Archive for month: April, 2012

Premier League Preview : April 28th

28 Apr
April 28, 2012

Stoke vs. Arsenal

This fixture is always perceived as a clash or styles but as time goes on this assumption is less accurate. Stoke are an upwardly mobile and progressive club and the manager has tailored a team to match each of their goals. The current target is a top ten table finish and the management will be fully aware that huff and puff and long ball football isn’t the route to this end. The carrot of Champions’ League football has been an excellent motivation in recent weeks for the better teams in the division who are out of contention for the title. Arsenal have made an excellent recovery to find themselves in third place but the job isn’t quite done yet and they will have to remain focussed for the last three games of the season. Unfortunately they travel to the Britannia Stadium without two of their main goalscorers in Walcott and Arteta. Both players have been major contributors to Arsenal’s all round play over the past few months and Arteta will be particularly missed. Arsenal probably didn’t deserve much more than the draw they achieved against Chelsea last Saturday. They had the chances to win the game but the overall performance lacked conviction. In mitigation Chelsea were in a rehearsed defensive mindset which was to pay dividends later on in the week and Stoke will have to perform exceptionally well to match Chelsea’s defensive discipline.

If Arsenal play reasonably well they will have chances to score. Stoke’s downfall this season appears to be their lack of ability to retain possession. Only two of their first team regulars have a pass success percentage of over 80 % while Norwich for example can boast of having at least four regulars who exceed the 80 % mark. Stoke will attempt to put Arsenal under pressure at set pieces and while they will never be division leaders at defending such situations, Arsenal have improved in this area of late. Stoke will also play a physical game against Arsenal. The home side adopted this approach for the visit of Man. City recently and only a long distance strike from Yaya Toure denied them all three points. Van Persie is likely to be heavily man-marked where ever he goes and he is often doubled up on. This goes some way to explain why he is dispossessed so often, so it will be up to Arsenal’s other attackers to benefit from the space created.

In terms of the outright result this contest is a hard one to call. Arsenal are the better team but they are both away from home and missing key personnel. Stoke on the otherhand will have to play an exceptional possession game on their behalf to exert suitable pressure on the visitors. Arsenal’s second most prolific goalscorer in this afternoon’s starting eleven is Vermaelen. It is very likely that he’ll have an opportunity to score and seeing as he converts 18 % of his efforts, 6-1 in the anytime goalscorer market is a fair proposition if he only sees one goalscoring opportunity throughout the whole game.

Recommended bet : Back Vermaelen to score anytime.

Champions League Preview : April 25th

25 Apr
April 25, 2012

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich

This tie remains finely poised and more so since Madrid conceded a late goal in Munich in the first leg. Had Bayern had to chase the game in Madrid, the Spanish team would have had the game set up nicely for them. As it stands it is Madrid that will have to make the running and be wary of Bayern’s considerable counter-attack threat. It is fascinating to analyse both teams’ strengths and weaknesses as neither is yet the finished article in terms of a team that can dominate European football for the foreseeable future. Much of Madrid’s attack will focus on Ronaldo and his ability to drive inside off the left wing towards Bayern’s central defence. Lahm handled the Portuguese striker adequately in the first leg but it is likely that Madrid will attack in greater force down that left side. The flanks are at the same time Madrid’s strength and their weakness. Mourinho clearly doesn’t entirely trust Marcelo in a defensive capacity and must have been furious to see Coentrao go to ground late on in Munich to allow Lahm to cross for the winning goal. The danger for Madrid is that if the fullback overlaps, Robben will be left unattended and there will be times when his transition at pace into the opposition half will make him uncatchable. Arbeloa on the right flank is the steadier defender but finds himself in a pace mis-match with Ribery. It was no surprise to see Ribery grounded on so many occasions in the first leg, he draws more fouls on average than any Madrid player and he draws them at a higher rate in European games than he does domestically.

The key area where Bayern dominated the game in the first leg was in midfield where they had both a mobility and power advantage. Di Maria is an admirable player but it was never the intention that he would play in central midfield. It can be expected that Gomez will tackle back often as he did last week putting Alonso and Khedira under pressure but where the Madrid pairing really feel the heat is when they are chasing back facing their own goal. The Gustavo, Schweinsteiger axis provides excellent protection for the back four of Bayern and at the same time link well with Ribery. This is the key area for Bayern as if the central defence can be adequately shielded, Madrid will have to be at their most resourceful in order to find a route to goal. The home side can be expected to push up onto Schweinsteiger as he appears to be the defensive midfielder most frequently dispossessed. In terms of the outright result this remains a contest that is hard to predict but there are some scenarios that are very possible. Madrid only require one goal to progress and having taken the lead they are likely to retreat towards their own goal knowing that Ronaldo can cause plenty of damage on the counter-attack. Also, Ozil will be withdrawn fairly rapidly. Bayern are well set up defensively to repel Madrid for a large period of the game and will seek to counter-attack themselves. Unless Bayern increase their lead early on in the game there may not be the goals in this game as expected.

Recommended bet : Back Under 3.5 goals.

Champions League Preview : April 24th

24 Apr
April 24, 2012

Barcelona vs. Chelsea

This second leg of the Champions’ League semi-final will follow the pattern of the first leg where Barcelona will dominate possession. Only poor finishing at Stamford Bridge allowed Chelsea to escape with a slender lead and head into the second leg with their hopes of a final appearance in tact. Barcelona launched wave after wave of attack against the left side of Chelsea’s defence last Wednesday night, ironically into the area where Chelsea are probably defensively strongest. Cole is at least as good a player as Alves and Ramires offers solid assistance in supporting his fullback. His energy helped negate the treat of Sanchez on the same flank and he will be utilised to same effect at the Camp Nou.

