FIVE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND ACROSS THE WORLD OF FOOTBALL

The ‘bread and butter’ of league football that has kept our weekends alive and our eyes glued to the TV screens providing sensational entertainment reaches its climax as major leagues across Europe enters its final stretch this weekend. For most of these leagues like The Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, the winners have already been sorted but the La Liga is going down the wire whilst Juventus can add the Serie A title to the Coppa Italia they won midweek with a game to spare. Here are five things to expect from the weekend action across the league with the NPFL also making a return.

The NPFL returns: After an extended break that saw all outstanding matches settled, the NPFL resumes this weekend but this time only on the pitches and not on our screens, the LMC are yet to sort out the issue of live broadcasting of games (this has to be resolved sooner rather than later) but the league still has to go on. League leaders Plateau United will be hoping to continue their strong hold at the top of the table away at Katsina United. 2nd on the log MFM could go top at the end of the day as they host 5th place Akwa United whilst defending champions Rangers of Enugu who are witnessing some rejuvenation welcome Gombe United. It is a reversal of the last round of fixtures from the last day of the first half of the league, here is the full list of Match-day 20 games;

Sunshine Stars VS Lobi Stars

Shooting Stars VS FC Ifeanyi Ubah

ABS F.C VS El-Kanemi Warriors

Rivers United FC VS Nasarawa United

MFM VS Akwa United

Remo Stars VS Enyimba

Enugu Rangers VS Gombe United

Wikki Tourists FC VS Abia Warriors

Katsina United VS Plateau United

Kano Pillars VS Niger Tornadoes

Madrid on the verge: Just a point separates Zinedine Zidane’s team from clinching a first league title in 5 years, Real Madrid are away at Malaga with Barcelona hosting Eibar. The Los Blancos secured a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo midweek placing them firmly on top of the table with 3 points ahead of Barcelona and needing just a point from their final game of the season to clinch the league. Apparently in a game that promises many twists, a prominent one has been noises especially from the Barcelona supporters that Malaga who really have nothing to play are supposedly not going to be putting up much of a fight due to a clause in midfielder Isco’s contract when he was signed for Madrid which will see Malaga getting up-to 1 Million Euros in variables if the midfielder helped Madrid win a league title in his first five seasons. Even without this twist, Madrid have done enough to deservedly win the league having won the most games, lost the fewest number of games and second only in goals total to Barcelona and with the run in hitting top form yet again, goals are bound to rain in this one. Atletico Madrid who have secured third place host Athletic Bilbao whilst Villarreal are way at Valencia.

Photo finish for the Top Four in England: Tottenham Hotspurs routed Leicester City on Thursday night to rubber stamp their 2nd place finish on the table, putting gloss on what has been a fine season for the London side, Harry Kane grabbed four goals to put some gap at the race for the golden boot with 26 goals, but all eyes this weekend will be at the Emirates where Sanchez on 23 goals leads the gunners against Lukaku’s Everton with the Belgian on 24 goals, the game however has an higher stake as the gunners hope they can somehow still secure a top four finish at the end of this weekend’s round of fixtures. The matter is however out of their hands as Liverpool who are ahead of the gunners by a point are home to West Ham, Jurgen Klopp’s men have struggled at Anfield recently with the last being a goalless draw with Southampton but should do enough to get past the finish line. For Manchester City, a draw away at Watford is enough to secure Pep Guardiola’s men their place in the Champions League next year and paper what has generally been a disappointing season for the team. I expect the three teams to all secure the much needed victories with Arsenal losing out at the end of the day and settling for the Europa League.

Juventus to clinch the Serie A at home?: This is the penultimate weekend to the end of the Serie A but defending Champions, Coppa Italia winners and Champions League finalist Juventus could clinch their sixth consecutive Scudetto and the second title of their treble hunt with a win over visiting Crotone, Max Allegri’s side have one job and they will be looking at getting this job done in time to focus on the Champions league final with Real Madrid, win and you are Champions but the job may not be as easy as it looks as they are up against an inform Crotone who have picked up 17 points from their last seven games and are a point behind Empoli in 18th position as they struggle to avoid the drop. Roma and Napoli who have secured their automatic places in next year’s Champions league are up against Chievo Verona and Fiorentina respectively with Lazio hosting Inter the other key fixture this weekend in Italy.

Another Hamburger escape? Is this the season that Hamburg SV finally gets relegated from the Bundesliga? The team which since the creation of the league in 1963, have never tasted football outside the top division having survived three playoffs in their last three seasons may finally have their luck run out when they play Wolfsburg who are a position ahead and also fighting relegation. With one game to go, Hamburg lie 16th on the log, two points from safety but are without a win from their last five games,  if you consider that they are finding scoring goals difficult to come by and have recently lost to Darmstadt and Augsburg, then this may just be fourth time unlucky. Another battle in the Bundesliga is that of the final automatic Champions league position as Borussia Dortmund who lies third are tied on points with fourth place Hoffenheim, both teams are at home this weekend as Dortmund host 8th place Werder Bremen (who have done really well this season) with 14th place Augsburg visiting Hoffenheim. Bayer Leverkusen who can yet be dragged in the relegation battle following a run of uninspiring performances are away at Hertha Berlin.

