Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich to see Guardiola turn pragmatist

Pep Guardiola returns to the Camp Nou. There’s little else to be said that will inflate the sense of event. Four ultra-successful years he spent managing his boyhood club, and now he’s back. Back in attempt to silence the Colosseum that he had always dreamed of igniting.

 

He still loves Catalunya and misses it from his Munich base, but his intended legacy requires that Bayern approach this tie with no sentiment whatsoever. With stars in the form of Arjen Robben, David Alaba and Franck Ribery all missing for tomorrow night’s game, a positive result will irrevocably take pride over place. Though he may be renowned as a serial perfectionist, he is a serial winner who will do whatever it takes to progress at this point.

The 44-year-old failed by his own admittance last year. Real Madrid blitzed Bayern in the semi-final, in a game he later describe as the ‘biggest mistake’ of his career. For his German escapade to have been worthwhile to this date, he can’t afford to not leave his mark on the Champions League for a successive season. It’s an almost incomprehensible reality for him. Barcelona must be stopped.

 

Champions League Outright Betting Odds:

Barcelona 7/4

Real Madrid 2/1

Bayern Munich 5/2

Juventus 15/2

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

 

On Monday, Sport newspaper headlined ‘Obsesionado con Messi’. It was in reference to Guardiola’s on-going plans to stop the Argentine, which have no doubt occupied his mind ever since Bayern’s ball was pulled out of the hat in Nyon. He has seen Messi trample on teams at this stage of the tournament before, more often than not from the Camp Nou touchline. Guardiola stood slack-jawed like the rest of us when Messi demolished Bayern back in 2009.

Reports from the city suggest that his initial plan to combat him would have been a man-marking job done by David Alaba; a player he considers athletic and intelligent enough to have put the brakes on Messi. With the Austrian unavailable for selection through injury, however, it’s now anyone’s guess as to how they will go about it.

And as much as he knows the damage Messi can cause, he will also know that Barcelona still have the ability to serve him up a taste of his own medicine. Despite the front three of Neymar, Suárez and Messi taking the plaudits in 2015, Luis Enrique’s midfield area in particular have demonstrated a renewed ability to control and alter the tempo of games in their favour. In fact, many have said the current team is the closest model to Guardiola’s that we’ve seen since he left in 2012. “This Barça presses more, defends better and now they have Suárez too,” Javi Martínez said earlier in the week.

 

The Catalans have been in superb form over the past few months. Their preparation could hardly have gone better. They remain in the ascendency in La Liga, their strike trio are undoubtedly the finest in Europe at present, and unlike their rivals, their team doctor might have one of the easiest jobs in the city.

Elsewhere, Bayern may have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title, but they come into the game on the back of two consecutive losses. A defeat in the German Cup semi-final against Borussia Dortmund has been followed by a 2-0 slip against Bayer Leverkusen; a game which ex-midfielder Owen Hargreaves described as ‘the worst you will see [Bayern] play’. It may only be two games, but momentum shouldn’t be taken for granted when the stakes are so high.

 

With the Germans’ injury record, it appears to be advantage Barcelona ahead of tomorrow night. The timing of the meeting is undoubtedly favouring the first leg hosts but they should be wary. Guardiola failed last year and is back again – sharper, hungrier and desperate to right his wrongs. His affinity for Barcelona will not stand in his way of stepping on them. And regardless of that, his legacy demands that he does. But be sure in the fact that Luis Enrique is equally hungry to chop down his friend in the name of building his own.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Barcelona to win the first leg with both teams to score is 2.89 with Intertops.eu

jamie k avatar JAMIE KEMP is a Freelance Football Writer and the Senior Editor at Inside La Liga. Follow Jamie on Twitter.

In-form Cazorla should relish Liverpool trip

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

What extraordinary times these are for Liverpool. After coming within one slip of winning a first league title since 1990 last term, they have endured an unimaginably nightmarish first half to this season. Gone is Luis Suárez and, perhaps not coincidentally, gone are the goals. The Reds, so easy on the eye as they powered through the Spring of 2014, are now a team with a distinct lack of direction and one in desperate need of inspiration. They have picked up just 14 points from the last 30 available and have already suffered defeats to the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Aston Villa. That they have only managed seven league goals all season at Anfield tells its own story.

