Monday, December 28, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 19

Crystal Palace v/s Swansea - Home win
Everton v/s Stoke - Away win
Norwich v/s Aston Villa - Home win
Watford v/s Spurs - Home win
West Brom v/s Newcastle - Home win
Arsenal v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Man Utd v/s Chelsea - Draw
West Ham v/s Southampton - Draw
Leicester v/s Man City - Home win
Sunderland v/s Liverpool - Away win

I really like the chances of Leicester bouncing back from their defeat at Liverpool in their match against Man City. It was one of those rare matches where they could not find their net and it is a touch possible that Vardy is running out of steam at the moment. However, Mahrez is in superb form and the cog is really in full flow for Ranieri's men. Man City will be without captain and talisman Kompany and they have shown vulnerabilities on their road travels. At current odds, Leicester look a great win or draw-no-bet value.

I also see a home win for Palace against struggling Swansea. Sure, the Swans broke their duck by winning their last match but it's hard to see them getting a second win in a row against a solid Palace team. This could be a walk in the park for Pardew's men and I believe a home win beckons here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 18

Stoke v/s Man Utd - Away win
Bournemouth v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Aston Villa v/s West Ham - Home win
Chelsea v/s Watford - Draw
Liverpool v/s Leicester City - Away win
Man City v/s Sunderland - Home win
Swansea v/s WBA - Home win
Tottenham v/s Norwich - Home win
Newcastle v/s Everton - Draw
Southampton v/s Arsenal - Home win

With the return of Kompany at the back, Man City to beat Sunderland is the banker of this week-day. The Citizens are a different team with the Belgian at the back and they should have too much firepower for Allardyce's men.

I think the Gunners face a tricky encounter at Southampton. I thought they were rather flattered by their win against the Citizens on Monday and the wounded Saints team begging for a win certainly won't do them any favours. The Gunners could be apt for a bad game after their exertions against Man City and at current prices, the home team looks good value as a draw-no-bet at the very least. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 17

Chelsea v/s Sunderland - Draw
Everton v/s Leicester City - Away win
Man Utd v/s Norwich - Home win
Southampton v/s Spurs - Draw
Stoke v/s Crystal Palace - Away win
WBA v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Newcastle v/s Aston Villa - Home win
Watford v/s Liverpool - Home win
Swansea v/s West Ham - Away win
Arsenal v/s Man City - Home win

Jose Mourinho has finally been sacked. Deservedly so, given how he was losing the plot and the locker room. This resets Chelsea's season and it remains to be seen what kind of form they will show from now on. My opinion, as I've been maintaining since the start of the season, is that they have been a regressing team for a while now and even though they had a great last hurrah winning the league last year due to the failings of the other teams, they need to renew the team to get back to their levels of a few years back. Man Utd has been going through the same process in the past couple of years. In effect, Mourinho is certainly the main culprit for their precarious position but not the only one. The Blues are still too good to face relegation but they are no longer a force week-in week-out. The choice of next manager will be crucial in properly picking up the pieces left by the Sacked One.

I see Man Utd winning against Norwich. The pressure is such on Van Gaal that I think he will have to throw caution to the wind and get goals for the Old Trafford faithful. The number of drab 0-0's is certainly ruffling the supporters' skins. The hosts need a win to shut down any dissidence and they have a huge chance to show their attacking prowess against lowly Norwich. If Van Gaal starts the same team as against Bournemouth with the bunch of inexperienced youngsters, then this advice can be thrown out of the window. If the team selected looks competitive on paper, then the Red Devils should win this.

I like the chances of Newcastle at home to Aston Villa. Maybe the Magpies have turned a corner with 2 consecutive wins against non-negligible opposition such as Liverpool and Tottenham. Papiss Cisse is getting chances and if the back four can limit their customary mistakes, then the hosts must have a leading chance against struggling Villa. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 16

Norwich v/s Everton - Draw
Crystal Palace v/s Southampton - Away win
Man City v/s Swansea - Home win
Sunderland v/s Watford - Draw
West Ham v/s Stoke - Away win
Bournemouth v/s Man Utd - Home win
Aston Villa v/s Arsenal - Away win
Liverpool v/w West Brom - Home win
Tottenham v/s Newcastle - Home win
Leicester v/s Chelsea - Home win

With a squad depleted of 9 players, I find it hard to see Man Utd go win at Bournemouth. Van Gaal's men will feel the fresh effects of being dumped out of the Champions League while the hosts will be buoyed from last week's win at Stamford Bridge. I've mentioned before that Bournemouth are a proving to be a surprise tenacious package, even more so as they have been successfully overcoming injuries to key players for a while now. They put 3 against Everton on their last home match and the Red Devils look very vulnerable without their regular spine of Rooney, Smalling and Schweinsteiger. I am going for a home win or a draw-no-bet for the Cherries.

Friday, December 4, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 15

Stoke v/s Man City - Away win
Arsenal v/s Sunderland - Home win
Man Utd v/s West Ham - Home win
Southampton v/s Aston Villa - Home win
Swansea v/s Leicester - Draw
Watford v/s Norwich - Home win
WBA v/s Tottenham - Away win
Chelsea v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Newcastle v/s Liverpool - Away win
Everton v/s Crystal Palace - Home win

It probably won't be a canter for the Blues but at the end of 90 minutes they should be able to overcome visiting Bournemouth. We can read many pundits guaranteeing a top 4 finish for Mourinho's men; I'm far from convinced about that. I think there are way too many good teams ahead of them in the fray with the likes of Tottenham and a rejuvenated Liverpool that will make it hard for the Blues to get the coveted last Champions League spot. Still too early to say though but my gut feeling at this time is that they have lost too many points at this stage and giving guarantees as some of the pundits are currently doing, is just irresponsible and speculative.

I see a Watford win against visiting Norwich. I think the Hornets have one of the shrewdest managers in the league in Quique Flores and he will see it as a vital 3 points to bag against the struggling visitors. Their main striker Ighalo is in a rich vein of form and has been the recipient of quite a few lucky bounces of late. It could very well be a low scoring match and I think the home team will just edge this one.

Friday, November 27, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 14

Bournemouth v/s Everton - Away win
Aston Villa v/s Watford - Away win
Crystal Palace v/s Newcastle - Home win
Man City v/s Southampton - Draw
Sunderland v/s Stoke - Draw
Leicester v/s Man Utd - Draw
Tottenham v/s Chelsea - Home win
West Ham v/s West Brom - Away win
Liverpool v/s Swansea - Home win
Norwich v/s Arsenal - Away win

I really like Watford's chances as they visit Aston Villa. I have seen nothing yet in the Villain's demenour since Remi Garde took over as manager that things are going to improve at Villa Park. This team has a severe confidence problem and losing Grealish for his off-field antics in mid-week only adds to their plight. Watford are a well-managed team and their major weakness is a lack of fire power up front. I see it value to either side with them or opt for the draw-no-bet for the visitors.

Liverpool is a transformed beast under Klopp and they are playing with huge confidence at the moment. Swansea's form has been on the downside for a while now and they were lucky to scrape a draw against Bournemouth last week. I can't see them getting a result at Anfield and I think it's a no contest home win.

Crystal Palace could not break down Sunderland last Monday and they have a glorious chance for redemption against a Magpies team in disarray. Midweek events seem to confirm the fact that there is a big tension reigning in Steve Mc Laren's side and the team spirit and motivation are lacking. If the Eagles can take their chances, they will overrun the visitors.

Friday, November 20, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 13

Watford  v/s Man Utd - Draw
Chelsea v/s Norwich - Home win
Everton v/s Aston Villa - Home win
Newcastle v/s Leicester - Draw
Southampton v/s Stoke - Draw
Swansea v/s Bournemouth - Home win
West Brom v/s Arsenal - Away win
Man City v/s Liverpool - Draw
Tottenham v/s West Ham - Draw
Crystal Palace v/s Sunderland - Home win

No particularly strong views this week-end following the international break. Chelsea will probably bounce back from their horrible spell and they don't come much easier than Norwich. The Blues were playing alright when defeated at Stoke in their last league match and although they won't win the league and the odds are against them making a Top 4 spot, they are still a quality team on paper and will win matches against the likes of Norwich.

I also like the chances of Swansea at home to Bournemouth. Manager Monk's job is on the line after their recent barren spell. The visitors are injury-hit and going against them has been rewarding of late. So, Swansea should really be getting on the winning column this week-end.

Friday, November 6, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 12

Bournemouth v/s Newcastle - Away win
Leicester v/s Watford - Home win
Man Utd v/s West Brom - Home win
Norwich v/s Swansea - Away win
Sunderland v/s Southampton - Draw
West Ham v/s Everton - Draw
Stoke v/s Chelsea - Home win
Aston Villa v/s Man City - Away win
Arsenal v/s Tottenham - Home win
Liverpool v/s Crystal Palace - Draw

I think Chelsea's problems will be compounded on Saturday as they visit Stoke without their under-fire manager Mourinho. The Blues are clearly a team with problems and the Britannia is usually one of the most intimidating places to go to in the league. The hope for Terry and co is that Stoke continue on their indifferent form of late, having been surprisingly beaten at home to lowly Watford. It seems that the team with the most hunger and that takes its chances will edge this and at current prices, I see backing the home team as a draw-no-bet or outright win, a good value.

I also like the Magpies' chances as they visit injury-hit Bournemouth. I believe they are getting better with every match and striker Mitrovic is due a goal soon. They represent great value as either a draw-no-bet or outright win as well.

Finally, I give an edge to Arsenal in their Derby against Tottenham. Sure they will be missing a few first-team regulars but the fact that they are playing at home and have the benefit of one extra day rest over their rivals gives them a significant advantage. Harry Kane might start a goal-scoring streak but the Gunners should outscore their arch-rivals.

