Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and Football

Everything was on target except for Stoke which only managed a 3-3 draw at home against Southampton. The Saints caused a setback for the second week in a row but the other selections were good enough to outweigh this. I feel a spring in my step going into the New Year's showdowns.

West Brom v/s Fulham. I strongly favour WBA here. They left a couple of key players last time out at Old Trafford to rest for this game. Fulham have clearly regressed this year having lost their best 2 players in Dembele and Dempsey. They leak goals in abundance. West Brom should easily |get something one of this game, and it might be worth going for the outright win with them.

Swansea v/s Aston Villa. The woeful Villains are the team everyone wants to play at the moment. Swansea will be delighted to have gotten the pick. Villa are best by injuries and a major lack of confidence. It is impossible to back them in any shape or form currently. Swansea is another win selection.

Tottenham v/s Reading. Spurs are on a hot streak at the moment and they will be keen to unleash the full force of their potent attack against lowly Reading. They will be missing Bale due to suspension, but they have enough depth in their midfield to attenuate the loss of their best player. Reading's best chances to avoid relegation are to maximize points at home, as their poor defence makes them very vulnerable on the road. Spurs is a win selection.

Wigan v/s Man Utd. Hard to go against the red hot Red Devils here. They surprisingly lost to the hosts last year in this fixture, which did cost them the title, and they will be keen to make amends. Wigan can pose problems to the visitors' defence but as has been many cases this season, Van Persie and his striking partners have won by overpowering the opposition with their scoring. Man Utd is a win recommendation.

Southampton v/s Arsenal. This could turn out to be a high scoring game. Southampton have no problem scoring, particularly at home, and so do Arsenal. Walcott is in great form and on this run can light up the Saints' defence. Cazorla, Podolski and Arteta will be at ease against the offensively-minded Saints. I advise Arsenal as a draw-no-bet.

Happy New Year 2013 everyone!

Win: West Brom, Swansea, Tottenham, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saturday EPL football

3 correct selections out of 6 made up for a poor Boxing punting day. Hoping for better results in Saturday's fixtures. Here's a briefing of some of my selections.

Although I see Man Utd winning their game against West Brom, I believe they will have to fight to the finish to secure the 3 points. My main reserve regarding the Red Devils is the herculean effort they had to put in to overcome Newcastle on Boxing Day. They are bound to feel the effects of the overexertion. Still, I think WBA are very exposed, having lucked out against QPR last time. Their winning goal should have been disallowed and Rangers should have secured a penalty in the dying minutes. I will go with Man Utd as a safe draw-no-bet.

I think Reading are worth some confidence against West Ham. Yes, the hosts can concede like crazy; but on their good day, they can score as well. I see the market feeling the Hammers have some chance of 3 points here, and this is a very possible result. However, I'll play the contrarian here and have Reading as a value draw-no-bet. Their attack can very well outscore the visitors.

Stoke has another great chance for 3 points at home, this time against lowly Southampton. They impressed me during their comeback win against Liverpool, and although they will be missing their 2 key defenders in Shawcross and Cameron, they should outplay the Saints. The latter were rather fortunate to snatch a dramatic point with a well-taken penalty by striker Lambert 5 minutes from time against Fulham, but they might not be that fortunate this time. I will suggest Stoke as a Win for value, although a draw-no-bet is the better proposition for those looking for lower risk.

Finally, I like Arsenal's chances against visiting Newcastle. The latter scored 3 goals at Old Trafford and they can score a few against the Gunners as well. However, their defence is very exposed and will be under siege against Cazorla and co. Also, the hosts will be fresh having not played on Boxing day. My selection is Arsenal as a draw-no-bet.

Win: Stoke
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Reading, Arsenal

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Boxing Day football

The debate rages whether the EPL should have a winter break like all the rest of the European leagues, but from a fan or punting point of view, this is a no contest; the seemingly non-stop match fixtures during the festive period are pure nirvana. Here are my thoughts on Boxing day match-ups.

Man Utd v/s Newcastle. The Red Devils were unlucky to drop 2 points at Swansea over the week-end. They are the team form of the moment and this is the time they usually step up a gear. On the other hand, Newcastle are an ailing team. Since manager Pardew was given his ridiculous 8-year contract, their results have been below par. They have also been hit by some injuries to key players during that time. I cannot see them win this match; should they be desperately lucky, they can steal a point. Man Utd looks full value for an outright win and that's the recommendation.

Sunderland v/s Man City. Interesting match between 2 teams that alter the best and the worst. If City are at their best, they can blitz Sunderland. It's hard to gauge their true level of form; although they created many changes, they could only put one last-gap goal past a Reading defence that had been regularly shredded to pieces by other teams. To win this game, the Citizens will have to take their chances and be less profligate in front of goal. Sunderland have won 2 of their past 3 games, the wins coming against lowly opposition like Reading and Southampton. Martin O'Neill's men can make this game tight but it might be stretching for them to come up with a win. I would side with Man City as a draw-no-bet.

Norwich v/s Chelsea. Chelsea need to confirm their latest 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa last week-end. Is that the start of a good period, or was it just a one-off? If they win convincingly again, then it might be worth following them in their future games. Norwich are a good force at home and it won't be surprising if they ended with the 3 points. This match can go either way and the outcome will be interesting as future reference.

Everton v/s Wigan. The Toffees are amazing me at the moment. They find a way to win even with their backs to the walls. They are proving a hard team to beat. I think they will throw a stinker soon but I don't know when. Wigan are still beset by a string of injuries and cannot be backed at any level. Logic dictates that the hosts will either come up with a win or a draw, provided they don't have that off-day I am mentioning. Might be worth siding with Everton as a draw-no-bet with the current odds.

Aston Villa v/s Tottenham. Confidence in Villa is very low after their 0-8 drubbing at Chelsea. How bad can you get? Also, how do players get their confidence back after that kind of result? The result of this game is up for grabs, so I'll stay away from trying to predict it.

QPR v/s West Brom. Much of Rangers' hope of staying in the top flight is to get full points at home. West Brom are over-achieving at the moment but I am not sure they can sustain their good form for long. They are bound to lose points on their travels and this is what will happen against Rangers, in my opinion. I strongly fancy the hosts as a draw-no-bet; their current odds representing the best value of the week-end

Stoke v/s Liverpool. The matches between these 2 teams usually end up goal-less or decided by the minimum of goals. If I were to play on scores, that's how I would punt on that game. Stoke are a good force at home and are a draw-no-bet recommendation.

Reading v/s Swansea. This can go either way.

Fulham v/s Southampton. These 2 teams are not in below-par form. Fulham are under-achieving because they are leaking goals in abundance at the moment. This is very uncharacteristic of them and they will welcome the visit of another struggling team in Southampton to gun for 3 points. I see the hosts winning this and are a strong Win selection.

Win: Man Utd, Fulham
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Everton, Stoke, QPR

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Back to the groove after a short break; much needed and a timely one it was; it's going to get busy in the EPL in the coming week during the festive season, so stay tuned.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Ho Ho Ho!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunderland v/s Reading preview

Swansea and West Ham were outgunned at home, spoiling the other good results, which would have made for a quite good week-end. As it turned out, things pretty much evened out.

It will be a short rest for Sunderland and Reading as they are at it at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday. Needless to say this is a must-win for the hosts. Martin O'Neill is not yet feeling the pressure from the fans, but if results keep going against them, it is only a matter of time before they start clamouring for his head. Much of their chances depend on the availability of their talisman striker Steven Fletcher. He's currently nursing an ankle injury and is doubtful for the game. If he plays, he stands to have a great chance of scoring against the permeable Reading defence. As for the visitors, they lost by the minimum of margins at Southampton over the week-end; they are an unpredictable side that are capable of scoring goals plentiful in one game, and go powderless in the next one. I believe the sense of urgency to score a win is more on the Black Cats' side and I see value in them as a draw-no-bet. Sessegnon, Richard, and Fletcher, should he play, could bang in the points for the home side.

Draw-no-bet: Sunderland

Friday, December 7, 2012

EPL week 17

Not a bad last week-end where only PSG failed to do the selections justice. Their form has been patchy lately and Ancelotti is definitely on the hot seat, and it's better to let their form settle; their squad is too good for the French Ligue 1 to keep getting rotten results.

Here are some of my week-end's selections; most of the games look very tight affairs and I won't be surprised if there are shock results in the corner, or quite a few drawn matches.

Arsenal v/s West Brom. No matter how precarious the situation at the Emirates currently, I cannot fathom Arsenal losing yet another game on Saturday. West Brom are surely dangerous and are having their best season ever, but the Gunners will be all keen to know that this is a game they cannot afford to lose. They won't win the league, they most probably won't be in the Top 4, but they have at least got to finish in the first 6 to be still a force to be reckoned with in the top flight. Cazorla and Giroux will have to pick up their games and bang in some goals to restore confidence to the ailing Gunners. I see value having them as a draw-no-bet.

Swansea v/s Norwich City. The hosts seem to have regained some of their form that had them flying high out of the starting blocks. Their star midfielder Michu is on fire and seems to thrive in his position just behind the striker. Norwich were not entirely convincing in their last home win against Sunderland. They were besieged at home in the second half of that game and would have have won had it not been for the profligacy of the Cats in front of goal. The value punt is Swansea as a draw-no-bet and that's the recommendation.

Wigan v/s QPR. Poor Wigan is going through one of the worst injury crises ever. It is great for any team to play them at the moment and it is an opportunity for Rangers to try to snatch their first win of the season. Harry Redknapp can conjure something up in this regard here. I like the odds of Rangers +1 goal Handicap for better safety.

Everton v/s Tottenham. Spurs are going through a purple patch but have lost Bale to injury. I like Everton's odds of either beating or drawing them. The Toffees are a force at home and although they seem to rely much on unbelievale Feillani for goals, they can rely on other proven stars like Jovetic and Baines. I like them as a draw-no-bet.