From, how United cut Chelsea’s lead to four to Olympique Lyon tumultuous time with fans…. 5 things we learned this weekend.

Mourinho still has his rascality

Manchester United probably provided the Blues their sweetest victory this season ; that 4 – 0 seismic drubbing at the bridge last year. Chelsea had built on that to stay at the summit of the log while Mou’s team; unbeaten in the league since then but have struggled to put teams to the sword. On Sunday, revenge was sweet, still a massive 15 points off the log but the Special one made it clear that he still has that gritty and b****y side to his coaching skill.

Evident was sticking Herrera on to Eden Hazard – a decision which got the former sent off in the FA Cup last month – Spaniard had other things up his sleeves this time, like spearing a nifty pass to Rashford for the opener and scoring one himself. Mourinho’s decision to start Darmian, Fellaini, Lingard and Skipper, Ashley Young – largely unfancied personnel in the United squad and went ahead to get the desired results shows how brave he was.

Lyon’s trouble with fans.

What primarily comes to mind when you think about Lyon is how they dominated the Ligue 1 in the recent past. It’s a very decent club which is unctuously ran with Players like Juninho Pernambuhano, Sidney Govou, Gregory Coupet, Sylvain Wiltord or maybe more recently Alexandre Lacazette.

Ironically, they have been in the news for the absurd / wrong reasons owing to crowd trouble. On Thursday in their Europa League game against Beşiktaş was delayed for 45 minutes because both set of fans clashed – a truly horrendous and horrific scene which had to take the Club president Michel Aulas to douse the tension among the crowd. They were subsequently charged for insufficient organization, pitch invasion, blocking stairways and setting off fireworks. Barely 96 hours later, Lyon players got attacked by Bastia fans during their pre match warm up only to be persuaded to play but Bastia fans never look like stopping. The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP), which governs France’s professional leagues, will meet on Thursday to decide what action to take.

It called on Bastia to issue stadium bans to the fans responsible, adding: “The LFP condemns with the greatest firmness the incidents which took place before the game and at half-time of the Bastia-Lyon game.” I hope Bastia get a heavy punishment. Football has no tolerance whatsoever for violence.

Magical Isco

I do not think any offensive player had a better game than the diminutive Spaniard this weekend. In a game where  Sergio Ramos was the only player considered an automatic first-choice for Zidane in his line-up. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro were all rested ahead of the midweek Champions League game against Bayern Munich and next week’s Clasico. Isco still managed to make his mark scoring a brace as they pipped Sporting Gijon 2 – 3 at the Molinon. Like James Rodriguez, I do not think Coach, Zinedine Zidane rates or trusts him for the big games but Isco unlike James has given the gaffer something to mull over.

Bayern needs Lewa

Ancelotti as expected made a barrage of changes to his line up when they faced Leverkusen away from home. They hugely dominated the game with Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman deputizing for Ribery and Robben but couldn’t just get their final balls right, even when they eventually do, Müller just was too rusty to make it meaningful.

In a match that All of Bayern’s outfield players except Rafinha had at least one shot and couldn’t still find the back of the net. That’s appalling to say the least and there is no better time to get Lewandowski back to the team with all his fecund natural abilities especially as they play Madrid at the Bernabeu by mid week.

Mertens, an unsung goal merchant.

Barely one month away to the end of the season and it’s only normal that the big wigs will start to lure, entice and whisk players – Neymars, Griezmanns, Dybalas etc comes to fray but not many have had a look in to Dries Mertens. Belgian has been on fire with Napoli this term scoring his 21st Serie A goal in the 3 – 0 drubbing of Udinese – 27th in all competition – 18th goal in the last 16 games. That’s just great. He clearly doesn’t have the heights but he’s got pace to run in behind defenders to do the damage. My prediction is he might move to Atlético Madrid if Griezmann moves and ultimately Diego Simeone stays at the Calderon.

RB LEIPZIG AND THE MAN BEHIND THE MAGIC

It is no longer  news that RB Leipzig  sit comfortably  in second position  on the  German Bundesliga table  with  36 points  from 16 games and 3 points  behind league leaders, Bayern Munich. This  newly promoted club  with  relatively unknown  players  such as Tino Werner (their top scorer with 9 goals), Baby Keita, Emil  Forsberg, just  to mention a few, have  blown  us away  with  their  superlative performances but very  little is known  among  football  fans  about the man behind  the  orchestra, Ralph Hasenhuttl.

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Ralph Hasenhuttl began  his managerial  career  at SpVgg Unterhaching,where  he started out as a youth  coach, before  becoming  an assistant manager and  manager in which  he finished  with Unterhaching in sixth and fourth place respectively in Liga 3. In 2011,Hasenhuttl moved to third division side,VFR Aalen;saving  them from  relegation  and earning them promotion  to the Bundesliga 2 via a second  place finish the  following season.

From  there, he moved  to FC Ingolstadt 04 where  he took  them from the  bottom  of Bundesliga 2 to  a tenth place finish.The next  season, he led Ingolstadt to  the  Bundesliga via winning the  Bundesliga 2. In  his first  season in the Bundesliga, he led Ingolstadt  to an eleventh place finish before choosing not  to extend his  contract. Now at Leipzig, Hasenhuttl has become  an amazing  magician putting together a wonderful  team.

