Juventus v Real Madrid a very different prospect 12 years on from last Champions League semi-final meeting

This week sees Juventus and Real Madrid go head-to-head for a place in the Champions League final, with the tie delicately poised after the Italian champions held on for a 2-1 first-leg win in Turin.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side is looking to become the first ever to retain European football’s top trophy, following last year’s extra-time victory over Atletico Madrid, but if they want another shot at glory they will need to get past the side which ended their hopes of back-to-back victories in this competition 12 years ago.

 

UEFA Champions League – Outright Betting Odds:

Barcelona 53/100

Real Madrid 3/1

Juventus 11/2

Bayern Munich 33/1

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

 

Back in 2003, Vicente Del Bosque’s Real Madrid were locked in an unlikely title fight with a Real Sociedad side inspired by Darko Kovacevic and a young midfielder by the name of Xabi Alonso. Del Bosque had added just one player to the squad which edged past Bayer Leverkusen to win the previous year’s Champions League, but what a player – Ronaldo returned to Spain fresh from securing Golden Boot honours at the previous summer’s World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

While the Spanish title race would go right to the wire, Juventus had already secured the Serie A title by the time the two sides met at the Stadio Delle Alpi for the second leg of their semi-final. It may have been that lack of domestic pressure which allowed Marcello Lippi’s side to play without fear.

 

The first leg in May 2003 produced a comparable outcome to the equivalent tie this year, with a 2-1 home win keeping Real Madrid’s dream of La Decima well and truly alive. Indeed Graham Hunter suggested the winner from Roberto Carlos left the Spanish club “on course for their fourth Champions League final in six seasons.

However the gulf in quality and spending power between the Spanish and Italian leagues was nothing like it is now: the Bianconeri could boast such talents as David Trezeguet, Lilian Thuram and Pavel Nedved, while the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Gigi Buffon were approaching their respective peaks.

 

Indeed Lippi’s side would go on to meet AC Milan in an all-Italian final after playing what Del Piero described as “the perfect match” in the return leg. Trezeguet, who had scored an important away goal at the Bernabeu, put Juve ahead within the first 15 minutes. Madrid sorely missed Ronaldo, only fit enough for the bench on his return from injury, and Del Piero doubled the lead before half-time.

Del Bosque’s side still had plenty of their other Galacticos on show, and Ronaldo – introduced early in the second half – gave Luis Figo the chance to level things up on aggregate when he was brought down in the area by Paolo Montero. However Figo saw his spot-kick saved by Buffon and the Portuguese was made to pay not long after when Nedved added Juventus’ third. A late strike from Zinedine Zidane against his former club would not be enough to keep the Spaniards’ dream alive.

 

The game – and the season – would prove momentous for both clubs. Juve lost on penalties to Milan in the final and went a decade without getting as far as the semi-finals again, losing their Serie A status in the Calciopoli scandal in the intervening period.

Madrid, meanwhile, parted ways with Del Bosque and midfield anchor Claude Makelele that summer, leading to a sustained run of underperformance in Europe. They would not reach the semi-finals again until 2011, while they had to wait until last year for La Decima.

 

This week both clubs enter the game with the awareness that the winner will likely go into the final as an underdog against a Barcelona team which brushed aside Bayern Munich in their first leg, however that ought not to matter too much.

Madrid enter as reigning champions of Europe and as such are expected to progress, while Juve – without any high-quality competition domestically – have done well even to make it this far. Their goalscorers in the first leg, Carlos Tevez and former Real Madrid youngster Alvaro Morata, while both undoubtedly talented, are only in Italy because richer clubs decided they were surplus to requirements.

In contrast, their opponents parted with more than €100m last summer, bringing in the likes of James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Lucas Silva. They cruised through their group with six wins from six and after edging past local rivals Atletico in the quarter-finals they will feel like this is a tie they should win.

 

For Juventus it is a chance to return to the glory days of the early 2000s, while Real have the chance to exact revenge for a painful defeat. But in truth this game is only comparable to that famous 2003 meeting on a superficial level.

 

Betting Instinct tip Real Madrid to win by two goals is 7/2 with Intertops.eu

 

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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Where will Juventus star Paul Pogba be next season?

 

Very few players command attention and interest across the globe consistently. We live in a world where Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo take turns in setting the bar higher and higher. This makes other footballers seem mortal, in comparison. But, one player who is keeping up with the best consistently is Paul Pogba. With an array of skills that can put any footballer in his shade, Pogba is making his own mark on the global arena.

