Another Block buster Weekend on the Cards

The title races in all the top leagues in Europe rev up another gear as some of the top clubs can smell blood and can see the finish line; some have to worry more about survival and maintaining their top flight status. This week its all about the title races in Spain and Italy, as huge derby clashes that would have a major impact on the eventual destination of the title in these countries.

In England, its a case of old rivalries seeking to end or put a dent into title aspirations or top four aspirations of your fellow adversary;we cannot say the same for the title races in Germany and France, where the race seems to be as one directional as it has been for many years.

Manchester United v Arsenal 

Mounting injury list, European commitments with varying outcomes; one with its best chance at winning the League for the first time in twelve years and the other looking more and more likely to move farther away from the coveted top four places.

Sanchez

This is the story of Manchester United and Arsenal this season; the Gunners are within two points of league leaders, Leicester whilst Manchester United are six points off fourth place in fifth with West Ham and Southampton closing in; it doesn’t make good reading for Louis Van Gaal. Van Gaal must really consider life as been quite unfair right now as with each passing day and game, one of his top first team player succumbs to injury especially in the warm up.

Over the years, the battles between Arsenal and Manchester United have gone on to decide titles, dent title ambitions or at least just be a feisty affair; for sometime United have dominated this tie; but Arsenal are gunning to do a double over United this season and if their performance in the game earlier in the season at the Emirates is anything to go bye; you would have to say Arsenal are overwhelming favourites as they seek to clinch their first win at Old Trafford in ten years.

Manchester United would definitely parade its strangest and youngest line up  for a very long time as the team is expected to consist of a number of youngsters from the Under 21s and the academy. The young lads are likely to be consumed by the occassion, but a great performance in their dress rehearsal in the Europa League would have improved their morale; however Arsenal are not FC Midtjylland, hence the likes of Memphis Depay and Marcus Rashford won’t have as much of a field day as they enjoyed the freedom of the Old Trafford turf on Thursday. The gulf in class of both teams to be paraded on Sunday is evidently clear with the Gunners having a team loaded with world class talent; however Arsenal’s goal drought is a major source of worry for the team and its fans.

My Verdict: Arsenal to get their first win in ten years at Old Trafford

My Betting Punt: Both teams to score @1.92

Juventus v Inter Milan

Roberto Donadoni and his Bologna side put paid to making this a truly epic encounter as Juventus would have been seeking to equal Inter’s remarkable record of 17 consecutive wins in Serie A; what better way to write your name in history than against descendants of holders of such an illustrious record. Despite this Juventus remain top of Serie A despite an horrendous start to the season and an unbeaten sequence of 15 wins and one draw which has set the cat among the  pigeons. The Old Lady are a difficult proposition to knock off their perch once they attain top spot especially as their so called title rivals continue to falter, dropping points at the slightest chance.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - AUGUST 08:  Paulo Dybala of Juventus FC in celebrates a goal during the Italian Super Cup final football match between Juventus and Lazio at Shanghai Stadium on August 8, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Inter Milan started the season brightly, going on with their business silently with a series of one-nil victories and other slim wins to sit at the top of the scudetto race, but as the pressure has been increased from the bottom so has Inter found it hard to be consistent with only two wins from their last six games. Juventus’s Champions League commitments with their exhaustive clash against Bayern may lead to an adjustment in the side to freshen things up as the Old lady expects the likes of Chiellini and Alex Sandro to return to the side with a likely start for Hernanes against his former employers.

Juventus have won their last nine home games in the Serie A and seven clean sheets in their last seven Serie A matches.

On Monday, there’s a small matter of Fiorentina v Napoli; both teams have dropped out of the Europa League and Napoli are winless in four and can see their title challenge slipping away if they do not arrest the decline now.

My Verdict: Juventus to win and extend their lead to four points

My Betting Punt: Juventus win @1.60

Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich

What a difference a year makes; last season the Volkswagen club were Bayern’s closest rivals for the title; even demolishing the Bavarians emphatically 4-1 after the winter break. Now there’s a 28 point gap between both teams and Bayern top the league and Wolfsburg are chasing Europa League qualification in eight place.

Bayern’s injury list especially in defense is a major source of worry coupled with the way they blew a two goal lead at the Juventus Stadium in the Champions League which I largely ascribe to Pep Guardiola’s arrogant tactics (read here) on the night. Wolfsburg have found their way back into reckoning with four points from a possible six points; at home in the Volkswagen Arena, they are strong with only one defeat in their last 33 games at home.

