Can Gronkowski steer the Patriots to Super Bowl glory?

Last year I learnt my lesson the hard way, a great defense will trumps a great offense. I had backed the Denver Broncos to beat the Seattle Seahawks, and like a lot of people thought my money was safe. That year the Broncos were statistically the number 1 NFL offense of all time, setting the record for most touchdowns in a season with 76. The Seahawks were a good team, but Peyton was having far and away the best year of his career, it just seemed like such a sure thing. We all saw how that game played out, from the first play of the game, a botched snap resulting in a safety, it was clear that the Broncos didn’t have their mojo and the Seahawks had come to play.

 

Super Bowl XLIX Betting Odds:

New England Patriots -1115

Seattle Seahawks -105

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

 

So after learning my lesson last year you’d expect me to back the Seahawks defense, right? Well there is the little issue of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. As someone who has read the writing of Bill Simmons for a few years I’ve picked up a few gambling lessons from him. One of those is to never bet heavily against Brady and Belichick. I know plenty of people who made money on the last two Super Bowls which this pair featured in, but I have to ask myself the question, could Tom Brady lose 3 Super Bowls in a row?

Brady is currently in a critical moment of his career, where he can end countless debates arguing who the best quarterback of all time is and make the decision a unanimous one. The consequences for Sunday’s game are so huge for the legacy of Brady. Win his fourth Super Bowl ring and he cements himself as the best quarterback of all time. Lose his third Super Bowl in a row and the whole myth of Tom Brady alters; there is no way he avoids being labelled a “choker”, the most humiliating word an NFL quarterback can be associated with.

 

I just can’t imagine living in a world where Tom Brady is branded a choke artist, and I don’t think Tom Brady can either. Looking at the odds, betting outright on the Patriots isn’t something that will offer a favourable return. So instead I would take a Patriots win coupled with Gronkowski scoring a touchdown. Despite the quality of the Seahawks secondary, they have been susceptible to tight ends this year, and it is seemingly impossible to shutdown Gronkowski who has had a touchdown in each of his last 5 games (including playoffs). The Patriots leading wide receiver seems to alternate weekly between Edelman and Lafell, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable betting on either of those guys, but Gronkowski is guaranteed to get targets from Brady in the Super Bowl.

Although if you don’t see Tom Brady’s fairytale career culminating in a fourth Super Bowl ring and are backing the Seahawks, then the safest bet is to go with a Seahawks victory and Marshawn Lynch to score a touchdown. Lynch, like Gronkowski, is the focal point of his offense, and ended his season hot, having scored a touchdown in 5 of his last 6 games. In a game which appears so close on paper it is hard to feel confident about anything, but Gronkowski and Lynch have been the two superstars of their team all season long and whichever team wins will do so because of the impact of their star player.

 

Betting Instinct tip – AllYouBet.ag is offering odds on which of Gronkowski and Lynch will score a touchdown first. Gronk to score a touchdown before Beast Mode is -105.

mattm MATT MCGRATH writes about American football, be it college or NCAA (because betting on unpaid student athletes is fun and definitely ethically correct). Follow him on Twitter.

Absence of key names could hinder Chelsea in potential early title-decider

January 1, 2015

  1. Chelsea P20 W 14 D 4 L 2 GF 44 GA 19 PTS 46
  2. Man City P20 W 14 D 4 L 2 GF 44 GA 19 PTS 46
On New Year’s Day it was tempting to look at this weekend’s clash between Chelsea and Manchester City as the titanic title tussle that we thought this Premier League season would never get. But City being City, the winner-takes-all tag has disappeared and a five point gap has resurfaced between the two ahead of Saturday evening’s Showdown at the Bridge.

 

January 31 is no time to be having the final top-of-the-table clash of the season, with there remaining 15 games still to play even as the dust settles after the Stamford Bridge match. That quirk is not just the fault of the fixture list but everyone else in the league failing to consistently test either side, whose fallibilities and vulnerabilities have crept to the surface since the turn of the year.

 

 

Chelsea win – Evens
Man City win – 13/5
Draw – 23/10

 

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

 

City’s seven-game winning sequence from late November to Boxing Day whittled away Chelsea’s eight-point lead at the table summit. On New Year’s Day the pair sat neck-and-neck with only alphabetical order separating first from second. But City’s flimsiness when expectancy rears its head has one again crept in.