Friday, October 30, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 11

Chelsea v/s Liverpool - Away win
Crystal Palace v/s Man Utd - Away win
Man City v/s Norwich - Home win
Newcastle v/s Stoke - Draw
Swansea v/s Arsenal - Draw
Watford v/s West Ham - Home win
West Brom v/s Leicester - Home win
Everton v/s Sunderland - Home win
Southampton v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Tottenham v/s Villa - Home win

I see banker wins for Man City, Tottenham and Southampton, so it might be value to play them in multiples. Norwich have been woeful lately and I just cannot see Man City losing to them at home. Aston Villa are in even worse disarray having no manager to lead them into their clash at White Hart Lane where Harry Kane will be keen to embark on a scoring run after hat trick last week. Southampton will relish the visit of injury-hit Bournemouth who've leaked 5 goals against Spurs last week.

Klopp will aim to get his first EPL win against foe Mourinho at Stamford Bridge. With the Blues in serious crisis, I think the Kops can pull an upset here and they certainly look good value as a draw-no-bet or with the benefit of a goal advance in the Handicap markets.

Friday, October 23, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 10

Aston Villa v/s Swansea - Home win
Leicester v/s Crystal Palace - Draw
Norwich v/s WBA - Home win
Stoke v/s Watford - Home win
West Ham v/s Chelsea - Draw
Arsenal v/s Everton - Draw
Sunderland v/s Newcastle - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Spurs - Away win
Man Utd v/s Man City - Home win
Liverpool v/s Southampton - Draw

Aston Villa look an excellent "draw-no-bet" option against Swansea. Both teams are in rotten form but there is an urgency for the Villains to get points on the board here; Tim Sherwood's time at the club is on the line. Villa are not playing as bad as their table position indicates and I cannot see them lose this one; I see it ending in a home win or a draw, hence the current draw-no-bet value looks very enticing.

Although they just lost in their Europa mid-week game, I like the chances of Spurs as they travel to Bournemouth. Harry Kane should be scoring sooner rather than later and it could be one of those games against lowly opposition where he finally gets his scoring touch back. Bournemouth are finding life more difficult in the Premier League with each passing week, as they should, and with their current injury setbacks, they will prove very vulnerable to teams of the likes of Spurs. I expect Tottenham to edge this.

Friday, October 16, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 9

Tottenham v/s Liverpool - Draw
Chelsea v/s Aston Villa - Home
Crystal Palace v/s West Ham - Away win
Everton v/s Man Utd - Draw
Man City v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Southampton v/s Leicester - Home win
WBA v/s Sunderland - Draw
Watford v/s Arsenal - Away win
Newcastle v/s Norwich - Home win
Swansea v/s Stoke - Draw

They've obviously already lost the title but Chelsea should getting better results in the next few weeks as Mourinho pulls out the whip to try to get a response from his under-achievers. The return of Costa should help but more importantly the visit of similarly struggling Villa comes in a timely fashion for the Blues. They might not win in a convincing way but I think they will end up pulling in the 3 points whatever the means; maybe with Costa doing his anti-fair-play theatrics again.

Arsenal need to win at places like Watford to show they are championship material. I think they will do it. Much of their chances rest on the availability of Sanchez, who scored again for Chile in mid-week but who is doubtful with a hip injury. With or without their South American talisman, the Gunners have enough class to get the full points. Ramsey having scored for Wales in mid-week might get rolling with his club as well.

The Magpies at St James Park look the best value for a home win against Norwich. They were very good for a half against Chelsea and Man City before collapsing. The fact that they lost keeper Krul is a huge blow but Steve Mc Laren seems to be finally getting his players gelling as a unit. It's only a matter of time they get a win and it could very well come against the Canaries.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Arc de Triomphe 2015 - Treve for the Treble

A top-class field will line up in Sunday's Arc and everyone will try to stop Treve from notching an unprecedented third Arc, which would most possibly put to rest the claims that she's the greatest mare that ever raced. The form she displayed in the Vermeille shows that she will be at her top of her powers for the showdown and would be very hard to oppose. Here are the handful of horses who I think will provide the main opposition; Golden Horn, New Bay and Free Eagle. Forget the rest.

I will say frankly that Golden Horn has disappointed me in his last 2 races, in the sense that he did not prove to be the super horse that I thought he might be. He lost much of his luster when losing his unbeaten record to Arabian Queen in the Juddmonte International. Although he redeemed himself by subsequently winning the Irish Champion Stakes, the manner of his win was rather subdued as he clearly hampered Free Eagle on his way to the line. To say he's top-class is correct. To say he's a super horse would be stretching and it feels that you'd need a super horse to beat Treve in the Arc. His outside draw complicates things for this fans; he will need a lot of luck in running. To me, he's the lay of the field as I don't think he will win. He is good enough to make the frame but I am very certain he won't win.

New Bay is the best middle-distance French colt of this Classic generation. The way he won the Prix Niel shows without doubt that he will be at his peak on Sunday. The distance and more importantly the ground will suit, which will make him Treve's most dangerous opponent, in my opinion. I cannot see him outside the first 3, and if Treve fails to fire, he looks the one most apt for glory.

Free Eagle is the dark horse in my books. He was unlucky to be hampered by Golden Horn in the closing stages of the Irish Champion Stakes. Whether he would have won is a matter of interpretation; visually he seemed to be picking up the Derby winner but whether he would have done so at the line will remain a mystery for ever. The main question is how he will handle twelve furlongs for the first time. His pedigree seems to indicate that the distance will not be a problem but it will have to be his optimum distance for him to play a leading role here. Should stamina not be a problem, I would rate him on a par with New Bay.

My view of this race is simple. If Treve shows up to her best of her ability and does not encounter any hard luck in running, then she will win. I can't see any horse that can put up with her irresistible acceleration in the straight. If she fails to fire or does not benefit from any luck in running, then New Bay and Free Eagle look to be the main dangers, with my preference going to the Prix du Jockey Club winner.

Trifecta: Treve - New Bay - Free Eagle
Won't win: Golden Horn

Friday, October 2, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 8

Crystal palace v/s WBA - Away win
Bournemouth v/s Watford - Away win
Aston Villa v/s Stoke - Draw
Man City v/s Newcastle - Home win
Norwich v/s Leicester - Home win
Sunderland v/s West Ham - Home win
Chelsea v/s Southampton - Draw
Everton v/s Liverpool - Home win
Arsenal v/s Man Utd - Draw
Swansea v/s Tottenham - Home win

Chelsea are in dire straits and things don't look to be getting any better for them as Southampton come to visit. Koeman's men are a tough proposition for any team and will fancy taking their chances against a Blues team in search of a desperate breather. Pelle is in great form and it's hard to see Begokic keeping a clean sheet here. This should be a close match and if there is a value away win to go for this week-end, it's with the Saints. A draw could very well settle this encounter though.

Man City have dropped 2 straight in the EPL but I cannot see them go down to the Magpies at home. They will be missing a bunch of first-team regulars including Silva and Toure but the squad is talented enough to cope. The return of Joe Hart in goal gives them big security at the back. De Bruyne has impressed since his transfer and Aguero is destined to resume scoring in the EPL soon. Hard to see anything other than a home win.

Everton v/s Liverpool. Everton will really fancy their chances to win this Derby with their rivals begging for some form. Liverpool will be better with Sturridge up front but Rodgers has so far been unable to get his team to play cohesively in any match so far. He's running out of time to save his post and in-form Lukaku can pile on their misery here. The Toffees look great value for a home win.

Friday, September 25, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 7

Spurs v/s Man City - Draw
Leicester v/s Arsenal - Away win
Liverpool v/s Aston Villa - Draw
Man Utd v/s Sunderland - Home win
Southampton v/s Swansea - Home win
Stoke v/s Bournemouth - Home win
West Ham v/s Norwich - Draw
Newcastle v/s Chelsea - Away win
Watford v/s Crystal Palace - Away win
West Brom v/s Everton - Home win

The banker of the week-end is Chelsea as they visit the woeful Magpies. Mourinho enjoys those types of encounters against weak teams where he can exploit their weaknesses to the full. That is a guaranteed full points for the Blues regardless who replaces Costa at the helm of their attack.

Man Utd should also easily dismiss Sunderland although Van Gaal has a poor record when confronting fellow Dutch counterpart Advocaat.

Value-wise, I like the the Gunners chances as they visit Leicester. Although they will miss Coquelin and Paulista for that game, they should have too much ammunition against Ranieri's team who have overachieved of late and should get back to earth soon.

Friday, September 18, 2015

EPL 2015/2016 - Week 6

Chelsea v/s Arsenal - Draw
Aston Villa v/s West Brom - Draw
Bournemouth v/s Sunderland - Draw
Newcastle v/s Watford - Draw
Stoke v/s Leicester - Home win
Swansea v/s Everton - Home win
Man City v/s West Ham - Home win
Spurs v/s Crystal Palace - Away win
Liverpool v/s Norwich - Home win
Southampton v/s Man Utd - Home win

Many of the matches look very close this week-end, so it won't be surprising if it ended up with many draws. I like the chances of Southampton against Man Utd. The Saints are on the up after a rather indifferent start and will be a team tough to play against as they were last year. Man Utd are still finding their feet and succumb alarmingly when under pressure as their defeat at PSV Eidhoven showed. For the moment, they've shown that they can take the lead but just cannot work on shutting down the opposition; they will have a difficult match against the Saints who look a good value punt.

 I also like the chances of Stoke at home to Leicester. The Foxes are second in the table but have chinks in their armour. Sure they fought back against Villa with 2 goals down last week-end but it's hard to see them repeat that on the road against a Stoke side that is usually difficult to beat at home. The Potters will have to deal with some suspension and injuries to some key players but they have an urgency of getting full points after a slow start and they are good value at current odds.

