Arsenal after revenge for last season’s mauling at the Etihad

City will rely on David Silva to unlock the Arsenal defence yet again

City will rely on David Silva to unlock the Arsenal defence yet again

The month of January can be make or break for sides fighting at the top of the table. Title-challenging Manchester City host Arsenal on Sunday afternoon and while the visitors’ ambitions have taken a bruising since the start of the season, they find themselves in a scrap to secure Champions League qualification. Every game from now until the end of the season will be vitally important for both these sides, with City locked in a close battle with Chelsea at the summit and Arsenal tussling for third or fourth place along with Southampton, Manchester United, Spurs and West Ham.

 

Manchester City v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 73/100

Arsenal win 33/10

Draw 53/20

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

 

The Citizens go into the game on the back of a blistering run of form that has lifted them right back into contention for the league, as well as guaranteeing progress into the Champions League knockout stage. A 2-2 draw at Loftus Road in early November left them eight points adrift of a then-rampant Chelsea and their title seemed to be fading away. But a nine-match winning run in league and cup has salvaged City’s season. They have faltered slightly in the last few weeks, relinquishing leads late on against Burnley and Everton, but nevertheless remain in a strong position as the run-in draws closer; just two points off top spot.

They have hardly even been hindered by a striker crisis which saw them have to play the (admittedly superbly versatile) James Milner in a false nine role for a considerable stretch of games. It is testament to the firepower of this City side that they did not wilt after losing Sergio Agüero, who had seven goals in five before his injury in early December.

Their recent run of form has been typical of a resilient side with individuals who can step up to the plate in the absence of a key player, but the heartbeat of City’s team has been ever-present throughout this period. David Silva, arguably the best player in the Premier League, has been immense all season and came into his own as the winter arrived. It is upon his narrow shoulders that a sizeable portion of City’s hopes this season rest.

 

As he has done in so many games already this campaign, Silva could well make the difference at the Etihad on Sunday. However, Arsenal have a player of their own in top form. Alexis Sánchez produced yet another wonderful display in last Sunday’s 3-0 win over Stoke, scoring two and setting up the other, and it is hard to describe quite how crucial he has been to the Gunners’ hopes this season. He’s bagged 18 goals since his summer switch from Barcelona and has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player this term.

And yet despite possessing such a talented, effective forward as Sánchez in the form of his life, Arsenal lag far behind the top sides (13 points behind leaders Chelsea) in fifth place. They face a fight to secure Champions League football at the Emirates next season and, although history tells us they are likely to get their act together in time, these are frustrating times for Arsenal fans as we pass the halfway point of a season that promised so much more.

 

And their collective mood could still have taken a further turn for the worse by Monday after playing a City side who, despite the aforementioned recent slip-ups, have the bit firmly between their teeth. With close rivals Manchester United, Southampton, Spurs and West Ham all having winnable games this weekend, the table could make for grim reading for the Gunners should they fail to take a positive result from the Etihad. And it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for them of late, with last season’s 6-3 defeat the fifth in their last seven trips to the stadium.

Their form in recent weeks has been patchy and for them to take anything back to north London, Arsenal will have to cut out the errors that have blighted their season. With a sizeable injury list which includes Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere (by contrast City have no injury concerns, though Yaya Touré is away at the Africa Cup of Nations), their task will not be made any easier. However, with Sánchez, as well as a rejuvenated Santi Cazorla, in their ranks you could never truly rule them out from causing a surprise.

 

Still, the smart money is most surely on Manchester City taking maximum points and keeping up the pressure on Chelsea. It was in January of last year that they really began to seize control of the league and put together a run that would ultimately win them the title. Sunday’s game will be a test of how likely they are to repeat that trick, and many will back them to pass with flying colours, but could it possibly be Arsenal who, for once, stand up to be counted and set the tone for the remainder of their season.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Manchester City to win and both teams to score is 2.65 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

Resurgent Lukaku can help Everton shock Man City

Has Romelu Lukaku rediscovered his goalscoring touch?

Has Romelu Lukaku rediscovered his goalscoring touch?