West Ham v/s Liverpool. The Kops go into this game without a recognized striker. Luis Suarez, their main inspiration for goal, is suspended. They won in mid-week in the Europa league and I would not be surprised if this game came too early for them. The Hammers have good form at home and manager Allardyce can certainly come up with the tactics to foil visiting teams. West Ham is another draw-no-bet selection.

Finally, the game of the week-end, which pits the 2 best teams of the league in the Manchester derby. Man City are out of Europe, having lost in mid-week. Man Utd also lost but with a reserve. As far as preparation goes, I definitely give advantage to the Red Devils.Obviously, their defence is so suspect that Aguero and his strike partners look set to have a comfortable afternoon. If Ferdinand and his back four can keep the game close, I think Man Utd have a great chance to get something out of this game. I cannot see them lose this game by 2 or more goals, so I will go for them with a +1 goal Handicap, which looks good value in the exchanges.

Draw-no-bet: Arsenal, Swansea, Everton, West Ham
Handicap +1: Rangers, Man Utd

Friday, November 30, 2012

Week-end European football

All of the Wednesday selections won, which hopefully, bodes well for the upcoming week-end matches. Here are some of my thoughts.

Liverpool v/s Southampton. Much of Liverpool's chances reside on the form of Luis Suarez. If he scores, they have a great chance to win. If he doesn't, it's hard to see where the goals will come from. Southampton have racked up points at home lately, where they are particularly strong. Like all bottom-tier teams, they find it much harder on the road. They can get a point from Anfield, but I don't see them winning. Liverpool is a draw-no-bet recommendation.

QPR v/s Aston Villa. Rangers will be hoping to get a first win of the dismal campaign against the Villains. There is no doubt that they are a better team with Harry Redknapp in command. I think they will pose Villa with problems and it will not be surprising if they scrape through with 3 full points. The visitors are a decent team, but they will come up against an inspired Rangers. Looking at the odds, I see the hosts as a good value draw-no-be.

Juventus v/s Torino. There are only a couple of teams that aspire full confidence when handicapping Serie A games and Juventus is one of them. They lost to AC Milan, albeit controversially, last week, and they will be keen to keep their healthy lead at the top by winning the Turin derby match. A straight win for the Old Lady.

Barcelona v/s Atletic Bilbao. Barca is on fire and Messi is a man on a mission to break Gerd Muller's season-goal record. Bilbao is a broken team where manager Biesla seems to have lost the plot after club in-fighting with players like Llorente. Straight win for the Blaugrana.

Nice v/s PSG. After a recent dry spell, things look to be returning to normal for the visitors. Although they were dumped out of the French Cup on penalties in mid-week, their priority remains the championship and they should have too much firepower for Nice. Carlos Ancelotti's men are a safe draw-no-bet.

Win: Juventus, Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Liverpool, QPR, PSG

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

EPL Wednesday

Aston Villa obliged with the win, albeit with a late goal from Benteke. Here are my views on some of today's matches.

Stoke v/s Newcastle. Difficult to go with the Magpies here with their recent poor run. They will get central defender Collocini back but will still be missing their creative midfielders Ben Arfa and Cabaye, the latter gone for a long time. I see Stoke either winning or drawing this, so a draw-no-bet on the hosts is the recommendation.

Tottenham v/s Liverpool. The Kops have enjoyed some good results of late, led by the sparkling form of Suarez. I think however that they will be found wanting against a strong opponent like Tottenham. Bale, Lennon and particularly Defoe look set to pick holes in this rather exposed Liverpool defense. I like Spurs as a draw-no-bet as well.

Man Utd v/s West Ham. The hosts will be disappointed if they can't get full points here. Hammers' manager Allardyce used to have a good record against Fergie's teams but that was in the early part of the past decade. This current Man Utd team seems to make things difficult for itself by going behind and relying on its potent strike force to storm back. There is no doubt that their Achilles heel is their porous defence. Van Persie has been quiet in the past couple of games and this could be his wake-up game. Man Utd for the win is the selection.

Wigan v/s Man City. Wigan is beset by injuries at the moment and Man City will not find a better time to play the Latics. Obviously, City is still huffing and puffing at the moment but they have too much depth in the squad to be upset here. Man City looks a safe draw-no-bet.

Win: Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Stoke, Tottenham, Man City

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tuesday EPL football

Pretty good week-end of football with only Real Madrid and Juventus being the let-downs. The latter were unfortunate to lose on a controversial penalty to AC Milan, while the Spanish champions look to have burned their chances of retaining their title by losing at Real Betis. I know it's early, but Barcelona have a firm grip on La Liga and they have a good margin of error; I cannot see them lose the league this year.

For once, the mid-week features an entire fixture list of Premier League football. On Tuesday, Aston Villa entertain Reading. Both have had some resurgent form of late, in comparison to their rather laborious start to the season. I fancy the hosts here; they have striker Darren Bent back to join the potentially productive strike force of Benteke and Agbonlahor. Unlike against their last scoreless draw against Arsenal, there's every reason to believe that they will score against a below-average Reading defence. The Royals almost snatched a point at Wigan over the week-end only to lose the game in injury time. They must however consider themselves lucky to have tied the game late, due to an own-goal blunder from Wigan's goalkeeper Al-Habsi.

A straight win for the Villains is the selection.

Win: Aston Villa

Friday, November 23, 2012

Week-end football

Arsenal won their UCL game and qualified as expected.

Here's to hoping for a good week-end of selections to make up for last week's disappointments. My thoughts on a few of them.

Man Utd v/s QPR. Straight win for the hosts here, who will be keen to work on their goal difference against the league's worst team. Even if Sir Alex Ferguson's statue unveiling could somewhat put some distraction on his players, they should be too good for the manager-less visitors.

Everton v/s Norwich. The hosts will be without inspirational Fellaini. Norwich will come buzzing from their defeat of Man Utd last week. I like Everton's form at home and have them as a draw-no-bet.

Stoke v/s Fulham. I like Stoke as a draw-no-bet here. They have good form at home and Fulham are experiencing a torrid time in defence. The visitors can score but are leaking in abundance too.

Southampton v/s Newcastle. Southampton will be keen to have a go against the struggling Magpies. The latter will be welcoming back their powerful midfielder Tiote but will still be missing a few key players owing to injuries and suspensions. The Saints will need to take any chance they get to get a result, and I believe it is worth siding with them as a draw-no-bet.

AC Milan v/s Juventus. Both played and won in mid-week. Milan is just a poor team this year and it is surprising that they are still with coach Allegri. I think they are up for a rude opposition in arch-rivals Juventus and I like the visitors' current draw-no-bet odds, so that's the selection.

In Spain, I like Real Madrid's chances for the win as they visit a struggling Real Betis side. Christiano Ronaldo can make light up the score sheet again there.

Atletico Madrid host Sevilla and I like the hosts' chances as a draw-no-bet.

In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich should overcome Hannover at the Olympic stadium just like PSG should resume winning ways against Troyes in Ligue 1.

Win: Man Utd, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG
Draw-no-bet: Everton, Stoke, Southampton, Juventus, Atletico Madrid

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

UCL Wednesday

Barcelona and Shakhtar made it look it easy by powering their way through to the next UCL round.

For tonight's games, I like Arsenal's chances at home to French champions Montpellier. Arsene Wenger has an impeccable record against French opposition in the Europe, and I see no change to this trend tonight. Arsenal will strive for maximum points at home in order to secure qualification and they have the ammunition to do so against average opponents, even without Theo Walcott. Arsenal is a straight win selection.

The UCL games have been somewhat obscured by the sacking of Di Matteo at Chelsea today. The Italian saved the Blues' season last year by landing the FA Cup and the improbable Champions League trophy. They started the  season well and only stuttered in the past month. Does that merit sacking? Looks like in Ambramovich's world, it is! Anyway, I could semi-understand if they already had secured Guardiola's approval to take over. But as I write this, papers seem to put Rafa Benitez as the leading candidate. This must be a joke or paper rubbish, it almost teeters on insanity. If he's really the fancied one, then watch Chelsea disintegrate to a second-rate team. With his record at Liverpool and Inter, there is every reason to believe that he will destroy them, hah!

Win: Arsenal

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Champions League night

Both hands up for an atrocious week-end of selections; I was able to limit the damage with Sunderland which I mentioned looked like a good value punt away at Fulham. But the surprising football results made for one of the poorest rounds of selections I can recall.

Time to get back up with Champions League football starting in a few hours.

Barcelona travel to Spartak Moscow whose got as long an injury list as I've ever seen. They will play with their B team! It's a straight win for the Blaugrana.

The Danes of Nordsjaellan host Shakhtar Donesk, who impressed me in their recent loss at Stamford Bridge. The Ukrainian champions will go through the next round with a win. and while I expect them to win the match, I find no problem going safe as a draw-no-bet with them.

Win: Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Shakhtar

Friday, November 16, 2012

Football preview

Had a good round last week-end with 8 correct selections out of 10. As usual, I stayed away from the mid-week international friendlies which I believe are a waste of time punt-wise.  Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 4th goal against England was however, worth a look and is one for the ages.

The greatest goal I have seen (just my opinion) is Negrete's bicycle kick, outside the box, in World Cup 86 in the match between Mexico and Bulgaria. Zlatan's overhead kick was also outside the box, actually further from goal, at a full 30 yards. Whether he's a choker in big games or not, no one can doubt that the Swede can score wonder goals; recall the brushed side-heel one he scored against Italy in the 2004 European Championship.

Back to League football where Chelsea and Man City are huffing and puffing at the moment and Man Utd have seized the opportunity to comfortably shoot up at the top of the EPL in recent weeks. Here are my thoughts on this week-end's round of matches.

Arsenal v/s Tottenham. The hosts are beset by injuries and uneven form, so they might be upset here. Much of their chances will reside on whether Walcott can play or not. Tottenham will certainly be giving them all they can handle. This Derby looks set to result in a lot of goals, and I will go with a safe selection of Tottenham with a +1 goal handicap.

