Champions League Preview and tips – Man City V Roma & PSG v Barcelona

September 27th, 2014

The UEFA Champions League returns for week no. 2 on Tuesday/Wednesday, and one of the most intriguing matches is the English Champions Manchester City versus AS Roma, who have began this Serie A season with 4 straight wins, conceding just 1 goal.

Coach, Rudi Garcia, has added another experienced full back this summer in the form of ex-England star, Ashley Cole, to line-up in defence with veteran right-back, Douglas Maicon.

The metronomic and ever reliable Daniele De Rossi is still the heartbeat of this team in the centre of midfield, as the fading powers of the talismanic, Francesco Totti are now confined to late substitute appearances.

Manuel Pellegrini will be going for all three points here after the defeat in Munich, but he will be wary of the Giallorossi’s threat on the counter-attack with the pace of the rejuvenated, Gervinho and the finishing power of Destro. Roma’s 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow in week no.1 means they could edge their way through this Group on goal difference if they can pick up a draw at Eastlands.

I’d plump for a small to medium sized bet on an Under 2.5 goal result at 2.18 Euro odds or 59/50 UK.

The other stand-out tie on Tuesday night is a repeat of the exciting quarter-final from two seasons ago between Paris Saint Germain and Barcelona. The Catalan Giants have tightened up at the back under new manager, Luis Enrique, not letting a single goal in so far in the new campaign.

The nature of the Group stage can produce some cautious, turgid football, and we are unlikely to see the drama and attacking openness of the 1st leg at the Parc des Princes in April 2013, which finished 2-2. Laurent Blanc’s PSG outfit rely heavily on the goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, (5 from his first 6 games) who missed the Parisians last Ligue Une outing at Caen through injury and may not be available on Tuesday evening.

A draw and a point here for Barca will not be a bad result against their toughest opponents in Group F, and both teams will be confident of picking up maximum points in their remaining fixtures against Ajax and Apoel Nicosia. I’d go for a medium sized stake on an Under 2.5 goal game at 1.95 Euro odds or 19/20 UK.

West Brom v Burnley – Free Under 2.5 Tip!

September 25th, 2014

West Bromwich Albion supporters were rejoicing after a much needed 1-0 win at White Hart Lane last Sunday, when Spurs again failed to perform following a tricky away from home Europa League outing, this time around it was a disappointing 0-0 draw in Belgrade.

The Baggies much maligned and unpopular new manager, Alan Irvine, picked up all three points for the first time this season, as his newly assembled squad finally gelled in North London.
West Brom have had the most departures and arrivals, player wise, of any Club in the Premier League, so a settling in period was always going to be taken into consideration, but the pressure on the new man seemed to be in place before he even began work.

Irvine will be hoping to make it back-to-back victories on Sunday afternoon as newly promoted Burnley travel south to The Hawthorns. Albion’s reserve side managed to put three past Hull City on Wednesday night, beating The Tigers 3-2 in the Capital One Cup, and equalling their total goal tally of 3 from their first 5 League games. In fact, James Morrison’s winning strike against Tottenham was West Brom’s first goal for 254 minutes of Premier League football.

Burnley’s rigid 4-4-2 approach under up and coming English manager, Sean Dyche, has seen them record three consecutive 0-0 draws in the League of late, a style which sharply contrasts with The Clarets last ill fated stay in the 2009/10 Premier League, where their naïve attempts to outscore the opposition saw them finish bottom of the table.
With Burnley failing to score in their last 4 games, coupled with West Brom’s cautious style and lack of finishing power in front of goal, a low scoring but hard fought game should be on the cards for Sky TV viewers this weekend.

Sean Dyche’s ability to obtain clean-sheets as a coach is without question; the fiery haired ex-defender oversaw 14 clean-sheets for Burnley last term, with their defence also conceding the fewest goals (37 from 44 matches) in the Championship.

Danny Ings and Sam Vokes scored 47 goals between them for The Clarets in that successful campaign, and their absence through injury makes the Lancashire Club a far less potent threat going forward. The current partnership of Lukas Jutkeiwicz and Marvin Sordell does not feel like the required Premier League standard for clincal goal scoring.

