Tottenham’s Harry Kane should win Premier League Player of the Year

 

Last Saturday, I was in the Park Lane end at White Hart Lane, watching Spurs play Leicester. It finished 4-3 and any match with that scoreline, to get all @footballcliches, obligatorily has to be labelled a ‘seven goal thriller’ by commentators and match report writers.

This match wasn’t really a thriller though, more a series of ever increasing defensive cock ups. Leicester gave away a daft penalty and one, possibly two own goals. Spurs conceded thrice, to respectively a forward who hadn’t scored in five months, a lumpy centre half who’d never scored a Premier League goal and David Nugent who at kick off had the lethal goalscoring rate of eleven goals in eighty one Premier League games.

 

Phil Tufnell, fielding on the boundary once in Australia, was asked by a wag in the crowd to ‘lend me your brain, I’m building an idiot’. Any idiot builders would have loved to have got their hands on Kyle Walker’s brain, such was his performance. Somehow, it was rewarded with an England call-up. Does that make Roy Hodgson an idiot builder?

It was a weird game generally – odd goals, abnormal levels of cold for this time of year and most surprising of all, a good performance from Paulinho coming off the bench. A vast change from the man who for most of his time at Spurs looked no more likely to pen a bestselling novel than put in a  performance that would get more than 6.9 on Football Manager.

The game was memorable for a hat-trick by Harry Kane. At the ground, the reception to his hat-trick was warm but it wasn’t overwhelming. The ‘he’s one of our own chants’ struggled to get going, the volume was muted. It was akin more to nods of approval at a decent support act than crazed moshing at the chorus of a band’s best song.

 

Premier League Top Scorer Betting Odds:

Harry Kane 13/10

Diego Costa 8/5

Sergio Aguero 5/2

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

 

There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, for Spurs at least, the game didn’t mean a whole lot. The top four’s a distant hope, they’re out of the cup competitions and all a strong end to the season does is make it more likely Spurs end up in football purgatory (the Europa League) again next season. Also, Kane’s triumvirate of goals were not especially thrilling. A tap-in from a corner, a heavily deflected shot and a penalty. Dennis Bergkamp v Leicester or Tony Yeboah v Wimbledon it wasn’t.

Plus, the game lacked quality, there were long stoppages in play for knocks to Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier and it was bloody cold. By the seventy five minute mark any observer who walked into White Hart Lane would have seen fans with their coats zipped up to the neck, hands in pockets, shaking in their seats, trying to retain their last vestiges of warmth.

Perhaps more than anything though, Harry Kane scoring a hat-trick wasn’t remotely surprising. Such are his achievements at the moment that the ridiculous becomes plausible on a weekly basis.

 

The stats are ridiculous. Kane didn’t start a Premier League game till November 9th against Stoke. His first league goal of the season only came the week before, a deflected free kick winner at Villa Park.

Since then, he’s scored nineteen league goals. Nineteen! That includes five goals in his last three, eleven goals in his last eight. In four months, he’s gone from not scoring a league goal to being the league’s top scorer. For the season, he has twenty nine goals in forty three games.

While that rate of goalscoring is not uncommon, I doubt anyone in the Premier League era has had such a good season with so few expectations. He started off the season as Tottenham’s third choice striker, in a team that only plays with one forward. His role was as backup for league games, perhaps making occasional appearances off the bench. Cup games were to be his bread and butter. Some decent performances under Tim Sherwood at the fag end of last season had cemented his role as a squad player.

 

Two games this season were pivotal to his development, as he morphed from just another squad player to this superhero figure he’s become lately.

The first  was the Europa League group fixture versus Asteras of Greece. It had all the makings of a dull encounter – Europa League group games tend to be about as exciting as an episode of Fred Dibnah’s World of Steam.

Not this one though. Erik Lamela scored one of the most outrageously brilliant goals of all time and Kane scored a hat-trick, his first for Spurs.

His hat-trick though wasn’t the most memorable thing he did that night. In the match’s dying embers, Hugo Lloris got sent off for taking out an Asteras forward who was through on goal. All substitutions had been used up. So we got to witness one of football’s underrated pleasures, an outfield player going in goal.

