South Africa favoured to win the deciding test match against Australia

Hashim Amla helped South Africa to level the series 1-1 with 127 N.O. in his second innings last week

Hashim Amla helped South Africa to level the series 1-1 with 127 N.O. in his second innings last week

The three match test series between South Africa and Australia comes to a close in Cape Town at the Newlands cricket ground, which is one of the most beautiful locations to play cricket in the world. It is overlooked by Table Mountain and Devils Peak and is the perfect setting to end a test series.

Despite these two sides having faced off on many occasions over the last 20 years this three match series is just the second time that the two teams have needed a decider to separate them. The other series was, in fact, the last series in Australia in 2012-13 and although Australia felt they had done enough in the first two tests they had lost one of those and it was the Proteas who ran riot in the decider to claim the series.

GR88.com do not believe that the hosts in this Third South Africa v Australia Test will run riot this time, but they do favour a home win in Cape Town this week as follows.

South Africa v Australia – Final Test Odds:

South Africa – 2.02

Draw – 3.40

Australia – 2.74

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The first test saw an overwhelming victory for Australia as they chose to bat first against their hosts and after sitting on 24-2 and 98-4 they posted an impressive 397 all out in the first innings. This was possible thanks to a century from Steve Smith and a series high score of 148 from Shaun Marsh but as these two fell within five overs of each other saw a collapse from 331-5 to 397. The hosts fell short as they replied with their first innings and only AB de Villiers’ 91 saved them from utter embarrassment as they recorded 206 all out.

The second innings saw Australia declare on 290-4, with David Warner hammering 115 from 151 balls, and then they removed the hosts for 200, with de Villiers again top scoring with 48, to claim a 281 run victory.

However, the second test in Port Elizabeth saw a complete turnaround as South Africa batted first and scored a massive 423 all out in their first innings. It was that man again, AB de Villiers, who helped them on their way with 116 before being caught and bowled by Nathan Lyon but he was not the top scorer this time around as JP Duminy knocked for 123. Australia replied well with 246 as Warner hit 70 and Smith fell one run short of his half century, but they were in trouble and needed a big second innings from their bowlers.

For the most part they got it too as they claimed five wickets before South Africa declared and all five players out scored less than 35. However, Hashim Amla was on form and hit 127 not out to see South Africa to 270. The run chase for the visitors started well as Chris Rodgers and Warner put on a pairing of 126 before Warner walked at 70 for an lbw and although Rodgers hung in to score 107 no other Australian players scored above six as they were beaten by 231 runs.

South Africa have the momentum for this third, and final, test match and certainly deserve to be the favourites. However, this can easily change if Australia bat first and the side doing the run chase at the end of this match is expected to have a tough time as the pitch cuts up. Whoever gets in first deserves to be the favourite to win this match, but with this not being withstanding it is Hashim Amla who is likely to make the difference in this final test as he has five test centuries against Australia since the end of 2011 and his 127 not out last time around shows he’s back in form. This should give the hosts the edge and they’re my pick in Cape Town in this final test.

Back South Africa to win the final test, and the series, against Australia @ 2.02 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Can Liverpool continue their momentum at Southampton?

Martin Škrtel has played more league games than any other Liverpool defender this season

Martin Škrtel has played more league games than any other Liverpool defender this season

Last weekend we saw the very best and the very worst of Liverpool, all within ninety minutes. While their irresistible strikeforce was running riot, the defence was looking worryingly incompetent. It says all you need to know about the state of Liverpool’s defence when Brendan Rodgers turns to Kolo Touré to shore up the defence.

 

Southampton v Liverpool Betting Odds

Southampton win – 3.50

Liverpool win – 2.00

Draw – 3.40

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The major problem for Liverpool at the back this season has been a raft of injuries. Very rarely have Liverpool had a settled defence and this has constantly been an issue. Throughout all these injuries the mainstay of the defence has been Martin Škrtel. Škrtel is one of the more bizarre footballers of recent times. He can look an imposing, impregnable rock at the back; more often than not though he reverts to default and to his unique form of daft wrestling in the box. He also has an ability to score own-goals at a frequency that would make Frank Sinclair proud.

