“Ligue 1 – coming of age.”

An eventful 2016/17 season of the French Championnat was concluded a few weeks back with this season witnessing a departure from the perceived and almost acceptable norm. A new champion crowned for the first time in five years as young Monaco team capitalized on an unsettled Unai Emery tutored PSG to lift their first Ligue 1 title since 2000 ironically Paris Saint Germain finished second as well that year.

The French elite division is growing in leaps and bounds with the ability of some of the elite teams been able to compete favourably on the European scene and also for some of Europe’s top talents. It is no surprise that this season; Ligue 1 had a team each at the Semi Finals stage of the Champions League and the Europa League for the first time since 2004 when Marseille and Monaco made it to the Semi finals of the Old UEFA Cup and the Champions League respectively.

To appreciate the strides made in the French game is to view it from four varying perspectives; which include:

Investments:

Over the last six to seven years; Ligue 1 has proven to be an ideal destination for core investors in Football; comparing favourably with similar investments in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. The main catalyst had to be the take over of Paris Saint Germain by the Oryx Qatari Sports Investment as well as the investment of Dmitry Rybolovlev in the principality club Monaco; which positioned both clubs as aiming for a duopoly of some sorts.

However; the league has been able to attract further investments into Lyon from the Chinese as well as the take over of Marseille by American investors. Now what’s encouraging about all these is that the investments have also been spread around to include development and building of new stadia (Bordeaux and Lyon opened new stadia); which invariably increases the clubs match day revenues.

Ligue 1 clubs are able to make big statements in the transfer market in acquiring new players due to this new injection of funds; take for example Nice been able to sign Mario Balotelli from Liverpool or Marseille and Lyon sealing winter transfer window deals for Patrice Evra, Dmitri Payet and Memphis Depay respectively; coupled with the attraction of top rated coaches such as Unai Emery at PSG; Marcelo Bielsa making a return at Lille and Rudi Garcia taking over at Marseille.

All these positives is aided by the continued investment in youth development across all the big teams; showing that despite their renewed financial muscle; the clubs have not departed from their time honoured tradition of grooming and blooding the best young talents in Europe. Just take for example the number of kids who had their breakthrough years this season; from Mbappe to Kimpembe to Blin; just to name a few; the future continues to be bright for the French game.

Style of Play

En-route to winning their first title in 17 years; Monaco played some thrilling attacking football, leading to a total 107 goals scored for the principality side; second only to Barcelona when you consider the Top Six leagues in Europe.

Goals scored across seasons have been on the up in absolute terms as well as in percentages. For instance, a total of 991 goals was scored this past season as against 960 the season before; 947 in 2014/15 and 931 in 2013/14 with the penalties scored also increasing from 66 in 2015/16 to 98 in 2016/17; there by leading to an increase in the average goals scored with improved from 2.53 to 2.61 goals per game in the last two season.

The improved attacking style of play is further buttressed by four of the top ten Top goals scorers in Ligue 1 finishing with 20 or more goals  for the first time in ages and there are another four scoring fifteen goals. With this improved goals scoring haul; the games become a lot more attractive and open, hence drawing more attention and greater fan apathy.

Youth Development

Ligue 1 has to be one of the biggest exporters of young, vibrant and refreshing football talent; with each passing year; observers as well as scouts and some of Europe’s elite clubs cast an eye to this conveyor belt for the next superstar from the land of the Eiffel Tower. Just like clock work the French do not disappoint; this season it has been all about Kylian Mbappe and Monaco’s new breed of youngsters.

However, Monaco are not the only ones getting all the attention; Lyon have Maxwel Cornet, alongside the versatile Corentin Tolisso (who I believe is ready for the next step up); Toulouse have Alban Lafont; the Young Goalie has turned a lot of heads this past season along with Alexis Blin; at Bordeaux, Adam Ounas has lit up the new stadium with his trickery and he is destined for great things.

Just imagine; one of Europe’s elite clubs summoning up enough courage to couch out a potential £150 Million to sign Kylian Mbappe as he is the next big thing coming out of France and the young man has not been ruffled by all the attention he has been getting; a huge windfall is obviously heading Monaco’s way with the sale of Bernando Silva and the potential sale of Benjamin Mendy to Manchester City as well.

