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.