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Hasenhuttl has taken  the Bundesliga  by the storm through  his style  of play which  involves a lot of high pressing, intensity and patience in attack  and  defense. For example, Leipzig go into every game with one notion, “make  life miserable for the  opponents”. This they do by pressing the  opposing  center backs with their forward players,who have  no other choice than to turn the ball over to their full backs;the suffocation shifts to  their positions with Leipzig’s full backs eliminating the opposition forwards from  receiving the ball.Therefore, the opposition defense line have no option  than to put the  ball into  row Z; hence, Hasenhuttl uses the  magic rectangle (4-2-2-2 formation) to devastating effect.

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Hasenhuttl shares a lot of similarities  with  Jurgen Klopp not only in football  philosophy  but in persona as well; his ability to motivate  players is visible  from the touch line. One of the  greatest  attributes of Hasenhuttl is his ambition; as proven  by his managerial track record  and it is no  surprise that there  are strong reports(which he  confirmed )linking  him to Arsenal. He always dreams of bigger things as evidenced in his  public declaration of wanting to  play in the  UEFA  Champions  League  and his dream will be  fulfilled  at the end of the season either by Leipzig or Arsenal (should  Wenger  refuse to renew his contract ).
In conclusion, only  the future will determine if we have  seen the  rise of the god among  managers, a man of men (in terms of managers) or  just  a decent manager.

This Weekend (04/11/16)

Its the weekend before another International break to give room for World Cup qualifiers across the various continents; so we football fans have to milk this weekend to its fullest. This weekend we will take trips to Germany, Italy, Spain and finally England; where we have to big clashes that may shake the existing structure in the Premier League.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspurs

The North London derby provides us an interesting match up as Electric Arsenal take on a dogged Tottenham Hotspurs side that are the only undefeated team in the Premier League. In years past Arsenal have dominated this fixture with commanding performances showing and proving to be the preeminent team in North London; however, Spurs have somewhat closed the gap and we have had really close clashes between both sides; case in question the games between both sides last season which ended in draws and overall Spurs are undefeated in their last four games against the Gunners.

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Arsenal are undefeated in their last 15 games in all competitions especially since the opening day defeat to Liverpool which was at the Emirates, the Gunners have been playing some fabulous stuff so far and have shown an uncharacteristically strong mental resolve in games which ordinarily Arsenal have been known to crumble when the pressure is at its peak. The form of Ozil, Sanchez and the reemergence of Olivier Giroud have given the Gunners a different edge; coupled with the defensive understanding demonstrated between Mustafi and Koscielny.

So, we have a team thats scoring for fun, but may concede a few goals on one side and then a team struggling to score goals, but are able to keep it tight at the back. This gives an indication that we may be heading for a draw, but Spurs current poor form both in the Premier League and Champions League, tilts the tie in favour of the Gunners.

Prediction: Arsenal Win (Betting Punt: Under 3.5)

Chelsea v Everton

Chelsea come into this tie boasting a four game winning streak without conceding a goal, confidence is restored to the blue side of London; some balance has been achieved with the way the team is set up and some players have been reborn in the last few weeks. Everton on the other hand look like a team built to frustrate the big teams, expecting to punch above their weight, cause a stir every now and then, but disappoint when one of the lesser lights come calling.

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Idrissa Gueye has been one of Everton’s stand out players this season, sadly he will be missing out through suspension, which leaves a huge gap for the Toffees to fill; thereby taking away the intensity, interceptions and industry Everton have demonstrated thus far this season. Already the Toffees have shown they can compete with the big boys with the solid performance at the Etihad.

Chelsea are undefeated in their last 22 home meetings against Everton in all competitions, but something tells me something would change here and the Toffees may just get something from this one. Lukaku is a beast of a striker at the moment, just the way Diego Costa is and both would bully the best defences anywhere in the world. I particularly like the way Everton set up, been able to mirror their opponents formation and been ready to mix and match things. Chelsea have found an unlikely balance in their defense with Azpilicueta playing as part of the back three; although i am still of the belief that it is a disguised back three; just watch Chelsea with out the ball and see the quick adjustment from a back three to a back four.

All in all Chelsea, look good enough for a fifth straight win, but Everton could nick a point; although Gueye would be a big miss in their grand scheme to conquer Stamford Bridge.

Prediction: Chelsea to Win (Betting Punt: Both teams to score)

Napoli v Lazio:

Napoli gave a good account of themselves on their visit to the Old Lady last week and I liked the look of their front three of Callejon, Insigne and Mertens; but we all know how these things work, an ex player always finds a way to drill the final nail in his former employers coffin. Lazio have been impressive this season despite the madness caused at pre-season with the premature resignation of Marcelo Bielsa and the eventual shock appointment of Simone Inzaghi.

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Lazio currently have the best ongoing streak in Serie A which has them undefeated in their last six games and playing some decent football along the line. This is a battle between the inexperienced and coaching first timer in Inzaghi versus the experienced Maurizio Sarri; two managers with different paths to big jobs with established Serie A teams.

Napoli have a good record at home with ten wins out of their last eleven Serie A matches, so Lazio have it all to do as Napoli would be keen to bounce back from that defeat against table toppers Juventus to keep in touch with the title race.

