Friday, January 31, 2014

EPL Week 24

This week-end's fixtures look very even matched, so I won't be surprised if there are lots of draw results on the cards. Here are some of my views.

Newcastle v/s Sunderland. This northern derby will pit 2 teams with opposing momentum. Newcastle are looking for a new lease of life at the moment and the departure of Cabaye to PSG has been a big blow to their European aspirations. Sunderland are riding an upward wave since the arrival of Gus Poyet and I have a strong feeling that they will avoid relegation altogether. At current odds, they are a value draw-no-bet.

West Ham v/s Swansea. These are 2 awful teams really. There is no confidence whatsoever backing any of them and a draw looks the likeliest result. Avoid.

Cardiff v/s Norwich. The hosts have gotten to find back their ruthless form at home if they are to avoid relegation. New manager Solksjaer hasn't had the impact many expected and it remains to be seen if new recruits Fabio and Zaha can help him steer the sinking ship right. At current prices, it might be worth a punt to go for a straight Cardiff victory here, as the Canaries are poor on the road.

Everton v/s Aston Villa. I was surprised of the tame effort Martinez's team put in the derby at Liverpool. They will be without Lukaku for a few weeks. Villa are coming off a huge thriller of a win against WBA and they will definitely be causing problems to the hosts. The Villains are however an inconsistent bunch that are capable of the best and worst displays. For risk-takers, there is value going for a draw here.

Fulham v/s Southampton. Just my opinion, but an early assessment makes me think that the Cottagers will go down at the end of the season. Chances are that they will lose Berbatov to Monaco by today's transfer deadline. The Saints showed that they are not far from peak form by sharing the spoils with Arsenal in the previous game week. With the same kind of spirited display, they should be able to take at least a point from this travel. They are a strong draw-no-bet selection.

Hull v/s Tottenham. Could go either way. Avoiding.

Stoke v/s Man Utd. I mentioned last week that the only way is up for Man Utd, following the arrivals of Mata and the returns from injury of Rooney and RVP. I see them getting the 3 points here as they try to climb up the table. They are a Win selection.

WBA v/s Liverpool. While I was impressed with West Brom's attacking prowess at Villa Park on Wednesday, the same could not be same of their defence, which leaked 4 goals in the defeat. I can easily fathom Suarez and Sturridge relishing this contest. I think goals will abound and in the end, with their flying form, Liverpool should be at the right end of the result. The Kops are a value Win selection at current odds.

Man City v/s Chelsea. That's the most important game of the season at this point. A 6-pointer. The Citizens will be missing Aguero but they have so many other attacking weapons that they will not fret over his injury. Chelsea got stopped by West Ham last week and it would not be surprising if they fail to find the net again. Mourinho will have them ready for this game but mind games or mental strength might not be enough against the most potent attacking force in the world at the moment. I cannot see City lose this game and while in the end the spoils might be split, I see value going with the Citizens as a draw-no-bet.

Win: Cardiff, Man Utd, Liverpool
Draw-no-bet: Sunderland, Southampton, Man City
Draw: Everton/Aston Villa

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

EPL Week 23

The name all week, particularly for Man Utd fans, has been Mata, Mata, Mata. The arrival of the Spaniard is a game-changer; while it will be too late for their title charge this year, he will definitely be a huge asset in their hunt for 4th place( aka UCL spot) and in the coming years. Man Utd should have a much better second-half to the season with the coming of Mata and the returns of RVP and Rooney. Week 23 starts in a couple of hours, and here are my thoughts.

Man Utd v/s Cardiff. I said it above; the impending returns of RVP and Rooney, together with a playmaker like Mata gives Man Utd considerable attacking options. If these 3 can stay fit and play together, there is no doubt that the potency is their for them to open defences at will. I think Mata's arrival will have given the whole Mancunian squad a lift this week and they are definitely a confident Win selection against a struggling Cardiff side.

Norwich v/s Newcastle. The Magpies have just lost playmaker Cabaye to PSG and this does not bode well with them. The Frenchman was their main source of inspiration in midfield and I think they will mightily struggle to cope with his absence. Norwich can pounce here. I see the hosts edging this and they look to be a solid value Win bet.

