MVP is Popular Pre-season NFL Bet with Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers Seeing Most Action

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‘MVP’ and ‘Playoff Contender’s popular pre-season NFL bets

The NFL regular season may not start until next week but online sportsbooks are already seeing lots of NFL betting action. One of the hottest bets so far is on MVP. Favorites Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are seeing the most action.

“Naturally we are seeing lots of action in the ‘To Win Super Bowl’ market, with the Seahawks (+550) favored to go back-to-back,” said AllYouBet’s oddsmaker. “We have also seen huge volume in the MVP market, with Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers getting a lot of the action.”

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NFL Bet — MVP Odds

Peyton Manning +225
Aaron Rodgers +600
Drew Brees +650
Tom Brady +1000
Andrew Luck +1800
Russel Wilson +2200
Jay Cutler +2500

NFL odds are quoted by AllYouBet.ag and subject to change.

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Another NFL bet that’s getting lots of action so far is Who Will Make the NFL Playoffs? American-style sportsbook AllYouBet.ag favors the Denver Broncos (-714) and New England Patriots (-500) Last season’s Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, can be backed at -400.

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AllYouBet NFL Free Bet and Bonus

$100 NFL Bet Bonus
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Check AllYouBet.com for monthly Free Bet offers.

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The regular season begins next Thursday, September 4th when the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field, and both will hope to still be in the mix in February when Super Bowl XLIX comes to Arizona.

 

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The Gamblogger gambling blogLARRY COLCY (TheGamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during World Cup, Super Bowl and March Madness.

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DEF LEPPARD TO PERFORM AT NFL WEMBLEY GAME

NFL in London!!!

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Rock legends DEF LEPPARD will perform the pre-game show at the first of this year’s three NFL International Series games on Sunday September 28, when the Oakland Raiders host the Miami Dolphins.

def-leppard

Def Leppard, who have sold 100 million albums worldwide in a career spanning three decades, will showcase some of their biggest hits before kickoff of the NFL’s ninth regular-season game to be played in London since the International Series began in 2007.

The band’s lead singer, Joe Elliott, said: “Having most recently visited Wembley in May to watch Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final, I know what the atmosphere in the ground is like for ‘our’ football so I’m really looking forward to performing there before the NFL game and of course soaking up the excitement of the actual match. I can’t wait!”

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“Having Def Leppard perform at Wembley is going to very exciting and a lot…

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Who’ll Make the NFL Playoffs?

NFL Football Cheerleaders

NFL regular season begins next week

The NFL regular season doesn’t even begin until next week and already one of the hottest NFL bets is “Who’ll Make the NFL Playoffs”? The Denver Broncos (-714), New England Patriots (-500) and Seattle Seahawks (-400) are obviously favorites. According to early odds on NFL playoff bets, so are the San Francisco 49ers (-303), the Indianapolis Colts (-222), and the Green Bay Packers (-200). Odds on other teams and dozens of other NFL odds and props are posted and regularly updated at the world’s original online sportsbook, Intertops Sportsbook.

The 2014 NFL Regular Season opens on September 4th when the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. The defending Super Bowl champions enter this campaign at +550 favorites to go back-to-back. Intertops Sportsbook expects the hosts to start with a win over Green Bay, with the money line at -5.

The visitors will be out to improve on last year, when they went 8-7-1 in the regular season but lost out to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game.

“The Seahawks dominated last year’s Super Bowl, and we expect them to be in the mix once again this year,” said Intertops’ oddsmaker. “Green Bay shouldn’t cause their opponents too many problems in theory, but the NFL can always throw up surprises.”
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To Win Super Bowl XLIX

Seattle Seahawks +550
Denver Broncos +600
San Francisco 49ers +700
New England Patriots +800
Green Bay Packers +1200
New Orleans Saints +1200
Indianapolis Colts +2200

All NFL odds quoted are as of today at Intertops.eu and are subject to change.
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To celebrate the start of the 2014 season, Intertops is offering a special 20% kickoff bonus up to $100 for anyone who makes a deposit by 10:20 ET on September 8th. You can also qualify for a huge $500 free bet on NFL by wagering $5,000 or more on the NFL regular season at minimum odds of -200.

All odds quoted are as of today at Intertops.eu and are subject to change.

 

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The Gamblogger gambling blogLARRY COLCY (TheGamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during World Cup, Super Bowl and March Madness.