Prediction: Draw (Betting Punt: Both teams to Score)

Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim

Bayern Munich remain undefeated in the Bundesliga, but have stuttered and looked less convincing in recent weeks. This week they come up against another team that are also undefeated in Hoffenheim, who are tutored by a young coach who’s stock is rising on a daily in European football.

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Bayern remain top of the table with a slim two-point advantage over Leipzig, despite not been in the best of form lately under Carlo Ancelotti. Hoffenheim have been impressive reaching third spot at the moment and have not lost in the league this season. Julian Nagelsmann has led Hoffenheim to probably their best start in recent seasons, with the team winning five straight matches and could prove to be a solid test for FC Hollywood, hopefully their European exertions wouldn’t affect them; we can expect Bayern to dominate possession with Hoffenheim seeking to catch them on the break.

Prediction: Bayern to win (Betting Punt: Over 2.5)

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Sevilla v Barcelona

Barcelona come into La Liga’s biggest game of the weekend on the back of two underwhelming performances; the one-nil victory last weekend in the League and the defeat in the Champions League against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Sevilla have had a good start to the season under the new guidance of Jose Sampaoli; at the start it seem like it may be a failed experiment, especially as they conceded a lot of goals as the season began, but they have been able to steady the ship and have turned on some really good performances both domestically and in Europe.

Last week’s draw must have destabilised the Andalusian club, but they bounced back emphatically in the Champions League. At the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan; Sevilla have built a fortress, you just need to look at their record at home; 19 wins from their 22 games at home speaks volumes.

Barcelona need to snap out of it, we must admit that they do miss the genius of Andreas Iniesta and two of their established back four out as well, you must start to worry for the Catalans. However, with an away record that reads 7 wins out of 8 away games and  been undefeated in the last 16 games of 17 matches against Sevilla, must be a boost for Barcelona.

Prediction: Draw (Betting Punt: Both Teams to Score)

 

This Halloween Weekend

Its that time of the year; when our people across the oceans and seas get dressed up in their very best costumes all having a good time. For we football people, we just hope we won’t have any costuming type performances by our favorite teams. I know I did quite poorly on the predictions last week, who would have thought Chelsea would blow Manchester United away, Milan would get the better of Juventus, Sampdoria would stand tall in the derby and PSG would play out a bore fest of a nil-nil draw with Marseille.

So as with everything; if at first you don’t succeed; time to put on those costumes and lets try again, here’s my preview of the big games in Russia, Germany and Italy:

Spartak Moscow v CSKA Moscow

One of the most fiercely contested derbies in Russia, although Spartak have fallen behind CSKA considerable over the last few years; as CSKA consistently compete for the title and participate in the UEFA Champions League every season; Spartak have somewhat lost there way.

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This season is a little different as Spartak are pushing Zenit close and playing some quality football along the way and are ahead of their city rivals going into the derby. With Spartak as host; CSKA have a formidable record with only one defeat from their last 17 visits to their City rivals. Obviously, Spartak’s current form and position in the league sets them as favorites, but as we have always known with derbies; the form book goes out the window.

Prediction: Draw (Betting Punt: CSKA Win/Draw)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04

The Ruhr derby could not have come at a better time for Schalke especially with Dortmund struggling lately. Schalke’s big summer loan imports finally seem to be finding their feet in the Bundesliga, whilst Dortmund’s great summer business has suffered a huge set back with the amount of injuries that has befallen the Black and Golds.

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Both teams were in action in the DFB Pokal, but sailed through but a greater cost to Dortmund who were forced to extra time by Union Berlin with this in mind and a current run of three winless games in the league; definitely this is crisis time for the team I like many expected to give Bayern a proper go this season. Schalke come into the derby reinvigorated, after a slow start to the campaign are on a three game unbeaten run in the Bundesliga and six in all competitions, playing some good stuff and scoring plenty of goals; their confidence is back and I think they stand a very strong chance in the derby this time.

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Dortmund’s 25 game unbeaten sequence at home is the only indices that swings things there way; I expect a high tempo, physical and intense contest between both sides with plenty scoring opportunities created.

Prediction: Draw (Betting Punt: Both Teams to Score)

Juventus v Napoli

The Bianconeri have already lost two big games this season and to both Milan clubs at that, but still occupy the top of the Serie A standings. Juventus and Gonzalo Higuian welcome their closest rivals and the striker’s former club from last season in Maurizi0 Sarri’s Napoli to the Juventus Stadium.

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All the big questions going into this clash has to do with Gonzalo Higuian coming up against his former club, will he score? Will he celebrate? All interesting if you consider that he hasn’t scored in his last four matches; Is he reserving the goals for the Azzurri? Spear a thought for Napoli though; Higuian’s replacement is out for four months with Sarri saddled with a major striking problem and may have to do with wingers in striking positions with the likes of Insigne and Mertens looking to lead the line.

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It would be a huge surprise if Napoli manage to pull off a victory at the Juventus Stadium; which they haven’t won at in their last six attempts. Juventus bounced back and confidence restored after to powerful headers from Chiellini among the goals as the Old Lady bounced back to winning ways.