Improved European Performances

This season probably showcased the best Ligue 1 performance on the European scene since Monaco and Marseille made it to the finals of Europe’s elite club competitions in 2004. This year, it was Lyon and Monaco leading the charge for the French; both teams suffered at the hands of a young Ajax side and a highly experienced Juventus respectively.

Like it or not; Paris Saint Germain were just a few minutes of defensive madness aware from getting past Barcelona after probably the single most dominant performance you would ever see against any kind of Barcelona side in the first leg. It was sad to see; PSG crack under the pressure; but that first leg performance showed how far French football has come and how much ground a team like PSG have made in closing the gap on a number Europe’s elite clubs.

This past season’s performances demonstrates; how far Ligue 1 teams have come and how much more they need to be taken seriously by the whole of Europe. I make bold to say that within the next five years or so, we may be crowning a French European Champion.

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.

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.

emery1

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.

rudi-garcia

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.

461779377 Football Hull City v Chelsea

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.

pogba-scores

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.

simeone-genoa-presentazione-2016-750x450

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.

carlos-bacca-west-ham

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

This Weekend (06/05/16)

The European Football season is gradually coming to an end and what a season it has been; who would have thought that Leicester City would be champions of the English Premier League. What an incredible story and journey it has been so far for the Foxes.

The title chasing excitement towards the end of the season fully resides in Spain; German Champions should be confirmed this weekend; despite Bayern’s exit from the Champions League in midweek. In England and France; the battle for Champions League Places takes a head to head dimension and of course the relegation battle will also take center stage as two of the three teams fighting for survival host tricky opponents. All these we will highlight in our preview for this weekend and as always drop our betting tips.

The Battle for Champions League Places in England

The battle for Champions League places takes a very interesting turn this weekend as Manchester City host Arsenal in a straight shoot out for third place; as three points separate both teams, but the Citizens have a superior goals difference of +5. This is a game both teams cannot afford to lose, mainly because Manchester United and West Ham are firmly on their heels waiting for a slip up with both teams still having a game in hand which is ironically between both of them.

Sanchez

Manchester City would obviously be demoralized from their appalling showing at the Bernabeu in mid week; they looked like a team bereft of ideas and very little attacking invention. It is left to be seen if exit from the Champions League would affect the team and especially the manager; considering he would not be in the dug out for next season.

For Arsenal; its an interesting case and a slight semblance of ”progress”; last season the gunners finished third in the league and it does seem like they like the idea of finishing in that position as to the late charge for fourth spot. Arsene Wenger has come under tonnes of criticisms this season and has also taken a swipe at the fans for the underwhelming atmosphere at times at the Emirates as the reason why the wheels fell off their title challenge this season and for the umpteenth time in their twelve year search for another Premier League Title.

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League

To the game proper; I am sure if a draw is offered to both teams now; they may just accept it; however this is a great opportunity to pull clear of the chasing pack as well a great chance for Arsenal to snatch second place for cross town rivals Spurs if they suffer any hang overs from losing the title at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal have controlled this encounter of the last couple of years and also have the better of the historical head to head; interestingly Manchester City have only won one of their last six meetings with Arsenal. The Gunners have won at the Etihad before and I won’t put it past them to put in a super display if the Citizens remain stuck in Madrid.

My Verdict: A draw looks very likely

My Betting Punt: Both teams to score comes @ 1.54 

The Relegation Dog Fight in England

It is looking more likely that Newcastle may just and that’s a very slight chance avoid the drop, but then that’s me talking what do I know. If they fail to do this business especially this weekend; when their relegation rivals are at home to two tricky opponents with the Magpies away to dead and buried Aston Villa; then there is very little that can be said if they fail to get three points to put some daylight between them and the duo of Norwich City and City Rivals Sunderland.