Bayern Munich as always hold all the big records in Germany and dominate all the head to heads; in relation to this tie; the Bavarians have won 11 of their last 13 games against Wolfsburg and Bayern have won 20 of their last 23 matches in the Bundesliga, looking to extend their lead at the top to 11 points with Dortmund not playing till Sunday.

My Verdict: Bayern Munich to win and extend their lead to Eleven points

My Betting Punt: Bayern Munich win @1.45

Spain’s Double Header

There will be daggers and swords drawn in Spain this weekend as Saturday may witness the end of the title challenge for one of the teams from the Capital as well as the first real test for Real Madrid’s new manager Zinedine Zidane; whilst Barcelona aim to continue their stellar form as they seek to get revenge over one of the few sides to defeat them this season as their unbeaten streak tally hits the mid thirties.

Barcelona-v-Atletico

Between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid; there’s a huge need for someone to seize the initiative to close a 8 and 9 points deficit respectively with a win. The earlier clash at the Vincente Calderon ended in a goalless stalemate and both teams would not want to be interested in a share of the spoils. Real had the luxury of resting in mid week; as Atletico just returned from the mid week stalemate in Eindhoven in the Champions League.

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Sevilla’s loss  in a competition that they have come to call their own was shocking; but then with a good first leg;it was expected for the team to relax a little bit. Against Barcelona, Sevilla are a dangerous opponent; not having the best of seasons, but , they have crawled their way back in contention for the Champions League places. Barcelona are electric now as was the display against Arsenal in mid week, expect a game where both sides come out to play.

My Verdict: Barcelona to win

My Betting Punt: Over 2.5 goals expected @1.25

My Verdict: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid will end in a draw

My Betting Punt: A Draw goes at  @3.60

Olympic Lyon v Paris Saint Germain

There is a Thirty Four point gap between both teams; but then a year ago Lyon were a point ahead of PSG, with a very young side who played some really good football last season. This season, Lyon have struggled with injuries an loss of form this season; hence the door was shown to Herbert  Fournier as the team continued to lose ground on the big teams.

zlatan lucas

PSG are undefeated in their last Thirty-Six matches in all competitions and are not even looking any close to been defeated and are heading for Nantes record  of Thirty-two games without defeat in Ligue 1. Paris Saint-Germain had the entire week off from competitive football for the first time in so far this year, which is a welcome development as the games start coming thick and fast now.

PSG have defeated Lyon this season earlier and have won four straight meetings against OL and nothing points to the fact that Lyon can get anything from this one.

My Verdict: PSG to win

My Betting Punt: PSG win @1.80

Capital One Cup Final

The first trophy of the season will be handed over at Wembly station as Liverpool and Manchester City go head to head. Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp aim to win the first trophy of the German’s reign at Anfield; whilst Manuel Pellegrini aims to make good his final few months at the Etihad club; winning the trophy would be a good way of celebrating his eventual departure.

Manuel-Pellegrini-EPA

This season,Liverpool have put their mark on Manchester City with a performance for the ages earlier in the season at the Etihad; so the Citizens will go in a little wary and cautious especially coming off a mixed emotions type of week. Liverpool are traditionally the domineering feature of the League cup as they have won it more than any other club and would be aiming to enhance their established success in the competition.

Manchester City need to win the cup and win well to boost the morale at the East-lands and potentially get their season back on track.

My Verdict: To close to call 

My Betting Punt: Over 2.5 goals expected @1.82

 

**** Make a Punt with N500 based on the above will fetch you N 37,750; not a bad weekend of games right? Good Luck all

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Four Things we learnt from the UCL Night in London and Turin

We knew we were in for a treat the moment the draws were made for the knock out rounds of the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League. Any game involving teams such as Bayern Munich, Juventus, Barcelona and Arsenal would always produce fireworks and this Tuesday night was no exception.

As we look forward to further intrigues as the ties are nicely poised especially the Juventus v Bayern tie; here are some of the tactical highlights from the night.

Games can be won and lost from the bench

Max Allegri continues to display how well he has full control of this Juventus side and time and time again he continues to find a way to drag his team from a precarious situation. I was pleased to see Juve line up with a back four as against the usual back three and this is the reflection of the versatility and flexibility of this Juventus side under Allegri. However; Pep’s Bayern caused them tonnes of problems with runs from midfield which exposed the lack of mobility of the likes of Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchiso; in came two substitute changes that I believe gave Juve a lot more mobility, industry and a little creativity; the introduction of Stefano Sturaro and Hernanes changed the dynamic for Juventus to find a way back into the tie and with great hope going into the second leg away at the Allianz Arena.

