barcelona. In fact, they lost it because they were unable to beat Barcelona in the home and away games. Bar those games, they fared actually better than Barca. With Mourinho at the helm, they are a better team, and more importantly, it is very unlikely they will lose to Barcelona in both home and away games. So it is fair to say that if Barcelona keep dropping points as they've been doing, Madrid will have a serious go at them for the title. They are a hungrier team too because they have won nothing yet.

Contrary to La Liga, the Premier League currently seems to be far from being a 2-horse race since there are no clear dominant forces as before. Chelsea are an aging team; Man Utd are rebuilding; Arsenal are being their usual also-rans; Man City are as good as anyone on paper but they will only get better with time. A 4-point gap at the top at this stage does not mean anything. Add in other teams like Everton, Tottenham, Villa, Liverpool as spoilers to the mix, it is clear that all of the leading teams will drop many points as the season progresses. This league is clearly very competitive; although at the end, I still expect it to be between Chelsea and Man Utd.

So, for the punter, there are clearly less pitfalls when fancying the super powers of La Liga than those of the Premier League. The returns are certainly less, but the results are more predictable.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Manchester Derby and Copa del Rey Previews

A rare full Premier League fixture today and tomorrow. I think Man City will not lose to Man Utd for many reasons tomorrow. Man Utd are "counting heads" presently, having been struck with a flurry of injuries and flu virus. They struggled to beat Wolves at home on a late late Park strike. They have struggled to beat City since last year (although they did win, they left it late late). City are playing at home where they have a very good record. Although City have been in poor form of late prior to last Saturday's win at West Brom, I think they will either win or squeeze a draw out of this match. I will recommend them as Draw-no-bet. Betting against Man Utd is never a sure thing, but their current situation makes it a very hard road game for them.

In the Spanish Cup tomorrow, Real Madrid should win their home game against lowly Murcia and qualify. They are recommended as an outright win.

Win: Real Madrid.
Draw-no-bet: Man City.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sublime Saturday.

It was another fantastic Saturday where out of 8 recommendations, 4 were winners and 4 were full refunds. Workforce didn't run, Bimingham, Inter and Bayern all drew, for full refunds on draw-no-bets. Birmingham was 0-2 down before rallying, but you always expect them to throw all caution to the wind whenever they need a result at home. Inter were quite lucky to escape with a draw against Brescia with a controversial penalty; but that result shows the beauty of the draw-no-bet option; when the team that you fancy is not performing as expected, a draw, however improbable, safeguards your bet from being a losing one. Sunderland and Blackburn were indomitable at home as expected.

In racing, Zenyatta and Goldikova were both in place money so it was a great result. My biggest fear of Zenyatta staying too far behind was confirmed, and it was certainly the cause of her not winning. So the Place recommendation on her was spot on. Goldikova won, and put her race to bed easier than everyone expected. Advising her to Place was synonymous to very easy returns indeed.

After these great week-end results, Monday is pretty quiet on both football and racing fronts. Flat racing season in UK is officially over, but there is still All-weather racing, and for sure I will continue keeping an eye on any serious opportunities that arise.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Zenyatta's final race and week-end football.

A great 100% strike as both of our last recommendations for Place won; Colour Scheme won his race, and Midday came out second in the Mare/Filly Turf at Churchill Downs.

Tomorrow's Breeders' Cup day is all about Zenyatta. Will she win and retire undefeated? I think so. However, she hasn't faced such quality horses before. She will have to be on her A game, and not be too far off the pace, as she will not be able to pick up the front-runners as easily as she did with other fillies and mares. It will be up to the jockey to ensure that she's positioned well enough to avoid traffic problems in order to launch her usual final assault. I think it's safe to say that she will be in the top 3, so a Place should bring returns.

If Workforce goes to post, I think he's got a great chance to win in the Turf. I am not sure why the connections are being reticent on the current ground, but he should be able to go on good/firm. I hope he runs on his true form, unlike Dancing Brave. I have him as Place as well.

Goldikova, the other queen of the meeting. Her wide post is obviously an issue. It might not have mattered last year, but this year there are some serious genuine Group 1 winners in this race; Proviso, Paco Boy, Gio Ponti. If Peslier can get Goldikova tucked in a nice stalking position from stall 10, then she will be very hard to overcome. If she's far back at the final bend, and has got too much traffic to overcome, then I can see shades of Rock of Gibraltar, who had to turn wide but gallantly finished second. Golidikova should be in the frame.

Football Saturday. In the Premier League, Birmingham, Blackburn and Sunderland should earn at least 1 point at home tomorrow. So they are good draw-no-bets.

In Italy, Inter should beat Brescia, but with their midweek Champions League exertions, it's safer to have them as Draw-no-bet.

In Germany, Bayern should not lose to last-place Monchengladbach, so they are another safe Draw-no-bet.

Place: Zenyatta, Workforce, Goldikova
Draw-no-bet: Birmingham, Blackburn, Sunderland, Inter, Bayern

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breeders Cup mania, and one for Wolverhampton

Anyone not caught up in the Breeders' Cup mania that has been filling the racing pages since the start of this week? Because these are championship races, there's often not much between the horses, and so it becomes even more challenging to pick winners from the bunch. In a few races, you can pick the outstanding horse, but doing so for all races is near-impossible.  Anyway, this is a great spectacle and I think the Europeans have a great crack at it again this year.