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

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

Everton v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Everton win 16/5

Manchester City win 4/5

Draw 12/5

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Liverpool and Man City miss key men in Champions League showdowns?

Who will be missed more, Sergio Aguero or Daniel Sturridge?

Who will be missed more, Sergio Aguero or Daniel Sturridge?

While Chelsea and Arsenal have sealed their progress to the Champions League second round with a game to spare, things are not so simple for the remaining two Premier League representatives.

A combination of tough opponents and underwhelming performances have left Liverpool and Manchester City with a tough task to qualify, but both have their fate in their own hands going into matchday 6.

Liverpool v FC Basel Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/10

Basel win 7/2

Draw 53/20

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

Liverpool’s return to European football’s top table for the first time in five years has been overshadowed by attacking woes, with Daniel Sturridge’s absence through injury adding to the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Strikers Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert have scored just once each in the five group games so far, with Brendan Rodgers’ side picking up just one more point after a narrow win over Ludogorets in their opening game.

However victory over FC Basel would be enough to ensure progress behind group winners Real Madrid. The Swiss champions edged past the Reds at home thanks to a Marco Streller goal, but have won just one of their last five away games in the competition. That was in England, though, when a Streller winner made the difference against Chelsea last season.

An absent striker is the main story for Manchester City as well, with the injury picked up by Sergio Aguero in Saturday’s victory over Everton ruling the Argentine out of Wednesday’s trip to Roma. And after his hat-trick in a last-gasp win over Bayern Munich, it is fair to say that Aguero will be missed, with Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko both yet to score in the competition this season.

Like their fellow Premier League club, City have just one win from five games so far. However, due to a quirk in the Champions League’s head-to-head tiebreaker, Manuel Pellegrini’s men could progress with six points or exit with eight. All they know is defeat in the Italian capital (or a goalless draw) would see them eliminated.

Will we have a repeat of 2012-13, where two English sides failed to make it past the group stage, or could we still see the perfect qualification record enjoyed by Premier League outfits last season?

Betting Instinct tip Liverpool to win and Manchester City to win or draw is 2.6 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.

Reborn Manchester City threaten to flatten struggling Everton

Can the returning Eliaquim Mangala keep out Romelu Lukaku?

Can the returning Eliaquim Mangala keep out Romelu Lukaku?

After months of under-par struggling that has baffled supporters, pundits, and – you suspect – Manuel Pellegrini himself Manchester City seem finally to have found the high gears that secured them the title last season.

Their slick passing and fluid movement has returned, and a quartet of consecutive victories – two of which laid to rest long-standing ‘bogey’ fixtures – have hauled them back to within striking distance of a Chelsea side that seem incapable of losing.

 

Manchester City v Everton Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 1/2

Everton win 5/1

Draw 3/1

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

 

The sensational form of Sergio Aguero aside it is difficult to pinpoint what has caused this dramatic turnaround but evidence lends itself to a team spirit rediscovered as they trailed to Bayern Munich with just minutes to go during their last Champion’s League encounter. The free-scoring Argentine may have bagged an impressive hat-trick that evening – prompting accusations of City being a one-man side – but the collective energy, fight, and pride that coursed through the Etihad on the final whistle acted as a release valve on months of pent-up frustration. City suddenly remembered who they were, what they are capable of and, most importantly, how to set about dismantling opposition with lethal disdain.

Southampton and Sunderland both suffered the ensuing backlash and it’s logical to assume Everton will be similarly punished this Saturday teatime especially in light of the Toffees’ own prolonged dip in form.

 

The visitors, though, boast a very credible record against City. Indeed it wasn’t long ago when they too were considered a bogey team of the current champions, winning nine of the fourteen previous encounters. Defeats both home and away last term appear to have ended that curse and it’s worth noting that the majority of Everton victories were presided over by David Moyes, a man who appeared to take personal exception to City’s fancy ways and consequently fortified his men for battle. At times it was Braveheart vs The Age Of Innocence with the inevitable conclusion being a pumped-up Tim Cahill punching a corner flag in goal celebration.

Under Martinez the Merseysiders have opened up, attempting to play their way through the phases, and this more genteel style is much more in keeping with City’s ideal.