Liverpool v/s Wigan. Much depends on what type of Wigan shows up. They were disappointing in losing at home to WBA last week-end. Suarez is on fire for Liverpool but it remains to be seen how long more he can shoulder the goal scoring responsibilities for the club. The result of this match can go either way.

Man City v/s Villa. Got to go with the hosts here, even though they are struggling mightily. European Cup failure, I believe, is weighing heavily on the players' and manager's minds. I have changed my mind about this Villa team; under Lambert, they have become a decent and much better side than under the McLeish regime. Benteke can cause problems for the City defence. Still at the end, I cannot see the Villains taking the 3 points, and I see City as a safe draw-no-bet selection.

Newcastle v/s Swansea. Newcastle came up with a nugget at home to West Ham last week-end and it would be surprising if they suffered 2 successive home defeats, even though they will be missing some key players in Cabaye, Coloccini and potentially striker Cisse. I will trust them with a draw-no-bet against a Swansea team that have a few injury issues of their own. if fully-fit, Demba Ba could be set to end his goal drought of the past couple of games.

QPR v/s Southampton. QPR will not have as good an occasion to aim for 3 points here than against lowly Southampton. If they are to survive the relegation battle, this is a must win for them. They are getting a few key players back and should enjoy a better remaining part of the campaign. Southampton are struggling on the road and will be equally keen to capitalize on any chances Rangers will provide them. I give QPR home advantage here and have the hosts as a draw-no-bet.

Reading v/s Everton. This could very well be yet another win for Everton. They have been impressive since the start of the season, and are led by an inspiring Fellaini. Reading will have to come up with their A-game and their usually-flaky defence will be put to the test against the powerful Toffees. Everton is another draw-no-bet selection.

West Brom v/s Chelsea. The Baggies showed they were a good force to reckon with at home when they went toe-to-toe with Man City a few weeks ago, albeit with one extra man. Chelsea will have to be at their best to get the win. This match can go either way, so I'll sit on the fence on this one.

Norwich v/s Man Utd. Last year, the Red Devils were somewhat lucky to snatch victory with the game's last kick through the ever-green Ryan Giggs. I think they will re-iterate this year with another win. Van Persie, Chicharito are on fire and even though Rooney might miss the call, they are sufficiently potent in attack to make the difference. The visitors are a win selection.

Fulham v/s Sunderland. This is the game where Sunderland could spring a shock. They nearly did it at Goodison Park last week and it would not be a stretch to think that they can go and beat a Fulham team that is leaking goals in abundance in their last matches. Sunderland with a +1 handicap is the value bet of the week-end.

West Ham v/s Stoke. Stoke like parking the bus on the road; West Ham have good form at home. This could very well end up in a draw. I'll abstain on this one.

In the rest of Europe, I see wins for Inter, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Dortmund, Bayern and PSG.

Win: Man Utd, Inter, Real, Barcelona, Valencia, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, PSG
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Newcastle, QPR, Everton,
Handicap +1: Tottenham, Sunderland

Friday, November 9, 2012

Week-end football

Wednesday's results went as expected except for Barcelona who got dinged at Celtic. It must have been written somewhere that Celtic would come out on top on their 125th anniversary, though they were outplayed in every statistical department of the game.

The week-end games coming up look tricky and here are my thoughts.

Arsenal v/s Fulham. This is a game pitting 2 teams with very good attacks but poor defence. So there could be potentially lots of goals in this match. The pressure seems to be mounting on a weekly basis on Arsene Wenger; there does not seem much light at the end of the tunnel for the Gunners fans as far as garnering trophies after some many years of wait. Each defeat, like last week's at Old Trafford, stokes the fires of reported unrest and dissent throughout the club hierarchy by the media as regards Wenger's failing policy for the club. But Arsenal have home advantage here against a Fulham team that seems to be puffing of late. Arsenal is a draw-no-bet recommendation.

Everton v/s Sunderland. Will Sunderland finally score a goal? They might very well do it, but then it sounds hard to believe that Everton will not score a few themselves. I believe Martin O'Neil will get things sorted out for the Black Cats but going to win at Goodison Park seems too much of a tall order given their current form. The odds are that Everton will win this, or get a point from this game at the very least. The hosts are a safe draw-no-bet.

Reading v/s Norwich. There isn't much difference between these 2 teams; they will both be fighting relegation and will be keen to get 3 full points here. Can go either way.

Southampton v/s Swansea. Same as above game. Both teams are capable of the best and worst.

Stoke v/s QPR.Stoke is my value win of the week-end. Obviously, they are always good at home, and QPR looks like a team in real distress. How much longer owner Fernandes will keeping voicing his unconditional support to Mark Hughes will be interesting. It's not entirely the manager's fault. They've been hit by a slew of injuries that is the main source of their woes. Stoke for the win, is the selection.

Wigan v/s West Brom. Two teams in good form, and there's really little to choose between the two. I expect a tight game and will side with the Latics because of their home advantage. Wigan is a draw-no-bet selection.

Aston Villa v/s Man Utd. I expect the Villains to give Man Utd a tough game. They are doing well under Lambert and have put together a good string of matches lately. Man Utd always seem to find it hard when facing mid-table Premiership sides after Champions League football. This is possibly because the style of play is so different. It would be no surprise if Man Utd won this late, but it wouldn't be a surprise either if they hit an off-day and get undone by the hosts. The result can go either way.

Man City v/s Tottenham. It is clear that Man City have yet to hit any kind of top form that they displayed for much of last season. They are struggling to get results going their way either in the league or in the European Cup. Tottenham won't be an easy game for them; the Londoners should have won last year's fixture only to be beaten on a last-gap penalty. Both teams played in mid-week, so there will be fitness issues on both sides. There is no certainty in the result.

Newcastle v/s West Ham. Both teams have injury concerns going into the game. The hosts will be without their lynchpins Tiote and Coloccini, while the Hammers seem to be left with only one fit central defender. I expect the potent Tyneside team to take full advantage of the visitors' depleted defence. Newcastle is a Win selection.

Chelsea v/s Liverpool. Both teams played in mid-week, against Russian teams; Chelsea were lucky to win against a very good Shakhtar Donesk. Liverpool played their second team in a loss to Anzhi. The concern with Chelsea is their defence has been very porous with the absence of Terry. The absence of Ashley Cole looks set to add to their defensive woes. Liverpool have gathered a few positive results lately and their main problem seems to be their lack of realism in front of goal. Suarez is certainly missing an able partner up there. This could very well end up in a draw, but I'm just going to avoid having a punt on the game.

Over Europe, I see wins for Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax, PSV Eidhoven and Porto.

Win: Newcastle, Stoke, Athletico Madrid, Bayern, Ajax, PSV, Porto
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal, Everton, Wigan

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

UCL Round 2

Real Madrid and Man City drew their games; while it was an OK result for the Spanish team, it means that the Citizens are virtually out of the Champions League. How they were not awarded the penalty at the death is mind-boggling. Like everyone, the ref saw the infringement and shirt-pulling on Ballotelli, yet found it more appropriate to blow for full-time. Why have allowed the preceding free-kick to take place, in the first place? Mancini's anger toward the officials is understandable here; the poor decision robs them of an almost-guaranteed victory, and any hope of qualification to the next round.

For tonight's games, I see wins for Bayern Munich, Chelsea, and Barcelona. Valencia and Juventus look safe draw-no-bet selections as well.

Win: Bayern, Chelsea, Barcelona.
Draw-no-bet: Valencia, Juventus

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Champions League Tuesday

A tough week-end to quickly forget, with Royal Delta being the main culprit; when I saw her take the lead unopposed,  my fear of the worst materialized. Credit to her, she proved to be the best of the distaff division.

Champions League football continues in a few hours. It's last chance saloon for Man City. They need 3 full points against Ajax to keep their slim hopes of advancing alive. I expect them to come all guns blazing and I see them prevail at the end. They are a Win selection.

In the same group, Real Madrid and Dortmund lock horns at the Bernabeu. The Germans won the first-leg match a fortnight ago but it is difficult to see them repeat that feat. They are a strong team but they will come up against a Real team that have a formidable home record. I think a draw-no-bet on Real Madrid is safe.

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

Football preview

Breeders Cup aside, there is still a good round of European football going on this week-end and here are my thoughts on a few of the games.

Man Utd v/s Arsenal. It's the big one. Last year, Arsenal with Van Persie were demolished 8-2, and although I do not anticipate a similar scoreline, it's hard to go against the hosts here. They have RVP and Rooney who are gelling by the day and will cause serious problems to the Gunners average defence. Man Utd are feeble at the back as well and Arsenal will be keen to make the most of any scoring chance they will get. Still, Man Utd should prevail in this one, or at worst get only a point. They are easily a draw-no-bet selection.

Fulham v/s Everton. Fulham are a very strong force at home but Everton are no slouch either on the road. The Toffees have started the season brightly and can cause problems to any team in the league. They were arguably lucky not to have lost their last derby game against Liverpool after the Kops had a goal wrongfully disallowed for offside. However, they showed they had spirit and combative power by levelling the score after being 2 goals down. Fulham came out of a thrilling 3-3 away tie at Reading in their last match, showing their retained firepower despite the loss of Dempsey and Dembele. If they can keep away from the kind of defensive mistakes of that match, they should either win or draw against Everton. Fulham is a draw-no-bet selection as well.

Norwich v/s Stoke. This could very end up goal-less like many of Stoke's matches. The result can really go either way.

Sunderland v/s Villa. Sunderland is being a big disappointment at the moment. They couldn't even beat Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup despite fielding a rather strong side. They just can't score. At current odds, it might be worth taking a punt on them finally waking up against a Villa team that is nothing out of the ordinary. Sunderland is a value draw-no-bet, with some risk involved.

Swansea v/s Chelsea. I cannot see Chelsea lose that one. Their last 2 games against Man Utd have been full of drama and controversy and they will be keen to resume to normal business by overcoming a struggling Swansea team. Since both teams have played and won during the week, I don't anticipate any fitness advantage on either side. Class should tell at the end and I see a Chelsea win.

