Things We’ll Learn This Month – October

Arsenal's Mesut Özil has underwhelmed as former captain Cesc Fàbregas has impressed at Chelsea. The two square up this weekend

Arsenal’s Mesut Özil has underwhelmed as former captain Cesc Fàbregas has impressed at Chelsea. The two square up this weekend

So we come to October with the Premier League table still in a state of flux, as new signings and new coaching methodologies begin to click into gear there is intrigue wherever you look. Which makes it all the more annoying that there is another one of those international ‘week of football’ things in the middle of the month. Being generous there are possibly three games a human being in charge of their cognitive processes would consider watching, and one of them is Scotland vs Poland. So for the good of all our souls they will not be mentioned here.

 

The first Premier League weekend of October does throw up a few tasty fixtures, most of them are on Sunday though, so you have no excuses not to do something community spirited on Saturday, maybe mow an elderly neighbour’s lawn? On Sunday the oldies can do their own gardening (they love that kind of thing anyway) as we have Louis Van Gaal who continues to channel the spirit of Kevin Keegan (Keegan is not dead – ed.) with his ‘buy loads of great attackers and hope the defence somehow sorts itself’ strategy facing up against Roberto Martinez whose Everton team have gone a bit Wigan this season, there will be goals, there just has to be. After that it’s Arsenal taking their traditional injury crisis on the road to Stamford Bridge where they will receive their traditional spanking from Chelsea, the only difference this time is that they get to have their hearts broken by watching Cesc Fàbregas, their former idol looking really rather good in royal blue.

Betting Instinct tip The Manchester United/Chelsea double is 9/5 with AllYouBet.ag

 

*INTERNATIONAL WEEK KLAXON*

 

With the unpleasantness of European Championship qualifying out of the way for a while it’s not the most exciting set of fixtures to return to. QPR vs Liverpool might be fun, if only to see how Richard Dunne deals with the electrified scampering of Raheem Sterling, you would guess not well.

 

At the end of the month we get to witness the first meeting on English soil of Van Gaal and Mourinho (I can’t be bothered to check if they’ve met on any nationality of soil, to be honest I just don’t care). The one thing missing from the Premier League in recent years is a genuinely bitter managerial rivalry. This is by far our best chance to get back to the peak years where the heavyweight showdowns of Mourinho vs Benitez and Ferguson vs Wenger were box office entertainment. Now that Mourinho has presumably given up on the Manchester United job (remember when they hired David Moyes ahead of him!?) he might finally aim some of his verbal jousts in the direction of the not exactly shy Van Gaal. It promises to be spectacular. Oh and the game might be decent as well.

 

Burnley are in the Premier League apparently, without checking their fixtures I think we can safely assume that they will collect at best one point during October, they are possibly the most Championship side ever to play in the top flight, it’s a miracle Sean Dyche took them up, if he keeps them there he should be made Pope.

 

The standout Champions League tie this month is of course Liverpool entertaining Real Madrid. It’s not been the best of starts for Brendan ‘Brendan’ Rodgers post-Suarez, the defensive cracks covered up by the (possibly) evil Uruguayan are now cavernous in their obviousness and if he’s in the mood you’d expect that Portuguese lad Real have could score about a dozen. Anfield on European nights is often a quite magical spectacle though and this is about as glamorous an opposition as you can get, the old place will be rocking and whilst anything other than a Madrid victory would be considered a massive surprise football isn’t as simple as that. Of course what will actually happen is that Ronaldo will strut about like the prettiest peacock in the zoo, only stopping to batter in a couple of goals and extravagantly ‘shush’ the locals. Also Sterling will play quite well and will then be linked with a move to the Bernabeu for the rest of time.

Betting Instinct tip – Real Madrid to retain the Champions League this season is 7/2 with Intertops.eu

 

In fairness October looks a bit rubbish but it is the month of Halloween so we can look forward to lots of pictures of footballers in fancy dress, which is nice as long as no one ‘blacks up’, I’m looking at you *REDACTED*

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

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Struggling PSG get ready to welcome high-flying Barcelona

A win this week could help relieve some of the pressure on PSG coach Laurent Blanc

A win this week could help relieve some of the pressure on PSG coach Laurent Blanc

Champions League football is back in our lives this week – with the blockbuster fixture of round 2 taking place at the Parc des Princes. French champions PSG welcome Barcelona to the capital; in the clash everyone has been keeping an eye out for in Group F.