They still possess Romelu Lukaku however, a combination of brawn and touch that will trouble a City rearguard missing their leader Vincent Kompany and the pacy striker will look to exploit any uncertainties in the unfamiliar partnership of Mangala and Demichelis. With McGeady and Mirallas offering intelligent support there’s plenty of scope for Everton to break quick and hard.

 

Dealing with such counters has been City’s Achilles heel this season so it’s critical Pellegrini is brave and starts once more with a rejuvenated Fernandinho in the holding role despite a crucial Champions League showdown with Roma being only four days away. Elsewhere Milner is expected to pip Jovetic for a spot with his forceful endeavour favouring cute flicks to weary a congested Everton midfield.

Where this game may be won tactically resides in which pair of full-backs pins back the other. Both sides are blessed with wingers in all-but-name and should Baines and Colman cede to away etiquette and attempt to keep a solid back four Clichy and Zabaleta – both reborn of late – will surely capitalise and run riot out wide.

 

Then there’s Aguero. A devastating one-man spree of muscle, trickery, and intent ‘Kun’ has exploded into a stratosphere only inhabited by a select handful of sublime talents who seem to have this football lark mastered. So far fourteen goals have been haughtily slotted home and now that his team-mates have raised their game he’s even prepared to help them onto the score-sheet too with three assists in the last two games. All this in addition to his relentless probing and expertly seeking out a yard of space means it’s safe to assume Phil Jagielka will have a sleep-deprived Friday night.

That goes double for Tim Howard who has become a shadow of his former self, uncharacteristically shaky behind a defence who have already shipped in 22 goals this season, more than any other side bar those in genuine relegation plight.

With this in mind Sergio and co must be licking their lips and even without the artful magician Silva pulling the strings and Kompany the warrior leading from the back it’s hard to see past anything other than a continuation of Manchester City’s rebirth.

The wheels are back on the juggernaut and Everton will do well to not be flattened.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Against a porous Everton defence, Manchester City to win both halves is 13/10 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Ste avatar STEPHEN TUDOR is editor of the Daisy Cutter, the football newspaper that only sometimes lies. He also writes  for  Sabotage Times, When Saturday Comes, Late Tackle and others. Follow him on Twitter.

Southampton to set Manchester City stern test in race for Champions League places

Ronald Koeman has silenced those who tipped his Southampton side for relegation

Ronald Koeman has silenced those who tipped his Southampton side for relegation

Twelve matches into the season and Chelsea’s six-point lead at the top of the table already looks impenetrable, likely handing Jose Mourinho his third Premier League title. Yet if Manchester City want to fulfill their dream of retaining the championship, they will need to start a charge now, toppling second place Southampton on Sunday.

Southampton v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Southampton win 21/10

Manchester City win 6/5

Draw 23/10

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

Intermittent form and a blight of injuries to the team’s core has decimated City’s hopes of challenging on two fronts productively. Even after a summer of spending and repointing of gaps identified last season the absence of experienced hands has caused Manuel Pellegrini’s side to slip up too often.

Tuesday’s Champions League outing gave them a lifeline in Europe and while the possibility of success continues their attention to the title race will be mooted. Beating Bayern Munich, City’s first European win of the season, means a score draw when they visit the Olympic Stadium in Rome will be enough for them to pass through to the knockout round.

A daring, ferocious thrill of a win, City achieved it without first-teamers David Silva, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, albeit against 10 men. The result masks concerns about Pellegrini’s team but their tenacity to score late and a will to persevere is admirable. Indiscretions at home to Stoke and on their travels at Queens Park Rangers will be rued come May, however, with the new found strength following the Bayern victory maybe the corner has been turned.

At the heart of City’s resistance is Sergio Aguero. Casting a diminutive appearance from afar, the pugnacious, muscle-bound striker is in the form of his life. The Argentinean’s midweek display, scoring the crucial winning hat-trick, reinforced his position as one of the world’s greatest strikers. His last-gasp heroics may be required again on Sunday, when City face the tightest defence in England.

