Wednesday, December 31, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 20

Happy New Year 2015 everyone! 

Some really quick lucid thoughts before the party starts! I see wins for Aston Villa, Liverpool, Man City, Newcastle, West Ham and Chelsea, with the rest being draws. Chelsea looks to be the main value punt as I see them doing the job at Spurs.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 19

The top of the table should stay unchanged at the end of Sunday but Man City are poised to close the gap against leaders Chelsea, who could very well drop points at Southampton.

Tottenham v/s Man Utd. Both teams boast reasonable form and I expect a tight match here. Spurs find a way to win their matches while Utd are hard to break down. It will be interesting to see how Van Gaal himself copes with the hectic festive schedule and its impact on the performance of his players. I give Spurs a slight home advantage here but a draw looks a likely result. Draw.

Southampton v/s Chelsea. Soton have righted the boat after a bad losing run. Chelsea can beat any opponent any day and are certainly worthy favourites to win the match. I think the Saints will give them a run for the money and will boldly predict a draw in this one. Draw.

Aston Villa v/s Sunderland. I couldn't see Sunderland losing at home to Hull last week-day and they flattered to disappoint me, not for the first time. I like Villa's form at home and I think they will either win or draw this. Home win.

Hull v/s Leicester City. This is a match-up among relegation teams that could go either way. Hull stopped a losing run by getting 3 all-important points at Sunderland a few days ago, yet that does not mean that they will easily best last-place team Leicester. Without any confidence, I think this one could end in a draw. Draw.

Man City v/s Burnley. No contest for City, maybe they'll look at polishing their goal difference. Home win.

QPR v/s Crystal Palace. This is a glorious opportunity for Rangers to secure 3 points against manager-less Palace. The hosts put in a decent display in their last loss to Arsenal and will rely on in-form striker Austin to do the damage. Home win.

Stoke v/s West Brom. Stoke did my predictions good last time out by winning at Goodison Park. Their home form is not as solid as it has traditionally be but they have a great chance of enhancing that record by beating exposed West Brom. The Baggies are out of sorts at the moment and it's a good time to oppose them. Home win.

West Ham v/s Arsenal. This is a tough trip for the Gunners and I see Hammers striker Carroll being a tall order for their suspect defence. Were it not for the incomparable Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal would be in an even more precarious position than their current one. Wenger teams haven't fared well against Allardyce's in the past and I think Big Sam will relish coming up trumps again against the Frenchman. I see this ending either as a home win or a draw. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Everton. This pits two teams that are on a bad run and any result is possible, with a draw looking the likely result. Draw.

Liverpool v/s Swansea. The Kops have a difficult game on their hands against solid Swansea. Raheem Sterling is their main threat but he has to be more clinical as a finisher. Swansea will certainly keep the scoreline tight and will fancy taking whatever chances they get with striker Bony. Punting on a draw could pay dividends here. Draw.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 18

Merry Xmas everyone! Thanks again for popping by, Missed the last week-end of football and just back from a much-appreciated sunny vacation and now ready for the EPL football galore of the holiday season. Got to say that EPL rocks with the continual football while the rest of the continent are taking their break. Here are my selections for the Boxing Day's matches.

Chelsea v/s West Ham. The Hammers are overachieving big time but the buck stops here at the Bridge. This should be another 3 points in the bag for the Blues even with the possible absence of Hazard. Home win.

Burnley v/s Liverpool. I've been burnt by some of the Burnley performances lately and I've come to the conclusion that they can be a force at home and also nick some points against exposed teams when on the road. Liverpool don't inspire any sort of confidence although they have enough quality to win this match on their best day. A draw looks the likeliest result and that's the selection. Draw.

Crystal Palace v/s Southampton. Both teams are on a woeful run, therefore any kind of result is possible here. Hard to gauge this but a draw could very be the value selection here. Draw.

Everton v/s Stoke. Everton seems to be huffing and puffing at the moment while Stoke have put in some very good performances on the road since the start of the season. It will not surprise me if the Potters actually nicked this given that the home team are not in the best form at the moment. If there is a value away win, it's this one. Away win.

Leicester v/s Tottenham. Spurs have relied on late winners an unbelievable amount of times this season and this could be another match where they make the difference at the very end. The Foxes don't seem to have any solution to get out of their current rut and I think Spurs will pile on their misery. Away win.

Man Utd v/s Newcastle. The return of Di Maria is a huge bonus for the Mancunians. They are playing with the confidence that they can outscore opponents and I think they will overpower this Newcastle team missing a few first-team players. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Hull. Looking at the market odds, I believe that the hosts are an absolute steal for the win. Hull are suffering from a plate of injuries at the moment and I can't see them overcoming a Sunderland team buoying after a last-ditch win against regional rivals Newcastle. Home win.

Swansea v/s Aston Villa. These teams look evenly-matched but Swansea get the edge with the benefit of playing at home. I can't see the final score being more of a goal difference and if there is to be a winner, it's probably going to go to the home team. Home win.

WBA v/s Man City. Manager Pellegrini is saying that City are on championship form but they will have to win this match convincingly for me to be a believer. My only worry about them is how they can consistently deal with the losses of Aguero, Dzeko and Jovetic. Sure they did it well against Palace last week-end but they will have to do it again and again in the upcoming matches. Silva and Toure will need to be lethal with the scoring chances coming their way. West Brom are on a woeful run and City will be determined to get the all important full points. Away win.

Arsenal v/s QPR. Arsenal should win this given QPR's away record and the fact that the latter will also be short of several first-team players. As long as they don't make their customary defensive mistakes, this should be 3 points in the bag for the home team. Home win.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 16

My quick selections for this week-end's matches. I expect the statu quo at the top with the leading contenders winning their respective matches.

Burnley v/s Southampton. Soton to resume back their winning ways here against sorry Burnley. Away win.

Chelsea v/s Hull. Chelsea should have no trouble getting full points here. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Stoke. A draw looks very likely here as Stoke are due a good point on the road while Palace have a solid record at home. Draw.

Leicester v/s Man City. Even without Aguero, the Citizens should prove too much for the bottom team in the league. Away win.

Sunderland v/s West Ham. I see the high-flying Hammers losing this one, albeit by a small margin. Home win.

WBA v/s Villa. If there is to be a drab 0-0 on the cards, it could be this one. Draw.

Arsenal v/s Newcastle. The visitors' winning run has to stop sometime and Arsenal really need a win to alleviate the pressure on Wenger. I think he might get some reprieve after this match. Home win.

Man Utd v/s Liverpool. Last season, the Kops easily won this feature and this result looks very unlikely this time. I see a home win here although the visitors can steal a draw with some luck. Home win.

Swansea v/s Tottenham. This looks to be a tight match and I see either a home win or a draw, and I'm more leaning on the latter. Draw.

Everton v/s QPR. Everton seem to have overcome their injury problems and they should be back to full strength for this fixture. QPR are a sorry team on the road and I can easily see them being over-matched at Goodison Park. Home win.

Friday, December 5, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 15

Chelsea are maintaining the tempo, and the rest of the pack are chasing hard. Man City are back in a groove and have the hottest player on the planet in Sergio Aguero. Man Utd are getting the all-important wins and Arsenal look to be on an upward curve with the return of Giroud, the regaining of form of Ramsey and mainly because of the supreme exploits of Alexis Sanchez. What a December football-nanza this promises to be.

Newcastle v/s Chelsea. The fact that the Magpies are struggling with injuries gives Chelsea an all-important advantage here. The Blues remain dangerous with or without Diego Costa to lead the front line. Got to go with another away win for Mourinho and co. Away win.

Hull v/s West Brom. These teams have lost their way a bit of late with the Baggies faring worst of the two by losing their last 4 matches. Home advantage to Hull although a draw could be in the cards. Home win.

Liverpool v/s Sunderland. Although they won at Leicester, I certainly don't think the Kops are out of the woods yet. Sunderland are more than capable of snatching at least a point in this encounter and I see a draw as being the value punt of the week-end. Draw.

QPR v/s Burnley. What a 6-pointer of a match. QPR boast a relatively good record at home and this is a glorious chance for them to beat another fellow struggler. Home win.

Stoke v/s Arsenal. Stoke are certain to show their rough physical side which Arsene Wenger's teams loathe to play against. The Potters were rather unlucky not to gain at least a point in their last travels to Anfield and Old Trafford. Although their home form is patchy at best, I think they will manage to squeeze a point out of this match. Draw.

Tottenham v/s Crystal Palace. Spurs go with the favours of home advantage here and I think they will just edge this. Home win.

Man City v/s Everton. Got to go with the champions here although they have an all-important UCL game a few days at Roma. Their confidence is sky high and Aguero looks set to punish a below-par Evertonian defence in their last couple of matches. Home win.

West Ham v/s Swansea. This looks a draw written all over between 2 teams that are aiming for a top 10 finish this season. Draw.

Aston Villa v/s Leicester. I can't see Leicester winning this one, this looks almost a home win certainty. Home win.

Southampton v/s Man Utd. This could be a high-scoring game with possibly a draw to separate the two. Soton are back to reality after tough encounters against Man City and Arsenal. Man Utd are on a winning run but they've ridden their luck in a couple of them. The injury loss to Di Maria certainly hampers their attacking prowess. A draw looks likely here. Draw.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 14

Here are my quick selections for today's and tomorrow's EPL matches.