Put a medium to large stake on this game ending in Under 2.5 goals being scored at 1.73 Euro odds or 73/100 UK.

Merseyside Derby – Free Tips

September 24th, 2014

The Merseyside Derby this Saturday lunchtime will see last season’s 2nd and 5th placed teams in the Premier League come face to face at Anfield for the 223rd top flight meeting in this fixture.

The difference this term for both of these two giant clubs of the English game is the added pressure and stress of European competition. Liverpool returned to the Champions League a week ago with a last minute win over lowly Ludogrets, while Everton enjoyed a rousing 4-1 victory against a strong Wolfsburg outfit. The Mighty Reds and The Toffees then went on to lose their subsequent League matches to West Ham and Crystal Palace, respectively.

Brendan Rodgers has admitted that the midweek European action has been disrupting Liverpool’s usual preparation routine’s which proved so successful in the previous campaign.

Roberto Martinez’s Everton squad is too thin to rotate, and this could become a problem for the Spaniard as the season progresses. He made minmal changes to the side for the Palace game and this resulted in some tired legs as the game slipped away from The Blues in the second half.

The Capital One Cup has denied these youthful managers a full week of unencumbered training, but Rodgers and Martinez should still be able to focus all their energies on the upcoming Derby by fielding reserve sides against Middlesbrough and Swansea on Tuesday night.

Everton are looking for revenge after the 4-0 counter-attacking mauling that was dished out to them in January by Suarez & Co. With the Uruguayan now plying his trade in Catalonia, and his fellow strike partner, Daniel Sturridge, out injured, we may see a less goal strewn encounter than the two fixtures from last season which produced 10 goals (the 3-3 draw at Goodison Park being one of the highlights of the 2013/14 campaign). However, Martinez does not seem to waver, in a tactical sense, from his expansive and attacking approach to trying to win football matches.

The naivete of Everton’s play, since we kicked off in August, has seen them concede 13 goals from 5 matches, the highest tally in the League, while their incisive forward movement has clocked them 11 goals over the same period. I would expect to see an open, exciting Derby with Over 2.5 goals scored, as there have been in 17 of Liverpool’s last 19 games in the Premier League.

Large stake on Over 2.5 goals – 1.62 Euro odds or 31/50 UK.

Although the Mighty Reds have won 3 out of the last 4 games at Anfield, I think Everton have shown enough attacking form to get something out of this match.

With the bookmakers heavily favouring Liverpool, I believe the best value odds are to go for a medium stake bet on Double Chance for Everton at 2.0 Euro odds or 1/1 UK.

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Three Free Tips!

September 19th, 2014

3 Free Tips! Plenty of free bets for you for the weekend!

England > Premier League
QPR v Stoke, Saturday 20th September 2014, 12:45
50 points under 2.5 goals, best odds 1.57 @ Betvictor

Scotland > Championship
Alloa v Rangers, Saturday 20th September 2014, 15:00
50 points Over 2.5 goals, best odds 1.53 @ Betvictor

England > Premier League
Everton v Crystal Palace, Sunday 21st September 2014, 16:00
50 points Over 2.5 goals, best odds 1.76 @ 188bet

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Leicester v Man United – Free Tip!

September 18th, 2014

Manchester United’s lunchtime trip to the King Power Stadium on Sunday will see them come up against a highly organised and spirited Leicester City side, whose consistent first XI will pose a far more serious test than the rag tag bunch of millionaire misfits at QPR.

The 4-0 win last Sunday, Louis Van Gaal’s first competitive one for the Red Devils, may well turn out to be a false dawn if Nigel Pearson’s Foxes outfit can perform as they have in their opening four games of the current campaign.

Pearson has built a compact and industrious team, with an inform goalkeeper, Ben Hamer and the brilliantly judged acquisition of the highly experienced and well respected, Esteban Cambiasso; a transfer that has had the effect of improving squad morale, with Cambiasso apparently setting the professional standards in midweek training.

United’s shaky start (drawing at Sunderland and Burnley) coupled with Leicester’s excellent displays at home where they held both Everton and Arsenal to a draw has meant the odds on a Man United win are longer than they would have been in previous seasons. I’m not sure that their “demolition” of a poor QPR team will necessarily mean they will follow this with a victory away in the Midlands.

