Tuesday, December 31, 2013

EPL Week 20

Happy New Year 2014 everyone! Wishing everyone a successful coming year, in and outside the punting arena. Some thoughts on the New Year's EPL matches.

Swansea v/s Man City. Swansea are currently on a winless streak that is mostly due to a horrendous injury list that includes their star striker Michu. They have been missing an out-and-out striker that can poach crucial goals like the Spaniard used to last season. Man City have been doing a lot better on their travels of late after having compiled a very poor away record during the first months. They will be missing playmaker Silva but their squad is big enough to cope with any loss at any position. I think it might be worth playing it from a tight-match angle and have the visitors as a draw-no-bet and have Swansea with a +1 goal handicap (draw is void).

Arsenal v/s Cardiff. This should end in a home win no matter what resilience Cardiff can come up with.

Crystal Palace v/s Norwich. I am probably of a minority, but I seriously believe that Crystal Palace are going to avoid relegation this season. The reason is new manager Pulis who's managed to get 3 wins already since his appointment. This is a 6-pointer for both teams, and I fancy the hosts as a draw-no-bet.

Fulham v/s West Ham. This will probably end in a draw or a home win. Best to avoid as the forms of both teams cannot be relied in any way.

Liverpool v/s Hull City. Suarez has been blanked for the past 2 matches and it would take a brave man to see him off the score-sheet in this one. Hull are mighty at home and well organized on the road. However, class should prevail here and it's hard to see the Kops being beaten at home, after 2 tough away defeats. Liverpool is a home win selection.

Southampton v/s Chelsea. This looks set to be a close one and I don't think there will be more than a goal separating the teams. Best to avoid as the result can go any way.

Sunderland v/s Aston Villa. The hosts are enjoying a revival under Poyet and this is a match they will be keen to get full points to avoid staying in the relegation limelight. Villa are woeful at the moment and cannot be backed in any way. I like Sunderland as a draw-no-bet in this one.

West Brom v/s Newcastle. I think the Baggies are under-valued in the current market. Last game week, I went against Newcastle when they hosted Arsenal and I think it worth to lay against them again this week. West Brom are a solid team at home and they look to be good value as draw-no-bet.

Man Utd v/s Tottenham.  The fortunes of the Red Devils seems to have turned for the better for the past weeks and they seem to be getting the rubber of the green, something they lacked in the prior games. I cannot see them lose this match and if Rooney makes it in the starting line-up, they could very well get full points. They are a win selection for good value, but if a safe route is preferred, then a draw-no-bet looks a safe selection.

Win: Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Brom
+1: Swansea

Friday, December 27, 2013

EPL Week 19

This is the part of the season where having a real squad can make a difference in winning and losing matches. With so many games in such a short span and injuries invariably mounting, managers need to get their rotations right.

West Ham v/s West Brom. This looks like a drab draw in the making. The Hammers are beset by injuries and goals look set to be hard to come by. The Baggies are still manager-less but would have been happy to snatch a point at White Hart Lane on Boxing Day. If this game is to decide a winner, it looks to be by the minimum goal but chances are that a draw is the likeliest result.

Aston Villa v/s Swansea. Another game with 2 teams with awful form. Both are playing without their star players in Benteke and Michu. Best to avoid.

Man City v/s Crystal Palace. Although the Eagles are enjoying a renewal since Pulis took over, there isn't a more difficult place to go than the Etihad. They will retain some hope to get at least something out of the game with the knowledge that they almost kept Chelsea in check at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago. After beating Liverpool, the hosts will need to retain their focus to play a weaker team and get the necessary full points. It might be easier said than done, but in the end, City have the best squad in the league and should have the necessary resources to get the win.

Norwich v/s Man Utd. I think the Red Devils are a little exposed here. They had to tough it out to win at Hull on Boxing Day and this is going to be another hard game. They will be thin at right-back with Valencia picking up a rather stupid late red card. Carrow Road is a place they have struggled over the past years. The Canaries are beset by a few injuries at the moment but they still battle hard at home. I think it might be worth to go with the hosts with a +1 handicap at current market odds.

Cardiff v/s Sunderland. Cardiff have just lost their manager and this does not bode well for the visit of Black Cats who will be invigorated after their latest away win at Everton. The momentum is clearly with Sunderland and I see them as a value draw-no-bet selection.