They have been hit hard by the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge (he has not featured in a Liverpool shirt since August) while summer arrival Mario Balotelli has found life in front of goal difficult. Steven Gerrard’s performances have begun to deteriorate rapidly and Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet have suffered horrendous starts to the season. The Reds did manage to negotiate a potential banana skin in Bournemouth in the league cup in midweek, but serious questions still hang over their defensive solidity.

 

A miserable run of form culminating in last Sunday’s dismantling at the hands of Manchester United means they languish in eleventh place in the Premier League but they still have a chance of making the top four – down largely to the inconsistency of those above them more than anything else. The gap currently stands at seven points but it will surely widen quickly unless Liverpool experience a marked improvement in the next few weeks.

But things won’t get any easier for Brendan Rodgers’ men, with Sunday seeing the visit of Arsenal. The Gunners have recovered well since their calamitous defeat at Stoke City, with progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League as well as a convincing defeat over in-form Newcastle achieved since then. Olivier Giroud is back fit and firing and he has injected some much-needed impetus into Arsenal’s season. Problems still abound for Arsène Wenger’s side but for all the talk of crisis at the Emirates, they know a win on Sunday could lift them as high as fourth.

 

Liverpool v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/4

Arsenal win 29/20

Draw 23/10

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

 

Arsenal’s fanbase has never been more divided over whether Wenger should remain in charge, but the Frenchman’s skin is thicker than most and he will be focusing solely on the job in hand this weekend. Santi Cazorla turned in a mesmerising performance in the 4-1 win over Newcastle last Saturday and he is likely to start again at Anfield. If he can rediscover his best form after an indifferent start to the campaign then the Gunners will have one of the division’s most exciting number tens. He may have just turned thirty but he still has lots to give and could very well make the difference on Sunday.

Arsenal will remain without Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey, though, who along with Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil form an extensive injury list. Nacho Monreal will hope to return to the matchday squad while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a slight doubt.

Liverpool’s injury woes are far less pronounced; apart from long-term absentees Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson is their only concern. He will face a late fitness test.

 

Despite Arsenal’s drastically reduced options they still go into this game as overwhelming favourites. A repeat of their last visit to Anfield, when they were blown away with four early goals and went on to lose 5-1, somehow looks unlikely. That was only in February but already it seems an eternity ago. Liverpool’s confidence has been shot to pieces and while Arsenal remain shaky away from home they would be disappointed to come away on the end of a defeat.

We know Liverpool have the players to lift themselves from their current predicament, but it’s increasingly difficult to see where the next win is coming from. If Raheem Sterling can display the same scoring touch he showed at Dean Court on Wednesday then they will have a chance, but the young Englishman has been inconsistent at best this season. A victory on Sunday could definitely provide them with the momentum to start climbing the table but if there’s one word that sums the Reds up at the moment it’s ‘fragile’. Any early setback is likely to derail them, and Arsenal will look to take full advantage of this.

 

Betting Instinct tip Draw at half-time/Arsenal at full-time is 9/2 with Intertops.eu

 

Jack C avatarJACK CHATTERTON is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter

Messi and Suárez face tough trip to Mestalla to take on Valencia

Luis Suárez will look to push on after opening his account for Barcelona in Cyprus

Luis Suárez will look to push on after opening his account for Barcelona in Cyprus

It was a case of opposing fortunes for two of La Liga’s finest in Jornada 12. After watching Luis Enrique’s Barcelona steamroll Sevilla by five goals to one on Saturday night, in what was arguably their most convincing performance of the season to date, Nuno Espírito Santo’s Valencia succumbed to a stinging 2-1 derby defeat at Levante.

Valencia v Barcelona Betting Odds:

Valencia win 17/4

Barcelona win 57/100

Draw 3/1

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

Valencia’s red hot start to the season has suffered a few hiccups in recent weeks, which surely won’t be remedied too much by the arrival of Barcelona. Losses to La Liga strugglers Deportivo (a) and Levante (a) over the last month have raised questions about their prowess for a fourth place finish, after many were already pencilling them in for it at the start of October.

But despite that, while they returned to training after the weekend round of games, buoyed by the return of Paco Alcácer and an injury-free squad (at last), playing head tennis in their shorts under the still-relatively-warm East Coast sunshine, Barcelona were busy with European responsibilities out in Nicosia. First strike to Valencia then, eh?