Leading the top-scorers chart so far, sitting one goal ahead of Chelsea’s Diego Costa with 12, Aguero’s tenacious approach has seen him score a quarter of his goals in the final 10 minutes of games. Reminiscent, in part, of Luis Suarez’s impact at Liverpool last season, where the Uruguayan almost single-handedly delivered them their first league title in 24 years, Aguero’s sparkling form is keeping City in the hunt.

For Southampton, their position at the crest of the Premier League is unexpected. Losing manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham Hotspur and five members of the first team – Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovern and Calum Chambers – in wallet-busting moves during the transfer window, the Saints were understandably predicted a torrid time.

How they have dealt with those departures, bringing in a number of replacements and incorporating them so swiftly after a summer of upheaval is outstanding. New boss Ronald Koeman’s ability to introduce a redesigned strike force while maintaining the discipline at the back has deservedly got them up to second. How they fare for the rest of the season, and whether they will be able to maintain their form, is the quandary.

While they face both Manchester sides and an away tie at Arsenal over the next month, Southampton know all three are beatable. If the Saints are to progress for a third season in a row, this tough pre-Christmas fixture list is the perfect opportunity to state their intentions. And this comes after they were defeated just twice through 2013/14 against the three sides.

Now with a team capable of scoring multiple times against table-topping opponents, an issue they were unable to overcome last year, Southampton have created an unyielding squad: defiant in defence, convincing in attack. Importantly, Koeman has galvanized a resolute defence with the additions of Fraser Forster, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand. By utilising the full-backs fully, encouraging them to plow forward, reward has come by the way of Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne chipping in with three goals.

Conceding once in five matches, Southampton, are a demanding test for City to face after a zapping European game, if they want the title, this is the opportunity to show it.

Betting Instinct tip – Southampton have shown their mettle this season conceding just six goals, up against a tired Man City side from midweek back fewer than 2.5 goals at 2/1 with intertops.eu

 FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

Weakened Man City look to pour misery on Spurs

Yaya Touré has sometimes struggled to find his form after international duty

Yaya Touré has sometimes struggled to find his form after international duty

Thirteen seconds. That’s all it took. Manchester City required no more time. Giant flags adorning the golden eagle motif were still being hauled over the crowd as the ball crossed the line; chants ditched mid-chorus for euphoric celebrations. A Hugo Lloris miskick here, a palmed Sergio Agüero shot there, and Jesus Navas sent the rebound exquisitely over the French goalkeeper to give City the lead.  The goal, less than a quarter of a minute into the game, was the joint quickest in Premier League history. Manager André Villas Boas watched on, unable to motivate his Spurs side, who eventually conceded another five.

 

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 1.45

Spurs win 6.5

Draw 4.15

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

 

That high-tempo, destructive dismantling by Manuel Pellergrini’s team last November was uncharacteristic in nature for the previously rational coach.

After a summer of defensive reinforcements, though, he looks to have returned to type. An average of 2.68 goals a game in 2013/14 has now dropped to 2, as City stumbled through the opening barrages of the season. A home defeat to Stoke preceded draws against Arsenal and Chelsea, before victories over Hull and Aston Villa put them second before the international break.

Although already five points behind Chelsea, City are realistically the London side’s only title rivals. Considering they are yet to ‘click’, it bodes well they are still in a position to chase. The Champions League, however, is once again proving a chastising experience for City, where they currently sit third in Group E on one point. Injuries and energy consuming continental trips, combined with the late return of Yaya Touré from Ivory Coast duties, have caused selection problems for Pellegrini.

 

Part of the side to lose 4-3 in their Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier to the D.R. Congo, Touré continued his goal-scoring form, drawing level early on for The Elephants through a thunderous 25-yard strike. But with his arrival back in Manchester possibly as close as 24 hours before Saturday’s midday kick-off, and then a trip to Russia for Tuesday’s match against CSKA Moscow, Pellegrini will have to deliberate whether to rest the midfielder or not.

After a slow start, following a difficult summer, Touré began to show glimpses of his previous best away to Villa, bursting forward late on and disrupting tired back lines. It is a role that’s proved rewarding against Tottenham this season, as Liverpool exploited in August, highlighting Spurs’ defensive weaknesses when facing two upfront, using quick transitions and overlaps from an advancing midfielder.

