Tottenham’s Harry Kane should win Premier League Player of the Year

 

Last Saturday, I was in the Park Lane end at White Hart Lane, watching Spurs play Leicester. It finished 4-3 and any match with that scoreline, to get all @footballcliches, obligatorily has to be labelled a ‘seven goal thriller’ by commentators and match report writers.

This match wasn’t really a thriller though, more a series of ever increasing defensive cock ups. Leicester gave away a daft penalty and one, possibly two own goals. Spurs conceded thrice, to respectively a forward who hadn’t scored in five months, a lumpy centre half who’d never scored a Premier League goal and David Nugent who at kick off had the lethal goalscoring rate of eleven goals in eighty one Premier League games.

 

Phil Tufnell, fielding on the boundary once in Australia, was asked by a wag in the crowd to ‘lend me your brain, I’m building an idiot’. Any idiot builders would have loved to have got their hands on Kyle Walker’s brain, such was his performance. Somehow, it was rewarded with an England call-up. Does that make Roy Hodgson an idiot builder?

It was a weird game generally – odd goals, abnormal levels of cold for this time of year and most surprising of all, a good performance from Paulinho coming off the bench. A vast change from the man who for most of his time at Spurs looked no more likely to pen a bestselling novel than put in a  performance that would get more than 6.9 on Football Manager.

The game was memorable for a hat-trick by Harry Kane. At the ground, the reception to his hat-trick was warm but it wasn’t overwhelming. The ‘he’s one of our own chants’ struggled to get going, the volume was muted. It was akin more to nods of approval at a decent support act than crazed moshing at the chorus of a band’s best song.

 

Premier League Top Scorer Betting Odds:

Harry Kane 13/10

Diego Costa 8/5

Sergio Aguero 5/2

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

 

There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, for Spurs at least, the game didn’t mean a whole lot. The top four’s a distant hope, they’re out of the cup competitions and all a strong end to the season does is make it more likely Spurs end up in football purgatory (the Europa League) again next season. Also, Kane’s triumvirate of goals were not especially thrilling. A tap-in from a corner, a heavily deflected shot and a penalty. Dennis Bergkamp v Leicester or Tony Yeboah v Wimbledon it wasn’t.

Plus, the game lacked quality, there were long stoppages in play for knocks to Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier and it was bloody cold. By the seventy five minute mark any observer who walked into White Hart Lane would have seen fans with their coats zipped up to the neck, hands in pockets, shaking in their seats, trying to retain their last vestiges of warmth.

Perhaps more than anything though, Harry Kane scoring a hat-trick wasn’t remotely surprising. Such are his achievements at the moment that the ridiculous becomes plausible on a weekly basis.

 

The stats are ridiculous. Kane didn’t start a Premier League game till November 9th against Stoke. His first league goal of the season only came the week before, a deflected free kick winner at Villa Park.

Since then, he’s scored nineteen league goals. Nineteen! That includes five goals in his last three, eleven goals in his last eight. In four months, he’s gone from not scoring a league goal to being the league’s top scorer. For the season, he has twenty nine goals in forty three games.

While that rate of goalscoring is not uncommon, I doubt anyone in the Premier League era has had such a good season with so few expectations. He started off the season as Tottenham’s third choice striker, in a team that only plays with one forward. His role was as backup for league games, perhaps making occasional appearances off the bench. Cup games were to be his bread and butter. Some decent performances under Tim Sherwood at the fag end of last season had cemented his role as a squad player.

 

Two games this season were pivotal to his development, as he morphed from just another squad player to this superhero figure he’s become lately.

The first  was the Europa League group fixture versus Asteras of Greece. It had all the makings of a dull encounter – Europa League group games tend to be about as exciting as an episode of Fred Dibnah’s World of Steam.

Not this one though. Erik Lamela scored one of the most outrageously brilliant goals of all time and Kane scored a hat-trick, his first for Spurs.

