Italy v Ireland – Can the Irish repeat the historic 1-0 win of 20 years ago?

Ray Houghton scores the winner for Ireland against Italy at the 1994 World Cup, can Ireland beat the Italians 20 years later too?

Ray Houghton scores the winner for Ireland against Italy at the 1994 World Cup, can Ireland beat the Italians 20 years later too?

We are less than three weeks away from the 20th anniversary of the stunning Ray Houghton strike at the 1994 World Cup that saw Ireland secure their first ever win over the Italians as they managed to qualify for the last 16 stage of the tournament. Italy later went on to lose the final to Brazil as Italian hero Roberto Baggio blazed over during the shootout, but with them coming into tonight’s match looking for their first win since last September Italy will be desperate to return to winning ways before jetting out to Brazil for the World Cup.

Italy v Ireland Betting Odds:

Italy to win – 1.67

Draw – 3.20

Ireland to win – 5.10

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

Italy had a reasonably comfortable time to qualify for the World Cup this summer as they topped Group B of the UEFA qualification section with 22 points from six wins and four draws from their ten matches as they finished six points ahead of Denmark. However, two of those draws came in their final two matches as they limped over the line and their poor form has seen them fail to win since that time. They are without a win in any match since September 2013 and following those two competitive draws the Italians drew 1-1 with Germany and 2-2 with Nigeria to close out their matches for 2013. They had to come from a goal down in each of those matches to secure a point, but they were unable to do this against world champions Spain in Madrid as the game ended 1-0 with a thoroughly dominant performance from the hosts.

Italy will want to boost their confidence in tonight’s match, which is being held at the neutral venue of Fulham’s Craven Cottage in West London, by ending their eight month winless streak before they face Luxembourg in Verona next week and then begin their World Cup campaign against England on June 14th. They should have a good chance against the Irish this evening to end this streak as well.

Ireland are under new management of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane following a disappointing end to their World Cup qualification campaign under Giovanni Trapattoni and things have not been easy for them so far. They have won just one of four matches since the appointment, when they defeated Latvia 3-0 in Dublin, before drawing 0-0 with Poland at the end of November 2013 and both matches this year have seen them defeated. They played Serbia in March and Turkey a week ago, and they lost 2-1 in both matches and are still adjusting to life under their new coaches but they do tend to life their game against Italy so this should be an interesting match.

Ireland have drawn two and won one of their last four meetings with Italy since 2009 and they will be hopeful of ending their 100% losing record in 2014 this evening in London, but with Italy having just two days to trim their provisional squad for the World Cup from 30 to 23 players there will be many players fighting for a place on the plane to Brazil this evening so, in my eyes, they will be the side that wants it more. Ireland are sure to be up for the match though and I can see this being a close game that will see both sides find the net in search of ending their winless runs.

Back both teams to score in this evening’s Italy v Ireland World Cup warm up game at Craven Cottage @ 2.06 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.

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Can England secure the ODI series at Lord’s?

Ian Bell adds more runs on his way to 41 not out in a comprehensive 3rd ODI victory for England in Manchester.

Ian Bell adds more runs on his way to 41 not out in a comprehensive 3rd ODI victory for England in Manchester.

The ODI series between England and Sri Lanka has been a topsy turvy affair so far with the first three one day international matches seeing a close England win then a bounce back from Sri Lanka to make it 1-1 after two matches with a 157 run win at Chester-Le-Street. However, the third game in Manchester saw England run riot, thanks to a Chris Jordan masterclass with the ball, to limit Sri Lanka to just 67 runs before Alistair Cook and Ian Bell wrapped up the match in less than an hour. Victory for the hosts at Lord’s again today will see them take an unassailable lead in this five game series, but will they win it today or can Sri Lanka push it to the decider at Edgbaston on Tuesday?

England v Sri Lanka 4th ODI Betting Odds:

England to win – 1.69

Sri Lanka to win – 1.99

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

Coming into this 4th ODI at the home of English cricket, Lord’s cricket ground in central London, it is the hosts who have all the momentum after delivering a crushing blow to Sri Lanka last time out. Chris Jordan secured the man of the match award in Manchester after an amazing five wicket haul and just 29 runs conceded from eight overs and it he is sure to have the eyes of the world on him again in this one day clash. However, James Anderson removed both the Sri Lankan openers in Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan as well as ceding just ten runs in seven overs, two of which were maidens.