City’s preferred 4-4-2 formation gives them the advantage of being able to run directly at the centre-backs, and with Fernando expected to be fit they do not have to worry about leaving space in the centre of midfield. The ability to adapt, though, especially in the closing stages, moving to a 4-3-3, has been one of City’s great traits. Pellegrini’s side have scored nine of their 14 Premier League tally in the second half so far this season, seven coming in the final ten minutes.

 

For Tottenham, the match 11 months ago propelled the calls for Villas-Boas’s dismissal, and within three weeks he was out, sacked following another shellacking, on this occasion 5-0 to Liverpool. Tim Sherwood’s gilet-inspired tenure turned out as expected, hindering the club and slowing the integration of so many new players.

More is predicted of Mauricio Pochettino, however. While the football has not been to everyone’s liking, and at times as turgid as that played previously, the high-pressing, possession-based philosophy he wants to set down will take time. Injuries to goalkeeper-cum-sweeper Lloris and top-scorer Nacer Chadli, who are both possible absentees on Saturday, may slow that progress even further.

But as we reach a busy section of fixtures for City, and injuries of their own accumulate, Spurs have the chance to build on their nerve-wracking 1-0 win at home to Southampton. If they are to achieve their top four dream, then this is the best opportunity to prove they’re capable of overcoming like-minded opposition.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Draw half-time and Manchester City to win full-time is 4.25 with AllYouBet.ag

 

FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

 

Race for Premier League Golden Boot is wide open

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

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

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

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

 

Premier League Outright Betting Odds:

Chelsea – 37/20

Manchester City – 2/1

Manchester United – 19/4

Arsenal – 6/1

Liverpool – 9/1

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

 

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

 

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) – 7/2

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

 

Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – 9/2

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

 

Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 11/2

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

 

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – 11/2

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

 

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – 18/1

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

 

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) – 50/1

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

 

Graziano Pellè (Southampton) – 80/1

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

 —

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

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

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Germany vs Argentina: the final that nobody wanted

After struggling through the knockout stages, will this be one game too far for Argentina?

After struggling through the knockout stages, will this be one game too far for Argentina?

Why do we love football? There’s the superficial answer, of course: that perfectly-timed slide tackle from Javier Mascherano, that sublime finish on the bounce from Andre Schurrle, and, yes, that entire German humiliation of Brazil, one not characterised by mere ‘efficiency’, as BBC commentators and pundits erroneously argued in the clichéd and mildly xenophobic tones to which we are accustomed, but by an intoxicating mix of the aesthetic and the ruthless.

Sometimes, that’s good enough. Sometimes, players’ individual brilliance shines through, and that’s sufficient to placate us, the demanding fans. Sometimes, teams simply put on that kind of show, or, in the case of the hosts, collapse entirely, in which case we’re drawn to the spectacle like so many passers-by to a motorway pile-up. In other cases, it isn’t. The second semi-final was a case in point: a dreadful match in which two of the best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben, were for the most part anonymous; an abject 0-0 after an abject 120 minutes. Football can delight like no other sport yet invented, but—let’s face it—sometimes, just sometimes, it can be crap.

 

When that happens, we need something else to sustain our interest. In fact, we need that most annoying of think-piece buzzwords: we need #NARRATIVE. Kevin Keegan wrongly (but wonderfully) framed things geographically when he said that Newcastle fans go to St James’ Park ‘like the people down South go to a theatre.’ His sentiment, however, was sound. It isn’t that ‘goals are overrated’: not since 1974 has a World Cup third-place playoff (a #NARRATIVE-less match if ever there was one) finished with less than three goals, which alone justifies its presence in the tournament. Goals are great. But when there aren’t any goals—what then?

 

Germany v Argentina Betting Odds:

Germany to win the World Cup – 1.65

Argentina to win the World Cup – 2.20

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

 

Nobody wanted this final. Spain aside, perhaps, Germany and Argentina are the strongest two teams in the world, and still nobody wanted this final. Argentina haven’t scored more than once since the group stages, relying on extra time and penalties to sneak through to their fifth World Cup Final. And Germany knocked out Rais M’Bolhi’s Algeria, which is reason enough to will for their demise. With Germany’s demolition of Brazil fresh in the memory, Argentina might well channel the playing style of their neighbours, who resorted to kicking and spoiling in their quarter-final with Colombia. There’s also the small matter of this being the single most important match in every one of these players’ careers, a scenario that inevitably leads to caution.