His hat-trick though wasn’t the most memorable thing he did that night. In the match’s dying embers, Hugo Lloris got sent off for taking out an Asteras forward who was through on goal. All substitutions had been used up. So we got to witness one of football’s underrated pleasures, an outfield player going in goal.

And who volunteered to put on the purple goalkeeping jersey and don the gloves? Super Harry Kane of course! It didn’t even matter he let in the resultant free kick. Scoring a hat-trick and going in goal, voluntarily, in the same game endeared him to the Spurs support, who perhaps witnessed in this Chingford-born, lumpy forward with an unorthodox gait and hangdog facial expressions, a kindred spirit. Who hasn’t fancied going in goal for the lols occasionally?

 

With consistently good cup performances and increasing calls for his place in the starting XI from the stands, aided by Emmanuel Adebayor’s Emmanuel Adebayor-ness and Roberto Soldado’s continued hopelessness, he got into the first team. He did well – four goals in his first nine starts, with his workrate making him an excellent fit with the high pressing style Mauricio Pochettino has imposed at Spurs.

But it was the game against Chelsea on New Year’s Day where he morphed again, this time from decent Premier League forward to fully fledged superhero. With Spurs 1-0 down, struggling against the usual robotic display from Mourinho’s players he scored a ridiculously good equaliser. He got the ball on the touchline, worked his way past three or four defenders into the middle of the pitch, then unleashed a scuttling shot that beat Thibaut Courtois at the near post from twenty five yards out.

Chelsea seemed stunned. They played like it too, coming apart at the seams under increasing Spurs pressure. What looked like another humdrum victory for the league leaders became a 5-3 rout for Spurs, in spite of Eden Hazard playing like a sober, Belgian Maradona. Kane didn’t stop running, doing things to Gary Cahill’s confidence that could take years to rebuild. His second goal that night too was outrageously good. A wonderfully dextrous touch and turn, then a lovely side footed finish. A touch of genius.

 

After that, he’s been this superhero figure that football watchers are still grappling to come to terms with. He scored twice against Arsenal, the second goal being one of the best headers I’ve ever seen. Leaning backwards, from a good twelve yards out, to power a looping a header over Ospina in the Arsenal like he did almost defied physics. And a homegrown product scoring to win the game over the local rivals too, just amazing. He did something that day that kids dream of doing. In real life.

What he’s achieved is remarkable. What adds to this is how he looks and often acts like the antithesis of the modern day superstar footballer. He has this gangly gait, more befitting a spotty teenager than a Premier League player. His default facial expression is that of a gormless farmhand. He talks like his tongue’s too big. West Ham fans got in trouble for a chant about him recently.

But that makes him all the more loveable. He’s not some super-athlete with muscles the size of watermelons, jet heels and a lingerie model girlfriend. He looks like you and me. He even plays like faintly you and me, with his boundless energy and chasing of lost causes. Judging from his social media output, he has a very nice life where he plays football, scores goals, goes for celebratory drinks afterwards then goes home to his childhood sweetheart girlfriend and their dogs. He even wears naff Christmas jumpers.

He’s an ordinary guy who just happens to be extraordinarily good at football. A film about him wouldn’t be a glossy, stage managed product but a gritty, documentary style drama. More This Sporting Life than GoalIndeed, with his incredible achievements against all the odds, he’s like a footballing Forrest Gump.

 

Where does he go from here? He’ll make his England debut for a start and those that still give two hoots about the England team can only hope that he doesn’t get sucked into the vortex of mediocrity that seemingly envelopes all the young talent that wears the three lions on it’s chest.

Also, he’s a shoo-in for Young Player of the Year with his goalscoring output and all round performances. No one comes to him for that award.

But what about Player of the Year? The natural reaction is to laugh off such talk. Harry Kane does not exactly fit the mould of a serial award winner. He’s not marketable, doesn’t get linked with ridiculous transfer rumours to PSG or Real Madrid on websites’ gossip columns. He doesn’t sound like a star either, with the speech impediment he has.