Not quite so fast.

For this Barcelona team has recovered a lot of ground in a short space of time, following Luis Enrique’s first ‘mini crisis’ in the Barcelona dugout. To quickly recap — a convincing loss in October’s Clásico was quickly followed by a home loss at the hands of Celta Vigo (the first since Camp Nou was built). The dogged 2-1 win at Almería after that was hardly ‘champion material’ either (to put it kindly).

But two wins in two games since escaping their ‘rut’ is not as routine as it sounds. When Gianluca Rocchi blew his whistle for the last time in Nicosia on Tuesday night, it marked the end of what has been an extraordinary few days in the life of Lionel Messi (even by his reality-defying standards). Two matches, six goals, two long-standing records met. Sorry, obliterated.

In a week where the topic of commitment to his future at Barcelona resurfaced again, Messi put forward a resounding response in the only way he knows. Against Sevilla, one goal was needed to match Telmo Zarra’s 59-year-old La Liga record of 259 goals. Messi took three for his troubles. A couple of days later in Nicosia, again, one goal was needed to match Raúl González’s Champions League record of 71 goals. He snatched another three. Club Captain Xavi Hernández spoke with simple, yet precise conviction, when he recapped it by declaring: “If Leo is happy, then Barcelona is happy.” And that he certainly is.

As well as putting the icing on Messi’s cake of football domination in Cyprus, there were plenty of other positives to take from the game for Luis Enrique and his staff. Another four goals were added to the five notched at the expense of Sevilla, Luis Suárez got off the mark for the club, Jeremy Mathieu and Neymar were completely rested, and the tempo of the game was about as favourable as Barcelona could have wished for, despite Enrique pulling out Alba, Rakitić and Suárez in the second half, just to be safe. So, stroll in the Mestalla park then?

Hold.

A ‘stroll in the Mestalla park’ doesn’t exist. Valencia might have floundered a couple of times away from home, but that doesn’t apply in more familiar surroundings. Through 6 league games at home; they have won 5, drawn 1, scored 15 goals and conceded 3. Even the champions Atlético Madrid have been rolled over by Nuno Espírito Santo’s team, and you can count on one hand how many times that’s happened to Diego Simeone’s army in recent times.

Despite finding an alluring rhythm to their play at home so far, things have changed from last season off the field too. An 8th place finish last season was their worst since the 2007/08 campaign, as they missed out on qualifying for Europe for the first time in a good while. It was one to forget for the club; losing more games than they won, and conceding more goals than they scored.

But the summer brought renewed optimism on the East Coast of Spain. With Singapore billionaire Peter Lim now in the door, the cobwebs of Mestalla have been blasted off to devastating effect thus far. Attendances are back up, the songs are more frequent, louder. Fans now wait outside the ground in their thousands to welcome the team coach, as if every game is a cup final. Flares, songs, drums, raw passion. Good news for everyone but the opposition. To put it simply  — facing Valencia on their own turf is an entirely different proposal to welcoming them to your place.

In regards to team news ahead of Barcelona’s arrival, Valencia will be absolutely delighted to see their captain Dani Parejo back up to speed. The 25-year-old has been the heartbeat of the team so far, while his absence over the last few weeks has had a noticeable effect. Especially in the 2-1 defeat at Levante, where his team found themselves struggling 1-0 down after 70 minutes, only for Parejo to come on and immediately strike his team back into the game. As well as the skipper, joint top scorer Paco Alcácer also resumed training this week after a hamstring injury – another man who has been so influential to Valencia’s fortunes so far, especially at home.

Barcelona may have found their most satisfying patch of form in recent weeks, as well as being the proprietors of a red hot, record-breaking maniac — but make no mistake — they are coming into the Lion’s Den on Sunday night. Lion’s that are hungry from a painful derby defeat, in a Den where even the spirit of Atlético Madrid was pulverised.

Betting Instinct tip – Valencia to win or draw is 2.27 with Intertops.eu

jamie k avatar JAMIE KEMP is a Spanish/European Football Writer for Inside La Liga, uMAXITFootball and a host of others. He  is  also an FA Licensed Football Coach with a passion for youth development. Follow Jamie on Twitter.