This would be fine if there were only a #NARRATIVE to cushion the blow, but there isn’t. The best we can come up with is a Battle of the Living Popes, which sounds more like a Syfy B-movie than it does a football match. Continuing the religious theme, there’s the fact that this is the first World Cup held during Ramadan since 1986, when Argentina and Germany also contested the final. And there’s the moral dilemma that the match will throw up for reactionary English football fans, the two countries involved being historical enemies of our Green and Pleasant Land. As one fan so stirringly tweeted (since deleted, strangely): ‘Any British person supporting Argentina should be dragged to the Cenotaph and made to read the names of those who died in the Falklands.’ Right.

 

It didn’t have to be this way. It could’ve been perfect, in fact, the semis giving life to a glorious set of possibilities for the next and final phase, the draw’s branches so nearly extending to two of the biggest rivalries in international football. Oh, for Brazil vs Argentina, at the Maracana, in a World Cup Final: a match in which the brilliant and/or bizarre is almost guaranteed, a rerun of the Italia ’90 knockout game in which the Brazilian Branco claimed to have been given water spiked with tranquilisers by the Argentinian coaching staff. Or for a Germany vs Netherlands, a wartime rivalry that continues to linger: think Gerd Muller putting the kibosh on Total Football in 1974; think Frank Rijkaard’s phlegm; think Ronald Koeman pretending to wipe his backside with the shirt of Olaf Thon, smiling as he goes.

Football wouldn’t be football without such moments, illogical and indefensible as they are. Football isn’t all slide tackles, or goals, or complete performances. Football is #NARRATIVE, whether we like it or not: it’s cheating, it’s fighting, it’s spitting in another man’s hair—twice. Only one avenue remains open to us, then, if we are to spare ourselves Sunday’s coming boredom: we milk the Battle of the Living Popes, and we milk it for all it’s worth.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Germany to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game is 3.37 with Intertops.eu.

Unsure about how decimal odds work? Let our free odds calculation guide do the work for you.

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS (kierandodds) is a history 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 or Google+.

Will Barca or City bounce back best at the Camp Nou tonight?

Sergio Aguero missed the first leg of this tie through injury, but will he make the difference at the Camp Nou tonight?

Sergio Aguero missed the first leg of this tie through injury, but will he make the difference at the Camp Nou tonight?

Although Barcelona lead at the halfway stage of their Barcelona v Man City Champions League last 16 stage tie they come into this match having suffered a loss away at relegation threatened Real Valladolid at the weekend and people are questioning if they have the ability to see of Manchester City at the Camp Nou tonight and book their place in the Quarter Finals. However, City were beaten in the FA Cup Quarter Finals by Championship side Wigan Athletic at home after beating them 5-0 earlier this season, so do they have what it takes to turn this tie around?

Barcelona v Man City Odds:

Barcelona – 1.57

Draw – 4.30

Man City – 4.90

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

Things have not gone as smoothly as Barcelona would like recently as they have lost two of their last three matches, away at Real Sociedad and Real Valladolid, since beating their guests at the Camp Nou tonight three weeks ago. They may have dominated possession at The Etihad as they claimed a 2-0 away victory too but Barcelona did not outplay City as they both had a similar amount of shots, both on and off target, and they only made the breakthrough once Martin Demichelis was shown a red card as Lionel Messi score Champions League goal number seven from the penalty spot before Dani Alves doubled scoreline in injury time.

City certainly have the ability to cause trouble at the Camp Nou this evening and with Sergio Aguero back in the starting lineup they are certain to cause more a problem for a leaky Barcelona defence that has conceded five goals in the three games since City failed to breakthrough in Manchester three weeks ago. Despite having the plus of Aguero back in the side, City are missing Demichelis through suspension while centre back Matija Nastasic and striker Stevan Jovetic are out injured. To top this off manager Manuel Pellegrini is also suspended for this criticism of referee Jonas Eriksson from the first leg.