Burnley v/s Newcastle. This should be a tight one between struggling Burnley and a Newcastle team that is decimated with injuries. The hosts' only hope of survival this year is to compound the points at home and they will aim to get at least a point out of this encounter. A draw looks very likely. Draw.

Leicester v/s Liverpool. Two teams that don't inspire any confidence in any sort of way. Leicester put a dogged fight in their last defeat at QPR and Liverpool took the spoils late against Stoke. Typically, if Liverpool find any sort of their premium form, they should win this. But it's a big if. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Stoke. Man Utd are on a winning run but Stoke are no push-overs, particularly on the road. They almost snatched a point at Anfield on Saturday. I think that the short rest time plays in the hosts' favour here because of their bigger squad. They will miss Di Maria but have enough talent and more importantly confidence to see through this match. Home win.

Swansea v/s QPR. Bony is on fire for the hosts and they will aim to capitalize on full points against lowly Rangers. The latter edged Leicester over the week-end but they have an awful away form that looks to get worse against a solid Swansea team. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Villa. The Villains should have won their last away match against Burnley only to be tied late in the game. Palace boast solid form at home and are always a goal-scoring threat. They might just edge this. Home win.

WBA v/s West Ham. I don't think there will be lots of goals in this one and a difference of a goal might just settle this. The result could go any way but if there is a winner, WBA get the benefit of home advantage. Draw.

Arsenal v/s Southampton. Has the Saints bubble burst? Too soon to say but Arsenal seem on the verge to turn things around and have my vote here. Arsene Wenger's teams always go on a winning run after a patchy spell and I sense their last UCL win against Dortmund have uplifted the team in that direction. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Spurs. Again Spurs nicked it in the dying seconds against Everton. I am no fan of the way that they have won their last matches. Chelsea are the best team they will have encountered to date and I don't think they have the weapons to withstand the Blues's juggernaut. Home win.

Everton v/s Hull. This should be a straightforward home win. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Man City. I truly think City are on a run here after their defeat of Bayern Munich. Away win.

Friday, November 28, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 13

My quick seleetions for this week-end's EPL matches.

WBA v/s Arsenal. I feel the Gunners will start picking up and their convincing UCL win against top team Dortmund might just keep them the needed tonic. Away win.

Burnley v/s Villa. Roy Keane's gone for Villa and this is a glorious chance to break their winless streak. Away win.

Liverpool v/s Stoke. Stoke are surprisingly better on the road and Liverpool are a team currently in disarray. A draw could be the result that would however not suit both of these teams. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Hull. Hull were unlucky last week and Man Utd rode their luck in their win at the Emirates. If they win this, they could be on a winning run. I think they will. Home win.

QPR v/s Leicester. A 6-pointer for both teams, I give the hosts home advantage here. Home win.

Swansea v/s Crystal Palace. Two teams with OK form and I expect a tight match here with possibly only a goal separating the two if there is to be a winner. Draw.

West Ham v/s Newcastle. I see the Magpies winning run end here as West Ham are playing with great purpose, particularly at home. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Chelsea. There's nothing stopping this Chelsea machine at the present, not yet. Away win.

Southampton v/s Man City. I think the quite miraculous win against Bayern will give renewed impetus to the visitors. I mean, there cannot be a better wake-up call than the way that they have come back from the dead in the UCL. They have the capacity to blow this Saints team away if all the pieces fall in their places. Away win.

Tottenham v/s Everton. I feel Everton can do the job here as they are the side which inspires the greater confidence to side with. Spurs have ridden their luck in quite a few of their games lately and they will need to be at the top of their game against the solid visitors. I don't think they are there yet, so I see value in backing the Toffees. Away win.

Friday, November 21, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 12

Call it Perfect Saturday on Week 11 as all 7 selections won on the day. I dare not think of what that would have brought on an accumulator, but hopefully some of you dove in. Hoping that this week-end's selections come up trumps as well.

Chelsea v/s West Brom. Anyone still doubting that Chelsea won't win the title this year? I say they will win in a canter. This match against WBA will be a tough one as the Baggies are showing that they are a no-nonsense team with great fighting spirit. A close match it might be, but in the end though, the Blues should prevail. Home win.

Everton v/s West Ham. The Toffees will be without some key players for this match, none more affluent than Leighton Baines. West Ham have great form going in this match but I feel their star will start falling soon. I think the home team wins this by just. Home win.

Leicester v/s Sunderland. If there is an away win that I fancy on Saturday, it's in this match where the Black Cats can overcome a Leicester team in great need of confidence and renewed momentum. After a horrible spell of matches where they got annihilated big time, Sunderland scored an important first away win at Crystal Palace. Striker Steven Fletcher has regained his goal-scoring touch and it won't be surprising if he gets on the scoreboard again in this match. Since their fluke win against Man Utd, everything has been going downhill for the Foxes and it's only the beginning of their descent, I think. Away win.

Man City v/s Swansea. A tough match for the champions as Swansea are a really organized team. One's got to think that without Aguero, Man City would be nowhere near Chelsea at the moment. The Argentinian striker is carrying City on his shoulders and when he's not on-song, it spells big trouble for the Citizens. This match can really go either way and I see a draw here. Draw.

Newcastle v/s QPR. Newcastle has risen from the doldrums in recent weeks and are no longer in the precarious position they were in at the start. Manager Pardew's position looks safer as well. They will be missing some key men for this match but QPR is one of the easiest preys out there, so I see Newcastle just edging this. Home win.

Stoke v/s Burnley. This should be an easy win for the home team against a side that should keep struggling all year long. Home win.

Arsenal v/s Man Utd. An interesting game with both teams vying for a Champions League place rather than the title itself. Man Utd have only been beaten once by the Gunners in their last 8 games but all statistics should be thrown out of the window because they are 2 different teams from past years. The Gunners will have ex-Red Devil Wellbeck at the front line, while Utd are a Van Gaal team now. The loss of Blind over the course of the week is a big blow for the visitors; he was starting to be their midfield fulcrum. This should be a tight game and a draw looks the likeliest result. Draw.

Crystal Palace v/ Liverpool. The Kops have lost Sturridge for a few more weeks and Balotelli is also out injured which means that Ricky Lambert is their first-choice striker at the moment. I think Liverpool will keep struggling for the little while and they have a tough trip to Palace who sport good form at home. I see the Eagles outscoring the visitors in this one, so the selection is a home win. Home win.

Hull v/s Tottenham. Spurs have a history of struggling after a mid-week game or the international break and I see Hull piling on their current problems in this match. Home win.

Aston Villa v/s Southampton. The way I see it is that Villa are due a win sooner than later and Southampton's second position in the league is more than flattering. Sooner a balance should happen. This should be a tight match and the winner will probably be the one taking the most of its chances. Villa should have the most of the scoring opportunities and can very well take 3 badly-needed points. Home win.

Friday, November 7, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 11

With Man City having alarmingly hit a ceiling in their past few games, the only word is Chelsea at the moment. I can see them taking an even bigger leap forward by winning at Anfield while City could very well get stuck at QPR.

Liverpool v/s Chelsea. It is very well documented how the Kops lost the league in this match-up last year following Gerrard's famous slip. If comparisons are to be made with last year, this Liverpool team is considerably weakened while Chelsea is miles better than last year. So, the Blues will go all guns blazing for the win here. They drew in their visits to Manchester this year, games that they were very close to winning. I can't see the visitors losing this match and Liverpool will be happy and fortunate to get a point. Away win.

Burnley v/s Hull. Could this be the match for Burnley to finally secure a first win? Hull's visit should be one of their best chances to finally break their duck. This match could swing either way but a Burnley win could be a worthy longshot punt. Home win.

Man Utd v/s Crystal Palace. The trials and tribulations of the Mancunians are daily newspaper fodder but this is an improving team by the week. They should win this even with a depleted defensive corps. Home win.

Southampton v/s Leicester. This should be 3 more points for Koeman's men. Their star striker Pelle should be relishing adding to his astonishing goal tally. Home win.

West Ham v/s Aston Villa. I mentioned before that Villa were due a win and they were unfortunate to lose against Spurs last week-end. Were it not for the dismissal of Benteke, they looked great value for the win. West Ham will be keen to continue on their very good vein of form and are difficult to breach at home. This encounter looks tight and it would be no surprise to see it end on an even note. Draw.

QPR v/s Man City. Man City will have the benefit of knowing Chelsea's result at Anfield before starting the match. Whether that will be an advantage remains to be seen. This match could end in a blowout for the visitors as on paper, there is a gulf between the 2 teams. However, the likelier scenario is that further misery will be heaped on the visitors following their mid-week debacle in Europe. Rangers gave Chelsea a fright last week and there is no better time for them to face the out-of-sorts visitors. Again, a long punt might be worth chancing on the hosts and a draw will reap significant dividends as well. Draw.

Sunderland v/s Everton. The hosts put a stop to their horrendous losing run by beating Crystal Palace last week-end. Everton only drew against Swansea but they are a team on the upgrade. A draw could be the end result here although the Toffees have enough quality to settle this. Draw.

Tottenham v/s Stoke. I am not convinced with the displays of Spurs at the moment and I feel they are still a vulnerable team finding their feet under Pochettino's new system.  There is no disputing the squad is talented but they seem to be winning games based on individual flashes rather than solid team play. They should never have won at Villa last week-end. On the other hand, Stoke should have won their last game but threw away a 2-goal lead against the Hammers. This should be an even match and a draw looks a high possibility. Draw.