Former Chelsea strikers could come back to haunt Mourinho

Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto'o may feel they have unfinished business against Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o may feel they have unfinished business against Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku will be looking to make his mark against former club Chelsea when his current side goes head to head with the West London outfit this Saturday. Many questioned Mourinho when he sold the exceptionally promising 21 year old to Everton, however with the arrival of Diego Costa after his scintillating season in Spain last year, it makes sense economically for Chelsea and also for the sake of Lukaku’s personal development. The Belgian is yet to get off the mark yet this season and has perhaps looked a little rusty in his opening two games. His ‘replacement’ of sorts has scored in both of his competitive games, helping to win over the Chelsea fans early on in his career in England. Costa’s two goals have – with the greatest respect – only come against newly promoted teams, so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes against a more organised and disciplined defence in the shape of Everton. The likes of Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines have played against the top players the Premier League has to offer for years (with varying success), so we can help gauge how successful the tenacious Costa is likely to be over the rest of the season.

 

Everton v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Everton win – 5/2

Chelsea win – Evens

Draw – 47/20

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

 

Everton also made the move of Gareth Barry permanent after his promising loan spell for The Toffees last season. Though he doesn’t have too many seasons left in the tank, Barry is a dependable and consistent performer who also boasts European and International experience. It must be said, he is more of a ‘7/10′ in most areas, as opposed to being someone who particularly excels at any one part of the game. He managed to bag 3 goals last year (his highest tally for the last 5 seasons), but used to score more freely in his time at Aston Villa and will certainly hope to improve on that this year. Everton’s other acquisitions are 18 year old Brendan Galloway from MK Dons and highly rated Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic, while they were joined last night by another former Chelsea frontman, Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian found the net nine times in the Premier League last season, and while at 33 years of age and with no goals away from Stamford Bridge last year,  he will hope to thrive on Merseyside in a similar manner to experienced strikers like Louis Saha in the past.  With Lukaku looking to match or improve upon his 15 league goals last year and Arouna Kone close to a return from injury, a potentially uninspiring transfer window is now looking far more positive for the Toffees.

Unsurprisingly, Chelsea have invested the money made from the extortionate sale of David Luiz and the aforementioned Lukaku. Costa was the real marquee signing, despite last season being his first real prolific campaign in terms of his goal return. Another forward who has already won the Chelsea faithful a thousand times over also returns. Getting Dider Drogba in on a free could turn out to be a spectacular piece of business. He won’t be expected to weigh in with breathtaking performances, but the guidance he can offer to the younger players in the squad – and even the more senior ones – will be profusely beneficial going forward. Chelsea also raided Atletico Madrid for their left-back Filipe Luis. With the departure of neutral fan favourite (ahem) Ashley Cole, another top class left-back was required. Luis had a great season last year and was instrumental in Atletico’s transformation into a major contender at European level. There’s also the small matter of Cesc Fabregas’ return to the Premier League. Whilst he had some fiercely positive displays for Barca, he was never really able to assert himself as a consistent regular. Already providing a spectacular pass in the opening game to help create a goal against Burnley, Fabregas is another top class option to have within Chelsea’s midfield. This may disjoint the progression of Oscar, or it may spurn him on to try harder to reclaim his place in the middle of the park for Chelsea.

Out of the two clubs, Chelsea’s signings naturally stand out more. They have already hit the ground running in their opening games and will be expecting stellar performances like that for the rest of this year. However, places are far less secure at Stamford Bridge and the demand is much higher; being a big name doesn’t ensure you’ll live up to the hype. Everton have helped secure the future of their squad and have invested sagaciously. Time will tell if either overpaid for their famed strikers or if they have turned out to be an absolute steal.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Romelu Lukaku to score the first goal against Chelsea is 7/1 with Coral.

 

 JAKE COLLINS  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, or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.

US Open Could Provide Last Hurrah For Federer

federer

There was a point in the mid-2000s where it appeared as though the evolution of tennis had stalled in the era of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, as the sport’s relative glass ceiling was raised to impossible heights. Between 2004 and 2010, the two shared 24 grand slam titles, meeting in the finals of Wimbledon, Roland Garros and the Australian Open on seven occasions – remember that most of those finals rank among the greatest matches ever played, and you can start to understand the depth of the rivalry that consumed men’s tennis over the last decade.

Now, it seems to have broken down. Neither man is the dominant force in men’s tennis, with Novak Djokovic properly interrupting the good thing that we all had going in 2011, as Federer’s form dropped with his ranking and Nadal felt the effects of his unsustainably physical game. In the years since the rivalry began to soften, eras have overlapped at such a rate that the word “era,” fairly impressive though it may be, isn’t really accurate any more. Andy Murray flirted briefly with success, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga threatened without threatening, and Djokovic has emerged as a survivor of the End Times, as Federer moves closer to retirement, and Nadal’s body gives up on him outside of Paris.

So it’s interesting to consider how the three players who have defined the last ten years of men’s tennis have approached this US Open: Djokovic as the favourite, Federer in sepia-tinted form, and Nadal not at all. The champion withdrew with a wrist injury, and while the consensus is that it is Djokovic’s tournament to lose, there’s also a feeling that it’s Federer’s to win.

