Friday, December 30, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 20

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

"Stay with the same" is the motto for New Year's selections. There is a reunion of sorts at Old Trafford where Boro boss Karanka meets his ex-Real Madrid boss Mourinho. Man Utd should prove too good here and keep their running winning sequence intact.

Arsenal host Palace in what is another Wenger/Allardyce match-up. Arsenal worked hard to break down WBA in their last match but they fully deserved the 3 points. They will face the same type of challenge against an Eagles team that I expect to improve from the Pardew days from now on. However, Allardyce will need more than a few matches under his belt to get the team back rolling and on this basis, the Gunners should be able to win this based on their superior firepower.

Win: Arsenal, Man Utd

Sunday, December 25, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 19

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

Man Utd to beat Sunderland is a banker home win, no other way to describe it. I see the Red Devils going on a very good run and Mourinho seems to be getting the better of his squad with every passing match. They might have left too many points on the table to be seriously considered a title contender but Man Utd will be very hard to beat against anyone. Safe home win.

Arsenal are on a 2-game losing streak and that is bound to stop as they welcome WBA. It's the same old story with the Gunners; their title aspirations are always cut short by a damaging losing streak. They will hope that they are not on one currently and although WBA are a tough team to break, the Gunners have enough firepower to get the much-needed full points at the Emirates. They won't lose this match and it might very well be worth chancing on a straight home win.

Win: Man Utd, Arsenal
Double Win: Man Utd/Arsenal

Friday, December 16, 2016

EPS 2016/17 - Week 18

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

This week-end's matches look pretty even across the board and I am not expecting to reach Week 17's strike rate of 9 correct out of 10. I see quite a few home wins but a goal here and there can easily tilt the result in the other direction.

I expect Spurs to beat Burnley at home. Kane was uncharacteristically quiet against Hull on Wednesday as Spurs found it hard to overcome Phelan's stubborn side. The England striker can make amends against a lowly Burnley side with a poor away record. This should end in a home win that consolidates Tottenham's ambitions to stay firmly in the hunt for the league title.

Everton were poor against Arsenal, yet managed to get the win in the end. With that kind of display, I cannot see them overcome a Liverpool team that seems to be hitting top form at the moment. Klopp and his men demolished Middlesbrough in mid-week and are showing attacking intent from all corners even with the loss of Coutinho. I expect a high-tempo game for this Merseyside derby and the Kops should prove too strong in the end. An away win looks set on the cards here.

Win: Tottenham, Liverpool

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 17

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

Man City have a great opportunity to get back to winning ways as they host Watford. Pep Guardiola is finding how things are tough in the EPL; this is no La Liga or Bundesliga where only 2 or 3 teams matter. The Citizens are not as dangerous without Aguero but they still have the likes of de Bruyne and Toure who can make the difference at any point in the match. They cannot afford much slip-up at this time and they should come away with the full points against a Watford team with a suspicious away record.

I expect West Brom to beat Swansea at the Hawthorne. Pulis' men are very strong at home and the visitors will find it tough to score against them. The Baggies were arguably unlucky to concede a late goal and defeat at Chelsea last week-end but they should have an attack-minded team against a Swans team that can concede by the bucket load. At current odds, a West Brom outright win makes great appeal.

Win: Man City, West Brom

Friday, December 9, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 16

Watford v/s Everton - Home win
Arsenal v/s Stoke - Home win
Burnley v/s Bournemouth - Away win
Hull v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Swansea v/s Sunderland - Home win
Leicester vs Man City - Draw
Chelsea v/s WBA - Home win
Man Utd v/s Tottenham - Draw
Southampton v/s Middlesbrough - Draw
Liverpool v/s West Ham - Home win

After their rather astounding collapse in Bournemouth last week, I expect Liverpool to get back to winning ways when they host the Hammers. It is true that the Kops have a vital cog in their attack missing with Coutinho out, but they can still score by the bucket load with the system that Klopp has put into place. Their weakness is their defence, which showed its weaknesses against the Cherries. West Ham are toiling and it seems there is no end to their problem. They were totally hapless against the Gunners last week and I cannot see them rebound that easily from that debacle. Bilic is really in trouble as far as job security is concerned. Liverpool will win this.

Sunderland have gotten some nice points on the board lately but Swansea will be looking to score some much-needed points as well. I believe for Swansea to stay up they will have to get most of their points at home and beat fellow struggling teams. The Black Cats definitely fit in that category. A failure to beat Sunderland will say long about their ability to avoid the relegation zone and any progress or regress made under new manager Bradley. I believe they will not lose this match and so side with them as an outright win or a draw-no-bet.

Win: Liverpool
Win or Draw-no-bet: Swansea

Friday, December 2, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 15

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

Man City against Chelsea is without doubt the highlight match of the week-end. For all their irresistible form of late and their winning run sequence, I think Chelsea will dive right back to reality after this road trip. I cannot see them win this match, and if they get lucky they might sneak out a point. But there is a big chance that Man City will overpower them in all departments and get the all-important 3 points. The thing with the Blues is that they are dominant at Stamford Bridge where they suffocate their opponents with their fluid football from start to finish. They cannot perform at the same level when visiting top-level teams. They need control and possession of the ball as they rely on incisive through balls to beat defenders. They will not get those kinds of opportunities against Guardiola's men. The one weakness of the home team is the unsettling of their central defending positions; Kompany is crocked yet again and Otamendi is the only reliable rock there. Still, I see an outright home win here.

I see West Ham snatching something out of their match against Arsenal. The Gunners fielded a totally unrecognizable second-string team in their midweek league cup match against Southampton and there is no doubt that Arsene Wenger wants his team totally fit and focused on the Premier League. With main man Sanchez having been on a non-stop run since the summer, it is clear that concerns regarding his freshness are legit. The Gunners are not as potent when the Chilean is not firing on all cylinders. The Hammers definitely have the capacity to match the visitors. With Payet, they are supremely dangerous on dead-ball situations. Their form has improved slightly of late but it is more a matter of urgency for them to earn points in order to get out of their precarious league position. I really like the outright win and double chance value on the Hammers in the exchange markets as they cannot see them lose this match.

Win: Man City, West Ham
Double Chance: West Ham

Friday, November 25, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 14

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

I see lots of home wins this week. Liverpool should blow out Sunderland. I cannot think of a better 'banker' win. Sunderland will do well to keep this a low score but I don't think they will. Arsenal should overcome Bournemouth although I don't think it will be a thrashing as with the Reds. The Gunners are puffing of late and a tough mid-week match against PSG is bound to leave stamina questions for this match. Still, I think Wenger will just sneak through with the all-important 3 points.

I expect Man Utd to confirm their renewal of form by beating the struggling Hammers. The Red Devils were oh-so rampant against Arsenal in their last league match but failed to win but they confirmed their good disposition by thrashing Feyenood in mid-week. Something seems to have clicked nicely during the Arsenal match and Mourinho's men could be on a roll now. Another home win.

It might be worth chancing with Swansea to give manager Bradley his first EPL win. Visiting Crystal Palace are a team capable of the best and worst; in other words, they are not a reliable team to have any confidence at all. At current odds, going with a Swansea win or Double chance (win or draw) could be rewarding.

Win: Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd, Swansea
Win or draw: Swansea

Friday, November 18, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 13

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

The big match this week-end, without doubt, is at Old Trafford for yet another Mourinho - Wenger showdown. The Portuguese near-flawless record against his nemesis is well documented and I see the pattern staying unchanged after this match. It's true that the Gunners have been flying of late, but a view of their recent outings suggests that their good streak is about to end sooner than later. Mourinho will be pumped up not to lose against a despised rival and will resort to whatever means, including parking the bus, to stutter the potent of the Gunners attack. Another piece of bad news for the Gunners is the potential absence of Alexis Sanchez. I cannot see the Red Devils losing this one; they either will win or draw.

I also see Liverpool dropping points as they visit Southampton. I mentioned a couple of weeks back that it would be difficult for them to maintain the form and tempo they have been enthralling the league since the start. The St Mary's is a tough place to go to and the Kops can expect a serious fight until the final whistle. I like the home team's odds here for an outright win but a draw-no-bet looks reasonable as well.

Win or draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Southampton

Friday, November 4, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 12

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

Chelsea are on a roll and Everton could be having a long afternoon at Stamford Bridge. The Blues boasts a stellar home record against leading teams this season including 3-0 and 4-0 thrashings of Leicester and Man Utd respectively. Hazard, Pedro and Costa just seem to find an extra step in front of their supporters, which is not always the case on their travels. After a very strong start, Everton have gone back in the ranks lately but will rely on ex-Chelsea striker Lukaku to do damage at the front end, although it won't be easy against Courtois. It is possible The Toffees can snatch a draw in this one but it might be worth going for the outright home win here, given the market odds.

