Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year 2012!

Man Utd easily got the 3 expected points by thrashing Wigan. With his hat-trick, Berbatov is giving reminders that he is far from finished at Old Trafford. He has technical qualities and mental intelligence that the other strikers in the team do not have, which his manager can call upon when his strike force of Rooney and Chicharito is under par or not available.

The New Year fixtures are on the way and I believe it should be rewarding to keep confidence in both Manchester teams. The Red Devils host Blackburn in what should be a Win formality for them. I recommend them as a straight Win.

Man City travel to Sunderland and I cannot see the visitors losing this one. They misfired against West Brom in their last match in what must surely be a temporary setback for such a talented team. Sunderland will be without a few regulars, so my recommendation is for a draw-no-bet on Man City.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year 2012, may it be filled with plenty of winners!

Win: Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Man City

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day football

Long live the Premier League with its Boxing Day fixtures and hopefully the same thought will prevail after the day's match results.

Man Utd are in a rich vein of form as they host Wigan, a club they've been treating as whipping boys since the Latics joined the top flight about a decade ago now. To the visitors' credit, they have been able to stand their ground against top clubs recently by drawing with Chelsea and Liverpool. So the Red Devils will be wrong to go into this game thinking that they are in for a stroll in the park. Since their defeat at Basle, Man Utd have gone on to record impressive wins, none less than last week's 5-0 victory against a usually home-strong Fulham team. They are losing players to injury at an alarming rate, the latest victims being Ashley Young and the very versatile Phil Jones. Still, they've very well covered in most areas and the return of Chicharito gives them serious fire power in attack. I don't think the hosts will disappoint the Old Trafford faithful and the surest selection of the day looks to be a straight win for the Red Devils; that's the recommendation.

Win: Man Utd

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Chelsea blues

Man City and Inter Milan won as expected; pretty straightforward selections. Man Utd went to thrash Fulham 5-0 in London, which was a fantastic result for the Mancunians. They seem to be in great form and cannot be dismissed at the moment. They will not give up their title cheaply to their city rivals by any means! I still think strongly that City are in the driving seat.

Chelsea and Tottenham drew to the delight of both Manchester teams. Although John Terry had a very good game, I don't expect him to be able to give commanding performances game-in game-out until his prosecution affair is sorted out. There isn't any doubt that this will affect his game and his mental sharpness in the games to come. In fact, he could be a liability to his already-struggling defence. No doubt that courting Gary Cahill is a priority for Villa Boas at this moment. With or without John Terry, Chelsea will win neither the Premier League nor the Champions League, that's a given, in my mind. They are bound to lose Drogba for the Africa Cup in January. Realistically, they could even be out of the top 3 if Tottenham can keep their momentum. The Blues are still a good club with able players but I would not go close to punting on them for any title this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mid-week EPL and Serie A

A full mid-week programme of Premier League games takes centre-stage starting today.

Man City could very well extend their lead at the top as they welcome Stoke. The Potters are always a tough side to overcome either at home or on the road. They will be without Ryan Shawcross, their main pivot at the back. City will have to take this game with the same urgency as they did against Arsenal last week-end if they are to get the 3 points. I can't see Stoke winning this game, so the recommendation is a draw-no-bet on Man City.

Second-place Man Utd travel to Craven Cottage where it's always a struggle for visiting teams to get the 3 points. Fulham are strong at home and will surely provide stronger opposition than QPR last week-end against the Red Devils. Man Utd's form is a little unpredictable at the moment as they can be their dominant selves against the likes of Villa and QPR, but at the same time play poorly against minnows like Basle. They seem to alternate the good and bad games, and it is difficult what type of showing they will display against a strong Fulham team. The result of this game can go either way.

In the Serie A, Inter's seeming revival looks set to continue as they welcome bottom-club Lecce at the San Siro. Obviously, Inter cannot inspire 100% confidence anymore, but they should have too many guns for a leaky Lecce side that looks prime to be relegated at the end of the season . The hosts are recommended as a draw-no-bet as well.

Draw-no-bet: Man City, Inter Milan

Monday, December 19, 2011

Keep it flowing

Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid all won, while Newcastle drew for a voided punt. The Magpies did not allow a shot on goal and had 22 shots themselves but couldn't find the net. Draw-no-bets are great in those circumstances in that they forgive strikers' day-offs.