 

There is no shame in drawing 1-1 at Everton, but failing to hold on for three points after taking a 74th minute lead against a side who had suffered four straight defeats is unforgivable. That was then followed by a lethargic, tempo-less performance against a disciplined Arsenal, where they crumbled to a 2-0 defeat. Only 24 hours previously Chelsea had demolished Swansea 5-0, a performance that Jose Mourinho hailed as “perfect”.

 

But both sides enter the weekend game against a peculiar backdrop. City’s horrendous run of form since the New Year has clouded their preparation, and Chelsea have had their own soul-searching to do after a week of mixed cup fortunes and the acrimony of Jose Mourinho’s siege mentality. Manuel Pellegrini’s side look in dire need of attacking inspiration, with David Silva and Sergio Aguero yet to get going after their respective returns from injury.

 

The embarrassing truth that has been peddled out most frequently this month is that City have failed to win a game without Yaya Toure since January last year. The desperation to field their dynamic midfielder, and £30million new boy Wilfried Bony for that matter, was underlined by the fact that Pellegrini wanted them in the squad if Cote d’Ivoire crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday. As it is the Chilean must make do without them again, and face that Toure-less record head on again, if new life is to be injected into the title race.

 

Defeat – and an eight point lead for Chelsea – will surely leave City with too much to do, given the kinder fixtures remaining for Mourinho’s men in the second-half of the season.

 

Chelsea have won each of their 10 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge this season, scoring at least twice on each occasion, and will be confident of keeping that record up given that City have conceded at least two goals in four of their last five league fixtures, and with Vincent Kompany looking extremely shaky since his return form injury.

 

Yet one can not escape the feeling that Mourinho will approach this game from a damage limitation viewpoint. He will know that he has the kinder fixture list, with City still to travel to Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane before the end of the season, and may as a result look to keep the five-point lead intact, rather than risk losing it again.

 

It is not an approach that Mourinho tends to go with at home, usually saving it for away games as he did last season in grinding out goalless draws at Old Trafford and the Emirates. But don’t be surprised if he favours a Mikel-Matic axis in defensive midfield, given the attacking riches that they will likely be missing. Cesc Fabregas limped out of Tuesday night’s win over Liverpool and much will rest also on the outcome of Diego Costa’s FA charge of violent conduct for stamping on Emre Can; and Chelsea are a very different prospect without their snarling Spaniard leading the line.

 

It is not just his goalscoring record they’ll miss – eight different times he’s struck at Stamford Bridge this season – but his sheer presence, will to win and the way he upsets the rhythm of opposing defenders. Without Toure, Fabregas and Costa the fixture will lack that extra class and spice; but the presence of Frank Lampard – back at Stamford Bridge after leaving Chelsea in the summer – will at least distract the media narrative.

 

Betting Instinct tip – with plenty of attacking talent sidelined, it could be worth backing fewer than 1.5 goals at 23/10 with Intertops.eu

 

JamesDutton JAMES DUTTON is a freelance journalist who has written for The Mirror, The Guardian and The Times. James helps to  run The False Nine football website, contributes to The Anfield Wrap and is a columnist for uMAXit Football

Could Marshawn Lynch score the opening Super Bowl touchdown again?

Everyone remembers the first touchdown scorer at the Super Bowl, and this is reflected in one of Intertops Sportsbook‘s most popular prop markets. For all the bluster and build-up ahead of the game it’s often that moment when one of the stars of the biggest sporting event of the year truly announces himself.

Last year Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch took the honors, forcing his way into the endzone early in the second quarter. ‘Beast Mode’ is the pregame favourite to do it again, but only just.


Super Bowl XLIX – First Touchdown Scorer Odds

Marshawn Lynch +550
Rob Gronkowski +650
Julian Edelman +1000
LaGarrette Blount +1000

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


Lynch found the endzone an incredible 17 times in the regular season, ahead of Gronk’s 12, and while the Patriots might be one-point favorites to bring Tom Brady his fourth ring, they will face a tough task against a Seattle Seahawks side looking for back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

In addition to the first touchdown market, you can back Lynch (-167) or Gronkowski (-143) in the anytime touchdown stakes, with Blount (+120) and Edelman (+140) not far behind. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin both contributed touchdowns in Seattle’s victory last year, and the pair are +175 to repeat the feat in 2015.


Super Bowl bets at Intertops SportsbookBet in-play on Super Bowl XLIX at Intertops Sportsbook
$100 free matched bet available

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MVP market hotting up as Super Bowl XLIX approaches

If you bet on the MVP market ahead of last year’s Super Bowl, and if you don’t own a crystal ball, chances are you walked away empty handed.

