This Weekend (29/01/2016)

Its a cup weekend in England this time around as the big guns in the Premier League take on teams in lower divisions looking to punch above their weight and looking to cause upsets and bring down some giants of the English game. In other parts of Europe, league action continues as we have top of the table clashes in Spain and France with a not so small matter of the Milan derby as Inter Milan and AC Milan aim to keep in touch with the likes of Juventus and Napoli.

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

The Biggest game of this weekend features Spain’s last two League champions and of course its first v second in La Liga. Atletico Madrid have a great season so far with their new signings bedding in quite well and have continued to build the team around a solid back line. Barcelona on the other hand, have blown everyone in front of them away so far this season with Luis Saurez especially looking to break the established order of Football’s elite individual awards.

simeone

Games between both teams are always closely fought and contested; this would not be any different. Both teams had contrasting outcomes from tough Copa Del Rey fixtures with Celta Vigo putting paid to Atletico Madrid’s run in the cup, this is coming just after their disappointing goalless draw against Sevilla last weekend; the Catalans, on the other hand continue to fight on all three fronts and this league clash affords them the chance to go three points clear with a game in hand.

mns

This season the records of both sides have been quite impressive; with Atletico keeping nine clean sheet from their last eleven games demonstrating their defensive solidity and undefeated in 17 of their last 19 away games; this not withstanding Barcelona have won their last five games against Atletico Madrid. Barcelona have won their last five games with an unbeaten run stretching to 23 games, scoring for fun and putting teams to the sword with consummate ease. Atletico may have lost their way recently, winless in three straight games; but cannot be taken likely nor for granted, expect a keenly contested and tense affair between La Liga’s top two sides.

My Verdict: Tough to call, Barca to win but only just.

My Betting Punt: A Barcelona win comes @ 1.51

Angers v Monaco

With PSG running away with the Ligue 1 title and every other trophy domestically; there is another trophy up for grabs and it affects the European places. Angers have been the bright lights of Ligue 1 this season, but have seemingly struggled since the start of the year with three straight defeats in all competitions. Monaco have however, picked up the slacks and have made a push for the second Champions League slot,with an undefeated run of nine games which has helped elevate the principality side to second behind run away leaders PSG.

For Angers, the bulk of the success is attributed to their defensive solidity and great home record; Angers have kept seven clean sheets in their last nine league games, coupled with been undefeated in ten of their last eleven home matches. This is Angers third big game in a row, the previous two ended in big defeats, so they need to step up and bounce back from those unfortunate results.

I believe its all the speculation surrounding the manager  that has Leonardo Jardim and Monaco rediscover last year’s midas touch and with only three losses all season and an undefeated run since early November, Monaco must be the place to be right now. Players like Bernardo Silva and Joao Moutinho have been the major catalyst in the revival  of Monaco this season

My Verdict: I will back Angers on this one to get a win.

My Betting Punt: An Angers win comes @ 3.32

Saint Etienne v Paris Saint Germain

Thirty-one games without defeat in Ligue 1 tells a story of absolute domination, that is what has characterized PSG’s campaign this season, every team they have played have been put to the sword,although teams like Angers seemed to prove difficult at first, but subsequently were put in there place. With a 21 points lead at the top of the league standings, its difficult week in week out to pin point or predict where the Parisians first defeat will come from; which team is bold enough to take up the mantle of beating the Champions and power house of French Football.

Saint-Etienne are such a team; but if you ask me how they will do it, I would probably tell you to snap out of it, because I do not see it happening and their is a likelihood the Parisians go the full season undefeated. Saint Etienne are backed by a very strong and vocal crowd every other week; the manager, Christophe Galtier is ranked among the brightest in the French domestic game, he would be looking to restore his team to a period where they had to answer to all PSG threw at them, however four consecutive defeats to this weekend’s opponents;with two happening in quick succession this season; doesn’t inspire any confidence.

So with a three game unbeaten streak under their belt, Galtier’s team though not exciting would believe they have a measure of confidence to cause PSG problems, especially with the defensive injuries the Parisians currently have. Its a big ask, but if there are any teams left to cause PSG any discomfort its,  L’ASSE.