While the English bowlers were on fire in Manchester during the 3rd ODI, this series has seen some inconsistent batting from both sides with just two English batsmen reaching double figures in the 2nd ODI at Chester-Le-Street and two of the top three for the guests at the Oval in the 1st ODI in Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara scoring a total of eight. If this form continues today, I feel that it is likely to be England that cope best as Jordan has bagged himself nine wickets over the three tests, standing head and shoulders above the rest of the bowlers.

As well as the form of the 25 year old Barbados born Sussex player helping towards a home win in this 4th ODI the weather at Lord’s is expected to be fine for this match causing the pitch to lose pace. If this should happen then, just like in the T20 match between these sides recently and several county cricket matches of late, the score rate late on is likely to drop and leave us with a low scoring match. The advantage from this will only help the bowlers and I foresee another, and third from four matches, star man performance from Jordan to lead England to victory in this ODI series.

Back England to beat Sri Lanka in the 4th ODI match at Lord’s @ 1.69 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.

French Open – key talking points

A fifth straight title for Rafael Nadal seems inevitable

A fifth straight title for Rafael Nadal seems inevitable

With the French Open well underway, the draws for the men’s and women’s singles tournaments couldn’t be more different.

On the women’s side the top two seeds – Serena Williams and Li Na – have both fallen to unexpected defeats in the first week. However in the men’s draw the all-conquering Rafa Nadal has been joined in the third round by last year’s losing finalist David Ferrer, as well as the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Murray. Of the top eight seeds, only Stanislas Wawrinka has been eliminated.

With that in mind, a few big questions remain about the second grand slam of 2014.

 

Is Nadal Unstoppable

While the other three grand slams have been shared between the world’s elite, few have an answer for Nadal on clay.

The 27-year-old has won at Roland Garros in eight of the last nine years and is pushing for a fifth consecutive title this time around. Robin Söderling is the only man to beat him at the French Open ever, which is quite a feat.

Neither Robby Ginepri nor Dominic Thiem ever looked like ending the Spaniard’s remarkable run, and it looks unlikely that third-round opponent Leonardo Mayer will do so either. On current form the Argentine will by lucky to take a set.

 

Can Ana Ivanovic cap her return to form?

Serbian star Ivanovic is one of only three former champions left in the women’s draw, and a strong showing in Paris could cap a stunning turnaround.

A rising star of the game when she won at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic endured a tough and trophy-less year in 2013. However with the top three all out, she is returning to form at the right time.

Victory this week would send out a huge statement, and with wins in Auckland and Monterrey to add to an impressive quarter-final showing in the Australian Open, anything is possible

 

Will any French players impress?

While a home victory seems unlikely, there are a number of French talents looking to make a splash in Paris this fortnight.

In the women’s draw, the only French seed, Alizé Cornet, was knocked out in the second round. However 21-year-old Kristina Mladenovic is still standing and carrying the hopes of a nation along with Pauline Parmentier.

On the men’s side, home hopes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Gaël Monfils and Richard Gasquet have all made it into the third round. However all face challenging opponents, not least Simon who goes up against number eight seed Milos Raonic.

Could one of the four upset the odds and make a run to the quarter-finals? With the backing of the home crowd, who knows.

Betting Instinct tip – Monfils and Gasquet to both win their matches on Saturday is 3.94 with GR88.com 

 

GR88.com is offering new players a 100% welcome bonus up to £100, to mark the start of a huge sporting summer. Next up after the French Open is the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and with it a chance to win $1,000,000 in GR88’s prediction challenge.

 

tv TOM 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. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

 

Swiss set for World Cup surprise!

Are the Swiss a team to watch in Brazil?

Ottmar Hitzfeld could make a splash with Switzerland at the World Cup!

“Been there, done that”, would be an appropriate phrase to sum up Ottmar Hitzfeld’s glittering coaching career, but the veteran still has one major goal before he retires in just a few weeks’ time – to make a World Cup splash with the Swiss national team.