WBA v/s Newcastle. Both teams are sporting good form at the moment and I just fancy WBA because they are playing at home where they are very decent. Newcastle's good winning run could very well end here. Home win.

Swansea v/s Arsenal. This is a tricky game for title challengers Arsenal. Swansea are a well-managed team that are not afraid to go head-to-head with even the best teams. They cannot be under-estimated in any way. The Gunners shockingly gave away a 3-goal lead in mid-week against Anderlecht and Monk's men are definitely a tougher proposal. The great news from the Gunners' front is the form of Alexis Sanchez who is currently defences apart and scoring in the bucket load as well. Hard to separate both teams and this could go any result. Draw.

Friday, October 31, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 10

With Man City's recent woes, Chelsea is about to widen the gap at the top and the excitement of the race to the top could be put to bed sooner than expected. Of course, there will be twists and bounds and it's too early to declare a winner but Chelsea are in a very strong position at the moment.

Newcastle v/s Liverpool. The Magpies comprehensively beat Man City in the Carling Cup in mid-week and they are in resurgence mode. This is bad news for Liverpool who are nowhere near optimal form. They are badly lacking Sturridge up-front and they look vulnerable here. This should end in a home win or draw and I favour the former. Home win.

Arsenal v/s Burnley. No ingeniosity into thinking that this will be a Gunners win. The main question is by how much. Walcott might return for this game and give the home side some much-needed impetus. Home win.

Chelsea v/s QPR. Another home win here. Can't see Chelsea giving away the 3 easy points on offer. Home win.

Everton v/s Swansea. Everton have started a good run but will be put to the test by a good Swansea side. The visitors nearly won at Anfield in mid-week and they are giving the habit of proving resilient opponents to whoever they play. This should be a tight game which might very well end in a draw, but I suspect that the home side will just edge this in the end. Home win.

Hull v/s Southampton. These 2 teams are enjoying a good spell at the moment. Southampton have found a gem of a striker in Pelle. Hull are a solid team and difficult to break down. This should be an even battle with a draw looks the likeliest result. Draw.

Leicester v/s WBA. The Foxes have to rack up the points at home in they are to avoid relegation as they are simply too weak on the road. WBA are an on-off team but on their best day can take all the points here. This can go any result with the draw the most probable outcome. Draw.

Stoke v/s West Ham. Another possible draw on the cards. Stoke have good form at home and the confidence of the Hammers should be high after dominating Man City in their last home win. A dra 0-0 that will satisfy both parties, should not be a surprise here. Draw.

Man City v/s Man Utd. The Manchester derby does not look as lopsided as it would have looked a couple of weeks back. City are reeling at the moment after back-to-back defeats against West Ham and Newcastle. The theory of second-season blues for Pellegrini could be very well founded. The absence of Silva for the Citizens makes their task more complicated as the little Spanish genius has been one of their brightest sparks of late. Rivals Man Utd managed to tie Chelsea in the dying seconds at Old Trafford last week-end and it will have brought back some much needed swagger to the team. The Red Devils needed that kind of impetus and this could kick-start a good run for them. However, going to beat City at the Etihaad could be out of their reach. For all their woes, Man City still have the deepest squad in the league and should again be formidable at home. I think the hosts will edge this. Home win.

Aston Villa v/s Tottenham. Villa are due a win very soon and this could come against a Spurs team that are still finding their feet under Pochettino. The hosts are relying much on striker Benteke but he's been struggling since returning from long-term injury. Spurs were shocked at home to Newcastle last week-end and I find it tough to see them as winners here. It looks more probable that Villa will prevail in front of their front crowd. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Sunderland. The last 2 Sunderland games have been rather extraordinary. First, there was their 0-8 bomb at Southampton, where they committed more errors than a first grader. They  kept their error rate high against Arsenal last week, with keeper Mannone blundering on the Gunners' second goal. Palace are strong at home and they look set to pounce on a team that is in much need of confidence. Home win.

Friday, October 24, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 9

West Ham v/s Man City. This is a tough one for the visitors because the Hammers are sporting good form and are not easy to be broken down. City had trouble to overcome Villa on their last away match a few weeks ago and this is a similar sort of challenge. They will rely on in-form Aguero again and the sooner they get on the score-sheet, the better for them. Class should tell at the end, but I expect nervy moments for the away fans. Away win.

Liverpool v/s Hull. If there is going to be a major upset this week-end, I think it will be this match. Liverpool were thrashed in mid-week in the UCL and are a team in poor confidence at the moment. They are greatly missing Sturridge to steer them out of trouble. Raheem Sterling is the only Kop playing consistently and well. Hull almost stole 3 points at the Emirates last week-end and they will certainly not be intimidated by an arguably weaker team than the Gunners. The value might be going with the away team but a draw is as likely a result as well. Draw.

Southampton v/s Stoke. The Saints blitzed sorry Sunderland in an amazing 8-0 win last Saturday. Stoke were lucky to edge Swansea as their tying penalty was clearly a dive by Moses. Stoke did the business at the Etihaad a few weeks ago and it would not be a shock if they were to win here. However, Southampton has the momentum and they are fancied to win this one. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Arsenal. Both team don't inspire any confidence at the moment. Sunderland were the victims of one of the worst outings ever when thrashed at St Mary's by a whopping eight goals to none. Arsenal failed to beat Hull last Saturday and then had to rely on 2 goals in the dying minutes to beat Anderlecht in their UCL mid-week match. They might edge this one as well, although the odds seem to be very much in favour of a draw. Draw.

WBA v/s Crystal Palace. WBA held Man Utd to a draw on Monday with 2 very well-taken goals. Palace were comprehensively beaten at home to Chelsea, as expected. The result could go any way here as these teams are closely matched. Draw.

Swansea v/s Leicester. I see the home team getting back to winning ways here. They were unlucky not to get something out of their last match against Stoke. Leicester don't inspire any confidence on their road travels. I think Swansea have a long overdue win in them and they should win this one. Home win.

Burnley v/s Everton. Burnley's season is coming to shreds. Everton is getting better and better. They had a hard away match in mid-week but I still expect them to be competitive in this one. Away win.

Tottenham v/s Newcastle. Spurs got an impressive win in the Europa league on Thursday but the opposition was inferior to even the lowly Newcastle. The Magpies stole this match last year following keeper Krul's heroics. I don't see such a scenario happening again and I think Spurs can double up another win in 4 days. Home win.

Man Utd v/s Chelsea. The way both teams are playing, Chelsea will definitely be fancying full points here. The hosts are weak at the back and Mourinho will seek to exploit on those weaknesses. The Blues are strong enough on defence to withstand the Utd onslaught and keep their goals-against to a minimum. I think Chelsea will either win or draw this. Away win.

QPR v/s Villa. Both teams are in urgent need of points after a disastrous few weeks. How Rangers lost to Liverpool last week is mind-blowing. This match looks relatively easier for the visitors after having tackled heavy guns lately. A draw seems likely here unless Redknapp goes for the jugular again at the end. Draw.

Friday, October 17, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 8

As is very common after international breaks, there are bound to be surprise results in this week-end's matches, so not throwing caution to the wind is probably a good idea. Here are my selections.

Man City v/s Tottenham. The champions were on a good roll before the break, and will be keen to keep the momentum going to keep in the touch with the pace set by Chelsea. They were made to work hard in their last win at Villa and moments of brilliance from Toure and Aguero, as expected, made the difference. That they did not panic during the long spells of sterile domination attests to the state of mind analogous to champions. Spurs are still finding their feet with their new coach and new players settling in. They will certainly be resilient but should eventually be broken down by the mighty attacking prowess of the home team. It could be close but Man City should prevail in the end. Home win.

Arsenal v/s Hull. The Gunners lost Ozil for a couple of months, which is a huge blow, although some think that it might be positive given the German's indifferent form. Truth is, Ozil is a game-changer and the Gunners badly need one at the moment with the absence of Walcott and Ramsey. The Gunners really need a win here to get on the title-charging bandwagon. They will huff and puff against a compact Hull side but once they can open the scoring, they should be in for a badly-needed win. Home win.

Burnley v/s West Ham. This is an ideal spot for the Hammers to claim full points, with Burnley yet to record a win. It seems whoever scores first will have a distinct advantage here. I think a share of the spoils is a real possibility here. Draw.

Crystal Palace v/s Chelsea. The Blues saw their title hopes evaporate last year when they lost this fixture in the title run-in. You can expect Mourinho to have learnt from that. This Palace team will be slightly different though, as Warnock has replaced Pulis as manager. With Costa at the forefront, Chelsea are always a threat to score at any time. The Eagles will give it a go, but class should tell here and the visitors will certainly be gunning for another valuable 3 points in the bag. Away win.

Everton v/s Aston Villa. One thing that is obvious but not too much so when looking at the standings, is that Everton are certainly better than their 17th ranking. With their current squad, they should be on a good run soon and that could very well start against the visiting Villains. The latter are having a horrible run of their own following a run of brutal encounters with the top teams. A hungry home team should add to their woes. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Leicester. Manager Pardew will probably not last much longer at Tyneside but this match gives him and his men an excellent opportunity to get their first win of the season. Striker Papiss Cisse has been the lone bright spot for the Magpies with some fine goals in recent matches and he will certainly relish taking on one of the worst defences in the league. Leicester have shown admirable tenacity in all their matches but I doubt they will be able to keep their momentum; a reality check might be more in the offing for them. Home win.

