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