Newcastle v/s Arsenal. Newcastle are in flying form and I might be wrong, but I believe their current 5th position flatters them a bit. They are a Top 10 side, but definitely not Top 6. The Gunners can make them crash down to earth on any day, but they will be missing mercurial midfielder Aaron Ramsey, their best player since the start of the season. The good news for Arsenal is the return of striker Podolski after a 4-month absence. At current market odds, I like Arsenal as a draw-no-bet.

Chelsea v/s Liverpool. Can Brendan Rodgers, an old assistant to Mourinho, be the one to end the Portuguese's invincible league record at Stamford Bridge? On paper, it looks tough for that to happen since they will be missing Gerrard and Sturridge. The Kops came out enhanced in their Boxing Day defeat at the Etihad and they will have to produce another strong performance to overcome the hosts. I think a draw is the likeliest outcome and if there is to be a winner, it will probably be the hosts. Chelsea is a draw-no-bet selection.

Tottenham v/s Stoke. Still undecided on this Spurs side under Tim Sherwood, so will stay on the fence watching their next few games to come up on an opinion on which direction their season will be going.

Win: Man City
Draw-no-bet: Sunderland, Arsenal, Chelsea
+1 Goal: Norwich.

Friday, December 20, 2013

EPL Week 17

The games will be coming fast and furious during the festive season; bring'em on!

Liverpool v/s Cardiff. The Kops look to be the banker of the week-end. Even without Gerrard and Sturridge, they are in flying form thanks to Suarez. Cardiff, on the other hand, are rocked by a severe off-field dispute between manager and owner. Once the 90 mins are over, they could very well be manager-less. The Kops should win this by a margin and no need to mention who's most apt to score.

Crystal Palace v/s Newcastle. Many are giving the in-form Magpies a strong chance here. I will go the other way and make the Eagles the value draw-no-bet of the week-end. Under Pulis they are a becoming a resilient team that is difficult to break down. They've won 2 of the past 3 and came out with honours intact in last defeat at Stamford Bridge. I think Palace can avoid the drop with the kind of work ethic Pulis is instilling in the team.

Fulham v/s Man City. The news that Dempsey is to re-join Fulham on-loan is definitely a plus in its fight to stave off relegation. However, the visit of EPL favourites Man City, does not bode well for the hosts. Even without main striker Aguero, City has the best squad in the league and can manage goal-scoring threats from many other sources. Their recent win at Munich in particular, will give them the confidence to overcome their currently poor away league record. Man City are a Win selection.

Man Utd v/s West Ham. I think Man Utd is on a winning streak here after 2 dismal and well-documented home defeats. Should be a win for the Red Devils.

Stoke v/s Aston Villa. Mark Hughes seems to have finally impregnated the team with his footprint and they are now a difficult team to break down. They must have a great chance against the struggling Villains. I like the hosts as a safe draw-no-bet proposition.

Sunderland v/s Norwich. On paper, Sunderland should edge this although I am not sure how much a toll their extra-time win against Chelsea in mid-week will affect them. Norwich are very vulnerable on their away travels, and are hard to warrant any kind of confidence. This could very well end in a draw and better to sit on the fence.

Southampton v/s Tottenham. I just read that Tim Sherwood wants to be permanent manager of Spurs. Who? I mean, the guy has no managerial experience and has only won one piece of silverware in his career. Spurs are a team in disarray at the moment, and their mid-week loss at home to West Ham proves that unless they get the right, world-class manager at the helm as soon as possible, their season will turn for the worst. I thought they would be a top 6 team this year but unless they come up with someone good quick, they might not even get a European spot. The Saints' form hasn't been brilliant of late, but they have a good record at home and will be keen to pounce on a wounded opponent. The hosts are definitely a draw-no-bet recommendation.

Arsenal v/s Chelsea. I think the result can go any way, but I'd rather watch than have a punt on this one. Mourinho has a great record against Wenger teams, particularly as he has a knack of shackling teams that play offensive football. This is a 6-pointer game for both, and it won't be surprising if it ends in a draw.

Win: Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: Crystal Palace, Stoke, Southampton

Friday, December 13, 2013

EPL Week 16

Back after a short early break, the mind definitely freshened-up and ready to tackle the rumble and tumble of festive December football.

