Friday, September 27, 2013

European Week-end Football

Some of my thoughts on this week-end's matches.

Tottenham v/s Chelsea. The reunion of Mourinho and ex-staffer Villas-Boas. The press might have tried, but no-one knows the level of break-down between the 2 managers. Maybe they'll give a better clue during the pre-match or post-match handshakes. On the pitch, I think Chelsea will be in for a torrid time. Spurs are no slouch at home and given their level of form, I like their chances to get at least a point out of this game. They are the draw-no-bet selection of this week-end.

Aston Villa v/s Man City. The hosts will be missing their key weapon Benteke for the next few games and that is not a good omen for them. Man City are currently firing on all cylinders and their demolition of neighbours Man Utd last week-end will have given a mighty spring in their step. They should get out of Villa Park with full points. Straight win for the Citizens.

Fulham v/s Cardiff. It's been a up and down start of the season so far for the Cottagers and they will relish the visit of Cardiff for some much-needed 3 points. Berbatov and Bent can do serious damage on their best day, and I reckon the hosts represent great value for the win at current odds here.

Man Utd v/s West Brom. The probability of WBA coming out of Old Trafford looks bleak. Now that their matches against the big runs are over, this could be the start of a winning run for the Red Devils. They should win this, particularly with RVP back.

Southampton v/s Crystal Palace. Soton are a tough team to break down at home and there is no reason to believe that Palace will reverse poor opposition records at the St Mary's. The hosts should build on last Saturday's impressive win at Anfield and get the 3 points.

Sunderland v/s Liverpool. The Black Cats are a team in disarray. Obviously, Di Canio was never going to be a long-term fit. Suarez and Sturridge will relish this clash; I cannot see Liverpool getting beaten in this one. I see value backing them with a straight win.

In Spain, I see wins for Barcelona and Valencia. I like Real Sociedad as a draw-no-bet against Sevilla.

In the Bundesliga, Dortmund and Bayern should get full points and continue their duel at the top of the table.

Win: Man City, Fulham, Man Utd, Southampton, Liverpool, Barcelona, Valencia, Dortmund, Bayern
Draw-no-bet: Tottenham, Real Sociedad.

Monday, September 16, 2013

UCL - Round 1

Champions League football starts on Tuesday and this year's competition looks wide open now that many of the leading clubs are under new management. There are certainly bound to be a few surprises out of the preliminary stages. Here are my thoughts on some of Tuesday's matches.

Man Utd v/s Leverkusen. I am probably one of just a handful that think that Man Utd are thoroughly exposed Group A. I don't think it's as easy a group for them and the fact that they are odds-against to land the group looks too short to me. Let's not forget that it will be Moyes' only second venture at this level and as his predecessor SAF would say, experience is the key. They might go through to the knockout stages but I doubt it will be plain sailing. Their opponents Leverkusen, Shakhtar and Sociedad will all be tough cookies. Tomorrow's opponents Leverkusen are in very good form in the Bundesliga, having won 4 of their first 5 games. They have a dangerous striker in Kiessling who will be a goal scoring threat at Old Trafford. I think this will be a really close game and wouldn't be surprised if it ended in a draw. Still, Man Utd are always formidable at home on these European nights and could very well nick it at the end. The Red Devils are a draw-no-bet selection.

Real Sociedad v/s Shahktar. I really fancy the Spaniards to finish in the top 2 of this group. They are a real talented team that ended up 4th in La Liga and knocked off French outfit Lyon in convincing fashion in the qualifying round. They will aim to get maximum points at home to further their aspirations for the next round. Shakhtar are on their 4th consecutive UCL season but have lost arguably their best player in Willian to Chelsea. At current odds, I really like Real Sociedad as a draw-no-bet.

FC Kobenhavn v/s Juventus. No contest here, this looks like 3 straight easy points for Juve.

Benfica v/s Anderlecht. The hosts look good value to land the spoils. I have reservations about the quality of this Belgian side, which does not seem anywhere as good as its predecessors. One of these 2 teams should accompany favourites PSG to the next round, so the Portuguese will want to get maximum points from this encounter.

Olympiakos v/s PSG. The French should get at least a point out of this if they fail to win, so they are a draw-no-bet selection.

Bayern v/s CSKA Moscow. Straight win for the defending champions.