The match of the week-end will be at the Emirates for the London Derby between the Gunners and Spurs. Both teams had different fortunes in their midweek UCL encounters. Arsenal struggled to go beat minnows Ludogorets while Pochettino's men lost at Wembley to Bayer Leverkusen. The Gunners are on a good streak but I think they can be vulnerable against their resilient rivals here. Spurs have proven to be a tough team to beat even without their main striker Kane. While the England striker might make his comeback after injury, the visitors' strength relies on the coherence of their defensive and midfield corps. If Tottenham can withstand the attacks of Sanchez and Ozil, a deciding goal at the other end is definitely within their reach. Spurs as a Double Chance (Draw or Away) or Draw-no-bet look to be great value plays.

Win: Chelsea
Draw-no-bet or Double-Chance: Tottenham

EPL 2016/17 - Week 11

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

Chelsea are on a roll and Everton could be having a long afternoon at Stamford Bridge. The Blues boasts a stellar home record against leading teams this season including 3-0 and 4-0 thrashings of Leicester and Man Utd respectively. Hazard, Pedro and Costa just seem to find an extra step in front of their supporters, which is not always the case on their travels. After a very strong start, Everton have gone back in the ranks lately but will rely on ex-Chelsea striker Lukaku to do damage at the front end, although it won't be easy against Courtois. It is possible The Toffees can snatch a draw in this one but it might be worth going for the outright home win here, given the market odds.

The match of the week-end will be at the Emirates for the London Derby between the Gunners and Spurs. Both teams had different fortunes in their midweek UCL encounters. Arsenal struggled to go beat minnows Ludogorets while Pochettino's men lost at Wembley to Bayer Leverkusen. The Gunners are on a good streak but I think they can be vulnerable against their resilient rivals here. Spurs have proven to be a tough team to beat even without their main striker Kane. While the England striker might make his comeback after injury, the visitors' strength relies on the coherence of their defensive and midfield corps. If Tottenham can withstand the attacks of Sanchez and Ozil, a deciding goal at the other end is definitely within their reach. Spurs as a Double Chance (Draw or Away) or Draw-no-bet look to be great value plays.

Win: Chelsea
Draw-no-bet or Double-Chance: Tottenham

EPL 2016/17 - Week 11

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

Chelsea are on a roll and Everton could be having a long afternoon at Stamford Bridge. The Blues boasts a stellar home record against leading teams this season including 3-0 and 4-0 thrashings of Leicester and Man Utd respectively. Hazard, Pedro and Costa just seem to find an extra step in front of their supporters, which is not always the case on their travels. After a very strong start, Everton have gone back in the ranks lately but will rely on ex-Chelsea striker Lukaku to do damage at the front end, although it won't be easy against Courtois. It is possible The Toffees can snatch a draw in this one but it might be worth going for the outright home win here, given the market odds.

The match of the week-end will be at the Emirates for the London Derby between the Gunners and Spurs. Both teams had different fortunes in their midweek UCL encounters. Arsenal struggled to go beat minnows Ludogorets while Pochettino's men lost at Wembley to Bayer Leverkusen. The Gunners are on a good streak but I think they can be vulnerable against their resilient rivals here. Spurs have proven to be a tough team to beat even without their main striker Kane. While the England striker might make his comeback after injury, the visitors' strength relies on the coherence of their defensive and midfield corps. If Tottenham can withstand the attacks of Sanchez and Ozil, a deciding goal at the other end is definitely within their reach. Spurs as a Double Chance (Draw or Away) or Draw-no-bet look to be great value plays.

Win: Chelsea
Draw-no-bet or Double-Chance: Tottenham

Friday, October 28, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 10

Sunderland v/s Arsenal - Away win
Man Utd v/s Burnley - Home win
Middlesbrough v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Tottenham v/s Leicester City - Home win
Watford v/s Hull - Home win
WBA v/s Man City - Away win
Crystal Palace v/s Liverpool - Home win
Everton v/s West Ham - Home win
Southampton v/s Chelsea - Home win
Stoke v/s Swansea - Away win

It's hard to imagine Arsenal leaving any points on the table as they did against Boro last week-end. Simply put, Sunderland find it hard to get a win, let alone a goal, so the Gunners should have too much for them here.

I think Liverpool is due for some slip-up soon. They were very lucky to scrape a win in their last away match against Swansea. Palace manager Alan Pardew is certainly no stranger to upsets and I really see value in an Eagles win or a draw-no-bet firmly in their favour.

Win: Arsenal
Draw-no-bet or Win: Crystal Palace

Friday, October 21, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 9

Bournemouth v/s Tottenham - Home win
Arsenal v/s Middlesbrough - Home win
Burnley v/s Everton - Away win
Hull v/s Stoke - Home win
Leicester v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Swansea v/s Watford - Home win
West Ham v/s Sunderland - Home win
Liverpool v/s WBA - Home win
Man City v/s Southampton - Home win
Chelsea v/s Man Utd - Away win

I see some value siding with a few outsiders here. Bournemouth are big underdogs at home to visiting Spurs and it would be no surprise if the home team wins this match. They blitzed Hull last week and their home form so far is more or less solid. Spurs are still unbeaten but there's definitely the feeling that that streak won't hold long. They have scraped draws lately and look vulnerable particularly after playing away mid-week in the UCL. For value, a win or draw-no-bet with the Cherries could reap big rewards.

I also see Swansea having a good result as they host Watford. New manager Bob Bradley is a good manager who will definitely up the fortunes of the Swans. They came close against Arsenal for his baptism of fire but I see them getting better results as the season progresses. Watford is well within their grasp and again here, an outright win or draw-no-bet should be a winning ticket.

Finally, Man City should overcome the Saints to put an end to their win-less streak. The fact that both teams played in mid-week nullifies any fitness advantage but Aguero will be all guns blazing as he was mostly on the bench against Barcelona. Southampton are a tough team to overcome but City should have too much firepower in this one.

Win: Man City, Bournemouth, Swansea

Friday, October 14, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 8

Chelsea v/s Leicester City - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Hull - Home win
Arsenal v/s Swansea - Home win
Man City v/s Everton - Home win
Stoke v/s Sunderland - Home win
WBA v/s Tottenham - Draw
Crystal Palace v/s West Ham - Home win
Middlesbrough v/s Watford - Home win
Southampton v/s Burnley - Home win
Liverpool v/s Man Utd - Home win

You will have seen that I foresee a lot of home wins this week-end. Coming back from the international break is always treacherous but the fixture list has really pit many strong teams playing at home, hence the bias. There might be more value in doing some exotics or multiples here; Southampton and Man City look bankers on paper as they host Burnley and Everton respectively. Bournemouth to beat Hull is by no means certain, but can pay good dividends if coupled with the bankers.

Stoke looks a value punt on its own as Mark Hughes' men try to get their season started against Sunderland. If they can hit the same kind of home form as last year's, the Potters should comfortably overcome the equally-struggling visitors.

Multiples: Man City / Southampton / Bournemouth 
Value win: Stoke

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Arc de Triomphe 2016 - Postponed to the test

This year's Arc looks wide open with a few that have legitimate aspirations to win and the fact that Chantilly will be the temporary venue to the world's greatest race, only adds to the intrigue. I will pick 4 names from the 16-runner race, the quartet from which I believe the winner will emerge. Postponed, Found, Makahiki and Harzand.

Postponed is the deserved favourite going into the race; the son of Dubawi is unbeaten in 4 races this year and has proven himself the world's best middle-distance performer. This 5-year old is clearly flourishing with age and has been showing consistent top-class form over the past couple of years that makes him a difficult one to oppose in any race. There are not many chinks in his armor and it's pretty much a guarantee that he will be in the thereabouts at the finish. I cannot see him out of the first 4.

It is a staggering fact that Found has been runner-up in 9 Group 1 races. Much was expected of the daughter of Galileo this year after she had blown away Golden Horn in last year's Breeders' Cup. While she has only won one race out of her seven races this year, she has mostly been in the thereabouts to finish runner-up in most of them. Her not being good enough, or just being an unlucky second is a matter of interpretation, but what is beyond doubt is that she is of the top drawer and can land this race. It could very well be that she is an autumn filly; after all she was third in this race last year before brilliantly lowering Golden Horn's colours in the US. A big player in my books.

