Resurgent Lukaku can help Everton shock Man City

Has Romelu Lukaku rediscovered his goalscoring touch?

Has Romelu Lukaku rediscovered his goalscoring touch?

The first half of this season has not been kind to Romelu Lukaku. Everton’s record signing, purchased for £28m from Chelsea over the summer, has failed to hit the heights of the last two seasons, when back-to-back 15-goal hauls pushed him towards the top of the Premier League’s goalscoring charts.

As the Belgian has struggled, so have his club. The Toffees’ 21-point total is 17 shy of this time last season, and Roberto Martinez’s side have scored three fewer goals than in their first 20 games last campaign while conceding 14 more. An FA Cup third round exit looked set to add to the club’s misery, however a stoppage time equaliser from Lukaku earned a replay against West Ham United. Perhaps it can spark a turnaround for both player and club, ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Manchester City.

Everton v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Everton win 16/5

Manchester City win 4/5

Draw 12/5

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

 

All logic points towards a comfortable away win at Goodison Park on Saturday. The Merseyside club have lost their last four league games and five of the last six, the only exception being a home victory over a QPR side that has lost all nine of its away games this campaign. Indeed they were beaten 1-0 by this weekend’s opponents at the start of that six-game run, with a Yaya Touré penalty the difference.

City, in contrast, have shaken off the absence through injury of top scorer Sergio Agüero, picking up an impressive 29 points out of a possible 33 since the start of November. However this weekend they will be without Touré as well as Agüero, with the Ivorian having joined up with his national side in Equatorial Guinea for the Africa Cup of Nations.

With a forward-line stretched by injuries in recent weeks (Edin Džeko is still absent, while Stevan Jovetić has only recently returned from a spell on the sidelines), City have been grateful for their captain’s goals from midfield: Touré has found the net in four of the last six games, and the absence of him, Džeko and Agüero means that the scorers of more than half of the club’s 44 league goals will be unavailable for the trip to Merseyside.

Touré’s international team-mate Wilfried Bony is seemingly poised to move to the Etihad, and his arrival will surely help City’s title challenge in the latter part of the season, but for now this weekend’s fixture could prove challenging. Everton have injuries of their own to contend with, not least the calf problem that continues to rule out goalkeeper Tim Howard, but they finally have options up front with Lukaku, Samuel Eto’o and Arouna Koné all available for selection.

While Martinez’s side does not have too enviable a home record – just 12 points accrued and 15 goals conceded – they have lost just once at Goodison Park since September, and that came courtesy of a Bojan penalty for Stoke City.

If Lukaku can build on Tuesday’s crucial goal, with the support of his team mates, then he could help kickstart his club’s season while handing former employers Chelsea a huge boost in the race for the title.

Betting Instinct tip – Everton to win or draw is 9/10 with AllYouBet.ag

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.

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Tyne-Wear Derby offers Newcastle and Sunderland’s unsung heroes a chance to shine

Jozy Altidore could earn himself cult hero status at Sunderland by shining against Newcastle

Jozy Altidore could earn himself cult hero status at Sunderland by shining against Newcastle

It suits Alan Pardew to downplay the significance of Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby. Since being gifted the Newcastle job in December 2010, his team have won just one of their seven clashes with Sunderland. When the away team came away from St James’ Park with a 3-0 victory in 2013, it was the heaviest Newcastle derby defeat since 1979 – and then, a year later, it happened again. When Pardew told the press this week that the fixture is ‘always interesting’, then, he almost certainly meant ‘interesting’ in its most euphemistic sense. ‘Shut your noise,’ he seems to be saying to Newcastle fans, and focus your attentions elsewhere.

His Sunderland counterpart Gus Poyet might be expected to be a smidgen more brash, given that he is unbeaten in Tyne-Wear derbies since taking over as manager. Not so: ‘unless someone wins player of the month like Connor Wickham and Adam Johnson did last season,’ he said after his team’s 10th draw in 16 league games, ‘it is going to be boring draws all the time.’ As a strict assessment of his team’s recent performances, it is fair enough. As a means of stirring and spurring them to another win at the home of their biggest rivals, it looks at best misguided.

 

Newcastle United v Sunderland Betting Odds:

Newcastle win 9/10

Sunderland win 57/20

Draw 49/20

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

 

Thankfully, Sunday is not about words. Whatever Pardew or Poyet have to say, it cannot diminish – nor, for that matter, amplify – what is a moment, not a match. Fans of both teams love the derby because fans of both teams make the derby (it is always just ‘the derby’), transforming manager to makeweight, player to pawn, and stadium to cesspit – glorious, wondrous, hate-filled cesspit.

