Three big questions heading into the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

Can Joakim Noah help the Bulls spring a surprise?

Can Joakim Noah help the Bulls spring a surprise?

The NBA playoffs are one of the highlights of the sporting year: six weeks of non-stop, meaningful basketball games between the best teams in the world, and it doesn’t get better than the opening weekend, with eight back-to-back games dominating Saturday and Sunday’s TV schedules.

While the Western Conference has looked wide open all season, it’s Eastern counterpart has been dominated by the two teams who met in the Eastern final last spring – but will the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers return to face off?  Let’s have a look at three huge questions in the East.

 

NBA Eastern Conference Outright Betting Odds:

Miami Heat -143

Indiana Pacers +140

Brooklyn Nets +1200

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

 

Can the Heat go back-to-back-to-back?

Since the end of the Celtics-dominated 60s, only two teams have managed to ‘three-peat’ and win three titles in a row. Jordan’s Bulls did it twice in the 90s and the Shaq and Kobe-era Lakers did it at the start of this millennium. As if that wasn’t enough history weighing on the shoulders of the two-time defending champions, only once since 1966 has a team made four finals in a row (the mid-80s Lakers). If King James is to lead the Heat to glory again, he’s not only got to beat the best of the NBA, he’s also got history to contend with.  With home advantage in the East going to Indiana, a tired, aging Heat team may need their best postseason of the ‘big three’-era to go all the way.

 

What’s up with the Pacers?

Since starting the season like the best team in the league, the Indiana Pacers have had a massive wobble since the All-Star break. It’s hard to put an exact finger on their problems. Roy Hibbert has lost some of that Gandalf ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS’ ethic which saw him dominate the paint early on, Paul George’s breakout party got shut down and Lance Stephenson began to believe his own hype. Despite this, they’ve secured top spot in the East, and will fancy themselves to make it to the Eastern title game and host Miami. Their seven game series last year went the whole way, and if it does the same this time, Indiana will hold home advantage. If the Pacers from the first half of the season turn up, they’ll be very tough to beat.

 

Can anyone challenge the big two in the East?

It seems like the top two seeds in the East have been secured since before Christmas, and despite their problems no one has come close to matching the Heat and Pacers. But it’s a different looking lineup in the Eastern playoffs than in recent years. The Wizards have finally made good on their promise and have a young, exciting backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal; the Raptors have possibly the best guard in the East (Kyle Lowry), scoring talent and a fearsome home court, and Big Al Jefferson has led MJ and his Charlotte Bobcats into the playoffs. But the two toughest challenges will come from the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls are (probably) without Derrick Rose but the combination of coach Tom Thibodeau and centre, and genuine MVP candidate Joakim Noah mean that the Bulls are going to be tough for anyone to beat. The Nets had a nightmare start to the year, but have pulled themselves together to make the post-season, and go into it with a 4-0 record against Miami over the season.

 

 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Western playoffs may look sexier, but sexiness comes in many forms. Oh, great, now I’m imaging Chris Bosh in a mankini.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – If you’re looking at an outsider to tip, the Bulls are +1800 to win the Eastern Conference with AllYouBet.ag

 

Jamie avatar JAMIE CUTTERIDGE (jamiecutteridge) is a journalist for a real magazine, but spends an inordinate  amount of time writing about NFL. He’s the editor-in-chief of anygivensundaynight.co.uk and its associated  twitter feed @UKNFL

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Barca or Real to claim the Copa del Rey in tonight’s El Clásico?

A Lionel Messi hat-trick inspired a 4-3 Barcelona win in the last El Clásico, can the Argentine do the same tonight?

A Lionel Messi hat-trick inspired a 4-3 Barcelona win in the last El Clásico, can the Argentine do the same tonight?

The 2014 Copa del Rey tournament comes to a close this evening at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestella where Barcelona and Real Madrid will re-enact their 2011 Copa del Rey Final at this venue that saw a tight game with Real snatching victory in extra time to claim a 1-0 win. Last year saw Real beaten on home soil by city rivals Atlético Madrid and with Diego Simone’s men beaten 5-0 aggregate in the Semi Finals, they’ll be desperate to finish off what they started last season.