Tottenham v/s Wigan. Every year, Spurs land a nugget at home and this year, it could be tomorrow's game against the Latics. The latter are a better team than their table position suggests, and they will give Spurs a lot to handle on the counter-attack. I will abstain from a prediction but long punters might see value in a Wigan draw-no-bet here.

West Ham v/s Man City. The result of this match all depends on what kind of City will show up. Their form has been very sketchy of late and they seem to have trouble getting out of their funk. Champions League football is like a Damocles sword hanging upon them. This match can go either way.

QPR v/s Reading. QPR is the value punt of the week-end. I cannot see them lose this game, particularly against a Reading team that must be demoralized after their Carling Cup exit in mid-week, after having been 4 goals up! It looks safe to have QPR as a draw-no-bet, but I think it might be worth going for their outright win here.

Liverpool v/s Newcastle. Two teams with inconsistent form. This can go either way.

In Spain, I see straight wins for Barcelona and Real Madrid. Nothing new there. Add Malaga to the winning list as well.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look safe draw-no-bets.

Win: QPR, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Sunderland, Fulham, Man Utd

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A look at Breeders Cup 2012

Another good past week-end where only Bayern failed to deliver while other selections were spot on.

This coming Friday and Saturday is all about the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita. Whether it is still the world thoroughbred championship remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that the creme of US racing is there. This year, the 2-year olds will be racing without Lasix, so don't be surprised if the form is reversed in the juvenile races because of the absence of this diuretic. Over the years, I found it beneficial to just stick with a few races where I believe there are certainties, and this year is no different. Right or wrong, I think there are the following 4 certainties to go by in the next 2 days.

The first one looks to be a bold one that could bite but I'm sticking with it; Royal Delta will not win the Ladies Classic. This year's race is possibly the most competitive championship filly race in the US for a long time. Seven out of the eight runners are Group 1 winners. Two champions, Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia, are undefeated. The favourite Royal Delta has the highest rating of field, is the defending champion, and comes to Santa Anita from a near-ten length romp of a Group 1 field in her last outing. According to connections, she's in top form. But I believe she won't win, here's why.

Awesome Feather is undefeated in 10 races. She's injury-prone, but her last comeback race showed her talent hasn't been diminished by the long layoffs when she destroyed the field by over 11 lengths. I like the way she finishes her races and the mile and a furlong distance will be right up her alley. I think she'll be in the first 3, and will go each-way on her.

Then there's Questing and My Miss Aurelia who last battled in the Group 1 Cotillion Stakes, with the latter prevailing by a nose at the finish. Prior to the race, Questing was considered by many as the best 3-year old filly in training. Both are very talented and look set to give a race to their elders on Friday.

Royal Delta is way too short at the exchanges. I'll lay her all day. She is very good on her day, but she's been beaten three times this year already. She will have to deal with the 3 no-nonsense fillies above. Awesome Feather looks to be a better pick.

The Mile Turf. This promises to be a great race among the 3 main contenders. Wise Dan, the US champion, Excelebration, the best miler in the world with the retirement of Frankel, and Moonlight Cloud, a high-class filly who's highly rated by her conditioner Freddy Head, who also trained the mighty Miesque and incomparable Goldikova. Wise Dan has the advantage of being at home; he's dominated the North American mile scene and the Santa Anita hard turf and bends will suit him to perfection.If he'd race in Europe, he would not be as competitive. There isn't much more to say on Excelebration that hasn't been written. On his best form, he will annihilate this field. The only negative is that he's running his second Group 1 race in just 2 weeks. His fitness won't be at its mighty peak. Moonlight Cloud has solid grounds to be in the placings and is possibly around two lengths behind Excelebration on their best form.

I believe Wise Dan will run his race and should thus be in the first 3. If Excelebration has recuperated enough from his last race, he'll be tough to beat. Moonlight Cloud won't be far back if she takes to the Santa Anita track. Thus the only certain thing is that Wise Dan is destined for at least a place and that's the selection.

Filly and Mare Turf. If there is a trainer from the European team who knows US racing and form, it's John Gosden. He has targeted this race for The Fugue for a long time and the Dansili filly looks destined to play a major role in this year's race. She will love the fast ground and she will be well rested from her last race where she was a good second to high-class Shareta in the Yorkshire Oaks. She has a first-class chance to win this, and should she fail, I cannot see her out of the first 3. Her main opponents look to be from the European raiding party in Ridasiyna and Nahrain, as well as the American Lady of Shamrock. I will oppose the first one because she very much prefers soft ground; Nahrain's form is inconsistent at best, and Lady of Shamrock still has a few pounds to find to The Fugue. Each-way on The Fugue is the recommendation.

Will not win: Royal Delta
Each-way: Awesome Feather, The Fugue
Place: Wise Dan

Friday, October 26, 2012

Week-end preview

Here's my predictions for this week-end's round of football matches.

Arsenal v/s QPR. The Gunners are on a 2-game slump in which they have failed to score. Van Persie is being sorely missed. Truth is, they are also missing Walcott and Ox-Chamberlain through injury. A third defeat on the trot will really put pressure on Arsene Wenger. QPR managed to gain a point against Everton last week-end and will be keen to build on that positive result to finally land their first win of the season. I doubt it will happen at the Emirates though. Arsenal should get at least a point from this encounter, and it might be worth going with them for the straight win.

Aston Villa v/s Norwich. Two bad teams capable of the best and worst. Can go either way.

Reading v/s Fulham. I like Fulham as a draw-no-bet here. Martin Jol has a fully-fit squad at his disposal and I see Rodallega and Berbatov able to exploit the weaknesses of the leaky Reading defence.

Stoke v/s Sunderland. This looks to be a low-scoring affair. Stoke are very good at home while Sunderland are being a little bit of a disappointment at the moment. I was expecting Martin O'Neil's men to be higher up the table but for some reason, they are really struggling as a unit. They rode their luck to snatch a draw against Newcastle last week-end. It wouldn't surprise me if Sunderland stole the points here but Stoke definitely hold home advantage.

Wigan v/s West Ham. I believe the hosts are one the value draw-no-bets of the week-end. They have been arguably unlucky recently with points lost at Swansea where they had a controversial tying goal disalloweed, and against Everton where they conceded late after leading twice. So they are clearly knocking at the door, and they will be keen to gain full points against a West Ham team that has exposed form on their travels. Wigan as draw-no-bet is the recommendation.

Man City v/s Swansea. For all their European troubles, Man City are a serious team in the EPL and they will be keen to make amends of their mid-week failures by gunning down Swansea. A straight win for the hosts.

Everton v/s Liverpool. I cannot see Liverpool winning this. Sure, they beat Anzhi in mid-week and have kept a clean sheet for the past 3 games. In fact, I think they will be feeling the effects of their mid-week win since Rogers fielded his first-team. Everton are as good a team this year as they've ever been under Moyes. They already beat Man Utd at home and are playing with full confidence at the moment. They could easily win this game and look safe as a draw-no-bet.

Newcastle v/s West Brom. Expect Ba to score here. He's been off the score sheet for the past few games and he will be keen to exploit a West Brom defence that gives away a lot of shots per game. The Magpies played and won in mid-week with their B team, so they should go all guns blazing against the visitors. A home win is the selection.

Southampton v/s Tottenham. This can go either way as both teams have showed no consistent form whatsoever so far, so will abstain from trying to pick the result.

Chelsea v/s Man Utd. The big one. A 6-point decider really. Chelsea have home advantage and will be keen to pick apart the mediocre Utd defence. They leak badly and Hazard and Mata will certainly be relishing the occasion. Tactically, Chelsea have a great coach in Di Matteo, who understands what it takes to get a result.Ask Barcelona. Man Utd will rely on their strong attacking unit to bail them out again. Rooney and Van Persie will also look to exploit holes in the Chelsea defence that will miss John Terry. This game could very well end up in a draw. If a team were to win it, I think it would be Chelsea, but that's far from a certainty, so I'll abstain here too.

In Germany, I see a win for Bayern Munich. In Spain, I think Barcelona will suffer at Rayo but it's impossible to go against the mighty Catalans unless you're a long punter. Real Madrid are facing a mini-injury crisis at the moment but should be deep enough to garner at least a point during their visit to Mallorca.

Win: Arsenal, Man City, Newcastle, Bayern Munich
Draw-no-bet: Wigan, Everton, Real Madrid

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pantheon of the greats

What a week-end! Every single selection hit, except for hapless Arsenal who managed to go lose at Norwich. Obviously, the main talking point after Saturday was the place of Frankel among the all-time greats. Best horse there has ever been, has been a very popular clamour. There is no right or wrong answer on this one and I stand among those that will fall short of calling him the best ever. He could very well be the best of them all, but it impossible for me to give him that ultimate accolade with absolute confidence or certainty.

Don't get me wrong; Frankel is an unbelievable beast, the likes of which I've never seen before. He's the greatest miler of all time. Better, I consider him the best racehorse to have ever run up to 10 furlongs. If there was any match race from 8 to10 furlongs and I could select any horse, it would be him. He's the most dominant horse that has ever run at those distances. He's proved it by beating champions of the caliber of Canford Cliffs, Excelebration, and Cirrus des Aigles. He put anything that opposed him to submission.

But he hasn't run at 12 furlongs, the distance of reference for the best of the best, in my opinion. This is the distance of the Derbies, of the most-prestigious Arc, of the King George. This is the distance that tells the difference in class between the great and the immortal ones. The awesome Dubai Millenium lost his invincibility on his Derby attempt, a lack of stamina that was the cause of his only defeat. This is the distance that some mighty champions of Montjeu toyed with the their challengers. This is the distance that made the legends of Dancing Brave, Ribot, Deep Impact, Zarkava, Sea Bird, Nijinski, to name a few.