Viktoria v/s Man City. Pellegrini knows UCL better than Mancini, so I expect City to do well in the competition this season. They should very well go through to the next round. They will have Kompany back for the game and should be difficult to score against. Viktoria are a decent team that actually managed to tie Milan at home a couple of years ago. So the Citizens should be on their guard on this one and it's safest to stick with them as a draw-no-bet.

Win: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Benfica
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Real Sociedad, Man City, PSG

Friday, September 13, 2013

EPL Week 4

This week-end will give a good indication of the impact of the transfer window on the conditions of the teams in the EPL. New acquisitions will need to settle in and some will do it quicker than others. The play and performance of the teams should give some direction as to expectations of them in the months ahead. Here's my view of the week-end matches.

Man Utd v/s Crystal Palace. Home win. This Man Utd team is still a work in progress under Moyes but they cannot afford to lose points at home to the visitors. There is no doubt that the Red Devils had a disappointing transfer window after their setbacks in recruiting some big names, but I think they did very well in getting Fellaini from Everton. He should give a tonic to a placid central midfield. RVP has been banging goals for the Netherlands during the international qualifiers, and there is little doubt that he will be on the score-sheet again on Saturday.

Aston Villa v/s Newcastle. This could be ripe for a draw, although Villa should be able to test the resolve of a suspect Newcastle defence. Cabaye makes his anticipated return for the Magpies after failing to secure a switch to Arsenal and Ben Arfa is always capable of springing a magical moment for the visitors. But this is a match Villains star striker Benteke must look forward to banging goals and if he's on song, the balance could tilt in favour of the hosts. Villa as draw-no-bet is the selection.

Fulham v/s West Brom. The Cottagers dropped their last two games and WBA have yet to record a win. They lost striker Odemwinge during the transfer window and I was surprised that they did not go all out for Chelsea's Lukaku. I give Fulham the edge here and a draw-no-bet on them look safe and value at current odds.

Hull v/s Cardiff. This could very well be a low-scoring affair with possibly a goal deciding this match, should there be a winner. Could go any result.

Stoke v/s Man City. The problem with giving full confidence to Man City these days is due to the absence of their captain and rock at the back, Vincent Kompany. His absence was clearly evident in their loss at Cardiff where they gave up 2 goals on corners. Although Stoke will certainly make life difficult for them, the Citizens have enough quality to settle this tie. They just cannot afford to lose this game after their recent debacle at Cardiff. Man City as draw-no-bet is the selection.

Sunderland v/s Arsenal. Ozil is the main name for the Gunners. I don't know if he's worth the amount of money they paid for him but the German is pure class and looks set to be a major playmaker for them. His arrival will have given confidence to the entire squad that they are a team that can aim high. Arsenal should win this and are a straight Win selection.

Tottenham v/s Norwich. No team has been affected more than Tottenham during this transfer window. They lost their soul in Bale and the main question is how his absence and the arrival of seven new players have affected the quality of the team. The pressure is on Villas-Boas to mould this new team into an equally-good or better team than last year's. Their first 3 matches have been laborious, having won 2 matches by the minimum score on 2 penalties and being blanked out at Arsenal. Norwich could not have found a better time to visit White Hart Lane and will definitely see to snatching at least a point out of this encounter. At current odds, Spurs look a decent draw-no-bet proposal.

Everton v/s Chelsea. If Chelsea play like they did against Bayern in the Super Cup, they should win this match in hand. Everton have yet to win this season and although their manager is saying the contrary, the departure of Fellaini is a blow for them (at least on the field). The fact that the Toffees are still not firing on all cylinders at the presenet means that Chelsea will certainly be looking for the win here. I think they'll succeed and are a Win selection.

Southampton v/s West Ham. The Hammers will do without striker Carroll and playmaker Joe Cole. It looks very much that manager Allardyce will try to park the bus and be content with a point. Southampton should have all its players from international duty in good condition and their good record at home points to either a win or draw in this match. I have them as a good draw-no-bet.

Swansea v/s Liverpool. How much valuable is Sturridge to Liverpool? Well, he scored the only 3 goals in their first 3 games, and all his goals have been match-winners. I think their good form is going to be hit hard when they travel to Swansea. I like the look of Laudrup's team. They play good football and are always a goalscoring threat to any team.  I selected them for an away win at WBA last week and I have confidence in them again to put an end to the Kops' winning record. Swansea is the value draw-no-bet of the week-end.

Win: Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea
Draw-no-bet: Southampton, Swansea, Tottenham, Man City, Fulham, Aston Villa