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Barcelona Betting Odds:

PSG win 23/10

Barcelona win 11/10

Draw 23/10

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

 

Neither team got off to the most impressive start in their first group game, despite the Catalans getting off the mark with a win in their first game. They struggled to break down a resolute APOEL defence at the Camp Nou, scraping an uncharacteristic 1-0 win through a set piece header from Gerard Piqué. If PSG are to take confidence from anything Barcelona have done this season, it will unfortunately have to be that. Luis Enrique’s team are top of La Liga after six games, having yet to be beaten, and staggeringly, yet to concede a goal (in any competition). Their 100% start in the league came to an end away at Málaga last week in a 0-0 draw, but they got back on track in style at the weekend – bludgeoning Granada by six clear goals at home. The early days of Luis Enrique’s tenure have drawn parallels to that of Pep Guardiola – in his undying commitment to promoting youth players, while not being afraid to leave bigger names out of his first eleven.

The 44-year old has introduced the likes of Munir, Sandro and Sergi Samper into his squad this season – with the former two already scoring goals and contributing to their success. Samper made his debut in their game against APOEL, earning widespread credit for such a mature performance. After his debut, Enrique said: “Samper? Congratulations to him. He showed personality. He will be another great discovery for the club. He’ll help us this season”. Despite all three players being just 19, and surrounded by an array of the world’s best players, the confidence Enrique has shown in them so far, has been nothing short of admirable – especially in a summer where the club spent a lot of money on external transfers.

 

For Laurent Blanc’s side, it wasn’t the best start in Europe, as far as results go. They drew 1-1 in Amsterdam against Ajax, but were fortunate not to succumb to a late rally by the home side. Lasse Schöne leveled the game in the 74th minute after a first half Edinson Cavani goal, but that man Schöne nearly won it for them late on – hitting the bar with a late free kick.

Things haven’t been too great for them in Ligue 1 so far either. Through eight league games, Les Parisiens have incredibly drawn five times – with a good chunk of the games being uneventful, low-scoring draws. After the latest of those disappointing draws, at the hands of Toulouse on Sunday, Laurent Blanc told local media: “We’ve had a difficult start to the season. We’ve got the same team and the same coach as last season but we’re not winning matches as easily. At the moment, we’re not better than the others.”

 

The 48-year old Frenchman has been under intensifying pressure in his role at PSG. After picking up their first away win of the season at Caen the week before, another lackluster draw against Toulouse has the doubts growing once again, and not at a great time either, as they prepare to welcome high-flying Barcelona to Paris. His future may be in serious doubt if his team fails to put up a fight against Catalonian opposition – but at the same time, his team also have the perfect opportunity to bounce back and eradicate the sloppiness of recent weeks. A win over the La Liga leaders would be as timely a win as possible for Blanc, but their performance must be watertight if they are to overcome this Barcelona side – a team still licking their lips after the demolition of Granada on Saturday afternoon.

While Luis Enrique has a near full-strength squad on his hands for the trip to Paris, Blanc is still sweating on the fitness of star man Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swedish striker has been missing in recent weeks with a heel problem, while the PSG boss has insisted that “the medical team will do everything they can to have him ready”. For a team who has drawn six games so far already this season, Blanc will be praying that the mercurial Swede can be fit in time to take on this Barcelona side – one who have yet to concede a goal. The 32-year old will surely be as desperate to play against his former side Barcelona – a place that ended up being one of the least pleasurable flutters of his career. While Ibrahimović still holds hope of featuring, Blanc will be certainly without his captain Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who are both recovering from injuries. For Luis Enrique, he will be without Rafinha, Masip, Douglas and Vermaelen – four players who have yet to feature a great deal this season.

 

When the teams clash  on Tuesday night in Paris, the stage will be set for one team to right their wrongs, and another set to continue doing what they’ve been doing all along. A win for Laurent Blanc would earn himself some much needed job security, while a win for Luis Enrique would simply be another notch on the bedpost, but an impressive one at that. PSG must start fast against this Barcelona side, or dance with the devil of letting the Catalans get into their often-devastating rhythm.

 

Betting Instinct tip Draw at half-time/Barcelona at full-time is 15/4 with AllYouBet.ag

 

jamie k avatar JAMIE KEMP 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.

Manchester United need a response against West Ham

Marcos Rojo could feature in an unfamiliar centre-back pairing

Marcos Rojo could feature in an unfamiliar centre-back pairing

The show must go on.

I tried to see the funny side of Leicester’s 5-3 comeback victory over Manchester United, but this was no MK Dons (at which I was in convulsions).  This was genuinely frustrating.  Forget growing pains and forget patience; it is pretty much unacceptable for any side to squander a two-goal lead over a newly-promoted team, never mind concede another two afterwards.  Saturday’s tie with West Ham isn’t a ‘bounce back’ fixture.  The Leicester game was like dropping an egg – no bounce and a small mess.  What United now must do is forget about that mess and turn their attention to the recipe.  There are plenty of eggs left in the carton.