Malcolm Smith was a surprise winner for many reasons, and his odds of +10000 to repeat the feat are testament to that, but often the market is easier to predict.


Super Bowl XLIX MVP Betting Odds:

Tom Brady +150
Russell Wilson +225
Marshawn Lynch +450

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


Tom Brady is chasing his fourth Super Bowl ring and his third MVP award after 2002 and 2004, and the winning quarterback is often the recipient of that particular honor. It is unsurprising, therefore, that Brady’s opposing QB Russell Wilson is second favorite.

However recent years have seen unlikely names buck the trend, and while a repeat for Smith might not be high on most people’s expectations, there are a few other outside bets who have captured people’s attention.

Richard Sherman (+2500) has hit the headlines in the days leading up to the game, while Brandon LaFell (+5000) has been talked up as a potential MVP this time around (all odds from AllYouBet Sportsbook are subject to change).

So who’s your money on this year? Are you going for one of the favorites or does an outside bet take your fancy? Have your say in the comments section below.


AllYouBet.ag Sportsbook Super Bowl BetsBet on Super Bowl XLIX at AllYouBet Sportsbook
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 TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter.

An Idiot’s Guide to Betting On Super Bowl XLIX

As well as being the biggest sporting event in the world, Super Bowl XLIX is the biggest gambling event in the world. You can bet on the game, the coin flip, the national anthem, the half time show, the colour of the Gatorade shower. If it happens on Sunday night, you can bet on it. But where to start with such an array of options? Here’s a newbie’s guide to avoid losing all your money on Super Bowl XLIX.

DON’T BET ON THE COIN TOSS

Betting on the pregame coin flip is the most tempting, yet most futile of all Super Bowl gambles. The odds of winning are 50/50, yet the returns are lower. There’s no skill, no advantage. It’s utterly pointless. A sneakier bet, is for the Seahawks to get the first possession and/or score first. The odds on this shouldn’t be overly weighted, but New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick (yes, him of the deflated balls) will always defer the kickoff and give the opposition the ball. (And if you really want to bet on the coin toss, remember, tails never fails.)

GO ALL IN ON SAFETIES

The odds on a safety appearing in a Super Bowl are always monstrously high (+500 with Intertops.eu) and yet in two of the last three Super Bowls, there’s been a safety. With pressure as high as it gets, mistakes are possible, and with late tactical tweaks from two of the smartest coaches around in the offing, we may even see a repeat of Baltimore’s deliberate safety from two years ago.

CLOSE GAME HEROICS

A couple of minor prop bets here: firstly, have a look at their being a score in the final two minutes of the first half (-300 with AllYouBet.ag). In Tom Brady and Russell Wilson we’ll see two of the smartest QBs in football match up, and both possess fine clock management skills which could see you cashing in on this. The other one is this: we’ve never seen a Super Bowl go to overtime, but this looks like being one of the closest games in years, and may well end up being a pick’um. With that in mind, overtime is a definite possibility.

MVP

There are two ways to approach MVP betting – the smart, QB focused approach, or the fun, ‘who’s going to become a hero’ approach. The QB approach is to back the quarterback of whichever team you think will win – as the QBs, more often than not, come away with the individual prize. Alternatively, you could look for other possibilities. Marshawn Lynch, in possible his last game as a Seahawk, is a strong shout for Seattle, but why not look further down the list. Last year’s MVP Malcolm Smith has barely been heard from since, but saw two turnovers land in his lap. Kam Chancellors’ big play ability may give him an outside shot at the award, and he possibly should have won it last year. For the Patriots, have a look at the Gronk, Rob Gronkowski. The big tight end is Tom Brady’s favourite weapon, and covering tight ends is one of the few weaknesses of the fearsome Seattle defense.

Betting Instinct tip Rob Gronkowski to be named Super Bowl MVP is +1000 with Intertops.eu

It’s not too late to grab your ticket to London’s biggest and best Super Bowl party – happening at Bloomsbury Lanes. Tickets and details at bloomsburylive.com/superbowl

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

Patriots and Seahawks to lock horns in closely contested Super Bowl

The Seahawks and Patriots have met only a handful of times this century

The Seahawks and Patriots have met only a handful of times this century

It’s that time of year again; the Super Bowl is upon us, and this year’s promises to be one of the best in recent memory.