 

At 22 years, Pogba is already a special player. The potential was always there and even the confrontations between clubs. When he joined Manchester United from Le Havre, there were accusations that United approached the player illegally. And when he left United to join Juventus in 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson went to the extent of alleging that Pogba had a contract with Juventus ‘a long time ago’. The underlying circumstances may have been different but the pain of losing a talented player was apparent.

Lack of game time was one of the reasons why Pogba left United for Juventus. Even before he kicked a ball for Juventus, everyone knew that the club was successful in grabbing the big prize. Over the last two years, he established himself as the lynchpin of the Juventus midfield. His agent Mino Raiola always maintained that Pogba is on par with the best in the world and is a future Ballon d’Or winner.

 

Torino v Juventus Betting Odds:

Torino win 31/10

Juventus win 10/11

Draw 11/5

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

 

The exploits of this talented playmaker haven’t gone unnoticed. Top European clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Manchester City monitor his situation continuously and vie for his signature. It has even been suggested that his old club Manchester United is keen to get him back; and price is not a problem for any of these top sides. Pogba could spur any team to the heights of European glory and none of these teams would want to miss out.

 

Where does this leave Juventus? Surely, the club knows what it has and treasures the value of the player on its books. But, it is an open secret that it may not be long before they get a huge offer and Pogba leaves. Everyone remembers what happened with Zinedine Zidane when he was sold at the peak of his prowess by Juventus to Real Madrid.

Pogba may follow the footsteps of his idol and join the current Champions League holders, and the chances of him ending at Madrid will only increase if Zidane becomes the manager of the first team. However bitter rivals Barcelona are not willing to admit defeat and, if reports are to be believed, will offer huge money to Juventus once their transfer ban is over.

 

Whatever comes next, Pogba will continue to grab attention of every club and fan across the globe, and Raiola could be pardoned for continuously singing the praises of his player. The clubs could be forgiven for waiting with bated breath on what could be his next step. But, what is sure is that Pogba will be a global phenomenon for the next few years at least.

There may still be some naysayers who argue that Pogba is not yet at the level of Messi or Ronaldo. Truth be told, he is not at the same level; not yet! He has all the tools to challenge the game’s elite. It is just a matter of time.

 

Betting Instinct tip Juventus to win to nil in the Derby di Torino is 4.01 with Intertops.eu

sridhar_avatar SRIDHAR BHAMIDI is an avid football follower and follows most of the leagues. He is an experienced freelance writer  covering match reviews, reports, transfer news and betting articles. Follow him on Twitter.

 

Atlético have Real Madrid’s number ahead of Champions League revenge mission

 

And so they meet again. Twice in the league, twice in the Copa Del Rey and twice in the Spanish Super Cup. Yet still, arguably the biggest of their meetings this season is still to take place.

Atlético have undeniably man-handled los Blancos this season. Through their six clashes during the current campaign, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have failed to pick up three points on every occasion, losing on a collective aggregate score of 12-4. Some have been utter savageries from ‘Cholo’s’ warriors, some have been close encounters. But few doubt that Atlético thoroughly have Real’s number.

 

 Atlético Madrid v Real Madrid First Leg Betting Odds:

Atlético Madrid win 7/4

Real Madrid win 8/5

Draw 43/20

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

 

Their most recent meeting provided the best evidence of it, as the European champions were beaten well past the brink of embarrassment. “They were better than us in every aspect”, Ancelotti said, after Atlético pulverised his team by four goals to nil. It had been 17 years since los Rojiblancos had beaten Madrid at home, and 38 years since they had scored four or more in a derby on home soil.

The fact that Tuesday night’s clash comes in the Champions League makes it all the more interesting. It’s the competition that captures Real’s imagination like no other; the one which Madridista’s feel is ‘their’ competition. Nobody has won it more, and their hunger for it will never fade. As well as that, it’s the platform in which Real were last victorious over their feisty neighbours.

When they met in the final in Lisbon last summer, Real captured ‘La Decima’ to devastating effect. Atlético had been on the brink of a fairytale league-and-cup double, until Sergio Ramos’ 93rd minute header took the game to extra-time. The blow proved to be too strong for Simeone’s team, who eventually fell to a crippling 4-1 defeat.