After winning all that there is to win in club football with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, Hitzfeld took over the reins of the “Nati” in 2008. He led his young side to the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010, where they became the only team to defeat the future champions from Spain. The campaign ended, however, in a frustrating exit after the group phase following a loss to Chile and a disappointing draw with Honduras. Four years on, Hitzfeld has a squad that has gained plenty of international experience playing in some of Europe’s top leagues and could well be ready to spring a surprise or two in Brazil. The likes of Gökhan Inler, Blerim Dzemali and Valon Behrami (Napoli), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg) and Granit Xhaka (Monchengladbach) all play major roles at their clubs and know that they have the class to succeed at the top level.

Drawn to face France, Ecuador and Honduras (again) in Group E, there is every reason to believe that Hitzfeld’s team can progress to the knockout phase this time around. The German coach will have the perfect match-plan for each opponent and his quality players have both the skill and the will to go far and so present their boss with the perfect retirement present!

Switzerland to win Group E: Odds 3.75

Switzerland to beat France: Odds 3.5

Switzerland to reach the World Cup quarterfinals: Odds 4.0

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.

Championship Playoff Final – The richest game in English football

John Eustace celebrates scoring the winner against QPR earlier this year, will he celebrate again today?

John Eustace celebrates scoring the winner against QPR earlier this year, will he celebrate again today?

The Championship Playoff Final is billed as the richest game in football with the winners of this 90 minute clash at the home of English football – Wembley Stadium – receiving a place in the Premier League and it’s vastness of riches. In recent years it was said that victory in this match was worth at least £60m, but with a new television rights deal having come into play last year the figure is even higher now, with the side finishing bottom of the Premier League in the 2013/14 season in Cardiff City claiming £74m.

Today’s match sees the third clash of Derby County and Queens Park Rangers this season and the sides that finished third and fourth in the league will be desperate to get their hands on the bag of gold awaiting them. Derby have been working from a small budget this season with less than £1m spent this season on transfers while QPR need to justify the massive amount of money spent since being taken over. Who’ll emerge victorious at full time?

Championship Playoff Final Betting Odds:

Derby – 2.18

Draw (and extra time) – 3.05

QPR – 3.10

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

Derby come into this final in outstanding form having won seven and drawn one of their final eight matches of the season, including winning 2-1 away at Brighton and then recording a 4-1 victory on home soil against the same side in the playoff semi finals. They have scored 90 goals in their 46 regular season games and two playoff matches this season as they finished as the league’s top scorers. Former England manager Steve McClaren has set them up as an attacking side since taking over from Nigel Clough at the end of September and despite their lack of experience in big games, like this Championship Playoff Final today, they will fear nobody and will be sure to use their vast arsenal of attacking players to go and take the game by the throat as their gameplan to ensure that it is they who are playing in the Premier League next season.

QPR are the more experienced of the two sides in these type of matches having splashed out so much money on top level players that have played at World Cups, won cup finals and have been promoted to the Premier League both automatically and via the playoffs. However, they struggled to overcome Wigan in the semi finals drawing 0-0 at the DW Stadium before drawing 1-1 in normal time at Loftus Road as they needed an extra time goal to secure their passage to Wembley this afternoon. They ended the season with just two wins in their final six games and have lost three of their last eight matches before today. They have a better defensive record than Derby, but do not score as many goals so will they be able to use the skills of their backline to ensure they are in with a chance of snatching victory against the free scoring Derby side?

The sides have shared a victory apiece when they have met this season with both teams recording one goal victories on home soil, and both of these wins came when they were one of the more dominant sides in the league. I feel that despite their lack of big game experience Derby are the better and more complete footballing side of these two finalists and that they are deserving of being the favourites. I see this match being another close game, but I am backing them to secure a return to the Premier League since their ill-fated 11 point season in 2007/08.

Back Derby to win this Championship Playoff Final against QPR and return to the Premier League @ 2.18 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.

Champions League – Three Key Moments

Might things be different had Zlatan Ibrahimović not picked up an injury?

Might things be different had Zlatan Ibrahimović not picked up an injury?

As Lisbon’s Éstadio da Luz prepares to welcome Madrid’s biggest clubs for this season’s Champions League final, Betting Instinct takes a look at some of the flashpoints which have defined this season’s competition.