 

My Verdict: PSG to win 

My Betting Punt: A PSG win comes @ 1.50

AC Milan v Inter Milan

Once upon a time, this was one of the biggest games in world football, but then nothing last forever; but then we cannot attempt to discard to commit this tie to the rubbish dump as it continues to have historical consequences and importance. Both Milan sides had contrasting starts to the season with Inter leading the league in the early months; AC Milan on the other hand tried to find its feet under a new manager, looking to build some momentum after an interesting summer spending spree.

sinisa

Fast forward to the new year; Juventus are knocking on the top position, Napoli are currently holding forth, but seem to be gearing for a much more endearing campaign with the Milan teams still seeking to reclaim and rediscover their past consistencies and competitive edge. With eight points separating both sides, it is almost a clear indication of how much better Inter’s squad is better then AC Milan’s; but after floundering in their last three games and been unconvincing since the winter break have left Inter clutching straws to stay in touch with the leading pack. You would have to say that the Coppa Italian run of the Rossoneri has lifted spirits and the team plays with a lot more desire and conviction to finish with silverware this season.

Mancini orders

We can expect a drab, tight, keenly contested encounter with both teams seeking to cancel each other out; Inter are undefeated in nine of their last ten away games, so you would be forgiven if you gave the Nerazzurri a better chance at winning this installment of the Milan Derby.

My Verdict: This looks more like a draw to me

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.35

*** An investment of N500 on these tips will yield N 12,000

Selected FA Cup tips

Crystal Palace v Stoke – Both teams to score @1.95

Bolton v Leeds – Leeds win or draw @1.41

Liverpool v West Ham – Both teams to score @1.72

Arsenal v Burnley – Arsenal to win @1.40

Oxford United v Blackburn – Oxford win or draw @ 1.35

*** An investment of N500 on these FA Cup will yield N 4,500

The Bundesliga returns this weekend

Finally Ze Germans return to the football pitch as the Bundesliga resumes after the winter break and as usual Bayern look poised more than ever to retain their title especially with the impending departure of Pep Guardiola at the end of the season with the likes of Dortmund, Leverkusen, Gladbach and outsiders Herta Berlin looking to act as party poppers. England provides us with a big London derby, Spain serves up a clash of two of the also rans, France has a double hitter of table toppers and previous champions going head to head and as usual I deliver my betting punts.

Arsenal v Chelsea

Surely Arsene Wenger would be one manager that is so pleased to see the back of Jose Mourinho. Arsenal have struggled against Chelsea for quite sometime and even in Chelsea’s worst run of form; the Blues have somehow been able to get a favorable result. It was thought that Arsenal may have broken the Chelsea hoodoo with the Community Shield victory, but Chelsea found a way in the first league meeting at the Emirates with the aid of Diego Costa and his antics.

FBL-ENG-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-TRAINING

Arsenal have not won a competitive fixture against Chelsea since 2011, that does not make for good reading at all; especially with the Gunners earmarked as title favourites, these are the kind of games they should be winning. Chelsea under Guus Hiddink may have stopped the defeats, but the victories just won’t come. Interestingly, Chelsea have only mustered one win each month since the season started in August; the worst performance by any defending league champion in history that I can remember. A gap of 19 points exist between both teams; it is not a definition of the gap of quality between both sides, but rather a demonstration of the rather unfortunate circumstance Chelsea Football Club find themselves in.

Both teams expect to welcome back key personnel with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard expected to make a return to the side. Arsenal have had a great record at home this season with one defeat and draws to West Ham, Spurs and Liverpool respectively the difference from having a perfect home record. Chelsea on the other hand are undefeated in their last five games even though, there’s only one win in that period. The Blues are undefeated in nine of their last ten matches against Arsenal and have kept a clean sheet in their last five league meetings.

My Verdict: Looks like a draw to me, but Arsenal looked poised for a first competitive win since 2011.

My Betting Punt: Both Teams to Score comes @1.72

 

Juventus v Roma

Luciano Spalletti is one manager I have admired for quite sometime, particularly with the way he got Roma to play in his first stint; using the intelligence of Roma legend Totti on and off the ball to good effect in his own version of the False Nine system. He didn’t get off to a good start, drawing at home to Serie A’s worst team, Hellas Verona, in a quite disappointing performance; Spaletti wont be looking forward to facing the Big Monster called Juventus at a time like this, with Roma still in so much turmoil after the departure of Rudi Garcia and the purported and imminent transfer of some top players from the club.