 

US Open Betting Odds:

Novak Djokovic +125

Roger Federer +250

Andy Murray +700

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

 

The Serbian world no.1 is already in the second round after a straight-sets win on the opening day, and shouldn’t be troubled until the semi finals. Nadal, were he not injured, would be in pretty much the same position, but things are different and we have to put up with another narrative. Djokovic lost in the final at Roland Garros and returned to no.1 with a victory at Wimbledon, and despite losing two of his last four matches, has started at Flushing Meadows as the best competitor in the field that has shown up to play. His robotic consistency stands him in good stead to reach the final despite a difficult draw heavy with perennial nearly-men (an effect of Nadal’s withdrawal and a subsequent shift in seeding) – by the end of the fortnight, we’ll have a much better idea of whether or not Djokovic is the irresistible power that men’s tennis is looking for.

Roger Federer is at, and has been for a few years now, at a strange point in his career where “we will have spent nearly as much time talking about his mostly graceful decline as we did his rise and reign,” in the words of Reeves Wiedeman. With Nadal out, however, this tournament provides Federer with a golden opportunity to prove wrong the friend who laughed at my suggestion that he might win – Federer, he says, like “a post-prime Muhammad Ali, floats like a butterfly and gets stung like Winnie the Pooh.”

 

It’s a fair assessment of the man who hasn’t won a major final since 2012, an almost isolated Wimbledon victory as his star faded. He’s 33, and only one man, Ken Rosewall in 1970, has won the US Open at an older age than Federer is now. He hasn’t featured in a final at Flushing Meadows since 2009, when he lost to Juan Martin Del Potro, though I guess it’s worth remembering that he won a record five straight US Open titles in the years before. He also reached the Australian Open semi final and the Wimbledon final earlier this year, and has moved up to number three in the ATP rankings. He’s as fit as he’s ever been, which always seems to be the case, and though they go astray more often than they used to, his shot-making is still as effective as it is aesthetic. Damn it, here comes the paragraph 180: Roger Federer can definitely win this tournament.

 

Should one of Federer or Djokovic run into trouble, then it’s anyone’s game – “anyone” here meaning four or five other men. Andy Murray struggled with cramp in his first round, four set win over Robin Haase, and can be reasonably be expected to reach the semi-finals. Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov would also be happy with places in the semis, while David Ferrer looks set to be happy just to be there. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, says my tennis coach – I can do one-handed backhands now – is also probably a pretty good shot to win, and he knows what he’s talking about when he’s talking about tennis.

In the women’s competition, everything is entirely dependent on whether or not Serena Williams has any interest in winning another major. Li Na isn’t in New York this year, and the American has been in typically dominant form on hard surfaces since failing to reach the quarter-final stage of any of the other grand slams this year, but that’s down to Jehovah sharing things around for once. That said, it’s worth looking at fifth seed Maria Sharapova and eighth seed Ana Ivanovic, simply because the women’s game is the most unpredictable sport on the planet. Sharapova didn’t play the US Open last year and has been unimpressive since her win at Roland Garros, but women’s tennis is the most unpredictable sport on the planet, and she’s already in the second round after roundly beating Maria Kirilenko 6-4 6-0 in the first.

Nadal should be back next year, as should Li Na, and order might return. For now, we can enjoy seedings warped by absence, and a tournament that might finally define an unpredictable 2014 season.

 

Betting Instinct tip Roger Federer to win his 18th grand slam at Flushing Meadows is 5/2 with Intertops.eu.

 

 

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+.

Five incidents bound to happen during Manchester City vs. Liverpool

David Silva's Premier League campaign is already an improvement on his World Cup

David Silva’s Premier League campaign is already an improvement on his World Cup

Remember the World Cup? How good was that! Remember all the big games that happened right at the start and all the goals that were scored to get everyone into the mood in record time?

Well turns out that the World Cup was such a good idea that the Premier League have gone and borrowed its best bits in order to make sure the beginning of the new season doesn’t disappoint after all the fun of the summer. By which I mean they’ve scheduled a really rather large fixture to be played in the second round of matches: last year’s champions, Manchester City, against last year’s runners-up Liverpool.

 

Manchester City v Liverpool Betting Odds:

Manchester City win – 1.85

Liverpool win – 4.00

Draw – 3.50

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

 

Clearly this game is set for yet more Brazil 2014-themed surprises to spice up the action, with kick-off scheduled for an appropriately trans-Atlantic 8pm on a Monday evening. If that’s not group stage scheduling, I don’t know what is.

