Petr Cech takes centre stage as Arsenal return to Wembley

Petr Chech in Arsenal uniformThe sight of Petr Cech in an Arsenal goalkeeper’s top is one that will take some getting used to this season. The man is a Chelsea icon and was a core component of the Roman Abramovich era, having helped to drive the club to an unprecedented decade of high-level success. His move to North London genuinely feels like a watershed moment for Arsenal, who haven’t had a world class goalkeeper since Jens Lehmann. How fitting then, that Cech’s debut will take place against his former club at Wembley this Sunday.

As is the toxic combination of football’s tribalism and social media’s instantaneousness, Cech inevitably received some abuse for his transfer over Twitter. However, the majority of rational Chelsea supporters were sympathetic to his departure – the least he deserved after so many years of fine service to the club. In terms of squad selection, Jose Mourinho was left with a catch 22; Cech is simply too good a goalkeeper to sit on the bench but Thibaut Courtois had proved that he was more than ready to step up to Premier League football. Ultimately it was a stroke of good grace from Abramovich that enabled Cech to leave on his own terms and it was out of the manager’s hands.

Cech’s brief time at Arsenal so far has already been eventful. The club have won two pre-seasons trophies – the Barclays Asia Trophy and last weekend’s Emirates Cup. Wojciech Szczesny has gone on loan to AS Roma, leaving no doubt (if there ever was any) that Cech will be Arsenal’s number one this season. It looks like Colombian International David Ospina will now stay on as a second choice and could well take on the role of ‘cup keeper’. Arsenal’s summer so far though has mainly been a case of fine-tuning, with Cech the sole first team addition.

Of course there is only so much to be learnt from the Community Shield, the new season’s traditional curtain-raiser. Back in April, I wrote that beating Mourinho’s Chelsea would cap off a season of improvement for Arsenal. While that game finished 0-0, it is fair to say that the proposition remains the same. Losing the Community Shield would hardly be catastrophic for Arsene Wenger but he has a chance to lay down the gauntlet not just to Chelsea but the other top sides. There was a marked improvement in Arsenal’s performances in big games last season and that must carry forward this year if they are to be considered title contenders.

Elsewhere in the squad, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – two players who Mourinho was keen to squeeze into a deal involving Cech – have had excellent pre-seasons. While both suffered unfortunate injuries last campaign, there have been some justified calls that both players need to step up and contribute more goals. With compatriot Danny Welbeck still out injured and Alexis Sanchez recovering from a busy summer at the Copa America, there will be early opportunities for Walcott and Chamberlain to stake their claims this seasons. Scoring at Wembley would certainly lay down a marker.

As for Chelsea, their transfer activity has been uncharacteristically low-key, mainly because there is little room for improvement. Asmir Begovic is a solid replacement for Cech as a back-up keeper to Courtois, while Radamel Falcao arrives in place of Didier Drogba and as something of a vanity project for Mourinho – if he can’t fix him, who can? The pursuit of John Stones continues, with the England youngster tipped as a long-term successor to John Terry. However, starting the campaign with Terry alongside Gary Cahill wouldn’t be a disaster for Chelsea; the centre-back pairing were immense last season and played a crucial role in claiming the Title.

With Chelsea remaining so strong, it puts Cech’s ambition and Arsenal’s vision into perspective. With a little help from Cech’s compatriot Tomas Rosicky, Wenger has sold that dream to his new keeper. He sees him as his new Lehmann – the man who turned Arsenal from contenders into “Invincibles” in 2003/04. Cech will relish that mantle. Mourinho’s side are the biggest obstacle between Wenger and the Premier League trophy, so this Sunday’s clash is sure to be an entertaining game as well as a good indicator of where exactly the two clubs are at the moment.

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Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nine and a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.

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Can Cotto retain his WBC crown?

Miguel Cotto makes his return to the ring after dispatching Sergio Martinez in 10 rounds to win the WBC Middleweight title. Although Martinez looked to be carrying an injury, Cotto’s past achievements still speak for themselves. Challenging him for his belt is Australia’s Daniel Geale, who comfortably outpointed Jarrod Fletcher after his heavy loss to Gennady Golovkin.