Prediction: Juventus to Win (Betting Punt: Juventus Win or Draw)

This Blockbuster Weekend (21/10/16)

I do not think there will be many weekends where you have so many blockbuster games across all the big leagues in Europe all rolled up in on weekend. There’s the La Classique in France, Chelsea v Manchester United, Bayern face their boggy side, Monchenglabach in the Bundesliga; Barcelona go visiting Cesare Prandelli’s Valencia and in Italy; there’s ”The Derby della Lanterna” (The Genoa Derby) and the small matter of Milan v Juventus.

PSG v Marseille

Without a shadow of a doubt; this is the biggest game in French football; yes there is obviously a huge gap in the quality of the two sides and the fortunes of both sides over the last few years. Whilst the Parisians have continued to conquer all before them domestically, the sea-siders have struggled with their football, managers, fans and every other thing you can think about.

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Paris Saint Germain under Unai Emery are a different proposition from the last three seasons; there seems to be an air of caution at the Parc D’ Princes and they don’t seem to have that fear factor any more especially with the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Marseille come into the Classique with former Lille and Roma Manager; Rudi Garcia taking over the reins of one of France’s sleeping giants. Its imperative for Garcia to get things going quickly; he has inherited a proper poison chalice and with new owners and expectations of transfer funds, pressure will be at its highest.

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There’s a lot of optimism from the Marseille going into this clash has to concluded take over and the arrival of Rudi Garcia; Marseille will expect to be the ones to run PSG closest once they are able to strengthen their squad. Unai Emery seems to be finding some consistency now; with four straight wins in all competitions and the chances of a fifth straight are quite bright with PSG having won their last 11 games against Marseille in all competitions.

Prediction: PSG to Win

Chelsea v Manchester United

No matter what you think or feel about Jose Mourinho; he is without doubt the greatest manager in the history of Chelsea Football Club; as the saying goes ” men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t”. In the case of Jose Mourinho; the trophies and honour brought and won by Chelsea Football Club under is guidance distinguishes him from the long list of Managers Chelsea have had over the Roman Years. I expect him to receive a warm reception from the Stamford Bridge faithful, once the formalities are over, I expect a keenly contested battle between both sides that would even resonate to the stands.

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Chelsea for Manchester United are the only club with a better head to head record since the Premier League era; visiting Stamford Bridge has been one of United’s toughest test season in season out; with only one win in twelve visits to West London; it paints clearly the picture of how strongly Chelsea have held the Red Devils in the Jugular. Sunday would not be any different; Chelsea under Antonio Conte are gradually finding some form of stability of late; but I worry about the set up of their so called back three and I still feel it is a back four in disguise; it just depends on the perspective and position you seek to view it from; all its needs is one of the big hitters to come to town and dismantle the supposed defensive base Chelsea has now; it is firmly there for the taking.

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In the space of a week, Manchester United have shown two sides to their game; a gritty and hard fought performance at Anfield to a more fluid and free flowing performance in the Europa League; this is what you can expect from a Jose Mourinho side. I do not expect United to play like at Anfield at Stamford Bridge; expect a more positive, but cautious approach; Chelsea’s pace especially in wide areas remain a big threat.

Prediction: A Draw (Betting Punt: Both Teams Score)

Valencia v Barcelona

Valencia are on of the teams that almost cost the Catalans the League title last season with their win at the Nou Camp during Barca’s six game winless streak towards the final stretch of last season. This is a different Valencia Side; they have finally matched their ambition with the appointment of a proper coach and not the experiment of a Arm chair critic. Cesare Prandelli has arrived at the Mestalla and the attitude in the dressing room as changed and livened up; which resulted in a first win last weekend that has got Fans of the club buzzing.

Italian head coach Cesare Prandelli speaks during a press conference at Casa Azzurri in Krakow, Poland, 05 June 2012. The Italy national team is preparing for the Uefa Euro 2012 soccer championship. ANSA/MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI

Barcelona would obviously be in very confident mood after scoring four in mid week; taking their tally to eight in two games; injuries to Pique and Alba are major worries for the Catalans and it would be interesting to see how they line up at the Mestalla.

I still worry about Valencia from a defensive position; the pairing of Mangala and Garay still hasn’t gelled and this is not the kind of game you expect to build team chemistry. Valencia haven’t kept a clean sheet in five games; so this is an area Prandelli has to work is magic. Barcelona are undefeated in their last ten visits to the Mestalla; expect the Catalans to get a least a draw; because of defensive inadequacies of their own.

Prediction: Barcelona Win (Betting Punt: Over 2.5 goals)

Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach

All through the three year stint of Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena; this was the one team that gave him the most grief; he just couldn’t find a way to beat them. In comes Carlo Ancelotti; renowned veteran and one of the leading lights of world football; will the Gladbach nuisance be allowed to continue or would the Italian quickly put them to the sword to lay down a marker.

Back to Back draws in the Bundesliga has finally given way to a resounding victory in Europe; so expect confidence to be high now at FC Hollywood. A few changes are expected as Ancelotti continues to understand his side; maintain freshness and giving others a run out; Gladbach have a series of injury doubts coupled with a poor away record of late with only one win in 14 away games in the Bundesliga; their win away to Celtic in the Champions League should give them the desired leap.

Can Ancelotti finally silence the beast called Borussia Monchengladbach? Tough proposition; no Bayern win in their last six games against Gladbach.