Five incidents bound to happen during Manchester City vs. Liverpool

David Silva's Premier League campaign is already an improvement on his World Cup

David Silva’s Premier League campaign is already an improvement on his World Cup

Remember the World Cup? How good was that! Remember all the big games that happened right at the start and all the goals that were scored to get everyone into the mood in record time?

Well turns out that the World Cup was such a good idea that the Premier League have gone and borrowed its best bits in order to make sure the beginning of the new season doesn’t disappoint after all the fun of the summer. By which I mean they’ve scheduled a really rather large fixture to be played in the second round of matches: last year’s champions, Manchester City, against last year’s runners-up Liverpool.

 

Manchester City v Liverpool Betting Odds:

Manchester City win – 1.85

Liverpool win – 4.00

Draw – 3.50

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

 

Clearly this game is set for yet more Brazil 2014-themed surprises to spice up the action, with kick-off scheduled for an appropriately trans-Atlantic 8pm on a Monday evening. If that’s not group stage scheduling, I don’t know what is.

So without further ado, here’s what’s probably, definitely, bound to happen as Manuel Pellegrini’s Premier League winners take on Brendan Rodgers’ Champions League returnees, for a chance to top Group A, which is the only group in this competition.

 

Someone will score a really good headed goal from a left-back’s cross

And that left-back will most likely be Glen Johnson, who started on his non-natural flank against Southampton in Liverpool’s opening game of the season.

With Daniel Sturridge set to start up front for the Reds, the displaced right-back will stumble upon some space, look up and see his England team mate dashing towards Joe Hart’s area.

We’ll then watch, disbelievingly, as Johnson produce the cross of his career with the part-time sandwich artist jumping up and flopping like a salmon (teriyaki, with extra green peppers? – Ed.) to head the ball into City’s net.

 

Luis Suarez will bite someone again

On Twitter anyway, because as far as English football goes, Luis don’t live here anymore.

That’s right, while the action takes place on the field of play, thousands of rehashed memes and tired, old jokes will surge forth onto various social media channels.

Liverpool will “lack bite”, according to the pictorial punchlines that are to come. Some will overreach in an attempt to force relevancy. A Uruguayan family will go hungry without a supply of Martin Demichelis’ shoulder meat, they’ll say. In text speak.

Maybe some will go for a different angle, trying to use Rickie Lambert’s lesser-known past as a beetroot technician to create an ethical, vegetarian friendly version of all this great new ‘comedy’ that will be taking place. It’ll be like football itself has taken the trapezium muscle of an Italian defender and won itself a transfer to BBC Three, to play alongside Nick Grimshaw and Russell Kane or something.

 

A physio will be injured

Gary Lewin’s stumble against Italy will not have happened in vain. The Premier League are already making plans for the fourth official to go behind one of the team’s physios during the game and take out their knees with a large spanner, as a loving tribute to the fallen England backroom staffer.

No word yet as to who the bookies think the man in the stands will target, but it’s sure to only add to the tense occasion that will be gripping the Etihad, as fans pour into the stadium to see who will be left standing at the end of 90 minutes.

 

Liverpool’s South Americans will sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” really loud for ages just before kick-off, which City’s Brazilians will boo mercilessly

One of the most endearing features of the World Cup was the heart, passion and a capella abilities shown by the South American fans prior to the start of their teams’ games.

Brazil and Chile in particularly showed off the intensity of feeling held by their players and fans during their national anthems. In order to bring some of that pre-match vibrancy to the Premier League, Liverpool’s South Americans will be encouraged by officials to belt out that Rogers & Hammerstein classic, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

As an added twist however, City’s Brazilians will be allowed to try and disrupt the singing without censor, much as their fellow countrymen in the stands did with boos and whistles when Chile and Brazil met in the second round this summer.

It’s at this point that the sponsors will begin to feel a little nervous over the whole charade.

 

Both sets of fans will peer into the future and realise that neither City or Liverpool can win this year due to their lack of Germans

Germany won the World Cup, so it stands to reason that they’ll also win the a post-World Cup, World Cup-themed Premier League. That’s logic.

Therefore, the title is between Chelsea and Arsenal, which means Jose Mourinho’s already won it.

City do have the best Argentinians in the league however, so second-place is theirs. Meanwhile, it’s doesn’t look good for English talent-laden Liverpool. Roy Hodgson’s team didn’t even make it out of their group in Brazil, which means the Reds will slip out of the Champions League this year, determined to do better in 2016.