After Newcastle were comprehensively beaten by Arsenal at the weekend, I sent a message to my Newcastle-supporting dad, noting that the midweek League Cup quarter final vs Tottenham was always the more important fixture. His reply was, ‘I and derby stick it up the makums’ (‘I’ equals ‘Aye’, ‘makums’ equals ‘mackems’, or Sunderland fans): no nuance, no cause for elaboration, just a target. While this might be typical of most dads’ football texting habits, it is nonetheless telling. There is no room for ‘rational’ analysis when the derby rolls around; what we have here, Clive, is an occasion where the form book goes out of the window. It is instead something to relish (for the victors), to detest (for the losers), to wonder upon (for the outsiders).

 

All of this makes picking a winner next to impossible. With Shola Ameobi, who – stat alert – scored 16% of his Premier League goals against Sunderland, now taking a late-career amble in the Turkish second tier, United lack a talisman. Sunderland are in a similar pickle: Fabio Borini, their preferred derby bogeyman with three of his eight English top flight strikes coming in wins over Newcastle, is back on the bench at struggling Liverpool.

In lieu of logic, only #NARRATIVE can take up the slack. Every derby demands a hero and a villain: take Kevin Nolan and Titus Bramble on Halloween 2010, or Jack Colback and Pardew – always Pardew – in the February of last season. Sunday will be no different, and at a stretch there are a few clues as to who they might be. Samuel Ameobi could be inspired by his brother’s proud legacy, or he could collapse under the pressure of his hefty surname. Colback could replicate said performance in his new team’s colours, or he could continue to do Sunderland favours. Josmer Volmy Altidore could do what he has done for the last 18 months, that is, nothing at all, or he could find in the derby the catalyst for something remarkable.

I have no idea. Pardew and Poyet have no idea. Nobody has any idea. And if that makes for a terrible betting preview, then so be it.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Eight of Sunderland’s games this season have either finished 0-0 (8/1 with AllYouBet.ag) or 1-1 (11/2), and a repeat of one of these scorelines seems likely

 

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

Things We’ll Learn This Month – November

Can Mario Balotelli's first domestic goal for Liverpool inspire a fruitful November?

Can Mario Balotelli’s first domestic goal for Liverpool inspire a fruitful November?

October is almost over, so now it’s time to embrace the wintry delights of November, with its bonfires, its toffee apples and its anti-catholicism. There’s some football games scheduled as well, let’s see if any of them might be capable of bringing a bit of sunshine to our bleak existences.

 

The opening weekend of the month sees the first Manchester derby of the season, it’s been a pretty reliable fixture in terms of entertainment value recently, with late goals, comedy errors and the odd hiding thrown in to keep us amused. United are a different beast to the pale imitation of a football side David Moyes was in charge of last season, they still aren’t particularly good, the defence is awful and the midfield hasn’t really been fixed but they do have Angel Di Maria and he’s part footballer part magic elf (by that I mean he’s good and looks like an elf) so they pose a far greater threat than 12 months ago.

City meanwhile have problems of their own, namely in the shape of a sulky Yaya Toure but when a side can call on Sergio Aguero and David Silva then they’re never going to be far short of ‘pretty bloody good’. City will probably win because they’re a better football side but United should have enough about them to ensure November starts with a bang (I think that might be a firework joke, sorry). Also on the first weekend we have Burnley travelling to play Arsenal, Burnley are a Championship team in all but name, Arsenal will still somehow struggle, there might, if we’re lucky be some booing, Arsenal fans are some of the best booers in the league. You don’t want to miss that.

Betting Instinct tip – Manchester City and Arsenal to both win this weekend is 2.25 with Intertops.eu

 

On to the second weekend and the big one is Chelsea visiting Anfield. With Mario Balotelli doing a passable impression of Chelsea era Fernando Torres/Andry Shevchenko/Adrian Mutu/Mateja Kezman and Chelsea doing a passable impression of a first Mourinho era Chelsea side only much prettier, you’d have to expect we’ll be hearing more creative excuses from Brendan come the final whistle. Maybe this time Balotelli’s hair will be the problem? or his choice of aftershave? Ah well, let’s just hope no one swaps shirts prematurely, we all know that’s the real scourge of modern football, and Brendan won’t stand for it (I thought it was holding in the box – ed.)

Having looked at the fixtures, West Ham actually have a pretty easy month, maybe this top 4 charge isn’t so unlikely, maybe we’ll get to see Big Sam manage at the Bernabeu after all or maybe Andy Carroll will come back and they’ll revert to type, long diagonals into the big man with Kevin Nolan feeding of the scraps. It’s hard to tell (no it isn’t – ed.).