 

Manchester United v West Ham United Betting Odds:

Manchester United win 3/10

West Ham United win 7/1

Draw 17/4

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

 

No matter how bad things got under David Moyes, and they got pretty bad, the most widespread criticism from United fans was the style, or lack thereof.  Last year United limped and sputtered through games, sometimes appearing to resign themselves to mediocre results.  Individual performances were often just that, and more often not enough.  This season, or in the last two games at least, they have already shown enough to be labelled a juggernaut going forward.  Swagger has replaced stagnation, and United are once again the most exciting team in the league to watch.

Usually we have to wait for new signings to ‘click’, but Ángel di María has been electrifying in his last two appearances and Falcao looks sharp as a tack.  The latter’s movement and cross in the buildup to Robin van Persie’s opener were impeccable, while the former’s goal was genius of the sort not seen in red since Cristiano Ronaldo.  After the first few months of Moyes’s reign had passed, I rarely found myself looking forward to watching a match.  Now I can hardly wait for the next one and I’m certainly not alone.  Need to sort out that defence though.

 

Liability Insurance

When Jonny Evans limped off early against Leicester, it was no doubt worrying, but we assumed it would be something to worry about after the final whistle.  Instead, United’s makeshift defence, with Phil Jones injured and Luke Shaw on the bench, was short of both quality and leadership.  Chris Smalling became something of a scapegoat after the game, but in truth Marcos Rojo and Rafael were both awful at full back as well, even if the penalty given against the Brazilian was a soft one.  Tyler Blackett was probably United’s best defender before Cambiasso’s goal, but then the capitulation began.  The youngster eventually showed his inexperience and Daley Blind was simply overrun in the second half.

All eyes will be on United’s defence against a West Ham side that looked good in their 3-1 win over Liverpool.  Evans’s scan has ruled him out for about a month, while Smalling picked up a thigh injury in training, further limiting van Gaal’s options at the back.  If Smalling is deemed fit, he will be partnered by Rojo at centre half, allowing Shaw to make his competitive debut at left-back.  If not, United will have to look at the bottom of the barrel for someone to pair with Rojo.  With go-to makeshift defender, Michael Carrick also an injury doubt, van Gaal could call on a youngster or even Darren Fletcher.

 

Nothing to Shout About

Many, myself included, were never in favour of making Rooney captain.  He held the club to ransom twice and was welcomed back with open chequebooks on both occasions.  If anything, agent Paul Stretford should be wearing the armband – at least he’s resourceful.  Rooney showed his idea of crisis management on Sunday when, after his failed clearance led to a Leicester goal, he screamed at anyone within earshot in a show of authoritah.  Rooney lent nothing to the team’s performance, but will of course be preferred to Juan Mata on Saturday in spite of recent form or, y’know, ability.

But one problem at a time.  Going forward, the team has played well in spite of Rooney, not because of him.  If van Gaal can assemble a back four for Saturday’s game, his side should be able to dispatch of West Ham.  I can still remember when United fans didn’t use the word ‘if’.

 

Betting Instinct tip – With United strong in attack and porous in defence, more than 3.5 goals looks good value at 5/4 with Intertops.eu

 

Cathal avatar CATHAL LOUGHRAN (cathalloughran) is a student and writer from Ireland, based in London.  He  writes about  college basketball and the NBA for Betting Instinct. Follow him on Twitter.

Arsenal look to keep up strong start in North London Derby

Will Younes Kaboul's North London Derby experience be enough against Arsenal's fluid frontline?

Will Younes Kaboul’s North London Derby experience be enough against Arsenal’s fluid frontline?

Thankfully, the Premier League’s fixture computer has this weekend provided the perfect antidote to the frankly disgusting spectacle that occurred the weekend before. Frank Lampard was almost in tears after his goal drew Manchester City level with Chelsea in the 85th minute of their tie, and explained afterwards to Sky Sports that, ‘I woke up this morning and didn’t know what I wanted from today.’ Four years earlier, as Emmanuel Adebayor’s Man City prepared to face his former club Arsenal, the Togolese knew exactly what he wanted. Angry at having been written off as a top-level striker and hurting after being subjected to a racist chant on the morning of the match, he proceeded to score and, well, do this. Now leading the line for Tottenham, he has the chance to repeat the feat in Saturday’s North London derby.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Arsenal win 7/10

Spurs win 7/2

Draw 53/20

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

Both sides have had strange starts to the season. Arsenal find themselves right at home in their familiar fourth place, while Tottenham lie five places and two points behind, in ninth. But despite Arsenal’s strong-ish start, the bulk of their play has been stilted and lacking in imagination. They scraped a win at home to Crystal Palace on the opening day, found themselves 2-0 down at Everton a week later before rescuing a point, and then struggled again in a 1-1 draw with Leicester. They looked better against City, but still seemed to lack that cutting edge, both Arsenal goals in the 2-2 draw the result of individual brilliance (Sanchez’s sublime volley, Wilshere’s lovely dinked finish) rather than, as is more typical of Arsene Wenger’s sides, the strength of the collective.