Both Manchester clubs were impressive over the week-end in their wins. Man City came out deserved winners over Arsenal in a thrilling game at the Etihaad Stadium. They could have won by more. Man Utd were equally impressive in winning at Loftus Road. The scoreline should have been at least 5 goals difference if they had been more clinical in their finishing and with some luck. I have the feeling that there has been a sense of urgency for the Red Devils to double their efforts since their shocking Champions League exit so as not to be empty-handed trophy-wise at the end of the season. They don't have much room for any more mistakes.

Christiano Ronaldo partly redeemed himself after his nightmare Clasico game by firing a hat-trick against sorry Sevilla. I mentioned it before, I don't think there has ever been a midfielder with such a prolific record of goals. Messi comes close in terms of goal scoring but Ronaldo's goal ratio-to-games is tops. While the Los Blancos were ensuring that they were top of the table come the winter break, their nemesis Barcelona were celebrating yet another title by claiming the World Club Championship in Japan.  Their short express trip to Japan shouldn't have any detrimental effect, physically speaking, on the Blaugrana since they are on their way to the holidays anyway! The second-half of the season sounds breathtaking already.

While the rest of Europe has now gone on a break, the EPL will plough on during the festivities. The congested fixtures come Boxing Day and New Year are some of the elements that make the EPL such a spectacular league. It might be the reason of the burn-out of England's players at international tournaments or of English teams in the Champions League, but football fans surely won't be complaining of the continuance of football. No chance of getting football withdrawal symptoms, at least not for the EPL!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Week-end football

Really Lovely was absolutely lovely in winning her maiden race very easily.

Today saw the draws of the European Cup matches and British teams look to have it pretty tough. But it's really too early to analyze the match-ups because come February, many factors will have changed. So I will get to the matches at that time. Here is my preview of this week-end's football action.

I see Newcastle renewing with their winning ways as they host Chelsea. The Magpies have had a difficult few weeks having met with the likes of Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea, and will be content to finally meet a team that is not superior to theirs. Swansea are not doing as badly as many, including I, expected in the top flight and it remains to be seen if they can keep improving their points tally as the season progresses. Newcastle is also a team that is over-performing although they have really ridden their luck in a few games. They are a tough team to overcome at home and I expect them to either get the full 3 points, or at least a draw from this encounter. I recommend them as a draw-no-bet.

In Serie A, Juventus and AC Milan look set to bag all 3 points as they welcome struggling Novara and Siena respectively. I am always suspect of this Juventus side as they always seem to be dropping one nugget or two at the wrong time, so it's safest to have them as a draw-no-bet; Milan is recommended as a Win.

In La Liga, Real Madrid face a tough trip to Sevilla. The hosts are a very inconsistent team capable of the best to the worst. Although there is no doubt that the Los Blancos will have a challenging night, I see value in backing them as a draw-no-bet. Madrid will want to lead the league come the winter break and they should be able to do that by winning at least a point at Sevilla.

Win: AC Milan
Draw-no-bet: Newcastle, Real Madrid, Juventus

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday at Southwell

The confidence on Lazio was spot on and they beat Sporting 2-0, but Fulham flattered to disappoint by only drawing with Odense after leading by 2 goals and conceding a last-gap goal in the dying seconds of the game. How they managed not to win this game is just beyond belief.

All-weather racing is going about its merry way and I like Really Lovely in the 12:25 Maiden race at Southwell. The well-bred daugther of Galileo has yet to win in 5 attempts and must have been costing punters as she has been well-backed in her outings. She was short of room in her last race, so her 6th place should be discarded. The opposition on Friday looks nothing out of the ordinary and I reckon Really Lovely has a great chance to be in the placings. She might not win but she looks to be in the first 3, so I recommend her as a Place.

Place: Really Lovely

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Europa action

With the Champions League group stages done and dusted, we are left with the less-savoury Europa games for the week. There are 2 home teams that I like a lot for tomorrow's games; Fulham and Lazio.

Fulham host bottom-club Odense and will be on the look-out for 3 points if they are to keep their options of qualifying for the next round. Marin Jol's men are a formidable force at home and although the talk at Craven Cottage this week has been a possible rift between the manager and striker Zamora, the hosts should have too much class against the Danish side. I recommend Fulham as a Win.

Lazio welcome group leaders Sporting Lisbon and I see value in backing the Italians here. They are very strong at home, having yet to taste defeat on their ground. Sporting have already qualified for the next round and will certainly not be fielding their strongest team. Moreover, quite a few of their regulars are out injured. This is a game that Lazio must win to keep their qualifying chances alive and I cannot see them being beaten at home in these conditions. They are recommended as a draw-no-bet.