Frankel did not attempt that mythical distance, and the travesty of it all, is that he seemed to have the pedigree, being a son of Galileo. Had he won a high-caliber Group 1 at 12 furlongs, he would be my undisputed champion of all time. Would he have flopped like Dubai Millenium? Or would he have been as dominant as he proved at shorter distances? Have would he have reacted on the Longchamp straight with Ribot working on his inside and Deep Impact, Zarkava and Dancing Brave breathing down his neck with their dazzling finish, for the ultimate Arc? Most probably, he would have trounced all of them, but alas, he has no form to prove it. On similar lines, Black Caviar is possibly the greatest sprinter of all time, but she's just that, a sprinter; not the greatest racehorse there has been.

Not many champions end their career undefeated. The mystique behind Frankel is that he can not only boast he never got beaten, but he destroyed almost any horse that crossed his path. Such was his dominance. He's racing's version of Lionel Messi; he won everything there is to win while beating every record, except winning the World Cup. Can he be considered the greatest?

There has never been a certainty like Frankel in race punting, at least not in these times. He will be missed. He's the benchmark against which all future milers and 10-furlong performers will be gauged. I believe he will stay thus for a long long time. Frankel was a destroyer, possibly not the greatest racehorse, but certainly the most dominant thoroughbred there has been.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A last one for Frankel

This week-end is all about Frankel's last race and nothing has changed from my previous assessment that he will end his career in a blaze of glory to which he is so accustomed. Let the ground be worse than very soft, let the greatest foe he will have encountered come from France, let the naysayers mention the unlucky-bound 13th run; I think he will prevail at the end. I might be wrong. American fans know all about Zenyatta and her heart-breaking last race. His odds are short, yet look generous. I don't think he will destroy Cirrus; on good ground, maybe. But on heavy ground, the gap might be well short of the ocean-wide margins he usually leaves in his wake. Frankel to win, Cirrus for the placing; there's no certainty in racing particularly on heavy terrain, but this 1-2 looks to be the play to go for.

League football is back after the usual but not-so-interesting international World Cup qualifiers. There's always the danger that teams don't show up in optimum or true form after such a break because of player fatigue, missed trainings and preparation time etc, so there are always some nuggets that may prop up here and there.

Fulham v/s Villa. This is one of the best shouts of the week-end for a Home win. The Cottagers are very good at home and will have extra ammunition with the return of striker Berbatov from injury.

Liverpool v/s Reading. Liverpool are a better team than what their results suggest. I expect them to come blazing against the sorry visitors. Suarez could have a great scoring game here provided he's well rested from his trip from South America. Straight home win.

Man Utd v/s Stoke. It is no secret that Stoke play for the goalless draw away from home. They might even eke out an odd goal. If an out-of-sorts Man Utd shows up, like the one that got beat by Tottenham a few weeks, then Stoke have a chance for a draw. Orelse it should be another home win. Given that they have lost 2 games already, Sir Alex will be keen to have his team pumped up here for full points, so it might be worth going for the straight home win.

Swansea v/s Wigan. This can go either way. Both teams are two-faced and are capable of the best and worst.

West Brom v/s Man City. If it were not for its current injury woes, I would have given WBA a good chance to snatch a point here. Although they are still a strong team, City seem to have to labor hard to get the 3 points on their travels. They are not yet dominant. It would hardly be any surprise if the Citizens won this late as the hosts will certainly not hand it to them.

West Ham v/s Southampton. Can go either way. If I were to speculate, the hosts as draw-no-bet will be the safest way to go.

Norwich v/s Arsenal. The Gunners look to be a good draw-no-bet proposition here. Norwich has a leaky defence which the visitors will be keen to exploit. Arsenal have their defensive lapses of their own and are not sure to come out of the game with a clean sheat. They should prevail or come up with a draw in the end though.

Sunderland v/s Newcastle. I favour Sunderland slightly for this North East derby, only because of their home advantage. Sunderland looks good value as a draw-no-bet.

QPR v/s Everton. This could be the springboard for Mark Hughes' men to finally get out of their losing funk. Everton is not to be dismissed lightly and they are capable of giving a game to any team in the league on their best day. Long-shot punters should consider QPR as a serious draw-no-bet selection, but they do not offer enough guarantees for me to consider them a safe punt. Better to avoid this match.

In Spain, I see home wins for Malaga and Real Madrid, while Valencia and Barcelona look solid draw-no-bet selections.

Win: Frankel, Man Utd, Real Madrid, Malaga, Liverpool, Fulham
Place: Cirrus des Aigles
Exacta: Frankel/Cirrus des Aigles
Draw-no-bet: Valencia, Barcelona, Sunderland, Arsenal, West Ham

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pile on Frankel and Cirrus

This week leads up to Saturday's Champions Day racing at Ascot, the one-year-old scheme devised to rival the Breeders Cup in the US. The occasion will be momentous with Frankel set to run his last race in the Qipco Champion Stakes. Just crunching the race at the moment and clearly there are only 3 names to retain from the 8-horse field; the Invincible Frankel himself, the French superstar Cirrus des Aigles and Nathaniel, one of the best middle-distance horses around and who is the closest to have come to going toe-to-toe with Frankel, on their debut.

I hope there's lots of rain and the ground is sticky muddy on race day. That's the only way to get decent odds on Frankel. Heavy conditions will suit Cirrus to perfection. This will give hope to the French raiding party supporters. It might even give hope to Nathaniel supporters. It will dampen the Frankel camp as he's not proven on too soft ground . But no matter how bottomless the ground, I have hardly any doubt that he will win. He's a stone clear of the others at the weights and I think he is the only one who can beat himself. Cirrus is deservedly the second highest-rated horse in training but he's no Frankel.

I am no fan of the ante-post market, but if they are going to go to post, to me, Frankel is a sure win and Cirrus is a sure Place. Once the markets open, any combo involving these 2, seems to me the way to go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Glorious in defeat

From a punting viewpoint, the Arc delivered aplenty with Orfevre easily hitting the Placings at unbelievably generous odds of 3/1. Obviously, from a sporting position, like many others, I would have loved it if he won it all. The race can be replayed time and again and how he lost the race would still be beyond anyone's comprehension. The start of the last straight was a sight to behold as he effortlessly stormed past some of the best middle-distance horses Europe had on offer. I was thinking of another demolition a la Danedream. Better, I was thinking that Frankel was right to stay home. Almost immediately, it unfolded into a nightmare as he idled and hit the rails as Solemia caught him on. World beater turned unlucky second.

Solemia ran the race of the life and deserves more credit than what she's getting, even though it will always be more the race that Orfevre lost and not the race she won. What he showed was he is a genius, albeit a flawed genius. If I hinted Camelot was, on talent, the best horse going in the race, I was wrong. Orfevre will destroy this field anytime if he finds a way to settle on these quirks. What a run from the impossible post position of 18 on a heavy sticky ground he'd never run before. I cannot see how his rider Soumillon can be faulted. He rode the perfect copybook race; he had the whip in the right hand in the straight. His ride deviated and idled through no fault of his.

Rarely does a horse come out of a lost race with his reputation enhanced. Orfevre is now a name that will warrant attention, not only within the shores of Japan. It looks improbable but Soumillon got tongues wagging when he mentioned an encounter with Frankel on British Champions Day. Frankel, Cirrus des Aigles, Orfevre. That would be something. What was interesting, if not intriguing, is Soumillon's assessment in the aftermath of Sunday's defeat that Orfevre was the best horse he'd ever ridden. Whether said in the heat of the moment or not, but it gives a reference point to Orfevre's exceptional talent; better than Dalakhani, better than Zarkava? On Sunday, we got oh-so-close to the realm of fantasy land.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Camelot, meet Orfevre

My favourite race of the year: the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Longchamp is my idea of the greatest race in the world. The legends of the turf have won it and the best horse almost always wins it.

This year's race has been marred by late defections of some leading fancies; title holder Danedream tragically won't be there through no fault of her own, Nathaniel spiked a fever at an unfortunate time, Snow Fairy is out of the season injured. And the mighty Frankel (or more so his connections) opted not to venture on the stamina-sapping 12 furlongs;

The race will still regroup some high-caliber horses, 4 of which seem clear-cut above the rest; Camelot, Orfevre, Saonois and Shareta. I don't think the winner will be outside this quartet.

Camelot failed to win the Triple Crown although he did finish a honourable second in the St Leger. Whether he is the super horse billed by his connections, remains to be seen. His defeat somewhat lowered his colors and reputation that was made of him. He's still a high-class horse that has won the Epsom and Irish Derbies, not forgetting the 2000 Guineas. He is the best 3-year old of the race. There are a lot of positives going for him. He will be ridden by Dettori, he will have a weight allowance against the older generation, and he's by super 12-furlong-sire Montjeu. The only issue I see is how well he's recuperated from his St Leger exertions. It is commonly acknowledged that the great Nijinski got beaten in the Arc because he was still feeling the ill-effects of the Doncaster Classic. There are only 3 weeks separating the 2 races and there is no doubt that the small recuperation time can be taxing, particularly when facing a strong Arc contingent. This is the question mark regarding Camelot; how fit and rested will he be for the race? If he is 100%, he will win orelse he'll be in the placings.

Orfevre, Japanese superstar, maybe not on the same level as Deep Impact, but the best to grace Longchamp since the Sunday Silence wonder horse. He won this trial when not fully wound up a few weeks ago and indications are that he's improved a bunch and will be in top form. He's clearly class, he will be ridden by Soumillon and distance will suit. He looks prime to run a huge race. He should be in the first 3, like Camelot.

Saonois is the best French 3-year old and winner of the French Derby. He was impressive in winning the Prix Niel, considered the main trial for the Arc. He produced an instant acceleration in the last metres of the race after having been held boxed in the straight. Not many other horses would have been able to do that. Saonois must be respected as many French 3-year old colts have shown their mettle in the race over the years.

Shareta is the best remaining filly in the race after the defections of Snow Fairy and Danedream. She was a surprise second last year and she seems even better this year. She won the Prix Vermeille in good style and any reproduction of that form should see her play a major role. She has got a great cruising speed and her ability to stay close to the pace could put her in clear daylight in the straight and not be reached . If she's on song, she could strike strike big for the Aga Khan.