However, it is not the capital city side that are favoured to take victory in this evening’s final despite a crushing win over Atlético, who eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League over two legs recently, thanks to them missing talismanic attacker Cristiano Ronaldo through knee and hamstring issues. Will they upset the odds to win tonight without the Portuguese striker?

Copa del Rey Final Betting Odds:

Barcelona – 2.28

Draw – 3.40

Real – 2.58

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

Although Barcelona are favoured to beat Real Madrid this evening, are they really deserving of this favourites tag just because their opponents are missing their most important player for the match? The bookmakers clearly think so, but with away losses at Atlético Madrid and Granada in their last two games seeing them out of the Champions League and slip four points off the top of the La Primera Liga table are they now passed it? The last five games have seen Barca score more than a single goal in just one match and they are without a goal in two games before tonight. With Messi, Sanchez, Neymar, Iniesta, Xavi and the rest they still have more than enough to win any match, but with them not doing it regularly enough will they be defeated tonight and see them end the season with no silverware?

Real are not going to be as potent without CR7 in their ranks this evening, but he has not played a part in any of the sides last three matches and they have managed to score eight goals in this time. They defeated both Real Sociedad and Almeria 4-0 while also losing 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund in their second leg of the Champions League Quarter Finals. The Portuguese attacker was missed in Europe, but will the other star players in the side step up and put in the extra work. Players like Benzema, di Maria and Bale have been hit and miss at times this season, but they will just as desperate as Barcelona to win this trophy tonight in Valencia.

With the possibility of both sides matching each other in both the performing well or performing badly stakes tonight, how they have played in recent El Clásico matches could be the key to working out the winner tonight. The last six meetings between these teams have seen two wins apiece and two draws, with Barcelona winning the last two games between them, including taking a 4-3 win at the Bernabeu less than a month ago.

If the sides are equal in consistency and El Clásico performances, what could possibly separate the teams tonight? For me, Real have the better manager in Carlo Ancelotti and, while Barcelona have a perfectly good ‘A’ game if Ancelotti can outthink Martino, which he had done in March until Sergio Ramos’ red card, then this match is wide open for a Real Madrid victory. This is where my money is going on this evening’s Copa del Rey Final.

Back Real Madrid to beat Barcelona in this El Clásico and win the Copa del Rey Final @ 2.58 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.

Arsenal to win eight in a row v West Ham to reclaim 4th?

Arsenal celebrated at Wembley at the weekend, but will they celebrate tonight too?

Arsenal celebrated at Wembley at the weekend, but will they celebrate tonight too?

Sam Allardyce said in the build up to this evening’s Arsenal v West Ham clash at The Emirates Stadium in North London that they have still plenty to fear about relegation as they sit just seven points above the drop zone with four games to go after tonight. Realistically they have little to feat considering they are 11th and there are more than three teams much worse than them at this time to keep them safe even if they lose all remaining games. However, they will still be desperate to win tonight to ensure their safety and with Allardyce seeing how Wigan pushed Arsenal all the way to penalties he will be confident about firing up his charges to the extent that they give Arsenal a game in this all London Premier League clash.

Will the little fancied side from East London be able to cause a shock though?

Arsenal v West Ham Odds:

The Gunners – 1.43

Draw – 4.30

The Hammers – 7.00

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

Although they faced a long, difficult and tiring two hours, as well as penalties, at the home of English football at the weekend Arsenal will have themselves nicely worked up for this match thanks to the narrow 1-0 beating of Sunderland by Everton on Saturday saw the Merseysiders leapfrog The Gunners into the final Champions League spot. Regardless of their FA Cup Final appearance on May 16th Arsenal will want that top four place back and they have the perfect opportunity to do so against West Ham this evening.