In London, it was a different story as Barcelona did not even make a change, no call to the bench for any tactical reinforcements. Now whilst watching the game and seeing Alex Oxlade Chamberlin limping; I thought to myself, Arsene Wenger would not make the mistake of introducing Theo Walcott because as at that time; Arsenal were holding their own defensively; keeping Barcelona’s full backs at bay due to the defensive  shift been put in by Chamberlin and Sanchez. Instead of bringing Theo Walcott on, I would have opted for fit again Danny Welbeck, who over the years has proven his adaptability in various positions; well Arsene opted for Walcott and Barca blew through Arsenal’s right hand side in a swift counter attack to take the lead, a clear indication of Theo Walcott’s lack of ability in putting in a defensive shift as Barcelona continued to exploit the spaces provided by his inability to provide cover for Hector Bellarin.

Pep’s Guts boarders on Arrogance

Pep Guardiola has over the years given opportunities to youngsters to feature in his teams and then develop into world beaters. When I saw the Bayern Line up, I was quite surprised at the composition of their back three; it had David Alaba, a renowned left back, Juan Bernat; another left back and Joshua Kimmich, the youngster in the squad. Now this is considering  that Mehdi Benatia and Rafinha were on the bench; come on Pep could have gone with a back four of Philip Lahm who played in Midfield, Juan Bernat at left back with Alaba and Benatia at center back. I have been involved in various discussions where it has been said that Pep doesn’t need to field a defensive set up since his teams will always dominate possession and proceedings.

Guardiola has done this many times and gotten away with it, but in a major tie like this I do not think it is ideal to play this way; for me it boarders in pure arrogance; a we are better that you attitude; it was easy to see Juventus find a way back through errors in the Bayern defense.

The ‘’MSN’’are a selfless bunch

I would never have thought that a time will come where in the course of a football season; Lionel Messi would not be the top scorer in all competitions; let’s put the injuries aside; Luis Enrique has done a fine job of ensuring that this front three play in Unison that in every game you see them creating chances for each other to score that sometimes they overdo it.

Messi, Saurez and Neymar are Football’s foremost deadly threesome; there are no Egos in their relationship and it seems the three have also built a great relationship off the pitch as well. The selflessness at which these three play the game continue to make it a joy to behold.

Sergio Busquets is too underrated; its unfair

Its tough been a player in a team where you have resigned to the fact that you would just sit back and get the job done with little or no recognition, You will probably say Busquets’ efforts are appreciated as he is continuously singled out as the man to keep in shackles if you intend to defeat Barcelona, but that notwithstanding he does not get as much praise as he deserves.

Sergio Busquets figures and data will blow your minds, which definitely sets him apart as one of the best in his position. Another fine display against Arsenal continues to showcase his worth to this team.

NPFL 2016 SEASON PREVIEW

And so the much awaited 2016 season of the Nigeria Processional Football league kicked off yesterday with Plateau United getting all three points against fellow returnee club Niger Tornadoes with their 2-1 win at home. It promises to be another exciting round of matches as we preview how these teams might fare at the end of the season.

PLATEAU UNITED have started very well winning their first match but whether they can sustain this is a different ball game altogether. The last time they were in the league, they got relegated after spending a season in the top flight. I expect them to go back down just as it happened five years ago.

NIGER TORNADOES will be brimming from the fact that they are the NNL Super 4 Champs and that confidence might boost their morale, but playing far away from their natural habitat the Bako Kotangora stadium in Minna might do little to help their cause as they have adopted the Confluence Stadium in Kogi. A bottom half finish is my expectation for them provided they keep Abdullahi Biffo as head coach till the end of the season.

GIWA FC have lost so much in playing and coaching personnel and this might be a very difficult season for them. Ocheme Edoh whose 12 goal haul last season helped propelled the club has moved to Heartland FC as well as Charles Henlong, Amos Gyang moving to Kano Pillars. All these might not help them after two seasons of finishing in the top five. A bottom half finish might be flattering for them.