I think Camelot and Orfevre have to be in any trifecta. This could be the day that Japan finally lands the race that it wants most to win. It won the Dubai World Cup, it won the Melbourne Cup, but this is the trophy that it really wants; for prestige, for the record books and posterity. I don't know if it will happen, but I sure will be rooting for Orfevre to achieve what no other Japanese horse has done in the history of the race. May the Sun rise on Arc Day!

Place: Camelot, Orfevre

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Clutch and Choke

A week-end with some freakish results with Arsenal, Man Utd and QPR all gunned down at home. Sunderland, Real and Stoke won as expected and Fulham's +1 handicap was good for void in their brave 2-1 defeat against Man City.

The headlines of the week-end were without doubt the Miracle at Medinah Chicago where the European Ryder Cup team produced the greatest come-back ever on Sunday in defeating the US team and thereby retaining the Cup. What sweet revenge it was for Europe, especially team captain Olazabal, as it washed away the tears of Brookline 1999 when the US produced a come-back of their own amidst displays of unsportsmanlike conduct to win the Cup. What an amazing clutch player Europe has found in Ian Poulter who won all his 4 matches and started the inspiration for his teammates late Saturday when he birdied the last 5 holes of his foursome match to give an almost-out Europe some glimmer of hope. The US choked on the final day but it is really a case of the Europeans being the best whenever they are playing their best. I was saying in my previous blog that this European team had nothing to envy from their US counterparts; namely because on an individual basis, they are really better, more talented and more driven.

The countdown to this week is all about the Arc on Sunday and the organizers must be going nuts at the moment. Nathaniel has fallen sick and won't be going. Danedream as well will miss defending her title as she's suddenly stuck in quarantine following a disease outbreak at her stay in Cologne. Talk about freakish timing. Add to this the absence of Snow Fairy, Valyra, Frankel and others and you think that this year's race will be devoid of many of the world's best middle-distance runners. But it becomes great from a punting point of view, I think. At this point, my sight is set on the Japanese superstar Orfevre, the impressive Vermeille winner Shareta, and should he start, Camelot. It could be that other connections decide to supplement their horses in light of so many high-profile defects, we'll see.

Tonight's games in the Champions League look tight. I think Man Utd are in for a rude travel to Cluj. They might still win it because of their potent offense but they are very liable to concede goals with their porous defence. Anytime Johnny Evans is starting with Rio Ferdinand, you can expect some torrid moments in the Utd penalty area, as Tottenham showed over the week-end.

Chelsea should win at Nordsjaellan in Denmark, they are a confident Win selection. Galatasaray will also look to bag all 3 points at home to Poruguese Braga. The hosts should win this. I also like Valencia's chances against France's Lille. It looks worth to go for a straight Valencia win as well here.

Win: Chelsea, Valencia, Galatasaray

Friday, September 28, 2012

Week-end preview

A jam-packed week-end of football and golf is looming on the horizon. The Ryder Cup is under-way and based on the odds, Europe are under-dogs. Their current odds look somewhat appealing considering that player-to-player, they don't have anything to envy to the Americans. If the same tournament were to be staged in Europe, it's the same European team that would have started favourites. Home crowds bring in a huge advantage. My feeling is that Europe will retain the Cup but it's just me making a judgement call; there are no certainties and the resullt can really go either way.

Let's get to the week-end's matches.

Arsenal v/s Chelsea. The big London Derby with 2 teams in good form. Got to go with the home advantage of the Gunners here; Arsene's team is getting more confident with every game and Santi Cazorla is an absolute gem of a playmaker. With the upcoming return in a few weeks of Wilshere, the Gunners should get stronger on the field and they just need to avoid getting into a considerable win-less streak, the like of which has wreaked havoc on their title hopes in recent years. They will oppose a Chelsea team whose mental strength will be tested given the weekly distraction of captain Terry's trial and guilty verdict in Anton Ferdinand's race case. I think Chelsea got somehow lucky to snatch victory last week at the expense of Stoke and they would do well to ride their luck again. I think Arsenal is a great draw-no-bet selection.

Fulham v/s Man City. The Cottagers are very good at home and City look vulnerable at the moment. This could be the best time to face the defending champions. Unfortunately for the hosts, they will be missing Berbatov who's brought their attack to life. Man City still have quality but it might pay to side with Fulham with +1 goal Handicap since should City win, it would be by the strict minimum.

Everton v/s Southampton. The Toffees look the banker of the week-end. They have been consistent this year and can hold their own at home against any team, as Man Utd found out. I think Soton can at most hope for a point here, but it should end up in a home win really.

Reading v/s Newcastle. Much of Newcaste's chances will rest on the scoring prowess of striker Ba. Will Pardew finally have full confidence in starting him? I am not sure what is going on behind the scenes at St James Park, but for me Ba is one of the premier strikers of the league and it doesn't make much sense that Cisse starts in front of him. This match is best avoided as the result can go any way.

Stoke v/s Swansea. Great chance for Stoke to get 3 points here against a struggling Swansea team. After having started strong, Laudrup's men have suffered 2 bad defeats in which they failed to score. It doesn't get any easier going to Stoke who have an enviable record at home. A draw-no-bet on the Potters looks safe.

Sunderland v/s Wigan. This should be the Cats' first win of the season. They have been arguably unlucky in drawing a couple of their past games, conceding goals in the last minutes. I will go for the outright win for the hosts.

Norwich v/s Liverpool. This game is too close to call. The Canaries can really prolong Liverpool's misery and I have the feeling if this game ends in a winner, it will be by the minimum margin. To avoid.

Man Utd v/s Tottenham. This looks set to pit 2 attacking-minded teams, so goals could be galore. Last year, AVB's Chelsea were thrased 3-1 at Old Trafford. I think the result could very well be similar again; it's hard to see Spurs going to snatch a win on this travel. Man Utd looks a good draw-no-bet.

Aston Villa v/s West Brom. Although they went to win at the Etihaad over the week, I still have reservations about this Villa team. West Brom are poor travellers. Can go either way this one.

QPR v/s West Ham. If the hosts were not missing their centre-halfs, I would have given them a great chance. With their current injuries, it's safer to go draw-no-bet with them.

Real Madrid v/s Deportivo. Straight win for Ronaldo and co, who should embark on a good winning streak after their much-publicized recent stumbles.

Win: Sunderland, Real Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal, Stoke, Man Utd, QPR
Handicap +1: Fulham

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mark Hasley got it right

Relatively good week-end with 5 winners, 2 voids and 1 loser out of 8 selections. Barcelona, Porto, Chelsea, Southampton, Sunderland (+1 Handicap) won, Man City and Liverpool (+1 handicap) games voided but Swansea was thrashed at home to Everton.

On the overall 90 minutes, I think everyone agrees that Liverpool deserved to get at least a point out of the game. As expected, they wanted to win that game badly and were better for the most part against their arch-rivals. The Kops and many others feel aggrieved that referee Halsey cost the hosts the game on 2 controversial decisions; the first one regarding the sending off of Shelvey and the second one the penalty awarded at the end of the match. In my previous post my selection was Livepool, yet I have no qualms about the referee's decisions on both cases; Mark Halsey was right.

Shelvey goes in two-footed in his challenge with Evans. Remember the same Evans went two-footed in an Old Trafford game last year and was rightly dismissed.The action is a dangerous one, the contact is made, the rashness has to be cautioned with an automatic red card. In any other league other than EPL, people would not even be discussing this decision. Some are questioning the color of the card because of the impact on the match; it does not matter if it is a match of the highest importance or a normal League match; two-footed tackles, be it without intent to injure, are automatic red cards.

The penalty is questionable only when viewed on replay or slow motion. It is clear that on his retreat, Glen Johnson somehow unbalances Valencia. It is true that the Ecuadorian goes to the ground tamely but the England defender clearly clips him, however light the trip is. The referee does not have the benefit of replay to see how much contact has been made or how well Valencia reacts to the play. Once he sees that the contact, hence foul, has been made, he has to call the penalty. Even on replay, the hardest Kop fan must admit that there have been worse calls for a penalty. Some football analysts have called for referees to have access to tv replays to overrule such kinds of decisions. I welcome that approach, but even in that case, the penalty would have stood. Take it from the NFL where a team has a number of chances during a match to challenge a referee-ing call. If the referees cannot conclusively come to a different decision than the call they made, based on tv replays etc, in 1 minute, their decision stands. The penalty decision would have stood at Anfield because none of the replays conclusively showed beyond any doubt that Valencia went to the ground by himself.

Tough luck Liverpool or anti-Man Utd fans (from what I've seen, there are a lot of them among so-called tv analysts!), Mark Hasley was spot on during these controversial moments that turned the match upside down. I can say it even if it is clear that a favourable result for Liverpool would have been better for my coffers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Week-end preview

Not a great second night of UCL on Wednesday as only Barcelona and Man Utd won, Braga and Lille lost at home and Benfica drew with Celtic. From the results of the week's UCL matches, it certainly looks like there are hardly any minnows anymore and that the gap between the usual elite teams and small teams is getting smaller every year. Even Barcelona had to dig deep to overcome Spartak Moscow.

Here we go for a preview of some of the week-end's matches.

Swansea v/s Everton. I like the hosts here. They should have a few missing players from last week back and I expect them to give a better showing. They can carve out the most persistent of opponents at home and should either bag 1 or 3 points here. Swansea is a draw-no-bet.

Chelsea v/s Stoke. Again, this will either go to the hosts or a draw. Chelsea have tied with Juventus in mid-week and have a strong enough squad to cope with the short rest. Stoke are no push-overs and it will be interesting to see what part Michael Owen plays for them during the season. I don't fancy many goals in this one and at current odds, Chelsea are a good draw-no-bet.