Friday, September 11, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 5

Everton v/s Chelsea - Away win
Arsenal v/s Stoke - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Man City - Draw
Norwich v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Watford v/s Swansea - Away win
WBA v/s Southampton - Away win
Man Utd v/s Liverpool - Home win
Sunderland v/s Spurs - Away win
Leicester v/s Aston Villa - Home win
West Ham v/s Newcastle - Draw

Although Stoke are resilient team to play against, they will be missing several key men for their trip to their Emirates. Arsenal should take full advantage and get the full points. 

Despite their current struggles and the loss of keeper Courtois for a long while, Chelsea have enough quality to get the win at Goodison Park. I fancy they will win this by the slightest margin. Pedro looks set to light things at the front again. 

I like Spurs chances away at Sunderland. Harry Kane will score sooner than later and Spurs are over-due a win. They won't get any easier than Sunderland.

Finally, the big match is between arch-rivals Man Utd and Liverpool. The Kops were fully exposed last week and the loss of Coutinho to suspension severely curtails their front weaponry. Man Utd have lots to answer themselves, particularly after a frantic transfer adventure that had them land teenager Martial at a spectacularly inflated fee. Old Trafford will be buzzing for the occasion and the hosts are poised to overcome a Liverpool team still looking to gel.

Friday, August 28, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 4

Newcastle v/s Arsenal - Away win
Aston Villa v/s Sunderland - Draw
Bournemouth v/s Leicester - Home win
Chelsea v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Liverpool v/s West Ham - Home win
Man City v/s Watford - Home win
Stoke v/s West Brom - Home win
Spurs v/s Everton - Home win
Southampton v/s Norwich - Home win
Swansea v/s Man Utd - Away win

Arsenal should be picking things up after a rather slow start. I am not convinced about the quality of the Newcastle team. With Mc Laren, they are a bottom-half team; without him, they are more a relegation team. This match should be high-scoring and it would not be a surprise to see Ramsey on the score-sheet. The Welshman was unlucky to have a valid goal ruled for offside against the Kops last Monday but it is only a matter of time that he finds the net.

Man City to beat Watford is a no-brainer. The Citizens lost so many points against low-tier teams last year and Pellegrini would want to avoid such mishaps if they are to challenge seriously this year.

I can very much see Spurs overcoming Everton at White Hart Lane. Tottenham are due a win, Kane is due a goal and Everton will feel the mid-week exertions of their overtime match at Barnsley.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

EPL 2015/16 - Week 3

Man Utd v/s Newcastle - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Aston Villa - Home win
Leicester v/s Spurs - Home win
Norwich v/s Stoke - Away win
Sunderland v/s Swansea - Draw
West Ham v/s Bournemouth - Home win
West Brom v/s Chelsea - Away win
Everton v/s Man City - Away win
Watford v/s Southampton - Away win
Arsenal v/s Liverpool - Home win

The banker win of the week is definitely Man Utd as they entertain a less-than convincing Newcastle team. They might have missed on Pedro and have Rooney in a miserable rut of form, but the Red Devils should prove too much for former No 2 Steve Mc Laren's side to handle. In fact, this match could awaken Rooney who has an good record of scoring against Newcasle.

I also think Palace will be hard to beat at home to Aston Villa. Pardew's men are a top-10 team in my books.

Chelsea to beat West Brom also looks a formality. Sure Mourinho has been under-fire lately and their drubbing at City last week puts a question mark on the team itself. Although I don't think they will be as good as last year, the Blues should still prove too strong for the Baggies.

Friday, August 14, 2015

EPL 2015/2016 - Week 2

Aston Villa v/s Man Utd - Away win
Southampton v/s Everton - Home win
Spurs v/s Stoke - Home win
Sunderland v/s Norwich - Home win
Swansea v/s Newcastle - Home win
Watford v/s West Brom - Draw
West Ham v/s Leicester - Draw
Crystal Palace v/s Arsenal - Away win
Man City v/s Chelsea - Draw
Liverpool v/s Bournemouth - Home win

I see Arsenal back on track after their opening day woes. They just failed to score on the numerous chances they had against West Ham, with Giroud the mail culprit. Palace have proven not too smart at home last year as their style mainly relies on high pace counter-attacking football, so the Gunners are in with a good shout here.

Man City have started their campaign strong but Chelsea are a different animal to WBA. Mourinho relishes those types of matches and he will park the bus if he has to. That should be a close encounter and a draw the likely result.

Friday, August 7, 2015

EPL 2015/2016 - Week 1

Man Utd v/ Spurs - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Villa - Draw
Everton v/s Watford -  Home win
Leicester v/s Sunderland - Home win
Norwich v/s Crystal Palace - Away win
Chelsea v/s Swansea - Home win
Arsenal v/s West Ham - Home win
Newcastle v/s Southampton - Away win
Stoke v/s Liverpool - Draw
West Brom v/s Man City - Away win

I really like the chances of Crystal Palace as they visit newcomers Norwich and Southampton on their trip to Tyneside. I fancy Palace to be a top 10 team this year and the arrival of Cabaye brings creativity to a seriously good offence. Koeman did wonders at Southampton last season and I expect the same; his sides are tough to beat and they have started with good form already with strong showings in the pre-season friendlies and in the Europa League.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

EPL 2015/2016 - Chelsea won't repeat

EPL is back again! The summer has been ripe with upheavals for most of the leading teams and the race looks to be as competitive as ever. Will Chelsea keep its crown? Will Van Gaal deliver for the Red Devils? How will Liverpool cope with the strong contingent of newcomers? Will it finally be Arsenal's year? Will Man City be explosive with the arrival of Sterling? Here's a lowdown on the leading teams, and although it's way too early to make a prediction on the eventual winner, I will make one anyways!

Chelsea. By Ambramovich's standards, the Blues' summer transfer activity has been very quiet. They have pinned their hopes on the arrival of Falcao and it is really a make or break decision for the club and player. I will say this; Falcao on his best form is arguably the best striker in the world. Sure, he did not produce as expected at Man Utd. Was it his knee injury? Was it Van Gaal's system? Is he done? If Mourinho can bring him back to his best, the goals will be flowing. But it's a really big if. Provided that Falcao is a non-factor, then it must be a worry for their fans that Chelsea have really not strengthened from last year. I think they will find it a much harder season and will have to count on the others flopping again. As things stand, while I think they will be in the thereabouts (as with all Mourinho's teams), I don't think they have the quality to repeat.

Man City. Manuel Pellegrini must be feeling the heat as if he does not have the Blues in contention from the start, he could very well liable to lose the top job. They got Sterling to boost their ranks after his acrimonious exit from Liverpool. The guy is the best current English player in my opinion. So he will bolster their attack even though they have lost Jovetic and Dzeko. The trouble is really with their defence where an out-of-form Kompany spells trouble at the back. Mangala will probably show better colors this season while deMichellis has many chinks in his armour. The Citizens should be playing role again but they have yet to show that they have the mental fortitude to win the title on their own right; the 2 times they won, they were well served on a platter by Man Utd and Liverpool. Still, they boast the strongest squad in the league and are my early favourites for the title.

Arsenal. Everyone seems to agree that this is going to be Arsenal's best chance in years to land the big one. The elements seem to have properly fallen into place for Arsene's men at last. The arrival of Petr Cech in the nets provides them with stability they have lacked in previous seasons. Alexis Sanchez is their main weapon up front after a terrific first season, but fans must beware of second-season blues for the Chilean who will not have had an optimal summer rest after his exertions in the Copa America tournament. The Gunners should go close this year but need the right guidance from a manager that has definitely lacked insight during tough spells and important matches in the past. They are the outsiders with a live chance if City falter.

Man Utd. This Utd team is going to be markedly different than last year as far as player personnel is concerned. Gone are RVP, di Maria, Falcao; 3 big names that on their best form would terrorize any opposition. But the incomings are nothing short of quality with the likes of Depay, Schweignsteiger and Schneiderlin among others. Let's not forget that Pedro is probably going to make the jump from Barcelona. It's the defence that is problematic for the Red Devils where they lack the presence of a defensive rock a la Ferdinand or Vidic. There is no leader at the back and it would be worse if they lose de Gea to Madrid. I see the Mancunians having an even better season than last year but it seems stretching to see them win it all. Close but probably no cigar for Van Gaal.

Liverpool. How the Kops will deal with the post-Gerrard and post-Sterling era will determine the fate of manager Rodgers. They have brought in some top names like Benteke and Origi which makes them boast the best strikeforce in the Premiership. The fact that they went through a tame spell at the end of the season severely questions the mental toughness of this team and its manager's. This is going to be a rebuilding season and Rodgers will be the focal point. They have the potential of a top 4 team but can't expect to fight for the overall title.

So at this point, I say Chelsea won't repeat. I see this going between Man City and Arsenal. It's going to be close and the parameters will change as the weeks go by. It should definitely be a closer race than last year. We'll revisit the predictions in 6 months.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sussex Stakes - Solo race for Solow.

Back from a great and much-needed break in the Hawaiian paradise.

The Sussex Stakes has lost much of its gloss with the defection of Gleneagles due to the softening conditions. The superstar miler of the Classic generation was going to fight it out with the best older miler out there in Solow. A pity that the duel will not take place. In his absence, Solow looks a worthy favourite that is impossible to oppose, particularly if he reproduces the form of his last race when impressively winning the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Only 2 names stand out from the opposition; Arod and Night of Thunder. The former comes from a win in the Summer Mile Stakes a little more than a fortnight ago and might just not be at full fitness for this; I think he will be found wanting in the last stages of the race on the soft turf against this kind of opposition. Night of Thunder will relish the track conditions and is taken to deliver more punch than his non-threatening fifth behind Solow on the firm Royal Ascot track. However, it is probably too much of an ask to overcome the 5 lengths that separated him from Solow.

Win: Solow

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Royal Ascot Day 4 - Moore on Fire

This Ascot renewal has been all about Ryan Moore who's snatched 8 races in the 3-day span and he's far from done yet. The last day sees him with leading chances with the likes of Hootenanny, Found, Aloft and Ol' Man River.