The Seattle Seahawks – last year’s Super Bowl winners – take on the New England Patriots in Glendale, Arizona a week on Sunday for the right to win the Lombardi Trophy.

 

Super Bowl XLIX Betting Odds:

New England Patriots -120

Seattle Seahawks +100

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

 

The Seahawks’ road to the Super Bowl was far more dramatic that it was a year ago; a comfortable win over the Carolina Panthers was followed up with a staggering comeback against the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw four interceptions before eventually throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to win the game in overtime, with the Packers blowing a 16 point lead.

The Patriots had it in reverse – a tense, close win over the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round, before swatting aside the Indianapolis Colts in a 45-7 thumping to reach the Super Bowl for a sixth time under the leadership of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

 

Whilst the Seahawks hammered the Denver Broncos 43-8 in New York a year ago, this year’s game should be far closer affair.

The game will hinge on how New England’s superb offense, spearheaded by Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, will manage to move the ball against a vaunted Seahawks defense, with Richard Sherman leading ‘the Legion of Boom’ – the nickname for the Seahawks secondary.

The two teams have played each other just three times since 2000, but the last game saw Seattle win 24-23 in 2012, with Brady and Sherman clashing as they walked off the field in a rivalry that will finally be renewed on the biggest stage of all.

On the other side of the ball, Seattle are methodical, relying mostly on running back Marshawn Lynch and the improvisation of quarterback Russell Wilson, whilst New England will be hoping for a shutdown game from star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is playing in his first Super Bowl.

 

There were more than 50 points in last season’s game, but it would be something of a surprise to see that happen again. It should be a much, much tighter encounter than when Seattle dominated Denver last season, with head coach Pete Carroll no doubt desperate to stop his former employers winning a fourth Super Bowl since he left New England.

With a win, Seattle can become the first team to win successive Super Bowls since the Patriots in 2004 and 2005, but the Patriots are slight favourites with most bookmakers in an incredibly close market so far.

Betting Instinct tip – Back less than 48 points at -110 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Olly avatarOLLY DAWES is a Sports Management graduate and sports journalist for Here Is The City, whilst he also writes about NFL for Colts Authority.

Three Things to Look Out For at Super Bowl XLIX

Russell Wilson helped the Seahawks overcome an improbable deficit against Green Bay - can he do it again?

Russell Wilson helped the Seahawks overcome an improbable deficit against Green Bay – can he do it again?

As we count down to February 1st, most people are arguing over whether the Seattle can go back-to-back, or whether favourites New England can stop the Seahaws in their tracks. However there are a few more things to look out for at Super Bowl XLIX. 

So, as all eyes turn towards the University of Phoenix Stadium, what can we expect?

Tom Brady’s Quest for Ring #4

When a 24-year-old Brady led the Patriots to victory in Super Bowl XXXVI the idea of him repeating the feat was not beyond the realms of possibility, but few could have imagined that he would be still here some 13 years later.

However here he is, one of the biggest names in NFL and one of the most famous sportsmen in the world. And a fourth title this year would cap a phenomenal career at the highest level.

Seattle Back From the Dead

With three minutes left in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks were looking at a 19-7 deficit against Green Bay. Many said that was unassailable, but Russell Wilson wasn’t listening, dragging the side into overtime and ultimately into the Super Bowl.

Countless different sports have brought up comeback stories before, and it is often the case that a team considering itself blessed to even be taking to the field will play without the pressure of expectation and emerge victorious.


Super Bowl Betting Odds:

New England Patriots -1.5 -110

Seattle Seahawks +1.5 -110

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



Another Chance for a Surprise MVP

Over the years, the Super Bowl MVP honours have unsurprisingly gone the way of the winning quarterback, with 26 of the 48 to receive the award being QBs. However last year the Seahawks’ Malcolm Smith became only the third linebacker named Super Bowl MVP.

Could a surprise name like Smith come through again this year? Or will it be business as usual?

 


Super Bowl bets at Intertops SportsbookBet on Super Bowl XLIX at Intertops Sportsbook — You could win a trip to Super Bowl 50.

Up to $100 bonus now available.

 


 

tv

 TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter.

Ten Years On from Patriots’ Back-to-Back Super Bowls, Can Seattle Repeat the Feat?

Can the Seahawks become the first team in 10 years to go back-to-back?

Can the Seahawks become the first team in 10 years to go back-to-back?

In February 2005, at the Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, the New England Patriots held off a late rally from the Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl XXXIX, their second title in a row.