After their toothless performance in front of goal at The Etihad City know that tonight is do or die and they need win by at least two goals if they are to progress, or at least force extra time, and with no side managing to do this since the Champions League Semi Finals last season when Bayern Munich claimed a 3-0 win it will be tough. All that is good up front for City will come through Aguero tonight and I feel that he has the beating of the Barcelona defence tonight and if City can put three past Bayern Munich away from home this season, albeit in a dead rubber match, they can push the Spaniards all the way this evening.

My money is on City to press, and break, the home team defence tonight with Aguero the key man tonight and the Argentine will score goals tonight, upstaging his countryman for Barcelona in Lionel Messi. The big question is can City score enough to progress this evening?

Back Man City to score +1.5 goals at the Camp Nou tonight against Barcelona @ 2.86 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 City v Wigan Athletic – The Key Battles

One of last year's FA Cup finalists will be eliminated this weekend

One of last year’s FA Cup finalists will be eliminated this weekend

For a few years it looked like the magic had gone out of the FA Cup. It had been five years since a team from outside the Premier League’s top four had won the trophy, while 2008 also marked the last time a second-tier side reached the final four.

However this changed last season as underdogs Wigan – in the midst of an ultimately fruitless battle to avoid relegation – shocked Premier League runners-up ManchesterCity with a 1-0 victory at Wembley.

 

Manchester City v Wigan Athletic Betting Odds

Manchester City win – 1.15

Wigan win – 17.50

Draw – 7.40

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

 

Wigan’s relegation means the sides have only met once since – City cruising to a 5-0 win in the League Cup third round (before going on to win the trophy last week). However the Latics have since appointed a new manager, Uwe Rösler, who has won more than 60% of his games in charge and reignited a play-off push in the Championship. Rösler, who turned out more than 150 times for City in his playing career, will certainly be up for this one.

Ahead of the meeting, Betting Instinct looks at some of the key battles:

 

 

  1. Sergio Agüero v Emmerson Boyce

Agüero’s absence through injury has been cited as the main reason for City’s slump, with the side losing at home in crucial matches against Chelsea and Barcelona without the Argentine. Yes, they won all but one of the games played during his spell out of action around the turn of the year, but a strikeforce of Álvaro Negredo and Edin Džeko has looked short on ideas at key moments.

Agüero has the ability to test the world’s best defenders, so one can imagine how he’ll fare against the worst player with the middle name Orlando to have played in the Premier League. Boyce misplaced a Premier League-high 109 passes in his own half in the 2012-13 season, a statistic he’s sought to improve upon by playing in a different division. And it’s worked, with no misplaced Premier League passes so far this campaign.

 

  1. Yaya Touré v James MacArthur

While Wigan’s Ben Watson was the comeback story of last year’s competition, returning from a broken leg to score the winning goal in the final Touré did the same in 2011 (apart from the broken leg bit), netting the only goal of the game as City saw off Tony Pulis’ Stoke to earn the club its first trophy in the Sheikh Mansour era.

With Watson out injured again, MacArthur will be crucial to Wigan’s chances. Proving this season that he and James McCarthy are in fact different people, the Scotsman will look to protect the defence in what will likely resemble an impression of a protester in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Still, they said the 2013 final would be one-sided too, so who knows.

 

  1. Manuel Pellegrini v  Uwe Rösler

After garnering a reputation for struggling to win trophies – somewhat unfairly considering much of his managerial career has been spent at Spanish clubs that are not Real Madrid or Barcelona – Pellegrini silence some critics by winning the League Cup last week.

Rösler’s managerial résumé is even less illustrious, with Wigan his fifth club after spells in Norway and Brentford, but he will be up for the occasion after spending several years at City back when they had more in common with Wigan’s current league standing. However it remains to be seen whether emotion and willpower will be enough – my guess is no.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – After a 5-0 win in the League Cup, City are understandably heavy favourites. The hosts to score three or more goals is 1.78 with GR88.com.

 

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