The fight takes place this Saturday at the famed Barclays Center in New York and will of course be televised globally. Although the Middleweight limit is normally 160 pounds, the fight has been agreed at a catchweight of 157 pounds. This was at Cotto’s request and it would seem the fight would no happen at all if this was to be at 160.

Fighting at 157 will suit Cotto far better. He is the naturally smaller man and used to fighting at a lower weight; Geale is a natural Middleweight and will possibly be weight drained at this limit. Of course, Geale might potentially feel as fit as ever but he will no doubt feel more sluggish if the fight is dragged into the later rounds. Though Cotto doesn’t go into the latter stages too often (32 of his 39 wins have come by knockout), his power won’t be the same at this weight thus reducing the chances of a KO. Yes, he made Martinez quit but that was more down to his failing knees as opposed to Cotto’s power.

What Cotto is very accomplished at however, is pretty much everything. He is one of the most well-rounded fighters in boxing today; combining excellent technical ability with a strong work rate and astute ring IQ. He possesses a hard jab with exceptional precision. He has a 4″ reach disadvantage against Geale though, so Cotto might find the jab less effective as he normally would. If he can use his jab to get on the inside of Geale, Cotto can use his thunderous body hooks to further tire Geale out which – combined with Geale possibly being weight drained – could leave to a late stoppage in the fight due to his exhaustion. Cotto is also a very tough fight having only been stopped twice: once in the 12th by Pacquiao and also by Margarito, the latter being followed by the infamous handwrap saga…

Though slightly the less accomplished fighter, Geale is still a fine boxer too. His movement is a useful tool and he can prove to be very elusive when he wants to be. Normally Geale likes to move into range, work and then get out of the danger zone pretty quickly. Given his size advantage over Cotto, he could choose to do this whilst fighting on the backfoot and allowing Cotto to walk him down. His movement couldn’t get him out of trouble with Golovkin, but Golovkin’s cutting off of the ring i sone of the best in the game and I’d be surprised to see Cotto landing huge shots on Geale early on. Geale isn’t a particularly powerful puncher – which his record of 16KO’s from 31 wins suggests – but he is able to punch his weight. The style he fights isn’t based around power punches so it’s unlikely the weight issues with adversely affect him in that regard.

The mandatory challenger for the WBC belt is a certain Gennady Golovkin. Both fighters go into this knowing they will most likely have to face him should they come out on top. Geale flat out quit against him. In Geale’s defence he did try to take the fight to Golovkin which was ultimately what ended everything so swiftly for him. Cotto hasn’t exactly given a bullish answer about fighting Golovkin in the future, instead looking to hype up a fight with Canelo Alvarez.

As much as I hate to constantly mention it, the catchweight will play into this. At 160 pounds this is a very different fight. At 157 however, I favour Cotto – just. Geale’s superior defensive footwork should save him from being knocked out, though he’ll start to trail off at the back end of the fight. Cotto on points is the smart bet.

Matchbook on the ball with charity football tournament

Right_To_Play_MatchbookMatchbook, the leading sports betting exchange, is supporting a corporate charity football tournament this Wednesday, June 3, at Stamford Bridge – the west London home of newly crowned Premier League champions Chelsea FC.

Matchbook is sponsoring the Plate Trophy at the Right To Play World Cup – an event that raises money for sports and play activities that teach youngsters from around the world essential life skills to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict and disease.

The tournament will feature 24 teams of up to 12 players each competing in five-a-side and then seven-a-side group games before an 11-a-side final takes place on the famous pitch.

Matchbook’s senior campaign manager, Danielle Desroches, said: “Through our sponsorship, we are supporting 1,000 extra children taking part in Right To Play programmes twice a week for a whole year.”

Desroches said that the sponsorship of the good cause tallies with Matchbook’s core values – namely to deliver the purest betting experience to the customer, with low commission rates, attractive odds and high volume liquidity.

“Every day at Matchbook we strive to deliver the best betting experience to our community of sports lovers, by committing to our goal of giving you more,” Desroches added. “On June 3, through our support of the Right To Play World Cup, we want to give more to those who need it most.