No NFL side has repeated the trick since, but that could change on February 1st as the Seattle Seahawks take to the field at University of Phoenix Stadium. And in a great twist, their opponents will be none other than the Patriots.

Super Bowl XLIX Betting Odds:

New England Patriots -125

Seattle Seahawks +105

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

 

One year ago, Seattle cruised to Super Bowl victory with a dominant performance against the Denver Broncos. Many who featured that day will be involved again in the 2015 edition, not least Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.

However their opponents won this year’s AFC Championship Game convincingly, brushing aside the Indianapolis Colts, and enter the game as narrow favorites.

AllYouBet.ag is marking the occasion with two great promotions: members can deposit using coupon code SBBONUS15 for a 50% bonus up to $100, while those betting on the game itself can earn themselves a $100 post-season free bet.

So, who do you think will come out on top on February 1st? Have your say in the comments below.

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter.

Romance Is Dead. Long Live The FA Cup 4th Round

Marko Arnautović helped spare Stoke's blushes in the third round against Wrexham

Marko Arnautović helped spare Stoke’s blushes in the third round against Wrexham

While the third round has become hamstrung by cliché and mythology and never fails to disappoint, all the cool kids know the fourth round is where it’s really at. It’s the orange to the third round’s black. Chia seeds to quinoa.

Let the hopeless romantics delude themselves that a postman will score a late winner against a Premier League side. Let them evoke nostalgia from Motty’s sheepskin coat. Let them revel in sepia-tinged David and Goliath fables of yesteryear.

For those of us who Andy Townsend might describe as ‘having something about them’ it is this weekend that offers the true promise of upset and drama as the gene pool gets stronger and the vague notion of a cup run becomes a genuine possibility.

FA Cup Outright Odds:

Chelsea 17/4

Manchester City 9/2

Manchester United 5/1

Arsenal 7/1

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

Take Rochdale’s (15/4 with Intertops.eu) hosting of Stoke (13/20) on Monday evening. The Potters’ previous opponents were Conference side Wrexham at the Britannia and though the Welshmen applied themselves outstandingly – ‘plucky’ I believe is the obligatory term – was there any doubt as to whether the top flight club would ultimately prevail? They always do. Class tells as legs tire and all that.

This time out Mark Hughes’ men travel to Spotland to face a side contesting a League One play-off place who have brushed aside a Christmas blip and rediscovered some fine form. In a tight hostile environment packed to the rafters with fervent believers – and presumably some snowy conditions levelling the field – even Hughes’ battle-hardened eleven will struggle to impose their superiority.

 

At Villa Park Bournemouth (19/10 with AllYouBet.ag) almost go into the tie as favourites having scored more goals in the Midlands in a single game this term (their 8-0 drubbing of Brum at St Andrews in October) than a misfiring Aston Villa (5/4) have managed in 11 attempts (having notched just seven at home). It’s a mind-boggling statistic that aptly illustrates the gulf in attacking freedom shown by both sides and you almost feel sorry for Paul Lambert that the hat threw up this no-win clash for a game that might decide his managerial fate.

Elsewhere high-flying Bristol City (13/5) will fancy their chances against West Ham (19/20) while draw-specialists Brighton (4/1) will see the visit of Arsenal (57/100) as a blessed relief from relegation concerns (all odds via AllYouBet.ag).

 

For those among us who still believe in the magic of the cup – aww bless – please brace yourselves for this but what really takes the fourth round up a notch on its quixotic cousin is the increasing likelihood of an all-Premier League affair. Oh and while we’re at it Santa Claus doesn’t exist either.

Unusually this year however there are only two top flight clashes in Tottenham v Leicester and Southampton v Palace and while neither are exactly an all-Merseyside derby or top four grudge-match both offer intriguing narratives. Victory at the Lane will give Foxes fans a rare glimpse of Wembley on the horizon to accompany a spirit-sapping fight for survival while Alan Pardew will scent the opportunity to cement his place back in Eagles folklore should Southampton prioritise their Champion’s League dream. The odds for either club going all the way this year are generous across the board – especially considering their onerous away trips this weekend – but bear in mind the recent trend for relegation-battlers reaching the final.