Leicester’s work-rate and pressing at home will far exceed what Rangers managed on Sunday, and The Foxes have proved that they don’t crumble when going behind to a big club on their own patch; coming back from losing positions three times in the games against Everton and Arsenal and claiming a vital point towards staying in the Premier League. A draw or a win here for Leicester does not seem so unrealistic, especially when you factor in the positivity of topping the Championship in May and ‘first season back in the top flight’ syndrome with all the benefits this brings; a winning mentality, a vociferously optimistic crowd, and a realisation that setting out to win or at least remain unbeaten at home is the key to survival.

Van Gaal’s experimental tactical shape of a fluid three man defence plus interchangeable wing backs has not made United look the most defensively solid side in the League, and this could be exposed by The Foxes more rigid looking 4-4-2, which will exploit the gaps in wide areas with the pace of Jeffrey Schlupp and Riyad Mahrez. This would also allow the full backs, Paul Konchesky and Ritchie de Laet to overlap and get forward to provide crosses for the powerful and tall £8m signing from Brighton, Leonardo Ulloa, who will fancy his chances of adding to his 3 goals from 4 games against the inexperienced centre back pairing of Jonny Evans and Tyler Blackett.

I would go with a small to medium sized stake on a Double Chance bet for Leicester City at 2.4 Euro odds or 7/5 UK.

 

England vs Switzerland – Free Tip & Preview

September 6th, 2014

England begin the first of ten qualifying matches for the 2016 European Championships in France by facing their strongest rivals for the top spot in Group E, Switzerland, at the St Jakob Park Stadium in Basel on Monday night. On Paper, this is the most difficult game of all the qualifiers for the Three Lions and so a solitary point for Roy Hodgson’s men would be a decent result, especially when you consider the new format for qualification.

Michel Platini’s newly shaped UEFA European Championship has expanded the competition from 16 to 24 nations, giving hope to smaller countries who usually miss out like Scotland, Wales and Ireland, while also ensuring the higher ranked national teams will almost certainly all be on the plane to France next summer. The new process involves the Group winners and runners-up directly qualifying for the finals tournament along with the highest ranked 3rd placed team. The remaining 8 third placed sides will then contest a two legged play-off to decide the final four places.

With San Marino a guaranteed 6 points, and Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia making up the rest of Group E, a draw would also not be a bad outcome for the first competitive match of Vladimr Petkovic’s reign as Swiss manager. If the Sarajevan’s organised and defensive style at Lazio for the past two seasons is anything to go by, then we could see Switzerland returning to a more familiar counter-attacking approach like in their 1-0 extra time second round elimination to Argentina at the World Cup. In the Group stages, Ottmar Hitzfeld went against his nature by trying out a more open, attacking formation against France which lead to a 5-2 humiliation, causing the subsequent reversal to a more solid, compact looking side in the knockout stages.

The natural caution of Roy Hodgson combined with the lack of any real urgency for both of these nations to push for all 3 points, could well see this fixture ending all square – I’d place a small bet on the draw at 3.2 Euro odds or 11/5 UK – and leaving both countries still in prime positions to qualify from the Group.

Hodgson’s uncharacteristic anger at the criticism of England’s dull, uninspiring 1-0 win over Norway, suggests that the press reaction is finally starting to take effect, as it has done for all his predecessors before him. It also points to the burning stubbornness that rages within, when it comes to his monotonous tactical approach, and his lack of any apology in how he tries to get results.            England’s new look midfield of Henderson and Wilshere looks far more dynamic when assisted by the pace and trickery of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sterling on the wings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy brought in the functional and limited James Milner to “do a job” on Monday night, sacrificing one of the aforementioned wide players.

Either way, it should be a a tight encounter – go for a medium to large sized bet on an Under 2.5 goal result at 1.53 Euro odds or 53/100 UK – with a limited number of goalscoring chances.

Free Under/Over 2.5 Goals Tip – Wolfsberger v Neustadt

August 29th, 2014

FREE TIP!