Prediction: Bayern Win (Betting Punt: Over 2.5 goals)

Sampdoria v Genoa

The Derby della Lanterna or the Genoa derby, if you are not too familiar with this tie; is probably one of the most keenly contested derbies in the Calcio. Interestingly; Genoa have had the edge in the derby of late and have also had better fortunes as regards participation and finishing positions in the league. This season hasn’t been different Genoa are ahead of their city rivals and look more like the team that would have a better all round season.

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Sampdoria have received a timely boost of two consecutive draws which followed four consecutive defeats; with their suspect performances they come against the team with the sixth best defense in Europe’s top five leagues which has only conceded 5 goals in 7 games. Genoa are not just all about their defensive solidity built by the impressive Ivan Juric; who was responsible for Crotone’s promotion to Serie A; but possess a promising youngster in their ranks in Giovanni Simeone (Diego Simeone’s Son); who has scored in back to back starts with the rest of Serie A and Europe taking note.

Genoa must be considered as favorites; as Sampdoria have only won two of the last eight derby matches at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris; especially with Samp’s current winless streak that’s at six matches.

Prediction: Draw (Betting Punt: Halftime Draw)

AC Milan v Juventus

The Serie A these days is a measured along the lines of Juventus and the rest; so great is the domination of the Turin Giants; that they could afford to have a less than convincing start last season, but still rally to win the Scudetto comfortably. Contrast this to the sleeping giants in Milan; Berlusconi’s Rossoneri to be precise; every day its a different news headline on the laundry list of prospective investors looking to breathe life into the red and black club; this Milan sale most enter the Guinness Book of Records as the most protracted and longest club sale negotiation in the history of Football Business.

In spite of all the issues on the financial front; AC Milan under Vincenzo Montella have climbed up the table to a very impressive third position; only behind second place on goals difference (even though its head to head results that determines finishing positions). Montella has done a very steady job and has worked well with the resources at his disposal; especially considering how young and inexperienced their back line is. Juventus have a number of injury concerns; that may lead to a shuffling of the pack,there might a surprise inclusion or two as well.

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Milan have been in good form lately; expect Carlos Bacca to make a return to boost their striking options; undefeated in their last five games with four of those games ending as wins; unfortunately Juventus are a different proposition; it would be interesting to see how they recover from their hard fought victory at Lyon in mid week. The Old Lady are undefeated in their last nine meetings with the Rossoneri; you may have to go back to when Allegri was manager at Milan for their last win against the Bianconeri.

Despite Milan’s regeneration from within; you have got to say Juventus are in a league of their own and are definitely a different kettle of fish; Juventus to take this for me despite the fact that their defense in aging, suffering from injuries and also they have already lost at the San Siro this season.

Prediction: Juventus Win (Betting Punt: Both Team to Score)

 

**Pictures courtesy goal.com, 101greatgoals.com etc

Top Five Talking Points from the Weekend

So peeps; what is the status of your respective Sports Betting Tickets? Not a good weekend for most punters; but the Bookmakers would have a mixed weekend with the stumbles of Manchester United , Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund etc as these top teams failed to secure maximum points this weekend. This is obviously not a betting review column, but a review of the weekends major talking points and what it portends for the future; especially as we prepare for a long boring International break.

Spurs should be taken seriously

Tottenham Hotspurs lost the Premier League last season on that ill fated night at Stamford Bridge; still the positives remain as obvious as ever, the nucleus of the side has remained. Last season Spurs finished with the joint best defense in the Premier League; now fast forward a few months and Pochetino’s side have continued from where they more or less stop; undefeated in the league and yet to concede in open play so far this season; quite remarkable for such a young side.

Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham put up an incredible performance on Sunday as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City came visiting with a 100% record and a chance to break a record; but Spurs weren’t having any of that and put up a fine display of great instincts, fine pressing, movement on and off the ball whilst taking chances created. Tottenham toyed with the Citizens at some periods of the game, they were that comfortable with or without the ball.

On the strength of Spurs showing today; a huge note of warning has been sent out to all prospective title contenders that Spurs should be taken serious and not underrated. I actually expected that Spurs would generally suffer mentally from their title collapse of last season, it is testament to the quality of work Pochetino is doing at White Hart Lane, not only developing the playing side, but improving the mental strength of this young Spurs side.

#NPFLFINALDAY

A big Congratulations to Rangers International of Enugu for finally ending their long wait to be crowned League Champions of the Nigeria Professional Football for the first time in 32 years. Rangers deserved this title and it would have been a huge injustice blended with a major dose of bad luck if they didn’t get the job done and Rivers United found a way to sneak in and snatch the title. The flying Antelopes intentions on the final day was quite clear from as early as the 3rd minute; the 4-0 score line even flattered El-Kanemi Warriors; spare a thought and some prayers for Ifeanyi Egwin who came on as a late substitute only to break his leg in a one v one goal scoring opportunity.

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Imama Amapakabo without a shadow of doubt has written his name in gold in Rangers History; he has built a strong side with a great mix of youth and experience; my worry remains if Rangers can hold on to these players as I expect the likes of Chisom Egbechulam and Obinna Nwobodo to have caught the eye of many of the big teams on the continent or even in Europe.