Škrtel’s eccentricities have perhaps not been helped by new goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has proven himself to be an excellent shot-stopper, however he often remains fixed to his line when crosses come in, a stark contrast to his predecessor Pepe Reina. This unwillingness to come and collect the ball doesn’t aid the panic that is never far away from this Liverpool defence. A compromise between goalkeeper and defence needs to be found quickly if it isn’t to derail Liverpool’s title push.

 

Whilst the defence has floundered, the forwards have regularly bailed them out. Liverpool have been a joy to watch this season. Their attacking play has often been breath-taking culminating in the first twenty minutes against Arsenal a few weeks ago, where they simply annihilated the then league-leaders.

Here is where Brendan Rodgers has to take a lot of credit. He is clearly an excellent coach. Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have all improved immeasurably over the last eighteen months. The likes of Jordan Henderson and Jon Flanagan have also managed to kick on another level; Rodgers has certainly made the most of what he has at Anfield.

 

The Southampton game is a huge test for this Liverpool side. Rodgers has lost to Mauricio Pochettino on the two previous occasions that they have met as managers, while Southampton are the only opposition side to win at Anfield this season and will have every right to feel confident going into Saturday’s clash.

Southampton’s season is in danger of petering out though. They are safely in mid-table, they have no fears of relegation, but equally qualification for Europe looks completely out of reach. Many of the team are however playing for a place in England’s World Cup squad, and a strong performance on Saturday will certainly do the likes of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and recent call-up Luke Shaw no harm.

 

This game feels very much like a crossroads for Rodgers’ Liverpool. A defeat will halt their momentum and leave them looking over the shoulders. However a win will keep the dream going that perhaps in this very open year, Liverpool can be the ones to emerge and snatch a very unlikely title win.

The two extremes in Liverpool’s side should guarantee goals. They are unbeaten in their last eight league games and should be able to end their bad run against Southampton and just squeak a narrow victory.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – After Liverpool’s seven-goal thriller against Swansea last week, more than 3.5 goals is 2.40 with GR88.com, while if you’re feeling really bold more than 4.5 goals is available at 4.30.

 

liam avatarLIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.

Curtis Woodhouse’s 50:1 bet on himself paid off

chriswoodhouse01

Former footballer Curtis Woodhouse made a personal dream come true the other night when he beat Darren Hamilton for the British Light Welterweight title. When he switched sports from football to boxing Woodhouse bet £5,000 that he’d do what he’s done. So now he has £250,000 more to add to his retirement fund. Nice one!

“I have a wife and three kids but I was willing to die for it, that’s the difference. When it comes to who wants it most I won’t be found wanting.”

Larry Colcy
The Gamblogger

Related: Chris Woodhouse Sponsored in Title Fight by New Online Casino BetSpinWin.

El Derbi madrileño – They played for both

Raúl joined Real Madrid from their rivals' academy and never looked back

Raúl joined Real Madrid from their rivals’ academy and never looked back

Atlético Madrid take on city rivals Real this weekend in the most significant Madrid derbies in recent years.

Diego Simeone’s Atléti have emerged as shock title contenders this season, starting the campaign with eight wins from eight including a 1-0 victory at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the only time Carlo Ancelotti’s Real have failed to score in the league this campaign.

Helped by the goalscoring form of Diego Costa they moved top with a 4-0 win over Real Sociedad at the start of the month, however defeats to Almería and Osasuna have seen the club lose ground to Real, who moved three points clear at the top last weekend.

While the rivalry between the two Madrid clubs has played second fiddle to Real’s battle for supremacy with Barcelona in recent years, only a handful of players have represented both clubs. However those who have done so include some of the game’s biggest names.

Atlético Madrid v Real Madrid Betting odds

Atlético to win – 3.45

Real to win – 2.04

Draw – 3.20

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Bernd Schuster

One of the most gifted players of his generation, West Germany international Schuster spent the bulk of his career in La Liga at the competition’s three most successful clubs.

After making more than 200 appearances for Barcelona, the creative midfielder switched to the white of Real in 1988 in one of the most contentious transfers until Luis Figo made the same move more than a decade later. However he was rewarded with back-to-back league titles before moving across the city for a three-year stint with Atléti where he helped the club end a six-year trophy drought under the stewardship of big-spending chairman Jesús Gil.