 

Champions League outright betting odds:

Real Madrid – 1.48

Atlético Madrid – 2.52

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

 

  1. Henrikh Mhkitaryan hits the post, 8 April

Last year’s finalists Borussia Dortmund had all but been written off as long-term defensive injuries left them fighting an uphill battle since the early stages of the season. They edged a three-way tie at the top of their group and managed to sneak unconvincingly past Zenit St Petersburg in the last 16, meaning a 3-0 first-leg defeat in their quarter final first leg in Madrid was disappointing but not unexpected.

Real Madrid were themselves not at full-strength for the return game at Signal Iduna Park, with Cristiano Ronaldo only fit enough for the bench and Marcelo also missing, but few expected the Germans to cause too many problems. That was until two first half goals from Marco Reus shook things up.

There was always a sense that a chance for an equaliser would arrive, and when that moment came it fell to record signing Mhkitaryan, a replacement for last year’s star Mario Götze. The Armenian showed great composure to round Iker Casillas but could only find the foot of the post with a shot from a narrow angle. Real held on and didn’t receive anything like as big a scare in their comprehensive semi-final victory over Dortmund’s domestic vanquishers Bayern Munich.

 

  1. Adrián keeps calm, 30 April

Atlético Madrid’s phenomenal season has largely been attributed to the two Diegos – manager Simeone and 36-goal forward Costa. However it was one of the club’s less illustrious names who played a big part in their progress to the final.

In discussions of Atlético’s firepower, Adrián is essentially ‘the other one’. The former Deportivo forward has just one league goal this campaign, and both Costa and Spanish record scorer David Villa have claimed more of the plaudits. The first of his Champions League goals this campaign – the opener in a 1-1 draw with Zenit – was just the appetiser for one far more significant.

After a goalless semi-final first leg against Chelsea, Atléti went behind to their former star Fernando Torres in the return leg. However just a minute before half time Tiago floated a ball to the back post, Juanfran reached it and as Chelsea’s goalkeeper and defenders panicked Adrián kept his cool to direct the ball low into the corner of the net. It came at a perfect time for Simeone’s side, who then went on to score twice more after the break to seal their place in Lisbon.

 

 

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimović injures his hamstring, 3 April

While there is little doubting that the two remaining teams both deserve their place in the final, it’s always fun to adopt a Butterfly Effect approach to a certain player’s absence from a key game.

Despite Sweden’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, 2013-14 has been a sensational season for Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has scored 40 times in 44 games, winning Ligue 1 player of the season as he led Paris Saint-Germain to a second successive title. However the club will ask themselves whether they might have got further in Europe had he not been injured in the first leg of their quarter-final against Chelsea – indeed The Guardian‘s Daniel Taylor described the injury as “the most encouraging news [for Chelsea] from the first leg”.

PSG won that game 3-1, but the absence of the Swede for the return game in London prompted an overly cautious approach from coach Laurent Blanc, without a comparable attacking outlet to take the game to their opponents or even just to relieve some of Chelsea’s pressure. Ultimately a timid PSG went out on away goals and missed the chance to take on Atléti for a place in the final – who knows what kind of difference a healthy Zlatan could have made.

 

Betting Instinct tip – in what looks likely to be a tense encounter in Lisbon, less than 2.5 goals can be backed at 1.69 with GR88.com

If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or less in Saturday’s final then GR88.com will refund selected losing bets which were winning before the goal went in. For full details, visit http://www.gr88.com/promotions.

 

tv TOM 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. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Champions League Final – Atletico Madrid Hope to Benefit from Underdog Status

Can Cristiano Ronaldo (left) find a way past Thibaut Courtois?

Can Cristiano Ronaldo (left) find a way past Thibaut Courtois?

 

I’ve been to Madrid. I went in 2010, not 2014. I went in January, not June. And I went to Madrid, not Lisbon, and that’s where my stumbling lead-in towards serious analysis of the Champions League final, this season held in the Portuguese capital, falls apart. Onwards and upwards. Well, onwards, anyway.

To try and cut down on the narrative, it’s Real Madrid v. Atletico Madrid this year, and— huh? They’re both from Madrid? Oh, so they are! This is actually a big deal – Atletico have only won two of their last 30 games against Real one of those wins coming this season. Real have lost in four of the five Copa Del Rey they have played against Atletico. Atletico won La Liga this season, and Real finished third. And Atletico are looking to win their first ever Champions League, and Real want to win their tenth. It’s a real shame it’s not being played in Madrid – my first paragraph might’ve been better, too.