So without further ado, here’s what’s probably, definitely, bound to happen as Manuel Pellegrini’s Premier League winners take on Brendan Rodgers’ Champions League returnees, for a chance to top Group A, which is the only group in this competition.

 

Someone will score a really good headed goal from a left-back’s cross

And that left-back will most likely be Glen Johnson, who started on his non-natural flank against Southampton in Liverpool’s opening game of the season.

With Daniel Sturridge set to start up front for the Reds, the displaced right-back will stumble upon some space, look up and see his England team mate dashing towards Joe Hart’s area.

We’ll then watch, disbelievingly, as Johnson produce the cross of his career with the part-time sandwich artist jumping up and flopping like a salmon (teriyaki, with extra green peppers? – Ed.) to head the ball into City’s net.

 

Luis Suarez will bite someone again

On Twitter anyway, because as far as English football goes, Luis don’t live here anymore.

That’s right, while the action takes place on the field of play, thousands of rehashed memes and tired, old jokes will surge forth onto various social media channels.

Liverpool will “lack bite”, according to the pictorial punchlines that are to come. Some will overreach in an attempt to force relevancy. A Uruguayan family will go hungry without a supply of Martin Demichelis’ shoulder meat, they’ll say. In text speak.

Maybe some will go for a different angle, trying to use Rickie Lambert’s lesser-known past as a beetroot technician to create an ethical, vegetarian friendly version of all this great new ‘comedy’ that will be taking place. It’ll be like football itself has taken the trapezium muscle of an Italian defender and won itself a transfer to BBC Three, to play alongside Nick Grimshaw and Russell Kane or something.

 

A physio will be injured

Gary Lewin’s stumble against Italy will not have happened in vain. The Premier League are already making plans for the fourth official to go behind one of the team’s physios during the game and take out their knees with a large spanner, as a loving tribute to the fallen England backroom staffer.

No word yet as to who the bookies think the man in the stands will target, but it’s sure to only add to the tense occasion that will be gripping the Etihad, as fans pour into the stadium to see who will be left standing at the end of 90 minutes.

 

Liverpool’s South Americans will sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” really loud for ages just before kick-off, which City’s Brazilians will boo mercilessly

One of the most endearing features of the World Cup was the heart, passion and a capella abilities shown by the South American fans prior to the start of their teams’ games.

Brazil and Chile in particularly showed off the intensity of feeling held by their players and fans during their national anthems. In order to bring some of that pre-match vibrancy to the Premier League, Liverpool’s South Americans will be encouraged by officials to belt out that Rogers & Hammerstein classic, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

As an added twist however, City’s Brazilians will be allowed to try and disrupt the singing without censor, much as their fellow countrymen in the stands did with boos and whistles when Chile and Brazil met in the second round this summer.

It’s at this point that the sponsors will begin to feel a little nervous over the whole charade.

 

Both sets of fans will peer into the future and realise that neither City or Liverpool can win this year due to their lack of Germans

Germany won the World Cup, so it stands to reason that they’ll also win the a post-World Cup, World Cup-themed Premier League. That’s logic.

Therefore, the title is between Chelsea and Arsenal, which means Jose Mourinho’s already won it.

City do have the best Argentinians in the league however, so second-place is theirs. Meanwhile, it’s doesn’t look good for English talent-laden Liverpool. Roy Hodgson’s team didn’t even make it out of their group in Brazil, which means the Reds will slip out of the Champions League this year, determined to do better in 2016.

 

A Chilean will invade the press room

Whatever the result on Monday, Manuel Pellegrini will storm the press room, flip the buffet table and ensure a couple of temporary walls fall onto the heads of some of the journalists present, in the spirit of the 150 Chileans who invaded the press centre at the Maracana.

It’s not been announced what the mild-mannered manager is expected to do once he’s caused the carnage, with many insiders suggesting he’ll just meekly walk away, ashamed of being dragged into the surreal affair, but anything could happen in the one-man melee that may ensue.

 

Betting Instinct tip – No bookmakers are offering odds on some of these more specific predictions, but more than 3.5 goals, in keeping with the early World Cup theme, is 2.75 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Unfamiliar with decimal betting odds? Check out our odds calculation guide to find out how to translate to decimal or fractional

Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Watch out for a Raikkonen renaissance at the Belgian Grand Prix

It has been a difficult season for him, but the Hungarian Grand Prix showed some light at the end of the tunnel for Kimi Raikkonen. Since rejoining Ferrari at the start of the season, he has finished inside the points seven times, but the race at the Hungaroring was the first time he had finished inside the top six. He is also yet to finish ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso in a race.

He currently sits 12th in the championship which, if the season finished today, would be his worst drivers’ championship finish ever. This includes his maiden Formula One season back in 2001 for Sauber which he ended tenth, before which he had only a season of car racing experience (Max Verstappen, take note).