 

But who deserves to beat him then? Alexis Sanchez was perhaps the early favourite but has tailed off since Christmas. Aguero missed time with an injury. Diego Costa has looked tired recently, plus his all-round villainy will surely, rightly or wrongly, count against him.

It surely comes down to Kane or Eden Hazard. Hazard’s been, very very good. He’s allied his talent and skill with increased work rate and more end product. The Mourinho effect in Hazard especially, of all of Chelsea’s players, has been noticeable.

Hazard has done that in a star studded outfit, though. He has Cesc Fabregas feeding him the ball with Diego Costa ahead of him. Kane gets his help from Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason. And aside from a brief Christian Eriksen purple patch, he’s had to carry the Spurs goalscoring burden almost single-handedly.

He gets less help than Hazard and does just as much, if not more in terms of end product. Notwithstanding that a reserve forward coming from football’s metaphorical tundra regions to shock the footballing public would be an amazing story. Kane already had consecutive Player of the Month awards before his hat-trick against Leicester.

 

As Harry himself would say, “Never fucking give up.”

 

Betting Instinct tip Harry Kane is 10/3 to open the scoring for England against Lithuania tonight with Coral.co.uk. He is second-favourite for Premier League Player of the Year with most sportsbooks.

 

avatar-jackhowes-50JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

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Kane and Eriksen can give Spurs a first-leg advantage against Fiorentina

 

Impressive as Tottenham were against Arsenal two weeks ago, the post-match analysis of a “North London power shift” once again looks premature. Three days later and a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool – coupled with an Arsenal victory against Leicester – saw the Gunners overtake their rivals again in the table. The continuing form of Harry Kane and the establishment of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason in midfield are both important factors in Spurs’ recent form but as the table proves, they are up against some decent sides with a track record of finishing in the top four.

With this is mind, it is imperative that they maintain their Europa League run as this year’s winner will receive a place next season’s Champions League. Bar Liverpool, they are perhaps the best side still in the competition and their tie against Fiorentina presents a viable opportunity of reaching the last 16.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Fiorentina Betting Odds:

Tottenham win 11/10

Fiorentina win 47/20

Draw 9/4

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

 

Indeed, the Europa League has already proved to be a blessing in disguise for Spurs. Leaving to one side the FA Cup exit to Leicester, the large number of fixtures this season has allowed Mauricio Pochettino to experiment with line-ups and eventually find a strong system. European football has also allowed Kane to cut his teeth, giving him the playing time he needed to find his feet as a first team player at Tottenham. 7 of his first 10 goals this season came in the Europa League, the sort of form he has translated to the Premier League in emphatic fashion.

The most interesting question concerning Kane now is no longer whether he is good enough, but what will happen once the goals inevitably dry up. So much of being a top class striker goes on in the head and he can’t keep running on adrenaline forever. There is a real talent there, as shown by the variety of goals he has scored this season. However, a large part of what makes Kane so effective is his work rate and enthusiasm. He’s never had to deal with a goal drought before and when it comes, that will be Kane’s real mental test. In this instance, the other strikers at the club may not serve as the best mentors. Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor have just six goals between them this season.

 

As such, Spurs’ other star performer has come from midfield – Christian Eriksen. His transfer fee of 12 million euros looks by far and away the best use of the Gareth Bale money, his appetite for a late goal proving key in his side’s success so far. He continues to be a threat from freekicks from the most unlikely of angles and after Kane is the club’s second top goalscorer this season with 11 goals, although he is yet to score in the Europa League.

Kane and Eriksen can now launch their attacks from a more solid foundation, with Bentaleb and Mason helping to shore up the midfield. While the pair were a little off the pace against Liverpool, no doubt overexerted after their Derby Day performances, they will have over a week’s preparation for the Fiorentina game. With all four of these players in their early twenties, it’s important for Pochettino to manage their youthful effervescence as he did so effectively with his young charges at Southampton.