If Ancelotti’s men are going to end their miserable streak against their rivals, it seems like the Champions League will be the most likely platform in which they can do so. It’s a competition in which they can bear confidence, knowing their prestige and recent success in, as well as the fact they have the opportunity to win back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1950’s.

And in terms of the spectacle of Tuesday night itself, the stars have aligned as we edge nearer to show time. It’s expected that both coaches will be able to field full-strength eleven’s for the first leg, with the likes of Diego Godín, Mario Mandžukić, Gareth Bale, Pepe, James Rodríguez and Luka Modrić all timing their returns from injuries nicely.

So, on the verge of their most pivotal clash of the season, the question becomes: How long can Diego Simeone prolong this dominance over Real? His opposition have been buoyed dramatically in recent games by the return of James Rodríguez, while Cristiano Ronaldo has hit fine form ahead of the derby. If ‘El Cholo’ can manage it again, it might just be his team’s most impressive triumph of the lot.

_____

Juventus vs. AS Monaco

Elsewhere on Tuesday night, Max Allegri’s flying Juventus (11/25 to win the first leg with Intertops.eu) welcome Monaco (15/2) to Turin for their own Champions League quarter-final meeting. The Italians breezed past Borussia Dortmund en route to this stage, and look to boast Serie A’s most promising European threat for some time.

Many had doubted Juve’s credentials following the managerial switch from Antonio Conte to Allegri, but the veteran boss has done remarkably well since taking the reigns at the club. Speaking in midweek, Carlos Tevez praised the impact of his manager, and insisted that they can match anyone in Europe. “We are a more relaxed team now thanks to the calmness of Allegri,” he said, “I think now instead what we have is a team. We are very difficult to beat, much like Atlético Madrid a year ago.”

In their French opponents, Monaco sprung the shock of the previous round when they dumped out Arsenal. Not many had tipped Leonardo Jardim’s side to make it to the quarter-final stage, but now they are here, their lack of pressure could be a dangerous weapon that Juve will need to be mindful of.

They also lay claim to having the best defence in Ligue 1 under the Portuguese boss this season, and might well have the credentials to frustrate the Italians at the Juventus Stadium tomorrow night.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Atlético Madrid and Juventus to both win their first legs is 3.96 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.

Real Madrid and Barcelona see form fluctuate ahead of El Clasico

 

Lionel Messi was finished. Barcelona were in crisis. Luis Enrique in trouble. Now, they’re not. Barcelona are the league leaders, they’ve advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Enrique has figured out his best team. So of course, it’s Real Madrid’s turn.

Cristiano Ronaldo is done. Gareth Bale can’t score. Carlo Ancelotti is clueless. Real Madrid are firmly in what constitutes as a crisis these days. Which means that they are second in the league and have also advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. But there is some fire where the smoke is.

 

Barcelona v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Barcelona win 67/100

Real Madrid win 31/10

Draw 16/5

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

 

Real Madrid are struggling where Barcelona are rising. While Barca were rampant in their destruction of Manchester City, Real came deathly close to being knocked out by a fervent Schalke squad. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Leroy Sané especially tried to squeeze the life out of Los Merengues. This after Real lost 1-0 to a suffocating Athletic Bilbao side. The sky was falling.

Then they beat Levante 2-0 to get back on track, and Gareth Bale, maligned throughout the season, scored a brace. Luka Modric, who the team sorely missed, and whose absence create an imbalance in midfield, returned. Even if Sané broke him down during the Champions League game. Ronaldo may be spending most of his time throwing temper tantrums, but he’s still as dangerous as ever. Form is hardly ever an indication in this game.

 

So that brings us to the present. All signs point to a Barcelona win, even if Real is resurgent. Barcelona have seemingly fixed the issues that had them written off mere months ago. The Neymar-Luis Suarez-Lionel Messi trio are playing breathtaking football. While the former BBC of their rivals are finding goals harder to come by. Mixed in with the rumors that there is discord within their ranks and it’s a sure recipe for disaster.

The job on Ancelotti’s hands then is to get his troops on the same page as quickly as possible. This is still the same team that won La Decima a season ago. It’s still the same cast of men who ran out 3-1 winners against Barcelona earlier this season. Even if some of the players have fallen victim to the injury gods, the quality of the group is no less.