 

Champions League Final Betting Odds:

Real Madrid to win in 90 minutes – 1.92

Atletico Madrid to win in 90 minutes – 4.00

Scores level after 90 minutes – 3.20

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

 

There was a point in this season’s competition when things started to feel pre-determined. It might’ve been after Atletico upset some sort of odds to beat Milan, and Real rolled over a German team, or maybe when Atletico upset actual odds to beat Barcelona, and Real rolled over another German team, or maybe it was when Atletico half-upset the odds to beat Chelsea, and Real rolled over another German team. Diego Simeone will worry that their stunning La Liga victory might be overshadowed if the trophy sits in the Real bus back to the Spanish capital, and Carlo Ancelotti will worry that there are no more German teams left to play.

A little unsure of what to make of this game, I asked my Chelsea-supporting friend Michael to give me the tactical lowdown. Here’s what he thinks: “Expect Atletico’s main attacking outlet to be early/diagonal crosses into the box which shows how stingy this team is – attacking without any major commitment forward. They’re like those vines in Harry Potter, the more you struggle the worse it gets. If Real can keep a balance for 90 minutes and not lose their heads should they go a goal down, there’s no reason why they can’t produce the quality to beat Atletico.”

 

Time will tell if Michael knows what he’s talking about, but I like his ideas, and a rare Harry Potter reference in the world of tactical analysis. Atletico have come this far doing generally the same thing – pressing hard when play is high up the field, then locking things down when it crosses the halfway line. Real, the fastest football team this side of a football team of racing cars (someone should make one of these if it doesn’t already exist – ed), will be given more of the ball as Atletico look to sit deep and hit on the counter, which might frustrate them until everyone remembers Cristiano Ronaldo can do anything, and is always a decent shout to score. Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema look likely to make up the front line, with Xabi Alonso the notable absence in Ancelotti’s squad due to a suspension.

Across the city, Atletico are in a bit of trouble. Arda Turan is struggling for fitness, and Chelsea-bound Diego Costa is holed up in Serbia having afterbirth being rubbed up and down his leg – without going into too much detail about a procedure in which placenta fluid is massaged onto the skin around the affected area, things aren’t great. But look, nobody expected Atletico to make it this far, and if you know someone who says they did, then you know a liar.

 

Selection headaches aside, it’ll be tense as hell and twice as Spanish. Diego Simeone doesn’t present himself as the kind of guy who’d accept defeat, and fans of Real Madrid expect a win – and this might work in Atletico’s favour. Leading the underdogs again, Simeone must know that a defeat for Real would be more disastrous than a defeat for his side, and Atletico could well frustrate their way deep enough into the game that Los Merengues lose their nerve.

I’d lean towards a narrow win for Real – Atletico will miss Costa if he doesn’t play – but given what these sides have offered already this season, it’s hard to call with any certainty. Is there a market for a winner from Madrid? That’d be way easier to predict.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Either team to win by a one-goal margin is 2.32 with GR88.com

 

Max avatar MAX 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. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Hamilton hoping for a champagne shower, not a rain shower

 

Monaco is probably the most recognisable Grand Prix circuit in the world

Monaco is probably the most recognisable Grand Prix circuit in the world

The Monaco Grand Prix is probably the most clichéd sporting event in the world. If I was given £1 for every time the words ‘glitz’ and ‘glamour’ were mentioned over the course of the week of the race, I’d probably be able to afford a trip to the principality next year…well, providing I don’t try and buy any loaves of bread there.

What is the Monaco Grand Prix, though? To be honest, it’s the second-biggest pain in the arse of the F1 season (the biggest being the annual Bernie Ecclestone Offensive-Comment-a-Thon). It’s that one time a year when the rich and famous crawl from under their rocks and turn up at an F1 race, claiming they have always loved the sport and that they want the red car to win. The races are generally tedious processions, as it’s virtually impossible to overtake around the circuit; believe it or not, what Herbie did in the tunnel in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo is actually impossible.

And it’s also incredibly dangerous – there’s not much stopping a car leaving the circuit and flying into a building or the harbour. Even the various safety improvements, taking the barriers back and thus making crashing far less likely (and the races more predictable), have not changed that.