I really like the profile of Ol' Man River in the King Edward VII Stakes. The son of Montjeu has lost his way since the start of the season but the view from connections look rather upbeat. Having won both his juvenile races last year, he was fancied to be one of Ballydoyle's leading hopes in the top Classic middle-distance races this year. He came out last in the 2000 Guineas but not many would have expected fireworks from a son of Montjeu at the mile distance. Only Camelot was good enough to achieve that distinction. It was his disappointing 6th out of 7 contestants in the Dante that was the most perplexing. It is a gamble whether a 36-day rest would have sorted things out with him but trainer O'Brien seems to portray that the colt is back in order. At a mile and a half distance, a top-class son of Montjeu can be lethal and he could be worthy of a shot at current prices against opponents, none of which have won at the distance.

The 6 furlong Commonweath Cup looks the most competitive of the day with the likes of Hootenanny, Limato, Tiggly Wiggly and Anthem Alexander. It might very well be a game of inches here and preference goes to the 2 first mentioned. Wesley Ward always gets his runners primed for Ascot and Hootenanny has a very good chance to add to his impressive win tally.

Found, also ridden by Ryan Moore, looks the classiest filly in the Coronation Stakes. She narrowly missed out in the Irish 1000 Guineas but the form worked out well with winner Pleascach a good second in the Ribblesdale Stakes today. Ervedya from France looks her likeliest danger.

Win: Hootenanny
Place: Ol' Man River, Found, Ervedya

Royal Ascot Day 3 - King of the Juveniles

Arguably if one were looking for a horse having made a distinct impression in the last fortnight, it would have to be Buratino. After having annexed the field in the Listed Woodcote Stakes on Derby day by six lengths, the son of Exceed and Excel turned on the turbo again against solid Group 2 opposition in the  Coventry Stakes at Ascot yesterday, winning 2 clear lengths in the process.

It looks hard to believe but Buratino was himself soundly beaten 2 times by the Hannon pair of King of Rooks and Log Out Island who lock horns in the Norfolk Stakes today. That makes one wonder how good are the those two? King of Rooks has won his two races out of three starts, both in emphatic fashion by 5 and 6 lengths. Log Out Island has won his only career outing to date by an impressive 4.5 lengths and has been snapped up by Godolphin. Both of their pedigrees suggests that 5 furlongs is their optimal distance and the good to firm ground will suit both. King of Rooks has the benefit of the extra experience, which is why he is the preferred selection. The others are racing for the minor placings here.

The Gold Cup lost some of its lustre with the defection of Brown Panther. The unbeaten Forgotten Rules looks set to place a major role here and provided that the ground is not too firm to his liking, he should be at the finish. He is taken to give the Weld/Smullen combination another Ascot win after the winning return of Free Eagle in the Prince of Wales' Stakes yesterday.

Win: King of Rooks, Forgotten Rules.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Royal Ascot Day 2 - Back to Sprint

Ivawood goes back to sprint in the Jersey Stakes after two unsuccessful forays in the English and Irish Guineas at a mile. The son of Zebedee clearly lacks the stamina when competing at the highest level against top milers and seven furlongs seems to be his best distance. The opposition is solid but it's hard to see Ivawood out of the placings here although he will carry a penalty from his juvenile form. He is an each-way selection.

The Prince of Wales' Stakes looks to be a wide-open affair although Free Eagle has the edge in the market. First thing though is that it's regretful that California Chrome will miss the race due to a late injury. It's too bad because I would have laid him all day since I don't think he stood a chance against some quality turf middle-distance European horses on offer. He might be good on dirt although I would question the quality of horses he beat in his Classic season in the US. The thing is he hardly stood a chance running against Group-calibre horses on grass. Free Eagle is definitely top-class but very fragile. He's coming back a big lay-off and I suspect he might be short of fitness and will come on for the run. Same for Ectot who makes his seasonal re-appearance and will also be better suited to a mile and a half distance. I like the looks of The Grey Gatsby and Western Hymn. The former was a disappointing fourth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup 3 weeks ago but he usually alternates the good and the bad races. On his best form, he should play a major role here. Western Hymn is 2 for 2 this year and is on the up. He had to battle to beat Arab Spring in his last race and there is a concern that the 20 day rest might just be on the short side. John Gosden's stable is on a tear and Western Hymn looks to be a good place prospect at current market odds.

Each-way: Ivawood
Place: The Grey Gatsby, Western Hymn

Monday, June 15, 2015

Royal Ascot - Day 1 - Hope of a nation

Royal Ascot is for many the highlight of the Flat season. What is undisputed is the quality of racing on offer at the meeting, particularly when foreign raiders of the highest class come from afar to challenge the superiority of the local or European counterparts. Forget Dubai or the Breeders Cup, this is the place, together with Arc day at Longchamp, where world supremacy forged through a win suffers no question of legitimacy.

And there could not have been a better start to proceedings with the Queen Anne Stakes where world beaters Able Friend and Solow lock horns for the title of best miler in the world. Their form is staggering; They both read 111111 on the race card in their last 6 races. It's Hong Kong against France all over unless Night of Thunder, Britain's top miler, produces an extraordinary effort. Very unprobable. Able Friend carries the hope of a nation, having everything in the Far East. He's nearly invincible at Sha Tin and there are worries that the stiff mile of Ascot will see his stamina out. I think he will be fine, his unbelievable turn of foot should see him through any extended distance to a mile. Solow won the Dubai Duty Free impressively and is in flying form according to trainer Head. The mile is his minimum distance and he is no doubt the best older European horse going to a mile and a quarter. There is nothing else to choose between these two, their class is vastly superior to anything else. It's as close as a match race I can think of and what a duel it should be. I see Able Friend on top at the finish. An Asian miler on top of the world at Ascot, the thoroughbred hierarchy is about to see a revolution of epic proportions!

The St James Palace crowns the best 3 year-old miler and it's hard to see past Gleneagles and Make Believe, the winners of the English and French Guineas respectively. The deserved favourite is Gleneagles, who should be holding an undefeated record were it not for a very controversial disqualification in his last juvenile race last year. The son of Galileo added to his Classic collection after Newmarket by winning the Irish Guineas in impressive fashion. He showed an instant turn of foot in that race coming out of a compromising position towards the finish. Make Believe won the French Guineas impressively and will have the benefit of an extra fortnight of rest than the Ballydoyle champion. That could very play in his favour particularly if the race is run with a lot of pace. I think it will be a close one between the two, with a small preference for Gleneagles.

Win: Able Friend, Gleneagles

Friday, June 12, 2015

Euro 2016 - Wales v/s Belgium - Back to reality

Wales have live hopes of making it to the Euros next year but they encounter their biggest stumbling block today in the form of Belgium. It's true Coleman's men have 2 world-class players in his ranks in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey who can change the course of a game on their own. But that's about as far as it goes against the Red Devils that boast probably the most talented team in Europe. Try to find the likes of Hazard, Fellaini, Chadli, de Bruyne, Courtois, Benteke, to name a few. This is Belgium's golden generation and they are favourites to not only make it to Euro 2016 but also to play a big role there as well. They coasted against France in their last preparatory match and I expect them to deliver deflate Wales' Euro hopes this afternoon. Wales have done well so far but it will back to reality for them as the best they will aim for is 2nd place in their group.

Win: Belgium.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sports Galore - Derbies, UCL and French Open

A supremely jam-packed week-end of sports is on the horizon.

The most captivating one of the action is probably the Belmont Stakes where American Pharaoh will try to enter US racing folklore by winning the Triple Crown. He is clearly the best colt of his generation and I can see only two in the field that could potentially stop his way to racing immortality; Mubtaahij and Frosted. The former is the UAE Derby winner and although he did honorably in the Kentucky Derby by finishing eighth, he looked rather one pace. He will most probably be in a better disposition for Sarurday's Classic as his preparations have gone smoother and he's been in the surroundings for about 3 weeks. If the Pharaoh does not fire, Mubtaahij should be here to pick up the pieces. Frosted, I believe, is the main threat to Baffert's colt. The way he finished at Churchill Downs leads me to believe that the one and a half mile of the Belmont will be to his advantage. The Godophin representative has the advantage of having bypassed the Preakness, thus will be freshened up for the race. Pharaoh should have no problem with the distance. He is the classiest of the bunch. My only issue with him, as with any horse that has gone through the gruelling Triple Crown series, is his freshness. The last furlong or so of the race will be the toughest of his life. That's where his heart and courage will count, but most importantly his chances will heavily depend on how the other contenders are coping with the race and distance. That's where Frosted and Mubtaahij come into play. For selections, I cannot see Pharaoh out of the placings, so he's a banker place punt. I think with some luck, he can win as well. He's by far the likeliest Triple Crown I can think of in a long long time. 

The real Derby takes place at Epsom and I can only see 3 horses playing major roles here; Golden Horn, Jack Hobbs and Hans Holbein. Golden Horn is the unbeaten favourite and he looks the ideal type for the undulations of Epsom. He settles beautifully in his races and the manner he disposed of many of Saturday's rivals in the Dante, makes him hard to oppose. My only possible negative is that his pedigree does not scream stamina, so he might be stretched out in the last furlong. Being by Cape Cross and a mare of Dubai Destination seems to make this high-class colt best suited for races of 10 furlongs. Still, he's the clear deserved favourite. Stablemate Jack Hobbs could be his main danger. The son of Halling lost his invincibility to Golden Horn in the Dante after impressive earlier wins. There should be no stamina problems in his pedigree but the fact that Golden Horn beat him so impressively in their last encounter makes it impossible to look for a reverse in placings unless there has been a spectacular progress in this 3-weeks span on his part. Finally, Hans Holbein is the winner of the Chester Vase and will have no issue with the distance being a son of Montjeu. However, he looks to be Ballydoyle's third string as Ryan Moore and JP O'Brien have selected Giovanni Canaletto and Kilimanjaro respectively. A place punt on Hans Holbein might be more realistic but still profitable. Golden Horn is the pick to win it at the finish.