Schuster’s enigmatic talents on the pitch were reflected in his managerial career, where he won La Liga in his only full season in charge of Real before quitting the following December. He is currently in charge of struggling Málaga.

José Antonio Reyes

Just like Schuster before him, Reyes is a player likely to look back at his career with a nagging feeling that it could have been so much more.

As a teenager he burst onto the scene with Sevilla, earning a club-record move to Arsenal in 2004. However a failure to settle in London saw the winger loaned out to Fabio Capello’s Real Madrid for the 2006-07 season before joining Atlético the following summer in a permanent deal, ironically after Capello was replaced at the Bernabéu by Schuster.

Reyes’ four seasons at the Estadio Vicente Calderón came either side of a loan spell at Benfica and brought two Europa League winner’s medals. Now 30 years of age, he finds himself back at Sevilla, chasing European qualification while his former team-mates battle it out for the league title. Even more spookily, his international record of 21 appearances and four goals is identical to that of Schuster.

 

Raúl

For half of the Spanish capital, Raúl González Blanco is a hero. For the other half he’s the one who got away.

When Jesús Gil closed down the Atléti youth academy in 1992 it acted as an open invitation for Real to pick up the Rojiblancos’ most prized talents, and that number included a 15-year-old Raúl. It is not quite on the scale of Leeds United’s sale of Eric Cantona to Manchester United that same year – Gil could not have known what Raúl would go on to achieve – but it comes close.

In more than a decade and a half with Los Merengues the Madrid-born player clocked up north of 500 league appearances, breaking club records for overall appearances (741) and goals (323). Spells in Germany and Qatar followed an emotional departure from Real, and he is still going strong with Al Sadd at the age of 36.

Betting Instinct Tip – Real Madrid to win and both teams to score is 3.41 with GR88.com

tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

Jose Mourinho to ruin Didier Drogba’s reunion with Chelsea?

Chelsea legend Didier Drogba's new side Galatasaray face his old club Chelsea this week

Chelsea legend Didier Drogba’s new side Galatasaray face his old club Chelsea this week

The final pair of first leg Champions League last 16 stage matches play this Wednesday night and while the Schalke v Real Madrid game promises plenty of action, I am drawn to the Galatasaray v Chelsea match as it sees the meeting of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and the side that he captured Champions League glory with in his final game for the side. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was quoted as saying that he would love to be drawn against Galatasaray at this stage of the competition so that the Chelsea fans can show their appreciation for their former player at Stamford Bridge. If he can fire the Turkish side into a comfortable lead, what kind of reception will the Chelsea faithful provide him with in three weeks time?

Galatasaray v Chelsea Odds:

Galatasaray – 3.85

Draw – 3.15

Chelsea – 1.98

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Despite finishing their Champions League group with a goal difference of -6, mainly thanks to the 6-1 home drubbing and 4-1 away beating by Real Madrid, Galatasaray managed to get one over on Juventus in a re-arranged due to snowfall match to snatch the final place on what was a terrible pitch to play football. Either way, despite winning just two and drawing one of their six group stage matches the Turkish side, who have star players Emmanuel Eboué and Wesley Sneijder in a star studded lineup with Drogba, are into the last 16 of the Champions League and they bring a fine home record into the match. They are unbeaten in 16 on home soil, winning 15 and drawing one, and they have not conceded in six home matches so they will be certainly be confident, but will their star performers be up for the task of being able to beat a Jose Mourinho led Chelsea side?

Mourinho has already won the Champions League on two occasions with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010 and he is one of the best tactical managers currently plying his trade in Europe so he will fancy his chances at lifting the European Cup for a third time this season. He has already won six titles with Chelsea from his first time in charge and he has led them back to the top of the Premier League this season, so he and his charges will not be lacking in confidence (not that the Portuguese manager ever is!) for this game in Turkey. He was complaining this week about not having a striker fit for his side but ever the master tactician Mourinho will surely find a way for his side to score goals in this Champions League clash.