Another long-shot for cup glory lies in the victor from Birmingham v West Brom, a tasty Midlands encounter that is given extra titillation with each side being turned around by new managers. Since his appointment in late-October – following their eight goal humiliation as it goes – Gary Rowett has performed superbly in revitalising the Blues fortunes while new Baggies gaffer Tony Pulis may not usually value a distracting cup run but is intent on imposing winning ways to his new club.
Okay, so you want one ceding to FA Cup magic? It of course comes in the form of Cambridge squaring up to the slightly more famous United. Televised this Friday evening – how traditional – it will give the U’s some welcome exposure, some even more welcome revenue, and their players a chance to swap shirts with Wayne Rooney and co.

They won’t win naturally because romance is dead but all the very best to them.

Long live the 4th round. Motty, put away your sheepskin, things just got real.

 

Betting Instinct tip Manchester United to crush Cambridge dreams with a 4-0 win is 9/1 with AllYouBet.ag

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.

Tough Group Could Hinder Algeria’s Quest for Africa Cup of Nations Glory

Algeria will hope Yacine Brahimi translates his Champions League form to the international stage

Algeria will hope Yacine Brahimi translates his Champions League form to the international stage

After some doubts about the tournament towards the tail-end of 2014, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nation is here – perhaps against the better judgement of many. Due to the threat of the Ebola virus, Morocco withdrew themselves as hosts in October and were replaced by Equatorial Guinea in November. Despite being co-hosts in 2012, the country have not had long to prepare and there are some doubt about the pitches at the two of the stadiums.

However, here we are and there is a tournament to discuss.

 

Africa Cup of Nations Outright Betting Odds:

Côte d’Ivoire 7/2

Algeria 9/2

Ghana 8/1

Tunisia 8/1

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

 

There are two distinct halves to the draw and will make for some really interesting semi-final match-ups when we eventually get down to the last four. Groups C and D are full of potential winners of the competition and that ultimately means none of the teams in those groups will be able to enjoy anything close to an easy game at the beginning of the competition.

Ghana, Algeria, South Africa and Senegal will battle for two places in Group C while Mali, Cameroon, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire have been drawn together in Group D. Trying to pick the four teams that will reach the quarter-finals out of those eight would be nothing more than a punt in the dark; and with both pairs of qualifiers due to face each other in the last eight, there is a real chance for the teams in Group A and B to build up real momentum ahead of the semi-finals.

 

2013 finalists Burkina Faso may just fancy themselves for a repeat run in 2015 thanks to a favourable draw in Group A. Jonathan Pitroipa continues to be an important player for his nation and a repeat of his performances two years ago would ensure safe passage through the group. Paul Put, the man that masterminded the run to the final defeat against Nigeria two years ago, remains in charge and will be confident of a similar run for his hard-working team. They don’t have the same star as other teams heading into the competition but they will be buoyed by their showing in 2013.

In Group B, we can’t help but wonder that 2012 victors Zambia’s current squad has evolved too much from the group that pulled off the emotional victory three years ago. The rest of the teams will be looking at the top seeds as a side they can eliminate from the competition. Georges Leekens has built a hard-working Tunisia side that may capitalise in the same way as the recent victors of the competition. Both Zambia in 2012 and Nigeria in 2013 profited thanks to disciplined, structured line-ups with players who stuck to their jobs. Leekens should be able to get the same from his squad this time around and they might just be the team to beat in Group B.

 

Betting Instinct tip Burkina Faso and Tunisia to both win their opening games is 5.91 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Both Tunisia and Burkina Faso could be the two big problems for the pre-tournament favourites Algeria and the Ivory Coast in the semi-finals should they all make it that far. Christian Gourcuff and his Fennec Foxes are probably the best squad in the competition but with all three teams in Group C well aware of the ability of Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi and company, no-one will be happy to give them an easy game. That said, we still fancy them Gourcuff and his squad to find a way of topping the group.

 

The one thing we aren’t expecting is goals.

A tournament in the middle of the European season, in warmer clients, with a vast majority of the players having just enjoyed a brief winter break should breed goals – you would think. It makes sense that the attacking players are predominantly at the peak of their powers but recent tournaments suggest otherwise, even if the World Cup in Brazil bucked that trend. 2013 produced 69 goals in 32 games, seven below 2012’s haul of 76. Neither tournament averaged more than 2.5 goals per game and backing the final now at under 2.5 goals would be a wise investment. Only two of the last 10 AFCON finals have produced three goals or more. They are usually tense affairs, as are most finals in football, and goals are not an easy currency to come by.

 

That said, we can’t wait for our January and February evenings to be brightened up by some meaningful international football. A perfect tonic for the cold winter nights of the United Kingdom and North America.

 

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