French Open tennis and I expect Djokovic to first finish up with Murray in their resumed semi-final match. Then, he will probably face his toughest match of the tournament against Wawrinka, but he should have enough in the tank to see it through as well. Nole to be on top of the world on Sunday.

Finally, Champions League football at its nirvana with Barcelona taking on Juventus, the winner seeing the coronation of a perfect season a.k.a the much coveted Treble. It seems mostly everyone is on the Barcelona bandwagon but I don't think it's a done deal by any means. Sure, the Catalans boast the incredible front-line of Messi, Suarez and Neymar that can score at any time. Juventus are not that good at the back and with the last-minute defection of main central defender Chellini, they look sure to be scored against. However, the Italians cannot be dismissed lightly and if the score is still level in the late stages, it won't be surprising if they are the ones making a breakthrough. It might be fool-hardy to go against Barcelona and Messi but their odds are mightily too short against opponents that are by no-means second-string. If a choice is to be made, Barcelona be it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


With Nadal mastered, the next road block to Djokovic is Andy Murray. The Briton has made leaps and bounds on clay this year. Only in the past months, he's won his first clay tournament and more importantly beat Nadal to win a second tournament on the surface. Before his quarter-final match against Ferrer yesterday, he had never beaten the Spaniard on clay; yet he proved too strong in a 3-1 easy drubbing. Murray is coming good, especially mentally on his least-favoured surface.

Is all that good enough to beat Djokovic? No way. Not in a 3-set match against the best player in the world at the moment. A player who's just destroyed Nadal in 3 straight sets and is on the all-conquering path of winning the only tournament missing from his Grand Slam resume. The motivation is there for all to see. It's a now or never chance the Serb will not let pass. Murray will have to bow to his nemesis again.

Win Semi-Final: Djokovic

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

End of Reigns

The news have broken that Blatter is out of FIFA after an overdue 17-year reign. It seems another cycle is about to end in a few hours; Rafa Nadal, the master of Roland Garros is gunning for his 10th crown in 11 years but has the irrepressible Novak Djokovic on his way at the quarter-final stage today.

The stats are amazing. Nadal has only been beaten once in the past 10 years at the French Open. On his best day, no-one can beat him on the surface. The problem this year is that he's not at his peak. He was out of the game for most of last year and rushed his preparations to be ready to defend his French Open crown. While he is getting better with every match, the encounter with Djokovic comes a little too soon for him. The Serb is currently the world's best player. Mentally, he is on another level to anyone. He's beaten Nadal on clay during the preparatory tournaments leading to Roland Garros. He knows what it takes to beat the French master on the surface, now he needs to do it where it counts most. Time plays for him as he's in the best form of his life while Nadal is just getting back his reflexes. It's now or never for the Serb to crack open Nadal's reign and make his way to winning the only Grand Slam tournament missing from his resume.

In a few hours, cometh another end of reign. Djokovic to win the match, and eventually the tournament.

Win against Nadal: Djokovic
Win tournament: Djokovic

Friday, May 22, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 38

The curtain comes down on the EPL this Sunday. Suffice to say that all the excitement had petered out several weeks ago when Chelsea was the only team able to maintain the tempo at the top. The Blues were tipped to win it all at the start of the season in these columns and it was pleasing to see them justify the confidence. The only question that remains now is which of Newcastle or Hull will go down. The Magpies need a draw in their last home match to secure survival in the EPL and whether they get it or not, I still think they will hang on to their advantage over the Tigers.

Since most teams will be playing for nothing at stake, it would not be surprising to see wholesale changes in starting elevens. So caution is warranted and surprises will certainly be on the offing.

Arsenal v/s WBA. Wenger could decide to rest star players here for the upcoming FA Cup final. They looked to be badly in need of a break after their last 3 woeful performances against Swansea, Man Utd and Sunderland. West Brom will be playing their part to stifle opponents as they usually do. It is of no surprise that they have done well since Pulis' arrival. The Gunners haven't lost in their last 9 last-day matches but although this stat means nothing, they should still look for a favourable result to confidently tackle Aston Villa at Wembley. I think they will just edge this. Home win.

Aston Villa v/s Burnley. Villa need to put their woeful performance at Southampton behind them and players will probably be looking for redemption in order to secure their places for the FA Cup final. Tim Sherwood might rest some players here although he mentioned otherwise. Burnley are toast and going back to the Championship and have nothing to play for. This match could end in a draw goal-less draw. Draw.

Chelsea v/s Sunderland. One thing that I am certain is that Chelsea will not lose this match like they did last year. The Blues will want to end this campaign on a high. Sunderland are already secure and have nothing to play for; they will have celebrated this week after getting that crucial saving point at Arsenal on Monday. That's hardly the best mindset to confront the Chelsea juggernaut; they could get trounced here. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Swansea. Two strong mid-table teams that can look back at this season as being positive. A draw is a good possibility. Draw.

Everton v/s Tottenham. This match could go any way. Sitting on the fence with a draw. Draw.

Hull v/s Man Utd. The hosts need an absolute win here and they will need to take their chances. With Jelavic up front, they can secure at least a goal. Man Utd don't have anything at stake and even with their first team, they would still not be certainties for the win. I think the Tigers can surprise here and can edge this encounter. Home win.

Leicester v/s QPR. I think there will be many goals in this match and most of it will be Leicester's. They should have too much speed for this Rangers team in urgent need of surgery. Home win.

Man City v/s Southampton. I can't see the hosts losing this. They will probably get the win although they have let opponents claw back in many matches before. Home win.

Newcastle v/s West Ham. It's interesting to read about conspiracy theories leading to this match. Will Allardyce try to sink the team that sacked him? Will Kevin Nolan want to see his childhood team relegated? All I know is that Newcastle are just terrible and that West Ham have the capacity to beat them at St James Park on their best day. I think they will do get the 3 points and have the Magpies fans eagerly await the Hull v/s Man Utd result. Away win.

Stoke v/s Liverpool. The Kops are in dire straits with all the talk this week having been Sterling's future at Anfield. Sterling is England's best player and Liverpool will certainly be a weaker team without him. Steven Gerrard will also be saying his goodbyes to the EPL after this match. Stoke are one of the best, although quiet, stories of this year and Mark Hughes has done wonders with this team. The hosts have a lot of upside and are strong at home, so I see them winning this. Home win.

Friday, May 15, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 37

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of irrelevant matches during the last 2 weeks of EPL football given that Chelsea have bagged the title and QPR and Burnley are the known clubs for relegation. There is only one last spot left for the drop and that is where the rest of the excitement lies as there are 5 teams that are potentially liable to be caught out.

Southampton v/s Villa. Soton are huffing and puffing at the moment. They have enjoyed a successful season and have a shout at the Europa League. Villa need a point to be totally safe and I think they will not have any problem getting it. A draw cannot be ruled out with 2 teams going in seemingly opposite directions. Draw.

Burnley v/s Stoke. The hosts are toast and will go down after a dreadful spell over the past few weeks. They have performed admirably in many matches over the season  but their lack of goals, particularly over the above-mentioned spell, have broken them. Stoke are solid but don't have much to play for. This could go any result but for selection sake, I will go for an away win because Mark Hughes' team are superior. Away win.

QPR v/s Newcastle. Rangers are down but Newcastle still have lots to play for in their remaining 2 matches. No-one thought they would be real candidates for the drop a few months ago when Pardew was at the helm. Even when caretaker manager Carver took over, they looked like a mid-table team until the day they lost striker Papiss Cisse for a long period, in rather silly fashion. They will have to go for full points here because their last match against West Ham looks tricky. I don't think they will get the win but a share of the spoils could be likely. Draw.

Sunderland v/s Leicester. This is the 6-pointer of the week-end without a doubt. The winner of this match will very likely be out of the woods. The home team surprised and won at Everton last week-end and will need to display a similar disposition to overcome a less formidable but resurgent Leicester, winners of 6 of their last 7 matches. The Foxes are on an amazing run and their form has been equally good on the road as at home. I think this could be a high-scoring affair and I wouldn't be surprised if it ended in a draw, that however would not be the best outcome for both teams. Draw.

Tottenham v/s Hull. Much of this match will depend on how Spurs tackle this match, as they don't have much to play for except for the Europa League. Naysayers are stating that they are not interested getting in that league again, as in the past few years. That remains to be seen, but Hull for sure, will need 3 big points to try to avoid the drop. They need a result at White Hart Lane to set up their last home match against Man Utd. I think they will squeeze at least a point out of this and will luck might get the win. Draw.

West Ham v/s Everton. This is a meaningless match and with Everton having seemingly applied the brakes lately, I think the hosts will probably edge this. Home win.

Liverpool v/s Crystal Palace. This will be captain Gerrard's last match at Anfield. The Kops' hopes for UCL football next year are hinging on a thread and need a win at the very least to keep the hopes alive. Palace have nothing to play for, which is why I tip to get a royal send-off from Anfield at the end of the 90 minutes. Home win.

Swansea v/s Man City. Both teams have nothing to play for, but with City in such rampant, albeit too late form, I will go with the away team just edging this. Away win.

Man Utd v/s Arsenal. This is more a match for bragging rights as Arsenal are secure for UCL football while Man Utd need a point to officially get theirs. The hosts will be missing Rooney. The Gunners got an FA Cup win earlier at Old Trafford, a result that rather flattered them as the Red Devils looked value for at least a draw. Arsenal left their foot off the pedal against Swansea in their last match and I wonder whether the upcoming FA Cup final is weighing on their minds. A draw looks very likely here. Draw.

WBA v/s Chelsea. Another meaningless match and if the odds for a home win are near double digits, I'd say go for it. Home win.

Friday, May 8, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 36

Quickly, my selections for the matches this week-end.