 

During November we also have one of those international ‘week of football’ things, normally this would send us all into a fit of despair so deep that many of us would never fully recover but in this instance we have a genuinely big game to look forward to. It’s the battle of the Celts at Celtic Park as Scotland entertain Ireland, two evenly matched sides with everything to play for on a Friday night in Glasgow, it’ll be brilliant, or if not brilliant then at least a bit violent (amusing violence not real violence that is). A few days after that it’s the turn of England to take on the resurgent Scots but because I promised to take my girlfriend to see Jack White the same night (before I realised there was a clash (it’s part of her birthday as well, no getting out of it (not that I want to get out of it if you’re reading honey*))) I completely refuse to discuss it.

 Betting Instinct tip – Ireland (9/1) and Scotland (16/1) are generously priced with Coral to qualify from Group D

 

When Premier League action resumes the stand out game is probably Arsenal vs Man United. This fixture which has given so much over the years has been diminished somewhat with the cooling of hostilities between the two camps. During the later years of the Ferguson reign there was even signs of a mutual respect beginning to emerge, which I think we can all agree is frankly unacceptable. However whilst there will almost certainly be no food fights or the like, we do have the prospect of two talented but fragile sides going head to head, a scenario that often results in goals and red cards, and I’m not sure you can ask for more than that.

 

* I obviously don’t call my girlfriend honey.


Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF

Premier League and international friendlies: things we’ll learn this month

World Cup winner Mario Götze will face a different sort of test against Scotland

World Cup winner Mario Götze will face a different sort of test against Scotland

The feeling of coming home from the supermarket and realising you’ve completely forgotten something is a familiar one to most of us, sometimes it’s something frivolous that you can do without, like organic cinnamon sticks, you have the dried stuff in the cupboard it’ll be fine, other times however it’s something vital, such as toilet roll, for which there really is no substitute. This is how many Premier League clubs will be feeling in the early days of September, whether it’s a third choice goalkeeper (the organic cinnamon) or a first choice goalscorer (the toilet roll) that’s been overlooked, the result will be much slapping of foreheads and murmuring of ‘I knew I should have made a list’. As is traditional Arsene Wenger will claim he didn’t forget the toilet roll at all, in fact he’s got some rather lovely wallpaper that can do just as good a job.

 

September sees a truncated set of Premier League fixtures due to the return of international football. Will the first round of Euro 2016 qualifiers bask in the feelgood factor engendered by the brilliant Brazilian World Cup? No, they won’t. The World Cup is over, it’s now frowned upon to go to the pub every night, the days of a 16 hour drinking session being justified by Iran vs Nigeria being on have long gone. Be prepared for people to moan about international football again. The standout fixture of the early qualifiers is of course world champions Germany hosting Scotland, now, whilst on paper the Germans would appear to be favourites it is telling that their lynchpin, the peerless Philipp Lahm has decided to retire rather than face the twin threat of Ikechi Anya and an overlapping Alan Hutton. Lahm has always come across as an intelligent man so don’t be surprised if Scotland take not only 3 points from the Westfalenstadion but the crown of ‘moral world champions’. England will get a satisfactory result (against whoever they’re playing) but there will be question marks over the performance, someone will be the new Gerrard, someone will be the new Lampard, they’ll never play together again.

 

Betting Instinct tipEngland to beat Norway in their friendly tomorrow night is 1.45 with AllYouBet.ag 

 

Once all the international based fun is out of the way it’s back to league action. And straight away we have an absolute cracker on our hands as Arsenal host Man City, a good test of which is the more effective strategy when building an elite level team, just buying loads of players you like and think you could have fun with, or identifying which areas of your team need reinforced and swiftly purchasing players to do just that. At the other end of the scale, Hull vs West Ham is one of the televised games in September, anyone not emotionally invested in the outcome of that match that chooses to watch it needs professional help.

 

Man City have another big game later in the month when Chelsea come visiting, by far the two strongest sides in the league managed by two men not overly fond of the other, it could be a classic. It won’t, it’ll be a draw so dispiriting you’ll wonder what it was that made you fall in love with football in the first place.

Maybe it’s matches like the Merseyside derby that sparked your passion? But then again it’s also known as ‘the friendly derby’ which is just about the most offensive phrase (excluding all the genuinely bad stuff) you could possibly imagine so maybe not. The same weekend we also have the almost always entertaining North London derby, at the end of which we will see one of Arsenal or Tottenham hailed as title challengers, neither will challenge for the title, but you knew that.

