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