Juventus are in sparkling form, the in form team in the top five leagues in Europe; currently on a ten game winning streak in Serie A and twelve games on the spin in all competitions. Juventus have found their groove and their swag back; even when they seem to be struggling in games, they seem to always find a way to get a result. The Old Lady are a ticking clock, all the players are in tune with the Allegri’s approach and what he intends to achieve with the team; this is finally his team, Allegri’s Juve.

My fear for Roma lies in Spalletti aiming to change things too quickly, chopping and changing formations and potentially alienating some players from the squad. His choice of Nainggolan to play in the hole behind the striker seems a strange one; considering that Pjanic takes a deeper role. He may need to change this around to cope with the intensity and physicality of Juve’s  midfield. Roma need to check their declining form; four draws in their last four away games is a big worry, coupled with the fact that Juventus have won their last five home games against Roma.

My Verdict: Juventus Win.

My Betting Punt: Juventus win @1.67

Atletico Madrid v Sevilla

At the beginning of the season, I took a look at Diego Simeone’s squad and I felt they were strong enough to challenge Spain’s big two; they have not disappointed in any way and have continued to find a way to get results. Sevilla on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish; after a superb cup run last season culminating in winning the Europa League for the second time in succession. This season, Sevilla had struggled to find the form from last season, been largely inconsistent, but lately have bounced back to get some encouraging results with four back to back victories.

Simeone’s side look close to full strength with the exception of Thiago and Fernando Torres who remain injured and will miss out. Atletico Madrid have made incursions into the Transfer market as the window remains open, signing Antonio Fernandez from Celta Vigo; who has slotted in smoothly. Interestingly, Simeone’s rotation policy has not hurt the team’s balance, chemistry or form, this has helped a number of players such as Saul, Correa and Vietto staking claims to starting positions.

Atletico Madrid have a great record against Sevilla; they are currently on a twelve game unbeaten streak against the Andalusian club. Simeone’s side have become quite impregnable with clean sheet after clean sheet leading to four straight games without conceding  a goal. Sevilla have struggled away from home this season and have failed to win their last nine games away from the Sanchez Pizjuan and Atletico have won nine of their last ten La Liga Matches; the capital side seem primed for another victory.

My Verdict: Atletico Madrid to Win.

My Betting Punt:  Atletico Madrid to win by one goal @2.97

Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund

You can call it the Borussia derby if you may; for me its the battle of the also rans, two teams that have intentions of wrestling the title from Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, both are far from the mark and the gap between them and Bayern continues to increase week in week out. Nine points separate both sides with Dortmund ahead as the team closest to Bayern; Gladbach on the other hand have the pleasure of been the only side to have defeated Bayern Munich this season, despite a poor start to the campaign; André Schubert has gotten the team playing some good football.

Dortmund have had their squad some what depleted with the departure of Jonah Hoffman to Gladbach and Adnan Januzaj returning to Manchester United; however their squad remains quite strong. Dortmund have been scoring freely this season and have one of the hottest strikers in Europe in Pierre Eric Aubameyang in their ranks. Thomas Tuchel has somewhat changed the identity of this Dortmund side and it seems like they have made a gradual departure from the Klopp era.

Interestingly, Gladbach up on till the winter break had been in good form winning six of their last seven home matches and have a good recent home record against Dortmund with three straight wins in all competitions.

My Verdict: You can expect a high scoring draw

My Betting Punt: This looks like a goals punt; Over 2.5 goals @ 1.45 is ideal.

 

Paris Saint Germain v Angers

It is safe to hand over the title to PSG now and we all just look away from the Paris team and watch the rest of Ligue 1 fight it out for the remaining European places and relegation battles. I must say though, like I have repeated on many occasions, that I have been impressed by the newly promoted sides as they have rubbed shoulders with the elite like they have been here before especially Angers.

Angers are currently in fourth; talk about over achieving; for the love of me.I am sure at the start of the season all they would have had in mind was to just survive. Angers are the Leicester City of Ligue 1, punching above their weight week in week out and have the honour of been one of the few teams not to lose to PSG this season, holding them to a nil-nil draw.