And who volunteered to put on the purple goalkeeping jersey and don the gloves? Super Harry Kane of course! It didn’t even matter he let in the resultant free kick. Scoring a hat-trick and going in goal, voluntarily, in the same game endeared him to the Spurs support, who perhaps witnessed in this Chingford-born, lumpy forward with an unorthodox gait and hangdog facial expressions, a kindred spirit. Who hasn’t fancied going in goal for the lols occasionally?

 

With consistently good cup performances and increasing calls for his place in the starting XI from the stands, aided by Emmanuel Adebayor’s Emmanuel Adebayor-ness and Roberto Soldado’s continued hopelessness, he got into the first team. He did well – four goals in his first nine starts, with his workrate making him an excellent fit with the high pressing style Mauricio Pochettino has imposed at Spurs.

But it was the game against Chelsea on New Year’s Day where he morphed again, this time from decent Premier League forward to fully fledged superhero. With Spurs 1-0 down, struggling against the usual robotic display from Mourinho’s players he scored a ridiculously good equaliser. He got the ball on the touchline, worked his way past three or four defenders into the middle of the pitch, then unleashed a scuttling shot that beat Thibaut Courtois at the near post from twenty five yards out.

Chelsea seemed stunned. They played like it too, coming apart at the seams under increasing Spurs pressure. What looked like another humdrum victory for the league leaders became a 5-3 rout for Spurs, in spite of Eden Hazard playing like a sober, Belgian Maradona. Kane didn’t stop running, doing things to Gary Cahill’s confidence that could take years to rebuild. His second goal that night too was outrageously good. A wonderfully dextrous touch and turn, then a lovely side footed finish. A touch of genius.

 

After that, he’s been this superhero figure that football watchers are still grappling to come to terms with. He scored twice against Arsenal, the second goal being one of the best headers I’ve ever seen. Leaning backwards, from a good twelve yards out, to power a looping a header over Ospina in the Arsenal like he did almost defied physics. And a homegrown product scoring to win the game over the local rivals too, just amazing. He did something that day that kids dream of doing. In real life.

What he’s achieved is remarkable. What adds to this is how he looks and often acts like the antithesis of the modern day superstar footballer. He has this gangly gait, more befitting a spotty teenager than a Premier League player. His default facial expression is that of a gormless farmhand. He talks like his tongue’s too big. West Ham fans got in trouble for a chant about him recently.

But that makes him all the more loveable. He’s not some super-athlete with muscles the size of watermelons, jet heels and a lingerie model girlfriend. He looks like you and me. He even plays like faintly you and me, with his boundless energy and chasing of lost causes. Judging from his social media output, he has a very nice life where he plays football, scores goals, goes for celebratory drinks afterwards then goes home to his childhood sweetheart girlfriend and their dogs. He even wears naff Christmas jumpers.

He’s an ordinary guy who just happens to be extraordinarily good at football. A film about him wouldn’t be a glossy, stage managed product but a gritty, documentary style drama. More This Sporting Life than GoalIndeed, with his incredible achievements against all the odds, he’s like a footballing Forrest Gump.

 

Where does he go from here? He’ll make his England debut for a start and those that still give two hoots about the England team can only hope that he doesn’t get sucked into the vortex of mediocrity that seemingly envelopes all the young talent that wears the three lions on it’s chest.

Also, he’s a shoo-in for Young Player of the Year with his goalscoring output and all round performances. No one comes to him for that award.

But what about Player of the Year? The natural reaction is to laugh off such talk. Harry Kane does not exactly fit the mould of a serial award winner. He’s not marketable, doesn’t get linked with ridiculous transfer rumours to PSG or Real Madrid on websites’ gossip columns. He doesn’t sound like a star either, with the speech impediment he has.

 

But who deserves to beat him then? Alexis Sanchez was perhaps the early favourite but has tailed off since Christmas. Aguero missed time with an injury. Diego Costa has looked tired recently, plus his all-round villainy will surely, rightly or wrongly, count against him.

It surely comes down to Kane or Eden Hazard. Hazard’s been, very very good. He’s allied his talent and skill with increased work rate and more end product. The Mourinho effect in Hazard especially, of all of Chelsea’s players, has been noticeable.

Hazard has done that in a star studded outfit, though. He has Cesc Fabregas feeding him the ball with Diego Costa ahead of him. Kane gets his help from Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason. And aside from a brief Christian Eriksen purple patch, he’s had to carry the Spurs goalscoring burden almost single-handedly.