Southampton v/s Sunderland. I see Southampton getting back to winning ways here. They are playing well as a cohesive unit and will only get better as the season progresses. Although Sunderland got their first win in their last match, they do not inspire confidence as to replicate the same vein of form, week-in week-out. Striker Steve Fletcher seems to be hitting good form for them, but Southampton have my vote for the win. Home win.

QPR v/s Liverpool. Relegation expert Harry Redknapp is certainly not getting the job done at Rangers so far. They will be missing influential Mutch and Barton. Their displays have been listless, to say the least. The coming of Liverpool does not bode well for them. Sturridge might return to give their attack much-needed impetus. Sterling is always a threat and is developing into a top winger. Liverpool need the win to catch up with the leaders and I think they will get the 3 points. Away win.

Stoke v/s Swansea. This is a match between 2 teams of even strength that will end in the middle of table come May next year. None are in a rich vein of form or lack of, and a draw could be the likeliest result. Draw.

WBA v/s Man Utd. The Red Devils owed their last win to the heroics of keeper De Gea in the dying minutes of the match against Everton. Need to see those top-class saves from this budding star goalkeeper to understand how good he's becoming. Falcao got his first Premiership goal in that match as well, and has again scored for Columbia during the international break. If he's on a streak, then the WBA defenders are in for a tough encounter. WBA have a young starlet striker in Berahino but this week again, I see the Red Devils outscoring their opponents and get another win under Van Gaal. Away win.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Arc de triomphe 2014 - Can a Prince upset the fillies, the Japanese, and the odds?

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, my favourite race, as regular readers will know. Sure, there won't be Australia or Sea The Moon, but this year's race is without doubt a vintage one regrouping several top-class horses with a chance to enter racing folklore by winning the world's most prestigious prize. Here are my thoughts on those I consider the main protagonists as well as those that are at the forefront of the market but which I don't give much of chance.

Taghrooda, Britain's best filly, is the rightful favourite for the race.  Three-year old fillies have a fantastic record in this race, notably because of the generous weight allowance in their favour. She's only been floored once in her career and the word from trainer John Gosden is that she was in season when beaten by Tapestry on that occasion. She has beaten males and her elders in the King George and is by far the best middle-distance filly in the world in my opinion. She has such great tactical speed that her bad draw should not be a factor. Provided she's not in season again, she should play a leading role here and I see her in the first 3.

Ectot is clearly Hurricane Run's best progeny to date. The mile and a half is his optimum distance. A winner of 6 of his 7 races, his Classic career has been beset by injuries. He won the Prix Niel three weeks ago after several months layoff. On his best day, he should be in with a leading chance. My only worry about him is whether he will bounce from his last race, having come up with a big winning effort after a long layoff. If he does not bounce, don't be surprised if he wins this.

Harp Star. The best Classic filly from Japan and definitely one with a live chance if she takes to the Longchamp track. As with other 3-year old fillies, the weight allowance will play to her advantage. By Deep Impact, she should relish the distance. She's top-class and could be the one to realize the Japanese dream of finally winning the Arc.

Just A Way. The highest-rated horse in the world and possibly the best horse going up to a mile and a quarter. He is not proven at the mile and a half distance and that is a big negative for me. Although he is a live chance for many, in my books he's the one with the least prospect of winning among the Japanese raiders. He thrashed them all in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan but the added distance will have others see him out.

Avenir Certain. Unbeaten in 6 career races, she is the best Classic filly in France having won the French Guineas and Oaks. The only un-certainty regarding her is the distance and being by Le Havre does not dispel doubts about her stamina. The way she won her 2 races at a mile and a quarter seems to indicate that she will have enough class to see out the twelve-furlong distance. She's been drawn in stall 1 and will need to ensure that she finds the necessary passage at the right time. I think she's top-class and will be in the first 3.

Treve. 3 outings and 3 defeats this year, no-one thought that she would have gone downhill to that extent after winning this race a year ago. This week, her connections gave yet another round of positive vibes about her, but after 3 comprehensive defeats, it's hard to take those with confidence. Dettori, her jocked-off rider says she's gone, and I will concur with him. I think she is no longer the same filly as last year and retirement will be the route to take with her.

Tapestry. Supplemented with a hefty sum at the final declaration of the race, so the Coolmore boys must be confident. They have every reason to be after she shocked Tahgrooda on her last outing although there seems to be excuses from the beaten connections (see above). Still, she race a fantastic race on that occasion. She's been beaten since then but at an unsuitable mile distance. With everything said, I am camping with the thought that Taghrooda is the one to side with and thus I don't see Coolmore celebrating in the end.

Gold Ship. A top-class Japanese middle-distance performer who is capable of some quirky races, not no to the extent of Orfevre's follies. His chances should be similar to Harp Star and the two dug out a closely-fought duel this year with the filly coming out on top by a slight margin. Cannot be dismissed by any means and many Japanese will be rooting for him to break their duck.

Ruler of the World. He is a Derby winner and recent of the Prix Foy, one of the main Arc trials. Will be ridden by Dettori who's very bullish on him. I am not. I think he's overhyped and will find the others much too good.

Kingston Hill. The St Leger winner should be out of depth here. Many Leger winners have failed and he's destined to be the same.

Prince Gibraltar. He is 40/1 as I write this. A summary of him will be as follows: he's been a favourite of the French Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris and got beaten (with excuse) on both of them. He was then heavy favourite of a Group 2 race and was again beaten. Is he an over-hyped horse or just unlucky? The truth seems somewhere in between. He is no easy mount, usually hangs left at the finish, and has had back problems. Provided his trainer has worked on those, this is a horse that has a fantastic turn of foot and for whom the distance will not be a problem. If he shows up on his best day, he should be thereabouts at the finish. I think he's the dark horse going in this race and under the radar for that matter at 40/1.

Prince Gibraltar is an each-way selection and I will have him, Taghrooda and Avenir Certain in the first 3.

Friday, October 3, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 7

Huge huge strike last week-end with bulls-eye hit on 8 of the 10 predictions, so hoping to keep riding the momentum wave and upholding the form.

Hull v/s Crystal Palace. Palace are enjoying the better form of the two and playing with great confidence at the moment, be it at home or on the road. I don't anticipate many goals in this one and last year's matches between the two resulted in 1-nil outcomes. A draw looks highly probable here. Draw.

Leicester v/s Burnley. This is a match between 2 teams tipped largely by the general population to go down, so this is an important 6-pointer for both. Home advantage to the host team here, who will also try to benefit from the fact that Burnley haven't been able to score in their last 4 matches. Home win.

Liverpool v/s WBA. Liverpool won't win the league this year, it's really stating the obvious. I said this last season too and almost ate my words, but I am pretty confident they will not challenge this year, given the poor way they've started the season. They lost in the UCL at Basel but should be able to regroup to beat West Brom. The Baggies shocked Spurs at White Hart Lane last week-end but lightning does not strike twice. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Stoke. It would be amazing if Sunderland snatched yet another draw. I think they are due a win shortly. Stoke can be resilient and their last away win at Man City shows that they are not to be under-estimated by any means. Still, I think the Black Cats are up for a win and this could be the match for them to break their duck. Home win.

Swansea v/s Newcastle. Needless to say that Pardew's tenure at Newcastle is hanging by a thread and defeat at Swansea will only lower the already-low odds for his sack. However, this match does not bode well for the Magpies as Swansea have good form at home. The loss of Papiss Cisse might be too much for the visitors to overcome and I see the crisis deepening on Tyneside. Home win.

Aston Villa v/s Man City. The Villains could welcome back striker Benteke but that might not be enough to stop the champions. The hosts will still be missing captain and defensive rock Vlaar. The Citizens were unlucky not to get full points against Roman in the UCL over the week but they are starting to hit good form; Lampard and Aguero, in particular, are on a good scoring trend. I don't think City will lose this match and the most Villa can hope here is a draw. Still, I think going with a win for the visitors, is the preferred selection. Away win.

Man Utd v/s Everton. Rooney will be missing the match against his old team due to suspension. Come in Mata and it will be interesting to see the dynamic with him as the offensive midfield commander. The Red Devils are fragile at the back and Toffees striker Lukaku could very well lighten the score sheet here. Everton had to play an Europa match in mid-week which might take its toll at the end of the match. I think the United strikeforce will pounce again and the hosts will outscore their opponents in the end. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Arsenal. Both played in mid-week but let's look at the main fact here; Wenger has never beaten a Mourinho team and there is only animosity between the 2 managers. Wellbeck might have scored a hat trick against Galatasaray but the Chelsea defence is something else. Arsenal are in ok form right now, nothing more. They lost this fixture 6-to-nil last year and although there is hardly any chance that there will a similar scoreline, everything points to another Chelsea win. Home win.

Tottenham v/s Southampton. It will be a battle between manager Pochettino and his previous team. Spurs were arguably unlucky to be held to a draw in their mid-week match against Besiktas. They are in a poor vein of form with only a win in their last 7 matches. Southampton are riding a good wave at the moment, led by striker Pelle. They will cause Spurs trouble but I fancy the hosts to bounce back and get a much-needed win in the end.

West Ham v/s QPR. This looks like a drab London Derby and I have no confidence backing either of them at the present. If QPR can snatch an away win this year, this match could represent a good start for them. However, their leaky defence will certainly present the Hammers opportunities to put the contest to bed. For value, going with a QPR win might be very rewarding, but a draw could be the likelier result. Draw.