And yet…the place has an aura. Nothing in F1 beats the feeling when watching the first moment of qualifying, where a car comes out of the pits and accelerates up the hill to Casino Square for the first time. As a circuit that’s only active for two weekends per year (the other being the Historic Grand Prix weekend, which clashed with the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend and proved to be much more interesting than the ‘real’ thing), it has still retained its special feel.

 

Monaco Grand Prix Betting Odds:

Lewis Hamilton – 1.60

Nico Rosberg – 2.60

Sebastian Vettel – 15.00

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

 

Only the relatively minor events in Pau and Macau can compare for racing around such a dramatic city. Only the Indianapolis 500 (which incidentally takes place on the same day as Monaco) and the Le Mans 24 Hours have the history and status to match it. Ask any lay person about motorsport and Monaco is probably one of the things they will mention. Ask any lay person about Monaco and the grand prix is probably the first thing they will mention.

 

But the bigger picture entering Monaco week is that this may be another two-horse race. Lewis Hamilton arrives at the principality having won the last four races, and his team having won all five of this season’s grands prix. Lewis has only won the race once, but the way in which he won it suggests more are to come: in 2008, he recovered to win a dramatic wet races after an early puncture. He has always performed well and the circuit suits his driving style. Once again, he enters this race as the favourite for victory.

Team mate Nico Rosberg is also at home on the streets of Monte Carlo – quite literally, in this case, as he lives here. He won last year’s race convincingly, having finished second in 2012. After four second-place finishes in a row, he is undoubtedly keen to pick up his second win of the season; a fifth consecutive finish behind Hamilton will only increase the Englishman’s momentum and make it much more difficult for him to keep pace.

 

But while Mercedes’ dominance this year has been crushing thus far, there are some who doubt they can maintain it on the Monegasque streets, including Fernando Alonso. However, a Ferrari challenge seems unlikely judging by recent form, despite Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen having a combined total of three wins here themselves. Amazingly it’s now 13 years since Ferrari last won in Monaco, making it one of the team’s longest barren runs. The last win came courtesy of Michael Schumacher, who somehow managed to contrive not to win here during his most dominant seasons, a lesson Hamilton and Rosberg should heed.

The most likely challengers to Mercedes should be Red Bull, who have emerged as best-of-the-rest despite a rocky winter testing period and the disappointing Renault engine. Before Rosberg’s win last year, they had won three consecutive Monaco Grands Prix, with two wins for Mark Webber and one for Sebastian Vettel, who benefited from a late race stoppage in 2011. The champion’s record around Monaco has been inconsistent, which may again play into the hands of young team mate Daniel Ricciardo, fresh off the back of his first career podium in Spain.

 

You can probably also count on a challenge from Williams. Felipe Massa is a former pole sitter at Monaco, while Valtteri Bottas is performing well up against the experienced Brazilian, having qualified fourth in Barcelona. But like Ferrari, the team also don’t have a great record here, with their last win coming in 2003 with Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel; their previous victory came courtesy of Nico’s father Keke Rosberg in 1983. A podium here this year would be a very good result for them.

As for McLaren, they are slowly slipping back into the midfield despite a positive start, with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen struggling to live up to the high expectations. They are no longer even the third-best Mercedes-powered team, with Force India now more likely to score points; they picked up a fifth place finish at Monaco last year thanks to Adrian Sutil, and a similar result would provide them with a major points boost.

But once again, this is Mercedes’ race to lose. They have the pace, the reliability and the drivers to secure another win. However, the Monaco Grand Prix is rarely that simple, especially factoring in the weather conditions. Rain is forecast for Sunday, and wet streets can make this race unpredictable, because while Monaco may have changed a lot since 1929, it’s still a street circuit, with bumps and slippery white lines. All of the great drivers have made mistakes here. If there’s one race Mercedes could lose this season, it is this one.

 

Betting Instinct tip – with Mercedes so dominant this season, there may be some value in more niche markets. Nico Rosberg to record the fastest lap, as he has done in three of the five grands prix so far, is 2.90 with Intertops.eu

 

Sports blogger JamesJAMES BENNETT (James) is a History MPhil/PhD student, who writes about soccer, Formula 1 and the NFL in his spare time to pay for his studies. He is also a Torquay United fan. He publishes articles in his sports blog, and you can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Can England beat the Twenty20 world champions at The Oval?