 

Barcelona are still fragile in defense and they are still beatable. Even in the game against Manchester City, the English had many chances to claw back into the tie. Chances that you would expect a squad of Real’s calibre to finish. Hope is abundant still. If not for any other reason than for the fact that Los Blancos are immensely talented.

From Barcelona’s point of view, all that needs to be done is to continue down the same path. Messi is in irrepressible form. Unplayable and creative. He’s in the same type of beast-mode that earned him 89 goals in 2012, except now he has more weapons. Not only his improved passing but his cast.

 

Neymar spends as much time scoring as he does embarrassing defenders. Luis Suarez has found his place within the team. Ivan Rakitic is much more suited to Barcelona’s current style than Cesc Fabregas, and he’s much more physical as well. Javier Mascherano is a steel curtain of a man and Gerard Pique has found his brain again.

If they play as they’ve been playing the latter part of the season, things look bright. But if Barcelona take their opponents for granted; if they miss the same chances presented to them against City, Real will punish them. El Clasico is an entity in itself and any mistake or hesitation can easily cost either team.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Barcelona to win and both teams to score is 2.34 with Intertops.eu

 

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

Carlo Ancelotti’s World Champions primed for tricky Mestalla trip

Jesé scored the winner for Real Madrid in last season's corresponding fixture

Jesé scored the winner for Real Madrid in last season’s corresponding fixture

As is customary in Spain, the winter break allowed a brief cooling-off period for all twenty La Liga teams. But it’s now back to full throttle for a select few. While fellow top four clubs Atlético Madrid and Barcelona resume with games against bottom half clubs in the form of Levante and Real Sociedad respectively, the resumption of play in the Primera División looks a little less comfortable for Valencia and Real Madrid.

Valencia v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Valencia win 17/4

Real Madrid win 53/100

Draw 16/5

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

The pair are set to clash at Mestalla on Sunday evening, in what looks sure to represent matchday 17’s tastiest fixture. Carlo Ancelotti’s side haven’t faced a top four team on the road this season in La Liga – and with their 22 game winning streak on the line once more, victory at one of the toughest grounds in Spain would send another devastating statement of intent for Los Blancos. On the other hand, a Valencia team who have dwindled a little in recent months need no better motivation than a victory over the untouchables from the capital as they prepare for a renewed Champions League push in 2015.

Many have been scanning Madrid’s upcoming schedule for games that could prove a little more problematic for the European Champions, and there aren’t many that rival this one. Although Valencia’s early season form hasn’t been quite been as well maintained through the winter months, their exploits on Mestalla soil very much have. Despite taking a relatively disappointing 12 points from a possible 24 since the beginning of November, their home form remains impressive. Visits from Barcelona, Athletic Club and champions Atlético Madrid among others have seen their defence surrender just 4 goals in 8 games, while a 3-1 win over the latter in October shows exactly what they are capable of on their day.

Another factor likely to be putting fire in the bellies of those associated with Valencia, is the contrasting nature of their winter break. By the time the game comes around, the home side will have had 18 days of rest and preparation time ahead of the game – about as good a time as any to welcome the European Champions if you’re Nuno Espírito Santo. And if the Valencia boss wasn’t already satisfied with the favourable circumstances of the schedule, he’ll have enjoyed receiving the news that Real Madrid had some air miles to clock up during that time. Their opponents arrived in Morocco on December 14th for the Club World Cup, with games against Cruz Azul on the 16th and in the final against San Lorenzo on the 20th. From there, they had time for a short breather, before then setting off for Dubai on the 29th for a friendly against AC Milan. A game which Ancelotti later referred to as little more than a nuisance when he assured their surprise 4-2 loss “didn’t hurt at all”.

Of course, Los Blancos’ fate isn’t already sealed for their Mestalla trip. Madrid’s winter break wasn’t all a nuisance by any means. They picked up their fourth trophy of 2014 with their Club World Cup triumph over San Lorenzo, which officially (but rather unofficially) makes them the best team in the world right now. The defeat against Milan will have been forgotten by the time they boarded the plane, in what represented more of a ‘fatigue-preserving’ fixture, rather than a ‘competitive’ one. As far as Ancelotti was concerned, his team’s winter break objectives were signed and sealed back in Morocco. The Italian will assumedly remain as happy as a manager could be, and a friendly defeat matters little to him. When the lights are on and it’s time to compete, his team have decimated nearly all that have stood in their way. But taking on a well-rested (to say the least) Valencia, who have spent over two weeks transfixed on the task in hand, is a fresh challenge that should be well considered. A game far removed from the environment in which they took on Milan in Dubai – one in which even Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid team were humbled. If anyone is going to halt the European Champions in the league, few look to have a better chance than Valencia on home turf.