 

The reduced fixture list probably means that none of the twenty Premier League managers will get the chop this month (this is conditional of course on them all resisting the temptation to indulge in some ‘friendly text message banter’ and in the process offend just about everyone on the planet).

One last thing, by the time September comes to a close and I sit here penning Octobers entry the quite brilliant Mario Balotelli will have done something that makes your heart sing with joy, I don’t know what he’ll do, you don’t know what he’ll do, Mario doesn’t know what he’ll do, but he’ll definitely do something.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Mario Balotelli to help Liverpool finish in the top three is 11/10 with Intertops.eu

 

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

 

 

Arsenal start Premier League season with tricky test against Crystal Palace

Alexis Sanchez is expected to make his Premier League debut on Saturday

Alexis Sanchez is expected to make his Premier League debut on Saturday

The 2014-2015 Premier League season will kick off with what promises to be a feisty encounter as Crystal Palace travel to the Emirates to face Arsenal in one of the first London derbies of the season. Tony Pulis, a manager well known for his baseball caps and his distaste for all things Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, will look to employ the same hard tactics against the North Londoners as he did during his Stoke days. After taking over from Ian Holloway last season and helping Palace to relegation survival, Pulis has helped transform what was once a floundering side out of ideas, into a staunch, defensive contingent capable of frustrating the big boys.

 

Arsenal v Crystal Palace Betting Odds:

Arsenal win – 1.25

Crystal Palace win – 10.00

Draw – 5.50

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

 

Palace started off their pre-season tour by demolishing amateur outfit GAK Graz 13-1 before drawing 2-2 with a respectable Columbus Crew side. The Eagles then beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 and USL-Pro side Richmond Kickers 3-0, before losing to Brentford 3-2 and closing out by drawing 0-0 with German side FC Augsburg. Pulis’ famed defensive solidity have been in evidence, while the Eagles showed promise in their performances against two MLS sides in midseason form in what were surely fitness exercises.

As far as transfer business this summer goes, Palace has managed to bring in Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff City, young goalkeeper Chris Kettings from Blackpool and Brede Hangeland from Fulham. Campbell will most likely team up with former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh, with Hangeland playing beside Scott Dann in what could be a very formidable center-pack pairing.

 

Arsenal will be looking for an easy win to start off their season, but will face a tough opponent in Palace. The Gunners have impressed –while admittedly not looking fully fit—during their preseason ventures. Arsene Wenger’s men started out by beating Boreham Wood 2-0 just to loosen the legs before traveling to the United States and losing 1-0 against the New York Red Bulls in a match that was missing many first team players. They returned to England for the Emirates Cup, trumping Benfica 5-1 in what was a rampant display of incisive football before losing narrowly to AS Monaco. Recently, they were able to dispatch the current EPL champions Manchester City with a 3-0 victory in the Community Shield.

Transfer-wise Arsenal have made a big splash this summer. Finally free of their seemingly self-imposed financial restrictions, they have made what is seemingly the signing of the season in former Barcelona man Alexis Sanchez. They also got in on the Southampton fire sale by bringing in a surprisingly ready Calum Chambers. Also signed were Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle to replace the departing Bacary Sagna and David Ospina to take over second goalkeeper duties after Lukas Fabianski left the club for a starting place at Swansea.

As well as the loss of Sagna and Fabianski, a host of youth team players have departed as well as the confident Nicklas Bendtner, and former captain Thomas Vermaelen who finalized his transfer to Barcelona recently.

 

All in all, the Gunners and the Eagles are both stronger this year than the last but history will be on Arsenal’s side. In the 33 games played against Arsenal, the South London side have only managed three wins, losing 22 of those encounters, with Arsenal doing the double over Saturday’s opponents last season. There is no reason to think the pattern will change in this match, Arsenal look poised to dispatch the Eagles once again, though it will not be as easy as in previous years.

 

Betting Instinct tip Arsenal to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game is 2.63 with Intertops.eu

 

BdykNApCQAEQ_-t ZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol,  and numerous other sports sites. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Race for Premier League Golden Boot is wide open

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

As is often the case in the summer following a World Cup, the clubs at the top of the Premier League have been busy in the transfer market.

Last year’s top four have each made a high-profile purchase or two, while some interesting business has taken place involving clubs further down the table. And with last season’s top goalscorer Luis Suárez now plying his trade abroad (well he will be once his worldwide ban is over), the stage is set for a new name to lay claim to the Golden Boot.

 

Premier League Outright Betting Odds:

Chelsea – 37/20

Manchester City – 2/1

Manchester United – 19/4

Arsenal – 6/1

Liverpool – 9/1

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

 

Will one of the big names top the charts in 2014/15, or will an unlikely contender rise to the top? Here are just a few in with a shot at the Golden Boot (all odds courtesy of Coral are accurate as of today and subject to change).