The crash at Silverstone might have grabbed the headlines but it is Raikkonen’s consistent lack of performance which is notable. It is as if old habits have returned. Kimi’s F1 career is of course split into two distinct parts, before and after his two-year break to try his hand at rallying. But even within those two sections, it is almost as if there have been two drivers taking his place.

 

Belgian Grand Prix betting odds:

Lewis Hamilton -143

Nico Rosberg +160

Daniel Ricciardo +1600

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

 

At McLaren between 2002 and 2006, Raikkonen was regarded as one of the fastest drivers ever, and was only robbed of the 2005 championship by an incredibly unreliable car. But after moving to Ferrari, his performances became erratic. Even in winning the championship in 2007, he was unconvincing, with team mate Felipe Massa, previously (and since) regarded as an unremarkable driver, proving a match over their two-and-a-half years as team mates.

Throughout his time at Ferrari, speculation was rampant that he had lost motivation, perhaps encouraged by his typically Finnish approach to dealing with the media (i.e. barely) and alcohol (i.e. drinking lots of it). When it was announced he was being replaced by Fernando Alonso at the team, it was widely believed that he was being paid to leave and do something else, such as flinging Citroens between and into trees.

Which leads to one theory doing the rounds this year – that Raikkonen’s return to F1 in 2012 with Lotus was primarily motivated by money. This shouldn’t really be a shock, but there’s more to it: basically that after Kimi’s Ferrari pay-off finished, he needed to replace that source of income, so he needed to return to F1 with the purpose of getting back into Ferrari, after which he could go back to not caring. Thus, it would explain his exceptional first two seasons at Lotus and his sudden drop-off in performance this year.

But to be honest, this all seems a bit too cynical. To assume that Raikkonen had the next three years mapped out when he returned ignores the reality of the situation. Lotus ran out of money last year, to the point where Kimi wasn’t even being paid on time, and if you’re a former world champion who has finished third and fifth in the last two championships, you have enough market value to avoid this. The fact that Lotus have continued to tail off dramatically this season suggests he made the correct call to leave.

 

However, rejoining Ferrari might not have been the most sensible move, even if it made sense at the time. Yes, he was rejoining the team with whom he won the championship, but he was never entirely comfortable there, and he was to be driving alongside Fernando Alonso, probably the fastest and most consistent driver in F1 who has outperformed his team mates and machinery year in year out for a decade.

Before the start of the 2014 season, there were forecasts of tension and bust-ups as the two former champions battled for victory. There has been none of this, mainly because Kimi hasn’t got close enough to create any tension – not only has he been way behind his team mate, but Ferrari have had their worst season for over twenty years, with Alonso doing a remarkable job in putting himself fourth in the standings.

But the Belgian Grand Prix provides a massive opportunity for Raikkonen to kick on, as it is with Spa-Francorchamps that he has his best relationship within the sport. He won here for McLaren in 2004 and 2005, Ferrari in 2007 and 2009, and came close to a win in 2008 but for a mistake while battling Lewis Hamilton on a damp track. He also finished third here in 2012.

If there are races missing here, it’s because they either weren’t held (2003, 2006) or because he retired due to mechanical problems (2001, 2002, 2013). In short: the guy’s quick here.

 

Spa is one of the most unorthodox circuits on the calendar, with its high-speed sweeping corners that would never be allowed today and its erratic, unpredictable climate. The races here are often amongst the most exciting of the season, although it’s going to have to be a special one this year to compete with Bahrain and Hungary.

Theoretically Mercedes should once again have the advantage in pace, and 2010 Spa winner Lewis Hamilton will begin as favourite, but the teams behind are closing, and as we saw in Hungary, they will be on the defensive if it starts to rain.

Raikkonen’s expertise here will be an enormous help to Ferrari, who sit third in the constructors’ championship (albeit mostly due to Alonso’s contributions) but are rapidly being caught by Williams, who have emerged as Mercedes’ closest challengers in the dry. Ferrari haven’t gone a season without a win since 1993, when Jean Todt arrived to kick-start the transformation of the team into world-beaters once again.

 

There are rumours of driver changes for next season or beyond, including the possible arrival of Sebastian Vettel, but in the medium-term, it seems as if the team’s decline could only be stemmed by the arrival of another Todt to transform the way the team is run into a more efficient unit.

However, that won’t happen overnight. In the short-term, this may be their best opportunity for a victory for the rest of the season, and it’s certainly Raikkonen’s best shot of some silverware.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Kimi Raikkonen to finish on the podium this weekend is +1400 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Sports blogger JamesJAMES BENNETT 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+.