Is Makahiki the one to break Japan's curse in the Arc? Will he be the one redeeming his illustrious sire's defeat ten years ago to this day? Japan's best have always fallen short in dramatic circumstances at Longchamp and the roof will come down if Makahiki can end years of Nippon hurt. He seemed to win the Prix Niel in hand but I would have been more convinced if he had won more with more to spare; in other words, I wasn't as impressed as others were. I can't see him at the level of his sire or Orfevre but if he produces a career best and no-one else is showing on the day, maybe he is the blessed one from the land of the rising sun.

Harzand is the subject of ultra-confident whispers from the Dermot Weld camp and that is enough to decipher that the Derby winner will be at the peak of his powers on Sunday. He came out injured in his last race at ten furlongs but this will ideally suit him. A 3-year old, he will benefit from a non-negligible 3 pound allowance. He is a serious grinder and I see him punching his way through the field in the last 200 yards as the others run out of stamina. 

As mentioned, I believe the winner will come from the above. Unless some kind of Solemia strikes again. A top performance from Postponed will make him difficult to beat. On form, he should prevail and another plus is that he is drawn best of the four. Makahiki has the class to cause an upset should things fall rightly into place for him and it is by no means a stretch to think that the son of Deep Impact will finally deliver to the Japanese their Holy Grail.

Win: Postponed
Win (value): Makahiki

Friday, September 30, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 7

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

I think Chelsea has a good opportunity to get back on track as they make the travel to Hull. Conte's men are coming off losses to tough teams Liverpool and Arsenal and should find the Tigers more to their liking. The Blues will need to pounce on any counter-attacking chances they are offered and the likes of Hazard and Costa, who have been conspicuously silent of late, have enough class to tilt the result in the visitors' favour.

As a value punt, I also like West Ham's chances against Middlesbrough. The Hammers are not as bad as their horrendous start of the season suggests, and can start off some kind of form against the promoted team. As expected, Karanka's men are struggling to find their foot in the EPL and the Hammers have the firepower to blow past the visitors and claim a much-needed win.

Win: Chelsea
Win: West Ham

Friday, September 23, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 6

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

The team in form at the moment is Liverpool and they seem to have an easy task this week-end against Hull. Klopp has re-invigorated the Kops by leaps and bounds and with some consistency, they can go very far this year. They seem to be as dangerous as in the Suarez-Sterling-Gerrard days as they are suffocating teams at the moment as Leicester could attest last week. Home win without much doubt.

I will side with Southampton as my value punt of the week. I must say that I was seeing the Saints struggling this year with the departure of Koeman and some first-team regulars. But French coach Puel has imposed his methods that seem to be working well and they are a team can will cause problems to any opponent. They are travelling at the right time to the London Stadium to face a West Ham team in crisis. Slaven Bilic is running out of options with his under-performing squad and they have worryingly conceded 8 goals in their last 2 league meetings. The well-organized Saints can definitely pounce on the Hammer's defensive frailties and snatch at least a point in this encounter.

Win: Liverpool
Win (or draw-no-bet): Southampton

Friday, September 16, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 5

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

Man Utd are on a 2-game losing streak under Mourinho but I cannot see it going to 3. Against City, they were second best and deserved to lose. Against Feyenood in the Europa League, they did not field their best XI, and were entitled to come back empty-handed. It will be different business as they travel to Watford where they were lucky to come out with full points under Van Gaal last season. This Watford team is nowhere as good as last year's team under Kiko Sanchez. They scored 4 unanswered goals to shock West Ham last week but having been 2 goals down early shows that they are will be apt to concede against heavy firepower. Zlatan could have a field day there. Man Utd look value for the win.

The long punt of the week goes to West Ham who are having a difficult start to the season. I expect things to improve now that Payet is fully back after his Euro exertions. The Hammers should have beaten Watford last week after going 2 goals up before melting down in the stretch and conceding 4. If they can muster some of their mental resolve from last season, they can surprise this average West Brom side that have also started hesitantly. Under Pulis, WBA will always be hard to break at home but the Hammers have the ability to play big spoilers here. An outright win or draw-no-bet on them could pay dividends.

Win: Man Utd.
Win (or draw-no-bet): West Ham

Friday, September 9, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week 4

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

The Manchester Derby easily dominates this game week. Although it's too early in the season to gauge the significance of a win or defeat for both, this is a 6-pointer match that will impact the confidence of the winner and loser going forward, not least right to bragging rights in the city of Manchester!  I give home advantage to the Red Devils here. First, Mourinho rarely loses a home fixture, so Old Trafford will definitely be made a formidable fortress for the occasion. Second, it is obvious that this City team is not a finished product under Guardiola and will find the hosts as different material to the lesser teams they have overcome through sheer class in the opening fixtures. The Red Devils defence will be relieved not to face Aguero with the Argentinian striker missing the next few games through suspension. It all points towards either a draw or a win for the hosts and a draw-no-bet on them looks great value.

For a value bet, I like the chances of Everton as they visit Sunderland. Koeman is a top coach and I see better things for the Toffees compared to last year. He will inject tight defence and dynamic play into this talented Everton team and I see them getting better as the season progresses. I certainly think they won't lose this match and for some risk it might be worth going with them winning outright, or have them as a safer draw-no-bet.

Draw-no-bet: Man Utd.
Win (or draw-no-bet): Everton

Sunday, September 4, 2016

England - Road to recovery or further failure?

Back blogging after a good holiday break!

England starts a new era with Allardyce as new manager in a few hours as they visit Slovakia for the World Cup qualifier. Allardyce for England? I might have to eat my words in the future but the news of this got me thinking that this is one of the worst and reckless decisions, among many others, made by the FA. What has he won? Has he ever played or managed in a Champions League match? How many England caps? Anything he won as a manager or player? Nothing. Arguably, his greatest achievements have been to avoid relegation with Bolton and Sunderland and throwing long bombs in order not to lose to Arsenal. The decision to hire Big Sam seems short-sighted and desperate. It had to be an Englishman and among the candidates, he must have been the least worst in the eyes of the pickers.

But could it be that this is exactly what this England team needs after years of failure with supposedly talented teams? Keegan, Capello, Ericksson, Hodgson to name a few, all failed. So maybe getting a manager on the opposite side of the spectrum, i.e, one that has never managed any star-studded squad, is what this under-achieving team needs? Maybe he is the one to put in some mental toughness that seems to be lacking in the current squad? These qualifiers will tell.

It would be a sight seeing England throwing long balls or parking the bus to get a result against nations like Belgium and Germany. It could very well be the new mantra is to focus on the result and let the talent or football go to waste. The nation won't care of the football if it wins some silverware. But Allardyce's selection is a mighty gamble that raises a lot of questions and the spectre of even more hardships for the national team. We will get an indication of whether hope or despair is in sight against Slovakia today.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

EPL 2016/17 - Week1

Hull v/s Leicester - Away
Burnley v/s Swansea - Away
Crystal Palace v/s West Brom - Home
Everton v/s Spurs - Home
Middlesbrough v/s Stoke - Home
Southampton v/s Watford - Draw
Man City v/s Sunderland - Home
Bournemouth v/s Man Utd _ Away
Arsenal v/s Liverpool - Away
Chelsea v/s West Ham - Home

Caution is the name of the game on every debut week; there is really no form book to get an inkling of the readiness of the teams. The pre-season friendlies can be misguiding. But Guardiola's first game looks something within his grasp as Sunderland visit the Etihaad. The Black Cats are under new manager Moyes and the Scot is bound to have a period of adjustment before getting to know his team. Class should tell here and with the non-negligible home advantage, Man City are heavily favored in this one.

I also like Man Utd's chances as they visit Bournemouth. They lost this fixture last year but this means nothing this season. Mourinho will be keen to start on a positive note and since I don't see the Cherries as having a better season than the last, I think the Red Devils are fully capable of getting full points here.

As value, Livepool might be the best pick of the week. Arsenal are short in the central defending position and the Kops have definitely in them to shock Arsene's team.

Win: Man City, Man Utd,
Value pick: Liverpool

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

EPL 2016/2017 - The Battle of Manchester

Here we go again for what promises to be a spectacular season in the EPL. The world's best players might be playing in Spain but the elite of managers is here; Guardiola, Mourinho, Klopp, Conte to name a few...

Here is the first prediction; one of the Manchester teams will win it. That means that Leicester won't repeat. Great work last year Ranieri and co but lightning will most probably not strike twice. The Foxes are still a very good team but another sustained run from them looks highly improbable. Arsenal will struggle to last the distance as usual. They need some world-class reinforcements in there and they don't seem to be getting any. Liverpool have an admirable attacking force but their suspect defence is bound to let them down. As for Chelsea, Conte will make them a better defensive team but the legs are getting old and they will rely too much on Hazard to produce.