 

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) – 7/2

The Argentinean forward struggled with injuries last season but still managed to score 17 goals in 23 league appearances. After heartbreak in the World Cup final, Agüero will look to reignite the partnership with Álvaro Negredo which played a huge part in Manuel Pellegrini’s side winning the Premier League last season.

 

Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – 9/2

Van Persie endured a frustrating campaign under David Moyes last season, but looked reinvigorated at the World Cup under incoming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. With a coach who may be prepared to play to the 30-year-old’s strengths rather than marginalising him to accommodate Wayne Rooney, van Persie could be on course for a third Golden Boot in four years.

 

Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 11/2

Many believe Chelsea would have won the Premier League last season with a prolific striker, and indeed Costa’s 27 goals helped fire Atlético Madrid to an unlikely La Liga title. With Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o both departing, responsibility will lie with the Spain international to justify José Mourinho’s decision to meet the striker’s £32m release clause.

 

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – 11/2

With Suárez moving to Barcelona, there will be more pressure than ever on the man who finished second in the goalscoring charts in the last campaign. Sturridge looked like the complete forward at times last season, but time will tell whether the exit of his strike partner and the added pressure of Champions League football will take their toll.

 

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – 18/1

Lukaku became Everton’s record signing after completing his £28m move last night, and will look to build on the 15 goals he scored on loan at the Merseyside club last season. With fellow frontman Arouna Koné returning from injury, Belgian international Lukaku could benefit from not needing to carry goalscoring responsibility all on his own.

 

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) – 50/1

Much was expected of Soldado when he briefly became Tottenham’s record signing last summer, but the Spaniard struggled in the league under both André Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. The former Real Madrid youngster will hope this season has more in common with his final year in Spain with Valencia, as new coach Mauricio Pochettino looks to mount a challenge for the top four.

 

Graziano Pellè (Southampton) – 80/1

While much of the talk this summer has surrounded the players leaving Southampton, one of the new arrivals at St Mary’s could make a transitional season a whole lot easier. Italian striker Pellè scored 50 goals in the last two seasons for Feyenoord, and it is no surprise that his Eredivisie coash Ronald Koeman brought the 29-year-old with him to the south coast.

 —

This season Coral has introduced a new way to bet, SuperLive by Metric Gaming. Bet on hundreds of new in-play micro markets such as whether a player will score from the next free-kick, or whether there will be a goal within 60 seconds of the next set piece.

Unfamiliar with fractional odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out

 

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 or Google+.

The Closest Premier League Finishes

Manchester City are one game away from their second Premier League title

Manchester City are one game away from their second Premier League title

Crystal Palace’s dramatic comeback against Liverpool on Monday night means victory for the Premier League’s top two on Sunday would see the title decided by a margin of just two points.

Compared to last year’s title ‘race’, where Manchester United romped home by 11 points, that seems close. However it has been even tighter in the past.

 

Manchester City v West Ham United Betting Odds:

Man City win – 1.17

West Ham win – 14.50

Draw – 7.80

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

 

3. 1998-99: Manchester United 79 points, Arsenal 78 points

There have been several seasons where the destination of the Premier League trophy has been decided by a single point, however I’m going with this one as everything was still all to play for on the final day.

United were looking to reclaim the title after Arsenal’s league and cup double of the previous season, but had a balancing act on their hands with finals in the FA Cup and Champions League to follow the end of the Premier League campaign.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s late winner for Leeds against Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season had helped the Yorkshire club secure Champions League football, but more importantly it left Sir Alex Ferguson’s club – who themselves had only drawn with relegated Blackburn – one point clear entering the final round of fixtures.

The Manchester club faced Tottenham in the final game – a side with nothing to play for, and one which sceptics suggested would have no desire to do their North London rivals a favour. However Les Ferdinand’s lob gave Spurs a shock first-half lead, and while David Beckham equalised before the break, Arsenal knew that a goal of their own against Aston Villa would put them top.

However Andy Cole gave United the lead just minutes into the second half, and while Kanu’s second-half strike for Arsenal made for a nervy final few minutes up at Old Trafford, United held on to finish the campaign one point clear of there rivals. What happened next at Wembley and Camp Nou will live long in the memory.

 

2. 2009-10: Chelsea 86 points, Manchester United 85 points

The 2009-10 season could easily have been a transitional one for Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo had joined Real Madrid off the back of a season in which he led his employers to the Champions League final, and in had come the rather uninspiring quartet of Mame Biram Diouf, Gabriel Obertan, Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia.