FC IFEANYI UBAH have had its own fair share of players exodus but the club owner has swiftly moved to bring in as much as six Brazilians players to beef up their squad. Hopefully these ‘Samba Boys’ stay till the end of the season and help their lofty ambition of grabbing a continental slot. My verdict on them? Top half finish!!!

NASARAWA UNITED had a fantastic run-in towards the end of last season. From breaking Kano Pillars 12 years 3 months and 2 days unbeaten home record in the league to finishing third on the table and qualifying for the first time for the CAF Confederations cup, it has been a swell year for them. Amidst all of this frenzy, they have been able to retain their brilliant Manager Kabiru Dogo who has brought in some experienced legs to beef up his squad. Abdulrahman Bashir, Tayo Fabiyi, Samson Gbadebo, Douglas Achiv among others are some of players they now have. I really cant see them contesting for the title but expect them to ruffle shoulders on their way to finishing in the top six.

MOUNTAIN of FIRE and MIRACLE MINISTRIES (MFM) FC would be making their debut in the top flight and as with the trend of new teams trying to impress and making a statement, they will have to be energetic all through the campaign to maintain their status. They have a crop of very young and skillful players but that is not always enough in the NPFL. They might just be relegated back to the Nigeria National league at the end of the season even with their good looking administrative structure headed by Ace-broadcaster Godwin Enakhena.

RIVERS UNITED FC have re-christened their name from Dolphins fc. Reports reaching us from the state have it that its a merger of the two State-owned club-Dolphins and Sharks fc-with the former Sharks fc general manager Okey Kpaluku now in charge of this team on Acting capacity. Also they have signed a couple of players from Sharks, Odinga Odinga on a three year deal, Henry Ayodele, Freedom Obomate and Gabriel Olalekan. A mid table finish for new look club.

ENYIMBA INT’L FC, just like they do every other season have gone on a spending spree in the transfer market. With their erstwhile Coach Paul Aigbogun returning to the fold and also bringing in his own players from Wolves, it promises to be as exciting for the seven-time league Champions. Their list of new signings including Dare Ojo, Kelly Kester, Christian Pyagbara, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Leonard Ugochukwu, Joseph Osadiaye, Stephen Chukwude, Theophilus Afelokhai, Olufemi Oladapo just to mention but a few will have to work their socks and boots off to retain regular places in the starting eleven. Trust them to definitely contest  their league crown favorably well hoping that their aspirations for a third CAF Champions league crown wont derail their league title chances.

SHOOTING STARS have made a very costly mistake they might regret later by letting Gbenga Ogunbote leave for Giwa fc. Not so much have been heard with respect to their new signings but with experienced league winner and campaigner, Kadiri Ikhana taking over coaching affairs, they might still do well this season. A bottom half finish for them.

LOBI STARS have new general manager and a new coach. Mike Idoko has taken over the day to day running of the Makurdi based team after the resignation of Dominic Iorfa and he has brought in Godwin Koko Uwah to head the technical crew. David Tvyakase who has a CAF champions league medal with Enyimba has joined up with them. Others include Otekpa Eneji, Solomon Kwambe, Cyril Oriaku, Kingsley Eduwo and Abdul Afolabi to beef up their squad. With the experience of Idoko and Uwah, they should finish in the top five.

SUNSHINE STARS will be disappointed in themselves with how they let the title slip from their grasp last season. Having lost key players such as Tunde Adeniji to Levski Sofia, Prince Aggrey, Kingsley Eduwo and also their coach Kennedy Boboye, its left to be seen how they would cope this season with some of their new signings Ojo mine, Oke Ogagatwho and Segun Alebiosu who have enough experience in the league. But don’t be surprised if they struggle throughout the season to maintain their league status.

AKWA UNITED have made a big statement to all who care to listen winning three titles (Federations cup, Super 4 tournament and Charity Cup) in four months. Also their new coach Maurice Cooreman knows what it means to win titles on the domestic scene having won the league with defunct Ocean boys and Enyimba in 2006 and 2007 respectively. With returnee players like Ubong Ekpai and Kufre Ebong, expect them to contest for the league title. Top three finish!

IKORODU UNITED FC have shown the world that they are ready to rub shoulders with  the creme-de-la-creme of Nigerian football with their fun-fare kits unveiling. Owned by Chairman Multi-choice Nigeria, Adewunmi Ogunsanya, they add to the growing list of privately owned clubs in the country. Their first campaign in the top flight will see them struggle and might just be relegated.