PSG have failed to put games to bed early since the winter break, they have been less prolific as set pieces seem like a viable out let now as the fluidity seems to have deserted them. PSG have won all four of the games played this year so far, so current form is not an issue.

My Verdict: PSG to Win.

My Betting Punt:  PSG to win @1.16

 

Olympique Lyon v Olympique Marseille

Some seasons ago, these two teams would have been going head to head; but both teams are in a different space now, under the tutelage of a new set of managers asides those that tried to run PSG close last season.

Lyon lost the derby with Saint Etienne last week despite having such a good record away at their rivals; this weekend, they come up against a resurgent Marseille who have been very solid away from home this season under Michel, but have found home comforts difficult to come by this season winning only two games at the Velodrome as against five wins from ten home games.

Both teams have struggled with injuries so far this season, but are gradually on the mend and would be glad with the progress made in the cup competition. Marseille’s back to back victories is a huge boost coupled with their solid away form would look to cause Lyon problems. When both teams met earlier in the season with was a feisty affair; so you can expect sparks to fly in this one.

My Verdict: Can write off Marseille; but a draw seems likely.

My Betting Punt:  Both teams to score @1.74

 

*** A Punt of N500 based on these tips will fetch a return  N13,000

This Weekend (15/01/2016)

Happy New year folks; I pray that this year brings you all that your heart desires. This is my first post for the year and I am quite excited at the possibilities available for our exploration and exploitation this year. As usual, I would be giving my opinion, verdict and for those that engage in punting; I supply my ideal betting punts; so far I have a 75% accuracy ratio; so lets see what 2016 holds for us all. All the best guys.

Liverpool v Manchester United

This remains the biggest game in English football, like it or not and you can expect fireworks at Anfield on Sunday as the two most successful clubs in England go ahead to head. Interestingly, both teams were involved in six goals thrillers in mid week; so we can expect another goal fest;well I doubt that very much as I expect both teams to return to their shell, especially Manchester United who have been built to be much more cautious this season based on Louis Van Gaal’s so called Philosophy. Jurgen Klopp is still enjoying his honey moon period at Anfield as he continues to instill his style of play on the reds; Liverpool just like United have struggled with injuries; but theirs have been principally in defense and this continues to be a major worry for Klopp as he is unable to name a steady back line; he also has the erratic performances of Simon Mignolet in goal which adds to his worries as the back up goalie is equally not up to the standard expected at Anfield.

Klopp (L) and Louis van Gaal have history in the Bundesliga, but now they face off for the first time in England

Van Gaal has won his three encounters so far against Liverpool with United winning the last four in all competitions, however this is Jurgen Klopp he will be up against and if Liverpool’s performances in the big games against the top six clubs is anything to go by; United must be worried, with victories away at Chelsea, Manchester City and a thrilling six goal encounter against Arsenal will definitely raise concerns. The key to Liverpool’s triumphs has been their quick start to games, pressing,resilience and  determination in the early minutes of these games has been the key; which must worry United as a prior experience earlier in the season led to the Red Devils biggest defeat this season against Arsenal. Manchester United are slow starters as they seek to impose their imprint and style on the game, so a quick salvo or quick Blitz (like they say in American Football) will unsettle the Red Devils; although a number of changes have been made lately as United seem to be more direct these days, even though open at the back.

Carragher (second left) has plenty of memories of playing against rivals United during his time at Anfield

It was interesting to see Klopp go with the False Nine approach with Firmino at the fore front; the Liverpool manager has the better of the head to heads of both managers; with two wins in their last four meetings. Over the last three seasons this fixture has produced goals; in their last six meetings in all competitions the game has had more than two goals with the exception of one occassion; so if United’s new approach is anything to go by and Liverpool’s quick salvo and pressing game points to the fact that this trend may continue; however, I expect a much more calmer approach by both managers. Anthony Martial exploded to the scene in the game between both sides earlier in the season and over the years, a number of players have burst unto the season; expect a feisty encounter.

My Verdict:  A draw looks like the most likely outcome, but Liverpool have their tails up.