England defeated Sri Lanka at the World T20 tournament, now can they do so again today?

England defeated Sri Lanka at the World T20 tournament, now can they do so again today?

Sri Lanka kick off their tour of England, that will see them play five ODI matches and two tests as well as today’s singular Twenty20 match, at The Oval this evening in a meeting of the two sides that won the World Twenty20 championship and the only side to defeat them in Bangladesh. Sri Lanka scorched to victory at the start of April at the tournament and, despite securing victory against the eventual champions, England’s loss to the Netherlands in the group stage saw them crash out in disgrace.

The last two months have seen big changes for England, with Paul Farbrace moving from Sri Lanka to take over the limited overs side, and after a ODI win over Scotland to their name in their only match following the World T20 competition they will be confident of a second straight win over Sri Lanka today.

England v Sri Lanka Betting Odds:

England Victory – 1.74

Sri Lanka Victory – 1.92

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

England are certainly a side capable of winning this match following their outstanding performance against the Sri Lankan side in Bangladesh that saw them set 190 runs from 20 overs to win. They overcame the long odds going into bat to secure their biggest run chase in Twenty20 history thanks to Alex Hales and today’s England captain Eoin Morgan. Hales became the first ever Englishman to secure a T20 century with 116 and Morgan added another 57 runs to the total as England took victory – their only win in Bangladesh – with four balls to spare.

However, losses to South Africa and the Netherlands, who are not exactly a top cricket nation, saw England return home with their tails between their legs. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, went from strength to strength with 59 run win over New Zealand before eliminating the West Indies at the semi-final stage and then beating India, the top ranked Twenty20 side in the world, by six wickets to claim victory.

They have since lost Paul Farbrace to their hosts in this Twenty20 clash at The Oval tonight, but they have still looked impressive as they played their way around the UK and Ireland since the start of May. They have been scheduled for five matches and although one was washed out against Ireland four of these were ODIs. Their only T20 warm up came against Sussex at Hove on Sunday and after being set 127 to win the match they breezed by the total after just nine overs and a single ball without the loss of a wicket as Kithuruwan Vithanage and Tillakaratne Dilshan scored 52 and 73 respectively to secure victory before the halfway stage of the match.

Despite being the outsiders to win this match Sri Lanka have won both T20 clashes while on tour in England and with their loss to the English in Bangladesh as well as their poaching of coach Farbrace, they will be highly motivated to win at The Oval this evening. I feel that such a difficult match for England has come too soon into the new regime and that they are undeserving of being the favourites. Sri Lanka offer the better value and I am backing the guests to secure victory this evening.

Back Sri Lanka to defeat England in this Twenty20 match at The Oval @ 1.92 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.

NBA Conference Finals: Momentum Swinging in Spurs’ Favour

Tony Parker's return to fitness comes at the perfect time

Tony Parker’s return to fitness comes at the perfect time for the Spurs

And so, after all the shouting and the noise about “the best playoffs ever”, we’re left with the 1 and 2 seeds in each conference. These will be two hard fought series, two slogs and we may well be in it for the long haul.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder vs San Antonio Spurs Series Betting Odds:

OKC to win series +180

Spurs to win series -220

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

 

On the 16th May, this series took a seismic shift in the Spurs’ favour.

Both teams awaited news on key players – Tony Parker and Serge Ibaka. Whilst the Spurs expect Parker to be fine and play in Game 1, the Thunder haven’t got quite so lucky. They expect Ibaka to miss the entirety of the post season and that is massive. Ibaka did a great job on Blake Griffin and presumably would have got the Tim Duncan match-up. Kendrick Perkins is a really good post defender but he’s not very good at much else and the Thunder haven’t played him all that much (21 MPG for a starter) so it leaves him as a black hole on offense, especially galling when we take into account the Nick Collison will be the likely starter in Ibaka’s spot. Collison is a really under-rated player, another great post defender and a sneakily good passer but again, his offense leaves something to desire. When 2 of that pair and Steven Adams are on the court, the Thunder’s offense descends into hero ball with whichever of their superstars they have out. Well, slightly moreso.