This leaves the Manchester clubs that will definitely be on the upgrade from last year. Take Man City. The arrival of Guardiola will have brought confidence, energy and more importantly a winning mentality to the squad. The talent has always been there in the last few years but the mental toughness of the players has always been a question mark. Probably Guardiola can rectify that. De Bryune had a great season last year and could yet elevate to newer heights. The old guard Aguero, Toure, Silva have a last big hurrah season in them. Sterling can go back terrorizing defences if given the boost in confidence. And the additions of Stones and Jesus add worth to a deeply-talented squad. Guardiola will have his rough introduction to the EPL, particularly during the winter months when there is no break, but if they can get through this spell unscathed, they have the best squad in the league to last them through.

The club with the greatest overhaul is Man Utd. Cometh at the helm Mourinho, typically their greatest managerial enemy. The Portugese talked about the mystique of the club during his introduction; core fans will have argued that some of the mystique had gone with his appointment; throughout his career, he clearly has shown a disdain for values that the club so cherishes. But he is a proven winner of championships and if the end result is getting back their winning mojo, then realistic fans will view this as a necessary appointment. Then, there's the coming of Zlatan. At 35, maybe his best days are behind him. But he was still a dominant force at PSG over the last few years. It looks like he can carry at the highest level for a couple more years and if he adapts well to the rigours of the Premiership, he could be one of the best free buys ever. Imagine Zlatan and Fellaini towering a bunch of defenders in the opposing penalty area as Man Utd search for a goal... Then, there's Pogba. The ex-Man Utd reject went to Juventus for free and now is back with the club out of the pocket for 89 million pounds? This is indecent. He doesn't (and will never) score like Ronaldo, Messi or Bale or Neymar. What has he won besides titles at a dominating Juventus in a poor Italian league? He's a great midfielder and talent but this could be one of the worst buys in the history of football. But he still enhances the Red Devils midfield by a large margin. Maybe he could be the Roy Keane or Paul Scholes that every Man Utd fan has been looking for since the retirements of the 2 Old Trafford legends. What is for sure, United will be better than last year and Mourinho usually self-destructs on the 3rd year, so things are looking very rosy for this campaign.

It's Guardiola v/s Mourinho again. It's the battle of Manchester again for the supremacy of English football. My feeling is that the Red part of Manchester will be the ones partying in the end. This is going to be a wild ride of a season; thanks for tuning for the weekly fixtures.

Win: Man Utd

Friday, July 29, 2016

Qatar Nassau Stakes - Minding in a league of her own

Who's the best middle-distance filly in Europe, never mind the age? Minding, it is.
The 3-year old superstar is gunning for yet another Group 1 when she takes on 4 rivals that look overmatched in the Nassau Stakes. Having taken the 1000 Guineas, she was unlucky to get beat by a bob in the Irish equivalent, before easily trouncing the Oaks field at Epsom. She confirmed her superiority by winning the Pretty Polly in another procession. Any reproduction of that kind of form should see her easily land this race.

Maybe the elder filly Beautiful Romance could offer some pretensions should Minding fail to fire. The Godolphin team would love to get one against their Ballydoyle rivals and it would not be the first time that they play spoilers in the legendary skirmishes between the 2 superpowers; think of the battle between Fantastic Light and Galileo, the Ascot duel between Rewilding and So You Think, both occasions where Godolphin came out on top.

Minding is however impossible to oppose. Bar accident, she should win.

Win: Minding

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Qatar Sussex Stakes - The 3 Musketeers at it again

The 3 Guineas winners are at it again in the Sussex Stakes. When they last met, Galileo Gold prevailed but it was The Gurkha that made the strongest impression in defeat when running on late. The way that The Gurkha drove past Awtaad as he went in pursuit of Galileo Gold before the post caught him on, suggested that he had the best engine of the 3.

While Galileo Gold and Awtaad have been rested since that race, The Gurkha made a foray in the Coral-Eclipse, finishing second to Hawkbill, the mile and a quarter race proving a little too much of a stretch for him. The main question for the Sussex is whether the son of Galileo will be at a disadvantage fitness-wise compared to his rested rivals.

Galileo Gold has rarely put a foot wrong and the good to firm ground should be to his liking. Not so much for Awtaad who prefers a certain amount of give underfoot. The only thing with Galileo Gold is that after his first winning outing, he has alternated defeats and wins. So, he might possibly be vulnerable to a newcomer. Might that 4th musketeer be Ribchester, winner of the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot? The Godolphin representative is on an upward curve and is definitely a live chance for at least a finish in the frame here.

I am siding with Galileo Gold because of his consistency but if The Gurkha is at 100% and does not show any ill-effect from his Coral-Eclipse outing, he will be the one to beat.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sky Bet York Stakes (Group 2) - Time Test will be hard to beat

The focus of Saturday's racing is at Ascot with the Group 1 King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. However, the value seems to be at York in the Group 2 York Stakes where Time Test seems to have this race well within his grasp. The son of Dubawi won on his season re-appearance and came out a good 3rd in the Eclipse Stakes a few weeks back on unsuitably-soft ground. Saturday's race will give him the fast under-foot conditions on which he has shown sparkling form before. Jockey Pat Smullen has made the journey across the Irish Sea for this. Among the opponents, Mahsoob from the Gosden yard seems to offer the better form but this Dansili colt is really running for second place here.

Win: Time Test

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Euro 2016 - France hard to beat

I penned down at the start of the tournament that France have an enviable record when hosting a major championship; winners in the 1984 Euros and winners in the 1998 World Cup in Paris. So it very much looks a case of Never 2 without 3 for Les Bleus in this year's Euros. It is not just the historical aspect as much as the relative strength of this French team that makes me tilt the odds seriously in their favor.

They comprehensively beat the Germans in the semi-finals. Granted, German capatin Schweinsteiger changed the match by conceding a rather silly penalty in what seemed a very tight match. But the French looked solid and were playing at equal strength against their mighty opponents. Since the start of the tournament, they have displayed resolute energy, well-organized play and mental strength on their way to the final. With players like Griezmann, Pogba and Payet showing strong form and motivation, the French have an outstanding chance to lift the trophy.

Against them stands Ronaldo and the creative talents of Nani and Quaresma. This is most probably the last chance of these stars to make their mark and win something of significance at the international level. It would also be a first for Portugal, provider of so many great footballers over the years. No doubt that much of their chance will depend on Ronaldo. When he's on top form, he's the most lethal striker in football. I would say right now he's not 100% but is still capable of getting a goal if given the space. Most of the work for the French will be to successfully shut him down,

It seems to me that Les Bleus will be celebrating on Sunday. They are a superior team playing at home. Tactics could get Portugal to a penalty shootout where they would have a live chance but I don't think it will get that far. From what they have shown, France are good enough to make the difference in normal time.

To win Euro 2016: France

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Euro 2016 - German stress test for France

It is no secret that France has a mental issue when it plays Germany in major semi-finals. Think Espana 1982 when they were dumped in controversial circumstances on penalties; a match most remembered by the karate butt-kick of keeper Schumacher on France's Battiston. Ouch! Think Mexico 1986 when again Platini's team suffered at the hands of the Germans in the last four.

This new France generation may not carry as much inferiority complex but if they are to banish the old demons, they will have to overcome a German team touted as the best in the world. Not just because they are current holders of the World Cup but because they are solid from back to front and can adapt to any type of tempo in a game. Let's face it, there are no real superstar outfield player in there; maybe keeper Neuer is the best in the world, but while Ozil, Kroos, Muller can be very good, they are not among the creme de la creme by any means. But the Germans play on song as a unit and are very difficult to break down particularly with Neuer in nets.  They can break any defence; just ask Italy. They have been the most consistent and impressive team in the tournament and deserve to go into the match as favourites.

Compared to the after-Zidane years, the French are a very strong team, no doubt. They are no longer just big names on the team sheet, they play well as a unit. The big thing about them is that they have a few match winners that can turn a match on its head. Payet, Griezmann, Pogba and Martial can come up with something brilliant at the most crucial moment. Even much-maligned Giroud can find the net if given the space and some luck. The back four is their Achilles tendon but keeper Lloris is usually there as a reliable last resort.

This is going to be a tight chess match and the winner is probably going to edge this one by the odd goal if it does not go to penalties. France has the benefit of the home crowd but the Germans thrive in such inauspicious environments. It's a toss of a coin but I think Germany will make their way to the final.