He gets less help than Hazard and does just as much, if not more in terms of end product. Notwithstanding that a reserve forward coming from football’s metaphorical tundra regions to shock the footballing public would be an amazing story. Kane already had consecutive Player of the Month awards before his hat-trick against Leicester.

 

As Harry himself would say, “Never fucking give up.”

 

Betting Instinct tip Harry Kane is 10/3 to open the scoring for England against Lithuania tonight with Coral.co.uk. He is second-favourite for Premier League Player of the Year with most sportsbooks.

 

avatar-jackhowes-50JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

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Germany’s Miroslav Klose chasing a second World Cup Golden Boot

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer's tournament

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer’s tournament

The sought after Golden Boot is perhaps the most prestigious and well-known of the individual awards handed out the World Cup. Current holder – Thomas Muller – will be looking to add to his 13 league goals this club season in an effort to retain the cherish Golden Boot. He won the award with a respectable but not quite emphatic 5 goal haul last time. David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan all matched the German’s tally, but Muller was awarded the prize based on having a higher number of assists (3).

Top goalscorer is always difficult to gauge at major tournaments as a player is only as strong as the whole team. The opening games have a massive impact on this too; a hat-trick in the first couple of games makes you – statistically, based on the last 6 tournaments – already at least halfway to the required number of goals to top the charts.

 

World Cup top scorer betting odds:

Lionel Messi – 8.00

Neymar – 11.00

Cristiano Ronaldo – 15.00

Sergio Aguero – 15.00

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

 

So, let’s look at our favourites. Unsurprisingly, Leo Messi is most people’s tip to be the top scorer this year. Last season was widely considered to be his worst in years, yet the mercurial Argentine still bagged 41 goals in all competitions. His form at international level has been questioned, but the Argentinian team itself has a desultory rhythm in terms of form. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by describing how he plays or what he is good at; it’s very much public knowledge. With 10 goals during the qualifying campaign, this could be Messi’s best chance of international glory at a personal and a team level.

Messi’s esteemed fellow countryman Sergio Aguero will also be looking to make his mark. Despite suffering a few injuries during the season, Aguero produced a host of fantastic displays in the Premier League and showed to the English audience that he has a lot more to his game than sheer goalscoring and dribbling. His vision and general awareness of teammates was pivotal in Manchester City’s re-capturing of the league title this year, whilst also showing that he can handle the more potent physical side that the Premier League offers.

 

Another player whom once famously showcased similar attributes and has yet to receive full recognition for his international work is, of course, everyone’s favourite personification of modesty – Cristiano Ronaldo! The Portuguese star was in fine form once again this year for Real Madrid, ending the season by netting a goal in their Champions League final victory against Ateltico Madrid. He even earned a round of applause from fellow shy person Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his hat-trick against Sweden sealed Portugal’s qualification into the world cup. At the ripe age of 29, CR7 won’t have his devastating pace come the next World Cup (though I dare say he will be no slouch) and will look to add to his ever growing catalogue of individual awards with a WC Golden Boot trophy. It’s unlikely that Portugal will progress to the latter stages of the tournament and with Ghana, USA and Germany in their group, they are far from promised a place out of the group stages at all. That being said, Ronaldo can change games on his own and will be looking to exploit any weakness shown by the two weaker sides (USA and Ghana respectively).

After a relatively expensive and somewhat unremarkable opening season for Barcelona, Neymar will be hoping to continue producing his scintillating displays for the Brazilian national team. The youngster has 31 goals in 49 games for his country already, which is impressive however you look at it. A lot of them are quite spectacular too. He will flourish playing in his homeland and with said host nation being frontrunners to win the tournament, it’s quite easy to deduce that Neymar is likely to score a lot of goals this tournament.

 

Quite often, it can be a bit of s surprise name as to who scores the most goals in a tournament. Particularly at international level. An erudite outside bet can prove very profitable, so let’s analyse some of the players who aren’t quite expected to produce a magnanimous amount of goals. I’ll start with Belgian giant Romelu Lukaku, who showed this season that he has an extremely well rounded set of skills, more so than most other 21 year old strikers. He bagged 15 league goals and orchestrated some fantastic performances for Everton. He is exceptionally strong, but – unlike most powerful strikers – is also very quick to move across the ground. His ability is only going to improve over the next decade, will this year be the year he announces himself amongst the best forwards in the world?