“As an organisation that experiences the importance that sports can play in everyone’s lives, we have a responsibility to ensure everyone can experience those joys.”

Members of the public, as well as the families of those competing, are invited to attend the event.

Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere give Arsenal late selection headache

Theo Walcott, Arsenal

Theo Walcott, Arsenal

With the top four already sewn up, the final game of the season against West Brom offered Arsene Wenger a chance to experiment with his starting lineup ahead of the FA Cup final. Out came Olivier Giroud, who had not scored in seven games, to be replaced by Theo Walcott up front. Fellow Englishmen Jack Wilshere and Kieron Gibbs also started, in place of Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal respectively.

Jack Wilshere Arsenal

Jack Wilshere, Arsenal

With West Brom already ‘on the beach’, Walcott excelled and took full advantage of his starting birth by scoring a 33-minute hat-trick. The first goal in particular – an emphatic top corner finish – was a reminder of what he is capable of. It’s often overlooked that Walcott has 75 career goals for Arsenal, many of them coming the wing rather than his preferred position as striker. Giroud’s role as more of a traditional target man has made him a focal point for the team’s style but Walcott did not look out of place on Sunday and laid down the best case possible for a start in the Final, with his rampant first half performance.

 

Yet herein lies the conundrum with Walcott; it is really only against mediocrity that he is unplayable. More than most, he is guilty of going missing in the big games but he can turn it on when playing the lesser sides. One game springs to mind, a 7-3 thrashing of Newcastle in December 2012. Amid contract speculation, Walcott ran riot, scoring a hat-trick and providing two assists. That evening was the perfect opportunity for him to record an individual display that would see him “sign da ting” the following month. Even with Giroud’s recent goal drought, he remains the safer option for the big occasion having scored against both Manchester clubs and Liverpool this season.

Jack Wilshere also enjoyed an impressive performance against West Brom, scoring a spectacular half-volley that became a late winner of Match of the Day’s “Goal of the Season” with a little help from the Arsenal Twitterati. Like Walcott though, Wilshere has returned from injury at a difficult time when the Arsenal line-up is fairly entrenched following their ten game unbeaten run in the League, since losing to Tottenham in February.

Wilshere is unlikely to usurp Francis Coquelin or Santi Cazorla in the deeper midfield positions, or the fluid attacking trio Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey. Although he started the season well, looking particularly effective alongside Ramsey in September’s 2-2 draw against Man City. Wilshere was also one of England’s stand-out players in their run of games last year, playing at the base of Roy Hodgson’s diamond and drew praise from his former critic Paul Scholes.

However, as so often has been the case so far in Wilshere’s career, a promising period in the team was cut short by injury. Since returning to fitness, his best games have come from the bench and played in the right of midfield. Here, Wilshere has shown the verve and creativity fans have come to expect from him but it is not the central position he prefers to operate in.

Arsenal made a big PR stunt of their ‘British core’ in 2012, as Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all signed new contracts together. However, two and a half years on, the picture looks rather different. While Ramsey is one name who continues to be a pivotal figure for the club, the others have struggled with injuries and with consistency and it seems he may be the only Brit in Arsenal’s starting line-up on Saturday, despite the promising returns of Walcott and Wilshere.

 

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Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nine and a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo 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+.

World Cup Opener Should be Easy Win for Brazil but Can the Home Team Go All the Way?!

Can the World Cup home team handle the pressure to go all the way?

Can the World Cup home team handle the pressure to go all the way?

Brazil has won five World Cup titles, more than any other country. They’ll also enjoy home-advantage this time around. So the heat is really on Brazil to win the 2014 tourney.

World Cup bookmakers seem confident the home team (-303) will beat Croatia (+900) in the World Cup opening match tomorrow, but they aren’t so sure the Selecao can live up to the enormous pressure to win the title.

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World Cup Betting Odds – Opening Match June 12th
Brazil -303
Croatia +900

Odds provided by Intertops Sportsbook, subject to change.
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“Brazil does, of course, have a good chance of going all the way,” observed one bookmaker, “But their South American rivals, Argentina, will also be a big threat, especially if superstar Lionel Messi can find his top form again after his rather disappointing end to the season. Who knows – but I somehow doubt the Cup will be coming back to Europe this year!”