Arsenal are unbeaten against The Hammers in seven years and 12 matches, including taking victory in each of the last seven games. They bounced back from 1-0 down at the start of the second half earlier this season to earn a comfortable 3-1 win and their home record has seen Arsenal score eight goals and concede just one in their last three clashes with West Ham at The Emirates.

West Ham have not been setting the world alight on the road this season with them taking just four away wins in 16 matches. Three of those have come in their last six away days against relegation strugglers Aston Villa, Cardiff City and Sunderland. The other away win came in North London as they ran riot against Arsenal’s biggest rivals Tottenham Hotspur and they claimed a 3-0 win, in their highlight of their away games this season.

I, personally, do not see a second North London victory for West Ham this evening as Arsenal have too much quality, even though they played 120 minutes on Saturday and West Ham have had more than week off, and they will score enough goals to win this game. However, I can also see the Arsenal defence being fragile, especially later on in the match, and I have a feeling that the smart money in this Arsenal v West Ham game is on both teams to find the net.

Back both Arsenal and West Ham to score @ 1.83 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

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.

All set for a German Cup Clásico!

 

Are we set for a Bayern vs. Dortmund cup final in Germany?

Will Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer meet archrivals Dortmund in the German Cup final?

In Spain it’s all eyes on the final of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday when Barcelona and Real Madrid go toe to toe in what should be another epic contest, and German football fans are expecting a similar showdown when their national cup competition reaches its climax. The DFB Pokal semifinals this midweek see both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund as big favourites to move on and meet in a “German Clásico” in the final.

Tuesday sees Dortmund take on Wolfsburg at their Signal Iduna Park, buoyed by an impressive 3-0 win at Bayern in the Bundesliga on Saturday evening. While there is little doubt that the Bavarians have other things on their mind after clinching the title at the end of March, nothing can be taken away from a clinical performance by coach Jurgen Klopp’s team at the Allianz Arena. Things won’t be easy, however, against a Wolfsburg side that is challenging for fourth place in the Bundesliga (and Champions League qualification) and is capable of matching (almost) anyone on their day.

Bayern need to get back on track ahead of next week’s Champions League showdown with Real Madrid and should be able to enjoy a real confidence boost when second division Kaiserslautern come calling. Coach Pep Guardiola is keen to add the cup to the Bundesliga title and will no doubt field a strong team to get the job done with a minimum of fuss to set up what most German football fans want (well expect those from Wolfsburg and Lautern of course!) – a cup final battle between Bayern and BVB!

DFB Pokal semifinal odds

Borussia Dortmund         1.4
Draw                                   4.5
Wolfsburg                          6.75

Bayern Munich                 1.05
Draw                                   11.0
Kaiserslautern                  26.0

Odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are correct of today, but are subject to change.

CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.

It’s FA Cup Semi Final Weekend!

We're down to four teams, but who'll make the FA Cup Final this weekend?

We’re down to four teams, but who’ll make the FA Cup Final this weekend?

The home of English football, Wembley Stadium, hosts the two FA Cup Semi Finals playing this weekend and all four teams will be desperate to return and fight to lift the trophy. Whoever progresses this weekend and reaches the final on May 16th will be impressive in their own right. Arsenal have failed to win a trophy in nine years, Wigan were relegated from the Premier League after lifting the trophy last season, Hull City have never reached the FA Cup Final and this Semi Final is their first in 84 years while the final side, Sheffield United, are mid-table in League One.

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

Wigan v Arsenal Odds:

Wigan – 6.20

Draw – 4.00

Arsenal – 1.46

Arsenal may come into this match as the favourites to progress to the final, but there will be masses of pressure, both internal and external, on the side to win this match. Their last trophy came in this competition in 2005 and with them having collapsed in the league from top spot at the start of the year to fighting for fourth place winning this match, and then the final, will be the only way that Arsenal can lift a trophy this season. There is pressure from the fans too as they are unhappy at the state of affairs at The Emirates, but will victory soothe the baying horde?