Southampton v/s Arsenal. This is going to be a tough game for Arsenal. Soton are no push-overs at home and seem to be regaining some of their early-season form. It's my opinion only, but I think that Arsenal will not be able to cope with the pace that Man City and Chelsea are about to set at the top of the table. At current odds, I see the Gunners as big lays for the title as I confidently think that they will not be able to match up with the big 2 above. I see them dropping points in this match too. Soton is a value draw-no-bet proposition at current odds.

Swansea v/s Fulham. The hosts have been expensive to back for some time now. This could be the game that changes things for them. They need a big W and there are not many worse travelling teams than the Cottagers. If Laudrup's team cannot win this one, they should never be backed again this year. They are a Win selection for this match.

Crystal Palace v/s Hull. I believe CP will avoid the drop this year because manager Pulis has put in the expected tactical discipline in the team. That said, Hull is a danger on the road with their ability to score and close shop. Best to avoid, although I think that CP might edge this one.

Liverpool v/s Everton. Both are rocked by injuries and both are fighting for 4th place. This looks set to be a tight encounter and if there is to be a winner, it should come from the home side. So, the Kops are a draw-no-bet selection.

Chelsea v/s West Ham. Eyes closed, this will be a Blues win.

Sunderland v/s Stoke. This Sunderland team has a resilience in it. It can make dramatic come-backs and can score against the most rigid defence. It will have had a massive boost by going to win Carling Cup final qualification at Old Trafford last week. I like their chances as a draw-no-bet against an average Stoke team.

Tottenham v/s Man City.
Ok, I'm not 100% behind the Tim Sherwood Spurs revolution yet. Maybe if they beat City... The Citizens are scoring at will but this will be a much difficult task than the likes of Watford, Cardiff or West Ham. It's impossible to oppose them in the attacking form they are at the moment. Spurs have their work cut out for them and will need to be ruthless in the chances they are going to create. Man City are a draw-no-bet selection.

Win: Man Utd, Swansea, Norwich
Draw-no-bet: Southampton, Liverpool, Sunderland, Man City

Friday, January 17, 2014

EPL Week 22

This gameweek is all about Man Utd's visit to Chelsea in what is a make-or-break game for the Red Devils. Lose, and they are definitely out of the title race.

Chelsea v/s Man Utd. The Mancunians are going to Stamford Bridge at the worst possible time. They are without their 2 best players in Rooney and RVP. They will meet a Chelsea team that is now playing under the Mourinho way, i.e, score and close shop. The odds are that the already-slim title chances that the Red Devils have, will be all but extinct after the match. It's hard to see them inflict a first home league defeat to Mourinho, but if there is a team that has the spirit to do it, it must be Man Utd. Of late, their away form has been solid when it counted. They put 5 at Leverkusen when everyone thought they would be in for a tough match. If they start firing with accuracy and balls go their way, they can get a result in any game. They've got to get the crucial first goal to have a chance of upsetting Chelsea. Lots of ifs. This match might very well end up in a draw, and looking at the market, my selection is a draw-no-bet on Chelsea.

Sunderland v/s Southampton. It's not been a rosy week for the Saints with the shock departure of their chairman and uncertainty concerning the future of their Argentine coach. Sunderland are a team on the up and if they get consistency in their results, they can avoid the drop. With momentum starting to swing their way, the Black Cats are a value draw-no-bet selection.

Arsenal v/s Fulham. Straight home win to keep the Gunners title aspirations on target.

Crystal Palace v/s Stoke. CP were beaten at White Hart Lane last week but the result could have been different if they had converted a first-half penalty. Stoke conceded 5 against Liverpool at the Brittania and will be keen to tighten things at the back to keep the hosts in check. I can hardly see CP lose this match, so I will go with them as a draw-no-bet as well.

Man City v/s Cardiff. It will be a Man City win, and the question is by how much.

Norwich v/s Hull. I see value in going with the visitors with a +1 goal advantage here (equal score is void). They are a well-organized, resilient team on the road, and will be fighting mightily for an all-important point.