On Friday, in the Filly/Mare Turf, I expect a big race from Midday. If she's on-song, she should win this. Henry Cecil is bullish and the ground should suit. The dangers I believe will come from the French filly Plumania who is a very consistent performer in France, and the Japanese globe-trotter Red Desire, who has won in Dubai (beating World Cup winner Gloria de Campeao). I have little doubt Midday will be in the frame in case she does not win it. So it's Midday to Place for Friday. In case some of you are long-shot punters, maybe take a look at Miss Keller, who is a daughter of Montjeu and who's been consistently in the frame from a mile to ten furlongs. The longer distance of Friday's race should suit her to bits, and she might be in the frame. But only if you are looking for long-shots.

Far from the glamour of Churchill Downs, at Wolverhampton, in the last race, Richard Hughes is riding Colour Scheme. I think the Brian Meehan colt will be in the frame, so I advise a Place on him. This race might play a big part in deciding the jockey championship, and you can be sure that Hughes will be up for it.

Place: Midday, Colour Scheme.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This week: 2 Superstars in the making

When I read the headlines with Gareth Bale and Ronaldo mentioned in the same breath, I thought it was another one of those cheeky headlines from The Sun. As I watched the highlights of the Tottenham/Inter game, I could not believe the extents to which he destroyed not only Inter, but also the colossus right-back Maicon. There are things in football that you almost always know the outcome. Give a free-kick to Becks and you know you can get/will get punished. Give a penalty to Ronaldo, and he'll convert 9 out of 10. Wingers, don't try to go on the Inter's right-flank because Maicon is there. To me, Maicon is the best right-back in football by far, since Lilian Thuram. What Bale did over 2 games with the Brazilian was amazing. He not only went by him as if he wasn't there, he also openly challenged him 1 on 1 before doing so. Never seen this before. And boy, can the Welshman run blazingly fast and deliver perfect crosses! If you haven't seen the highlights of the first and return legs, I advise you to do so; it's quite a treat!

Melbourne Cup. Americain was best at the distance, best on the day, and deservingly won. But what did you think of So You Think? I thought he was mightily impressive. A machine. To win a 10 furlong Group 1 race just a week before running (pulling initially) his Melbourne Cup race, shows that this horse is really special. Add to that his other Group 1 wins, and the fact that his pedigree suggests he's probably better suited for a 12 furlong race, impresses me even more. Word is today that Coolmore are set to buy him and race him in Europe next year. I can't wait. At last, we'll be able to see the best High Chaparral has to offer. And maybe the Arc beckons...(although too soon to think about that!).

Chelsea win and Nottingham Godolphin shocker

Absolutely shocking race in Nottingham. How can you explain the absurd runs from the Godolphin pair Caymans and Sahara Kingdom?  The heavy ground? Maybe. His first run on bottomless ground may be an excuse for Caymans. But Sahara Kingdom? Sure, they bumped each other ("bumping or hampering" as described in the race commentaries), but that would not have affected the 1-2-3 result of the race. It's obvious at this stage that Nottingham is really a mine-field to keep away from.

At least Chelsea beat Spartak as suggested, but that hardly makes up for the Nottingham stunner.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chelsea wrap-up and Godolphin set for Nottingham

Chelsea should book their ticket for the next round tomorrow against Spartak Moscow. The Russians are not particularly adept travellers, and Chelsea should prove too much for them at home. Malouda won't be here, but they have plenty of cover, and I can't see them lose at home. A draw-no-bet on Chelsea seems a guarantee.

In racing, we go to Nottingham. I find this place to be a real mine-field, but this time, I believe the Godolphin pair of Sahara Kingdom and Caymans look way too good for the opposition at hand in the 2:20pm race. Caymans is the choice of Ted Durcan and has been away for nearly 2 years. Usually Godolphin horses do very well after a long lay-off though. Sahara Kingdom is trying turf for the first time, and it's not 100% certain he will like the soft ground. But he's a class above the others (bar Caymans). I will recommend Sahara Kingdom as a Place bet. I'll leave Caymans since I don't want to speculate on his form after such a long period of inactivity.

Draw-no-bet: Chelsea
Place: Sahara Kingdom

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday Champions League and Melbourne Cup.

Over the years, the return leg of the Champions League match-ups (from the previous round a fortnight ago) has presented some mine-fields. That's because it's almost the 2 teams with the same starting eleven that are playing again, and the coaches have worked on tweaking their tactics for the second match. The scenario is almost like a return leg in the knock-out stages except that the result of the first match does not matter for advancing. With that in mind, I find it a common mistake to guess the outcome of these match-ups based on the first match only.

The safest bet that I can find is a Draw-no-bet with Rubin Kazan against Panathinaikos. The Russians are dangerous at home in both domestic and European competitions, and are currently in good form. If they manage to contain Djibril Cisse, they shouldn't be losing this game. The problem with Rubin is that they are not a freely-scoring team, and might be into trouble if Pana scores first and closes shop. For this reason, I cannot recommend any bet on them.

I also think Barcelona and Man Utd will return with a win or draw but since they will not be fielding their first teams, they are not guarantees.

In racing, the Melbourne Cup is running in some hours. I concur with the many that find this race is the hardest Flat race to win. I find it also the hardest to handicap. For the past years, we've seen Listed European raiders do very well (actually nearly win this race), while multiple Group 1 raiders (think Yeats) have flopped badly. It's a unique 2-mile race where stamina and tactical speed are important. For the Europeans, the ground is also crucial. The Australian "firm" ground is different from the European equivalent. I will only watch this race as a spectacle; hopefully there are no hard-luck stories and the best wins again.

No recommendations for today, but if you fancy some level of risk, the teams mentioned above might be good to follow.