Friday, September 26, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 6

Arsenal v/s Tottenham. Both teams having been gathering see-saw results lately and are definitely not in the best of forms going into this match. But usually for this kind of derby, all form is thrown out of the window and the more enterprising team usually comes up on top. Arsenal also have the benefit of home advantage here and should use it to full effect to edge this match. Home win.

Liverpool v/s Everton. What I wrote above could pretty much be applied to this Merseyside derby. Both teams are certainly not in full flow at the moment and the only 2 bright lights have come from Sterling from the Kops and Lukaku for the Toffees. With the Kops' poor form, this looks like Everton's best chance to get a win at Anfield for years; they will feel that they can win this. This fixture rarely ends in a draw but I think this could very well be the case this year. Draw.

Chelsea v/s Aston Villa. I expect Chelsea to keep their comfortable march at the head of the pack and see off visitors Villa. With Mourinho, they are practically impossible to beat at home and although the Villains went to win at Anfield on their last road trip, I can't see them repeating the same success in London. Costa, Hazard and Fabregas are on a tear and should again create opportunities by the buck-load. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Leicester. I don't think Leicester will be up to the heroics as to their last game against Man Utd. They have great fighting spirit but Crystal Palace will not be as leaky as the Man Utd defence and more importantly,  they most probably won't benefit again from the kind of generosity referee Clattenburg allowed them. Neil Warnock is having the Eagles playing with purpose and they look good for the 3 points. Home win.

Hull v/s Man City. I have a feeling that the Citizens will start embarking on a winning run in the coming games. Aguero and Silva should be back from injury to give significant impetus to their attack. I thought Hull made an interesting coup in getting Ben Arfa from Newcastle at the transfer deadline and if given the proper chance, the Frenchman can add firepower to their rather average offence. The gulf in class should tell here and I see City coming out with the win. Away win.

Man Utd v/s West Ham. I will repeat it again; I thought Mark Clattenburg gave the victory to Leicester last week-end with his blown calls on the first 2 Leicester goals. An incompetent referee can decide games unfortunately. However, this is not an excuse for the poor Man Utd defence; possibly one of the most feeble in the league at this point. They should get better in that department as the season progresses but probably not for the West Ham match as the bulk of the defence will be out injured or suspended. Still, the Red Devils were sensational on their attacks and they are a good proposition to outscore the Hammers to come away with a vital win. West Ham will possibly score but so will the hosts. Home win.

Southampton v/s QPR. Ronald Koeman is simply doing miracles for the Saints. QPR are a listless team on the road and will be without some creative players in Barton, Mutch and Taraabt among others. The most Rangers can aspire to is a draw but I still think that the Saints will edge this. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Swansea. The hosts are becoming specialists of the draw and Swansea are on a losing run after having won their 3 opening matches. The visitors will have striker Bony back. Probably another draw in the offing for Sunderland but this match could really swing either way. Draw.

West Brom v/s Burnley. The visitors have been amazingly involved in draw-less outcomes in their last 3 matches. WBA went to grab a shocking 3 points at White Hart Lane last week-end. This looks to be a tight defensive match and I can't separate the teams. Draw.

Stoke v/s Newcastle. The result will depend on which type of Stoke and Newcastle teams show up. Stoke have poor form at home and the Magpies haven't been able to win a match so far, besides in the Carling Cup. There is no confidence in backing either team and Stoke probably hold the aces with home advantage. Home win.

Friday, September 19, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 5 Predictions

QPR v/s Stoke. Stoke are the most un-reliable team to follow at the moment. They got beat at home by Leicester last week-end after having won against all odds at Man City. Their best form seems to be on the road where they managed a win and a draw in 2 matches. Rangers got thrashed, as expected, at Old Trafford last Sunday and it was disappointing to see that they did not offer more opposition to the Mancunians. It's as if they went into the match already beaten. Even with Redknapp and Hoddle at the helm, from what they are showing so far, they look set to play a major part in fighting relegation. This could end in a dour nil-nil, and a draw is probably the most probable outcome. Draw.

Aston Villa v/s Arsenal. The Villains are the surprise package so far this season and their last win at Anfield tell a tale that they should not be taken lightly. It seems that new assistant manager Roy Keane is having some kind of influence on the squad. Arsenal were greatly disappointing in their mid-week UCL loss at Dortmund. Rarely have I seen an Arsenal side so poor in a European game. Newcomer Wellbeck is creating chances but cannot score a goal but he should be on the scoreboard shortly. The Gunners really need to kick-start their season if they are to contend and I see them edging this contest by just. Away win.

Burnley v/s Sunderland. Burnley have racked up 2 consecutive scoreless draws but should be confident to at least score one against the Black Cats' leaky defence. Sunderland were arguably lucky to snatch a draw against Tottenham last Saturday but will look to this match to finally garner a win. I think there's value going with the away side here. Away win.

Newcastle v/s Hull. Newcastle's Pardew is the man in the hot seat at the moment and the coming of Hull might give him and his side some reprieve. It is however, hard to have any sort of confidence on the Magpies side that got thrashed at Southampton in their last match. Hull will be true to their colours and play tight at the back and rely on counter-counting forays. A draw looks probable. Draw.

Swansea v/s Southampton. Swansea gave Chelsea a fright last Saturday and will welcome back striker Bony. I have to say that Chris Monk is doing a fine job managing the side and they look like a top 10 team. Southampton too have done a pleasing start under new coach Koeman and are not feeling the ill effects of major key player departures. Another draw on the cards, in my opinion. Draw.

West Ham v/s Liverpool. Although they flopped at home to Villa and were lucky to win their UCL match in mid-week, it's hard to see Liverpool get overturned in this one, particularly with West Ham being hard-done by a string of injuries. The difference in class should tell and the Kops should get the 3 points. Away win.

Leicester v/s Man Utd. It is a measure of the way things have gone bad at Old Trafford since the glory days when a thrashing of lowly QPR heralded that the Red Devils were back. Back in the good days, it would have been business as usual, not a title-grabbing headline. If they hope for the fervour to continue, then Van Gaal's men need to dispatch Leicester in a convincing fashion, which is far from a done deal. The Foxes gallantly matched Arsenal at home before scoring an important away win at Stoke last Saturday. LVG has a fantastic strike force to choose from and it remains to be seen who of Falcao or RVP will partner Rooney. I think there's lots of goals in the offing here and most possibly might end up in the Red Devils outscoring the home team. Away win.

Tottenham v/s WBA. This should be a Spurs win even though they might feel the effects of their Europa league game. WBA have no major injuries but they've just been playing badly as a team for the past weeks. They will need major improvement in them to avoid the drop but it won't come overnight. Definitely not in this game. Home win.

Everton v/s Crystal Palace. Everton are gaining stride at the moment and have won in mid-week in the Europa League. They must however phase out horrendous defending like they did against Chelsea a couple of weeks back. They should have too much for this Palace side and home advantage should prevail here. Home win.

Man City v/s Chelsea. Man City cannot afford to lose this match and set Chelsea free sailing at the top. The Citizens lost a heart-breaking match at Bayern in the UCL losing Dzeko to injury in the process. Still they have a formidable squad and I cannot see them losing this 6-pointer match. Chelsea are relying much on the goal-scoring exploits of Diego Costa and will be encouraged by the fact that they won this fixture last year. A draw will be good enough for Mourinho whose team had an excellent record when playing the top sides last year. This could swing either way but I have a feeling that the urgency coming from the hosts will see them win this. Home win.

Friday, September 12, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 4 Predictions

Arsenal v/s Man City. I thought Arsenal snatching Danny Wellbeck from Man Utd was one of the best transfers before deadline closing day. His pace should fit naturally in the Gunners system and if he stays fit, there's every chance that he is going to get over 10 goals for this season. Arsenal have lost Giroud for the season and while the French striker might be a better finisher than Wellbeck, the latter's mobility give them more interesting options up front. Definitely a great buy at 16 million pounds. Man City suffered a shock defeat at home to Stoke in their last game and they haven't been very active in the transfer market mainly due to the Fair Play restrictions. Mind you, they still boast the most complete squad in the league. The manner of their home defeat looked to suggest that they might lack cutting edge up front when Aguero and Dzeko are not firing on all cylinders. This is a big 6 pointer match for 2 leading teams this early in the season and the winner will be the one taking the most of the chances at hand. A draw might be the likelier outcome and that is the selection. Draw.

Chelsea v/s Swansea. After taking the scalp of Man Utd on opening day, Swansea will aim at doing the same to the Blues. Thing is, Chelsea are formidable at home under Mourinho and are so far perfect this season. I just cannot see them losing this match and Swansea's good run should come to a halt at the Bridge. Home Win.

Crystal Palace v/s Burnley. There's no doubt that the departure of Pulis just before the start of the season have wrecked plans not just at Crystal Palace but also in the betting markets. A team that I thought was destined for a top 10 finish will now possibly be fighting for relegation survival. That said, the Eagles have shown good resilience even in their 2 defeats in 3 matches, and the coming of fellow strugglers Burnley will be an opportunity-not-to-be-missed to get 3 important points. Home Win.

Southampton v/s Newcastle. The Saints seem to be on a mission to contradict the naysayers as they continue their good run despite having lost their manager and best players over the summer. Their new boss Ronald Koeman is a good coach with whom they can manage a middle of table finish. Newcastle have yet to win and manager Pardew is already on the hot seat particularly after the fan outrage of losing talented player Ben Arfa during the transfer window. This will be a tight match but I like the chances of Southampton posting another win. Home Win.