There is good reason to believe, however, that things are starting to ‘click’ into place. These early season performances have coincided with an experimental 4-1-4-1 formation that seemed to suit precisely none of the club’s most talented players. Alexis Sanchez has been largely impressive, but there remained a question mark over just where he would be picked; Aaron Ramsey, despite two important goals against Palace and Everton, has looked well short of his best; and Mesut Ozil, to put it kindly, has cut a peripheral figure out wide on the left.

But last weekend’s convincing away win at Villa Park saw the return of what most Arsenal fans wanted to see from the off: a 4-2-3-1 with Ozil at the centre of the three. Suddenly, the Danny Welbeck-Ozil-Sanchez axis looked unstoppable, even against Aston Villa’s rightful heirs to Paul McGrath and Shaun Teale (ahem), Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos. There now appears to be an air of optimism around the Emirates, one that Tuesday’s League Cup loss to Southampton has done little to dampen. (‘Bellerin, Chambers, Hayden, Coquelin’, Arsenal’s back four ominously read that evening.) They go into Saturday’s derby with confidence.

The same can’t be said for Spurs. Like Arsenal, their start to the season has been marked by ups and downs. Spurs’ downs, however, are both more worrying and more recent. Mauricio Pochettino looked to have settled in nicely at White Hart Lane, a spirited ten-man win away at West Ham being followed up by a routine dispatching of QPR. As Manchester United fans learned last week, however, 4-0 wins against Harry Redknapp sides mean diddlysquat in the longer term. Subsequent results have been disappointing to say the least: a 3-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield (fair enough), a 2-2 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light (not great), and a 1-0 loss to West Brom at White Hart Lane (a ‘big hit in the face’, to quote Pochettino).

The manager is fortunate that the West Brom loss came on one of the most brilliant, and certainly bizarre, Super Sundays™ in recent memory – with apologies to James Morrison, Esteban Cambiasso scoring for Leicester in a 5-3 win over Man United trumps every goal the Scottish midfielder will ever score – and that few will remember just how turgid his team’s performance was. The pressing style that so characterised Pochettino’s Southampton was nowhere to be seen, and the defence again looked shaky.

The manager told reporters this week that no member of his squad should feel secure in their place – ‘if you need to change, you change’, as he succinctly put it – and fans must be hoping that he proves as good as his word. Replacing both centre backs would be a radical move, and is unlikely to happen in time for the derby, but it wouldn’t be an unpopular one. Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches aren’t working as a partnership; Jan Vertonghen and Federico Fazio just might. Benjamin Stambouli, a player whose timing in the tackle is matched by his leadership qualities, could also come in alongside Etienne Capoue in an effort to shore up the Spurs midfield.

Even that might not save them. It’s not that there is any sort of crisis; this is a slump, at worst. One must bear in mind, however, that Spurs are a side recovering from the management of Tim Sherwood, a man more renowned for his ‘banter’ than his tactics. Things will improve, and Pochettino deserves time to negotiate that process, but in the short term it appears that they lack both the cohesion and the quality to get one over on their rivals. Arsenal will likely continue their fine North London derby record – only two losses at home in the Premier League era – and, alas, Adebayor will likely depart his old stomping ground looking miserable.

Betting Instinct tipArsenal to be winning at half-time and full-time is 8/5 with AllYouBet.ag

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS  is a master’s student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others. Follow Kieran on Twitter.

Which NFL unbeaten record will be the last to fall?

With Andy Dalton performing solidly, do the Bengals have the best shot at going 16-0?

With Andy Dalton performing solidly, do the Bengals have the best shot at going 16-0?

Since the 2007 New England Patriots proved it possible, the 16-0 season has been the goal of 32 teams over six separate regular seasons. In the seventh attempt, the list of possible ‘perfect seasons’ has already been whittled down to three: Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals. Have any of them got what it takes?