Germany’s all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose joins us for another World Cup, no doubt eliminating some poor team’s hopes with an obligatory headed goal. Klose has been prolific at international level and is truly one of the those players that can score from any situation. His World Cup experience will be crucial to the younger German players and might well prove to be the differnce in a close match against similarly top opposition. A lot of this depends on how the team is lined up, but you can be sure that Klose will be having his say at some point.

 

For the patriotic English readers, I feel obliged to include an English player. Who better than the highest scoring English player in the Premier League last year? Daniel Sturridge has been a revelation since signing for Liverpool. He’s been prolific, consistent and has scored a lot of said goals in spectacular fashion. His curling effort against Peru a reminder as to what he can produce from outside the box. England have a tough group in the shape of Uruguay, Italy and Cost Rica; they will be relying on Sturridge’s performances to help them proceed into the knockout stages. He certainly is capable of scoring against venerable opposition, if he finds his form from the first game in then he could certainly be worth an outsider’s bet.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Romelu Lukaku to top-score offers value at 26.00 with AllYouBet.ag, while Klose (33.00) and Sturridge (51.00) could also be worth a punt

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog, or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.

Can England secure the ODI series at Lord’s?

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

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

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

England v Sri Lanka 4th ODI Betting Odds:

England to win – 1.69

Sri Lanka to win – 1.99

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

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

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

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

Back England to beat Sri Lanka in the 4th ODI match at Lord’s @ 1.69 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Championship Playoff Final – The richest game in English football

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

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

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

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

Championship Playoff Final Betting Odds:

Derby – 2.18

Draw (and extra time) – 3.05

QPR – 3.10

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

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

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

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

Back Derby to win this Championship Playoff Final against QPR and return to the Premier League @ 2.18 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Can England beat the Twenty20 world champions at The Oval?

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

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

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

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

England v Sri Lanka Betting Odds:

England Victory – 1.74

Sri Lanka Victory – 1.92

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

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

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

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

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

Back Sri Lanka to defeat England in this Twenty20 match at The Oval @ 1.92 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

England favoured to claim the ODI series in West Indies

Ravi Bopara's 38 not out in the Second ODI saw England level the series

Ravi Bopara’s 38 not out in the Second ODI saw England level the series

The three match ODI series between the West Indies and England comes to a close this Wednesday as the two sides look to win the decider at North Sound. Both of the previous two matches have been held at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium too so both of these teams will be very aware of the conditions for the match, but which of the two sides will come out on top after they both claimed a victory in the first two ODI matches.

GR88.com believe that the game will be a close one, but after fine bowling performances from England they see the visitors edging this Third West Indies v England ODI before the T20 matches begin in Sunday.

Third West Indies v England ODI Odds:

West Indies – 1.92

England – 1.74

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

The first ODI between these two sides was played last Friday and looked as if England’s shoddy one day form was continuing from their post-Ashes tour against Australia as they were beaten 4-1 over five games. Things did start well for England too as they had their hosts on the ropes at 45-4 with their top four batsmen all out, however a 65 from Lendl Simmons, 87 not out from Dwayne Bravo and a 61 from Darren Sammy saw the West Indies a target of 270 for England. They fell 15 runs of the 269 total despite a 106 knock from Michael Lumb as the rest of the batting lineup crumbled around the opening batsman.

England did much better in the second one day international as only a 70 from Simmons, again top scoring for the host nation, saw a West Indian batsman score more than 20 runs. The West Indies were bowled out for just 159 as England turned the screw and while no England batsman came close to Simmons’ total the collapse from the first match between the sides did not appear second time around as England cruised to a three wicket victory with more than five overs remaining. Lumb once again top scored for the visitors with 39, while it was Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad who carried England across the line.

One of the major variables for this Third West Indies v England ODI will be the pitch at North Sound with this major being the third match in less than a week. The pitch had certainly slowed down in the second ODI with it allowing more spin and less bounce, so the sides are going to have a tough time generating runs and I’m expecting a low scoring match between these sides and the bowlers are going to be the difference between the sides. England have the better of the exchanges with the bowlers in the first two matches between the sides, despite their collapse in the first ODI, and I see the odds on this match being correct and, as long as England do not experience another batting collapse, I see England taking victory in this third ODI and winning the series.