Everton v/s Sunderland. Home win.
Aston Villa v/s West Ham. Home win.
Hull v/s Burnley: Home win.
Leicester v/s Southampton. Away win.
Newcastle v/s WBA. Draw.
Stoke v/s Spurs. Draw.
Crystal Palace v/s Man Utd. Draw.
Chelsea v/s Liverpool. Draw.
Man City v/s QPR. (Blowout) Home win.
Arsenal v/s Swansea. Home win.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Racing, Football and Boxing Galore

The first week-end of May promises to be spectacular with the usual football being eclipsed by the Guineas, Kentucky Derby and above all the fight of the century between Pacquiao and Mayweather. Some quick thoughts on those events.

In the EPL, I expect Chelsea to be officially crowned champions on Sunday. They need to beat Crystal Palace and I believe they will have enough in them to do so. I also see wins for Liverpool, Swansea, West Ham, Man Utd and Tottenham. The rest are draw selections (obviously).

The 2000 Guineas looks wide open but a few names stick out; Estidhkaar, Gleneagles, Intilaaq, Territories and Ivawood. Sheikh Hamdan looks to have a strong pair in Estidhkaar and Intilaaq; the former was a good second in the Craven and has reportedly improved since then according to connections. Intilaaq was an impressive maiden winner a fortnight ago and has been supplemented for the race. He's got unusual speed for a Dynaformer colt and the mile will be his minimum trip. Gleneagles was the best 2-year old of the lot and the main question regarding the Ballydoyle representative is his fitness as this will be his seasonal reappearance. If he has progressed accordingly during the winter season, he could be the best of the Classic bunch. Territories represent the Godolphin stable under the care of Andre Fabre. The manner he won his first race of the season indicates that a strong showing can again be expected of him. After all, master Fabre does not usually cross the Channel unless the potential for success is there. Finally, Ivawood is another from the Hannon yard backed with confidence by connections. He was clearly beaten by stable companion Estidhkaar on his seasonal reappearance and I find it difficult for him to reverse the places. I will go for Estidhkaar to prevail, with Territories and Intilaaq pursuing him home.

The Kentucky Derby also is a strong and open affair. I will retain this quartet; American Pharoah, Dortmund, Carpe Diem and Mubtaahij. The first two are from Baffert's barn and will probably go as the market leaders before the stalls open. AP was arguably last season's best 2-year old in the US and missed his Breeders Cup date due to injury. He has mightily won his 2 races this year which means that the ability is there. Unless he encounters traffic problems, I expect him to play a big part at the finish. Dortmund is battle-hardened and undefeated in 6 races. He's had to duke it out a few times to keep his record intact and has so far come out on top every time. He's most dangerous if given a soft lead and it will be interesting to see the tactics between him and the other front-runners in a race that usually livened by a suicidal pace on the let go. Carpe Diem is the main hope of leading trainer Pletcher. I think this son of Giant's Causeway is one of the best of the Classic lot but am intrigued as to his aptitude in a big field as this; a strong contender on paper but he might show his limits in this race. Mubtaahij hails from the de Kock stable and booked his ticket to the big race after winning the UAE Derby in an impressive fashion. For certain, what he beat in Dubai is nowhere as good as what he will encounter at Churchill Downs. He has shown tough resilience though and looks sure to figure among the best of the day rather the trailers. I think the best horse will win this and it will be the Pharoah.

Pacman v/s Money, the fight of the century. Bigger than Ali v/s Frazier, Sugar Ray v/s Hearns, Lewis v/s Tyson. The best 2 fighters of their generation, although both are at the twilight of their careers. Mayweather is un-defeated in 47 matches. He's quick, evasive and hard to be caught. Pacman is a punching machine. The heart says Pacman because he's the better person, by far. The mind says Money because he's the agile boxer with the perfect movement and deadly connect. It looks to be one for the ages. Go Pacman!

Friday, April 24, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 34

Chelsea can put all title talk to rest this week-end when they visit Arsenal. Mourinho's never lost in 12 confrontations with Wenger and he only adds to this tally to dispatch any intent of the Gunners to make it an exciting title race. It would not be a stretch to think that fireworks could be off field rather than on it, the animosity between the 2 club managers being as fierce as any. At the bottom half, Leicester has made huge strides of late and there are 6 teams very much in the fray for the drop. The only excitement of the EPL sadly lies there.

Southampton v/s Tottenham. Both teams won't make the UCL, that's a guarantee. The hosts have to contend with some absentees with the likes of Wanyama and Rodriguez, not to mention keeper Forster who's out for the season. Spurs will also likely miss their No 1 Lloris. Home advantage should count here and I think Soton will just edge this by the odd goal. Home win.

Burnley v/s Leicester. An absolute 6-pointer here. Leicester are in flying form while Burnley are mostly going down a steep. They need Ings to get back firing here as they have only scored 1 goal in their last 7 matches. They should be able to take advantage of the Foxes' dubious defence. As for the visitors, striker Nugent might be missing but they have other dependable strikers to count on. I think it's home advantage Burnley but by no means certain. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Hull. Palace were unexpectedly rocked last week at home to WBA. Overconfidence after a series of good results, maybe? Hull are right in the danger zone and seem to have grind hard to get results. Palace forwards could have a field day here. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Swansea. The Magpies have been on a rotten run since Cisse's suspension and it does not look to be any better with the coming of Swansea. The visitors relish this kind of away encounter. where they keep the match relatively close and rely on late spurts of attack to try to make the breakthrough. They are a tough side to break down on their best day and are visiting Newcastle at the right time. Away win.

QPR v/s West Ham. Rangers will be looking for full points against a team that has won only once in their last 12 matches. The Hammers cannot be taken lightly though as they tend to keep matches close for a while. A draw looks the likeliest possibility here, which won't really arrange the hosts. Draw.

Stoke v/s Sunderland. Not sure what to make of Sunderland under Advocaat yet. Stoke are very good at home on their best day and that's the only form on offer here. Home win.

WBA v/s Liverpool. The Kops were surprisingly knocked out of the FA Cup by Villa last Sunday. They are badly missing Sturridge up front as Balotellit clearly does not fit in Rodger's system. West Brom managed to win last week after some tough losses at home. Difficult on form to see how this will go but Liverpool have the 4th UCL spot to desperately fight for, I think they will just edge this match. Away win.

Man City v/s Aston Villa. Villa will go to Manchester in high spirits after booking their trip to Wembley for the FA final. They still are in a precarious position in the league though and have points to make. City are done for the title and are striving for a UCL spot. They will have Silva available after his scare in their last match. Aguero and Benteke will light the fireworks upfront here and City go with the favors in order to stop their season from unraveling. Home win.

Everton v/s Man Utd. This is a tough one for the Mancunians as the Toffees are on a decent run. A trip to Goodison Park is never easy but if Man Utd go there in the same spirit and demeanor as at Anfield, they can dominate proceedings. This should be a close match and a draw could very well be on the cards. Draw.

Arsenal v/s Chelsea. How will Wenger be able to beat Mourinho? Clearly the Portuguese has made a career getting results against clubs playing attacking football. Arsenal are best at playing their flowing football but that is often a suicidal approach against Mourinho's teams. That's a major dilemma for Wenger. Chelsea will play this match in order not to lose. They will park the bus or do whatever it takes not to give Arsenal the full points. I think it's either going to be a draw or an away win although for sporting reasons, it would be great if Wenger finally got one over his nemesis manager. Draw.

Friday, April 17, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 33

Anyone out there still thinking that Chelsea can be caught? Man City have been tamed away and Arsenal and Man Utd have seemingly entered the title race picture purely on their last bit of rich form. But it seems a case of too little too late as I cannot see Mourinho's team having a disastrous end run of games that would give these 2 chasers a fighting chance.

Crystal Palace v/s WBA. Palace are hot at the moment while the Baggies have turned surprisingly cold, possibly the loss of keeper Foster being one of the plausible reasons. It's impossible to go against the flying Eagles here and they can be dangerous on so many counts with talented players like Bolasie, Puncheon and Zaha to name a few. Home win.

Everton v/s Burnley. It is not a surprise that Everton are climbing the table after their disastrous first half. They won't be relegated but they won't make it in Europe either. Burnley are fighting for survival and are travelling to Goodison Park at an in auspicious time. Besides their rather fortuitous win at home against Man City, their level of form has been pretty poor. Lukaku could have a field day here and it should be 3 points for Martinez' men. Home win.

Leicester v/s Swansea. The good news for Leicester is that the visitors will be without a host of first-team players and will have to make do with a make-shift defence. If Ulloa and company can pounce on that weakness, they will get the much-needed 3 points to stave off relegation. Leicester usually make their games harder than they should, so I don't them to win this by a wide margin, but they can edge this. Home win.

Stoke v/s Southampton. If ever there is going to be a bore drawless match, it will probably be this one. The teams are evenly matched and even if it does not end up 0-0, a draw looks very likely to be on the cards. Draw.

Chelsea v/s Man Utd. A draw will suffice for Chelsea here to keep the Red Devils at bay in the title chase. This looks like a very likely scenario given that Mourinho goes into such types of matches in order not to lose, rather than to outright win. The hosts will be missing Costa but the visitors will be without Blind, Rojo and more importantly midfield anchor Carrick. I think it will be a home win or draw, with the preference going to the latter. Draw.

Man City v/s West Ham. The Citizen's miserable late form will certainly augur huge upcoming changes at the club. They are now fighting for fourth spot. They should be able to beat West Ham who are in a rut of their own. Aguero needs to find his lethal edge back if the hosts are to secure the last UCL spot. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Tottenham. Two more matches out for Papiss Cisse and the Magpies can't really wait. Spurs are ever reliant on Harry Kane to deliver and will again have several first-team player doubts going into the match with Lloris, Walker and Verthogen fighting for match fitness. A draw looks plausible here and that's the selection. Draw match.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 32

Some flash thoughts before the matches start this Saturday.