 

Philadelphia Eagles  

There are two ways to look at the great start this team has made to the season. The optimist would suggest that their three amazing comebacks, and in particular their incredible second half scoring figures make this team resilient and hard to beat. As the Jaguars found out in week 1, you can have a comfortable 17-0 half time lead and still be on the wrong end of a 34-17 thrashing. Quarterback Nick Foles has thrown more passing yards than anyone else in the NFL so far, and their close schedule isn’t exactly terrifying. Wins against the 49ers, Rams and Giants will take them up to their bye week 7 with a 6-0 record. The cynic would argue that their 26th ranked defence will leak too many points for the offense to continue making up for, and the promising start will soon start to unravel. Judging by the evidence that they only just scraped past the Redskins, who are frankly the only team they have played with a respectable defensive record, they could find a trip to the West Coast to face the 6th ranked 49ers defence as a step too far. It’s hard to not listen to the cynic on this one. The Eagles will struggle to keep their record past this weekend.

Betting Instinct tip the 49ers to end the Eagles’ dreams of a perfect season is -250 with AllYouBet.ag (all odds are subject to change)

 

Arizona Cardinals 

If anyone foresaw the Cardinals being 3-0 at this stage in the season, they were ignoring every reliable indicator of NFL success that informs any logical prediction ever made. This is a team who have negotiated a tough start against a number of realistic Super Bowl prospects without their star QB Carson Palmer, all whilst being heavily reliant on rookie WR John Brown. If their unbeaten season goes past 8-0, this will be a fairytale to warm the hearts of any sports fan. With respect to the amazing achievements of this team so far, a 16-0 season is frankly a pipe dream. The bye week coming up is likely to be the only thing keeping their fantasy of a perfect season alive. The prospect of facing the formidable Denver Broncos in week 5, who themselves are very unlucky not to make the 3-0 club after an overtime loss to their arch-nemesis, Seattle Seahawks, will probably be a bridge too far for the Cardinals. They can view this start as a platform to launch a realistic playoff charge, but no more than that I’m afraid.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Now here is an actual prospect for a perfect season. The Bengals, unlike their two counterparts on a 3-0, have recorded three very convincing wins so far. The standout result in terms of revealing how good this team actually is remains the a 24-10 victory against the Atlanta Falcons, and limiting one of the most impressive offenses in the NFL to 10 points really does reveal the potential of this team. Their own offensive record doesn’t set the world alight, but QB Andy Dalton has been rock solid, and the team’s rushing productivity means that the weight is not all on his shoulders. Pundits have been so impressed by their potential that whispers of comparison to the Super Bowl winning 2013 Seahawks have already been heard. Their presence in the arguably much friendlier AFC means their schedule doesn’t look too daunting either. When the Bengals face the New England Patriots in week 5, all will be revealed, but a win at Gillette Stadium could set the Bengals up for a run which may only be truly tested with visits to Denver and Pittsburgh in the final 2 games of the regular season. If there is one team that can go 16-0, it is the Bengals. Watch this space!

Betting Instinct tip – The Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl is +1200 with Intertops.eu

 

 Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist with a particular interest in English football, particularly the  relatively unexplored world of Conference football. He also has a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly  American football and Baseball, and has previously contributed to Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.

Battle royal at Soldier Field!

Packers vs. Bears on Sunday!

A fierce NFL rivalry continues when the Packers face the Bears!

It’s time for one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in the NFL to take centre stage again this weekend when the Green Bay Packers travel to the Chicago Bears for a matchup that could have serious consequences as far as the rest of the season in the NFC North is concerned.

Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, perennial favourites to take the division, are currently bottom of the standings after losing two of their first three games this season. Ok, ok, they can be forgiven for not coming away from Seattle with a win on the opening day of the season, but a shaky come-from-behind win at home to the Jets and another loss on the road at the Detroit Lions are hardly the best preparation for a trip to Soldier Field.

After slipping up at home to the Bills in Week 1, the Bears have put together back-to-back prime-time road victories at the 49ers and the Jets to make a real statement of intent for the upcoming season. Quarterback Jay Cutler, whose ability and character under pressure have been questioned in the past, is looking good and his stats even overshadow those of Rodgers as we head towards their showdown. Many experts are expecting both playmakers to shine in this high-profile duel and so a high-scoring game could well be on the cards.

The Bears lead the all-time stats between the two teams by 93 wins to 89 (6 ties), but it’s the Packers who have taken nine of their last 11 meetings and everyone in green and yellow will be doing their utmost to further improve that record this time around and get the franchsie back on track.

NFL Week 4: Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears Betting Odds

Green Bay Packers 1.8
Chicago Bears 2.05

To win the NFC North Betting Odds:

Green Bay Packers    2.35
Detroit Lions             2.6
Chicago Bears           3.5
Minnesota Vikings   34.0

All odds provided by allyoubet.ag are accurate as of today and 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

Where did Javier Hernandez go wrong at Manchester United?

Can Chicharito hit the heights of his first season in England?

Can Chicharito hit the heights of his first season in England?