Back England to win the Third West Indies v England ODI at North Sound @ 1.74 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Twenty20 Preview: England’s last chance to salvage some pride

Eoin Morgan is one of a handful of England players to emerge from the ODIs with any credit

Eoin Morgan is one of a handful of England players to emerge from the ODIs with any credit

Finally the torment is almost over. A tour that has yielded just one victory so far over Australia is almost at an end. After a Test series that for the most part resembled Drederick Tatum v Homer Simpson, and a One Day Series where England looked like they’d forgotten how to win; England embark on the final part of this mammoth tour, a three match Twenty20 series which has plenty riding on it.

Not only is it a chance to finally beat Australia in a series and add a touch of dignity to a tour which will surely go down as one of the worst in living memory, this series also provides both teams with a chance to build for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh which is just two months away.

Twenty20 World Cup Betting Odds

India – 4.50

Australia – 6.00

South Africa – 6.50

Pakistan – 7.00

Sri Lanka – 7.00

West Indies – 7.00

England – 8.00

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

 

Due to the ridiculous nature of international cricket scheduling (Australia tour South Africa next month); the hosts have made several changes to their squad. Several senior players have been rested including Shane Watson and David Warner, but the team still looks fairly strong.

George Bailey has proven himself to be both an accomplished leader and batsman in the shorter formats of the game. Glenn Maxwell may well be a filthy slogger but he is very good at what he does and England will be fearful of the ‘The Big Show’ teeing off. There’s also Aaron Finch who decimated the England attack with a brutal 156 off just 63 balls in the first T20 against England back in August.

 

England’s squad generally looks quite youthful and shows continuity as they build to the World Cup. They will be led by Stuart Broad who can enjoy his customary raucous welcome from the Australian fans. Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan will be looking to carry on their form from the ODIs as England’s two most destructive batsmen. After excelling throughout the tour, Ben Stokes is also part of the squad and is remarkably still showing no signs of struggling with the demands of international cricket. There’s also aggressive opener Alex Hales who is one of three members of the England squad who have been involved in Australia’s Twenty20 Big Bash League this winter.

England’s bowling will be a bit of a worry with Australia’s super aggressive approach under coach Darren Lehmann. There’s plenty of experience in the seam attack with Broad and Tim Bresnan, however England are weak in the spin department. Bowling spin for England has not been a fun experience on this tour. Every English spinner has been targeted and duly despatched and this is almost certain to continue in this series.

 

If the earlier series in England is anything to go by, these games should be high-scoring. Australia will be confident of continuing their success and start the series as heavy favourites. However their squad isn’t as strong as the one that drew 1-1 with England in August and I would expect this series to be quite tight.

If England can break the shackles, they have every chance of winning. They have the experience and the quality to turn over this Australia side. What remains to be seen is whether they can overcome the mental scarring that this nightmarish tour has indelibly left on English cricket.

 

England need to learn to win again, with the Twenty20 World Cup just around the corner; now would be a good time to start.

 

liam avatarLIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.

Can Man United overturn a 2-1 deficit in the Capital One Cup tonight?

Fabio Borini celebrates scoring the winner in the first leg of this tie at the Stadium of Light

Fabio Borini celebrates scoring the winner in the first leg of this tie at the Stadium of Light

Although United made the last 16 of the Champions League and are one of three sides remaining in the Capital One Cup at this time, most people would agree that this season has been one disaster after another for the defending Premier League champions. They are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal after 22 matches of the Premier League season and were eliminated from the FA Cup, a competition they have won on 11 occasions, at the first hurdle by Swansea City. They can reach the final of the Capital One Cup still, but they need to turn around a 2-1 deficit after losing the first leg at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago against a side sitting second bottom of the Premier League.

Can the United turn things around? They certainly have the players to do so, but does David Moyes have the dressing room motivation to get the hosts at Old Trafford this evening out of a four losses in five game slump? GR88.com believe so as they favour a comfortable home win this evening, but will United, unlike on so many occasions this season, live up to expectations?