ABIA WARRIORS have lost their prized asset Chisom Chikatara who notched up a total of 14 goals last season in the league but hopefully Ndifreke Effiong another of their hotshot steps up to the plate with Kennedy Boboye giving tactical instructions from the side lines. They have always had continental slots in mind but with their invariably thin squad, a top half finish could just be their surest bet.

ELKANEMI WARRIORS would have wanted to go back to base, Maiduguri precisely but recent spate of bombings around the state capital has made them maintain their home ground to be Karkanda Stadium in Katsina state. Former Abia Warriors coach Laden Bosso has pitched tent with the team and might just be a survival season for them just like last season. Bottom half finish.

WIKKI TOURIST surprised so many league watchers last season with their fearless attacking play that made them finish 4th on the table with only goal difference separating them from grabbing that 3rd place finish. This season might just be theirs for the fact that they have retained their coach of last season Abdul Maikaba and most of their star players too. A top six finish I foresee for them.

HEARTLAND FC have brought in quite a handful of players from  across the country young and experienced players at that. Ocheme Edoh top scorer for Giwa fc last season, Isaac Loute from Kano Pillars, Longi Obadiah from Elkanemi Warriors, Emeka Atuloma from Rivers United fc should give them the necessary strength to do well in the league. A top four finish would be good enough for them.

WARRI WOLVES looks more increasingly like a confused club at the moment. Sam Okpodu left the club after disagreement over his salary and the foreign expatriate they are to hire is still in limbo as we hear coupled with the mass exodus of players. Peter Nieketen should take charge of their matches till things are sorted with their would-be head coach. Relegation bound!!!

KANO PILLARS have some decent signings for themselves. Getting the likes of Aggrey, Jonathan Zikiye, Omo Johnson, Chris Madaki and Ifeanyi Matthew to mention but a few. They might just reclaim the title they last won two seasons ago. Definitely a top three finish for them.

RANGERS INT’L have brought in experience from Enyimba with Chimezie Amanfor, Bright Esieme Chibuzor Madu joining them. They should compete well enough with Imama Amapakabo at the helms of affair and good restructuring of the management board. A top half finish for them!

The Dream is free, the Hustle is sold separately…Selah!!!

Its a Blockbuster Premier League Weekend

When Sergio Aguero scored a last minute winner against Queens Park Rangers to win Manchester City the Barclays Premier League title in the 2011/12 season finale, we thought we had seen it all. It was single handedly the most entertaining moment in English Football since its inception. Not for Manchester United fans though. The burning excitement led grown men screaming in the streets and in the pubs.

This weekend perhaps we might see another moment of a different sort, Leicester City as the heir apparent to the throne of the English kings. For the first time since the season started they open the weekend as favourites to lift the title. Who would have thought that at the start of the season, after all they ended last season winning seven of their last ten games for a great escape. Yes it was a great escape because they had been bottom at Christmas and at this same stage last season with 25 games played. Fast forward seven months and they sit atop a pile way ahead of defending champions Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.

Last weekend proved masterful. The bubble was supposed to burst, the cat let out the bag. They were travelling to the  home of the fearsome Manchester City, with Aguero, Silva, Sterling, to name a few. What transcended over 90mins has let us to another of those pure passion moments. They destroyed Manchester City in their own backyard, not by packing the bus but by playing a brand of football likened to the electric car Tesla. They played fast counter-attacking football while stifling the likes of Aguero and Sterling. Yaya Toure had to be taken off early in the second half further proving how bad a day City were having.

Heading into the weekend here is a preview of some of the biggest games.

ARSENAL v LEICESTER CITY

This weekend Leicester take on the Arsenal in a game many have refused to call because of what transpired last weekend. The two games against City and Arsenal were supposed to prove if the Foxes were true title contenders. Well they blew off City and if they do the same against Arsenal this weekend then maybe, just maybe we should not doubt them. Even if they do not win it in the end, they would have proved a point as to the importance of playing to your teams strengths.

Sanchez

Back to the game, Arsenal must learn from City. City made the mistake of isolating Jamie Vardy with Martin Demechilis time and time again. It is arguable that Leicester don’t do anything special in terms of wowing but what they do is put pressure on the ball in numbers while looking for the earliest opportunity to punt the ball up to Vardy. Should Per Mertesacker play tomorrow, that would be Leicester’s plan all the day. Kante pressures the ball with Drinkwater in midfield while Vardy roams around looking for an opportunity to sprint at goal. Arsenal must move the ball with pace while using width to pull Leicester’s midfielders out of position. An important stat is that Alexis Sanchez has scored four goals in his three Premier League games against Leicester City and he was the star player when they faced off earlier in the season in Arsenal’s 5-2 victory. Theo Walcott has scored in both of his Premier League appearances against Leicester City. The Gunners have an impressive record having won 12 and lost none of the last 18 Premier League matches against the Foxes. Arsenal have won their last eight home Premier League meetings with Leicester City.

