Friday, February 22, 2013

EPL and Carling Cup Final preview

Saturday's Carling Cup final will pit 2 teams with an ocean of class between them. Swansea is fighting for an Europa spot in the Premier League while Bradford is plying its trade 3 leagues below in League 2 football. There is no way you can go with Bradford City on this one. Granted, there have been shocks in finals before; just a few years back, Birmingham was on its way to relegation from the EPL and still managed to beat heavily-favoured Arsenal. The realilty is Arsene Wenger has lost more finals than he's won, so it was not a shock of cataclysmic proportions.

Here we have a Swansea team led by an upcoming manager in Laudrup, who will be keen to get the first major trophy of this fledging managerial career. They boast in the ranks one of the top strikers in the EPL today in Michu, who's been one of the revelations of the year. The welsh club are one of select sides, besides the usual top teams, that play good incisive football, that will create problems to any side they encounter.

The reality for Bradford is to try barricade its box and desperately rely on counter-attacks for a deadly goal or make the match last till the lottery of penalties. That would be their best chance of lifting the trophy against all odds. I don't think it will happen, no matter how nice a Cinderella story that would be. Bradford has a huge task facing this talented Swansea side. Looking at the odds, I will go for Swansea to lift the cup in the end, and although the chances are that they will settle the issue inside regular time, a draw-no-bet on them looks safe as well.

Here are my thoughts on some of the week-end matches in the EPL.

Arsenal v/s Villa. Not surprisingly, Arsenal seem destined to win nothing again. They were booted out of the FA Cup last week, they are nearly down and out in the Champions League against Bayern, and they stand no chance in winning the EPL. The best target they can aim for, like in previous years, is at least a 4th place finish in the EPL that will guarantee them UCL football next season. They will have to be wary of Benteke, the Villa striker that seems to be scoring for fun lately. I don't see many goals in this one mainly because the Gunners are bound to feel the effects of Wednesday's drubbing against the Germans, and the Villains will certainly opt for a defensive display to try to sneak a point out of the contest. Still, it might be good value to opt for Arsenal as a draw-no-bet.

QPR v/s Man Utd. I posed the question before the Real Madrid game on how good or bad were the Red Devils. I think they showed they were a very good team that could rival with the best of them any day. This team can play different types of systems; defensive, counter-attacking, offensive, man-marking, and the thing is that they are always a goal-threat with the likes of Van Persie and Rooney. The talent at the disposal of Sir Alex Ferguson is scary; Nani, Chicharito, Anderson don't even have a spot in the first team at the moment. Harry Redknapp's teams used to cause problems to Man Utd years ago, but it seems that he can't find the magic touch against them lately. The truth is, no matter the big signings since the start of the season, Rangers looks a very unbalanced team with a very suspect team play and even a maestro like Redknapp is having trouble righting the sinking ship. This could be a big night for Van Persie to add to his goal tally. Man Utd are a Win selection and they should go 15 points clear by this match.

Man City v/s Chelsea. The hosts have the advantage of not having had an European match to deal with in mid-week. Chelsea can be considered lucky to have scraped through Sparta Prague in the Europa League but they will definitely be feeling the exertions of that match. Last year's fixture was a tight one where the Citizens managed to win after going a goal down, and there is no reason to believe that the match will not be close again this year. They are still the 2 best teams in the EPL after Man Utd. With the seemingly renewed confidence of the strikers Aguero and Tevez, and with the efficient Dzeko, I believe the hosts have the answer to the Chelsea defence. They are a draw-no-bet selection.

Win Cup: Swansea
Win: Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Swansea, Arsenal, Man City

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