This Thunder team leaves a real feeling of having another rung to go to, one that might never be reached with Scott Brooks. Durant and Westbrook are two top of 5-7 players in the league depending on who you ask and that means they are a threat. But a Clippers team with an injury hampered Chris Paul took the Thunder 6 games and might well have got them to a game 7 if it weren’t for a couple of bone headed plays from Paul and some poor officiating. The Spurs are a step above the Clippers. They are a joy to watch when they have it going and vitally, in Kawhi Leonard, they have a superb perimeter defender, vying with Paul George and Tony Allen as the best in the league. Kevin Durant averages 26.3 PPG against the Spurs, less than against anyone else (as an aside, how damn good do you have to be that over 26 PPG is disappointing?). Tony Parker is in the LeBron category of finishers at the rim, a supremely gifted scorer who will get his points. They have two 3 point threats in Kawhi and Danny Green and then one of the league’s best big pairings, the forever young Duncan and Tiago Splitter who is a great defensive presence and a really nice finisher in the pick and roll. The team doesn’t leap off you on paper but it works, in no small thanks to Coach Popovich who is arguably the best ever. Add in the best bench in the league, led by a resurgent Manu Ginobili and the Spurs are scary. OKC has been a really bad match-up for the Spurs, who have struggled to cope with their athleticism, but with no Ibaka drawing a defender from the rim with his great mid-range game, the Spurs may well just pack the paint and dare Westbrook to try.

This is a series that is tough to call but I personally would go for the Spurs in 6 due to Ibaka’s absence. The Thunder need to take advantage of some nice little wrinkles like Perry Jones and heavy small ball minutes to keep the Spurs guessing and I don’t think they will have enough in them. Durant and Westbrook will not go down without a fight and it is tough to bet against them but the Spurs are just a juggernaut that looks even scarier than usual.

Betting Instinct tip – Spurs in 6 is +450 with intertops.eu

 

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers Series Betting Odds:

Heat to win series -189

Pacers to win series +165

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

 

These two team’s paths to this stage could hardly have been more different. The Heat have barely been mentioned as they obliterated the Charlotte Bobcats and then came up against the team that had been mentioned as “Heat killers” for months – the Nets, who were handily dispatched. The Heat have D-Wade who still isn’t quite himself but you can almost feel him coming to the boil at the right time. They have Chris Bosh, a great third option to have, not just on offense but on D. And then there is the small matter of the best player on the planet. LeBron has stomped all before him this postseason, and has handily been the best player in the Playoffs. But this Heat team is far from perfect. The Greg Oden experiment was made for this match-up but right now, it looks like the gamble won’t pay off, Oden hasn’t been seen in the post season. Mario Chalmers has played fine, just what the Heat need from the PG spot, but aside from he and the Big 3, there are legitimate concerns here. Ray Allen is still as clutch as they come but his shot still isn’t falling consistently. Shane Battier looks more and more like a man who should have retired last year and their only 3 point bomber comes from James Jones who is a walking neon sign saying “Iso on me”. There is a sense that this team has got a little lucky thus far but it remains that they have breezed through these Playoffs so far.

Then there are the Pacers. Taken 7 games by a Hawks team without their best player and scared by the Wizards, this has been legitimately 3 months of scarily bad 1 seed basketball. Yet here they are. This team is built to scare the Heat. In Paul George they have a player who looks like a superstar in the post season and who can guard LeBron as well as anyone, including in the post. Then front court pairing of David West and Roy Hibbert is enough to give the Heat nightmares if Hibbert plays like he has done the past few games. Hibbert is the key to this series. If he plays like the Defensive Player of the Year as he was for the first half of the season, the Heat will not have a good time – LeBron will be limited and D-Wade almost ineffective. But that’s a mighty big if. It’s hard to shake the form of this Pacers team of late and it’s slightly frightening how reliant they are on Lance Stephenson when the paint is being protected.

Even before the Pacers took the first game, there were far too many saying this would be a sweep. Beforehand my prediction would have been the Heat in 6, and that may well still happen. The Heat might get their first real test here, particularly given the Pacers slow starts earlier in the playoffs, and this could end up going to game seven.

 

  DIARMAID HILL (@dhillmu7) is a basketball and football fan who plays both even worse than he writes  about  them. He supports the LA Clippers and Manchester United and yes, he’s heard every joke about both.  Follow  him on Twitter or Google+.