Anyone who has seen a Rolling Stones gig in the last few years may have noticed a technique Mick Jagger uses to make the audience go home happy. He can’t bring his A-game to the table for the whole duration of the show any more because he’s 70-year-old man, and therefore has the physical fitness and stamina of a 70-year-old man. So, he’ll start slow and relaxed, producing a low-energy performance, before finally pulling out his signature moves for the final five or so songs. All in all, it won’t be a great display, but what do you expect? This decent finale, though, does usually overshadow the underwhelming start, so sticks in the memory.

 

Javier Hernandez made the fatal mistake of doing things during his Manchester United career the wrong way round. Rather than starting slowly, then picking up towards then end, it seems that he spent all of his allotted number of tap-ins during his first couple of seasons at the club, so was subsequently forced to fall back on the other aspects of his game – of which he has none.

Even in his first season, Hernandez was, metaphorically, all about the big, energetic finish. It was pretty apparent from the time he kicked the ball against his own face in the Community Shield victory over Chelsea that Little Pea might be a little pish. However, luckily for Hernandez, a) Vine hadn’t been invented then, and b) the ball ended up ricocheting into the net, so all his profligacy and needless offsides were completely overlooked. As with Jagger – if you drop the big moves at the right time, that will be what the crowd remembers. Hernandez’s (often late) goals essentially masked the fact that he wasn’t, and isn’t, very good at actually playing football.

 

Real Madrid v Elche Betting Odds:

Real Madrid win – 1.07

Elche win – 23.00

Draw – 10.00

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

 

In fairness, that first season probably kept him at Manchester United a lot longer than his ability deserved; had he spent 2010/11 being bullied out of cup games by League One defenders, Alex Ferguson probably would have sent him packing pretty sharpish. Hypothetically though, had he saved his designated allowance of one good season for his final term at Old Trafford, Hernandez may have ended up as more of a cult hero; think Anderson spending this last year of his contract still being generally not good enough, but scoring a few late winners and maybe a goal in a title-decider – he’d be loved, albeit patronisingly, forever.

However, Hernandez’s problem now is that he initially set expectations too high. After a year of performing above himself, the Mexican has spent the following few seasons disappointing those who expected more from him. Though strangely, this summer’s move to Real Madrid has sparked another fast start, with the Mexican scoring two goals in the 8-2 demolition of Deportivo. Will the past repeat itself this season?

 

It’s difficult to tell whether United fans would consider the 12-18 months of boasting to their mates about how Chicharito was world class, and a snip at £8million was worth the far more recent jibes of “oi Dan, remember when you called Hernandez the signing of the century? Good one mate.”

The answer is probably no, it wasn’t worth it. And this is ultimately who he’ll be remembered as – the bloke who scored a lot of goals one season, before being found out.  Really, Javier Hernandez isn’t Mick Jagger, he’s Lee Ryan: someone who is skilled enough in one particular niche area, but terrible at everything else, so has spent the last couple of years embarrassing himself every time he enters the public eye – to the point where it is pretty funny, but also quite sad.

 

Betting Instinct tip Chicharito to open the scoring against Elche is 7/2 with Coral

 

 CAOLAN COSGROVEcaolan_avatar writes about football, especially all things Arsenal-related, for BendtOverBackwards, Sabotage  Times and others. Follow him on Twitter.

Can resurgent AC Milan trip up the Old Lady?

Pippo Inzaghi takes charge of Milan against another of the clubs he represented during his playing career

Pippo Inzaghi takes charge of Milan against another of the clubs he represented during his playing career

AC Milan fans are just starting to believe again after last season’s nightmare, but the visit of defending champions Juventus will be a true test of their Scudetto credentials. Milan will look to take advantage of hosting the Bianconeri before they truly hit their stride, but they have made an ominous start to the campaign.

Juventus won the title at a canter last season, their third in a row, but they were helped by their rivals suffering unexpectedly wretched spells, so the Turin side should expect much stiffer tests this time around. Milan proved emphatically that they can find the net with their 5-4 win over Parma, the question is whether they can rattle Juventus’s as yet unbeaten, unflappable back line.

The odds show Juventus as clear favourites but the draw is generously priced given that this is a very different Milan side to last season and they have so far been deadly in front of goal.

 

AC Milan v Juventus Betting Odds:

AC Milan to win – 21/10

Juventus to win – 6/5

Draw – 9/4

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

 

Milan’s nine-goal thriller with Parma had everything – two red cards, an injured goalkeeper (Milan’s Diego Lopez who is out for 20 days) and a magnificent back heel winner from Jeremy Menez. Having beaten Lazio 3-1 in their opener, things are looking up for a side who suffered the rare indignity of missing out on European qualification last season. It’s the first time since 1963 that Milan have hit eight goals in their opening two games of a campaign, and they even struck five without new boy Fernando Torres, who is fighting off an ankle injury, and injury-prone marksman Stephan El Shaarawy. Both men should be ready to feature against Juventus.