Wigan will be confident coming into the game following their progression to Wembley at the expense of Manchester City, whom they defeated for a second year running, and their recent revival under Uwe Rösler that has move into the Championship playoffs as they look for an immediate return to the Premier League. City put six past Arsenal on home soil, yet Wigan managed a 2-1 win there and have a 2-0 record at Wembley over the last 12 months so will they be able to upset the odds today?

I certainly feel that with the panic that Arsenal are feeling about their lack of trophies that they will be highly motivated for this match, yet, despite the division difference in the sides, Wigan are in the better form of the two teams and have shown they can mix it with the best sides in the Premier League. I see a close game between these two teams with plenty of goals to be scored by both sides.

Back both sides to score in this Wigan v Arsenal FA Cup Semi Finals match @ 1.80 with GR88.com.

Hull v Sheffield United Odds:

Hull – 1.67

Draw – 3.25

Sheffield United – 5.00

Although two divisions separate these two teams, the betting odds for this match leave the teams closer than the first FA Cup Semi Final between Wigan and Arsenal. Both sides are sat mid-table in their respective leagues with Hull having a solid season on their return to the Premier League, while Sheffield United’s season has improved vastly of late following an awful start that left them mired in relegation trouble for the first half of the season.

The outsiders to make the final have already beaten Aston Villa and Fulham from the Premier League on their march to Wembley and their excellent form has belied their position in the third tier of English football. They have lost just two of their last 17 games before this game and they will know that whatever happens this weekend they have nothing to lose, so they have the freedom to play naturally and this may payoff for them.

Hull have been at their best in this competition this season with them having kept three clean sheets in their five matches, as only Brighton found the net against them. They know that victory today will all but assure them of a place in Europe next season, and with their Premier League safety all but assured too they will give their all to this match on the hallowed turf of Wembley.

I see this being an open and exciting game of football, but I can see the Premier League side edging victory over their League One opposition this weekend.

Back Hull to win this match by at least two goals (Hull -0.75) @ 1.88 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

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.

Liverpool v Manchester City – A Potential Premier League Title Decider

Steven Gerrard will be looking to add to his 13 goals this season

Steven Gerrard will be looking to add to his 13 goals this season

 

Liverpool have been the irresistible force of 2014 in the Barclays Premier League. Brendan Rodgers and his players have notched up nine wins in a row in the league, the first team to do so in the last four years of the English top flight, and are steadily earning the tag of title favourites, never mind just being title contenders.

Sunday’s opponents were the unstoppable force of 2013. Manuel Pellegrini hit the ground running as Manchester City and could seemingly do very little wrong, a defeat at the Etihad Stadium to Bayern Munich aside, as his side romped to a string of impressive victories and scored hatful’s of goals as they went.

The meeting of the two this weekend makes for the most anticipated contest of the Premier League season so far. Both teams like to attack. Both teams like to score goals. And everything points to both teams showing up at Anfield on Sunday with the intention of winning the game.

 

Liverpool v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Liverpool win – 2.32

Manchester City win – 2.72

Draw – 3.40

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

 

Liverpool have shown that they don’t know any other way since Brendan Rodgers took over at the club. They don’t have the defence solidity to frustrate the attacking talents of Yaya Touré, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Agüero for 90 minutes. As such, it’s better for them to play with their front-foot forward. So what if they concede three goals away to Stoke? They’ll reply with five of their own.

As Chelsea and José Mourinho are starting to churn out a string of daunting home clean sheets, Brendan Rodgers has got his team playing with pace, verve and cutting edge. They go out, score early, sit on the lead and attempt to pick off their opponents through the pace of Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. The Reds lead the division for first half goals and had – up until recent handsome victories for David Moyes’ side – scored as many in the opening 45 minutes as Manchester United had managed in total in the Premier League.

 

Conversely, Manchester City are the highest scorers in the second half of Premier League matches this season. Manuel Pellegrini has been able to get the best out of the exceptional Yaya Touré and been rewarded with 18 league goals already this season. The Ivorian has been deadly from set-pieces, scoring free-kicks and converting penalties at will.