No European team has won the title in South America and several top European players are struggling with injuries that could seriously affect their country’s chances, including reigning World Footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Spain’s prolific goalscorer Diego Costa. Another title hopeful France has already lost the services of Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery with a back injury.

“One European team we’ll really be watching is Belgium,” he said. “They haven’t made a splash in big tournaments since the 1980 European Championships, but have a highly talented team full of players who star for top clubs across Europe. Much is expected of them!”

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Intertops Sportsbook World Cup Bonus Offers

Risk-free Live Bet
If the first live bet placed on these games isn’t a winner, it will be refunded (up to $100). The opening match will be the first to feature Risk-Free Live Bets.

World Cup Deposit Bonus
20% up to $100
Available June 2nd – 12th

World Cup $200 Free Bet
Customers placing at least $2000 on World Cup bets will receive a $200 Free Bet in time for the final on July 13th.

Daily Cash Prizes
Everyone wagering on the World Cup tournament will be eligible to win a no-strings-attached $500 prize on every matchday.
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The Gamblogger gambling blogGAMBLOGGER (gamblogger) 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.

MLB: Jump on the Milwaukee Brewers’ fast start whilst you still can

13496954265_9a7202ff4b_z   Milwaukee, Wisconsin is just the kinda place where you could imagine them putting something beer in the water to make things feel a lot better. This baseball season, however, Brewers fans have been chugging down the beers and for once it hasn’t been solely to drown their collective sorrows. Through the opening month of the season the Brewers, who were unfancied in a stacked National League Central division, own the best record in all the Majors with an impressive 22 wins and 11 losses before Tuesday’s home stand against the Arizona Diamondbacks got underway.

National League Central – Outright Betting Odds:

St Louis Cardinals -141

Milwaukee Brewers +190

Cincinnati Reds +700

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

The success has been built on the kind of big picture antics made famous by Billy Beane and the Michael Smith book Moneyball with a team that loves hitting just about as much as Beane loved his teams to get on base at the Oakland Athletics, leading one Sports Illustrated writer to dub it ‘Brewerball’. This being the case it’s highly unlikely that any sports bettors even considered the Brewers as post season candidates in the Spring given its 88-loss season last year. Should bettors be taking a look at those odds now though?

When it comes to winning games and notching up hits then ride the Brewers whilst you can. The team is just the fourth team to win 20 games in the first month since the advent of the Wild Card and two of those teams went on to win over 100 games and plough deep furrows into the post-season.

Pitching is another area where the team has excelled through a five man rotation led by aces Yovani Gallardo [2-1, 2.47 ERA] and Kyle Lohse [4-1, 2.72 ERA] that are more than holding their own against some of the best hitters in the game.

That’s all well and good but it’s worth taking an extreme note of caution when it comes to the team’s divisional record given that a large percentage of its games pit the club against the likes of reigning the NL champion St Louis Cardinals and two 2013 wild cards in the shape of the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates.

The record so far doesn’t make particularly good reading given that eight of its 11 losses have come at the hands of teams in the NL Central and of the three series it has lost this season, two have come against direct divisional opponents [Cards and Reds].

Cardinals right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller has been a particular nemesis, the youngster limiting the explosive Brewers to just four runs over the two games he has pitched. Whilst the odds may be long on the Brewers to make the playoffs and tempt bettors, the divisional toughness will extinguish any hopes of an NL Central title or even a wild card spot.

That brings us to the coming three game set with the Yankees that will be the first chance for many to see the Brewers’ bats in action and the big stage combined with a poor start to May could have an adverse effect on the team’s chances.

A saving grace for the Brewers is that Gallardo gets the ball in game one of the three game set against the Yankees’ most consistent starter Masahiro Tanaka in what will be a low scoring encounter. Kyle Lohse then gets the nod in Saturday’s clash with CC Sabathia and it’s worth jumping on the Brewers in the first two games of the set thanks to the strength of the two starters on the mound.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Get on Milwaukee to beat the Yankees on Friday night. They’re +120 with AllYouBet.ag

 

 JAMIE HINKSb134431a32f9f238467cd75e1b0b3454 (jamiehinks) is an experienced content writer who has focused on the gambling industry   and technology, and has an obsession with football and all US sports. You can follow him  on Twitter here and  on Google+ here.

