Is Arsenal vs. Hull City the end of civilisation as we know it?

Can Arsenal win their first final at 'New Wembley'?

Can Arsenal win their first final at ‘New Wembley’?

The West Antarctic ice sheet is melting! Soon all will perish amid sea level rises too big for even Bruce Willis to stop, seemingly rendering the result of Arsenal’s crunch Community Shield qualifier against Hull City irrelevant on the grand scale of things.

This is of course false. Had the world paid more attention to football in the first place, none of this would have happened. Mankind’s greatest error was to put their faith in hockey stick graphs rather than transfer gossip columns about the landmark transfers of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or something. Heat maps could have saved us all if only we’d listened.

Still, there is some hope that a few emaciated survivors may be able to scrape together an existence during the coming Armageddon out somehow. The FA Cup stands as a testament to humanity’s ability to cling on within a post-apocalyptic landscape.

 

Arsenal v Hull City Betting Odds:

Arsenal – 1.24 

Arsenal to win in 90 minutes – 1.44

Hull City – 4.00

Hull to win in 90 minutes – 6.80

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

 

Having once been the jewel of the English football calendar, cup final day has slipped into becoming a desperate struggle for recognition in the arid wastes between the Premier League finale and the Champions League final. Manchester United used to be the great Satan, who fatally undermined this institution with a transcontinental lust for silverware, but with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona’s La Liga decider currently threatening to steal away viewing figures, the problem seems bigger than a fixture clash.

Similar to the rules of the Thunderdome from Mad Max 3, at Wembley two teams will enter, but only one shall leave. In contrast to the movie’s blood sport however, it’s the loser that gets to walk away, with the victors instead set to be called back for a sound beating at the hands of Manchester City some August.

 

Even the supposed grand prize of a shot at the Europa League feels like a demoted consolation offering. Steve Bruce’s side have already been informed that they’ll be heading off to face the likes of FC Luch-Energiya Vladivostok (wow – turns out that’s actually a real team – ed.) whatever the result against Arsenal thanks to the Gunners’ Champions League qualification via the top four. In that respect, the FA Cup final is left looking more like a passing out ceremony for this season’s press ganged, sacrificial offering to UEFA’s secondary tier, rather than a prestigious bounty. A season scrabbling across Europe to take part in the competition formerly known as the UEFA Cup could even send Hull out of the Premier League next year. If you thought Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was a terrifying and depressing read, don’t spend to long mulling over the death by glory inflicted upon clubs forced into competitions they have neither the squad nor resources to properly fight.

Then again, while the heat death of the FA Cup may be stretching out the public’s attention spans and will-to-watch, as if expiring through the footballing entropy of the game’s own laws of thermodynamics, perhaps this year might be different?

 

For once, it’s not just the plucky minnows who are striving for an unlikely trophy win. Arsenal would do well to check that Patrick Vieira didn’t thrown down a Bela Guttmann-esque curse on the club  when he left in 2005. Arsene Wenger’s team haven’t won a proper pot or title since.

With their status as this year’s Liverpool, before Liverpool too—having let slip a commanding lead in the title race rather than a cataclysmic and very literal one for Demba Ba to shatter their dreams—the likes of Aaron Ramsey will be keen to ensure something tangible comes through from a season that promised so much However, Hull need only look back to Birmingham City’s League Cup win over the Gunners to see how their last appearance in a final that was billed as a relative formality turned out.

 

Unfortunately for Bruce’s challengers, his two star strikers—Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic—are cup-tied for the final, but as any fan of disaster cinema will tell you, being outnumbered and outgunned is all a protagonist needs to escape the rapture. Even John Cusack did as much in that one where the Buddhist monk climbed to the top of Everest only to be swept away by a giant tidal wave. It had planes taking off in earthquakes and a big aircraft carrier thing he had to throw his kids onto at the end. High Fidelity was it? Who knows.

Regardless, the fate of the FA Cup could well depend on who can discover their inner Cusack. Sone Aluko or Olivier Giroud. It’s got to be Arsenal, right? Right?

 

Betting Instinct tip – Arsenal to win 2-1 after a spirited Hull performance is 7.60 with GR88.com.

 

Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

 

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How can Manchester United stop Bayern Munich?

Will Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer even need to make a save?

Will Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer even need to make a save?

Next week the Champions League returns for the quarter-final stage, and for many the stand-out tie sees Manchester United host Bayern Munich at Old Trafford.

 

Manchester United v Bayern Munich Betting Odds

Manchester United win – 6.60

Bayern Munich – 1.45

Draw – 4.40

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

 

The meeting gives Bayern an opportunity to gain revenge for their defeat in the 1999 final by knocking out United at this stage of the competition for the second time in five years. And you wouldn’t rule out a victory more comprehensive than the away goals triumph in 2010.

 

On paper it is something of a mismatch. Bayern are the favourites for the tournament while United are the outsiders, and the German side have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title with 25 wins from their 27 league games.