And what of a penalty to opening the scoring? Steven Gerrard is having his best goalscoring season since 2008/09 even though his campaign has been spent operating in a new, deeper, more disciplined midfield role than the England captain is used to. That’s thanks to the sheer number of penalties that Liverpool’s attacking trio have been able to earn. All three are quick off the mark and possess lightning fast feet that make pressuring them in the area a difficult task for fear of a clumsy challenge.

 

The match itself is hard to predict as Manchester City head to Liverpool needing to win. They have games in hand that make them title favourites but they can’t allow Liverpool to open up the gap to as many as seven points. Even a draw, leaving the difference at four points, isn’t ideal as it ramps up the pressure on the City squad to take maximum points from their remaining games.

An away victory will help deflate Liverpool’s title ambitions and just do enough to place doubt in their minds that they aren’t ready to compete with the very best in the Premier League.

 

For Liverpool, the possibilities that come with claiming all three points are only to be whispered around Anfield for now. On an emotional weekend, with every major game across England kicking off seven minutes later than normal to commemorate the 96 men, women and children that passed on that fateful day at Hillsborough, the Reds can take a huge step towards an unexpected league championship.

The decision for Brendan Rodgers will not be about trying to stop Manchester City. He has enough arrogance to support his own style of football and too much confidence in his attacking players to score goals that he’ll not revert from type, not even for these visitors. However, he may just err on the side of caution in midfield. Philippe Coutinho may miss out in midfield at the expense of Joe Allen or Lucas, in a similar fashion to the team that started at Old Trafford. But even then, it’ll just be to ensure his three flowing attackers have a platform to build off.

 

All I can promise you is goals – and plenty of them. Jose Mourinho has shown in big games so far this season that he is happy to kill the flow, speed and momentum of the game in favour of not losing. Thankfully both Manuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers are still interested in entertaining while winning. Their clashes with the other teams around them this season have produced a slew of goals.

Whichever way the game goes on Sunday afternoon and no matter the team that continues to have “destiny in their own hands” at the final whistle, they are sure to both find the back of the net. Even if Touré or Gerrard have to do it from the penalty spot.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Back there being more than 3.5 goals at 2.25 with Intertops.eu

 

Ryan avatar RYAN KEANEY (RyanKeaney) is a huge sports fan who spends most of his week toying around with  sports data. He is the editor of www.thefootballproject.net and a co-editor for In Bed with Maradona.

Dogfight to beat the Bundesliga drop!

Six teams still battling to beat the drop in the Bundesliga.

Hamburg coach Slomka faces his old team Hanover for a crucial game on Saturday.

The race to the German Bundesliga title is long over with nobody able to keep pace with an extraordinary Bayern Munich team this season, but at the other end of the table things are really hotting up as the season heads down the home straight.

With just five games to go, a total of six teams, separated by just four points, are still involved in a desperate dogfight to avoid the drop to the second division. Whilst most experts were sure that promoted Eintracht Braunschweig would struggle to survive, the names of several of the other strugglers are big surprises. Hanover and Freiburg had been hoping to build on recent success-stories in the league, but now find themselves back at the wrong end of the table and struggling for form. 2007 Bundesliga champions Stuttgart have a quality squad, but have simply been unable to get into gear since the winter break and the arrival of new coach Huub Stevens has proven to be of little benefit so far. Perhaps the biggest story of all is, however, Hamburg – the only club that has been in the Bundesliga since its inception in 1963.

As we head into matchday 30, HSV are 16th in the 18-team table -the position that would see them face a two-leg playoff against the team finishing 3rd in the German second division. Saturday sees them travel to northern rivals Hanover in a clash that is absolutely crucial to the future of both clubs. To add to the spice, current Hamburg coach Mirko Slomka was in charge of Hanover until he was sacked at the end of December. It will be a game full of emotion both on the pitch, on the sidelines and on the terraces and one thing is certain – the loser will have it all to do to stay alive in the race to stay up!