Home Win: Southampton, Tottenham, WBA, West Ham, Man Utd
Away Win: Arsenal, Chelsea
Draw: Sunderland/Palace 

Friday, April 3, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 31

With the international matches over, it's the final push to the line. Man City are the ones under the gun as their title aspirations are all but gone, and they are fighting for second place with the likes of neighbours Man Utd and Arsenal hot under their heels. Liverpool can still aspire for a 4th place spot even after their home defeat last week-end but they have seemed to be running out of steam of late.

Arsenal v/s Liverpool. As I've mentioned above, I think Liverpool have peaked and can no longer sustain the good run of form prior to their defeat to Man Utd last week-end. Their dynamic trio of Lallana, Sterling and Coutinho have been devoid of ideas in their last matches, so other players will have to step up. The return from injury of Sturridge is a plus as he is always a goal scoring threat. The Gunners usually finish the season strong and they are in good form going into this match. Striker Giroud has been banging all types of goals lately and Ramsey's forward forrays give their attack much impetus. This is a 6-pointer match for a  UCL spot and I give the edge to the home team. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Stoke. The Blues might miss Costa for this match but I don't think it will matter. Stoke are always a dangerous side to play against but unless any mishap, this should be 3 more points for Mourinho's men. Home win.

Everton v/s Southampton. Pelle finally scored a goal and that was against England in mid-week. This should give him some confidence heading in this match against the Toffees. Southampton are a genuine top 6 team and they will have opportunities to score with the likes of likes of Tadic, Elia and Mane. Everton are solid at home and their main challenge is to climb up to a more respectable position up the table. These are 2 even teams and a draw is a probable outcome. Draw.

Leicester v/s West Ham. I see the Hammers finally getting an overdue win here. Leicester haven't impressed me in their last couple of matches, which makes me think that they are going down unless they pick up on their form. West Ham are not at their strong early-season level but they have been getting better after a rough stretch of matches. They are the away pick of the week-end. Away win.

Man Utd v/s Aston Villa. The home team will be buoyed by their win at Anfield last week-end. The LVG system seems to be finally going and heading to full steam. They need to beat Villa convincingly to silence the remaining critics. Villa are not out of the woods yet and Tim Sherwood has yet to prove that he will get them out of their rut. This is going to be a difficult match for them and I see a home win here. Home win.

Swansea v/s Hull. This should be a home win as there is a different class between these 2 teams. The only worry about the home team is how match-fit is striker Gomis but Gary Monk has creatively redeployed his resources when in need. Home win.

West Brom v/s QPR. Another home win here. WBA are almost a fortress at home against the small guns and QPR are the worst team on the road. To have any chance of staying up, Rangers will have to pile the points at Loftus Road. Home win.

Burnley v/s Tottenham. Spurs will be missing keeper Lloris for this match but the ever-dangerous Harry Kane will be spearing the attack again. Burnley cannot be dismissed and I think they will have at least a point out of this. They burned City last time out at home and they will feel they can undo Spurs as well. A high-scoring draw could be the likely outcome. Draw.

Sunderland v/s Newcastle. Dick Advocaat was rather unfortunate to lose his first match in charge of Rangers as they were un-done in the dying minutes of that match against West Ham. Jermaine Defoe is misfiring at the moment and it may be that he does not have the young legs for the EPL anymore. His strike partner Steven Fletcher comes off a fresh hat-trick for Scotland in mid-week, which could provide him the confidence to start banging the goals for the club. Newcastle will again be without Cisse and that's a big handicap going into this North derby encounter. I think the most they can expect is a draw but I think that Sunderland will get the much-needed 3 points. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Man City. Since this is a Monday game, the Citizens will know where they stand in the league as they take on the Eagles. The latter are currently playing with confidence under Pardew and will certainly pose problems to the City defence. This match could end up in any result and while it is hard to fathom another loss for City, I think that if they win, it will be by a minimal margin. Still, a draw might settle this. Draw.

Friday, March 20, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 30

The EPL race got somewhat spicier with all English teams now out of the UCL. To say that Chelsea holds a significant advantage is an under-statement; the title is theirs to lose and with Man City being off-form, the Blues can also rely on their opponents floundering in their coming matches to comfort their advantage at the top. Unlike what Mourinho is saying, it's not a 5-team race, it's maybe a 2-team race, and will possibly be a 1-team race sooner rather than later.

Man City v/s WBA. Having suffered the wrath of Messi and Barcelona, City have to get back on track with a win against the in-form Baggies. Quite a difficult task given that Tony Pulis' men are proving a difficult team to break down. Also, the hosts will be without injured Yaya Toure and their record without the powerhouse midfielder is not stellar. I still think they will win in the end, but it won't be a surprise if the Baggies end up sharing the spoils. Home win.

Aston Villa v/s Swansea. Christian Benteke seems to have regained a new lease of life under Tim Sherwood and can add to his counter here. Swansea were unlucky to miss out on points against Liverpool last Monday and deserve respect on their road travels. They do however, have trouble holding a clean sheet, which is why I think the Villa tandem of Agbonglahor and Benteke can open them up while holding the visitors' defence at bay. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Arsenal. The problem for the Magpies right now is the absence of Papiss Cisse which limits their goal scoring ability. They don't have anyone close to filling that gap. Arsenal produced a strong performance against Monaco in the UCL and were unlucky not to get that 3rd necessary goal to go through. There is definitely a question on their fitness after their exertions at Le Principaute. Class should tell in the end and I think the Gunners will just edge this. Away win.

Southampton v/s Burnley. Burnley cannot cease to amaze and their last shocking win against Man City showed the determination of Ings and company to fight till the end. I think they will be up against it against Southampton as the hosts have a strong home record and are difficult to score against. Striker Pelle is due a goal for a long time and this might be the match to stop his rotten spell. I am going for a home win but Burnley has burnt my predictions before. Home win.

Stoke v/s Crystal Palace. This pits two teams that are on an even keel and safe from the relegation battle. I give a slight advantage to Stoke because of their strong form at home. Also, Palace might be without Jason Puncheon, which will remove some of the flair out of their quick and inspiring attacks. Home win.

Tottenham v/s Leicester. The Foxes somewhat disappointed me in not being able to break down a 10-men Hull team last week. This is a dangerous match for them against a no-nonsense Spurs team with Harry Kane at the helm. Leicester will be lucky to get a point out of this match. Home win.

West Ham v/s Sunderland. Dick Advocaat is a good manager but I am not convinced he is the person to guide Sunderland out of the relegation battle. He's more proven with teams playing on the other side of the table. Still, players always try to make first impressions during a new manager's first game so Sunderland can hope for a result here, particularly that the Hammers are in a rather rotten form. I think the tide will turn sooner than later for Allardyce's men and they have shown lately that they are not far from their early-season blistering form. I think they will edge this one. Home win.

Liverpool v/s Man Utd. The Red Devils gave one of their more convincing displays of the season when beating Spurs last week-end. Liverpool, at Anfield, are another piece of metal though. The Kops were lucky to beat Swansea in their last match and I am wondering whether they have peaked. This is a 6-pointer for the 4th and last UCL spot and I think this will end up in either a home win or a draw. Draw.

Hull v/s Chelsea. Hull are riding some good momentum but their task for this match has been made harder with the injury to top striker Jelavic and suspension of midfield stalwart Huddlestone. Chelsea should pounce on these shortcomings and get the full points. Away win.

QPR v/s Everton. Everton were booted out of the Europa League in mid-week after being destroyed 2-5 in Kiev. They are bound to feel the effects of that arduous match and Rangers have the capacity to cause the Toffees problems when playing at home. The hosts will have Barton back and need the full points but I think they will have to contend with just 1 in the end. Draw.

Friday, March 13, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 29

Chelsea's spectacular ouster from the UCL at the hands of PSG is a blessing in disguise for their EPL title aspirations. That will be their only focus till the end of the season. There is a doubt regarding their current fitness levels as they have seemed somewhat flat physically in their last few games but unless they find themselves dealing with major injuries, I don't think that fitness will be a factor in the run-in. Man City will in all probability exit the UCL as well next week, so the EPL will be their main priority push. Expect lots of words of war between Mourinho and Pellegrini till the end.

Crystal Palace v/s QPR. The Chris Ramsey effect seems to have petered out at QPR and I expect them to flounder again on this road travel. The dynamic Palace attack spearheaded by Jason Puncheon will certainly pose problems for the Rangers slow defensive corps. Home win.

Arsenal v/s West Ham. The Gunners have a crucial UCL match against Monaco in mid-week, so Arsene Wenger might decide to tinker with his team selection against the off-form Hammers. They need the win for the Top 4 fight, so the hosts cannot set their sights too far ahead. Their last FA Cup win away at Old Trafford will buoy the team, particularly match-winning scorer Danny Wellbeck. The Hammers are due a wake-up call soon but in the end the Gunners should have too much firepower for them in this one; it won't be easy but Arsenal should edge this. Home win.

Leicester City v/s Hull. Leicester need to translate their good displays into points, their main problem is that they are not converting their scoring chances into goals. This is a 6-pointer for both teams and I give a slight advantage to the Foxes because they will have home advantage. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Aston Villa. These are 2 teams that don't score often, so it would be of no surprise if it ended in a drab score-less draw. Draw.

WBA v/s Stoke. These 2 teams should end in the middle part of the table far from the relegation zone. Both can play compact and are difficult to break down. This encounter can go any way really. Draw.

Burnley v/s Man City. Burnley snatched an improbable draw at the Etihaad and they will hope for another strong showing to get something out of this match. Man City have to win to keep their title hopes alive, their minds also set on their upcoming and most important match so far this season when visiting Barcelona in the UCL next week. They will probably try to put this match to bed early and avoid any injuries for their trip to the Nou Camp. Burnley seem to be suffering from burn-out in their last couple of matches and they look to be up against it here. Bony could open his account for the Citizens after having endured some tough initial matches . Away win.