Spotting chinks in the armour will have become a leading pastime for La Liga bosses up and down the country in recent months, and Real Madrid’s opposition have had a generous amount of time to achieve that. An 18-day break is a lifetime in the midst of a league campaign, and assuming Nuno Espírito Santo has fine-tooth combed his preparation during that time, his team are in line for the next shot at the king. A shot that, even with the best intentions and the best preparation, might produce a few gulps on the Mestalla terraces come kick-off time.

Betting Instinct tip – Valencia to avoid defeat is 2.33 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.

Real Madrid out for revenge against unpredictable Liverpool

Jay Spearing's cameo was an integral part of Liverpool's most memorable meeting with Real Madrid

Jay Spearing’s cameo was an integral part of Liverpool’s most memorable meeting with Real Madrid

 

‘We made Madrid look like sidemen.’

So went the tweeted verdict of one Liverpool fan reflecting on his side’s 2009 Champions League demolition of the current competition holders. And, it’s true, they did. Liverpool are these days no strangers to making entire teams look like ‘sidemen’, of course; despite a rocky start to this campaign, the last saw sideman after sideman capitulating to the talents of Suarez, Sturridge, Rodgers, and the rest. But there was a greater romance to the feat five years ago: Ryan Babel laid on a goal; Andrea Dossena scored; and in the ultimate indignity for the Spanish side, Jay Spearing replaced Steven Gerrard with fifteen minutes still to play (‘After the skewering, the Spearing’, as Henry Winter so characteristically put it).

Though at least Liverpool had some romance to lose. Their opponents on Wednesday are the antithesis of such an idea. Real Madrid aren’t a team, but a machine – if anything too well oiled – at once both beautiful and ugly. Cristiano Ronaldo spits on your ‘romance’, Pepe headbutts it, and Carlo Ancelotti neatly – but firmly – files it away in a drawer.

They showed it again in Saturday’s 5-0 trashing of Levante. Ronaldo scored his tenth goal in four league games and his fifteenth this season, bringing his Football Manager average rating up to a staggering 9.37 in the process: truly unprecedented. The week before that? Another 5-0 win at home to Athletic Club. Though they sit third in La Liga, their results of late (in all competitions) have been nothing short of ridiculous: since the 2-1 loss to Atletico on September 13, the list reads, 5-1, 8-2, 5-1, 2-0, 2-1, 5-0, 5-0. Gareth Bale will be injured for the away side, and a potential distraction lurks in the background in the form of Saturday’s El Clasico, but even taking both into account, Liverpool ought to be worried.

 

Liverpool v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 3/1

Real Madrid win 4/5

Draw 13/5

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

 

The English side’s weekend win at QPR was an absurd spectacle; one that you would think had been made up were it not for the eminently plausible event of a Richard Dunne own goal. Absurd, perversely impressive, but far from convincing, it was a performance that will no doubt encourage Real Madrid. Liverpool, remember, have some of their own injury problems – Sturridge is out for another few weeks; Raheem Sterling might well, if he can keep his eyes open, watch from home with some warm milk and a blanket – and their form in Europe has been patchy at best: the last gasp win at home to Ludogorets was concerning enough, but to follow it up with a 1-0 loss to Basel was to put their place in the competition in doubt.

 

It could well be that Liverpool need a tie like this, something to kickstart their stuttering season. There is (rightly) much made of the Anfield atmosphere on big European nights, and Wednesday should be, to quote Rodgers, ‘special’: ‘To see that flag back out in the middle of the pitch and for the supporters to get behind their team, like they do, is going to be an amazing experience.’ Being excited, however, is not the same as being prepared.

There will be no repeat of 2009’s 4-0, not this time. And if you can find odds on Mario Balotelli pulling down Pepe’s shorts, kicking him up the backside, and telling him that he looked better baldy, take them. With such a craaaazy guy – What’s he gonna do next? Dye his hair RED? HAHA! – leading the line, Liverpool have next to no chance. Far better to take a punt on the dependable Rickie Lambert, a man much more likely to terrorise young Raphael Varane than he who dragged his country, kicking and screaming, to the final of Euro 2012.