 

A Chilean will invade the press room

Whatever the result on Monday, Manuel Pellegrini will storm the press room, flip the buffet table and ensure a couple of temporary walls fall onto the heads of some of the journalists present, in the spirit of the 150 Chileans who invaded the press centre at the Maracana.

It’s not been announced what the mild-mannered manager is expected to do once he’s caused the carnage, with many insiders suggesting he’ll just meekly walk away, ashamed of being dragged into the surreal affair, but anything could happen in the one-man melee that may ensue.

 

Betting Instinct tip – No bookmakers are offering odds on some of these more specific predictions, but more than 3.5 goals, in keeping with the early World Cup theme, is 2.75 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Unfamiliar with decimal betting odds? Check out our odds calculation guide to find out how to translate to decimal or fractional

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+.

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.

Manchester United can dent Liverpool’s title bid at Old Trafford

Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal when these teams met at Anfield in September

Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal when these teams met at Anfield in September

Everything is wrong. Not wrong in the sense that the way everything is shouldn’t be that way, but wrong in the sense that it doesn’t feel right.  Manchester United won the league last season and are a Belgian and a Spaniard stronger, yet – and look away now if you don’t want to see me get real – they won’t qualify for the Champions League. The days of Alex Ferguson must feel like a lifetime ago, especially for those born after the days of Alex Ferguson. Given that failure to attain Champions League qualification begets failure to attain Champions League qualification, the future looks grim for Manchester United fans, and everything is wrong.

Manchester United v Liverpool Betting Odds

Manchester United win – 2.40

Liverpool win – 2.85

Draw – 3.20

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

Everything is also wrong because Liverpool are doing quite well, which hasn’t been the case for about five years (kind of goes back to that failure to attain Champions League qualification begets failure to attain Champions League qualification point – ed.). In fact, it was at this point in the 2008/09 season when, a few days after hitting four past Real Madrid in Europe, they met Manchester United at Old Trafford and did the same again. The omens are looking good, if you believe in that kind of thing, and I do.

Back at the beginning of this season, when the world was innocent and David Moyes looked his age, Liverpool won this fixture at Anfield, a solitary Daniel Sturridge goal the difference. Of course, we’re well and truly through the looking glass now. Manchester United are capable of the relatively routine, but then they’ll lose to Stoke. Conversely, Liverpool throw away chances against lesser opposition, yet are second in the league.

“We already know this Max!” you cry. “Get onto the hard statistical analysis, the fact-based assessment of the coming match, and the well-conceived prediction grounded in reality and probability!”

Ok, well, don’t say you didn’t ask for it. Manchester United have won eight of the last nine home league games against Liverpool, but these are two very different teams now. Robin van Persie has scored six goals in his last seven starts against Liverpool, but these are two very different teams now. There’s a pattern here, one which should demonstrate just how useless the statistics are – there will be two teams playing football, and without stretching out the word count by listing other certainties, that’s about all we know for sure.

Everything else is conjecture, but I need to help you out and tell you what I think will happen. Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge are both still around, so Liverpool will probably score. Therefore, if Manchester United want to avoid losing, then they’ll probably want to score as well, and this is where the difficulty in predicting this match lies. Nobody is really sure how good or bad this United side is – they won the league last season, which they had to be good to do, and with the addition of Mata and Fellaini it would be foolish to say that United are a bad side. On the other hand, they’re seventh, and deservedly so.

These are two clubs that inexplicably rise to this particular occasion despite respective circumstance, so you should expect a close game, or at the very least a violent one. My personal bias towards Liverpool is mitigated by an unshakeable belief that they will always lose their next game, but I think that they’ll win this time – everything may well be wrong, but there’s absolutey no reason why they shouldn’t.

Betting Instinct Tip – Either team to win by a one-goal margin is 2.30 with GR88.com

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is ashamed for doing so.

Liverpool Vs Arsenal: The last 3 meetings

arsenal-liverpool

At 12:45 in the atmospheric ground that is Anfield, Liverpool will be hosting Arsenal for a Premier League clash which is sure to be an important game for both. Liverpool still have several injuries hampering their defence, whilst Arsenal are missing the likes of Walcott and Ramsey out injured. Some positive news for The Gunners fans will be that the energetic Jack Wilshere could make a return from another spell on the sidelines.  Neither team really made an impact in the January transfer window, with Arsenal’s deadline-day signing Kim Källström some way off full fitness and both sets of fans feeling that their squads needed some strengthening.