West Ham v/s Newcastle. Best to avoid although I could see the Magpies ending their losing run.

Liverpool v/s Aston Villa. This should be a home win, and with the S & S strikeforce back, Liverpool can cause damage to any team.

Swansea v/s Tottenham. I see the poor run of the hosts ending here. At least, I don't think they'll lose that game and looking at current odds, they are a strong value draw-no-bet selection.

West Brom v/s Everton. Can go any result.

Win: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool
Draw-no-bet: Chelsea, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Swansea.
+1 goal: Hull.

Friday, January 10, 2014

EPL Week 21

As the second half of the season gets under way, there hasn't been much transfer happenings to crow about. Certainly, the return of Clive Dempsey on a loan spell to Fulham will give the Cottagers a boost in their bid to avoid relegation. The managerial change at Cardiff with the arrival of Solksjaer gives them a fighting chance as well, I believe. Here are my thoughts on some this week-end's matches.

Hull v/s Chelsea. The Tigers bode strong form at home where they are hard to score against. Man Utd were able to put 3 past them but not many teams will be able to do that. Chelsea are in top form since the festive period and Mourinho seems to have finally settled on a system of play that gets them a result, no matter the way it is achieved. They have to be respected in the title race and are definitely a live contender. I think this game will be settled by a goal or less either way, and it looks more likely to be for the Blues. At current odds, they are a worthy draw-no-bet selection.

Cardiff v/s West Ham. The Hammers are in disarray and this game could spell the end of Sam Allardyce's tenure at their helm. On the other hand, the hosts have been buoyed by the appointment of new manager Solksjaer and they boast a strong record at home. I see Cardiff as a home win.

Everton v/s Norwich. The 2 teams are fighting at the polar ends of the table; Everton are striving for a Champions League spot while the Canaries are battling to avoid relegation. Lukaku can have a big game here. I see the Toffees getting the 3 points at the end of the 90 minutes.

Fulham v/s Sunderland. Could go either way. Abstaining.

Southampton v/s WBA. The Saints are in need to get their mojo back if they are to fight for a European spot. West Brom have gotten a new manager and as often is the case, the players will be keen to give their all to make the best first impression. I give the Saints a slight home field advantage here and have them as a draw-no-bet.

Tottenham v/s Crystal Palace. I'll be a convert of Tim Sherwood's management capabilities if they can convincingly beat the Eagles on Saturday. Spurs have done well under his tenure and if he can get the best out of his talented squad, they can go places. They need to beat a resilient Palace team to keep the momentum going and convince skeptics like me. Spurs are a draw-no-bet selection.

Man Utd v/s Swansea. The Red Devils are in the eye of a perfect storm with both Rooney and RVP out injured. Fortunately for them, Swansea are on a poor form themselves, although they beat and ousted their opponents at the same venue in the FA Cup last week-end. The Mancunians have to wake up at some point and stem the run of losses. I think in the end of 90 minutes, they will prevail. I see value in going straight for the home win, although it must have been expensive for punters to side with them lately.

Newcastle v/s Man City. I think Man City will win the title this year and they are in rude form. Going to St James Park is always a test and if they can get the full points, it will be a case of another major hurdle successfully negotiated. There is no doubt that the Magpies will make a game of this and it would be of no surprise if the honours are shared at the end. I'll stay on the fence on this one.

Stoke v/s Liverpool. This encounter usually ends in a drub 0-0 draw. With Suarez in top form, this might not be the case this year. Stoke are very strong at home but the Kops are no push-overs wherever they play. This can go any result.

Aston Villa v/s Arsenal. I think this is a must 3 points for the Gunners in their title charge and I think they will be able to avenge their opening-season loss to the Villains. The downside for the visitors is that they've lost Walcott for the season and while this is a major blow in the long run, they still have a big enough squad to overcome dismal Villa. I take the Gunners as the value Win of the week-end.

Win: Cardiff, Everton, Man Utd, Arsenal
Draw-no-bet: Chelsea, Southampton, Tottenham