In many ways Milan are still rebuilding after the Massimiliano Allegri era, so this game will have even more pride at stake than usual because Allegri will be sitting on the Juventus bench. Clarence Seedorf’s impact was minimal after he replaced Allegri and it is only now that Pippo Inzaghi is putting a new stamp on the team. However, despite the air of optimism, Inzaghi has insisted that a win over Juventus would be ‘pulling off a miracle’. The former poacher is still in his managerial infancy and knows that a win would undoubtedly be his greatest coaching achievement to date.

 

The worry for Inzaghi is that his gung-ho Rossoneri are doing things the hard way. There have been over 2.5 goals in Milan’s last four Serie A games, going back into the end of last season. The defence looked jittery against Parma and may struggle to deal with the Juventus partnership of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente that proved deadly last season. Juventus, by contrast, are yet to turn on the fireworks but also yet to concede. Their opening day 1-0 win at Chievo could easily have been 3-0 and they were on the whole comfortable in beating a competitive Udinese 2-0 at home. The Old Lady have been built on solidity rather than flamboyance and the old adage states that titles are won by defence not attack. There have been less than 2.5 goals scored in 13 of Juventus’s last 16 Serie A games and they have kept a clean sheet in eight of their last nine.

A largely unpopular choice to replace the conquering Antonio Conte, Allegri still has a lot to prove, but Juventus’ back bone remains from last year when they beat Milan 2-0 at San Siro and triumphed 3-2 at home. The managerial transition has so far been smooth and Juventus will be full of confidence. Big-money summer signing Alvaro Morata is finally nearing full fitness after picking up a knee injury in his first training session with Juve. The Spaniard could be introduced in the second half to worry the Milan defence and may be a good bet for last goalscorer.

 

The pattern of the game will be decided by whether Milan can draw first blood. If they can shock Juventus and take the lead, the game will open up and could be a thriller. It would still be a massive test of Milan to hold on to a lead and Inzaghi’s side have shown little evidence of being able to close out a game ever since pre-season when they shipped goals regularly. Much more likely both sides will be scared to make a mistake and it will be a very tight, cagey affair that could come down to a single goal.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Back the draw in the Milan v Juventus match this weekend at +225 with AllYouBet.ag, and if you fancy a score cast try 1-1 @ +550.

 

Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) has written about Serie A for Football Italia and wrote the book Up Pohnpei. He is also one part of of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger  John Foster. Follow Paul on Twitter.

Can the Champions League hit the same heights as last season?

Could Real Madrid struggle without the dynamism of Angel di Maria?

Could Real Madrid struggle without the dynamism of Angel di Maria?

The Champions League has a lot to live up to this season.

After a summer in which the competition’s status as the greatest show on Earth was called back into question due to a World Cup for the ages, Europe’s premier club tournament must remind the public just what they missing while gallivanting off on their Brazilian fling.

So let’s get to it. Which of the opening fixtures in the first clutch of games will be able to pump up the drama and bring back that spark of romance to make their estranged viewers forget about Brazil, carnival, sex, Pele?

Basel to bruise a reeling Madrid

Poor Carlo Ancelotti. Having finally tamed the bombastic beast of excess that lurks within the soul of Florentino Rerez last season, the Italian has now seen the two conduits of sense and reason that underpinned his Champion League-winning team leave the Bernabeu to be replaced by fancy dan playmakers.

Without the balancing powers of Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso, Real Madrid have slumped to two La Liga defeats in a row against Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid to leave Carlo’s eye brow at an all time, muscle quivering high. The left side of the poor man’s forehead must be in constant spasm.

Fortunately, up next for Real are group stage giant-killing specialists, Basel. Wait, that’s not good for them at all. In fact, the Swiss could be exactly the wrong team at the wrong time for the reigning champions, with the 33-year-old Marco Streller still playing as if he wears some amulet from the Gods designed to punish the rich and hubristic wherever he finds them on a football field.

Saying Basel are going to beat Real at the Bernabeu sounds like too much of a tip, but here we are.

Betting Instinct tip – Basel to humble the champions is 14/1 with Intertops.eu, while the Swiss side are 5.22 to avoid defeat

#FreeShinji versus dat guy: the Manchester United reject derby

In case it passed you by at all, Manchester United aren’t in the Champions League this year due to an administrative error by David Gill, who has clearly lapsed on his responsibilities as a Machiavellian super fiend in the pay of the Glazers at UEFA.