Chelsea v/s Southampton. I think Chelsea will come firing out of the starting blocks after their flat UCL encounter against PSG. They will look for some redemption. Diego Costa is really due a goal, not having scored in his last 7 matches. Southampton do not have their early-season form and have shown vulnerability whether at home or on the road. I cannot see them stopping the Blues' march towards EPL glory. Home win.

Everton v/s Newcastle. The hosts had a tough Europa League encounter in mid-week and Newcastle can take advantage of any lack of condition the Toffees might suffer from. The problem for the Magpies is that they will be missing Papiss Cisse for a long stretch of matches because of the spitting incident with Johnny Evans. His absence is a major setback to the potency of their strike force. Everton need a win to stave off any talk of relegation but I don't think they will get the full points here. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Tottenham. This is a huge match for both teams fighting for a Top 4 spot. I give the Red Devils home advantage but they will have to shackle Harry Kane to bolster their chances of a win. It would be no surprise if this ended in a draw but I think that the hosts will have the benefit of the home crowd to spur them and somewhat relieve them of the misery of being booted out of the FA Cup at the expense of Arsenal in their last match.  Home win.

Swansea v/s Liverpool. If the Kops are on song, they will blow away Swansea, as their form and play has been irresistible of late. If they come up with another clanger like against Blackburn in the FA Cup, then Swansea have a shout. I think this match will be high-scoring and possibly a draw might settle this. Draw.

Monday, March 2, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 28

Man City's season is un-raveling and their defeat at Liverpool is surely the final nail in their coffin. For sure, they will pick themselves up but there is every reason to think that it will be the case of too little too late should they gain ground on leaders Chelsea in the last 10 matches of the EPL season. Piling on Chelsea for whatever measly returns on offer is the surest thing in the EPL at this point.

Aston Villa v/s WBA. There is a distinct possibility that Tim Sherwood picks up his first point for Villa here. Villa should try to maximize points here as the Baggies have shown vulnerabilities on their road travels. A boring draw-less score is within the realms as these are 2 teams are more renowned for their defensive stance. Draw.

Hull v/s Sunderland. It remains to be seen how the off-field events concerning Adam Johnson will have impacted the visitors. Hull have shown strong form of late and will go into the match as firm favourites, but erratic Sunderland should not be discounted in these types of matches. A real 6-pointer at the bottom of the table and I think that the Black Cats could spring a surprise here. They look to be the value punt of this game week. Away win.

Southampton v/s Crystal Palace. These will match up with 2 teams going in the opposite direction; the Saints are huffing and puffing of late while Palace are racking up impressive points under Pardew. The problem with the hosts is their profligacy in front of goal, particularly with striker Pelle on a long goal scoring drought. Palace took full advantage of the failing form of the Hammers over the week-end but this match seems a harder proposition for them. It's a wake-up call for Southampton to revive their European ambitions and I expect them to edge this. Home win.

Man City v/s Leicester. City are clamoring that they need to win their remaining games to keep their title and they need to start their winning by beating Leicester. The Foxes have actually shown very disposition in their last games and I was particularly impressed with them in their last visit at the Emirates where although they lost to Arsenal, they crafted enough chances to get something out of that match. Man City have lost points against relegation-threatened teams at the Etihaad and the worst they could do is under-estimate the opposition again. Still, if they show the form which allowed them to blitz Newcastle in their last home match, they should be too much for the visitors. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Man Utd. I still think that Man Utd is a sleeping giant that will awaken up sooner than later. They are still racking up wins even though the team is un-balanced and certainly being bigger than the sum of its parts at the moment. Van Gaal needs time and until his system properly clicks, they will approach away matches with the aim of not losing them. Newcastle have a very good record at home and they will create chances against the Utd defence. It should be a tight one and I think a draw will settle this. Draw.

QPR v/s Arsenal. Arsenal need to win these types of matches in order to secure that ultra-competitive 4th UCL spot. Sanchez has been quiet of late and that could be the match to sparkle him. Ozil is their form player at the moment and it seems that the Gunners will have too much firepower for the hosts. Away win.

Stoke v/s Everton. Stoke are enjoying a fine season while Everton are a disappointment compared to last year. I think this match is going to be tight, with a draw suiting both teams. Draw.

Tottenman v/s Swansea. Spurs are in quick need of getting back to earth after their disappointment in the Carling Cup final. They are going to rely on Harry Kane to strike again. This is going to be a tough match for them as Swansea are usually a team difficult to break down. The visitors could spring an upset here but a draw is probably the likelier result. Draw.

West Ham v/s Chelsea. The Blues will be visiting the Hammers at the right time as the once high-flying hosts are now struggling. I can't see a home win here and the most West Ham can aspire to is a draw. Still, Costa is due a goal soon and could very well be the one making the difference in the end. Away win.

Liverpool v/s Burnley. The Kops are the form team of the moment and if the likes of Coutinho and Sterling display their cutting edge, they should be able to outscore the Clarets. However, it would be a mistake for the hosts to under-estimate the Clarets as the latter have shown remarkable resilience on their away travels to top teams. I expect a high-scoring match with the hosts riding their wave and edging this. Home win.

Friday, February 27, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 27

Man City could be in for a good gush of wind in their sails as far as the league is concerned; they have Yaya Toure back, they are almost out of the UCL which makes retaining the EPL their main target, and Chelsea do not seem to catch a break as far as referees are concerned. If Man City succeed in getting full points at Anfield this week-end, their confidence for catching Chelsea will be sky high.

West Ham v/s Crystal Palace. The Hammers were unlucky not to get the away win at Spurs last week-end. They had glorious chances to put the game beyond reach after opening a 2-goal advantage and will rue the 2 lost points in the end. Still, they are playing well and difficult to beat at home. After a successful opening few games under Pardew, Palace seem to be lacking confidence at the moment and they are scrapping to get points. I think the ball is very much in the hosts' court here and they should have enough to get the 3 points. Home win.

Burnley v/s Swansea. Burnley got the all-important draw at Stamford Bridge last Saturday albeit in controversial circumstances. The most flagrant in my mind was the penalty not given for a blatant handball of Knightly. How much should the defender's arm to be deliberately extended for referee Atkinson to call a penalty is beyond understanding. However, as they've shown in many of their previous matches, the Clarets are a team with a fight and will look for the 3 points at home in their fight for survival. They look a banker to score, it's just that they usually leak in a few as well. Swansea beat Man Utd last week-end and were it not for a couple of inspiring plays by midfielder Shelvey, I am not sure they would have mustered the win. On their best day, Swansea cannot be discounted against most teams and I think this one will go close. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Sunderland. The critics are having a great time lambasting Falcao but I still think he will show the world class striker he is, if given a few runs of games. It's true he's missed some glorious chances, but once he gets his mojo back, he will score by the bucket-load. The injury to RVP is a blessing in disguise for the Columbian and he has got to seize his chance if he wants to continue his career at Old Trafford. This is not an easy match for the hosts as Sunderland have sprung a few surprises in their recent visits. Under Poyet, they've shown capacity to deliver shock results when least expected. Still, I think that Van Gaal is close to having his team playing near optimum capacity and this could be the match when all the elements are finally put together for a big delivery. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Aston Villa. It was a little shocking to see the Magpies destroyed by Man City by a whopping 5-0, after a few consistent and strong showings in their previous matches. They started the match on the wrong foot by conceding a penalty on a defensive howler in the first minute and never got in the match. Villa were also undone by a defensive howler, that one in the final seconds, when losing their first match under Tim Sherwood. They deserved at least a point out of that loss. I can't see them winning this at St James Park but they look good value for a draw. Draw.

Stoke v/s Hull. Many are crediting ex-Man Utd No 2, Mike Phelan, for the recent revival of the Tigers. They have certainly shown more spark up front and Jelavic is taking the chances coming his way. Stoke were lucky to get the 3 points against Villa but they are a solid mid-table team that will carve chances against bottom clubs. This could end up in a bore draw. Draw.

West Brom v/s Southampton. These are two teams that rely on strong defences to keep things tight and then try to make the difference at the other end through the odd goal. The Baggies are trying to escape the relegation zone once and for all and I think they will be comfortably secure in the end. I think Southampton's best hope is for a 6th place finish although I think they will end up no better than 8th. I anticipate a close match and if there is to be a winner it will be by the minimum margin. Draw.

Liverpool v/s Man City. Coutinho won this fixture for the hosts last year following a terrible Kompany clearance. The win had the Kop confidence at an absolute peak to land the elusive title, which eventually petered out in memorable circumstances as everyone knows. The roles are different this year as Liverpool are out of the title race and are hoping for a 4th place finish at best. I think that the fact that the hosts had a tough away Europe League match on Thursday plays into the Citizens' advantage. Having Yaya Toure in the starting line-up gives them an extra lift. Having Bony ready to come off the bench gives them ample ammunition for damage. Silva is in the zone at the moment and Aguero is again terrorizing defences. A must win for City and I think they will get it. Away win.

Arsenal v/s Everton. Arsenal's loss at home to Monaco means that they are practically out of the UCL. I can't see them lose a successive home match so they look set to vent their frustrations on the visitors. Everton had all the trouble in the world to snatch a point against Leicester at Goodison Park last Sunday in a match where they showed uncharacteristic defensive frailties. Sanchez and co will carve them open if they get similar types of chances as the Foxes. The Toffees snatched a point late in last year's fixture but they will do well to do it again. I just don't think they will. Home win.

Finally, the Carling Cup final between Chelsea and Tottenham. I can't see anything other than a Chelsea win here. Although Spurs soundly beat them at White Hart Lane, it will be an entirely different match at Wembley since Harry Kane will be a marked man. The fact that Spurs had a tough away match to play in midweek clearly gives the extra edge to Mourinho's men. Chelsea win.