Win: Fulham
Draw-no-bet: Lazio

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lifeline to pursuers

Very patchy run at the moment as Man Utd won as predicted, but Dortmund drew for a voided punt, and Real Madrid lost to Barcelona over the week-end.

The game at the Bernabeu could have really gone either way and it was a case of Barcelona realism talking as they took the most of their chances while Real Madrid spurned some great ones, uncharacteristically through Ronaldo. While Mourinho's persistence on the word "luck" to describe Barca's second goal holds water, the same can be same of Real's opening goal. A gift from Valdes. Certainly, had Ronaldo found the net to make it two nil when he only had the Barcelona keeper to beat, the game would probably have taken a different steering as Real would have taken a quite unassailable lead at that point of the match.

So what to make after the Clasico result? With one match still in hand, I still believe that Real hold a minute advantage at this stage. Barcelona have got the World Club Cup competition to address and it remains to be seen how its players will be affected by the congested fixture. It will be a case of which of the two avoids losing points to the rest of the league before the decisive match at the Nou Camp. But clearly, the mental and point advantage that Madrid were enjoying before their defeat has mostly vanished and it is a case of them trying to maximize points by going on a long winning run again.

In the EPL, Man City lost to Chelsea and allowing neighbours Man Utd to bridge the gap to 2 points. The Red Devils look set to start a winning run again after dispatching Wolves. Having Rooney regain his scoring touch must have been a great welcome and will be all too important for them given that they have lost Chicharito for quite a long time. It's still advantage Man City though for many reasons; more complete squad, Utd lost their best defender Vidic for the season, return leg will be at Etihad Stadium.

I still strongly think they are deserving favourites for the title although Utd will not go down without fighting. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal will only be distant contenders, in my opinion.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What kind of Clasico?

Interesting week-end in the Premier League where Man City are set for a tough test at Chelsea. This game is really too close to call, and it can go either way. That's one major hurdle in the Citizens' quest for the title and if they get 3 points out of it, their odds will surely go even lower.

The surest outcome in the EPL looks to be at Old Trafford where the reeling Red Devils welcome Wolves. The hosts suffered yet another setback when they lost Vidic for the season. Given that they probably were given the hair dryer treatment the whole week by boss Sir Alex Ferguson, they should be able to squeeze through this game. It's safest to go draw-no-bet on them, given that confidence must be at an very low level at Utd.

All the other games in the EPL look tight, so I wouldn't be surprised to see lots of draw matches this week-end.

The focus in European football is really on Sunday's El Clasico. These Clasico's have disappointed last year as they were subject to an abysmal level of un-fair play. So I will not have my spirits raised on those matches this year even though they clearly will oppose the 2 best football sides in the world, not just Spain or Europe. I've mentioned over the past weeks that Madrid look set to end years of domination from their Barcelona rivals, and this game on Sunday will be right for them to prove that they can be on a par with their fierce rivals. Barcelona are still the best team in the world and will be hard to beat, but they have lacked success on the road this year and nothing seems to indicate that they will have improved on their travels as they reach the Bernabeu. Madrid has the hunger and are driven by a manager that practically never loses at home. I see value in backing the hosts as draw-no-bet in this game. Obviously, it's never a sure thing to go against Barcelona, but the conditions look ripe to be on the side of the Los Blancos, assuming the inherent risk element involved. I think Madrid will be the side partying after the game.

In Germany, I like Dortmund as it hosts Kaiserslautern. A draw-no-bet on them should be safe.

Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clear out

Both Manchester teams kicked out of the Champions League at the group stage! While City beat Bayern, albeit with futility, the Red Devils were beaten and KO'd in Basle.

There is no doubt which part of Manchester is hurting the most right now. The words at Old Trafford must be Clear Out! If the Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace must have started the clearing process, yesterday's defeat in Switzerland will most certainly have upped the urgency! I have a feeling that a lot of names, big or small, will not come back after next Summer after this disastrous exit from the Champions League.

The problem yesterday though was mostly Rooney. His mind is clearly not in his football since his family's scam accusation problems. How many goals has he scored since they were made public? One measly goal... On his best form, he would have scored at least 2 yesterday.

The other obvious problem at Utd is the injury list. There was no Chicharito, Berbatov or Owen to bail out the severely depleted attack. The only real playmaker of the team, Cleverley, was also out. One cannot help but ask if Sneijder would have filled beautifully in that spot, only if he had been signed!