I feel that the odds on this match are correct in that it’ll be a tight game between these two sides, mainly thanks to the hosts having a fine defensive record on home soil and being sure to defend first and attack second in this first leg match. Chelsea will have difficulty in breaking them down, but, just like their odds suggest, they will grab a goal or two and they’ll take the advantage back to West London and Stamford Bridge.

Back Chelsea to beat Galatasaray in their Champions League Last 16 stage first leg match @ 1.98 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Manchester United’s Champions League Run to Offer a Welcome Break From the League

Galatasaray's Didier Drogba will face Chelsea for the first time since leaving the club

Galatasaray’s Didier Drogba will face Chelsea for the first time since leaving the club

Brendan Rodgers has a saying, naturally: “Per aspera ad astra”, which, says Brendan, is Latin for “through adversity to the stars.” And what we wouldn’t give for the Americans to roll up at Old Trafford with their lights and cameras and start shooting the long-awaited sequel to the series that brought us Brendan “Brendan” Rodgers, if only to know which dead language David Moyes is using to motivate his players.

But we’ll come back to United in a moment. I’m not going to lie and say I watch the Greek Super League, so I’m just going to state facts: Olympiakos enjoy a cruel level of success domestically, but haven’t yet progressed beyond the first knockout round in the Champions League. They came in second to PSG in the group stage, level with Benfica but ahead on goal difference. They also sold their top scorer and star player, Konstantinos Mitroglou, to Fulham, because why not? Those are the facts about Olympiakos, who are up against a United side that is curiously functional in Europe.

Olympiakos v Manchester United Betting Odds

Olympiakos to win – 3.40

Draw – 3.30

Manchester United to win – 2.15

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

David Moyes says the Liverpool side of 2005 “gives United hope”. Nemanja Vidić, with one foot in a metaphorical lifeboat and the other on the metaphorical sinking ship, says United are capable of “something special” – which we know they are, but we also know they are not. It all depends on which Manchester United turns up: if it’s the same side that drew with Fulham and lost to Stoke then they could find themselves in trouble; if it’s the side that beat Bayern Munich in Barcelona 15 years ago then they should be fine.

Beneath the cloud of rhetoric is reality. Manchester United should progress (over two legs) against a side that isn’t quite as good as them, which is the natural order of things. Yet this is a side that’s 11 points and a bomb threat off the Champions League places, and is without the cup-tied Juan Mata. I’ll go for a draw in this first leg. It’s not an exciting prediction, nor is it particularly risky, but it’s a prediction that’s somehow in keeping with the spirit of the week’s fixtures – predictable. Es fortis, David, es fortis. Keep looking at the stars.

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho exists, and Chelsea (1.92 with GR88.com) will be in the quarter-finals soon enough. While Galatasaray (4.00) are an increasingly fun team to play with on FIFA, they beat mathematical possibility and qualified for the knockout stage having lost 10-2 to Real Madrid on aggregate, and only after a late goal in a weird, frozen and broken-up match against Juventus – it’s a UEFA conspiracy that goes right to the top or something (if it is a conspiracy then they might have chosen something more interesting – ed.). Expect Drogba and Mourinho to greet each other warmly before the match, then expect the Portuguese to narrow his eyes, forget about friendship and gesticulate his way towards a reasonably comfortable away win.

Zenit Saint Petersburg (or Zenit St Petersburg for short; 4.30 with AllYouBet.ag) went one better than Galatasaray by winning even fewer games in the group stage, somehow scraping through in second place with three home draws, one away win, and 5 goals in total. It’s almost unfair that they should have any chance at winning this competition, but here we are. They play Borussia Dortmund (1.80) at home in one of those weird, frozen Russian matches that kick off early and where literally anything can happen, except sustained periods of good football. Predicting a result is tricky here, but Dortmund should score – I’m sure of that much. Finally, Schalke (or Schalke 04 if you’re cultured and drink wine and read books and speak languages), 21 points off the top of the Bundesliga and relatively unremarkable in the group stage (and 6.80 with GEObet.com), will be the team to roll over for Real Madrid (1.45) this week.

(All odds are subject to change)

Betting Instinct Tip – A Chelsea and Real Madrid double is 2.78 with GR88.com

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is ashamed for doing so.

Who’ll fill the final two FA Cup Quarter Final places?