Been a while since we had any freebies, so let’s get them going again for the new season, here’s the first:

Austria » Bundesliga
Wolfsberger v Neustadt, Saturday 30th August 2014, 18:00
50 Points Over 2.5 goals, best odds 1.50 @ Lads

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Man City Premier League Campaign Preview

August 12th, 2014

Champions, Manchester City, have not made their usually massive outlay in the transfer market this season for two major reasons; Manuel Pellegrini’s squad is vast and soaked in quality, and Uefa’s financial fair play regulations have finally come into effect, ruling that the Arab petro-dollar funded club are required to make a net spend this summer of just £49m

Hence the sale of the once promising young (but permanently injured) midfielder, Jack Rodwell, to Sunderland for £10m. The knock-on effect of this transaction then made City move to bring in 36 year old Frank Lampard on a free transfer until he begins his U.S Major League Soccer career next March. Lampard went straight into Pellegrini’s 21 man squad for the Champions League in order to fulfil the Uefa quota of a minimum 5 home-grown English players.

The complexities of running such an emerging force in European football do not seem to faze the coolly disposed Pellegrini. The Chilean will be under more pressure this season to progress further in Europe, and the sensible additions of Fernando, Sagna, Caballero, and the only real splurge in £32m Porto defender Mangala, should quietly strengthen the City squad without ruffling too many feathers or giant egos.

Bacary Sagna was brought in from Arsenal on a free transfer to give back-up to the ever reliable Pablo Zabaleta. Fernando provides a more energetic covering option in midfield than the plodding Javi Garcia, and Willy Caballero is a goalkeeper who can give Joe Hart serious competition between the sticks. The 23 year old Frenchman, Eliaquim Mangala, could be the key signing of the summer for Pellegrini; the young centre-back is seen as the long-term partner for Vincent Kompany and the only real hole left to fill in this galactic squad. Martin Demichelis may have improved over the course of last season but, at 33, his lack of pace and occasional lapse in concentration have cost City dearly, especially against higher quality centre-forwards in the Champions League.

In forward area’s there has been no real need to add players, as Stefan Jovetic should take part in his first full English season after an injury plagued 18 months. The Montenegrin striker will give Pellegrini four great options up front, alongside Sergio Aguero (23 goals & 8 assists from 29 games in the PL & CL), Edin Dzeko (18 & 2 from 38) and Alvaro Negredo (14 & 4 from 40). Of course, City’s top performer and scorer last term was not a forward but a midfielder, their talismanic power-house Yaya Toure. If the great Ivorian can repeat his colossal League campaign of 20 goals & 9 assists from 35 matches played, then City will be in with a great chance of being only the third club (behind Manchester United & Chelsea) to retain the Premier League title.

Everton Premier League Campaign Preview

August 11th, 2014

Roberto Martinez’s “private” conversation to Bill Kenwright at the beginning of last season promised Champions League football for Everton within his tenure. It was a claim that seemed idealistic and far-fetched twelve months ago, but less so now at the start of the 2014/15 campaign.

A fifth placed finish last term means Europa League football for the Toffees this year and has their success hungry supporters dreaming of going one League place further come the end of May.

The arrival of £28m striker Romelu Lukaku is a major reason for the burgeoning optimism; his first two full seasons in England have reaped 32 goals, making him the 4th highest scorer in the Premier League over that period. Many doubted Everton’s ability to hold on to their three loan signings last year, Gerard Deulofeu may have gone back to Barcelona to fight for a squad number, but Gareth Barry has now put pen to paper permanently on a three year deal, and Lukaku is Everton’s record transfer fee, £13m more than they paid Standard Liege for Marouane Fellaini.

Martinez’s positive charm and insistence on attractive, forward thinking football, has managed to convince the Champions League chasing Lukaku that Goodison Park is the best place to continue his development and gain regular playing time, with both sides potentially set to benefit from Martinez’s belief in the progress of English football’s 4th most successful club.