However, in the end, the manager mostly always gets it right and although the ship is showing serious signs of sinking, Sir Alex Ferguson has proven to have the magic touch to bring it up again.

Man City for the title, as I have been writing, looks very cozy at the moment though.Very cozy indeed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Qualification at stake

Chelsea saved their scalp in the Champions League by beating Valencia. Drogba looks on fire lately; coincidentally the goals are flowing for him just after he announced that he will not be renewing his current contract! The saying that players look to be at their utmost best during negotiation time is really not far from the truth, really!

On Wednesday, it will be Man Utd's turn to try to save themselves from embarrassment by winning their qualification in Switzerland. Despite their current injury problems, I see them either winning or drawing their match. The fringe players can still make a big impact and they certainly have got the European experience to overcome Basle. Since they need a draw to qualify, I recommend them as a draw-no-bet and/or to qualify, whichever odds are better.

Man City host Bayern Munich and I see value in the Citizens here. They have to win to have any chance of qualifying to the next round, although a win will be futile if Napoli goes to win at Villareal. Bayern Munich have already qualified and look set not to play their first team. Also, as they are finding out in the Bundesliga, they are not as formidable without their midfield dynamo Bastian Schweinsteiger. Man City look set to capitalize on any such weaknesses in the visitors' team and are recommended as a draw-no-bet.

Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Man City

Monday, December 5, 2011

They are back!

7 winners out of 8 over the week-end; Everton failed at home to Stoke while the rest of the selections won. Very frustrating not to hit a perfect score on this one; Stoke are just playing spoilers and it's hard to gauge their actual form going into a game. Suffice to say it's better to stay away from Mowbray's men.

Very much the expected statu quo as far as the major European league tables are concerned. In the EPL, Man Utd clang on to the 5-point deficit to City after the Citizens had thrashed Norwich. However, they lost Chicharito in the process, which might make life a little difficult for Sir Alex Ferguson given that he's already without Berbatov and Owen for a while.

In La Liga, both Real and Barcelona won against minnows, and it's this coming week-end's Clasico that will play a major role in the destiny of the title. I'll get to the game in due time.

There are 2 events of note that took my attention over the week-end and they were not football related. The first one is Tiger's first PGA Tour win in 2 years. It looks like he's finally back and that should set him up very nicely for next year. A dominant Tiger is one of the best recommendations in Major tournaments.

Talking of dominance, Igugu, the South African superstar filly made her return to the tracks on Sunday, and it was a winning one as well. This followed the winning return a few days before, of another superstar filly in Ebony Flyer, who cantered home easily after months off the track due to an operation. According to Team Valor supremo, Barry Irwin, she's the best filly he's ever had; better than Ipi Tombe, kind of scary to think of it! Ebony Flyer did beat Igugu before, so she's the real deal. At 17.1 hands, she's even more imposing than Zenyatta. Igugu/Ebony Flyer, 2 fillies to follow closely in this coming South African racing season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week-end Preview

Man Utd drew for a voided punt, but Tottenham lost at home, which was very frustrating given that they played with an extra man for more than half of the match. My bad call on that one. Week-end football is coming up and here are my selections.

In the EPL, Man City will look to either extend or maintain their lead. They host Norwich in what should be 3 garnered points for the Citizens. Although their form has been sketchy in the past few matches, I cannot see them lose this game; a draw-no-bet on the hosts is safe.

I also like Everton's chances at home to Stoke. The visitors have played an Europa game in mid-week and are on very suspect form of late. The Toffees are playing great football and obtaining great results lately, and I see them riding the momentum for a few more matches. Everton is recommended as a draw-no-bet as well.

In Spain, more of the same as Barcelona cannot afford to lose points against Levante. The hosts are recommended as a Win. Real Madrid travel to Sporting Gijon, who they will not take lightly as the same Gijon team caused a massive upset by winning the league game at the Bernabeu last year. Although Real should bag the 3 points, a draw-no-bet on them looks to be as rewarding as safe. I also like Valencia's chances as they host Espanol. Another draw-no-bet recommendation on the in-form striker Soldado and his team.

Let's make a rare stint in Italy where some front players look to have easy pickings as they host struggling teams. Juventus should beat Cesena and a Win recommendation is placed on the hosts. Lazio and Napoli should overcome Novara and Lecce respectively, but it's safer to have those as draw-no-bet and play it cautions for those games.

Win: Juventus, Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Everton, Napoli, Lazio, Real Madrid, Valencia