Man City v/s Arsenal. This is a 6-pointer, no doubt, with the 2 main contenders for the title according to the bookies. City are a formidable fortress at home but if there is team that can breach them, it is the Gunners. The mid-week away win at Bayern Munich could be the turning point of the Citizens' season because there is no doubt that it will have given them a huge confidence boost with the know-how that they went to beat the best team in the world at the moment. They have been stuttering in their EPL away games but a win in Munich can eliminate the mental barriers. On the other hand, Arsenal lost at Napoli in the UCL but still secured qualification. My concern is not the defeat in itself but rather the exertions they had to put in the game, especially having had to play with 10 men with the sending off of Arteta. So from a fitness point of view, the advantage is clearly with Man City and that tips the balance for me to the hosts. I see a draw-no-bet on the hosts as a safe and value selection.

Chelsea v/s Crystal Palace. Not sure which type of Chelsea team will show up on the day but I cannot see Mourinho's unbeaten home record being wrecked by the Eagles. The Blues should win this to keep their title hopes live.

Everton v/s Fulham. This should end in a home win. The Toffees have been impressive in winning at Old Trafford and securing a draw at Arsenal. This is a team growing in confidence under a good manager in Martinez. Fulham won last week but they can expect an entirely different proposition at Goodison Park. Everton is a Win selection.

Aston Villa v/s Man Utd. The bad news keep on piling for Man Utd as RVP will be missing a month because of a thigh injury. If they did not have Rooney in front, they would be in a worse situation than they are. They should however, have too much quality for the Villains who struggle to come up with good consistent performances week-in, week-out. Benteke is a non-factor at the moment. The selection is Man Utd as a draw-no-bet.

Tottenham v/s Liverpool. Spurs seem to be righting the ship after their calamitous 6-goal drubbing at the Etihaad a few weeks ago. Soldado scored a hat-trick in the Europa on Thursday and this could be the match he needed to finally start scoring on a regular basis. Liverpool have been rocked this week of the absence of Gerrard for more than a month. This is bad news for the Kops who are already missing striker Sturridge. That leaves Suarez as the only plausible man apt to score in this team. December could be a make or break month for Rodgers and his team. I see value going with Spurs as a draw-no-bet here.

Win: Everton, Chelsea
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Man Utd, Tottenham

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

EPL Week 14

My thoughts on some of the mid-week matches.

Arsenal v/s Hull. The visitors proved me wrong by beating Liverpool over the week-end. I don't think they will have another giant kill in the space of 4 days. Ozil seems to have waken up from his slight slumber in the last game and Ramsey is just unplayable at the moment. Should be a Gunners win.

Liverpool v/s Norwich. Whether it was a blip or it was a team badly missing Sturridge, but Liverpool were poor against Hull in their last match. To continue their UCL aspirations for a Top 4, they need to get maximum points against teams like Norwich. I think they will if Suarez can show he is as dangerous up-front without strike partner Sturridge. Should be worth going straight for the Kop win here.

Man Utd v/s Everton. Interesting match-up that pits Moyes against his old team. The Toffees are actually doing very well under Martinez and although they are going to miss Leighton Baines for a while, they are still a strong team to overcome without the England left-back. The Red Devils are on a good un-beaten run although they have dropped 4 crucial points in their last 2 games. I cannot see them lose this game and all indications are that they should win this in the end. Probably safest to go draw-no-bet with the hosts.

Southampton v/s Villa. The Saints will be missing goalkeeper Boruc for quite a while due to a broken hand. Their home record is pretty daunting and I expect them to overcome a Villa team that is average at best when Benteke is not scoring. At current odds, the hosts look good value as a win.

Swansea v/s Newcastle. The Magpies are running high and are in a surprise 6th position. I think the buck stops for them at Swansea this week. Although the Swans will be without Michu and Bony, they are still a quality side that can present challenges to any team  on their playground. I see Swansea as a strong draw-no-bet at current odds.

Fulham v/s Tottenham. I see a visitor win or draw here. New Fulham manager Meulensteen has proved a top coach at Man Utd but managing a team is an entirely different story. The side is poor and this is a good opportunity for Spurs to get back in the win column after some poor form of late. Their 2-2 draw against Man Utd will have brought back some good level of confidence to the side and I see them as a value draw-no-bet as well.

Win: Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Swansea, Tottenham