Hanover vs. Hamburg, Odds

Hanover            2.35
Draw                     3.4
Hamburg             2.75

Bundesliga: To be relegated

Eintracht Braunschweig                 1.28
Nuremberg                                        1.6
Stuttgart                                             2.75
Hamburg                                            2.85
Freiburg                                              5.5
Hanover                                           6.0

All odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are correct as of today, but subject to change.

CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.

 

Can Fulham record another great escape?

Roy Hodgson's arrival as manager had a big part to play in Fulham's survival

Roy Hodgson’s arrival as manager had a big part to play in Fulham’s survival in 2008

 

On April 1st, Fulham were bottom of the Premier League table, eight points behind Norwich City. This weekend they host the Canaries at Craven Cottage, and a win will bring them within two points of Neil Adams’ side.

Bearing in mind Norwich’s final four fixtures are against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, Felix Magath’s Fulham have every reason to be hopeful. And they have previous, too, twice escaping the grasp of relegation right at the death.

 

Fulham v Norwich City Betting Odds:

Fulham win – 2.06

Norwich win – 3.40

Draw – 3.20

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

 

 

In 2006-07, Lawrie Sanchez’s Fulham side finished just a point ahead of relegated Sheffield United, but their safety was secured with a game to spare thanks to Clint Dempsey’s winner against an under-strength Liverpool side. However another rescue mission from the West London club is one of the Premier League’s most miraculous escapes.

The famed ‘new manager bounce’ of Sanchez didn’t last too long, and when Roy Hodgson replaced the former Northern Ireland coach the club was third from bottom. That is where they stayed for much of the season, later dropping to 19th and entering the second week of April six points adrift of Birmingham City and Premier League safety, with just five games remaining.

 

 

With six games to go, they also had the added obstacle of a Bolton side struggling after replacing manager Sammy Lee with professional last resort Gary Megson, but with a reasonably inviting run-in. The Trotters sat one place above Fulham, but four points behind Birmingham. For both to survive would require something quite remarkable.

Bolton did their job, taking 10 points from four games against sides in mid-table and going into their final game merely needing to avoid a record-breaking defeat against a Chelsea side who – by the 80th minute – knew that results elsewhere had ended their own title hopes. Fulham’s task, however was much tougher.

 

 

It began in Reading, where the home side’s run of 10 points from five games in March looked to have secured their safety. The Royals weren’t completely out of danger, but an impressive home record (eight wins was more than the number recorded by sixth-place Portsmouth) was working in their favour, and another victory at the Madejski Stadium was likely to confirm their safety. Fulham, meanwhile, had last won a Premier League game in September 2006 – that’s more than 30 games without a victory on the road.

But for whatever reason, something clicked that afternoon – goals from Brian McBride and Erik Nevland gave Fulham a 2-0 win, and, more importantly, hope. It was that hope which inspired them in their next away game, when overturning a two-goal deficit against Manchester City ought to have been impossible. But three goals in the final 20 minutes, including a dramatic stoppage-time winner from substitute Diomansy Kamara, meant survival was in Fulham’s hands.

Fulham were said to be “relegated at half-time”, but by the end of the game there was hope once more. “It won’t be easy but I’m just glad for the club, the players and the supporters that we have given ourselves hope,” Hodgson said.

 

 

 

The next week they welcomed Birmingham, whose slide had been far less sudden. The January arrival of Argentinean striker Mauro Zárate had helped the club keep their heads above water, but their luck would eventually run out.

McBride and Nevland were Fulham’s heroes again, and the latter would go down as a cult hero – his only two goals that season came in the games against Reading and Birmingham, while he won the penalty against Manchester City from which Danny Murphy equalised at the second attempt.

 

 

But they still needed one more win. Not just any win either, a third successive away win, after having only recorded two in more than 50 outings. And against a Portsmouth side that still had a chance of European qualification through the league, although their forthcoming FA Cup Final appearance may have provided a distraction.

They couldn’t rely on Birmingham or Reading dropping points: the former had a home match against Blackburn Rovers, while the latter travelled to a Derby side already relegated with a record low points tally. Predictably, both went into the half-time break one goal to the good. On the south coast it was still goalless.