 

SUNDERLAND v MANCHESTER UNITED

Over at the Stadium of Light, the match between Sunderland and Manchester United takes on added meaning. There is still endless talk about Louis Van Gaal losing his job to Jose Mourinho at the end of the season while Sunderland just sacked their best player in Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to sex related offences in Court. Sunderland are battling relegation while Manchester United must keep pace with the top 4 to stand any chance of competing in the Champions League next season. Over the last couple of games United have upped the ante by playing faster football which the fans have clamored for.

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Rooney is back among the goals and Anthony Martial continues to prove he is every bit of the 36 million pounds spent on him. On every other occasion this would have been a sure fire win for United who have never lost at the Stadium of Light in the premier league era, but not this season, United have been as frail as ever and every team has taken an opportunity to run at them. After all they are not the all powerful Red Devils we used to know. To add to that Louis van Gaal is without eight first-team players for the game at Sunderland.

Long-term absentees Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ashley Young remain sidelined while Phil Jones, Adnan Januzaj and Guillermo Varela all came off with unspecified injuries in the Under 21s’ 7-0 win over Norwich on Monday.

For Sunderland to win they must do what they have failed to do in their last eleven premier league games and that is keep a clean sheet. Without Adam Johnson, the spot light is on Jermaine Defoe to bang in the goals like he did against Liverpool last week.

MANCHESTER CITY v TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS

Smarting from their defeat to Leicester last weekend, Manchester City head into another big match on Block buster Sunday against fellow title contenders Tottenham Hotspurs. The Spurs are second on the log and Man United legend Sir Alex Ferguson labeled Mauricio Pochettino the best manager in the league, he might be right. Tottenham have the best defense in the league (Tottenham have conceded a league-low one goal from outside the box in the Premier League) and have only lost three times all season and continue to be in with a shout at lifting their first premier league trophy.

harry Kane 1

Harry Kane is also a player in form scoring 10 goals in his last 11 premier league matches. Sergio Aguero has scored 10 goals in eight Premier League appearances against Tottenham which would also prove vital. Vincent Kompany who has played only 9 games from 20 this season for City would be a much needed addition to the team should he pass a late fitness test. His leadership and defensive qualities are needed by Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
BEST OF THE REST

In other matches Liverpool would look to bounce back from their defeat in the FA Cup to West Ham when they take on bottom of the log Aston Villa. The top 4 is still the priority for the Reds but that goal fades away with each passing game. Daniel Sturridge is back fit and playing again but with all the controversy surrounding his injury problems it would remain to be seen if Klopp can get the best out of him for the remainder of the season. Perhaps with one eye on the Capital One Cup there is still something rosy for Liverpool at the end of the tunnel. Aston Villa look resigned to the Championship next season but Leicester performing so well this season, may lead them to look for a great escape story of their own. It is certainly not beyond them to reel of a run of consecutive wins to boost their chances of survival.

Diego Costa celebrates after scoring his first goal for Chelsea in a friendly v Olimpija Ljubljana.

Chelsea host Newcastle United in what would have been a big game in any other season and perhaps deserved to be among the matches previewed at the top of this page, but Chelsea have struggled and are resigned to looking to make the Europa League places. They have drawn their last four games at Stamford Bridge which is a club record and with Newcastle themselves struggling another draw might not be far fetched. Newcastle strengthened in the January transfer window bringing in Seydou Doumbia, Jonjoy Shelvey and Andros Townsend. Should they begin to gel and it could be problems for Chelsea and Guus Hiddink. Also Newcastle United have taken more points off Chelsea (13) than any other team in the last five seasons. However with Diego Costa seemingly in the mood to play again Chelsea are definitely in with a shout. Costa has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, after netting just three in his previous 14 this season

If Leicester win this weekend with 12 games to go till the end of the season, we might have another Sergio Aguero moment on our hands. On the flip side we could have a capitulation just like Liverpool did two seasons ago when the trophy was within their grasps (any one remember Steven Gerrard’s slip?). Either ways we are in for some fun from now till the end of the season. Ciao

This Weekend (06/02/16)

What a weekend we have on the cards; the Americans prepare for the Super Bowl, the grand finale of their version of football; but all the action is not reserved for the Americans alone. Germany is agog with three clashes that aim to unsettle the established order, France serves up another installment of Le Classique as well as a top of the table clash; in Holland two of their grand old clubs go head to head and in England, its first vs second with a dose of title decider from recent past.