Stoke City v/s Leicester. Stoke stole 3 invaluable points at Man City last week-end, something that not many teams will probably do. They should be their stingy self at home again this year and I don't anticipate many goals in this match. It's hard to see Leicester win this and the most they can aspire to is a draw. Chances are that it will end up with the home side bagging up all 3 points. Home Win.

Sunderland v/s Tottenham. The actual strength of Tottenham was fully exposed in their defeat at the expense of Liverpool in their last match. Spurs were lucky to snatch a last-gap victory at West Ham on opening day and I think there is still much room for improvement regarding team chemistry under new coach Pochettino. This match seems to be the right opportunity for the hosts to finally bag their first win after 2 draws and a defeat in the first 3 matches. The Black Cats usually keep matches tight with their stingy defence and have enough the firepower to cause trouble at the other end of the field. A home win for Sunderland is the value punt of the week-end. Home Win.

WBA v/s Everton. Two win-less teams so far and visitors Everton will be gunning for the full points here against a team that many are expecting to be relegated. The Toffees should have too much firepower for the Baggies to handle and if there is to be an away win on Saturday, it should be in this one. Away Win.

Liverpool v/s Aston Villa. Liverpool were dealt a blow in mid-week with the loss of striker Sturridge for a few weeks. It will be up to new recruit Balotelli to lead the charge although the eccentric player is not fully fit. Still, Liverpool seem to be getting to last year's form and they are always a formidable foe at Anfield. Villa have started the season brightly and the managerial combination of Lambert and Keane seems to be bringing dividends to the club. Villa won't be easy to overcome but I reckon the Kops will get the important win in the end. Home Win.

Man Utd v/s QPR. Talk at Old Trafford is now about the Gaal-acticos after the arrivals of Di Maria and Falcao, these 2 players being arguably the best in the world at their positions. It won't escape regulars of this blog that I rate Falcao very very highly; in fact, I think he's the best striker in the world. Not only he scores boatloads of goals, he scores them in the most important matches as well. If he stays fit, he's going to be a massive signing and addition to the club. Di Maria is a fantastic buy as well, a real danger to any team and a game-changer as well. When Van Gaal gets this team to fully gel, which I reckon will take a couple of months, they will be scoring loads of goals left and right.
The fact that Rio Ferdinand is still central to QPR's plans tells you about their health (or lack of) in defence. Rangers can certainly score against the volatile Man Utd rearguard but they will almost inevitably concede as well. This match will probably not be a thrashing that many people are expecting but in the end, the Red Devils should be celebrating their first win of the season. Home Win.

Friday, August 29, 2014

EPL 2014/2015 - Week 3

This week-end, I expect a first Permier League win for Van Gaal for Man Utd with Chelsea and Man City continuing on their winning ways.

Burnley v/s Man Utd. Away win.
Man City v/s Stoke. Home win.
Newcastle v/s Crystal Palace. Home win.
QPR v/s Sunderland. Draw.
Swansea v/s West Brom. Away win.
West Ham v/s Southampton. Draw.
Everton v/s Chelsea. Away win.
Aston Villa v/s Hull. Home win.
Tottenham v/s Liverpool. Draw.
Leicester v/s Arsenal. Away win.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

EPL 2014/2015 - Week 2

My selections for this coming week-end.

Aston Villa v/s Newcastle. Draw.
Chelsea v/s Leiceseter. Home win.
Crystal Palace v/s West Ham. Draw.
Southampton v/s West Brom. Draw.
Swansea v/s Burnley. Home win.
Everton v/s Arsenal. Away win.
Hull v/s Stoke. Away win.
Spurs v/s QPR. Home win.
Sunderland v/s Man Utd. Away win.
Man City v/s Liverpool. Home win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Juddmonte International Stakes - Australia on a mission

Australia makes his much-anticipated return to the tracks in Wednesday's Juddmonte International. The Classic generation has been blessed with some supremely talent this year with the likes of Kingman and Taghrooda, and Australia will aim to reach their levels by confirming his ever-growing reputation. His biggest task to date will be to take on the older brigade and put himself as the undisputed middle-distance king, at least among the colts. Until a showdown with queen Taghrooda, that is.

There are 6 entrants in York showpiece but only 3 of them are real contenders; Australia, Telescope and Mukhadram; the others have no chance.

Telescope surprised me when running a good second behind Taghrooda in the King George. Although he hasn't won in Group 1 company yet, he proved that he belonged among the elite. Although he can be lethal at the mile and a quarter distance, I believe his optimum trip is the mile and a half. He has yet to finish out of the first 2 in his career and I think that his best hope is for second place.

Mukhadram has got the important tactical speed that makes him difficult to under-estimate. There is no doubt that he will be following the Ballydoyle pacemaker Kingfisher and lead the way in the closing stages, in the hope of withstanding the final bursts of Telescope and Australia. He is a battling warrior that will run his honest race but like Telescope, he will be fighting for second place.

Australia has won 2 Derbies but he has got the speed to match it up with the best at ten furlongs. He can produce the instant acceleration that enables him to get past by horses in a seemingly effortless fashion. The main concern is his fitness, or lack of, after nearly 2 months break. But his class should prevail and with the weight allowance he's receiving from the older brigade, it's hard to side against him.

No contest here, Australia should win this and move on to bigger things, like Taghrooda and the Arc. For the runner-up spot, it's a toss-up between Telescope and Mukhadram with the latter getting my vote.

Win: Australia

Friday, August 15, 2014

EPL 2014/15 - Week 1 Picks

Man Utd v/s Swansea - Home Win
Leicester v/s Everton - Draw
QPR v/s Hull - Home Win
Stoke v/s Aston Villa - Draw
WBA v/s Sunderland - Draw
West Ham v/s Spurs - Draw
Arsenal v/s Crystal Palace - Home Win
Liverpool v/s Soton - Home Win
Newcastle v/s Man City - Away Win
Burnley v/s Chelsea - Away Win

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

EPL 2014/2015 Preview - Chelsea In Pole Position

The new EPL season gets underway this coming week-end. If last year's is anything to go by, this new season promises to be as intriguing and exciting as ever. Here are my thoughts on the main contenders for the title and an early prediction of the overall winner.

Man City will be the defending champions after stealing the title away from Liverpool. They are clearly the best team on paper again, and probably for years to come. There are 2 ways to look at this City side; they should be better than last year given that it will be Pellegrini's second year in charge. That means that they should improve on last year's points tally when they lost silly points at places like Cardiff and Aston Villa. On the other side, there is the danger that the same hunger or motivation might not be there; or to put it on a different spin, the other contenders might be hungrier to win the title. Still, the squad has been reinforced in major areas with the likes of Fernando, Malanga and Caballero. I think they should be contenders again but I am not so sure they will prevail in the end.

Chelsea. Mourinho was empty-handed again last year and there is definite pressure on him to deliver silverware this year. I think deep down Chelsea will look at last year as a huge lost opportunity, as had they shown better finishing in places like Aston Villa, Everton and Crystal Palace, they would have won the title. Being inept in offence really hurt them and that is why they were busy in the off-season to get Fabregas and Costa. I think both are fantastic signings and rightly put them as early market favourites. Getting rid of David Luiz for 50-million pounds was a fabulous business as well as on-field win. Chelsea are my early favourites to win the title, at this point.

Liverpool. The Kops won't get a better chance of winning the league like last season. The loss of Suarez immediately makes them an inferior team but they've been shrewd in recruiting with the incoming of Lovren, Origi and Lallana among the notables. Even so, I think they've let their chance go by and I believe that they will have an inferior points tally this season. They will struggle to get to 4th place.

Arsenal. Winning the FA Cup will have done the world of good for Arsenal and its fans. Arsense Wenger can finally start a season without cries of no-silverware flying in his direction. The fact that they also won the Community Shield by thrashing Man City last week will have boosted the players' confidence. All is good in Gunners land at the moment and the arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona brings major depth to their potent offence. The Chilean can turn a game when on song and is a wonderful acquisition. If Ramsey can stay injury-free and sparkle again, Arsenal will make themselves heard but I think they probably need one or two more star signings before being called genuine contenders.

Man Utd. The only guarantee at this point is that Man Utd will have more points than last year! Truly, the David Moyes appointment was a disaster and whether it was his or the players' fault will be a topic of discussion for the ages. But the players clearly did not play for him. The appointment of Van Gaal has given a tonic to the club and they are since unbeaten with him in the pre-season. This augurs well for the Red Devils and their fans. The Spanish midfielder Herrera looks like a good signing but I think that it's his compatriot Mata on which lies the hopes of the Red Devils. The diminutive play-maker seems to be relishing his central role under Van Gaal's system and will be influential at the forefront of their attacks. I also expect Van Persie to have a big season if he stays healthy. Still, it would be stretching to think that Man Utd will win the Premier League after last year's disaster and I think they can aspire to the 3rd or 4th spot. Good enough to get back to Champions League football.

Tottenham should be good for 6th or worse. I don't think Everton will repeat last year's heroics and I see them at 7th at best.

So, still to early to formulate a definite winner but Chelsea are really looking strong and are my picks for a nibble at this point.

Win Title: Chelsea

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sussex Stakes: Kingman challenges Toronado

Let's cut to the matter: the Sussex Stakes got a disappointing turnout of only 4 horses, and only 2 horses can pretend for the win; Kingman and Toronado. The other 2, Darwin and Outstrip have no chance.