It was not only the title chase that had us at the edge of our seat; we had the most closely fought relegation battle with as many as four teams in danger of going down if results didn’t go their way. MFM FC of Lagos, Heartland, Warri Wolves and Abia Warriors were all in danger of filling the last two relegation slots. MFM and Abia Warriors did what they needed to do to avoid relegation, Warri Wolves won, but were victims of a poor goals difference and Heartland for the first time in their history joined Ikorodu United and Giwa FC in the crazy, muddy waters of the NNL despite a supposedly inconclusive draw a way to Plateau United.

Are Real Madrid experiencing some De Ja Vu?

To understand this notion, you may have to rewind to when Real Madrid successful clinched La Decima under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti; Los Blancos went on an incredible 22 match winning streak in all competitions seeking to break the world record held by Coritiba who went on a streak of 24 wins in a row; once the Real Madrid streak was broken there followed a series of unimpressive draws and defeats.

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Now fast forward to the period under the stewardship of Zinedine Zidane; after delivering the 11th UEFA Champions League trophy; Real Madrid had gone on an impressive run of 12 straight win from last season as as they chased down Barcelona unsuccessfully in La Liga plus four straight wins in the new season; making it sixteen straight wins which equals Barcelona’s winning streak record from the Pep Guardiola years. Once Real Madrid equaled  Barcelona’s record, they have all of a sudden gotten dizzy and have drawn four straight games; what a way to lose commanding form.

Are the Bayern hand brakes switched on?

Twenty Goals scored and none conceded in the first five games of the season; looking imperious and commanding as ever, The Bavarians have however found it hard to steam roll teams lately. With only a last gasp win in their last three games should send some encouragement to the rest of Europe and the Bundesliga particularly, unfortunately the likes of Dortmund have failed to take advantage.

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It has almost seemed as if the hand brakes have been switched on at the Allianz Arena lately as they have found it tough going and exhibited some defensive frailties that weren’t evident in the first few games of the season. Maybe its just a dose of bad luck as chances that were tucked away with consummate easy have just refused to go in. The midfield freedom, ease and fluidity seems to also have deserted them; but as we know Carlo Ancelotti takes his time to get use to his squad everywhere he goes or can we hold the recent slump at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City responsible for Bayern Munich slump as well?

Finally Schalke wake up?

During the summer transfer window; Schalke did some fine transfer business especially their loan signings and the appointments of Markus Weinzierl as manager and Christian Heidel as Sporting Director from Mainz. These appointments and signings were expected to galvanize one of Germany’s sleeping giants; but instead Schalke have struggled, losing five straight Bundesliga matches.

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This weekend however, they put up a master class with Breel Embolo scoring a brace and putting up a five star performance all round; to potentially awaken the sleeping giant; that’s Schalke.

 

** Pictures courtesy bundesliga.com; saharareporters.com, npfl.ng

Its a Delightful Derby Weekend

The title races in France and Germany may have been seen to have a foregone conclusion until last week with shocking defeats for Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich which has threatened to cause a major shake up at the top especially in Germany. In England, the season continues in its rather in consistent manner as all the teams involved in the race for the title all contrived to drop points with the leaders; Leicester the only ones to end the week with a point to their name; whilst in Italy, its a story of the chasing pack falling more and more behind as the Old Lady of Turin continues to get into the groove for another characteristic title chase.

This weekend; there are two clashes set to potentially cause an earthquake to the existing structure of the leagues in England and Germany with the small matter of a North London derby that may decide the destination of the EPL crown or put an end the chances of one of the favorites for this years title; while in Germany; Dortmund host Bayern Munich with a chance of closing the gap at the top to just two points and in Nigeria there is a small matter of the first NPFL Lagos derby in 20 years.

Tottenham Hotspurs v Arsenal

If i look back at my season preview,I am sure the number of apologies I need to make most be high; Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino most definitely occupy the number one position on my apology list. I looked at the signings made in the summer of Trippier, Wimmer, Davies, Alli, Son etc and I just concluded Spurs were showing a huge lack of ambition as these were not established or household names as some of their rivals had signed the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Petr Cech, Bastian Schweinsteiger etc; just to make a statement in the general context of their respective ambitions to win the league or at least be involved in the title race. How I was wrong; this Spurs side has gelled like they have been together for many years especially with the youthfulness and solid defensive base. Tottenham currently have  the best defense in the league and this is made even more interesting by the introduction of Kevin Wimmer at Center Back for some weeks now since the injury to Jan Vertonghen which seemed like he had always been there. Pochettino has thought many how to manage their squad especially considering their Europa League campaign.

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Arsenal, favorites to finally win their first league title in twelve years; nobody would have thought we were going to have a season marked with so much inconsistency that despite that a team like Arsenal would refuse to capitalize. As with all seasons; Arsenal found it tough going in November and February, there worst months of the season and it doesn’t look like it would get better with a potential elimination from two cup competitions looming large in the shadows, this is typical Arsenal.