Yannick Sagbo fires in a late equaliser to force a Hull v Brighton replay.

Yannick Sagbo fires in a late equaliser to force a Hull v Brighton replay.

Two of the four FA Cup Quarter Final ties have already been filled to completion as Arsenal take on Everton at The Emirates in the opening of the four matches and the last game sees a replay of last year’s final as Manchester City host Wigan Athletic looking for revenge in this competition after losing 1-0 at Wembley last May.

However, Premier League side Sunderland are still waiting to find out who they will be travelling to for a place at Wembley for a second time this season after the Capital One Cup Final next weekend. They will travel to the winner of the 5th round replay between Hull and Brighton who will battle to completion this Monday evening at the KC Stadium.

The other last eight stage sees League One Sheffield United face the winner of the Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton and a home win will set up a Steel City derby between the two Sheffield sides in a match that make it the standout tie of the Quarter Finals. My take on the these Monday Night FA Cup games are as follows.

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Hull v Brighton 5th Round FA Cup Replay:

Hull – 1.73

Draw – 3.20

Brighton – 4.50

The first meeting of these two sides a week ago saw a 1-1 draw with Brighton looking as if they were going to progress over the Premier League side at the Amex. However, an 85th minute leveller from Yannick Sagbo saw Hull force a replay at the KC Stadium tonight and become favourites to meet Sunderland in the Quarter Finals. This match should be a close one still as that 1-1 draw contained half of the goals scored in the last five matches between the sides since a 2-1 win for Brighton in 2005.

Hull are struggling at the KC Stadium so far this season with just one win, a 6-0 thumping of Fulham in December, in their last six home matches. They have lost two of their last three and have failed to find the net in half of these six home matches. Brighton have lost three of their last six away games and have failed to score in three of their last four on the road. As a result of this poor form and the closeness of their previous matches in recent times I foresee another close match between these sides, with few goals to be scored.

Back -2.5 goals in the Hull v Brighton match @ 1.64.

Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton FA Cup 5th Round:

Sheffield Wednesday – 1.90

Draw – 3.10

Charlton – 3.80

The first playing of this match on February 15th was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Hillsborough, but the sides will meet for the second time this season this Monday evening as they look to reach the final eight stage and face Sheffield United for a place in the Semi Finals.

The sides, both of whom are in the lower reaches of the Championship shared the spoils 1-1 at The Valley earlier this season and things are even between the two teams at Hillsborough as they both have won two and drawn two of the last six Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton games.

Wednesday have won four of their last six at home, although both losses came against Wigan and Derby in their last two home games, while Charlton have won just two, against Oxford and Huddersfield in the FA Cup, in their last ten away games. I feel that the odds on this match are correct with Wednesday being favoured and I’m backing them to progress to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup to setup a Steel City derby for a place in the final four.

Back Sheffield Wednesday to beat Charlton @ 1.90.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Who’ll take the advantage in the La Primera Liga title race this weekend?

Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to victory at Manchester City in the Champions League, now can he keep his team top of the league?

Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to victory at Manchester City in the Champions League, now can he keep his team top of the league?

As the La Primera Liga enters its 25th round of matches this weekend things could not be closer at the top of the league table as only goal difference separates Barcelona from Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. Atlético are third in the table with a +43 goal difference, while Real have +44 and Barcelona with the most amount of goals scored have a +52 record.

All three teams are in action this weekend but, with Barcelona and Atlético having travelled to Man City and AC Milan in the Champions League during the week, will it be Real Madrid who is top of the table and leading the La Liga title race after all three sides have played their matches?

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Real Madrid v Elche:

Real Madrid – 1.09

Draw – 12.00

Elche – 32.00

Saturday’s first La Liga match sees second placed Real take on 13th position Elche at the Bernabeu, a stadium that has seen Real defeated just a single time this season as their city rivals Atlético claimed a 1-0 win here in September. Things have turned around since then as Real have recorded 14 straight wins on home soil and have kept nine clean sheets in that run. Nobody lower than seventh in the table has scored at the Bernabeu in this run and with Elche having failed to win away from home since October it is a safe bet to say that Real are going to win this match.