In contrast, last Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at home to rivals Manchester City was United’s 10th in 31 Premier League games and their sixth at Old Trafford. So how can they find a way past their all-conquering opponents.

 

Blindfold Manuel Neuer

The Bayern goalkeeper is known for his excellent instincts and awareness, often coming off his line to good effect to deny opponents, and this has been reflected in Bayern’s goals against column where the 13 conceded translates to less than one goal every two games.

Still, even that might not be enough. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Bayern went on a six-game run where they conceded so few shots on target that they would have won all six without a goalkeeper. So, on to plan B…

 

Spin Philipp Lahm around in circles for a while

You don’t need triangles to demonstrate the effectiveness of Philipp Lahm this season. The club captain has been moved from right-back to central midfield, where he has acted as a metronome, conducting play and making the team tick.

How do you deal with that kind of majesty? Get two of your players to stand either side of the German and spin him around quickly for a few minutes, just enough to disorientate him. His influence will be diminished, and it lets you find a use for Tom Cleverley. And, of course, the circle is the geometric enemy of the triangle.

 

Sneak some extra players onto the pitch

Before Fabio was shipped off to Cardiff in January, there was a running joke that his presence at the club allowed United to keep playing identical twin Rafael even when the better of the two brothers was suspended. The Ol’ Switcheroo, as it is known in some circles.

If it worked once before there’s no reason why it can’t work again, and with Bayern’s superb ball retention it will probably still look like Pep Guardiola’s side are the ones with an extra player. Of course, Alex Büttner will still be playing at left-back so this might end up making no difference whatsoever.

 

So, to conclude, there seems to be little that United can do, save for praying to Superman. It really does look less like a case of ‘will Bayern win?’ and more one of ‘how many will they score?’

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Bayern Munich to win and score three or more goals is 3.68 with GR88.com

 

 

 TOM VICTOR (editor) tv 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.

Tipday – your free introduction to sports betting

Make tips on your favourite sports to earn leaderboard points

Make tips on your favourite sports to earn leaderboard points

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Down Memory Lane – Premier League Derbies

Aaron Lennon has fond memories of at least one North London Derby

Aaron Lennon has fond memories of at least one North London Derby

 

This weekend the Premier League fixture list has thrown up two appetising games on Sunday afternoon, as Manchester United’s home tie against Liverpool is followed by the North London Derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

One thing about derby rivalries (and I’m counting United v Liverpool as a derby, even though the former have another very prominent local rival) is that they provide something of a leveller. League position and form often goes out the window, and attrition takes over.

Often that will lead to a tense game between two teams afraid to lose, however these fixtures have recently seen some rather surprising outcomes. Below I go into detail about some of my favourites.

 

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham, October 2008

Arsène Wenger’s side have had a habit of shooting themselves in the foot in the nine years since they last won a trophy (no, fourth place doesn’t count, and don’t even try to bring up the Emirates Cup). While few examples stand out more than the one-two punch in February 2011 when Arsenal surrendered a 4-0 lead to Newcastle in the league before losing a cup final to a goal scored by someone who came on as a substitute for Keith Fahey (I can’t stress this point enough), the midweek draw at home to Spurs runs it close.

After responding surprisingly competently to an early long-range strike from Spurs’ then record signing (!) David Bentley, the Gunners entered the 89th minute 4-2 in front and on course for a third straight win in the league. However against the might of a Spurs team who had started the game with two points and a Harry Redknapp catchphrase from their eight games, Arsenal somehow contrived to let Jermaine Jenas and then Aaron Lennon fire past Manuel Almunia to earn the visitors a point.

Arsenal proceeded to lose three of their next four league games, finishing the season some distance behind a runaway top three, and the following years would see Spurs move closer and closer to their neighbours in league form.

 

Could another thriller be on the cards? Seven goals or more is 30.00 with GR88.com

 

 

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United, March 2011

What’s your favourite Premier League hat-trick? Dennis Bergkamp’s sublime treble for Arsenal at Leicester? Shinji Kagawa’s effortless performance against Norwich last season? Maybe it was Robbie Fowler’s five-minute special back in 1994. Whatever you said, your answer probably wasn’t Dirk Kuyt against Manchester United in 2011.

Loved by Liverpool fans and perhaps underappreciated by opposition supporters, Dutch forward Kuyt was a master of perseverance and stick-to-itiveness long before his finest moment. A 31-minute hat-trick, none of the strikes coming from more than six yards out, represented a masterclass in the unremarkable and meant United’s title bid hit a stumbling block against a team whose substitutes included Peter Gulacsi, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Christian Poulsen, Jay Spearing and David Ngog.

A lot has changed in the intervening period, and indeed it is now the visitors that day whose midfield is a punchline to a joke that no one asked. What a difference three years makes.

 

Liverpool to win 3-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday is 21.00 with GR88.com

This weekend GR88.com’s Late Goal Refund means you don’t have to worry about a last-gasp goal ruining your bet. If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or later, all losing match result, last goalscorer or correct score bets which were winning before the goal went in will be refunded.

 

TOM VICTOR (editor) tv 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.