To the game itself; Spurs have not finished ahead Arsenal for many years and over the years controversy has trailed this fact; case in question the food poisoning case some years back as Spurs asked for a postponement as their players had suffered food poisoning days earlier and were supposedly on able to play; Arsenal were not having it and this has helped fuel the hate between the sides. Tottenham are having such a delightful season and you can expect them to be the brighter of both sides by Lunch time today and who knows they may just want it more. Both teams have distractions in midweek with an FA Cup replay for Arsenal and a Europa League Round of  sixteen clash first leg on the cards for Spurs; but this is where it matters; both teams have to go for it or risk falling further behind Leicester City and conceding ground to the likes of Manchester City.

The battle in midfield is actually what interest me, Dele Alli has been a huge revelation this season and Pochettino has done very well in managing the young man’s rise in his career. So it would be good to see what effect he has in midfield especially has it relates to bursting forward and making those late runs into the box that has earned him rave reviews this season so far. How well will Francis Coquelin cope with the twin duty of trying to pick up Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli especially in the hole where they would aim to be dangerous; support and assistance must come from Aaron Ramsey to nullify the treat posed by Spurs from midfield. Eric Dier has to prove that he has made that step up and that he is ready to be considered among the elite defensive midfielders in the league as his responsibility lies in how well he shadows and makes life difficult for Arsenal’s Chief creator, Mesut Ozil.

 

Tottenham have only dropped two points coming off losing a game from a previous match day; meaning they possess the mental toughness to rebound from a defeat and have won their last three home games. Arsenal I worry about, winless in four and with eyes on the FA Cup and the second leg against Barcelona; doesn’t look like the coming weeks hold any silver lining for the Gunners.

My Verdict: Looks like it would be a bruising high scoring draw

My Betting Punt: Both teams to score @ 1.60

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich

Mainz are the unlikely catalyst that have breathe fresh air and given life to this clash; ”Der Klassiker”. Up on till midweek; the match up between two of Germany’s biggest clubs provided a slim opportunity for an eight point lead to be reduced to five. However, with the defeat of Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena by FSV Mainz in midweek changed the entire dynamics of the title race in Germany as a win for Dortmund would cut the lead to two points and then we would have an exciting title race on our hands again.

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Thomas Tuchel’s side have gradually kept their form, lurking for a potential slip up by Bayern which has been handed to them, my worry is if they are equipped enough to stop Bayern. Bayern have many defensive worries; but remain very potent going forward, especially with the blistering pace of Robben and Costa up front. Dortmund have a rather different pressing style from what was obtainable under Jurgen Klopp which at the moment is very high and tries to isolate the player in possession.

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Dortmund have been very strong at home as usual with a seven game winning streak at home; with a total home record of 15 wins and one draw; the last team to leave the Westfalenstadion with three points are the Bavarians. So this provides a stern test for the credentials of Thomas Tuchel against one of the game’s modern day managerial geniuses. Bayern always raise their game when the chips are down; they know how to click into gear as the level of opposition becomes fiercer and possess many more match winners than Dortmund. I just wonder if the distractions of the Champions League second leg against Juventus would not be a big distraction.

My Verdict: A draw looks very likely; but Bayern still have an edge.

My Betting Punt: Halftime Draw @ 2.22

Ikorodu United v MFM FC

A Lagos derby is a big deal especially at Onikan stadium; but it also depends on what generation you belong to. I grew up going to Onikan every other weekend to watch the most successful and biggest club in Lagos and a major household name in Nigerian football; Stationery Stores, otherwise known has the Flaming Flamingos entertain and thrill fans. Its rivalry with the likes of Nepa, First Bank and Julius Berger made football in Lagos the toast of the nation; there were other rivalries with Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Enugu Rangers etc. The derby in Lagos took a renewed dimension when Julius Berger won the converted League title before the great Stationery Stores in 1991; Stores responded with a league title the following year in 1992 as the league became ”professional”. These rivalries and derbies were always looked forward to back then; it is great to have two sides back in the top division of the Nigerian Premier League, but the big question remains can these sides measure up to the huge standards that Lagos fans are used to and expect? Lagos fans love their football and want it played a in particular way; they like it to be entertaining and result oriented; little wonder the Super Eagles of Nigeria departed Lagos due to the hugely demanding fans in Lagos.

To the game proper; MFM FC will go down as one of the most impressive teams of the first four weeks of the new NPFL season; they have made their Agege Stadium home a fortress of some sort and have also shown a knack for getting results away from home bar the result away to Shooting Stars in Ibadan. The MFM team is a young vibrant team, who play beautiful and exciting football; but have been accused and labelled to be a one half team especially in the first half as they always seem to tire out once they get a quick start and a flurry of goals.

Ikorodu United have a lot of work to do for me; the style of play has been less than pleasing and have struggled to take full control of games especially their two home games at Onikan. Still a four points haul from a possible nine is commendable for a newly promoted side, but more needs to be done. In midweek, the Oga Lads held defending league champions Enyimba till the 89th minute in Port Harcourt; this performance would have gone a long way in lifting the players morale, but the result itself and the manner of the defeat may also damage the psyche of the lads.

From what I seen so far this season; we may be in for another away win in the NPFL as I expect MFM to take the game by the scruff of the neck and dictate proceedings due to the slow and languid style of the Ikorodu lads.

My Verdict: MFM FC could nick a win here, but a draw seems also likely.

My Betting Punt: MFM FC win or draw @ 1.60

 

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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