To qualify: Germany

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Euro 2016 - The superstar showdown: Bale v/s Ronaldo

Wales v/s Portugal, it's Bale v/s Ronaldo. The two best European players; Two superstars, two teammates, two frenemies. It is quite an unlikely scenario that pits these 2 teams in the semi-final. Many were expecting Belgium or England in that last quartet and instead it's the valiant Dragons and the yet-to-win-a-match Portuguese that will fight for the honors.

Whatever the outcome, I really believe the overall winner will come from the other semi-final between Germany and France. For, none of Wales or Portugal have impressed to the extent that they should be fancied should they reach the final. Wales have truly over-achieved and have not only played the Bale factor to perfection but they have been pragmatic when needed. They were almost played out of the pitch in their encounter with Belgium in the opening stages but after conceding the first goal, they showed tremendous resolve to outplay their more-talented rivals. This is a unit that can soak much pressure yet confident enough to score with fast counter-attacks aimed Bale and Robson-Kanu. For sure, they will be missing their creative lynch-pin in midfield in Aaron Ramsey, the Arsenal star suspended after 2 bookings. But with Bale in such form, they have an outstanding chance.

In their way stands Ronaldo backed by his dangerous acolytes like Sanchez, Quaresma and Nani. Portugal have yet to win a match in 90 minutes, it is unfathomable that they could win the tournament without doing so. They've ridden their luck at times but have always shown an ability to score at any point. Ronaldo is clearly struggling and not 100% fit. Had it been otherwise, the chances of this Portugal team going all the way would have been much enhanced. Instead, it seems sometimes the team is overly relying on him to score or make the decisive play. However, Ronaldo being Ronaldo, he cannot be counted out and can make the breakthrough at any moment.

I give a slight edge to Wales here, even without Ramsey. Portugal will make the run of play but are not as steady at the back and this could play to Bale's advantage. The Dragons' fairy tale is set to continue.

To qualify: Wales

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Euro 2016 - Can Iceland freeze out France?

Giant-killers Iceland face their toughest match yet against hosts France. How the Icelanders have made it this far is just mind-blogging but they fully deserve to be there. They have been brilliant in all their matches so far, more so in their last match against England which they outplayed and outgunned. Arguably, this was the poorest display of the English national team in years, but credit the Icelanders for suffocating the minds and legs out of the Lions.

That Iceland team can boast players in their 40's, yet their running rate is impressive; they are very fit and are willing to make the running on each blade of grass out there. France have all the pressure on them as unimaginable will be the reaction should they fall at home at this stage to the minnows. They escaped the trap set by the Irish and showed much courage to come back a goal down at half-time. They will definitely have to show up at a higher physical and mental level to overcome these resilient opponents. The pace of Martial and Griezman on the flanks and up front could be put to good effect here as the Icelanders are always very compact in the middle.

This is bound to be another tough match and neutral minds would want Iceland's fairy tale to continue their run. Realistically, the French have enough talent in them to make the breakthrough. But with the way the results have been going from the start of the tournament, no one could take the hosts as a sure-fire banker to go through.

To qualify: France

Friday, July 1, 2016

Euro 2016 - Defensive challenge for Germany

Germany against Italy, 2 powerhouses with constrasting styles vying for a semi-final spot. Germany will start with the honors of favouritism but the Italians have been most impressive in these Euros and can easily take this match. It's a case of German's power offence against the might of the classic Italian defence. There is a saying that defence usually rules in such cases and the Italians have a strong case here; if the Germans fail to score, then Conte's men confidence will grow and they have enough in them to get the killer goal that propels them through.

This is going to be a tactical match with the Azzuri relying on their rapid counter-attacks as they come out of their defensive shell in spurts. Strong offences like Belgium and Spain have borne the brunt of these Italian tactics and Germany could very well be next. There's never great confidence going against the Germans but I do see the Italians going through.

To qualify: Italy

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Euro 2016 - Belgium have too much firepower

Belgium have been getting better and better as the matches have progressed in these Euros. How to beat them? By playing extreme defence like Italy did in their first match. This is the problem for Wales. They cannot match them toe to toe even with their superstar player Gareth Bale. So relying on their defence to hold on the wave of Belgian attacks is their only way to lead the match to penalties where they would have a level chance to go through. That most probably won't happen because their defence is nowhere as good as the Italians. Belgium to power through to the semi-finals and well-done to the Welsh, they had a great tourney but the buck stops here.

To qualify: Belgium

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Euro 2016 - Portugal's Ronaldo needs to step up

Portugal survived Croatia and have an arguably easier task as they face Poland for a spot in the semi-finals. The Portuguese were second best for much of the match against the Croats but good old Quaresma delivered at an opportunistic time to send his country through. Superstar Ronaldo is on an erratic form and without his magic, Portugal will probably not overcome the likes of Belgium, Germany or Italy, but Poland is an entirely different matter; the Poles also have a superstar missing in action with Lewandowski yet to find the net in the tournament. He's hustling and bustling in front though, so he's definitely not a surplus to requirements even when drawing blanks.

This is bound to be another tight game but I see Portugal just edging this one; Ronaldo needs to step up and on their best day, he, Nani, and Quaresma, are capable of lighting up the Polish defence.

To qualify: Portugal

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Euro 2016 - England's great opportunity

England were the ones with the big smiles when Iceland secured qualification in the dying stages of their match against Austria. That leaves them with a great chance to reach the next round because it's hard to see Iceland troubling the English at any level. Sure they have had a compact defence during the group stages and certainly exceeded all expectations. But the buck stops here. Ball possession will be outrageously in favor of the Lions and there are so many ways that they will be able to break down the opposition; Sturridge, Kane, Rooney and possibly Sterling will find ways to open up Iceland's defence. It might take a while but the floodgates are bound to open. I believe this is going to be a firm English win that will enable Hodgson to try various things as he continues his search for his best team in view of the next round match.

Spain and Italy are bound to play a close match and I will give the Spaniards the edge here because they are simply the better team and have the greater chance of making the breakthrough. They can score anytime with a moment of magic from Iniesta, Silva or Fabregas; that is why they are so tough to beat. Mind you, Italy will relish this clash as they like being the underdog types and coach Conte is a master at prevailing at these kinds of encounters; just ask Belgium. I think this is going to end beyond the normal 90 minutes and if it goes to penalties, it really is the luck of the lottery as which team will go through. I see Spain winning by the minimum score if the match is decided before penalties.

To qualify: England, Spain

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Euro 2016 - Strolls for Germany and Belgium

France host a tricky encounter against the plucky Irish in the round of last 16. On talent, there is no comparison as the French have the best names on paper. But it seems certain they will be made to struggle to get a positive result; O'Neil's men are buoyed by a qualification that rested on beating Italy in the dying stages of their last match and they indeed have nothing to lose going in this match which they are not expected to win. This match is reminiscent of their last major encounter where Thierry Henry's cheat of a handball gave the French the edge in a notorious World Cup playoff. Be it at the end of 90 minutes, extra time or penalties, I see the French outlasting the Irish but it won't be a stroll for the hosts.

I expect both Germany and Belgium to have easier matches against the likes of Slovakia and Hungary. It's true the Slovaks shocked the Germans in one of their last friendly matches but the chances of this happening in a knockout stage are very remote. The Belgians have been granted the Hungarians whose best chance is to make the match go to penalties; I think Belgium should have made the difference by then; they are a team that seems to be getting better as the matches go by and have a lot of match winners in them.

To qualify: France, Germany, Belgium

Friday, June 24, 2016

Euro 2016 - Croatia can tame Ronaldo and Portugal

The round of last 16 start on Saturday with 3 seemingly even matches on offer.

Switzerland and Poland have not shown great brilliance in the group stages and it would not surprising if this match ends up in a drab goal-less draw to be decided on penalties. Those 2 teams should not go far down the line. The Swiss kept hosts France to a draw in their last match and they seem to lack that killer instinct in front of goal; they simply don't have an out-and-out striker that can make a difference at this level. The Poles do have one in Lewandowski but the Bayern striker has yet to make an impact in the tournament. They labored to beat the weak Ukrainians by the strict minimum in their last match, which is a worrying sign against stronger opposition. A low scoring result seems on offer here and I will side with the Poles to make the difference in extra time or penalties.

Wales against Northern Ireland is an intriguing battle of British sides. I give the edge to the Welsh because of Bale who's scored in the 3 group matches. The Irish are a very homogeneous team though and will give Coleman's team all they can handle.