My Betting Punt: A Liverpool Double chance will be handy @ 1.31

AC Milan v Fiorentina

Fiorentina have been very good this season, but have stumbled when its mattered most; last week’s loss at home against Lazio was a huge surprise and largely disappointing. The Viola have been very organized and stable this season; playing some good stuff along the way; Milan on the other hand have blown hot and cold this season; at times they seem to have turned the corner; but just cannot find the consistency to save their manager’s job.

Sinisa Mihajlovic has to worry about the potential of losing his job with each match day, that is not a good position to be in for any Manager; which must affect the players collectively psychologically. Milan needs to find consistency after making the Coppa Italia Semi Final in mid week; that victory should form the spring board for more consistent performances for the Rossoneri and a push up the table to challenge for the European places.

Paulo Sousa needs his team to bounce back from the defeat at home to Lazio to ensure they stay in touch with Napoli, Juventus and Inter in the title push. A victory at the San Siro would be the minimum expectation for Fiorentina; the Viola have a decent recent record against Milan with three victories in their last six meetings. Both teams have identical records over the last couple of weeks with three wins each in their last six matches.

Fiorentina have been solid with their 3-4-2-1 system which has Bojan Valero providing the balance in the middle; the wing backs of Marcos Alonso and Jacob Blaszczykowski continue to provide an attacking outlet. The midfield battle will be interesting to watch as Milan have switched to a permanent 4-4-2 formation; so expect a potential 4 v 6 in the midfield. Expect Milan to look to break quickly, looking to exploit the gaps left by Fiorentina Wing backs.

My Verdict:  A Draw, can’t separate both sides

My Betting Punt: A Fiorentina Double chance will be handy @ 1.51

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao

Earlier in the season, both teams served up a thriller in the Spanish Super Cup over two legs, where Athletic tore Barcelona apart in the first leg at the San Mane, I do not think I have seen Barcelona that disjointed at any time. Barcelona have been in imperious form thus far season and are currently on a 21 game unbeaten run in all competitions; playing some scintillating football with newly crowned World player of the year, Lionel Messi at the peak of his powers. Lionel Messi has over time reserved his best performances for the visit to the Nou Camp of Athletic Bilbao; scoring some stunning goals.

Athletic Bilbao will be without Adruiz, their top scorer this season, but have the explosive talent of Inaki Williams to fill in up front; his pace will be a huge source of worry for the Barcelona back line. Athletic have been on a good run lately with only one defeat in their last five matches. With Atletico Madrid leading the way in La Liga; the Catalans cannot afford to slip up even though they have a game in hand against the league leaders.

My Verdict:  Barcelona Win

My Betting Punt: A combo is in order here; Barcelona win and over 3.5 goals @ 1.79

Saint Etienne v Olympique Lyon

Christophe Galtier’s Saint Etienne have played some quality football this year despite their continued long injury list and would go into this derby against OL, looking to get revenge for a heavy defeat in November at the Stade Gerland.

Lyon have surprisingly struggled this season, which is probably an indication of how young and naive their team is; but have lately experienced a change in fortune as the results have taken a turn for the better especially since Bruno Genesio took charge of the team since the dismissal of Hubert Fournier.

Recently, Saint Etienne have been poor; three defeats from their last five games does not make for good reading at all; if you then add their struggle to qualify on penalties in the Coupe de France, but last week’s victory over second placed Angers should enhance their confidence for the derby against Lyon.

For Lyon, their victory in the derby against Saint Etienne led to a poor run of form for the former champions with five losses from their next six games. Lyon would have it all to do as Saint Etienne have a solid record at home; undefeated in 34 of their last 38 games; Lyon would need a thoroughly solid performance to come away with the three points and their recent record shows they can, with seven wins from their last eight meting between both sides at Saint Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

My Verdict:  A draw

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.22

Feyenoord v PSV Eindhoven

The Eredivisie returns with a block buster fixture as second takes on third as the Dutch return to league action; with Ajax leading the line, so both teams would be keen to get all three points to either top the league or move closer to the teams at the top.

Feyenoord have won eight of their nine games at home; PSV also have an interesting run of form with no defeats in 11 games; so this promises to be an interesting encounter between both sides.

My Verdict:  A Draw

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.38

 

So there you have it; all the tools you need to make you the big decisions; a N500 stake will fetch you

N 20, 231.74