However a fast start – six wins from the first seven games – and a five-game winning run in February and March which seemed to be a staple of Ferguson sides – United were at the summit when Chelsea came to visit on April 3rd.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side had blown hot and cold – putting five past Blackburn and seven past Sunderland but finishing with nine men in a 4-2 defeat at home to a Manchester City side only just beginning to establish themselves as Champions League contenders let alone title challengers. But they got things right at Old Trafford, opening up a two goal lead through Joe Cole and Didier Drogba before Kiko Macheda’s late goal made them sweat.

United were still feeling the effects of that defeat the following week, failing to break down a Blackburn side containing such luminaries as Vince Grella and Nikola Kalinić, meaning even defeat at Tottenham did not stop the Blues going into the final weekend a point clear.

What could have been a tense afternoon proved anything but, as Nicolas Anelka’s early goal and a red card for Wigan’s Gary Caldwell allowed Chelsea to cruise to what would end up as an 8-0 victory, taking them over the 100 goal mark for the season. United’s 4-0 victory over Stoke was positively underwhelming in comparison.

 

3. 2011-12: Manchester City 89 points (+64 goal difference), Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference)

When Manchester City won 6-1 at Old Trafford in October 2011, few mentioned goal difference considerations, and rightly so – the result was so monumental in its own right that the late goals from Edin Džeko and David Silva were seen as statement-making rather than mere statistics. However it would be goal difference that ended up deciding the destination of the title after one of the most dramatic final days in Premier League history.

That momentous win had left City five points clear after nine games and serious contenders to earn their first ever Premier League title. New signing Sergio Agüero had hit the ground running, while fellow strikers Džeko and Mario Balotelli would also end the season with double figures. However a relative slump around the turn of the year would hand the initiative to their local rivals and a run of two points from three games in March and April looked like ending Roberto Mancini’s title dreams.

But then, much like this season, their rivals slipped up at a crucial moment. Shaun Maloney’s winner for Wigan opened the door before Steven Pienaar’s late Everton equaliser at Old Trafford nudged it that bit wider. Before you knew it, Vincent Kompany’s header in a late-season Manchester Derby put City ahead on goal difference and a 2-0 victory at Newcastle left them needing just a home win against struggling QPR.

If that seemed straightforward, people should have known better. As United ground out a 1-0 victory at Sunderland, City saw their early lead cancelled out by goals from Djibril Cissé and Jamie Mackie, as the London club chased the win they needed to guarantee their top-flight status.

As the game entered stoppage time, Mark Hughes’ visitors were down to 10-men but still in the lead. However Džeko’s header gave them hope and as the clock ticked towards the 94-minute mark up stepped Agüero to fire home the winner from Balotelli’s pass, the Italian’s first and only assist in English football.

 

The Premier League, or any league for that matter, will do well to produce a more dramatic finish to a season. Can it happen again?

 

There’s no need to worry about an underwhelming finale, as if any of this weekend’s Premier League games end goalless, GR88.com will refund selected losing match bets on that particular game. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

 

Betting Instinct tip – With Manchester City and Liverpool both facing theoretically simple home games, back both teams to win to nil at 4.39 with GR88.com.

 

tvTOM 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 or Google+.

Man City favoured to grasp the Premier League trophy this evening!

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League trophy once again after Liverpool's draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League trophy once again after Liverpool’s draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night

On paper it is a simple task for Manchester City to claim the 2013/14 Premier League trophy and become the champions for the second time in three years as they have to face Aston Villa and West Ham at the Etihad Stadium in their final pair of matches that, if won, will see them crowned kings of England, completing a Capital One Cup and league double. They start by welcoming the Midlanders to the blue half of Manchester this evening knowing that, thanks to Liverpool’s late concession of three goals to draw 3-3 with Crystal Palace on Monday night (something that cost me a winning bet – thanks Liverpool!), victory will see them two points clear going into the final round of matches this weekend. Can they thrive in the pressure where Liverpool failed so miserably?

Manchester City v Aston Villa Match Odds:

Man City Victory – 1.15

Draw – 8.40

Villa Victory – 16.00

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

After 17 home matches this season, City sit second in the home league table second only to Chelsea who have already completed their quota of matches at Stamford Bridge. City have two games in front of the cheering masses at the Etihad Stadium to make up two points on Jose Mourinho’s Londoners and having bagged 57 league goals this season, at an average of more than three a match, they will certainly be confident of victory this evening and to tighten their grasp on the Premier League trophy.