Liverpool v Arsenal Betting Odds

Liverpool to win – 2.05

Draw – 3.30

Arsenal to win – 3.45

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

 

The meetings between these two Premiership heavyweights is usually of great entertainment value. You would need to go back to January 1999 to find the last time a meeting between the two teams ended 0-0, and with the likes of Olivier Giroud and Luis Suárez on the pitch, I see no reason for this game to be any different. Liverpool haven’t beaten Arsenal since August 2012 and will be looking to use this to help cement their claims as a true ‘top 4’ side. With that in mind, I thought it’d be nice to dip my toes in the lakes of nostalgia and have a look at the last 3 meetings between the two.

 

November 2013 – Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool (Premier League)

Goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey rounded up a routine victory for Arsenal against a very complacent Liverpool side. Both sides were at the top of the table, so this would serve as a strong indicator as to how both teams might hold out for the rest of the season. Arsenal grabbed a goal against the run of play; diligence and brilliance from Cazorla allowed him to expertly volley home the rebound after his header crashed off the crossbar. Arsenal took control of the game from this stage and effectively sealed the win with Ramsey’s incredibly well-struck goal from distance. Suárez hit the post for Liverpool late on, but for them to have gained a goal and possibly a point later on, would have been harsh on Arsenal after such a commanding showing. A missed opportunity for Liverpool (how many times has that been said this season already?), but a good result for the North Londoners.

 

January 2013 – Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool (Premier League)

A wonderful game of attacking football which was helped created by some lacklustre defending from both teams. Liverpool went 2-0 up within the first hour of the game; Suárez scoring after a mistake from Sagna, whilst a typically energetic run from Henderson earned him a goal and some more respect from the Liverpool fans. Henderson needed to improve his performances for Liverpool and it was after this game that he continued to go up in the estimations of Liverpool fans. Arsenal – to their credit – refused to stay down, with Giroud pulling one back for the home side within five minutes of Henderson’s goal. Then, only a few minutes later Walcott powered home past Pepe Reina to bring things even. The attacking ensued and both teams had chances to snatch the lead, though neither was able to do so.

 

September 2012 – Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal (EPL)

An incredibly disappointing result for Liverpool as Arsenal picked up their first victory of the 2012-13 season with a spellbinding performance. Liverpool – in comparison – looked jaded and out of ideas from the off. Podolski finished expertly early on, after Cazorla had capitalised on a rare Gerrard error and fed the ball through to the powerful German international. Young Raheem Sterling (only 17 at the time) was one of the only positives for Liverpool, with Cazorla looking like a bargain for 15mil with such a mature display which he capped off with Arsenal’s second goal. Reina rather flaccidly helped the Spaniard’s shot into his own net, but it was no less than Cazorla – and Arsenal – deserved. After the game, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers must have realised what a tough task he has ahead of him in revving the Liverpool of old.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Arsenal to score exactly two goals, as they have done in the last three games against Liverpool, is 3.65 with GR88.com.

West Brom Vs Liverpool – The game in tweets

wba2Yesterday afternoon, a cagey display between West Brom and Liverpool ended in a 1-1 draw. Both sides had chances, but neither side was able to capitalise on their opportunities. Betting Instinct writer Jake Collins was keeping up to date on Twitter; here are some thoughts on the game.

Spain’s Euro 2008 winning manager Luis Aragonés passed away on Saturday and Pepe Mel was showing his respects prior to kick-off

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This game was an important one at both ends of the table. Good results for a few of the sides at the bottom meant West Brom had the chance to slip into the bottom 3 on goal difference with a heavy defeat. However, a win would significantly propel them up the league. On the other hand, a win for Liverpool would give them a firmer hold on 4th place, and would move them within a point of Chelsea in third.