Chelsea predictably congested the central areas denying space to Messi, Xavi and Fabregas where they could. The right hand side of Chelsea’s defence is where they are weakest but Barcelona were unable to effectively benefit from this situation in the first leg. In order to retain possession Iniesta preferred to push inside rather than take on Ivanovic to the outside. Mata is not as good as a defender as Ramires and it was surprising that the Champions didn’t exploit the situation further. David Villa and Eric Abidal are clearly being missed as when they play there is scope for the ball to be played to either side of the fullback allowing Abidal to form an overlap or for Villa to cut from the outside to the inside of the defender and head towards goal. Chelsea will again pack the central areas and rely on Drogba and support from Ramires and Mata to sneak a second goal on the break.

Overall, the away side will expect to have to soak up a huge amount of pressure from Barcelona in the central areas. With a partisan crowd and unrelenting attacks it’s hard to imagine that the Chelsea holding midfielders will not escape the evening without picking up a yellow card between them. In terms of the betting on the teams to qualify for the final, Chelsea appear to be very short at 7/4 when ultimately they will probably have to rely on Barcelona being as inept in front of goal as they were last week. There is sure to be plenty of Barcelona pressure but whether it will tell in terms of goals or not is another question.

Recommended bets :

Back Mikel, Meireles and Lampard to be shown a card.

Premier League Preview : April 22nd

21 Apr
April 21, 2012

Manchester United vs. Everton

The home team clearly has the more motivation to win this game as they remain in the thick of the race for the championship. Everton will be bitterly disappointed following last weekend’s cup semi final defeat. Without the extraneous circumstances United would still be favourites to win this contest. Everton have steadily improved towards the later part of the season but United have gone on a charge that has seen them win nine of their last ten league games. Their success has been largely built on a settled back four and the excellent form of Rooney and Valencia. There is nothing to suggest that the trend will not continue especially in this game in front of their own crowd. Everton have to cope with the significant loss of Leighton Baines. Everton have attacked extensively down their left flank and no other player has played as many important balls forward as Baines has for the team this season. Phil Neville will fill in at left back and while he is a solid defender it is unlikely that he will provide the same forward impetus as his absent team mate. United have a variety of attacking options at their disposal but they will seek to exploit the unfamiliarity on Everton’s left side through Valencia. In terms of a pace match up, the United player has the advantage and it appears that Valencia stands up and gets on with it. He draws fouls from the opposition at a third of the rate that Young does and only a handful of United players tackle as proficiently as the Ecuadorian. It is predictable that United will dominate possession in this game and the odds for them to come out on top in the corners won markets are very short. This is a game that United should take three points from eventhough it is likely that they will have to grind the result out. There is not the sense beforehand that there is a great deal of needle between the two teams and neither have proven to be particularly indisciplined. Referee Mike Jones has issued less than four cards a game on average this season whilst officiating and with the strong flow of player traffic between Old Trafford and Goodison in recent times it is unlikely that the two teams will have a go at each other.

Recommended bet : Back less than 4.5 cards.

Premier League Preview : April 21st

21 Apr
April 21, 2012

Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Both teams are missing influential players for this vital league encounter. The conjecture is extensive as to who will be most affected by the absences. Arsenal will undoubtably miss Arteta in the midfield as he has featured consistently amongst the top three Arsenal performers all season in terms of overall contribution. He has served as a brilliant link between Arsenal’s now settled defence and the attacking elements of the team. The home side will obviously have to tinker with their shape in order to compensate for the injured Spanish player and it may well take them a while to find their rhythm. Chelsea’s missing list is altogether more extensive and includes some of their more physically dominating players such as Luiz, Ivanovic and Drogba. With the congested fixture schedule changes have been forced upon Di Matteo, particulary those caused by fatigue. In contrast, Torres will be relatively fresh and his increased sharpness in recent weeks will ensure that Chelsea still carry a credible goal threat. Specifically it is hard to predict where Chelsea will focus their attacking energy. In Arteta’s absence Arsenal are less likely to be as dominant in possession and thus Chelsea will probably have more opportunities in which to attack than if the Spaniard had been playing. Ironically it looks as if Arsenal are equipped to dominate the set piece situations in the match. Terry and Cahill will have to share the responsibility of winning the ball in the air in their own box. This is in contrast to games where Drogba and Ivanovic have been able to share some of the burden and thus provide a virtually inpenetrable aerial defence. It could well be that Drogba’s defensive contribution is more sorely missed than his offensive input. Vermaelen showed as recently as last Monday night in the game against Wigan how he can score with his head given the chance. Santos may appear a little suspect defensively but he wins the majority of his aerial duels and can add further weight to Arsenal’s presence around the opposition penalty area. Much of the outcome of this game could possibly depend on how Chelsea deal with the first few crosses into their box and whether they offer Arsenal any encouragement in the process. Elsewhere on the pitch the teams are set largely to cancel each other out. Arsenal have a preference for attacking down their right flank and Cole’s mobility ensures that Chelsea expend a lot of effort attacking down their left. Set pieces will be essential if there is a stalemate throughout the field. Arsenal are likely to have ample opportunities to register on the scoreboard but in contrast it will take a huge effort from Chelsea to beat Szczensy at least twice.

Recommended bet : Back Arsenal draw no bet.

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