Otherwise, as a Real Madrid supporting friend of the Liverpool fan we met earlier replied, ‘this time we will see who will be the wasteman.’ It’s up to you, Brendan.

 

Betting Instinct tip Real Madrid to win by two or more goals is 37/20 with AllYouBet.ag

 

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 – October

Arsenal's Mesut Özil has underwhelmed as former captain Cesc Fàbregas has impressed at Chelsea. The two square up this weekend

Arsenal’s Mesut Özil has underwhelmed as former captain Cesc Fàbregas has impressed at Chelsea. The two square up this weekend

So we come to October with the Premier League table still in a state of flux, as new signings and new coaching methodologies begin to click into gear there is intrigue wherever you look. Which makes it all the more annoying that there is another one of those international ‘week of football’ things in the middle of the month. Being generous there are possibly three games a human being in charge of their cognitive processes would consider watching, and one of them is Scotland vs Poland. So for the good of all our souls they will not be mentioned here.

 

The first Premier League weekend of October does throw up a few tasty fixtures, most of them are on Sunday though, so you have no excuses not to do something community spirited on Saturday, maybe mow an elderly neighbour’s lawn? On Sunday the oldies can do their own gardening (they love that kind of thing anyway) as we have Louis Van Gaal who continues to channel the spirit of Kevin Keegan (Keegan is not dead – ed.) with his ‘buy loads of great attackers and hope the defence somehow sorts itself’ strategy facing up against Roberto Martinez whose Everton team have gone a bit Wigan this season, there will be goals, there just has to be. After that it’s Arsenal taking their traditional injury crisis on the road to Stamford Bridge where they will receive their traditional spanking from Chelsea, the only difference this time is that they get to have their hearts broken by watching Cesc Fàbregas, their former idol looking really rather good in royal blue.

Betting Instinct tip The Manchester United/Chelsea double is 9/5 with AllYouBet.ag

 

*INTERNATIONAL WEEK KLAXON*

 

With the unpleasantness of European Championship qualifying out of the way for a while it’s not the most exciting set of fixtures to return to. QPR vs Liverpool might be fun, if only to see how Richard Dunne deals with the electrified scampering of Raheem Sterling, you would guess not well.

 

At the end of the month we get to witness the first meeting on English soil of Van Gaal and Mourinho (I can’t be bothered to check if they’ve met on any nationality of soil, to be honest I just don’t care). The one thing missing from the Premier League in recent years is a genuinely bitter managerial rivalry. This is by far our best chance to get back to the peak years where the heavyweight showdowns of Mourinho vs Benitez and Ferguson vs Wenger were box office entertainment. Now that Mourinho has presumably given up on the Manchester United job (remember when they hired David Moyes ahead of him!?) he might finally aim some of his verbal jousts in the direction of the not exactly shy Van Gaal. It promises to be spectacular. Oh and the game might be decent as well.

 

Burnley are in the Premier League apparently, without checking their fixtures I think we can safely assume that they will collect at best one point during October, they are possibly the most Championship side ever to play in the top flight, it’s a miracle Sean Dyche took them up, if he keeps them there he should be made Pope.

 

The standout Champions League tie this month is of course Liverpool entertaining Real Madrid. It’s not been the best of starts for Brendan ‘Brendan’ Rodgers post-Suarez, the defensive cracks covered up by the (possibly) evil Uruguayan are now cavernous in their obviousness and if he’s in the mood you’d expect that Portuguese lad Real have could score about a dozen. Anfield on European nights is often a quite magical spectacle though and this is about as glamorous an opposition as you can get, the old place will be rocking and whilst anything other than a Madrid victory would be considered a massive surprise football isn’t as simple as that. Of course what will actually happen is that Ronaldo will strut about like the prettiest peacock in the zoo, only stopping to batter in a couple of goals and extravagantly ‘shush’ the locals. Also Sterling will play quite well and will then be linked with a move to the Bernabeu for the rest of time.

Betting Instinct tip – Real Madrid to retain the Champions League this season is 7/2 with Intertops.eu

 

In fairness October looks a bit rubbish but it is the month of Halloween so we can look forward to lots of pictures of footballers in fancy dress, which is nice as long as no one ‘blacks up’, I’m looking at you *REDACTED*

 

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.

Where did Javier Hernandez go wrong at Manchester United?