Real won the first meeting of these sides in the top flight 2-1 earlier this season with much of the action, including two goals and a red card, coming in injury time at the end of the game. However, Real are much better on home soil and they will cruise to victory this weekend.

Back Real to win to nil @ 1.74.

Real Sociedad v Barcelona:

Real Sociedad – 7.60

Draw – 4.80

Barcelona – 1.37

This Saturday evening match for the reigning champions will be the toughest of all three games for those involved in the La Liga title race as they are facing a top six side compared to teams in the bottom half for the Madrid clubs and they played a tough 90 minutes in England during the week. As well as this Barcelona do not have the best of records away at Sociedad as they have drawn two and lost two of their last four visits to the Estadio Municipal de Anoeta, including managing a 1-1 draw here ten days ago in the Copa del Rey Semi Finals.

Sociedad are impressive on home soil too with five wins and three draws in their last eight matches in front of their own fans and only Atlético have been them in a domestic match this season. Barcelona are unbeaten in nine on the road and have won six of these games, but with two losses before this nine game run they have won just over half of their last 11 road trips. They are likely to win this match, but I fear that it will not be as easy for them as the odds suggest and my money is on both of these sides to find the net, like in each of the last four Sociedad v Barcelona games.

Back both sides to score @ 1.59.

Osasuna v Atlético Madrid:

Osasuna – 6.80

Draw – 3.80

Atlético – 1.51

After having a tough time of things at the start of February where they suffered three successive defeats with Real Madrid beating them home and away in the Copa del Rey and 16th placed Almeria shocking them 2-0 away from home, Atlético have turned things around in their last two games with a 3-0 home win over 18th place Real Valladolid and then beating AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro in Champions League football in midweek. They will be full of confidence for this match in the final action on Sunday due to this and the fact that they have seven of the last eight meetings with Osasuna, including all of the last three away games.

Osasuna have recorded clean sheets in their last two games at home to Getafe, who they defeated 2-0, and with a 0-0 draw at Elche. Despite this Real Madrid and Bilbao, both sides in the top four in the league, came to the Estadio El Sadar in the last three matches and scored seven goals between them. I see this being another comfortable win for Atlético this weekend and I’m backing them to win the game by at least two goals.

Back Atlético -1 @ 1.90.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Chelsea can’t afford too many more stalemates

Everton's Tim Howard is chasing back-to-back clean sheets against Chelsea

Everton’s Tim Howard is chasing back-to-back clean sheets against Chelsea

With 12 games remaining in the Premier League season (or 13 for four of the league’s 20 teams), José Mourinho’s Chelsea sit at the summit of an increasingly congested top four.

The London club are unbeaten in their 13 games at Stamford Bridge, with title challengers Arsenal, ManchesterCity and Liverpool each suffering one home defeat so far this term, and the quartet know that any slip-up between now and the end of the season could be costly.

Chelsea v Everton Betting Odds:

Chelsea win – 1.55

Draw – 3.70

Everton win – 6.00

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

They have failed to score in only five of their 26 outings so far, including away games at Arsenal and Manchester United which they seemed to enter in the knowledge that a goalless draw would be satisfactory.

The other three include the home draw against West Ham, in which the hosts found visiting goalkeeper Adrián in imperious form, and an away match in November when they had the misfortune of getting in the way of Newcastle’s annual ‘can they keep this going? No, of course not, they’re managed by Alan Pardew’ terrifying run of form.

But it is the fifth of these five shutouts which comes to the fore this weekend, as Mourinho’s men host an Everton outfit looking to record their first league double over Chelsea in the Premier League era.

Questions were asked about the capabilities of Everton’s new manager Roberto Martinez before the season, and when the two sides met in September the jury was still out, with the Toffees having drawn their first three games.

However a 1-0 win through Steven Naismith’s goal settled any nagging doubts and put the Merseysiders on course for a solid season where they have in many ways pushed on from the David Moyes era, outshining their former manager in both entertainment and league position.

Scottish forward Naismith might have seemed an unlikely goalscorer, but this fixture has had a habit over the years of thrusting lesser names into the limelight. Former Everton prodigies Francis Jeffers and Danny Cadamarteri have both scored against Chelsea in the Premier League (Cadamarteri did it twice!), while one of Sam Dalla Bona’s six Chelsea goals came at GoodisonPark.