Still, the suits at Old Trafford have done their best to help the club’s fans out by ensuring that Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck will play under the floodlights of Europe this season, which is almost as good as the club competing itself. Count up the various savings on travelling costs and this Plan B becomes inarguably sound.

So who should United fans be backing in this clash of their two honorary B teams? Let’s go with Arsenal. Not only is Welbz “dat guy”, but Borussia Dortmund weren’t all that convincing at home against Bayer Leverkusen, which was their last real test going into the first game of their Champions League campaign.

The Gunners on the other hand looked really rather good against Manchester City, and benefited from the mobility of the ex-United forward up front, although his inability to find the back of the net could still cost them.

Betting Instinct tip Danny Welbeck to score at any time is 15/8 with Coral.co.uk

Ultimate Warrior Football  Edition: The Red Army of Soviet Russia versus the Roman Empire

Put the ball down and take off your boots.

No, this isn’t a strange, English reboot of the Terminator franchise starring Vinnie Jones, in which a mechanised, killer Wimbledon defender travels back in time to kill the mother of Peter Winkelman. Well, it’s sort of close.

This week, the Champions League meets The History Channel, as CSKA Moscow—a team once run by the Red Army back in the days of the USSR— travel to the Italian capital to face AS Roma. For the uninitiated, Roma’s badge sports an image of Romulus and Remus from the Roman legend of how Rome was founded, and for the sake of this bizarre set-up, were definitely once run by a rouge load of Centurions back in the days of the Roman Empire.

Expect football to take a back seat as both teams don their traditional battle dress and weaponry to decide once and for all who wins in this historically inaccurate insult to the whole idea of recreations.

CSKA Moscow are obviously going to win. They’ve got great winter coats, and tanks, and planes, and guns. Roma have got eagles and short swords. You’d have to be a brave punter to put any cash down on their chances, but then again…

Betting Instinct tip CSKA to lead at half-time is 5/1 with AllYouBet.ag

Separatists to prosper against victims of an insurrection

Athletic Club are a proud symbol of Basque nationalism. They’re sponsored by a local, Bilbao-based chemical corporation, and only field footballers of Basque descent.

Shakhtar Donetsk’s long-term future is currently uncertain due to the Ukraine crisis which threatens to rip their country in two, and with the team, known as The Miners due to their industrial roots, based on the eastern, generally pro-Russian side of the nation, their situation could get extremely complicated, extremely quickly.

As such, there’s not too many jokes to be found in this match up, but plenty of opportunity to profit from an awful scenario that exists far beyond the realms of football.

With the game set to take place in Bilbao, Athletic Club will hold a mighty home advantage in their new San Mames 2.0 stadium, not least because their players aren’t currently living with the prospect of a geo-political meltdown on their doorstep.

It also helps that Bilbao are again looking good this season under the guidance of manager Ernesto Valverde. Back them. It won’t make you a bad person, or an exploiter of bad news stories. Honest.

Betting Instinct tip – Athletic to win by two or more goals is 5/2 with Intertops.eu

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+.

Falcons flying high!

Can the Falcons beat the Bengals?

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons started the NFL season with a big win!

There were quite a few experts predicting a difficult season for the Atlanta Falcons after several changes to their roster on both sides of the ball this summer. Indeed, after falling behind by 13 points to NFC South rival New Orleans in the first half of Week 1, things seemed to be going pretty much as expected, before quarterback Matt Ryan and his offense finally got into their stride.

Ryan threw a franchise-record 448 yards as the hosts stormed back to finally secure a 37-34 OT victory off the boot of kicker Matt Bryant in what could yet prove a crucial win in the race to the division crown.

The next goal for the Falcons to achieve is to win a second straight game – something they failed to do in their miserable season last year – but it will be anything other than easy as Week 2 takes then north to Cincinnati where the Bengals are defending a nine-game Regular Season home winning streak.

The Men in Stripes got off to a good start to the season themselves, grinding out a narrow victory at Baltimore in Week 1, and hopes are high in Cincy that this could be the season in which the team finally makes a serious Super Bowl challenge.

After recent playoff failure, the heat is on quarterback Andy Dalton to deliver the goods in the postseason at last following the signing of a massive new contract earlier this year, but everyone at the franchise knows it is now a question of keeping concentration high and securing a good start to what could, and indeed should, be a long season ahead.

A home defeat to the Falcons would be a serious confidence blow to all at Paul Brown Stadium, and after Atlanta’s positive Week 1 showing nobody will be taking the visitors lightly on Sunday!

NFL Week 2: Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds:

Atlanta Falcons        3.05
Cincinnati Bengals  1.41

All odds provided by allyoubet.ag are accurate as of today and 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