This renewal pins the best milers from the powerful Juddmonte and Hannon connections; 2 years ago, that was the case as well when Frankel defied Canford Cliffs before destroying the Hannon superstar. While not being heralded in the same breadth as Frankel, Kingman has shown that he is a top-drawer of a miler with a devastating turn of foot. Were it not for a strangely-raced Guineas, he would be maintaining an undefeated record going into this race. There are not many horses that have the kind of acceleration he displayed in annexing the Irish Guineas and St James Palace Stakes. He's the deserved favourite.

Toronado won this race last year, avenging a contentious defeat to arch-rival Dawn Approach at Royal Ascot. He won his seasonal opener in good fashion without being fully wound-up. Word from the Hannon yard is that he is in great form, so he should make his presence felt. He can throw up the occasional bad race but with these 4 runners, I cannot see him worse than second.

The fact that Toronado has to give Kingman an 8-pound allowance makes it an even harder task for the son of High Chaparral. Unless Kingman has an off-day, which he hasn't had yet, he's impossible to oppose. The final standing should see Kingman followed home by Toronado.

Win: Kingman
Dupla: Kingman - Toronado

Friday, July 25, 2014

King George: Telescope looks vulnerable

This year's edition of the King George at Ascot looks to be a cracking race; granted, Australia and Treve might not be here but the rest of the field is steeped with top-class middle-distance performers. Here's an analysis of the field.

Telescope. The son of Galileo will start with the favourite tag following his demolition of the field in the Hardwicke Stakes at the same course and distance last month. Sir Michael Stoute's colt will try to follow the footsteps of Harbinger, another Stoute top performer who went on to an authoritative win in the race after success in the Hardwicke. Telescope has never come out worse than second in six career races but he's never faced a talented field of this kind before. He relishes good to firm conditions, and the latest downpour on Friday does not bode well for him. I think he is seriously exposed in this race and will find one or two better on the day. I cannot see him win this.

Taghrooda is the unbeaten Oaks winner who will race against the males for the first time. Given the benefit of her sex and age allowance at the weights, she's a big player. She won the Oaks in a manner that suggests that she's above anything that comes from the distaff side of her generation and  will not be ill at ease in such illustrious company. Her trainer John Gosden is a master at readying his charges for the big occasion and Taghrooda is undoubtedly his main hope; I cannot see her out of the first 3.

At the start of the season, Magician was hailed as being a main contender for the biggest middle-distance prizes this year and it is fair to say that he has not reached the high levels expected of him. He laboured to win a Group 3 in Ireland and has since been runner-up to Noble Mission in the Tatersalls Gold Cup and The Fugue in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot. Unless the Ballydoyle crew have gotten the bottom of him, I fear his biggest hope will be for the minor places.

Mukhradam will be the second-string for Hamdan Al Maktoum but always has the potential to steal a race as he showed in the Coral-Eclipse some weeks ago. He's most dangerous when left to dictate the pace of the race and if allowed to freely roam in front until the straight, he's sure to cause worried looks to the rest of the pack. The 12 furlong trip will certainly stretch the stamina of this mile-and-a quarter specialist.

Trading Leather. A consistent performer who's never out of the places and who will relish the distance. Onb ability, he seems to be a notch below the main contenders but he can definitely spring a surprise if others failing to fire on the day.

Eagle Top. Connections have supplemented this son of Pivotal following his impressive victory in the King Edwards Stakes at Royal Ascot. I suspect that although he's unproven on soft conditions, he will not mind any rain, being a son of Pivotal and a mare from In the Wings. In fact, I think that any downpour will suit him best out of the lot and should be strongly considered if the going gets any worse from good.

Romsdal. This colt is another representative of the Gosden stable and seems to always give the best of himself. He finished a fantastic third in the Derby and is definitely a horse on the upgrade. William Buick has preferred Eagle Top, but then in the Derby he chose Western Hymn with the results we know. Richard Hughes gets the leg-up again on Romsdal and it will not be surprising if he finishes inside the first 3.

Leitir Mor has no chance and his main contribution in the race might be to foil Mukhradam's chances of setting the pace.

This should be a well-disputed race and I will be in the minority in suggesting that Telescope will not win this race. I think the horse is over-hyped more than anything despite his Hardwicke triumph. I think Gosden's horses all have live chances and expect Taghrooda to keep her invincible tag at the finishing post.

Win: Taghrooda
Won't win (lay): Telescope
Place (If going is good/soft): Eagle Top

Saturday, July 12, 2014

WC 2014 Final: Great Germany on Path to Glory

The World Cup Final on Sunday will reunite the 2 teams that have left the best impression in Brazil for the past month; Germany and Argentina both deserve to play the final for the right to be called world champions.

The last time the World Cup was organized in South America, i.e, in 1986 in Mexico, the final pitted Diego Maradona's Argentina against Matthaus' Germany. The Argies edged that one. Four years later in Italy, the Germans got their measure of revenge by winning the final by the minimum margin. One of Sunday's main questions will be whether Messi can finally emulate Maradona in winning the Cup, the ultimate validation left on his resume before being called the greatest player the world has ever seen. Without it, there will always be doubters no matter how many trophies or personal records he achieves in club football. Pele won it, Maradona too, Messi needs it.

On the way of the diminutive Argentinian are the powerhouse German team, a fantastically well-oiled machine that has left the greatest impression in these finals. This team is comprised of world-class players playing close to the peak of their careers; Lahm, Muller, Neuer, Ozil, Schweinsteiger to name a few, are elite names in European football and their individual qualities have been fantastically molded into a strong, effective and indomitable German juggernaut. Such is the power of their play and current level of confidence that they invariably dictate play like no other team and are malleable enough to change their system based on the way the match is developing; during this tournament, they showed they can score first, level the score, or win matches when the chips are on the line. Keeper Neuer is a freak, a massive presence, most possibly the best keeper in the world today. The defence is solid with the likes of Hummels, Boateng and Lahm commanding respect from the best strikers. Their midfield screams top-class with Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Gotze, Khedira all able to dictate tempo; and let's not forget Marco Reus, the genius from Dortmund is not even playing in these finals. Muller and Klose lead the way up front and have been terrorizing defences since the start of the tournament. This is the golden generation playing for Germany.

Argentina are an excellent team with some great players like Di Maria, Higuain and Aguero but undoubtedly their lifeblood is Messi. Take Messi out of the team and this team loses any aura of invincibility that it might have portrayed. They become a very good, but beatable team. To beat the Germans, they will need at least 3 things; first, Messi to be on top of his game and not be a passive player as he's been in the past 2 games; second, Mascherano, one their best players since the tournament started and who made a fantastic last-ditch save against a sure Robben goal in the last match, needs to keep breaking plays in midfield and keep the defence tight when needed; third, Aguero and Higuain will need to show efficacy in front of goal and take whatever goal opportunities that the Germans might present to them. It looks a tall order for Argentina but with some luck, they should believe that they can overcome their under-dogs tag.

The Germans are not invincible; Bayern Munich, the nucleus of this team, were stunned by Chelsea in the UCL final a couple of years back when they were overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy on home soil. For all their power, they will also need some luck to win. Chances are that they won't freeze on the occasion but they still need to break an Argentinian defence that has not conceded goals in their two knock-out matches. They still need to nullify the greatest threat in football; Messi.

I believe they will do it; the Germans will win it. From what we've seen for the past month, Germany have been the best team by far. The sight of German captain Lamn lifting the most-coveted trophy in sports at the Maracana on Sunday will be one of the most-deserving.

Win WC 2014: Germany

Friday, July 11, 2014

WC 2014: 12th July - Some redemption for Brazil?

Saturday's match for third-place between Brazil and the Netherlands is a match no team wants to play; it signifies that they were close to getting to the final but failed.

I stated that Germany would eliminate Brazil in the semi-finals but obviously the 7-1 scoreline in favour of the Germans was not expected. It was a no-brainer that the hosts were facing the perfect storm against the mighty Germans when they had to start the match without Silva and Neymar. But their horrific display exposed the paucity of talent in their squad; something that the Brazilians are not accustomed to since the early days of football. The humiliating defeat will stay in football folklore for ever and Brazil will only recover when they lift the World Cup again. I don't know which will go down as the worst moment for Brazil; their home defeat at the Maracana in the 1950 World Cup against Uruguay or this year's 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Germans.

The Dutch lost their penalty shoot-out against Argentina. It's hard to have any sympathy for their loss as they were far from playing the total football their teams have been so remembered for. I think Van Gaal had to get results based on the limited talent at his disposal; besides Van Persie and Robben, there is hardly any world-class talent in that team; even Sneijder seems to have lost pace since his peak days a few years back. The Dutch did well to arrive at this stage of the competition.

This match for third place is the worst for punting. Both countries could be fielding their second team. It seems to be more like an exhibition match which makes it impossible to gauge. What seems certain though is that Brazil are in urgent need of forgiveness and redemption at this point. They will have Silva back but not Neymar. This might be the last time for Scolari and some of his players to somewhat atone for Tuesday's catastrophe; playing not just with passion, but also with their brains to get a result that their fans might cheer about. If one really wants a punt here, then Brazil to win that match is the obvious one to take.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WC 2014: 9th July. Defining moment for Messi?

The semi-final match between Argentina and The Netherlands is really a toss-up and I think it will be closely-matched till the end. Both teams are unbeaten but have also shown weaknesses that the opposing team will try to exploit.