 

Thursday night’s Italian opponents Fiorentina are currently 4th in Serie A and earlier this month claimed a 2-0 win at Roma in the Coppa Italia. Their manager Vincenzo Montella had a brief foray into English football when he joined Fulham on loan in 2007; incidentally, his first goal was a penalty against Spurs. Having lost Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea in January, Montella will be looking to strikers Mario Gomez and Khouma Babacar to replicate his feat.

With the opening leg taking place at White Hart Lane, it is vital for Spurs to establish a grip on the tie. Tottenham don’t travel particularly well in Europe – they haven’t won a knockout game away since February 2011, when Peter Crouch’s goal earned a 1-0 win against Milan at the San Siro. Four years on and it appears the pressure falls on another Englishman, Harry Kane, to deliver the goods for Spurs.

 

Betting Instinct tip Spurs to qualify over the two legs is 3/4 with Intertops.eu

Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nine and a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.

Chelsea to continue their march to the title with victory over Spurs

 

Tottenham may need another man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

Tottenham may need another man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

First, a disclaimer: this preview was written in 2014 – that’s right, an entire year before Tottenham and Chelsea will play on New Years’ Day of 2015. And who knows what 2015 has in store for the world, much less this football match? I’ll go for drones with better stability, an iPhone 7 and, if we’re lucky, an iPhone 7S. We can hope for something space-related, too, but it’ll probably only be a robot finding ice particles on Mars, which I doubt really excites the scientists who launched the thing to begin with. A man on the moon would be better and, all jokes aside, is probably our best shot at achieving world peace – you can’t aim a gun if you’re staring up at the sky (not well, anyway).

 

No, 2015 will roll right on from 2014, as years tend to do, and Chelsea will still be the immovable force that everyone knew would win the Premier League after the first two or three games of the season. Worse than the inevitability of it all is that they’re threatening to be likeable, too. Roman Abramovich found an oily £85 million to spend on Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Felipe Luis and Loic Remy over the summer, but Jose Mourinho has his team playing consistently watchable football despite John Terry’s continued involvement, and has instilled in them a work ethic bordering on Germanic. Ruthless, efficient, and pretty damn focused on the finish line, Chelsea have the mentality and depth to swat aside any half-decent side with relative ease.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Tottenham win 7/2

Chelsea win 3/4

Draw 5/2

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

 

Seemingly incapable of achieving anything better or worse than top-half mediocrity, Tottenham are the epitome of half-decency. It makes sense that they drew with Manchester United, a team balanced out to half-decency by a very good forward line and a terrible defense, and so it makes sense that Chelsea should swat them aside with relative ease.

Tottenham have maintained typically indifferent home form this season (four wins and four losses in ten) while Chelsea have been impressive on the road (the recent loss to Newcastle their only defeat in ten), though records might point to a closer game than current form: Chelsea have won only once at White Hart Lane since the 2005/06 season, a 4-2 win in late 2012. Take from that what you will – it’s a statistic stretched out over nine years, taking in a time when Andre Villas-Boas, Avram Grant and Juande Ramos were still relevant – and the 3-0 loss Spurs suffered at Stamford Bridge less than a month ago seems to be a better indicator of the way this match might go.

 

This match is Chelsea’s to lose, and they don’t lose often – only once this season, and four times in the league in all of 2014. Even then, they’ve been losses that can only really be described as straight up weird: 1-0 to Aston Villa, 1-0 to Crystal Palace, 2-1 to Sunderland, and then this season’s sole defeat, 2-1 to Newcastle – they’re anomalies more than anything. It’s harder to pick that kind of pattern with Spurs, and easier to say that they lose whenever the mood takes them: Liverpool, West Brom, Newcastle and Stoke have all won at White Hart Lane this season. That goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was named man of the match in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Sunday is as good an indication as any that they should’ve lost that match, too, and Chelsea are unlikely to be as forgiving in front of goal.