Southampton v/s Villa. It all depends what kind of Southampton team that will show up. The one that almost tied the Manchester teams, or the one that was very tame at Arsenal and Wigan. This is a perfect opportunity for the Saints to get their first points on the counter as Villa looks to be one of the 5 weakest teams in this league, in my estimate. It might be rewarding to be adventurous here and have the hosts at least as a draw-no-bet. I see them getting at least a point out of this encounter.

West Ham v/s Sunderland. This can go either way but I'm tempted to go for Sunderland with a +1 goal Handicap. The Hammers are good at home under Sam Allardyce but it will be tough for them to put a few by Martin O'Neil's organized defence. So +1 for the Cats is my choice here.

Liverpool v/s Man Utd. Both have played in mid-week although the Kops played their second team. I think they will be primed for this. They need to get their campaign started with a win and what better occasion than beating Man Utd and commemorating the Hillsborough tragedy. Obviously, it's always a risk going against Man Utd, but I see value in Liverpool either as a draw-no-bet or +1 goal handicap. Both offer good value at current odds.

Man City v/s Arsenal. This is the first serious test for the Gunners. Much has been said about their defence having conceded only 1 goal so far, but it remains how it can cope with the big guns of City. The latter are coming off a tough loss to Real Madrid but they have such a strong squad that they will not feel the ill-effects of that defeat. It's hard to see the hosts losing this, so I'll go draw-no-bet with them as well.

The Win certainties for the week-ends are Barcelona and Porto.

Win: Barcelona, Porto
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Southampton, Swansea, Chelsea
Handicap +1: Sunderland, Liverpool

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

UCL Part 2

Man City was oh-so-close to win at the Bernabeu and instead were left empty-handed. The +1 goal Handicap looked good until Ronaldo's injury-time goal voided it. In reality, Real Madrid deserved to win the game by a mile. They were dangerous from start to finish and although they conceded 2 goals, they must be given credit for coming back each time. Much has been said about their lack of conviction and commitment in their previous matches but there was none of that yesterday. At their best, they are still the second-best team in the world behind Barcelona.

Today's matches look a little more predictable. Man Utd will either win or draw against Galatasaray; I cannot see them lose this game. The Turks are no push-overs, being unbeaten in their domestic league and have a very manager in Tehrim. However, I expect the host to unleash the big runs in an attempt to erase last year's debacle when they failed to go by the preliminary stage. Man Utd should win, or at worst come out with a draw, so they are a draw-no-bet selection.

Same prediction for Braga who will host Cluj. The Portuguese have a great home record and they will want to get maximum points from this encounter with the outsiders of the group.

Barcelona should win against Spartak Moscow and I like Lille as a draw-no-bet against Borisov. Celtic is in for a difficult night against Benfica at Hampden Park. I've said it before, the Scottish league is very poor and it got even poorer with the demotion of Rangers. Celtic will battle to get something out of the game, but it would not be surprising if Benfica won or at least comes away with a draw from their trip.

Win: Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Braga, Lille, Benfica

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Heavyweight clash

So it starts today, the quest for pinnacle of European glory, the Champions League. And it does not get any better than this with the match-up between the champions of Spain and England. It's Real Madrid v/s Man City, Ronaldo v/s Tevez, Mourinho v/s Mancini; 2 teams loaded with superstars that can change the game with a moment of brilliance.

It is crisis time in Madrid; the Los Blancos are struggling, having been beaten again over the week-end. Their league title hopes are clinging by a thread already. Mourinho admits that at the present, he has 'no team'. Their last match against Stoke showed that Man City are close to good form. They had some good chances to win the match and could arguably have deserved the 3 points. So, Mancini and his troops go to the Bernabeu with confidence and will be well aware of the current struggles of the home side. This is the perfect time to face Mourinho's men in a most difficult group. I think Man City +1 goal Handicap is good value at the exchanges.

Handicap +1: Man City

Monday, September 17, 2012

Black-type performers

Fantastic week-end of sports that was. Liverpool were lucky to draw with Sunderland while Stoke's +1 Handicap against Man City proved a nice winner. In racing, were in not for the exploits of outsider Encke, Camelot and Michelangelo would have provided with a very good return. As it is, Camelot did not win but a Placed Michelangelo was good enough to bring the bacon home.

It was an exquisite week-end of racing really. Godolphin again played the spoils to the ambitions of Coolmore by denying Camelot of the Triple Crown. The son of Montjeu stayed on but just lacked the finishing kick to reach his conqueror at the finish. It was another big-race win for jockey Barzalona who seems to have a knack of landing big-money races and Classics. It will be interesting if Camelot is given the green light for the Arc.

Speaking of the prestigious race, Orfevre, the Japanese superstar labored to win the Prix Foy, one of the major prep races. While many were left disappointed with his workmanlike win, he did beat a high-class colt in Meandre. It was also his first race after a long layoff. I think he's a genuine Arc contender; whether he wins it or not will depend on a load of factors. But he certainly looks the most talented Japanese representative after Deep Impact.

Shareta won the Prix Vermeille impressively by dispatching a high-class field and on that form, must be given a leading chance for the October show-piece. She came out second last year to Danedream and she seems to be hitting top form at the right moment again. She is definitely the best representative from the Aga Khan contingent.

Moonlight Cloud beat Farrh in the Prix Moulin. Freddy Head's filly is just an a tough sort that runs her heart out every time. She might be the only lateral link between Frankel and Black Caviar! She came a head off second to the Australian superstar at Royal Ascot, but beat Farrh in turn who's been trounced many lengths a couple of times by Frankel. I cannot wait for the next run from the French filly because she's among the best from 6 furlongs to a mile.

The Woodbine Mile on Canadian soil saw Wise Dan from the US stroll to a comfortable win over some good European sorts such as Cityscape. Obviously, it is widely agreed that Europeans are better than the US-trained ones on turf but this son of Wiseman Ferry could prove to be the exception come the Breeders Cup Mile in November. Wise Dan is by far the best miler from the US and unless Excelebration or Moonlight Cloud make the trip to Santa Anita, the race could be a shoe-in for the US champion.

This week is all about the 1st round of the Champions League and there are quite a few interesting match-ups on the go. I'll get to some previews tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

EPL value selections

Just a quick couple of selections of the week-end EPL matches, which I believe could be very rewarding here.

Sunderland v/s Liverpool. This is the value match of the week-end. I like Sunderland's chances here. I think they are an ideal draw-no-bet as I cannot see them lose this match at home. Liverpool are toiling and I expect them to struggle against Martin O'Neill's side.

Stoke v/s Man City. I expect Stoke to give Mancini's men a run for their money. Stoke have a great record at home and are always tough to break down. City are not going full-steam yet and will have an eye on their upcoming Champions League game next Tuesday. The CL is their priority this year and it would not be surprising if Mancini did not field his strongest team against the Potters. At current odds, I very much like the host team with a +1.0 goal Handicap.

Draw-no-bet: Sunderland
Handicap +1: Stoke

St Leger 2012 Preview

This week-end looks loaded, the highlight of which might be the history-in-the-making of Camelot who will attempt to complete the Triple Crown of British racing. In any ordinary year, this would have been the major talking point of the racing community and unbeaten Ballydoyle superstar would have drawn comparisons with the greatest to have graced the turf, among the likes of Nijinski, Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard. But understandably, with his spectacular exploits, it is Frankel who's magnetized public hearts. A victory on Saturday will give some credence to his growing legion of fans that he deserves to be considered in the same breadth as the Juddmonte superstar and the almighty that have ever raced.

Many pundits agree that only the distance can beat Camelot; i.e, he will win if he stays the 1m6f trip. The way he's won his races, I strongly believe that the extra 2 furlongs from the Derby trip will not cause him any problem. I have no stamina concerns for this son of Montjeu; he should have enough class to run the Doncaster classic fast. The field looks strong and even; here are my views on the other contenders.

Dartford - pacemaker, no chance.

Encke is the Godolphin representative. He looks better suited for the mile and a half, and has not shown enough to be a leading contender here. He will be flattered by a place spot at best.

Guarantee is a winner of 3 out of 4 races from the Highclere connections. This is a big step up in class for this distance winner but it would not be surprising if he got into the placings. If one is looking for a Place long-shot, he's the one, but it's hard to see him past Camelot if the latter runs his race.

Main Sequence is one that the market fancies a lot, but which is a lay for me. He came out second in the Derby and is inferior to Camelot. Given his pedigree, I have strong reservations he's going to last the distance. The layers should pounce on it.

Michelangelo will be ridden by Dettori after being out-preferred by Buick. I believe he's the horse that can cause an upset. He's clearly a progressive high-class colt that will get better with time. He came out a disappointing third in his last race at Goodwood, deterred by the undulations of the course, according to his trainer. After Camelot, he looks to be the best talented horse in the race. I think he's a live Place chance.

From what he's shown so far, Thomas Chippendale is not sure to last the distance. I think he's several pounds behind many of the contenders and will be flattered to be in the first 4 here.

Thoughtworthy, John Gosden's main string, is the full-brother to Lucarno who won this race a few years ago. Distance should not be a problem. He won the Great Volitgeur stakes, the main trial for this race, beating a few of his challengers quite impressively. He must be considered in any exotic, but I personally don't think he'll win.

Ursa Major comes from the Irish shores having won the Irish St Leger trial and will not start beaten. He's not entitled to get the soft conditions on which he's always run on turf. He will have no problem distance-wise but it remains to be seen how much class he's got. The dark horse of the race.

His connections look quietly bullish, his jockey seems level-headed and accomplished enough not to be taken by the stakes at hand. Camelot is no ordinary horse. The conditions look set for him to stamp his name among the all-time greats. It will take an exceptional horse to beat him on Saturday. I don't think there is one besides him in the race, so I think he will win. For the places, Michelangelo looks value at current odds.

Win: Camelot
Place: Michelangelo

Monday, September 10, 2012

In dominant mood

It was a relatively quiet week-end with the domestic leagues giving way to the world cup qualifiers until next week-end. A few events of note however in the varied world of sports.