Sunderland v Manchester United: A must-win in August

Ander Herrera was one of few bright sparks for Manchester United in their season opener

Ander Herrera was one of few bright sparks for Manchester United in their season opener

The Stadium of Light will aptly shine some answers this Sunday afternoon on two clubs presently in the dark.

Sunderland’s miraculous rescue mission last season – including shock triumphs at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge and a tremendous point at Manchester City – certainly reinvigorated a side that lay fractious and shredded of confidence after Paulo Di Canio’s reign of madness, but a nothing-to-lose charge is one thing: now we uncover the true extent of the damage the erratic Italian caused and whether indeed Gus Poyet is the man to bring stability and standing back to Wearside.

An encouraging opening day draw at the Hawthorns bodes well and arguably a passionate home clash against the thirteen times Premier League champions is the perfect early opportunity to measure how far down the road to convalescence they are.

Sunderland v Manchester United Betting Odds:

Sunderland win – 15/4

Manchester United win – 7/10

Draw – 5/2

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
This is equally true – and seemingly when is it not? – of Jack Rodwell, Sunderland’s £10m summer acquisition, who should benefit from an hour’s workout at West Brom and will hope for similar this weekend partnered alongside the fiery Lee Cattermole.

Cattermole is guilty at times of resembling a headless chicken that has staggered its way into a pair of boots but the onus falls on him this term to bolster an otherwise lightweight midfield since the unexpected north-east defection of Jack Colback. A huge season awaits the fan’s favourite and it is imperative that he finally curbs his infamous disciplinary problems that averages a red for every 27 games and has led to the second most dismissals since the Premier League formed. These are damning and startling stats for a 26 year old.

Unless Poyet can turn around a frustrating transfer window and strengthen the spine Cattermole will be as instrumental to Sunderland’s fortunes as the calm assurance provided by Brown and O’Shea who will both be once again looking to show their former employer that they’ve aged like fine wine or George Clooney’s face. The duo have forged an impressive bedrock of experience at the back for the Black Cats and boast a decent 2014 record against United, winning two and drawing one of their three encounters. It’s a record they will want to continue.

 

From a neutral’s point of view most eyes will be on the visitors this Sunday with a million ABUs (‘anyone but United’) desperately hoping to share yet more gifs of David Moyes manically laughing.

This very fixture two years ago was the most defining in Manchester United’s recent history leading to a chain of events that took in short-term success, upheaval, catastrophe, and ultimately the temporary loss of their famed fear factor.
Despite the Reds disposing of Sunderland on the final day of 2012 their bitter city rivals achieved last-gasp immortality and perceivably wrestled a large chunk of the power and prestige long-held in Salford across to the blue half of Manchester.

This forced a wounded Sir Alex Ferguson to postpone his retirement for a final campaign and the proud Govan man was never going to risk his personal quest for departing glory by making the necessary overhauling of an aging, mediocre squad. After somehow bullying and cajoling the tired limbs of Ferdinand and limited vision of Cleverley to a title he then handed over the shambles-in-waiting to Moyes. Faced with a daunting task of dismantling a clique of established superstars whilst attempting to fill impossibly large shoes Moyes’ fate as the chosen scapegoat was sealed the minute he took the job.

 

Which brings us to the here and now of Louis Van Gaal, a Champions League winner with the stature and arrogance to carry the oppressive demands of bossing United snug in his suit breast pocket.

The narrative of this summer is that the Dutchman will bring attacking adventure and imperious swagger back to Old Trafford and both the supporters and media have been keen to depict him as Ferguson 2.0. But a shock 2-1 reverse to Swansea last week pricked the confidence and allowed doubts to seep in that one individual – no matter how savvy and worldly-wise – is not the instant solution to fundamental shortcomings.

 

For all the talk of Van Gaal mirroring his United side on his Holland team that nearly stole the show in Brazil – with three at the back and incisive moment – the likes of Young, Valencia and the up-and-coming Januzaj are not fit to grace Arjen Robben’s jet-heels while a trio of Jones, Smalling and Blackett as a defensive foundation are, quite frankly, perfectly ordinary.

There will be as much interest in his line-up this Sunday as the performance and result and even more interest in any transfer movement that urgently needs to happen.

So will Sunderland’s great escape last May prove to be nothing more than a stay of execution? Or has Poyet steadied the ship as they sail to mid-table calm waters?

Will Van Gaal bring glory, glory back to United or will a second defeat hint at continued crisis and the distant sound of knives sharpening?

Ninety minutes at the Stadium of Light won’t provide all of the answers. But there will be clues aplenty.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Sunderland to avoid defeat and increase the pressure on their visitors is 2.02 with Intertops.eu

 

Ste avatar STEPHEN TUDOR is editor of the Daisy Cutter, the football newspaper that only sometimes lies. He also writes  for  Sabotage Times, When Saturday Comes, Late Tackle and others. Follow him on Twitter.

