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.
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.
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