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are the obvious threats for the away side; Hazard having opened the scoring in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Spurs at Stamford Bridge at the start of December, and Diego Costa having been able to stick a leg out and score at a rate of nearly a goal a game to date. Spurs have struggled for clean sheets, having only recorded five this season so far, and Lloris will need to be at his unassumingly competent best, as he was against United, to keep Spurs from falling behind – they have come from behind to win three times this season, but Chelsea have only twice dropped points from a winning position in the league, in 1-1 draws with the two sides from Manchester.

 

What does it all mean? Both sides have had unbeaten runs over the Christmas period, and while a draw would probably suit Spurs just fine, Chelsea will be wary of Manchester City behind them, chasing down their lead at the top of the league. Jose Mourinho will know that he can’t rely on Manuel Pellegrini’s side to throw away 2-0 leads against Burnley every week (and rightly so, given that they only play each other twice a season). I’ll go for a 3-1 Chelsea win.

 

Betting Instinct tip Tottenham 1-3 Chelsea is 12/1 with AllYouBet.ag

Max avatar MAX 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. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Arsenal look to keep up strong start in North London Derby

Will Younes Kaboul's North London Derby experience be enough against Arsenal's fluid frontline?

Will Younes Kaboul’s North London Derby experience be enough against Arsenal’s fluid frontline?

Thankfully, the Premier League’s fixture computer has this weekend provided the perfect antidote to the frankly disgusting spectacle that occurred the weekend before. Frank Lampard was almost in tears after his goal drew Manchester City level with Chelsea in the 85th minute of their tie, and explained afterwards to Sky Sports that, ‘I woke up this morning and didn’t know what I wanted from today.’ Four years earlier, as Emmanuel Adebayor’s Man City prepared to face his former club Arsenal, the Togolese knew exactly what he wanted. Angry at having been written off as a top-level striker and hurting after being subjected to a racist chant on the morning of the match, he proceeded to score and, well, do this. Now leading the line for Tottenham, he has the chance to repeat the feat in Saturday’s North London derby.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Arsenal win 7/10

Spurs win 7/2

Draw 53/20

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

Both sides have had strange starts to the season. Arsenal find themselves right at home in their familiar fourth place, while Tottenham lie five places and two points behind, in ninth. But despite Arsenal’s strong-ish start, the bulk of their play has been stilted and lacking in imagination. They scraped a win at home to Crystal Palace on the opening day, found themselves 2-0 down at Everton a week later before rescuing a point, and then struggled again in a 1-1 draw with Leicester. They looked better against City, but still seemed to lack that cutting edge, both Arsenal goals in the 2-2 draw the result of individual brilliance (Sanchez’s sublime volley, Wilshere’s lovely dinked finish) rather than, as is more typical of Arsene Wenger’s sides, the strength of the collective.

There is good reason to believe, however, that things are starting to ‘click’ into place. These early season performances have coincided with an experimental 4-1-4-1 formation that seemed to suit precisely none of the club’s most talented players. Alexis Sanchez has been largely impressive, but there remained a question mark over just where he would be picked; Aaron Ramsey, despite two important goals against Palace and Everton, has looked well short of his best; and Mesut Ozil, to put it kindly, has cut a peripheral figure out wide on the left.

But last weekend’s convincing away win at Villa Park saw the return of what most Arsenal fans wanted to see from the off: a 4-2-3-1 with Ozil at the centre of the three. Suddenly, the Danny Welbeck-Ozil-Sanchez axis looked unstoppable, even against Aston Villa’s rightful heirs to Paul McGrath and Shaun Teale (ahem), Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos. There now appears to be an air of optimism around the Emirates, one that Tuesday’s League Cup loss to Southampton has done little to dampen. (‘Bellerin, Chambers, Hayden, Coquelin’, Arsenal’s back four ominously read that evening.) They go into Saturday’s derby with confidence.