Rafael-Benitez

Sunderland host rejuvenated Chelsea at the Stadium Of Light whilst Norwich host Champions League chasing Manchester United.  The least that’s said about the kind of season Chelsea has had the better; they have a host of players who are probably playing for their respective futures and still the slight chance of Europa League qualification; hence where I think the desire to cause Sunderland some heartache may come from. Sam Alladyce’s are where they are because of too many drawn games; 11 in total so far this season; the most of the bottom six teams in the league; interestingly drawing six of their last eight games; these draws need to be turned to wins for the Black Cats to have any chance of survival.

Ozil-Sunderland-Sept2013

Norwich host Manchester United in the weekend’s early kick off; Norwich have defeated Manchester United earlier this season and would feel very confident of doing a double over Louis Van Gaal’s side for the first time since the 1989/1990 season. Norwich have won two of the last four matches against United; but find goal scoring difficult, in their last three matches, the Canaries have lost and also failed to score. The face a Manchester United side still chasing a Champions League place, but who have not traveled well lately with just one win in their last four away matches. This provides a big chance for Alex Neal’s side to put a huge dent on the Red Devil’s Champions League chase and also aid their bid to escape relegation as the stand two points away from safety; a win will take them out of the bottom three, even though it may be temporary depending on other results.

My Verdict: A Win for Newcastle; but draws for Sunderland and Norwich

My Betting Punt: Over 1.5 goals in all the games seems a safe bet. 

The very close La Liga Title Race

La Liga continues to show that asides from the marketing, viewing, commercial and money spinning side of the game  it is head and shoulders above any other league with its Drama and the participation of its teams in European Competitions. This season, we have an all Spanish Champions League Final with Liverpool the stumbling block to an all Spanish Europa League final as well. The title race has left many onlookers and neutrals licking their lips at the potential drama that we expect to unfold over the last two match days with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid level on points at the top and Real Madrid just a point behind; so don’t even think about blinking.

at438143header

Barcelona host city rivals; Espanyol in the Catalonia derby; which should be easy for Barca to negotiate, that bad run of one win in six is far gone, now they finish off teams comfortably and ruthlessly. Atletico and Real Madrid have both qualified for the Champions League final and now have to switch their attentions to domestic affairs. Diego Simeone’s team take on a Levante side away from home; who are already looking forward to life in the Segunda Division, so I expect all the plaudits and admiration that Atletico have received from mid week to spur them on to get their usual not so fussy win.

I must give credit to Zinedine Zidane and the work  he has done at Real thus far; as far as many were concerned Real Madrid were done and dusted and the reason would end without a trophy. The french legend has the chance to win Real Madrid’s eleventh Champions League trophy in his first season after taking over in mid season from Rafa Benitez. Zizou has done a great job, whether we like it or not; his team’s application and victory in the second El-Classico remains fresh in our minds. Los Blancos potentially have the toughest fixture of the three with the visit of Valencia who have been on a mini revival since the departure of Gary Neville with three straight wins at a point including victory at the Nou Camp; but have gone on a run of three wins from their last six matches, but lost last time out to Villarreal. Real Madrid must be at the top of their game to ensure they take the fight for the title to the final day. Matches between both teams have produced four draws in the last six matches with the victories shared one a piece.

My Verdict: I expect the top three to win their matches

My Betting Punt: Barcelona (Combo of win & over 2.5); Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid win

The fight for European places in France 

We all know that Paris Saint had run away with the Championship from the winter months and had a points gap as long as the Third Mainland Bridge; but interest in the league has been spurred by the fight for European places. I have been particularly impressed with the resurgence of Lyon; from the disappointments of an early injury to Nabil Fekir and sacking of Herbert Fournier; Lyon seemed dead and buried; but Bruno Génésio has done a fantastic job since taking over; made them solid at home in their new stadium with an unbeaten home record in 2016 which has formed the platform that their success and rejuvenation has been based on.

This weekend they face Monaco; who are in third place and level on points with 62 points; just like in the EPL, its a straight shoot out with two games to go which Lyon must be considered as favorites considering their solid home record and Monaco’s rather draw laden away record with only the victory against PSG been of any significance. Lyon and Monaco have played three consecutive draws and the way I see it; that looks like the most likely result.