Ajax v Feyenoord

Two of Holland’s most successful clubs go head to head this weekend; even though its a top of the table clash as second takes on third, but there exist a thirteen point gap between both teams at the summit of Eredivisie as both clubs continue their chase of champions and League leaders PSV.

Feyenoord under Giovanni Van Bronckhorst have been on their worst run of form of late as he seeks to find a winning formula to aid the team bounce back for five straight defeats which happens to be a club record; there is every likely hood that he may tinker with the side to enable the team compete against Ajax’s fluid and pacy front three.

Ajax haven’t been in great form of late as well which to them falling behind PSV in the title race with back to back draws against Hercules and Roda leaving them a point short at the top. In terms of head to heads; Ajax recent records against Feyenoord is quite solid with only two defeats in their last 25 games, coupled with Ajax current run which stands at one defeat from their last thirteen games with Feyenoord not faring any better; they are winless in their last six games; seems very bleak for the Rotterdam club.

My Verdict: Ajax to win

My Betting Punt: Ajax win or draw comes @ 1.17 

Hertha Berlin v Borussia Dortmund

Talk about an unlikely team fighting for a slot the Champions League, going toe to toe with more established and seasoned campaigners; when survival in the Bundesliga or the comforts of mid table sanity had been the resolve for the team in recent years; the team from the capital is having a season for the ages, its stuff of dreams. Hertha are a team of players looking for a second chance; which has been offered and duly received by these players; Salomon Kalou and Vedad Ibisevic are two of such players and what a season they are having with 16 goals between them this season.

Dortmund are the visitors this weekend looking to extend their ten point lead on Hertha, the gulf in class between both sides is not in doubt, but you cannot fault the drive, desire and the tenacity of this Hertha side to ensure that taken seriously by the established order. Hertha are currently undefeated in their last five games, so confidence is quite high for Pal Dardai’s side.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have the league’s top scorer in Aubameyang, expect their high intensity, pressing and pressure play to ensure they unsettle the home side and keep them on the back foot. Dortmund are also on a good run; with five wins from their last six matches; but Hertha’s strong home form of one defeat from their last ten home games should not be taken for granted.

My Verdict: Dortmund to win, but only just

My Betting Punt: A goals punt may just be right here, over 2.5 goals comes @ 1.65

 

Schalke 04 v Wolfsburg

Re-wine a couple of years back and this would be top of the table clash, but not this year, with both teams currently lying in sixth and seventh place. Their current position does not take away the sizes and effect these two teams have on the Bundesliga.

With both teams seeking to break into the top four, it is expected that this would keenly contested encounter with both teams going for the jugular. Schalke’s have found some form lately with three wins from their last five matches; whilst Wolfsburg continue to struggle without a win in their last six matches; also failing to win nine of their last ten away games with Schalke winning their last five home matches.

The head to head between both sides seems even within the six meetings of both sides.

My Verdict: Schalke to win, but only just

My Betting Punt: A goals punt may just be right here, both teams to score comes @ 1.63

 

Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich

Roger Schmidt’s reckless abandon attacking style may have earned rave reviews and truck loads of goals especially from Javier Hernandez, who seems to be in the form of his life. Bayer would have to be at their very best to get anything from this match up as Bayern Munich have just continued from where they stopped before the winter break.

News of Pep Guardiola’s departure  to Manchester City has been the big story of the last one week, so expect to knifes to be out as a number of observers would want to see the effect this news has on the team’s performance. With Bayern eight points ahead of Dortmund, there’s some leg room for the Bavarians, but they cannot afford to let their rivals make up any ground on them.

Bayer have been in steady form of late; three wins from four with their high octane style of attacking football makes for good reading and can be used to put pressure on Bayern who currently struggle with a number of injuries especially in defense. Despite the defensive concerns, Bayern remain favorites as they have won five of their last six meetings with Leverkusen.