Then, with 14 minutes left, Fulham won a free-kick a few yards inside the Portsmouth half. Everyone went forward for Jimmy Bullard’s delivery, and with defenders watching the likes of McBride and Brede Hangeland, Murphy made an untracked run from deep to power a header past Jamie Ashdown.

 

 

 

 

There followed a tense few minutes, with Birmingham adding a second, third and fourth and Reading doing likewise. But there would be no more goals at Fratton Park, and Fulham survived to set up several years of mid-table comfort.

The Cottagers have not finished any lower than 12th in the five seasons since, but this year they need to repeat the feat of 2008. Six years on from the heroics of McBride, Nevland, Kamara and Murphy, will West London be holding the likes of Bent, Dejagah, Holtby and Sidwell in similarly high esteem? If that is to be the case, it will all have to start on Saturday.

 

Betting Instinct Tip Fulham to win 2-0 is 10.50 at GR88.com

 

If any of this weekend’s Premier League games end goalless, GR88.com will refund losing Correct Score, Half-Time/Full-Time or Scorecast bets on that match, as part of its Nil-Nil Money-Back Offer. This also applies to top-flight games in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, and to the Champions League. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

 

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.

Manny Pacquiao out for revenge in Timothy Bradley rematch

All eyes will be on the MGM Grand for one of the most hotly anticipated rematches this century

All eyes will be on the MGM Grand for one of the most hotly anticipated rematches this century

 

Over time, there has been a plethora of rematches which have been seen either as simply money generating fights or completely unjustified. This is neither of those.

You would be VERY hard pushed to find someone who didn’t score the first fight quite heavily in Manny Pacquiao’s favour. Even the fight’s judges – after a re-score – saw it that way. However the decision that mattered went in favour of Bradley. Be that as it may, it was still a hugely entertaining fight and the rematch looks to be no different.

 

Timothy Bradley v Manny Pacquiao Betting Odds:

Bradley to win +175

Pacquiao to win -222

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

 

The bout will see a clash of styles between two distinctive fighters. Pacquiao has his famously relentless swarming style which will continuously see opponents having to duck his hands, whereas Bradley is a more reserved boxer who looks to operate and work patiently from the jab. Styles very much make fights – as proven in their previous outing – so we’re sure to see another emphatic night of boxing.

The fight takes place on the 12th of April at the exquisite MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, for the WBO Welterweight title, and looking across the list of other fighters that these two have beaten really gives some indication of the magnitude of this epic.

 

Since losing to Bradley, Pacquiao lost an explosive encounter with Juan Manuel Marquez – which saw questions raised over the quality of Pacquiao’s chin owing to the loss being a KO –  before then comfortably dealing with Brandon Rios over 12 rounds.

The fight against Rios was more of an induction back into the division for the eight-division world champion. He won more or less every round and didn’t look overly troubled at any point. If there were any concerns to be raised, it would be that he was unable to knock Brandon Rios out over the course of 12 rounds.

 

With 2 losses in his last 3 fights – tarnishing his record (now 62-55-5) – this is a huge fight for Pac Man as he looks to establish himself back at the top of the game and hopefully in line for a shot at Mayweather Jr. We all know what we can expect from Pacquiao in this match; a hearty performance with fluidity, speed and a vehement drive to win. The judges caused an upset for him last time, so he’ll be looking to leave nothing to chance this time around.

 

After winning the WBO Welterweight title from Pacquiao, Bradley has added a couple more names to make for a very impressive CV. First, he beat Ruslan Provodnikov with a unanimous decision, though many (including myself) had the fight in Provodnikov’s favour. He had Bradley out on his feet (and the floor) several times during the fight and was seemingly unhurt at any stage during the 12 rounds. To his credit, Bradley showed great recovery and tremendous boxing skill to make it to the end.

A fight against Marquez was next – the obligatory matchup for anyone making a name for themselves. A close fight that went to split decision, Bradley just did enough to avoid defeat against the battle-worn Mexican. He’ll need to show the same level of technique for the rematch against Pacquiao for sure as he doesn’t have the power in his punches to knock him down.