Finally, I see Croatia overcoming Portugal on the basis of what they have shown in the group stages. The Croats were arguably lucky to beat Spain as they were second best for most of the match and survived a penalty before scoring on a counter in the dying stages. Still, they impressed in their matches with their composure and organization and they are a threat to any other team. Portugal had to come behind 3 times against Hungary and without Ronaldo, they would simply have been out of it by now. If Hungary can rock them 3 times, one has to wonder what Croatia will do Pepe and his defence. I think the Ronaldo factor is overplayed here and he will be sent packing for holidays for a well-deserved rest after this match.

To qualify: Poland, Wales, Croatia

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Euro 2016 - Ronaldo to the fore

It is not a surprise that Portugal are struggling at these Euros; they've been relying heavily on Ronaldo and when he's not on firing terms, so do they. Portugal has been blessed by great players over the past years, have had their "golden generation" but have never brought home the bacon. The way they are playing, I don't expect this to change. However, they are talented enough to see through this rather mediocre Group F. I expect them to overcome Hungary and it would be no surprise to anyone that Ronaldo finally makes his breakthrough. The superstar has been very quiet in the first 2 matches, much evidently in the last match against Austria where he missed a string of good chances and a penalty on top of that. The fact that they created good enough opportunities against a decent Austrian team makes me think that they just need adjustments in a few areas and some luck to turn things around. Hungary beat Austria against the run of play in their first match but their fortuitous draw against Iceland shows that they are for the taking. Portugal should win this match and go through.

In the other Group F match, I expect the Austrians to narrowly edge the valiant Icelanders.

Italy must rue their bad luck; having won their first 2 matches, they are playing for nothing against Ireland before meeting mighty Spain in the next round. Manager Conte will definitely ring the changes for the match against the Irish and preserve some legs for the Spaniards. Ireland face a do-or-die situation here but I don't think they are at a level to beat an even under-par Italy. This match could very well end in a draw.

Sweden meet Belgium in what could very well be Zlatan's last match for the Swedes. Belgium came up all firing against the Irish and if they keep the momentum, they should have no trouble dispatching the Swedes. I think that is the likeliest outcome and the Red Devils should sail through the next round with renewed confidence.

Win: Portugal, Belgium, Austria

Monday, June 20, 2016

Euro 2016 - Germany to step up

As much Northern Ireland were brilliant in defeating Ukraine, Germany were disappointing when held to a draw goalless draw against Poland. It is arguable that Ukraine are one of the weakest teams in the tournament but the Irish really put them to the sword with some nifty plays and combative spirit. It will be different against the Germans though as they will be starved of the ball for much of the match. Their compact organization will allow them to contain the multiple waves of German attack but the question is whether they can keep all of them at bay for the entire 90 mins.

Germany could have easily lost the match against the Poles if the latter had taken one of several good opportunities to score. It seems to me from the first 2 matches that Germany are not only doing some soul-searching, but more importantly are lacking that extra motivation that makes players overachieve and produce that touch of magic that makes a difference at this level. Against Poland, the players controlled possession, huffed and puffed but seem to lack that desire in the final third to fight over the ball.

Germany being Germany, I expect a better match from Low's men; they might be made to wait but should finally find the ignition switch that makes the difference in the end.

In the other match, Poland should be too much for Ukraine and I expect Lewandowski to have a big match.

In Group D, Spain and Croatia will probably battle to a draw that suits both teams and I fancy another draw in the match between the Czech and the woeful Turks, both teams really being in the lower echelon all the teams in France.

Win: Germany, Poland
Draw: Spain/Croatia. Czech Rep v/s Turkey

Euro 2016 - Bale to the rescue

England will probably be resting some first-team players like Rooney for their last match against Slovakia but their squad is big enough to win the match. Given that the Lions are already through to the next round , it will be a perfect opportunity to check upon the dispositions of bench players like Wilshere and Vardy etc to start the match. The Slovaks will aim for a draw to at least secure the third and qualifying spot.

The other match between Russia and Wales with the Welsh looking the likelier to get something out of the match. The Russians have been disappointing so far, having won a fortuitous point against England before succumbing to the Slovaks. They don't seem to have any team chemistry and the chances of their play improving seems very suspect. Wales flinched to England in extra time but were deserving losers as they were under pressure for most of the match. It seems some moments of magic in dead-ball situations from Bale offer their best chances to score. He will need better support from what he's received so far from the likes of Ramsey and Allen in the middle of the park if they are to test the Russians. Russia needs to win this match to go through and if the Welsh defence can keep as tight and compact as they have been, then Bale can certainly exploit the looming gaps at the other end. I see Wales either tying or winning this and thus securely make it through the next stage.

Win: England
Win or Draw: Wales

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Euro 2016 - Romania up for runner-up spot

The final matches of Group A should see France claim first place of the group as they host Switzerland. A draw would be enough for the hosts to finish in top spot. I just can't see them getting beaten at home and can easily see them winning this match. This does not bode well for the Swiss as the Romanians are almost certain to beat Albania in the other match, to guarantee themselves second spot. The Albanians deserve respect after having played with a lot of merit in their first 2 matches but they will have to get out of their defensive shell and open up their game to realistically claim the third spot of the group. This will give ample opportunities for the Romanians to exploit the gaps at the back. A win for Romania beckons.

Win: Romania

Friday, June 17, 2016

Euro 2016 - Belgium at the crossroads

After their debacle against Italy, a win against Ireland is imperative for the Belgians if they are to sail through to the next round. I would call their defeat on the tactical resilience of the Italians; I don't think it had anything to do with their attacking aptitude or motivation. As I was mentioning prior to the match, the Italians have been doing it to many a big team over the years and that's how they've built their reputations and characters. Think Espana WC 1982 against mighty Brazil...

Ireland will be someone a different matter for Belgium; this is a team without much pedigree, a little bit like them. But one with a big heart and resilience that is well coached by the likes of O'Neill and Keane. The Irish were unlucky not to beat Sweden in their first match; they created enough chances to win and only conceded on an own-goal. On its best day, this team will cause trouble to any other team.

Belgium go in the match as favourites, fair enough. But I think the Irish will make them work for it. They will let the Red Devils the benefit of play but will rely on their dangerous counter-attacks to cause an upset. The confidence will be on their side and it will only grow if Belgium gets frustrated in failing to score. I like the draw prospects of this match.

For the Group F matches, Hungary should at least get a point against the plucky Icelanders, and long punters might fancy the chances and attractive odds of Austria against Portugal.

Draw: Ireland v/s Belgium

Euro 2016 - The Swedes can hold Italy

Italy shocked a few by defeating the heavily-favored Belgians in their first match. There's this thing with the Italians who regularly manage to get a result when you least expect them. But much of it has to do with the tactical prowess of coach Conte who's doing wonders with a squad widely regarded as the least talented from Italy in the past 25 years.

With the hardest match of its group won, it would be a mistake of the Italians to be overly confident against Sweden. The latter got a fortuitous equalizer against the Republic of Ireland and could have easily lost the match had the Irish been less profligate in front of goal. Striker Ibrahimovic is familiar with quite a few of his Italian counterparts and it would be no surprise if he found the net. Who actually does not remember the exquisite goal he score against the same Italy in Euro 2004? I think this will again end in a draw just like 12 years back.

In the Group D matches, the Czech and the Croats are evenly-balanced and could yet settle for another draw while Spain are expected to double their tally by beating the Turks.

Draw: Italy/Sweden

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Euro 2016 - Lions will slay the Dragons

Gareth Bale will be by far the best player on the pitch as Wales battle England. However, it looks impossible that his 1-man show can overcome an England team that sent good vibes in their last match against Russia. The Lions were unlucky to concede during extra-time in a match they fully deserved to win. A repeat of this form will put them in good stead against the Welsh who labored to edge Slovakia. England to win.

Ukraine and Northern Ireland both lost their first match against the 2 favored teams of Group C notably Germany and Poland. This match will be the decider as to who can snatch 3rd place. I give the Irish the edge here because they are better organized and they look mentally stronger but the result could easily swing to the more technically-gifted Ukrainians. Whoever will score the first crucial goal will hold the advantage here.

Germany were alright and not spectacular in overcoming Ukraine in their first match. However, I don't anticipate them to have any problem containing the stronger Poles. The most Lewandowski and co can hope for is a draw point but the Germans have the necessary experience to make the difference before the final whistle.

Win: England, Germany, Northern Ireland

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Euro 2016 - France with serenity

It is with an enhanced confidence that France will tackle their second match of these Euros after having seen out the resilient Romanians in the first match. Albania should provide good food for fodder for Pogba and company; it is quite conceivable that coach Deschamps will use this match to rest some first-team players or try a new system for better things to come. The Albanians were only undone in their first match by the Swiss after playing with 10 men for a majority of the match. They are almost certain to crumble after only a few days rest against the host nation.