Tipday – your free introduction to sports betting

Make tips on your favourite sports to earn leaderboard points

Make tips on your favourite sports to earn leaderboard points

 

Have you wanted to try your hand at sportsbetting without risking a single penny? You can now do just that with Tipday.com, and give yourself a chance of winning Premier League tickets at the same time.

 

Tipday is a free sports tipping site that lets you make tips on a variety of sports and leagues for free, including English Premier League football and NBA basketball. You can score points based on the real odds that bookmakers are offering, to see how much you would win if you bet with your own money.

What’s more, Tipday allows you to follow other tipsters, and all tips are recorded so you can see who is the most successful for each sport. You can compare your results to those of your mates, to see who knows the most about your favourite sport.

 

There are real-life prizes on offer for climbing to the top of leaderboards, while the most-shared betslips on Facebook and Twitter will earn two lucky Tipday users a pair of tickets to a Premier League football match.

Once you’ve learned the ropes, Tipday provides everything you need to make the leap to betting for real money. It promotes some of the best odds from a variety of different bookmakers, and helps you get set up with a real-money account once you’re ready to make the step up.

 

For more information, and to check out the most successful tipsters so far, head over to Tipday.com now.

 

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.

Bayern braced for Gunners’ salvo

champions league trophy

Bavarian giants have their eyes on becoming the first team to win Europe’s premier club competition in back-to-back seasons.

It’s all eyes on the Emirates Stadium in North London tomorrow when the defending Champions League title-holders Bayern Munich take on Arsenal in what promises to be a thrilling round of 16 encounter. The Bavarian giants are runaway leaders of the Bundesliga, in the semifinals of their domestic cup and, of course, have their eyes on becoming the first ever team to win Europe’s premier club competition in back-to-back seasons.

Coached by ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, Bayern have lost just one competitive game during the whole of the current season – their final Champions League group-stage encounter with Manchester City – but will arrive in London knowing that they will have to produce their best once again to get past an Arsenal team enjoying their best season in years. Fans across the world will be looking forward to an open game played by teams who love to attack. The Germans have racked up an impressive 59 goals in 21 Bundesliga encounters this season, but the strength of their defence is even more amazing: Germany international goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and his back four have conceded just 9 goals and Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger knows he will have his work cut out finding a way to goal over the two legs.

Last season saw this duo meet at the same stage of the competition, with the Germans cruising to a 3-1 win at the Emirates before suffering a surprise 2-0 loss at their own Allianz Arena in the second leg. Things could be close again this year, but the quality of Bayern’s squad should see them through in the end.

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich 1st leg odds:

Arsenal                 4.75
Draw                     3.8
Bayern                  1.7

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

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chrisives-50CHRIS 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.

Rodgers back to bash the Bears

nfl-football-1

Will the return of Rodgers prove to be the decisive factor in what promises to be a thrilling finale to the regular season?

It was just like Christmas and birthday rolled into one for fans of the Green Bay Packers this week when the franchise announced that star quarterback Aaron Rodgers would be fit to lead his team in Sunday’s crucial NFL encounter at the Chicago Bears. The two deadly NFC North rivals go toe to toe at Soldier Field with the winner claiming the division crown and a place in the playoffs, whilst the loser is likely to be on the outside looking in on the postseason.

Green Bay has gone a dismal 2-5-1 in the eight games that Rodgers has been sidelined since breaking his collarbone in the first meeting with the Bears on November 4th, but his return will mean a massive boost to the team that has dominated the division in recent years. The Bears, on the other hand, somehow need to put last week’s amazing 11-54 mauling at Philadelphia behind them and concentrate on the task at hand. Home field advantage is on their side, and a tie would also be enough – but will the return of Rodgers prove to be the decisive factor in what promises to be a thrilling finale to the regular season?

Betting Odds: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears, December 29th

Packers 1.67

Bears 2.30

(Odds provided by Intertops Sportsbook are current as of today, but subject to change)

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chrisives-50CHRIS 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.