Another significant addition (to a squad that will need at least 27 first teamer’s in order to not suffer the perils of Europa League fatigue) is the 21 year old Bosnia & Herzegovina midfielder, Muhamed Besic. The £4m fee paid to Ferencvaros could turn out to be one of the bargains of the summer; the Bosnian had a 98% pass accuracy for his club side last season and can play at centre-back or in his more favoured midfield anchor role. A cultured passer, who seems older than his birth certificate suggests, could teach the sometimes wasteful but equally talented Ross Barkley about the importance of not conceding possession in central area’s.

A midfield trio of Besic, James McCarthy and Barkley could well blossom into one of the best engine room’s the Merseysiders have seen since the holy trinity of Goodison legends Kendall, Harvey and Ball. Barry and McCarthy should begin the season as the starting pair in a defensive midfield role, but Besic will undoubtedly be the long term replacement for the 33 year old Englishman. For now, continuity is what’s important for Everton, and this has been strengthened off the pitch too with a number of important contract extensions for key players.

Leighton Baines committed his future to The Blues last year, but this pre-season has seen Barkley sign for 4 years, followed by a 5 year deal for Seamus Coleman, and a 5 year extension for Martinez himself. At the back, 20 year old England defender, John Stones, has agreed a new 5 year extension to give Evertonian’s real hope for a bright, exciting future.

Stones’ form in his 15 starting appearances for The Toffees last term displayed colossal composure, and suggested that within a few years he could be a mainstay in central defence for his country.

The Barnsley born defender is a naturally instinctive blocker of shots whose defensive positioning is already world class. In his 21 games (6 as a substitute) for Everton he won 26 tackles and made 19 successful interceptions, while also blocking 19 shots on goal and making an astonishing 87 clearances.

With goalkeeper Tim Howard coming into the form of his life at 35, the goals and creativity of full backs Baines and Coleman, a consistent first XI developing under Martinez’s second full season could well see Everton sneak into the Champions League positions, especially with the fire-power of an already settled in Lukaku.

Liverpool Premier League Campaign Preview

August 11th, 2014

When you analyse the goals for & against column in the completed Premier League table 2013/14, it’s not difficult to surmise where Liverpool’s run for the Championship went awry. A goals against statistic of 50 meant that the Merseyside club had only three other teams in the top eleven places who had conceded more than them.

Brendan Rodgers has tried to plug that gap (2nd placed Liverpool conceded 23 more than 3rd placed Chelsea) with the acquisition of Croatian central defender, Dejan Lovren. The ex-Southampton star was Saint’s player of the season last year with consistently excellent performances over his 31 Premier League appearances. The 61 successful tackles, 84 interceptions and 239 clearances are an indication of the Croat’s tenaciousness in defence, but the revealing stat of just 26 fouls committed (less than 1 per game, in fact 0.8) shows a player with a great reading of the game, something which centre-backs at the highest level must possess.

The Might Red’s 101 goals at the other end of the pitch was only 1 behind Champions, Manchester City, but the problem for Rodgers in this campaign is how to replace the 31 League goals that the now departed Luis Suarez scored for the Anfield club. Daniel Sturridge will have to push his PL goals tally to over 25 for the first time in his career if Liverpool are to mount another serious challenge for the title. Liverpool’s raid on the now decimated Southampton squad also included England stars Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana. The former will provide back-up to Sturridge and could easily weigh in with 15 goals, while the latter has been brought in for his assists and goals from midfield (6 & 9 last season) and to deepen Liverpool’s squad should there be any injuries to Raheem Sterling or Phillipe Coutinho.

Captain, Steven Gerrard, must put his World Cup woes and “slip-ups” behind him if he is to repeat his outstanding campaign (13 goals & 13 assists) last term from the base of midfield. The motivation and desire is strong for Gerrard to produce another swansong-like season and help Liverpool claim their first title since 1990. Lucas and Jordan Henderson are the energy of the midfield three, while 19 year old Sterling is likely to improve further on his 9 goals from wide and second striker positions, in what is only his second full season. Other exciting youngsters at Rodgers’ disposal are the summer signings of Serbian winger Lazar Markovic and German wide-man Emre Can, both 20 years old.

The £75m received for the troublesome Suarez appears to have been spent wisely, but whether these new recruits can replace the 31 goals & 12 assists that the Uruguayan striker provided, only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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