Can Chicharito hit the heights of his first season in England?

Can Chicharito hit the heights of his first season in England?

Anyone who has seen a Rolling Stones gig in the last few years may have noticed a technique Mick Jagger uses to make the audience go home happy. He can’t bring his A-game to the table for the whole duration of the show any more because he’s 70-year-old man, and therefore has the physical fitness and stamina of a 70-year-old man. So, he’ll start slow and relaxed, producing a low-energy performance, before finally pulling out his signature moves for the final five or so songs. All in all, it won’t be a great display, but what do you expect? This decent finale, though, does usually overshadow the underwhelming start, so sticks in the memory.

 

Javier Hernandez made the fatal mistake of doing things during his Manchester United career the wrong way round. Rather than starting slowly, then picking up towards then end, it seems that he spent all of his allotted number of tap-ins during his first couple of seasons at the club, so was subsequently forced to fall back on the other aspects of his game – of which he has none.

Even in his first season, Hernandez was, metaphorically, all about the big, energetic finish. It was pretty apparent from the time he kicked the ball against his own face in the Community Shield victory over Chelsea that Little Pea might be a little pish. However, luckily for Hernandez, a) Vine hadn’t been invented then, and b) the ball ended up ricocheting into the net, so all his profligacy and needless offsides were completely overlooked. As with Jagger – if you drop the big moves at the right time, that will be what the crowd remembers. Hernandez’s (often late) goals essentially masked the fact that he wasn’t, and isn’t, very good at actually playing football.

 

Real Madrid v Elche Betting Odds:

Real Madrid win – 1.07

Elche win – 23.00

Draw – 10.00

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

 

In fairness, that first season probably kept him at Manchester United a lot longer than his ability deserved; had he spent 2010/11 being bullied out of cup games by League One defenders, Alex Ferguson probably would have sent him packing pretty sharpish. Hypothetically though, had he saved his designated allowance of one good season for his final term at Old Trafford, Hernandez may have ended up as more of a cult hero; think Anderson spending this last year of his contract still being generally not good enough, but scoring a few late winners and maybe a goal in a title-decider – he’d be loved, albeit patronisingly, forever.

However, Hernandez’s problem now is that he initially set expectations too high. After a year of performing above himself, the Mexican has spent the following few seasons disappointing those who expected more from him. Though strangely, this summer’s move to Real Madrid has sparked another fast start, with the Mexican scoring two goals in the 8-2 demolition of Deportivo. Will the past repeat itself this season?

 

It’s difficult to tell whether United fans would consider the 12-18 months of boasting to their mates about how Chicharito was world class, and a snip at £8million was worth the far more recent jibes of “oi Dan, remember when you called Hernandez the signing of the century? Good one mate.”

The answer is probably no, it wasn’t worth it. And this is ultimately who he’ll be remembered as – the bloke who scored a lot of goals one season, before being found out.  Really, Javier Hernandez isn’t Mick Jagger, he’s Lee Ryan: someone who is skilled enough in one particular niche area, but terrible at everything else, so has spent the last couple of years embarrassing himself every time he enters the public eye – to the point where it is pretty funny, but also quite sad.

 

Betting Instinct tip Chicharito to open the scoring against Elche is 7/2 with Coral

 

 CAOLAN COSGROVEcaolan_avatar writes about football, especially all things Arsenal-related, for BendtOverBackwards, Sabotage  Times and others. Follow him on Twitter.

Van Gaal ready for a devil of a job!

vanGaal

Can van Gaal get Manchester United back on track?

After coming up just short at the 2014 World Cup with the Dutch national team, ex Oranje-coach Louis van Gaal has wasted no time in throwing all his energy into his next big task – getting Manchester United back on the road to success.

After suffering their worst season for 24 years under Ferguson-successor David Moyes last year, United are looking to the experienced Dutchman to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford. Van Gaal has vowed to leave no stone unturned as he attempts to banish the ghosts of 2013/14 and his reign has got off the perfect start with his squad winning the prestigious International Champions Cup in the USA.

Ok, everyone knows that this was just a summer tournament with as much emphasis on marketing opportunities as football itself, but straight victories over Roma, Inter Milan, Champions League winner Real Madrid and, of course, bitter rivals Liverpool in the final will certainly have given every player at the club a real boost as the start of the Premiership season looms large.