Introducing this season’s class of homegrown Barcelona stars

Who will be the next La Masia graduate to break into the Barcelona first team?

Who will be the next La Masia graduate to break into the Barcelona first team? (source: FCBarcelona.com)

With the exception of Alen Halilović, a recent signing from Dinamo Zagreb, all of the players pictured above have been at Barcelona since they were at least 14 years old. Heck, some of them have spent most of their lives there. Sergi Samper has been a Barcelona player since he was just 6 – a footballing education that to the general football fan, is almost unfathomable.

Not including Halilović, all of these players are products of La Masia (Barcelona’s famed academy). They have all been with the club through their formative years, progressing through the ranks on a yearly basis. The majority of them are current Barça B players, however some of them have been catapulted to the first team fold from Juvenil A (Barça’ under-19 team). No matter where they’ve come from, Luis Enrique has deemed them good enough to feature with the first team during this year’s pre-season.

In this article, I take a closer look at some of the more impressive performers from Barcelona’s pre-season and discuss what the future holds for these Canteranos.

 

La Liga Outright Betting Odds:

Real Madrid -125

Barcelona +110

Atletico Madrid +1200

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

 

#3 Adama Traoré – Winger

Like Sergi Samper, Adama has been at La Masia since a very young age (8 years old). After competing on the International stage with Spain, the country of birth, he recently switched his allegiances to Mali. It might not feel like a blow for them right now, but it could well do in 3 or 4 years time. The wide man is a cocktail of frightening pace, power and directness. When you add a Barcelona footballing education to those attributes, the results could be devastating. Adama has been a fixture in the B side since 2013 and actually got a taste of first team action last year, coming on as a late substitute in games against Granada and Ajax in the Champions League. At the moment, it doesn’t count for much though.

During pre-season Adama often got 45 minutes to show what he could do. There were signs of a superstar ready to break out during the Nice game – one driving run from his own half all the way to the opposition penalty area sticks out. But there were also moments where he looked very raw. The biggest thing for Adama at the moment, is finding a place where he can feature regularly at a high level. I have absolutely no doubt that he is a star in the making, but the final part of the sentence is key – “in the making”. Experience at the top level is the final ingredient needed for Adama. It is the only thing he needs to become the player that many hope he can be.

#2 Sergi Samper – Centre Midfield

 Now, I’ve put Samper down as #2 in this list, but that’s purely based on this pre-season. In terms of overall prospects at La Masia, he is without a doubt the finest, for me. An elegant midfielder who performs way beyond his years, he is quite evidently the future of Barça’s midfield.

Samper has made 40 appearances for the B team, and increasingly one of the first names on the team sheet. He is a deep-lying playmaker who prides himself on his ball distribution and control of the midfield area, something he’s very well esteemed in. When you’ve played for Barcelona since you were 6 years old, those attributes tend to come fairly naturally.

In the game against Nice a few weeks ago, Barça struggled in the first half. Changes were made at half time and on came Samper in the pivot, to form a midfield trio with Xavi and Rakitić. The 19-year old fitted in seamlessly, it looked like he had 100 Primera games under his belt. Along with his more experienced midfielders, he helped Barça regain control of the midfield to plant the foundations of what was a much better 2nd half performance.

I’m unsure whether Samper will be included in the first team fold this season, although I think he’s absolutely good enough. The landscape for him will become a lot clearer over the next year, with his elder Sergi Roberto not really establishing himself in the first team despite 3/4 years of inclusion. At this point, I feel it’s only a matter of time before Samper surpasses him.

#1 Munir El Haddadi – Striker

And finally, the Spanish striker with the Moroccan name… Munir rose to fame last year after he guided Barça to a UEFA Youth League title win in Switzerland. He scored 11 goals in 10 games during the tournament, catching the attention of teams all over Europe.

After displaying such form, he was promoted to the B team last season where he went on to score 4 goals in 11 games in his debut season. An almost 1 in 2 ratio for a first year graduate is impressive, but Munir’s game isn’t totally reliant on scoring goals, unlike his previous records would have you believe. A clever forward who finishes just as well as he makes intelligent off-ball runs, his style for an eventual first team call-up is just what Luis Enrique will be looking for.

His debut season for Barça B was a fruitful one. Featuring regularly throughout pre-season, he has continually got better as the appearances have racked up. His most recent performance against Helsinki was the game-changer. He scored two goals and provided a clever assist in a brilliant 45-minute cameo. He had been making the right runs and doing all the right things throughout pre-season, but the game in Finland was when it all came together. Munir possesses a wide range of attributes that you would want in a modern-day striker. Maybe not blessed with the finest physical assets, but his mind works twice as fast as you could ever run.