The Netherlands could only overcome Costa Rica on penalties, so they can hardly be considered world-beaters. Although Krul was the hero for the Dutch, I didn't like his lack of gamesmanship in taunting opponents during the shoot-out. Lack of class from a second-tier keeper, but I suppose we've seen worse on a football field. Robin Van Persie has been a disappointing non-factor for the majority of the tournament and  it seems Robben is the go-to guy for Van Gaal's men. The Argies will do well if they can keep him quiet during the match. Argentina will be the fourth South American team that the Dutch will face; they edged Chile and Mexico in very close matches and could only draw Costa Rica; Argentina are a much better team than the ones they've encountered so far, so it's hard to see The Netherlands winning this in regular time.

Argentina were masterful in edging Belgium in the previous round, which was a real litmus test in gauging the quality and effectiveness of the team. They will be missing Di Maria, which is a huge setback, but it's not as bad as if they were missing Messi. The Argies haven't been spectacular by any means so far, but they've shown that they are hard to score against. They will rely on some magic from Messi or some of their other big names to make the difference. The other plus for them is the availability of Aguero.

I believe in the end Argentina will go through. The fact that they have Messi in their ranks gives them that extra bit of an edge. Should they not get past the Dutch, the critics will be all too keen to draw the knives against the superstar Argentinian and question his place in the pantheon of the greatest footballers. This could be his most important match and defining moment yet.

To reach final: Argentina

Monday, July 7, 2014

WC 2014: 8th July. End of the road for Brazil?

Both semi-final match-ups would have been worthy of a final on their own; Brazil, Germany, Netherlands and Argentina are four of the best teams in the world, all blessed with fantastic game winners. They all have genuine chances to win the lot. Here's my preview of Tuesday's first semi-final between Brazil and Germany.

Before getting past Columbia in the last round, even the most ardent fans of Brazil would have acknowledged that Germany would be a formidable prospective foe in a semi-final. The Germans have been impressive up to this point unlike the Brazilians who have been found making hard work of their matches. Fast forward the Columbia game and Brazil are now without their 2 best players in Thiago Silva and Neymar. If they have been huffing and puffing until this point, then one has to argue what remains of the chances of the Brazilians against the formidable German armada? I think their chances are very slim indeed.

 By losing Neymar, Brazil have lost their leading light and inspiration up front. Hulk has been enterprising on the left flank but for all his running and storming runs, his effectiveness has been negligible. Mention Fred the striker, and it's hard to see what is his role or worth to this team. I can't think of him making any impact in any game besides getting a dubious penalty against Croatia and a easy header against Cameroon. Besides that, Fred is a non-existent player on the field. I really don't see how they are going to trouble without Neymar.

In losing Thiago Silva, Brazil have lost their fulcrum at the back. He is definitely one of the best defenders in the world and provides the stability from which Brazil can build their attacks. His yellow card against Columbia, synonymous with suspension, was silly; he only has himself to blame and his absence leaves a huge gap in their defence. I mean, guess who's going to have to marshall the back line? David Luiz!! The Chelsea defender (soon to be ex-Chelsea) has scored twice in the tournament, but his tendency to score rather than defend is one of the Premier League's worst-kept secrets; he is just not reliable as a stay-at-home defender.

These absences are a monumental problem for Brazil to overcome. Much has been said about referee favouritism for the hosts; they will need a lot of it to beat the Germans. They have a very good tactical coach in Scolari and their chances to go through will be greatly enhanced if they succeed in getting to the penalty shoot-out.

The Germans were tipped to beat the French in this blog and they showed in that match that they could decisively control a match against the most arduous opponents. They have the capacity to score and it's hard to score against them with Neuer being a massive roadblock in goal. Since the start of the tournament, Germany have shown that they have a great possession game, that they can kill a match once in front, and that they can find a crucial leveller when in need; they are the most complete team in these finals.

Klose or Muller will have a field day with Silva missing at the back. Hummels and his back-line will have to be on their guards against Brazilian set-pieces, which are the most realistic cases for the hosts to break German resistance. Brazil are all-heart but I am afraid that won't be enough to stop the Germans who are as hungry to win the big trophy after 24 years. The dream might very well be over for the hosts after this game; Germany are the better team and should land in the final.

To reach final: Germany

Friday, July 4, 2014

WC 2014: 5th July

Argentina v/s Belgium. The main question regarding this Argentina team is what would they be without Messi? From what they've shown so far in this World Cup, a very average team indeed. Di Maria is the only other player who has excelled but the other big names such as Higuain, Aguero, Lavezzi to name a few have been very quiet. They were very laborious in winning by the minimum margin against Switzerland in the last round. I am not sure that this team has further improvement in them.

Although they have an exceptional talent in Hazard in their ranks, Belgium are not reliant on the Chelsea player but rather on a team play that seems to be getting better and better. I can't think of a team with so many star player names but their main strength is their ability to link up properly as a team which makes them dangerous and difficult to beat. Their main challenge will be to stop Messi  and their defence marshalled by Kompany has the ability to do that.

I will go against the grain here and select Belgium to go through. Argentina rely too much on Messi and if their superstar is properly shut down or has an off-day, the Belgians should have more than ample ammunition to breach any resistance that their opponents can muster.

Netherlands v/s Costa Rica. I don't think the overall winner of the World Cup will come from either of these 2 teams. I think Costa Rica have been brilliant so far and gained everyone's utmost respect by playing a well-organized football with flair and intelligence. Everything that is being thrown at them is bonus to them at this point. The Netherlands have not impressed me as they seem to have done to many pundits. Their win against Mexico was controversial to say the least; the Mexicans have good reason to feel hard done by the final result. I still think the Dutch will go through as they are a superior team to Costa Rica but they have to ensure the match goes before the lottery of penalties.

To qualify: Belgium, Netherlands

Thursday, July 3, 2014

WC 2014: 4th July

France v/s Germany. If there is a team that the French nation have traumatic recollections of in previous World Cups, it's Germany. At the height of their powerful teams led by Platini and Giresse, they faltered at the semi-final stages of World Cups 82 and 86 against the Germans. Needless to say that the French will use these past missteps as motivation to finally get one over their nemesis. No matter how well-fancied Didier Deschamps' team are by many pundits however, I don't think that will happen. I still rate France to be an inferior team to that of Germany; in fact, I think that the Germans are the best European team in the tournament. Skeptics will point to the fact that they were held by Ghana and Algeria and that they only prevailed by the minimum score against the USA. I certainly thought that they were shell-shocked by Ghana but showed that they had the resourcefulness to get back in the score and in the game. I also thought that they were in total control of the matches against the USA and Algeria, with both of these teams resorting to quick counter-attacks to try to get something out of those games. The Germans carved enough chances in those matches to win by a comfortable margin if their forwards were not profligate in front of goal.

In assessing France's positive results so far, it is worth noting that they have emerged from a relatively easy group with the likes of Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras providing relatively easy fodder. I mentioned before that the Swiss' FIFA ranking of 6th was superfluous and more of a joke. France's win against Nigeria was laborious to say the least as it was a keeper error late in the game that broke the deadlock. It won't be as easy against the Germans.

Got to go full board with Germany in this one. The French might keep it close but in the end, their lack of quality will tell against their powerful opponents.

Brazil v/s Columbia. Columbia have been the team of the tournament so far having won their 4 games and there is a sense of genuine optimism among themselves and football pundits that they can topple mighty Brazil on their own turf. And who'd thought that they would be in this position without superstar striker Radamel Falcao? They have over-achieved already and have a new-born star in James, but I think their run will end against the hosts. The Brazilians are being criticized from every corner and it's true that they owe it to some mighty luck to have gone past Chile in the previous round. I am especially thinking of the Chilean attack in the dying minutes which resulted in Julio Cesar's post resonating throughout Brazil from Pinilla's thunderbolt. Had that shot gone through, the fiesta would have been over in Brazil. I actually thought that Neymar wasn't playing much because of the knock he received in the early part of the match. Word is that he is totally recovered for Friday's game and that can only be good news for Brazil. They are a hard team to beat and I don't think that Columbia has enough experience at this stage to beat them on their ground.

To qualify: Germany, Brazil

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WC 2014: 1st July

Argentina v/s Switzerland. Not exactly sure what Switzerland coach Hitzfield has in mind to withstand the Argie armada but it must certainly include a plan to contain Messi. The Barcelona superstar has been true to his name in this World Cup by scoring crucial solo goals. Besides Messi's genius, the other members of the Argentina team have somewhat under-performed so far, based on expectations. You've got the feeling that if Messi is on an off-day that Argentina might be in big trouble finding the net. Switzerland are clearly one of the least impressive teams to have made it from the group stages and they will certainly struggle to get something out of this match. The problem for them is the heat and the lack of depth in the team. Besides Shaquiri, there is no other player that comes close to being a constant threat or decisive match-winner. Argentina should find a way to go through.

Belgium v/s USA. I mentioned before that Belgium could go far in this tournament but I have a feeling that their litmus test will be against USA which represent a huge obstacle, in my opinion. The Belgians won all their 3 group games but they were made to struggle in all of them. They are a very talented and upcoming team but they will have to show mettle and seasoning against a battling USA team. Klinsmann has instilled belief and resilience in the Americans and they know how to keep the score close, as they did against Germany. The USA are well-organized and if they take their chances like against Ghana, they can definitely cause an upset. That is my selection.

To qualify: Argentina, USA.