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Liverpool were favourites going into the game, following West Brom’s 4-3 defeat to Aston Villa. Pepe Mel had made several changes to the lineup, dropping Diego Lugano who had a particularly torrid time against Villa. Liverpool – unsurprisingly – remained unchanged after hammering Everton 4-0. Sports writer Kristian Walsh gives his opinion

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The first 10-15 minutes were relatively quiet, both teams giving the ball away easily. West Brom were trying to exploit the wide areas and whipping balls into the box. Not many chance were created with this method, but Liverpool didn’t look overly comfortable with this. Some suggested that this approach was down to a lack of confidence from The Baggies. Mulumbu was doing a real shift in closing down Gerrard at every opportunity, whereas Liverpool’s midfielders were very sloppy in possession.

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At the 24th minute, Liverpool took their first clear cut chance with aplomb. Great work from Sterling (who had an excellent game) ended up with the ball at Suarez’s feet. With 3 men around him, he managed to work himself a slight opening and crossed the ball to the obliging Sturridge from a couple of yards out. There were calls of offside from the West Brom defence, but replays showed that Sturridge was played onside…just.

Columnist Paul Tomkins describes Suarez’s movement (or lack of) to get the ball across the goal

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Things seemed to go from bad to worse for West Brom, as towering defender Olsson seemed to pull a hamstring. The aforementioned Lugano was brought on to try and continue to hold off any Liverpool attacks. Following Lugano’s display, not everyone saw this as a positive switch for WBA. Lugano did score last month against Everton, so it’s fair to say Liverpool have mixed feelings about the Uruguayan,

Olsson had been winning everything in the air against The Reds, so was sure to be a blow to their defence which – aside from the goal – had kept the lethal SAS combination out of dangerous areas.

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After the half-time break, West Brom came out looking more like a team that wanted to snatch the 3 points. They pressed well in the first half, but built on this more in the 2nd half. Several long range efforts (one from Gera, who Liverpool fans may have bad memories of) and some crosses into Liverpool’s box hadn’t posed any real threat, but West Brom were at least showing more intent now. McAuley beat Skrtel in the air to power a header at the Liverpool goal from deep within the box. Belgian keeper Mignolet produced a terrific reaction save to keep the score in his side’s favour. Injured Liverpool fullback Glen Johnson showed some appreciation for the ‘keeper

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Berahino was replaced by former Everton man Victor Anichebe, and you can probably guess what happened next. Kolo Toure played a square ball across his own box, straight to the feet of Anichebe. A sublime first touch set him up to slam a finish low into the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal. Conceding goals has been a real issue for Liverpool this season, something they’ll need to work on if they want to retain their place in the top four by the end of the season.

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After that awful mistake from Toure, the game appeared to close up a little. Only the odd chance here and there – one in the box for Joe Allen who tamely guiding the shot straight at Ben Foster – guided the game to a slow finish. MOTM went to Raheem Sterling who produced a strong display to add to his recent fun of form. The Liverpool winger had several runs down the right-wing, beating 2-3 men at a time. Mulumbu had a strong showing for The Baggies, keeping the Liverpool midfield on their toes all game.

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Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will have to see this as two points dropped. This was a great chance to cement their Champions League spot, although no credit should be taken from West Brom who produced a resolute display against an array of attacking talent. Liverpool fans will be disappointed with their lack of spark and another defensive error. The below tweet perfectly summing up the disdain shown towards two of their defenders…

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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.

The closest ‘Friendly Derby’ for years

Luis Suarez (right) takes on Everton’s Sylvain Distin

On Tuesday the 28th of January, Liverpool and Everton will partake in what – on paper at least – is set to be one of the most tightly contested Merseyside Derbies in years. Liverpool currently sit uncomfortably in 4th, whilst Everton lay in 6th only one point behind their local rivals. With Spurs playing Man City on the following day, both of these sides will see this as a game of magnanimous proportions and that fire will only be fuelled by their ongoing claims to be the best team from Liverpool.

Liverpool v Everton Betting Odds

Liverpool to win – 1.75

Draw – 3.70

Everton to win – 4.20

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

The reverse fixture made for wonderful viewing to the neutral (though not to any Liverpool/Everton fans of a nervous disposition). Ending 3-3, it marked the goal-scoring return of Daniel Sturridge and the emergence of Roberto Martinez’s Everton as a free-flowing football side worthy of Liverpool’s respect.

Liverpool go into this off the back of a couple of very lacklustre performances. The goals have been flowing freely at times for The Reds this season, but so have the goals against them. Their defence has looked incredibly vulnerable and they were lucky to keep a clean sheet against Championship side Bournemouth in the FA Cup fourth round.