Lyon are strong at home and Monaco are quite frustrating customers away from home; it make for an intriguing contest with automatic qualification for the Champions League on the line, I expect both teams to be buzzing as it promises to be an exciting game.

The likes of Saint Etienne, Nice and Lille would need something out of this world to sneak into the UCL places and this is highly unlikely; but I must commend the exploits of newly promoted Anger who stayed close to PSG for many months, demonstrating that they do deserve to be in the elite division.

My Verdict: Lyon v Monaco would end in a draw

My Betting Punt: Draw or over 1.5 goals

 

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.

neymar_2869788b

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

****Terms and Conditions apply

 

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

 

This Weekend (29/01/2016)

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

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

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

simeone

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

mns

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

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

My Betting Punt: A Barcelona win comes @ 1.51

Angers v Monaco

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

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

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

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

My Betting Punt: An Angers win comes @ 3.32

Saint Etienne v Paris Saint Germain

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

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

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

 

My Verdict: PSG to win 

My Betting Punt: A PSG win comes @ 1.50

AC Milan v Inter Milan

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

sinisa

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

Mancini orders

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

My Verdict: This looks more like a draw to me

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.35

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

Selected FA Cup tips

Crystal Palace v Stoke – Both teams to score @1.95

Bolton v Leeds – Leeds win or draw @1.41

Liverpool v West Ham – Both teams to score @1.72

Arsenal v Burnley – Arsenal to win @1.40

Oxford United v Blackburn – Oxford win or draw @ 1.35

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

The Bundesliga returns this weekend

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

Arsenal v Chelsea

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

FBL-ENG-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-TRAINING

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

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

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

My Betting Punt: Both Teams to Score comes @1.72

 

Juventus v Roma

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

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

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

My Verdict: Juventus Win.

My Betting Punt: Juventus win @1.67

Atletico Madrid v Sevilla

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

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

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

My Verdict: Atletico Madrid to Win.

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

Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund

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

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

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

My Verdict: You can expect a high scoring draw

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

 

Paris Saint Germain v Angers

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

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

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

My Verdict: PSG to Win.

My Betting Punt:  PSG to win @1.16

 

Olympique Lyon v Olympique Marseille

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

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

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

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

My Betting Punt:  Both teams to score @1.74

 

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

This Weekend (15/01/2016)

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

Liverpool v Manchester United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AC Milan v Fiorentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao

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

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

My Verdict:  Barcelona Win

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

Saint Etienne v Olympique Lyon

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

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

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

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

My Verdict:  A draw

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.22

Feyenoord v PSV Eindhoven

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

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

My Verdict:  A Draw

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.38

 

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

N 20, 231.74

This Weekend (11/12/15)

I strongly believe that it is safe to say; when looking for that competitive edge in the top five leagues in Europe; the Italians have it on lock down; especially with the way the league’s leadership has chopped and changed over the last few weeks. The English are not let out; but there’s continues to be with a surprise element with the exploits of Leicester City; who currently top the Premier League after 15 games. Interestingly, the aforementioned teams will form part of the basis of this weekend’s preview as they will be engaged in some of the top matches across Europe.

Juventus v Fiorentina

Fiorentina currently top the Serie A after its victory last weekend over Udinese, it was a fine display as Paolo Sousa’s men putting in a class performance with Josip Ilicic at the heart of all that was pleasing about the Viola. Fiorentina have built very good form with their current run of six games without defeat heading to Sousa’s former hunting ground; Juventus who have been in good form as well in the Serie A with five straight wins.

Juventus have a commanding record against the visiting Fiorentina; even though in recent years the Viola have come close to getting a result; the Old Lady always find a way to put them to the sword. In Paolo Dybala; Juve have a rising star that has been fearless and committed to establishing himself as been integral to all Juventus plan to achieve this season despite their poor start to the season; with his seven goals so far this season, the young Argentine continues  to drive the Turin side forward with his cultured left foot.

Fiorentina have only defeated Juventus once in their last six meetings; Juventus are undefeated in 29 of the last 32 matches between both sides; looks like a tough ask given that the Old Lady has kept a clean sheet in its last three games in Serie A.