Of all the prospects, I think a first team calls are most forthcoming for Munir and Samper. They are quite comfortably the most technically gifted pair from this year’s class, and I have no doubt that both of them could give a good account of themselves in the Primera if they were to be promoted right now. I don’t think their call-ups will come just yet, but I’ll be looking to both of them to really establish themselves towards the end of the season/start of next season.

 

Betting Instinct tip Barcelona to win their opener against Elche by two or more goals is -303 with Intertops.eu

 

Unfamiliar with American odds? Avoid confusion with our calculation guide.

 

JAMIE KEMPjamie k avatar is a Spanish/European Football Writer for Inside La Liga, uMAXITFootball and a host of others. He  is also an FA Licensed Football Coach with a passion for youth development. Follow Jamie on Twitter.

Optimism aplenty at Stoke as Bojan arrival signals intent

Bojan could prove a shrewd signing for an increasingly exciting Stoke side

Bojan could prove a shrewd signing for an increasingly exciting Stoke side

Interesting things are starting to happen at Stoke City. Perennial scrappers under old boss Tony Pulis, always good enough to survive comfortably but never quite exciting enough to totally appease their own fans, they have shown remarkable signs of evolution under the experienced watch of Mark Hughes and, if this Summer’s transfer dealings are anything to go by, that progress shows no sign of abating. Their best piece of business undoubtedly has to be the capture of forward Bojan Krkić from Barcelona.

A player with a quite astonishing youth record, Bojan was once considered the next Messi and as such broke into the Barca side at the age of just 17 in 2006. Big things were expected of the prodigious striker but they failed to materialise and after a transfer to Roma, loan to Milan, a bizarre move back to Catalonia and a spell at Ajax he has ended up in the Potteries for a fee rumoured to be around £3million.

For Stoke to land such a high-profile player is a huge coup but it isn’t a deal without risk. Bojan has often been accused of having a poor focus and temperament; this much is reflected in his inconsistent goalscoring form. Perhaps more worryingly, one of the main problems that blighted him in his early years in senior football was his slight physique and the propensity for him to be bullied out of games. Stoke will hope that at 23 he has bulked up but if there are any doubts about his strength, these will surely be exploited in the fearsome world of the Premier League.

And yet what a transfer this could prove to be for the Potters. If Bojan can rediscover the form that saw him become the most highly-rated young player in Europe then Stoke could reap monumental rewards. He has exquisite technique and a silky touch and if his manager and teammates can indulge him, there is no telling how influential he could prove to be. This isn’t just a brilliant transfer for Stoke; it’s a statement of intent. Under Pulis, a player like Bojan would have had no chance of being integrated into the side. Hughes has shown that he is prepared to play attractive, attacking football and as such Bojan could thrive under him.

 

Stoke City v Aston Villa Betting Odds:

Stoke win – 19/20

Aston Villa win – 14/5

Draw – 23/10

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

 

This evolution of the team was in evidence last season, especially after Christmas. He swapped Kenwyne Jones for the far more mobile and technically able Peter Odemwingie who flourished, finishing the season with five goals and many plaudits. The change ran deeper than this, though. Stoke began to play more expressively, more inventively and with more assurance on the ball. It allowed the team to build a momentum and showed that many of their players could actually play. The result was their best ever Premier League finish.

Next season Bojan will be supported in forward areas by Odemwingie and the wonderfully talented Marko Arnautović, as well as fellow new boys Mame Biram Diouf, who had a respectable scoring record at Hannover, and erm… Steve Sidwell (leave Sidwell alone – ed.). It is a surprisingly excellent-looking attacking group and that is without even mentioning the experienced and more physical Peter Crouch and Jon Walters who seem to be on the fringes of the first team – a further sign of the team’s technical development under Hughes. Defender Phil Bardsley is also an astute signing on a free transfer.

 

On paper, Stoke will have one of the more attractive and goal-friendly sides in the division. The top 7 seem streets ahead of the rest of the Premier League but Stoke will be battling the likes of Newcastle and Southampton for another top 10 finish. If they can show more progress this season and continue to develop their style then who knows, maybe they could challenge for a European place and begin to compete higher up the league. A cup run may be a more realistic ambition this term.

There is an element of pie-in-the-sky to all of this. There are no guarantees Bojan and Diouf will adapt well to the Premier League and Hughes may suffer in his second season, as he has done at previous clubs. For now, though, Potters fans will be filled with optimism for the coming season. If Bojan can recapture his scoring touch, their faith may well be vindicated.

 

Betting Instinct tip Bojan to score the first goal against Aston Villa is 6/1 with Coral

 

JACK CHATTERTONJack C avatar is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter  or Google+.