What I consider their strongest back 4 (Johnson, Agger, Sakho and Enrique)  is currently depleted by injury, and holding midfielders (Lucas and Allen) who offer that extra bit of protection from oncoming attacks, are also on the sidelines.

Fortunately, they have a very potent attack. Suarez and Sturridge are as good as any front two in European football and Kop fans will hope their blossoming chemistry continues to flourish. Everton are 2nd in the clean sheet league, with 9 to their name so Liverpool will have to take their chances in front of goal. Winger Raheem Sterling is in a productive run of form at present; 4 goals this season and a couple of assists in the Premiership may seem relatively modest, but it’s all too easy to forget he is the tender age of 19 . Meanwhile Steven Gerrard playing in the holding role has made him look half the player we know he is, and Everton will look to exploit this with their pace in midfield so it will be vital for Liverpool’s number 8 to have his positional sense finely tuned.

Everton have a few injury problems of their own. The loss of buccaneering fullback Seamus Coleman will be a blow to their wing-play and the energetic Barkley – who has made a huge contribution to their season – also misses this one. Barcelona youth product Gerard Deulofeu can offer something a bit different, but will also be forced to sit this one out.

Fortunately for the Toffees, top scorer Romelu Lukaku remains in the fold. Lukaku is a fantastic player already and still has 5-6 years to hit his peak as a footballer. Far too often, his immense physical strength makes people overlook the fact that he is very capable of playing precise passes, as well as decent balls into the box and exquisite finishes. They looked a little complacent in their draw with West Brom last week, but certainly won’t need any extra motivation for this one.

The formidable Anfield crowd ought to give Liverpool that slight edge, but as we saw in the reverse fixture, any lead taken will be an extremely precarious one. If Everton are able to break wide and get balls into the box, then I strongly expect them to bag a couple of goals.

Liverpool’s Cissokho is seen by some as a weak link and it’s a shame for Everton that Coleman won’t have the chance to run at him to whip the ball into the box. Still, I expect them to exploit Liverpool’s left hand side and try to feed Lukaku aerially.

The home side’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has shown a weakness with crosses in recent week and both Skrtel and Toure (the likely starting partnership) aren’t the most convincing in the air either. Jagielka and Distin are having possibly their best seasons for the Blues, but I think that deadly combination of Suarez’s trickery and Sturridge’s pace will undo them too many times. My prediction? Liverpool to win by a solitary goal. Genuinely, I think this game depends more on how Liverpool defend than anything else. They’ve only failed to score once in the league this year (a surprise defeat to Southampton) and I expect them to really put Everton’s back-line to the sword.

Betting Instinct Tip – Liverpool to win 2-1 is 8.00 with GR88.com

JAKE COLLINS 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.

No rest of New Year‘s Day

The English Premier League title race promises to be the most exciting in years.

English Premier League title race promises to be the most exciting in years.

The English Premier League season moves into the New Year with fans across the globe rubbing their hands in glee at what promises to be the most exciting title race in years.  Going into the traditional full New Year’s Day programme on Wednesday, there are just six points separating current leaders Arsenal from fifth placed Liverpool and every title-chasing team will be anxious to get 2014 off to a flying start.

It is second placed Manchester City who get the ball rolling at mid-table Swansea knowing that a win would increase the pressure on their rivals. The Gunners are a hot favourite to pick up all three points against Cardiff at the Emirates, whilst London rivals Chelsea face a tough trip to the south coast to face Southampton. Liverpool, who have slipped behind their Merseyside rivals Everton after successive losses to Man City and Chelsea, entertain a Hull City side buoyant from a 6-0 thrashing of Fulham on Saturday. The heat is well and truly on coach Brendan Rodgers and his Reds, but Luis Suarez and co. should have the class to get back on track. Defending Premier League champions Manchester United may still be down in sixth in the table, but the Red Devils have won four EPL contests on the trot and cannot yet be counted out, especially if they get their 2014 rolling with another three-point haul at home to Tottenham!

Premier League New Year’s football betting odds:

Arsenal                 1.2                                          Manchester United        1.65
Draw                     6.0                                          Draw                                     3.65
Cardiff City          12.0                                        Tottenham                         5.0

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

 

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chrisives-50CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.