Man United v Sunderland Odds:

Home Victory – 1.28

Draw – 5.00

Away Victory – 8.80

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

While the 2013 portion of this season was poor for United domestically, 2014 has been an utter shambles as they have lost four of the five games played so far and they are clearly struggling right now. They have missed Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for four and ten matches respectively and their recent form has shown how vital they are to the side despite four goals between Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in this poor five game run. Both the English and Dutch strikers are in line for a return this evening, but will they be (a) fit enough to play and (b) able to make an impact if they play? David Moyes will be hoping for a return to form from these two players, and if they hit the ground running I feel United deserve to be the favourites to win this match. The big questions are can they do this and will the rest of the team be up to their standards if they do?

Sunderland will hope not on both counts, but even if United do come out firing tonight Gustavo Poyet’s men will still be confident about getting a result that will see them face Manchester City in the final at Wembley on March 2nd. They have won three and drawn one of their last four matches, scoring 13 goals in this time, and have suffered just a single defeat in their last ten matches in all competitions. Things were looking bad for Sunderland for much of the first half of the season, but Poyet has stabilised the ship and is turning it around, with them now sitting just one point behind Fulham in the 17th place in the league and just above the relegation zone. Victory tonight will boost their confidence even further and see them feel they can move out of the relegation zone for the first time since August, but can they progress against all the odds?

The first leg win at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago was the first time that Sunderland had managed to defeated Manchester United since 1997 and they would love to get back to back wins over the Premier League champions tonight. However, their last away win at Old Trafford came in 1968 and it was 1950/51 when they last won back to back matches against the Red Devils. United certainly aren’t the team that they once were, but will they allow the Capital One Cup to slip away from their grasp just like the FA Cup and Premier League this season?

I certainly don’t see United as being as large favourites as the match odds suggest, even less so if Rooney and van Persie do not play tonight, and with Sunderland having found some fine form of late I certainly see them doing some damage to United this evening. Both teams will realistically need to go and get goals this evening if they are to assure their place in the final and I can see both of these sides finding the net at least once at Old Trafford tonight.

Back both Manchester United and Sunderland to score in this Capital One Cup semi final match this evening @ 1.94 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

England’s tour of Australia has been a disaster

Ian Bell is one of a number of England players to have struggled on the current tour

Ian Bell is one of a number of England players to have struggled on the current tour

In every way imaginable, England’s Ashes Tour of Australia has been a complete disaster. They have shown an inability to bat, bowl or field with any sort of competence. The bowling has been insipid, too dependant on tall fast bowlers who have been ineffective and had runs plundered off them by Australia’s increasingly eager batsmen. The fielding has been poor with England’s old bête noire, the dropped catch, becoming a part of their play again for the first time in many years. The batting though has been the worst of the bunch, with the England batsman simply unable to cope with the Aussie bowlers’ unflinching pace and hostility.

Australia admittedly have been better than expected, with Mitchell Johnson’s resurrection from the cricketing dead the highlight. In the same way Pulp Fiction turned John Travolta from a figure of mockery to one of the hippest, coolest, most popular actors of the time, this Ashes series has turned Mitch from a laughing stock into one of the best fast bowlers in the world, if not the best. He has received excellent backup too from the always nagging Peter Siddle, the canny spin from one of the world’s oldest looking twenty six year olds and the bustling accuracy of Ryan Harris, at last injury free and having the best spell of his career aged thirty four.

That said, Australia’s marked improvement from the luckless, error prone side that lost to England last summer is no excuse for England losing the recent series 5-0 in the limp, pathetic, disgraceful fashion that they did. The consistency with which they got out due to poor shots and woeful decision making was staggering. To see the way England went from being pretty good to so utterly abject almost defied belief. The scoreline of 3-0 in the summer may have flattered them, but they still won convincingly. They were not a bad team, merely an underperforming one.

The speed of their decline has stunned everybody. While there were signs in the summer they were on the wane, they were still regarded as one of the best team teams in the world and by most pundits as favourites to retain The Ashes this winter.

Wrong! The spine of England’s team for the last few years has just disappeared. Alastair Cook has made few runs and the runs he has made have been made in such slow, soporific fashion that they’ve inspired no confidence in his teammates. Jonathan Trott had to leave the tour early, and we can only wish him the very best of luck in his recovery from a stress related illness. Joe Root struggled and showed his inexperience, Ian Bell struggled, the normally oh-so-reliable Matt Prior barely made a run while Graeme Swann was so ineffectual he retired halfway through the series saying he no longer deserved a place in the team.