Snow Fairy winning the Irish Champion Stakes. What an amazing filly she is, and she could very well surpass Ouija Board as Ed Dunlop's best filly. She's won  in UK, Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong, and I would not be surprised if she added France to her conquests when she tackles the Arc in a few weeks time. She's all heart and if I am to truly rate this filly, I only have to look at the 2 races she faced So You Think. In last year's edition of the same Irish Champion Stakes, she was second, only a length behind the Coolmore superstar. In the Arc, she was this time a length in front, although SYT was not given a judicious ride. So in my books, she is weighted a length or two behind the High Chaparral beast, which puts her in a league of only a select few. If Camelot does not make it to the Arc, Snow Fairy must be given a leading chance.

Speaking of Camelot, he looks all set for his big day in destiny on Saturday for the St Leger. It would be great if he makes history, not least for the reason that it would be great for me to witness a Triple Crown in my time. With the way commercial breeding is going, this looks to be a once in a lifetime occurrence, and the Coolmore people need to be lauded for taking this route.

Then, there was Rory Mc Ilroy's win in the BMW Championship, his 3rd title in his last 4 outings. Definitely Rory is back, and he's thrashed Tiger Woods (and the rest) on each occasion. Rory is simply the best golfer in the world at the moment and could remain so if Tiger does not get his mojo back. Rory has a winning chance each time he gets on a tournament, something that was said of Tiger years ago.

Tonight is the US Open final between Djokovic and Murray. Clearly the 2 best players in the world today, with the injury to Nadal. The head says Nole, and the heart says Murray, as I would like the Scot to get the monkey off his back regarding Majors. Djokovic looks strong and definitely knows how to tackle such finals. No recommendation on this one, but I cannot see any wrong punting for the Serb to win.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Countdown to the St Leger

Fantastic week-end it was with mostly everything on target, with a couple of voided draw-no-bets. The big one came at Anfield where the Gunners did what was expected of them to beat a sorry Liverpool side. Man City, Man Utd, Real Madrid all won and Atletico Madrid pounded on Chelsea in the Super Cup on Friday. Tottenham and Newcastle snatched draws for voids.

Radamel Falcao, what a striker. He always scores in a final; I actually can't recall a final in which he hasn't scored. Fantastic finisher, one that Chelsea will rue to have missed during the transfer season. He will cost a lot in January. One team that probably won't look for his services is Man Utd. They are loaded in that department and their new recruit RVP got his own superb hat-trick against the Saints on Sunday. The fact that he scored 2 brilliant goals after missing a penalty in the last third of the game, shows that he's got mettle. With the services from Utd's awesome wingers, RVP is certainly an early favourite for best EPL scorer again this year.

Christiano Ronaldo, what do you call something worse than a prima donna? The supremely-talented but moody spoiled brat came up with his bombshell "sad" state of affairs that has everyone speculating what is the professional reason for his self-evoked sadness. Money it isn't, he denies. It's very hard to think otherwise. He knows his tantrums will make the headlines and whatever the reason, this guy has redefined the word prima donna. The second-best player in the world, but too manipulative and no class. His late antics show why people prefer Messi.

 Finally, in racing, the run down to this week culminates to the last Classic of the season, the St Leger. Will Camelot do the Triple Crown? All indications from connections is that he's spot on. In his words, Aidan O'Brien says his superstar is the most incredible horse he's trained. What does that mean? Is he the best? Better than Galileo, So You Think, High Chaparral? As usual, there's nothing precise in his words. Didn't he say that he thought highly of St Nicholas Abbey that he could "walk on water", so to speak? i.e, do incredible things. Now Frankel is the closest thing to that, but not St Nick Abbey, from what we've seen.

What is for certain is that Camelot is really good, and looking at his opponents at this time, it looks like his path to immortality will only be thwarted by the Gosden stable, who've actually won the last 2 editions of the race. His colt Michaelangelo looks the main danger. I'll get to the review in due time, but that's my feeling at the moment.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Super Cup and Week-end preview.

A couple of hours before the Super Cup between Chelsea and Athletico Madrid gets under way and I really fancy the Spaniards here. Gauging by their La Liga start, they look to be in great form. Much of their goal scoring  lays at the feet of their awesome striker Radamel Falcao, who has a knack of scoring on the big occasions and finals. At current odds, Athletico Madrid at +1.0 Handicap looks a steal as I see them either winning this or drawing in 90 minutes.

Some preview of some of the upcoming week-end games.

Tottenham v/s Norwich. The Canaries won this fixture last year but Spurs will be particularly keen to get their first win of the season here. Villa-Boas will be under big pressure should they fail to lose this. I fancy both teams to do worse than last year, and Tottenham should ride the home advantage here. They are a good draw-no-bet selection.

Man City v/s QPR. Straight win for the home side here although they are not in full flow yet, and did get a huge scare in this game last year.

Liverpool v/s Arsenal. Liverpool are riding the good and the bad and this shouldn't be surprising as new manager Rogers experiments with what his squad has to offer. Their 2 sub-par games against Hearts in Europe sandwiched a really good performance against Man City where they should have bagged 3 points. Arsenal need a goal and win quick to dispel any notion of post-RVP crisis. It might be adventurous to see Arsenal win this but it won't be surprising and I see great value in their odds as draw-no-bet.

Newcastle v/s Aston Villa. It will be rewarding to go against Villa this season and Newcastle will see them as easy fodder. Draw-no-bet should be safe with the hosts here.

Southampton v/s Man Utd. On paper, this should be a straight win for the Red Devils. However, they will be without Rooney and with a suspect defence. Traditionally, they don't have a great record when visiting Southampton of old, but these are different times. Provided they are effective on goal, Alex Ferguson's men should come away with 3 important points.

Real Madrid v/s Granada. Buoyed by their Spanish Super Cup win and their need to catch up in the league, this should be the start of a winning sequence for the Los Blancos.

Win: Man City, Man Utd, Real Madrid.
Handicap: Athletico Madrid +1.
Draw-no-bet: Tottenham, Arsenal, Newcastle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

US Open 2012

Barcelona, Man Utd, Swansea were up to the task, Sunderland's match was postponed but the real shocker came at Getafe where Real Madrid got upset in a match labelled as unadmissible from their manager. Leading by a goal at the half, I wouldn't have given much of Getafe reversing the score in the second half, and they did. A few more defeats like this so early in the season and you'd suspect that Mourinho's tenure in Spain will be put in question.

The US Open tennis got underway and at first glance, it looks, that with Nadal missing, the Big 3 of Djokovic, Federer and Murray look set to trounce their way to the semi-finals. The caveat this year might be the impact of the London Olympics to the schedule, hence fitness, of the players that participated. Without a medal, Djokovic went straight to Toronto to win the Canadian Open, then got rocked in the final at Cincinnati. He could be undone by having had no break at all. Federer skipped Toronto and looked fresher in beating the Serb in Cincinnati. It remains to be seen in what kind of disposition Murray is after his gold medal win. Almost expectedly, he got knocked out early in Toronto but the extra time of rest looks to set him up nicely for this last Major. More importantly, his London win will possibly have given the belief that he can win a major tournament. We'll see.

Looking at the draw, Djokovic seems to have a clear path to the semi-finals, at least. Possibly, Juan Potro will meet him there. So, Nole to reach at least the semi's looks a safe punt. A rejuvenated Federer should breeze to the other semi's as well. Murray should be meeting him there but at this point, the Swiss looks the more assured one to have faith on.

Reach or past semi-finals: Federer, Djokovic

Friday, August 24, 2012

Week-end Preview

My week-end preview of some of this week-end's matches in Europe.

Man Utd v/s Fulham. This looks to be a hard game for the Red Devils and the danger is there that they could be shocked by the visitors if they haven't synced well as a team yet; i.e, much will depend on how the players play with Van Persie and how the make-shift defence is able to withstand the potent Fulham attack. It is very probable however that if Man Utd get some flow in their attacking game and get on the score sheet, they could open the floodgates. Man Utd as a draw-no-bet looks the safest form of punt, but it won't shock me if Fulham get at least a point from this game by exploiting weaknesses in a team that has yet to gel with some big-name newcomers.

Sunderland v/s Reading. I mentioned last week that Sunderland would be difficult to tame at the Emirates and so they proved. I really expect expect them to do well this year and possibly squeeze a Europa spot. They won't get chances of an easier 3 points than when they host Reading, who've lost in mid-week at Chelsea. At current odds, Sunderland as a draw-no-bet looks great value.

Swansea v/s West Ham. Swansea were amazing in their opening match against QPR, trouncing Mark Hughes' men with 5 unanswered goals. The hosts have made some good signings over the summer but their best signing has been their manager Michael Laudrup. He's got a great football brain and will certainly help them play good intelligent football. Provided they are not suffering from over confidence from last week's win, they should continue on their winning ways against West Ham. A draw-no-bet on the hosts looks safe as well.

Valencia v/s Deportivo. Deportivo have started their campaign well by beating Osasuna by a pair of goals while Valencia have gotten merit in drawing at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid. In fact, Soldado and could be counted as unlucky to have a valid goal ruled out for offside. The home advantage should be favourable to Valencia here although it is a team that will only get better as the season prolongs given the number of new faces in the squad. Valencia is a good draw-no-bet here.

Osasuna v/s Barcelona. The Catalans beat arch-rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup during the week and don't seem to have lost any of their awesome style of play under new coach Villanova. Messi is already in great form and that does not bode well for the hosts. That should be an easy 3 points for the Blaugrana who cannot afford to let go of such favourable pickings. Straight win for Barca.

Getafe v/s Real Madrid. Real have possibly played their 2 toughest opponents in Spain in the last week and have failed to win in both; a draw against Valencia and a defeat at Barcelona. The team is not at its cohesive best yet since the regulars have missed much of the pre-season. However, Mourinho will be gunning for 3 important points against Getafe, who've logically lost their first match away at Sevilla. A close to must-win game for Real Madrid to keep in touch with Barcelona and I see them winning this game.

Win: Barcelona, Real Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Sunderland, Swansea