My Verdict: Bayern Munich to win

My Betting Punt: A Bayern Munich win comes @ 1.66

Olympique Marseille v Paris Saint Germain

In France this weekend, there is a small matter of the Le Classique, unfortunately with little or no consequence in the general scheme of things this season as both teams lie in eighth and first respectively. PSG are running away with the Ligue 1 title and the rest have to scramble for the other European places, Marseille have had a Yo-Yo season, but have their best work away from home.

Michel Marseille

Under Michel, Marseille have seemed to be more comfortable playing away from home with only two wins at home compared to six wins away from the Velodrome.  Belief is very high at the Velodrome as Marseille seek to break PSG’s current unbeaten record in the league this season and with an eleven match unbeaten run of their own, they really look up to the task.

Nantes long standing unbeaten record from the Nineties has finally come to an end as this PSG side continue to look quite unbeatable, but would be wary of Marseille even though they haven’t lost at the Velodrome for almost three years with two wins in their last two visits.  Marseille did give PSG a lot to consider in the first encounter, but it was not enough to stop the Parisians from extending their run to eight straight wins against the Seasiders.

My Verdict: PSG to win

My Betting Punt: A PSG win comes @ 1.71

 

Monaco v Nice

This clash is greatly aided by the fact that it comes up as an early Saturday afternoon kick off, away from all the attention of Le Classique; this is a top of the table clash with the fight for European places heating up; its second v third and its also a derby.

Claude Puel would be glad with the progress Nice has made this season, especially with the play of Hatem Ben Arfa; who has been simply irresistible thus far, driving Nice to the top three positions. Both sides are chasing Champions League football and with a Derby, you know anything can happen and may well be one of the most intense and entertaining in a long time. Watch out for the influence of Moutinho, Bernando Silva and of course Hatem Ben Arfa.

My Verdict: Game will be an intense and competitive draw

My Betting Punt: A both teams to score comes @ 2.00

 

Manchester City v Leicester City

Who would ever have thought that we would be discussing Leicester City in a title push and not in a relegation dog fight; a lot of credit must go Claudio Ranieri and his team for breathing fresh air into the English Premier League. The least ball possessing side in the league, with pace to burn; this style has ridiculed all assertions on why it is important to possess the ball; currently Leicester have the best away record in the league and that’s something to worry about for Manchester City.

Manchester City kept in close touch with the leaders even though the performance at Sunderland was quite underwhelming. The Citizens have to up their game; keep concentration as this Leicester side are always looking to spring a surprise with the quick counter attacking play, with balls played into the channels for the likes of Vardy and Mahrez to latch on to the pass.

The scenario presents us with a solid home record and a solid away record;if you ask me I would go for the away team to get the better of the home side as they play the same way either home or away, they always willing to relinquish the ball to the opponent; having him control and boss the game; but sense to keep their shape all through in two banks of fours with the raw energy of N’Kolo Kante driving and knocking on the ankles of the opponents midfielders.

Leicester are undefeated in 14 of their last 15 away games; now that’s an impressive record with five clean sheets from their last six matches; but we must note that Manchester City are on a nine game unbeaten run against Leicester City.

My Verdict: Something tells me this is a draw

My Betting Punt: A both teams to score comes @ 1.71

 

Chelsea v Manchester United

Two teams who have had different degrees of turmoil this season; who would have believed that these two teams would be this far away from the title equations; it is the remarkable nature of this season’s Premier League.

Chelsea are yet to lose under the tutelage of Gus Hiddink, but have only won twice since he took over, but you can see the apparent improvements, even though they look more and more like they have adopted a more pragmatic style under him to stem the tide.

Anthony-Martial-606644

Manchester United on the other hand seem like freed from slavery, playing with a lot more verve, vigor and drive; its like the shackles have been taken off and the players have been told to go out and enjoy their football. Chelsea remain the one team Manchester United do not have a better head to head record against and in recent memory; the Blues are yet to lose in nine meetings against the red devils.

Chelsea have kept clean sheets in five of their last seven matches against Manchester United and have drawn their last three matches at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea may be considered favorites to win this one, but if the Red Devils play they way they have in the last two games you cannot write them off completely.

My Verdict: I can only see a draw here

My Betting Punt: A Draw comes @ 3.20

 

***** A punt with N500 can earn you a winnings of N 56,200.00, good luck guys

**** Odds courtesy www.bet9ja.com

**** Stats courtesy www.whoscored.com