After such a bad test series, a miracle was needed for England for bounce back in the subsequent one day series. The first one-dayer last weekend saw no miracle forthcoming, as despite finally making a decent total (270 in 50 overs) it was another Aussie romp as they coasted past the total with twenty six balls to spare.

Under coach Darren Lehmann and captain Michael Clarke, these Australians are just ruthless and are revelling in the now weekly trashing of the Poms. England will do well to win a game in the rest of the one-day series – never mind the series itself. Accrington Stanley winning the FA Cup in my lifetime is more likely than that.

Betting Instinct Tip – Australia to win the second one-day international against England is 1.33 with GR88.com

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avatar-jackhowes-50JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Tuesday Night FA Cup Predictions

This evening sees ten matches in the FA Cup from the third round and third round replays.

This evening sees ten matches in the FA Cup from the third round and third round replays.

There are ten matches being played around England this evening as 20 sides look to book their places in the fourth round of the competition and move one step closer to playing on the hallowed turf of Wembley. I’m taking a look at several of the matches and providing my best FA Cup bets from this evening’s games.

All FA Cup Third Round and Third Round replay odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today, but subject to change.

Birmingham City v Bristol Rovers:

Birmingham to win – 1.51

Draw – 3.80

Bristol Rovers to win – 5.70

The home side in this match are my side and while I’m slightly biased towards Birmingham as a result of this, I feel that they are deserving of being the favourites to win this match. They have lost just one of their last 11 matches, although they have recorded six draws in this time including all of their last five at home, and have been impressive in cup competition this season. They defeated Swansea, whom the winner of this match tonight will face in round four, in the Capital One Cup and Stoke needed penalties to get past The Blues despite them having just ten men for the second half and extra time. Manager Lee Clark has said he’ll be playing a full strength side tonight and with Bristol Rovers sitting near the bottom of League Two with just a single win in their last six away games I have a feeling that they could struggle at St. Andrews this evening.

The home side have had a tendency to score early recently and with the visitors in such poor away form I can see the home side taking an early lead and holding this until the end of the match to ensure they book a second clash with Swansea this season.

Back Birmingham/Birmingham HT/FT @ 2.24 in this Birmingham City v Bristol Rovers clash.

Fulham v Norwich:

Fulham to win – 1.95

Draw – 3.35

Norwich to win – 3.30

The only all Premier League clash of the evening sees the third clash of Fulham and Norwich in less than three weeks following their two clashes at Carrow Road that saw Fulham claim a 2-1 win in the Premier League before they drew 1-1 in their first meeting in the FA Cup ten days ago. Fulham have an excellent record against Norwich as they have won eight and drawn four of the 12 meetings between the two sides since 1999 and with them being unbeaten in two away games I can see why they are favoured for victory this evening too.

Norwich are without a win in seven games before today and have just a single away win, against West Brom, in their nine away matches since the end of September and with this poor form I cannot see them getting anything from this clash. However, Fulham are massively inconsistent as their last five games have seen 2-1 wins over Norwich and West Ham as well as 6-0 and 4-1 losses to Hull and Sunderland, with the second of those coming at Craven Cottage in front of the Fulham fans. Despite this inconsistency, I am with GR88.com and see the home team booking their place in the fourth round of the cup with victory this evening.

Back the home win in this Fulham v Norwich FA Cup Third Round replay @ 1.95.

MK Dons v Wigan:

MK Dons to win – 2.82

Draw – 3.10

Wigan to win – 2.26

The defending champions began the defence of their FA Cup trophy with a thrilling six goal game at the DW Stadium that saw them twice lead with League One’s MK Dons pulling themselves back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to force this evening’s replay. The home side come into this match in great from with five wins and two draws in their last eight matches, but will this form be enough to see them once again upset the odds against a side sitting a league above them?

Wigan come into this match unbeaten in seven matches having won four and drawn three, while the 3-3 draw in the first meeting of these two teams is the only time they have conceded a goal since before Christmas. They are experiencing a fine resurgence under new manager Uwe Rösler and I feel that their excellent recent results will see them progress into the fourth round as they move one step closer to defending their FA Cup crown.

Back the away win in this MK Dons v Wigan clash this evening @ 2.26.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.