Romania and Switzerland look set to play out a close affair in the other Group A match. The former need a win after their tough loss against the French. The Swiss were not convincing against Albania, so Romania could well edge this one. I see this match ending as a Romanian win or a draw.

Russia look to be in deep trouble; their match against the Slovaks could have no significance if they are booted out of the Euros not because of their team performance but because of their supporters. The Russians ran their luck against England but are sure to find the Slovaks a better proposition; the latter were downed by Wales quite convincingly and look more likely to finish last of the group. Provided the off-field disturbances do not alter the spirit of this Russia side, they should win this match.

Win: France, Russia 

Euro 2016 - No slip allowed for Portugal

If logic is to be respected, Portugal and Austria should finish in the first 2 places of Group F. Hungary and Iceland should be vying for the third place spot.

Portugal cannot afford to lose any points against lowly Iceland. They will probably be made to wait to make the difference but should be able to do so in the end. Obviously, much will depend on Christiano Ronaldo's imprint on the match; the Real Madrid striker relishes bullying this type of weak opposition.

Austria were impressive in qualifying but less convincing in their recent matches, notably being thoroughly beaten by the Netherlands in a warm-up match. They have a solid squad with some notable names such as Arnatautic and Janko. I cannot see Hungary upsetting the odds here and Austria should sail to a more or less comfortable win.

Win: Portugal, Austria

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Euro 2016 - Belgium in the big leagues

The first heavyweight clash of the Euros pits the always dangerous Italians against the uber-talented Belgians in the Group E of Death. Belgium beware; Italy don't have a superstar player, yet they always make it difficult for any team to overcome them. The classic Italian scenario relies on their solid defence to demoralize the opposition and wait for the opportune moment to deliver the knock-out blow at the other end.

Belgium are among the favourites in these Euros because of their golden generation of players. On paper, this team has no rival in Europe, let alone in the world. They don't  have 1 maestro but 2 in the form of Hazard and de Bruyne. The only blip for this team is that they will miss their defensive rock and captain Kompany at the back.

If this is going to be a tactical affair, then the Italians have the edge, no doubt. It is inevitable that Belgium will hold much of the ball possession but the question will be whether they can open up the Italian defence and translate that into goals.Italy usually relish these types of encounters where they are not expected to run the play, sit back and soak the pressure and wait for the wave of attacks to crumble one after the other. Counter-attacks will present themselves for them to make the difference at the other end.

These 2 teams are very balanced and I like the idea of a draw here that would leave intact the chances of both teams to go through. Ireland and Sweden will present better opportunities for both teams to bag full points and they will probably play this one out with the utmost caution.

Ireland and Sweden look evenly-matched and even though Ibrahimovic looms large for the Scandinavians, Ireland are very well guided by coach O'Neill and look more on the upside; they can very well bag the 3 points against a yellow team that looks well past its best.

In Group D, the Czech Republic definitely present a clear danger to a Spanish team in search of some form. Spain are no certainties like a few years back. Tiki-taka football no longer reigns supreme.

Draw: Belgium v/s Italy.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Euro 2016 - Germany to set the tempo

Big guns Germany will start as deserved heavy favourites against Ukraine and it would be a major surprise if they don't win this encounter. Coach Low has been tinkering with his formations of late, which might very well explain the not-so-sparkling recent results. However, the Germans take no prisoners once the major hostilities start and it will be shocking if they don't finish first of Group C. Ukraine don't have Germany's pedigree or the beat to beat them. I expect a strong showing and easy win for Muller and company.

The match between Poland and Northern Ireland looks tight and it would be no surprise if this match were settled by the odd goal. Same for evenly-matched Turkey and Croatia and I have a small preference for the Turks.

Win: Germany

Friday, June 10, 2016

Euro 2016 - England to the test

England need to make a strong showing against Russia to show that they are real contenders for the overall win. So often they have looked dominant in the qualifying stages only to peter out when during the tournament. Russia are no push-overs but if the Lions play to their potential, they should have enough fire power to win this match. The cause for concern for England is really their defence which lacks a real world-class rock. The Russians might not have a striker to worry them but the other major teams definitely will. Unless they produce a dismal showing (which by the way is not entirely impossible), England should beat the Russians.

Finally Wales are in a major tournament. Thanks to Bale. Wales' chances all rely on the Real Madrid star; if he performs, they can win. Without him, they are nothing. Slovakia is certainly within their grasp if Bale can run the circus. The Slovaks have shown their intent by shocking the world in beating Germany in a friendly a couple of weeks back; they lack a true star but they can hold their own against the Welsh. Possibly a draw in the offing in this one.

Switzerland against Albania is an interesting one as the origin of many in the Albanian team come from Switzerland. History will be made by pitching the Xhaka brothers playing for opposing teams. On paper, the Swiss should prevail but it actually won't be a shock if Albania, the minnows of the tournament, get something out of this match.

Win: England

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Euro 2016 - France in a sweet spot

Here we go, Euro 2016 is here! This is a wide-open affair with several teams particularly aspiring to the trophy. But if we are to be cynical, we could look at things through different angles; England are fancied again but will flop as usual, probably in a penalty shoot-out yet again! France will probably win because they've won the last 2 times they hosted a big tournament (Euro 1984, WC 1998). But as others would say, everyone plays football, and in the end it's the Germans who win. Add to the mix the uber-talented Belgians and the complex Spaniards, this tournament promises to be well worth the look.

France has seemingly inherited an easy group with the likes of Romania, Switzerland and Albania. The French have flattered to deceive and disappoint in recent Euros and World Cups amidst so-called easy groups as well, but this squad looks an entirely different matter. For one, it is very talented with the likes of Griezman, Pogba, Payet and Martial to name a few. They are a strong and well-guided team under coach Deschamps. They will pass the group stage for sure. The first match against the Romanians will give a clue as to the health and potential of this team and I think they will pass it with flying colors.

Romania will battle Switzerland for second place. The Romanians are not in particularly great form having only won 2 of their last 6 matches. They have a poor historical record against the French and it's hard to see them causing an upset in the first match. Although they are a coherent team, they certainly miss a great playmakter a la Hagi to make a difference at this level.

The hosts should comfortably take this first match and get the cobwebs off.

Win: France

Friday, May 27, 2016

UCL Final 2016. Atletico's moment to shine

I really think the market has it wrong. Big time. Value punters must just be relishing at the prospect of backing big underdogs Atletico Madrid in their UCL final showdown against perennial foes Real Madrid. I believe they are making the right call.

Real Madrid will be favorites on account that they have in Ronaldo and Bale, two of the best three players on the planet. That's the ONLY credible point in their favour. Either of these two can turn a game upside down at any moment. But that's where the buck stops if you're looking for more positives. The notion that the UCL "belongs" to Real because they have won it a record 10 times is just rubbish. The past has zero incidence on the day contrary to what can be read on the sport pages.
These will also mention that the UCL pumps the Real players more than any other team. Another rubbish. The players in white have given their all to win the league as well only to fall just short to long-time leaders Barcelona. For sure, they would have relished beating their bitter rivals for the league title.

There are many reasons to side with Atletico. First, they played Real 10 times since their ill-fated UCL final loss to the same rivals a couple of years ago. They won 4 of these matches and only lost once. So, if there is to be a mental edge here, it's with Simeone's team. Talking of a mental blockage because of a UCL final two years ago holds little water; the teams are comprised of new players and if anything, the Atletico ones will be the most motivated.

Above all, what I think is Atletico's best asset is its manager, Diego Simeone. The results have proven over the past years that he knows how to prepare and win finals. Sure, the UCL loss was a dagger in this almost impeccable record, but let's not forget that were if not for Real's rather fortuitous goal from a corner in injury time. Atletico would have won its first UCL final. As they say, it's a game of inches (in this case, of seconds). Simeone has won the Europa Cup and Super Cup among others but what stands out for me was the Copa del Rey he won a few years back against Mourinho's Real. The Special One had never lost a final before and for Simeone to win the Cup in the rival's den was the real special achievement. Simeone will get his team to over-achieve for one match. The same thing cannot be said of the still-unproven Zidane.

Real is comprised of many stars. Atletico has only a real one in Griezman but they play as a team at all times. They beat Barcelona and Bayern because they organization and team spirit is second to none. Add to this a manager that prepares for a match like no other, you have the recipe for success that has been the Atletico story for the past few years now. It seems their time has arrived and at their current odds, must be one of the juiciest underdogs out there.