Villa have not had too bad of a season away from Villa Park during the 2013/14 season as they have collected 17 points from four wins and five draws – while also losing eight games – but with them averaging just a single goal per away match this season they could very well be in trouble at the Etihad this evening. They are safe from relegation, with their 3-1 win over FA Cup finalists Hull City at the weekend seeing them edge past the point that they could be reached by Norwich, but how will they react to this? Can they kick onwards or will they cruise through the final two games safe in the knowledge they have pulled it out of the fire?

I personally feel that the Villa players will feel that they have given their all during the season to ensure their safety and with this secured, as well as having lost six games in a row at the Etihad in Premier League action, they may not be as motivated for this game tonight as they may have been if they were not assured of another season in the top flight. City have certainly got more to play for tonight and I see them cruising past the floundering Midlanders on home soil tonight.

Back Manchester City to beat Aston Villa by at least three goals (City -2.5) @ 2.10 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.

Liverpool to put pressure on Man City in the Premier League title race at Selhurst Park tonight?

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have 50 Premier League goals this season, will they add more this evening?

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have 50 Premier League goals this season, will they add more this evening?

Tonight’s Crystal Palace versus Liverpool game at Selhurst Park sees a clash of the league’s top scorers and the league’s lowest scoring team and it is Liverpool who have much more to play for this evening. They are level with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with both sides having two very winnable games left to play, so they know that they cannot afford to slip up tonight after a Crystal Palace side that have looked impressive under the stewardship of Tony Pulis. Liverpool have to win tonight, but can they do so?

Crystal Palace v Liverpool Match Odds:

Palace Victory – 8.00

Draw – 5.20

Liverpool Victory – 1.33

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

Liverpool have had eight days off since their 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea who, according to Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, “parked two buses” at Anfield to keep a clean sheet and capitalise on a slip from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard as well as killing the game off in injury time through a breakaway by former Liverpool great Fernando Torres and Brazilian Willian. These eight days will have given the club the chance to think about the mistakes made in that match – knowing that a draw against Chelsea would have seen the title in their own hands – but can the would be champions bounce back from the disappointment of that loss?

They will not find it easy to win at Selhurst Park this evening as Palace manager Tony Pulis claimed the Manager of the Month award for April having guided the club to wins over Cardiff, Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham following victory at home to Chelsea in the final game of March. This has seen the club secure a second season in the Premier League for the first time in their history and they will can close to within three points of a place in the top half of the league going into next weekend’s final match of the season if they can upset the odds against Liverpool tonight, but with Liverpool unable to drop points in the title race will a shock result be possible?

Liverpool’s pair of strikers in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have 50 goals in the league between them this season and this almost double the amount that Palace have scored all season, with them bagging just 28 goals in 36 games. This will certainly give Liverpool the advantage going forwards, but with Palace having three fewer goals than their guests tonight will this defensive edge see them able to get something from the game? With Sturridge out injured recently and Suarez not scoring goals as consistently as in the first two thirds of the season, there is certainly a chance of the hosts getting something from this match.

Personally, I see Liverpool edging the match at Selhurst Park tonight, but it will just that – a close game with only a goal or two in the final result. Palace will push them all the way and with Jason Puncheon showing that he can find the net lately, I see both of these sides getting on the scoresheet and my money is on goals as well as the away win this evening.

Back Liverpool to beat Crystal Palace tonight and there to be more than 2.5 goals in the game @ 1.77 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.

Chelsea set to field a weakened manager against Liverpool

Is José Mourinho on the verge of a Napoleonic downfall?

Is José Mourinho on the verge of a Napoleonic downfall?

In seasons gone by, the threat of rocking up to a title decider with a purposefully depleted hand—enfeebled in protest at having to play on a Sunday—would have been celebrated as classic José Mourinho. He strode the Premier League like Banksy spitting up something pithy onto an unguarded wall, or Marcel Duchamp plonking down a toilet in an art gallery and declaring it a fountain.

 

English football  had found a new crown prince-cum-arch satirist, who was bent not only on winning everything he could but doing so while fiddling with the well-worn levers of the British manager’s identity, much to the amusement of the game’s cossetting, chattering classes. “Oh, José!” they squealed, rocked back into their writing chairs, as he fired off yet another belter of a sound bite or tugged at yet more of the tropes set down by the likes of Brian Clough, Don Revie, Bill Shankly & Co.

Yet something has changed on his return to Stamford Bridge. It’s hard not to think that compared to the man who previously terrorised the establishment with both his flamboyant antagonism and trophy count, that come Sunday Chelsea will be fielding a weakened manager as much as a weakened team.