Van Gaal is a man confident in his own footballing beliefs and is not afraid to rub stars up the wrong way if he feels they are not 100% behind the cause. It will be interesting to see if the current harmony continues to prevail around Manchester when the season gets underway, but with no European football to distract them this year, the Red Devils look certain to once again play a major role in the destiny of the EPL title!

Who will win the Premier League title?

Chelsea                              2.85
Manchester City              3.0
Manchester Utd              5.5
Arsenal                              7.0
Liverpool                          11.0
Tottenham                       67.0

All odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are correct as of today but subject to change. 

CHRIS 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.

Champions League – Three Key Moments

Might things be different had Zlatan Ibrahimović not picked up an injury?

Might things be different had Zlatan Ibrahimović not picked up an injury?

As Lisbon’s Éstadio da Luz prepares to welcome Madrid’s biggest clubs for this season’s Champions League final, Betting Instinct takes a look at some of the flashpoints which have defined this season’s competition.

 

Champions League outright betting odds:

Real Madrid – 1.48

Atlético Madrid – 2.52

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

 

  1. Henrikh Mhkitaryan hits the post, 8 April

Last year’s finalists Borussia Dortmund had all but been written off as long-term defensive injuries left them fighting an uphill battle since the early stages of the season. They edged a three-way tie at the top of their group and managed to sneak unconvincingly past Zenit St Petersburg in the last 16, meaning a 3-0 first-leg defeat in their quarter final first leg in Madrid was disappointing but not unexpected.

Real Madrid were themselves not at full-strength for the return game at Signal Iduna Park, with Cristiano Ronaldo only fit enough for the bench and Marcelo also missing, but few expected the Germans to cause too many problems. That was until two first half goals from Marco Reus shook things up.

There was always a sense that a chance for an equaliser would arrive, and when that moment came it fell to record signing Mhkitaryan, a replacement for last year’s star Mario Götze. The Armenian showed great composure to round Iker Casillas but could only find the foot of the post with a shot from a narrow angle. Real held on and didn’t receive anything like as big a scare in their comprehensive semi-final victory over Dortmund’s domestic vanquishers Bayern Munich.

 

  1. Adrián keeps calm, 30 April

Atlético Madrid’s phenomenal season has largely been attributed to the two Diegos – manager Simeone and 36-goal forward Costa. However it was one of the club’s less illustrious names who played a big part in their progress to the final.

In discussions of Atlético’s firepower, Adrián is essentially ‘the other one’. The former Deportivo forward has just one league goal this campaign, and both Costa and Spanish record scorer David Villa have claimed more of the plaudits. The first of his Champions League goals this campaign – the opener in a 1-1 draw with Zenit – was just the appetiser for one far more significant.

After a goalless semi-final first leg against Chelsea, Atléti went behind to their former star Fernando Torres in the return leg. However just a minute before half time Tiago floated a ball to the back post, Juanfran reached it and as Chelsea’s goalkeeper and defenders panicked Adrián kept his cool to direct the ball low into the corner of the net. It came at a perfect time for Simeone’s side, who then went on to score twice more after the break to seal their place in Lisbon.

 

 

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimović injures his hamstring, 3 April

While there is little doubting that the two remaining teams both deserve their place in the final, it’s always fun to adopt a Butterfly Effect approach to a certain player’s absence from a key game.

Despite Sweden’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, 2013-14 has been a sensational season for Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has scored 40 times in 44 games, winning Ligue 1 player of the season as he led Paris Saint-Germain to a second successive title. However the club will ask themselves whether they might have got further in Europe had he not been injured in the first leg of their quarter-final against Chelsea – indeed The Guardian‘s Daniel Taylor described the injury as “the most encouraging news [for Chelsea] from the first leg”.

PSG won that game 3-1, but the absence of the Swede for the return game in London prompted an overly cautious approach from coach Laurent Blanc, without a comparable attacking outlet to take the game to their opponents or even just to relieve some of Chelsea’s pressure. Ultimately a timid PSG went out on away goals and missed the chance to take on Atléti for a place in the final – who knows what kind of difference a healthy Zlatan could have made.

 

Betting Instinct tip – in what looks likely to be a tense encounter in Lisbon, less than 2.5 goals can be backed at 1.69 with GR88.com

If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or less in Saturday’s final then GR88.com will refund selected losing bets which were winning before the goal went in. For full details, visit http://www.gr88.com/promotions.

 

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+.