However with Chelsea conceding just nine times at home this campaign and Everton’s 14 away goals representing a lower total than 17th-placed West Bromwich Albion, I would not be surprised if this is another low-scoring game, however one goal could well be enough for the home side.

And at GR88.com, a fourth goalless draw of the season for Chelsea means money back on losing pre-match scorecast, correct score or half-time/full-time bets at GR88.com. Details of the Nil-Nil Money Back Offer can be found in GR88’s ‘promotions’ section.

Betting Instinct Tip: Under 1.5 goals is 3.50 with GR88.com

tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

North moves to centre to set up big battle with Bastareaud

Things don't get easier for Warren Gatland's Wales after the 26-3 defeat to Ireland last time out

Things don’t get easier for Warren Gatland’s Wales after the 26-3 defeat to Ireland last time out

Wales will be hoping to bounce back from their crushing 26-3 defeat against Ireland when France come to the Millenium Stadium.

 

Wales v France Betting Odds

Wales to win – 1.62

France to win – 2.30

Draw – 19.00

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Warren Gatland has made three changes for the Friday night fixture, with Mike Phillips dropping to the bench. George North moves to centre due to injury problems and Luke Charteris returns from injury. Mathieu Bastareaud returns for France, with injured Bernard Le Roux replaced by Wenceslas Lauret.

Lions and Racing Metro scrum-half Phillips will be replaced by Osprey Rhys Webb after a disappointing game against Ireland. Wales coach Warren Gatland isn’t one to sugar-coat his criticisms of his own players, and the fact that Phillips has been first choice Lions scrum-half in five out of the last six tests cuts no ice with the Kiwi, who brings in 5-cap Rhys Webb.

 

“We weren’t happy with Mike’s performance against Ireland… He was probably a little confrontational one-on-one with Conor Murray and was yellow-carded towards the end of the game,” the coach said.

“By putting him on the bench and giving Rhys Webb a chance, we’ve given him an opportunity to reflect. At the moment, we feel Rhys will give us a different dimension.”

 

George North moves into the centre due to injuries to Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams. “Wing is ideally where I have been playing for the past few years,” said North. “To put on the Welsh jersey, any position, is happy days. So for me it’s another challenge.”

The Northampton and Lions star will be replaced on the wing by Scarlets full-back Liam Williams.

 

It’s easy to forget that George North is still only 21. The young Lion will face a huge test in the middle with the colossal Mathieu Bastareaud returning from injury. Toulon centre Bastareaud has been struggling with a shoulder injury, but has been cleared to start on Friday.

Flanker Bernard Le Roux suffered a nasty blow in the 30-10 win against Italy. After struggling with concussion, he’ll be replaced by fellow Racing Metro flanker Lauret.

 

Wales have struggled for form in 2014’s 6 Nations campaign. They opened their account with an unconvincing, though admittedly comfortable, win against Italy in the Millennium Stadium. The 2013 campaign started slowly, with defeat against Ireland, however the Welsh went onto win the tournament.

No such bounce back this year, however. Wales suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Irish, losing 26-3. Up next is France, who are favourites to win the tournament after edging past England in the opening weekend, then cruising past Italy with a 30-10 victory.

 

It’s going to be a tough night for Wales. A repeat of last weekend’s performance will surely see a hammering from Les Bleus.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – While Wales have home advantage, they will have to make a big improvement on their last performance. France seem good value to win at 2.30 with Intertops.eu.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Rhys Priestland, Rhys Webb, Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (Captain), Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar, James Hook.

France: Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Mathieu Bastereaud, Wesley Fofana, Hugo Bonneval, Jules Plisson, Jean-Marc Doussain, Thomas Domingo, Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape (captain), Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Wenceslas Lauret, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Brice Mach, Yannick Forestier, Vincent Debaty, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly, Maxime Machenaud, Remi Tales, Gael Fickou

Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)
Assistants: John Lacey, Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

AntonyPAUL STOLLERY (paulstollery) is a Cardiff City fan and Ron Swanson enthusiast. He writes about football and rugby for Betting Instinct