My Verdict: Juventus to win

My Betting Punt: A combo is in order here; Juve win & over 1.5 goals comes at 1.85

Napoli v Roma

Roma interestingly kept a clean sheet in their Champions League encounter with BATE Borisov, which has been hard to come bye; this is their first clean sheet since the derby victory over Lazio. Roma have been poor defensively this season, conceding 18 goals so far which is the worst in the top six, they just cannot keep their rear in check, conceding 11 goals in their last six games in all competitions.

rudi garcia

Rudi Garcia’s side travel to the San Paolo to face a Napoli side that is playing some entertaining football under Maurizio Sarri, but can also leave gaps behind that Roma can capitalize on. Despite Roma’s bad defensive record, the Romans are the top scorers in the league with 30 goals so far, so its safe to say we can expect goals in this one.

Sarri

Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuan is the league’s top scorer with 14 goals and he must be rubbing his hands now at a chance to face this vulnerable Roma defense; even though we know Roma will definitely give back as much as they get. Napoli lost last weekend surprisingly to Bologna, thereby relinquishing the top spot; but will go into this game confident in the fact that they have won their last 4 matches against Roma and are on a six game winning streak at home in Serie A.

My Verdict: Napoli to win

My Betting Punt: I will be going for goals here; over 2.5 goals is @1.65

Leicester City v Chelsea

Even though the game is on Monday, its still a big game; as I would advise you also ignore Chelsea’s current league position. This is a game between the Champions and the current league leaders. Leicester City been top of the league definitely is stuff of dreams as I still have to pinch myself every time I look at the table and see the midlands club at the summit.

Chelsea have, well bee woeful; the least that’s said their current situation the better; however this provides a great opportunity to turn the corner with their Champions League performance still fresh in the mind. The Blues have a great record against the Foxes with a six game winning streak ongoing; unfortunately this is a different Leicester, playing with swag, drive and fearlessness. Also, there’s a score to settle here; Claudio Ranieri would love nothing more than to heap the misery on Jose Mourinho due to the years of ridicule he has had to endure from the Portuguese manager.

vardy

Leicester have only failed to win once in their last six games, a sign of a team with very high confidence levels; spare a thought for Chelsea though; seventeen points separate them from Leicester and are winless in their last 5 away fixtures in the premier league.

My Verdict: Leicester to win

My Betting Punt: Both teams to score @ 1.69 or over 2.5 goals @ 1.87

Villareal v Real Madrid

Real Madrid flexed their attacking muscles in mid week with their demolition of Malmo in the champions league. For all the attacks and criticisms Rafa Benitez gets for his so called defensive style, his team has scored 21 goals in their last five matches.

Rafael-Benitez

The yellow Submarines have found form had to come bye in recent weeks, which has potentially put paid to most of their ambitions for this season considering their good start to the season.

Real Madrid are undefeated in their last 10 matches against Villareal, so its safe to say Los Blancos will win this as Villareal have only got 7 points from their last five games.

My Verdict: Real Madrid to win

My Betting Punt: A combo is in order here; Real win & over 2.5 goals comes at 1.96

Paris Saint Germain v Lyon

Lyon have been poor of late and we can ignore their win in the Champions League away to Valencia as this team has under achieved this season. This is the year many expected that they would step it up a gear or two to match PSG this season as their youngsters develop; instead its been one inept performance after the order.

PSG are coasting to the Ligue 1 title, completely unchallenged, 15 points clear at the top, undefeated and what makes for even more amazing reading is the fact that it is newly promoted Anger that are in second place dreaming of Champions League qualification.

Laurent Blanc, Paris Saint-Germain coach

Laurent Blanc’s team have been immaculate thus far, scoring goals a plenty; maintaining an unbeaten run at home stretching back to the 2013/2014 season. PSG have kept a clean sheet in their 5 of their last 7 games against Lyon, with only a loss in their last six meetings.

My Verdict: PSG to win

My Betting Punt: A combo is in order here as well; PSG win & over 2.5 goals comes at 1.60

 

**** A N500 punt should fetch you N8,600

*** Stats courtesy www.whoscored.com