Out of his 31 victories, the unbeaten Bradley has knocked out 12 opponents, and this could be of great importance this weekend: due to the controversial nature of the last outing, it’s highly likely that the judges will score in Pacquiao’s favour if the fight is a close one to call. Knocking out the challenger will be an excellent way for him to silence his critics he has ascertained since their last encounter.

 

Once again, Pacquiao – as he usually is – has to be favourite for this. Pacquiao only has a finite number of big fights left in him, I’m still convinced he’ll comfortably outscore Bradley, with a potential of a TKO coming in the later rounds. Take nothing away from Bradley, he is a fantastic boxer and has done exceptionally well to win his title. For me though, Pacquiao is just a class above and will rightfully regain a world title at this level.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Manny Pacquiao to win by decision or technical decision is +110 with Intertops.eu.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog.

Barcelona favoured to send Atlético crashing out of the Champions League tonight!

Neymar celebrates scoring the equaliser in the first leg of the Atlético v Barcelona tie

Neymar celebrates scoring the equaliser in the first leg of the Atlético v Barcelona tie

Talk about finely poised, this Atlético Madrid v Barcelona Champions League Quarter Final could not be tighter if it tried! Tonight’s match between these two sides will be the fifth meeting of the sides sitting first and second in the La Primera Liga in Spain, and all of the previous four matches have ended level. Two of the games have ended 1-1, including the first leg of this Champions League last eight stage tie, while two have seen the games end without a goal scored.

Barcelona claimed the Super Cup from Atlético at the start of the season thanks to their away goal at the Vincente Calderón, but their second visit saw them fail to find the net. If they cannot find the net in this third match in the Spanish capital this season then Atlético will have their revenge this evening. However, the visitors and four time European Cup/Champions League winners are favoured to overcome the Spanish league leaders. Will they do so or will tonight see another Atlético upset?

Atlético v Barcelona Betting Odds:

Atlético Madrid – 3.15

Draw – 3.25

Barcelona – 2.16

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

The first leg of this tie saw an utter domination of the ball by Barcelona at the Camp Nou as they finished the match with 74% possession and they completely outstripped the capital city visitors in chances too. Barcelona managed 12 shots, half of which were on target, while Atlético could manage a total of just two in the entire match. Yet it was the visitors who were more clinical despite losing their key player in Diego Costa after just 30 minutes of the game.

The Brazilian born player, who will be part of the Spanish national side for the World Cup in his homeland this summer, has been named in the squad for tonight’s game but he is still a doubt to play in front of his own fans. Midfielder Arda Turan is definitely out for the hosts this evening. Despite these injuries issues, Atlético will feel that they can still progress this evening thanks to a defence that has seen them concede just 22 times in 32 league games and just five times in nine Champions League matches, giving them the best totals in both competitions.

They have also shut out Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi on all four occasions that they have clashed this season, while their backs to the wall defensive performance in the second half of the first leg will have given them massive amounts of confidence and belief that they can reach the Semi Finals this evening. Barcelona have lost two of their four away games since beating Manchester City 2-0 on their way to this Quarter Final berth in Europe’s top club football competition.

They were beaten 3-1 at Real Sociedad and 1-0 at relegation threatened Real Valladolid, but have bounced back with a 4-3 El Clásico victory at the Bernabeu over ten man Real Madrid and a 1-0 win over local rivals Espanyol, who also finished with ten men, in their last two away games. With the way that Atlético defend, it may be essential that the Madrid side see a red card if Barcelona are to progress too!

I, personally, believe that, even with the close odds between these two teams, that this match will be closer than the odds suggest and the game could be settled on the first leg score or by a single goal in what promises to be a cagey and tight game. As a result of this, my money is again on few goals between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona this evening.

Back 0/1 goals in the Two Goals No Bet Market on this Atlético Madrid v Barcelona match this evening @ 2.62 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.