Win UCL: Atletico Madrid

Saturday, May 14, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 38

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

So the EPL season ends this Sunday with Leicester coming out as the shocking crowning champions. People talk of a Black Swan being a highly unforeseen event in the financial world; the Foxes win was much more than a massive Black Swan. What they have achieved is unprecedented and it would take some feat for another team to top that.

Many of the Sunday's fixtures are skewed because there is not much to play for. Which international playing in the upcoming Euros will risk injury by giving 110% in a meaningless match? The only meaningful matches involve the Manchester teams vying for the 4th and final UCL spot. It is almost a certainty that Man Utd will defeat Bournemouth. I cannot see the result of this match going otherwise. However, the Red Devils will have to count on neighbours City losing at Swansea. This is not as improbable as it looks as the Citizens have a dreadful road record. Swansea have been playing spoilers of late and getting a result is certainly not beyond their means; this team seems to play better when there is not much at stake or when they are under-valued underdogs. I think they will outright win or get at least a point from this match, which will give Man Utd the final UCL spot.

I see easy wins for Arsenal and Southampton as well.

This has been one of the most exciting EPL seasons ever, and hope that you enjoyed the weekly musings. Thanks for tuning in and all the feedback. In the upcoming months, I will focus on the major races as well as the Euros, before the start of 2016/2017 season. Have a great Summer and stay tuned!

Friday, May 6, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 37

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

Who would have imagined before the start of 2016 that Crystal Palace would be deeply entrenched just above the relegation zone? They were sitting pretty in the top 10 and challenging for a top 6 finish. Then striker Bolasie got injured early in the new year and the wheels completely unraveled for the Eagles. To salvage this rotten season, Pardew's men have the FA Cup final to look forward to but they need to get into some form in order to upset Man Utd at Wembley. Visitors Stoke have nothing to play for and have been on a nonchalant sort of form in the past weeks. This is why I think that the home team will have the greater motivation for a win and should edge this encounter given all the key players will be available.

West Ham are still in for a Top 4 shout and they have the potential to win their remaining 3 matches. Their easiest encounter will be Saturday's visitors Swansea, yet another team with nothing to play for. Whether they make the last UCL spot or not, the Hammers can consider this season to have been a successful one. Bilic has given this team an identity and the team is playing with full confidence behind the likes of Payet and Noble. Here again, the extra motivation is on their side and they should successfully make home advantage pay with another win.

Friday, April 29, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 36

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

Anyone out there still thinking that Leicester won't be champions? I think the football world has come to the evidence that the Foxes won't be denied; it really will be one of the greatest feats in the history of football. It's not a question where the minnows stunned some heavily-favoured team in a single match; they've been crushing the league for a good while now. Really deserving of winning the lot.

That said, I think they will go get a result at Old Trafford. The mood in the Red Devils camp will surely be up after winning their trip to the FA Cup final. They are still fighting for a UCL spot and don't have much margin for error. However, this Leicester team is resilient and will definitely have chances on the counter-attack against a team that relies all too well on ball possession. I can see the visitors either winning or drawing this match, so a draw-no-bet on them at current market prices looks great value.

I think Southampton have a great card to play against visiting Man City. Although the Citizens badly need the full points to secure a UCL spot, they will also have their eyes and minds on their pending trip to Madrid for the UCL semi-final return leg. Their chances to reach the final are live after a good 0-0 at home. So it will not be surprising if Pellegrini rotates his squad for Sunday's match. Southampton are on a good run and I've always said that Koeman knows how to prepare his teams against good opposition. I think the Saints can win this, and if they don't, it will surely end up in a draw match.

Friday, April 22, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 35

Man City v/s Stoke - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Chelsea - Draw
Aston Villa v/s Southampton - Away win
Liverpool v/s Newcastle - Home win
Sunderland v/s Arsenal - Home win
Leicester v/s Swansea - Home win
Tottenham v/s West Brom - Home win

It is no secret that how well Leicester deal with the loss of superstar striker Vardy for the next 2 matches will determine their chances of title glory. Vardy not only scores goals, he also opens up defences with his pace. Ranieri does not really have another similar player up front with Okazaki and Ulloa not pacy-types. So, the Foxes will have to alter their usual game plan in their next couple of matches. Swansea have nothing to play for but they are pesky opponents. They definitely have the capability of spoiling the home party. With Vardy, a Leicester win would have been very probable. Without him, the Foxes will still prove difficult to break down but they need to get the odd goal to make the difference. Many will look to Mahrez to provide the inspiration and although the Algerian has been quiet in the last few matches, he has the quality to break down the visitors. I think the home team will win this match by the minimum score.

For a value punt, I am looking no further than Sunderland hosting Arsenal. Wenger's men will go as heavy favourites with Alexis Sanchez in red-hot form. But this is an Allardyce-Wenger matchup and the Sunderland manager will relish breaking the flow of the Gunners' play as usual. Sunderland have good form going into this match and they badly need the points as well to get out of their current relegation predicament. Arsenal will choke again, I think, and the home team will either draw or win this, so a draw-no-bet on them looks good value.

Friday, April 15, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 34

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

Man City are on an absolute high after making their way to the semi-final of the UCL at the expense of PSG in mid-week. Let's put it this way; the return of Belgian superstar De Bruyne has simply lifted this star-studded team to another level. The ex-Chelsea player is a joy to watch; he can make incisive passes as well as score. It is no coincidence that Man City lost pace in the title run-in at the time of his prolonged injury setback. Since his return, he's bagged in important goals and the Citizens definitely need him in their UCL conquest and also for the run-in for the 4th vital EPL spot.

Chelsea definitely will be looking to play spoilers. They have been a transformed team under Hiddink and are a threat to any team. They will have several players back from injury and have the edge fitness-wise as they were idle during the week. I see a case of Man City players short of lasting the full 90 minutes of a high-tempo game and also suffering from their mid-week hangover.  City have shown limits on their travels and even having De Bryune in their ranks might not be enough against the Blues at Stamford Bridge. The hosts just won't lose this one.

Leicester are almost there. West Ham are a tough team to play against but they had a tough FA Cup match against Man Utd on Wednesday. I can't see many goals in this one but it's home advantage to the Foxes who can as ever rely on a stingy defence and one of Vardy or Mahrez to make the difference up front. The home team should just edge this.

Friday, April 8, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 33

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

I am bullish on quite a few home selections this week. I think Crystal Palace will finally manage a win after their oh-so-long drought, and beat relegation-doomed Norwich. If the Eagles can't beat the Canaries at home, then they deserve to go down as well!

I also think that Southampton will easily beat Newcastle. There is a difference in class between the 2 clubs and I expect Koeman to come up on top after against his continental adversary Benitez. The Saints have been riding some good form lately and are pushing for a wishful top-4 finish, while Benitez is still trying to figure out the mess on Tyneside.

Swansea have a card to play against a Chelsea team that will be missing many regulars. At market prices, the home team are value to snatch at least a draw or even better still, a home win. I just don't see them losing this encounter.

Friday, April 1, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 32

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

Arsenal are in no position to lose points if they are to keep their slim hopes of winning the league. They must beat the likes of Watford at home. The visitors seem to have plateau-ed with main striker Ighalo drawing consistently blanks of late. The Gunners should have too much firepower and bag the all-important 3 points.

I really like Stoke's chances at home to Swansea. Mark Hughes' team are always solid at home although they can throw the odd dull performance. Swansea are pretty much safe from relegation and don't have much to play for; they are really seeing out their under-performing season and gear up for next year. On the other hand, the Potters have a small chance of a European spot and will have the motivation to get the full points. I see the home team edging this.

Friday, March 18, 2016

EPL 2015/16 - Week 31

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

Man City have disappointed of late in the title run-in. I think they can get right back into it against bitter rivals Utd. Both Manchester clubs have been involved in Europe this week, albeit with different outcomes. City proceeded to the quarter-finals of the UCL while Utd were dumped out by Liverpool. I just think there is a gulf between the 2 teams at the moment. Man City have proven erratic and irregular but once they are on song, they can score at any time. On the other hand, Man Utd seem to be a glued team that just isn't good enough for big pretenses at this level. In short, Van Gaal made a mess of this team. The FA Cup is their best hope this year and even that looks far-reaching. Man City to edge this one.

I think that Southampton have a card to play against Liverpool. They have enjoyed a good spell lately and will be the fitter team as the Kops had a tough mid-week match at Old Trafford. Koeman usually has his team in good tactical shape against supposedly leading teams and it would not be surprising that he pulls another trick out of the hat again. It might be worth going for an outright win or a draw-no-bet with the home team.