 

Liverpool v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Liverpool – 1.63

Chelsea – 4.80

Draw – 3.85

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

 

For all his absurd, syrupy nonsense and motivational envelopes, Brendan Rodgers looks like a man composed, calm and in his element at present. By contrast, Mourinho has at times appeared trite and perhaps even desperate.

The usual jibes and mind games have never quite come off for him as they used to. His ploy to write off his team’s chances at every opportunity became flat and old in a way that wouldn’t have seemed possible during his more electrified tenure back in the early days of Roman Abramovich’s reign.

 

Of course, momentum can often be everything when it comes to the dubious art of mind games, and perhaps too there is more than a hint of over-familiarity with his methods that has generated a considerable about of contempt for him of late. However, from day one something didn’t feel right about his return. He announced himself to be happy rather than special in what was an oddly subdued press conference—vibes that some put down to him feeling aggrieved at having not been granted a shot at the Manchester United job.

Though his ego surely yearned to be a feature of the intrigue that has swept through Old Trafford this season, it seemed more likely that the scars of the past were weighing heavy upon him rather than jealousy for the future.

 

It’s not often that Mourinho has tasted failure since his ascendency to the top of the game with Porto in 2004. At Chelsea and Inter he achieved the vast majority of his objectives and sometimes over-reached even his own expectations with a record points tally and treble win respectively.

His years in Madrid changed all that however. While the location of the biggest job in football is an argument that will never be settled, it’s hard to think of a more demanding post in the game than taking up position in the home dug out of the Bernabeu.

The manager of Real shares the same average life span and political workload as an average Game Of Thrones protagonist (could have given us a spoiler warning – ed.), and yet faces even greater demands that stretch beyond simply amassing trophies. Real must win in style, to some self-styled ideal of false-modesty, with the most glamourous players in the world, constantly bettering themselves like gentlemanly aristocrats charged with civilising others through their own great works.

 

It’s a level of pressure and pedantry that broke José, who has become a figure of self-parody; his pronouncements now sounding just off-key enough to scan as slightly hackneyed and irrelevant. The Premier League almost feels as if it has left him and his kind behind when in the past it seemed as though Mourinho himself controlled English football’s zeitgeist.

Now reports abound about Mourinho fielding a weakened line-up for Sunday’s trip to Anfield, and with it throwing away his chances of snatching a seemingly impossible title from Liverpool’s grasp: is it a hardnosed protest or an act of sheer petulance?

 

It’s hard not to think that the Mourinho of old would have come up with something more cutting, original and, well, effective. He looks like a man feeling the impact of having to compromise his chances of winning to make a point. The ruthless master of his own destiny who once looked set to force Alex Ferguson into (relatively) early retirement surely would never have told the public of his intentions to give up on a chance of silverware.

Yet Real got to him, with his demands for the likes of Iker Casillas to wage total war against Barcelona turning into an internal conflict against his own authority and methods. Without the ends to justify the means—only one La Liga title and a Copa del Rey to show for three years of viciousness that never seemed to bring Real any closer to La Decima—he was ultimately rejected. Like Napoleon’s downfall after failing to overcome the Russian winter, he has now been exiled to an island off the mainline for his failings.

 

Mixed up in all of this are the intentions of Abramovich himself, who may well have re-hired Mourinho in order to hand him enough rope to implode his rival personality cult as much as benefit from his gift of winning trophies.

If the Portuguese is unable to rediscover the edge that he enjoyed in England prior to 2007, then his own defeat at Waterloo—and the popular and political backlash that brought upon his historical likeness—may well come sooner than many might think. Having faced off against opposition of his own from Jose loyalists in the past, reappointing his former champion to destroy his own legacy, so soon after tilting in Madrid, is a Machiavellian move that will play right into Roman’s hands even if he achieves the opposite.

 

Until then, Liverpool look set to be denied their final, title-clinching triumph, not they’re likely to care too much. With Atletico Madrid readying themselves for a second-leg raid of Stamford Bridge, Mourinho’s determination to appear as though he never wanted the win at Anfield—rather than losing at full-strength to a superior rival—will also double up as a handy excuse should the worst happen against Diego Simeone’s men.

Yet it may not be Chelsea who are too tired to rise against the Argentinean’s rampaging La Liga chasers or Rodgers’ surprise Premier League title favourites, but the special one himself who is now at risk of becoming all-too-ordinary.

 

Betting Instinct tip – If Chelsea do give the likes of Nathan Aké and Andreas Christensen a run-out on Sunday, it could well be worth backing Liverpool to be winning at half-time and full-time at 2.64 at with GR88.com

 

Greg avatarGREG 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.