The same can’t be said for Spurs. Like Arsenal, their start to the season has been marked by ups and downs. Spurs’ downs, however, are both more worrying and more recent. Mauricio Pochettino looked to have settled in nicely at White Hart Lane, a spirited ten-man win away at West Ham being followed up by a routine dispatching of QPR. As Manchester United fans learned last week, however, 4-0 wins against Harry Redknapp sides mean diddlysquat in the longer term. Subsequent results have been disappointing to say the least: a 3-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield (fair enough), a 2-2 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light (not great), and a 1-0 loss to West Brom at White Hart Lane (a ‘big hit in the face’, to quote Pochettino).

The manager is fortunate that the West Brom loss came on one of the most brilliant, and certainly bizarre, Super Sundays™ in recent memory – with apologies to James Morrison, Esteban Cambiasso scoring for Leicester in a 5-3 win over Man United trumps every goal the Scottish midfielder will ever score – and that few will remember just how turgid his team’s performance was. The pressing style that so characterised Pochettino’s Southampton was nowhere to be seen, and the defence again looked shaky.

The manager told reporters this week that no member of his squad should feel secure in their place – ‘if you need to change, you change’, as he succinctly put it – and fans must be hoping that he proves as good as his word. Replacing both centre backs would be a radical move, and is unlikely to happen in time for the derby, but it wouldn’t be an unpopular one. Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches aren’t working as a partnership; Jan Vertonghen and Federico Fazio just might. Benjamin Stambouli, a player whose timing in the tackle is matched by his leadership qualities, could also come in alongside Etienne Capoue in an effort to shore up the Spurs midfield.

Even that might not save them. It’s not that there is any sort of crisis; this is a slump, at worst. One must bear in mind, however, that Spurs are a side recovering from the management of Tim Sherwood, a man more renowned for his ‘banter’ than his tactics. Things will improve, and Pochettino deserves time to negotiate that process, but in the short term it appears that they lack both the cohesion and the quality to get one over on their rivals. Arsenal will likely continue their fine North London derby record – only two losses at home in the Premier League era – and, alas, Adebayor will likely depart his old stomping ground looking miserable.

Betting Instinct tipArsenal to be winning at half-time and full-time is 8/5 with AllYouBet.ag

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS  is a master’s 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.

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+.

NBA Finals – Spurs injury doubts could open the door for Miami

Manu Ginobili (right) will hope to inspire a reverse of last year's series defeat against LeBron James and Miami

Manu Ginobili (right) will hope to inspire a reverse of last year’s series defeat against LeBron James and Miami

They say the journey is more important than the destination, but in basketball it’s all about the destination.

Background

The next 4-7 games will define this season, at least in terms of basketball, for the 2014 Playoffs thus far are most likely to be remembered because of one odious old racist. Though it should not be forgotten that basketball stood strong, persevered, and invigorated its loyal spectators who witnessed some truly marvellous matchups. The San Antonio Spurs were tested from Day One in a seven-game all-Texas series against the Dallas Mavericks, and this continued against the surprise package Trail Blazers and the miracle of Serge Ibaka. The Miami Heat’s route was somewhat more straightforward, waltzing past Charlotte before seeing off the Brooklyn Nets after a one-game scare. In the Eastern Conference Finals they advanced past the Pacers (and the buffoonery of Lance Stephenson) and will now face the same foe they bested in seven games last year.

The last time two teams played each other in consecutive NBA Finals, it was Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls facing off against John Stockton and the Utah Jazz. The first of these meetings tipped off mere weeks before one Timothy Theodore Duncan was selected by the Spurs with the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. Since then, Timmy and coach Gregg Popovich have been crowned NBA champions four times, and were five seconds and a Ray Allen 3-pointer from making it five last year. Instead, LeBron James and the Miami Heat won their second straight title and now have their sights set on a ‘three-peat’.

 

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat Game 1 Betting Odds:

Miami Heat +170

San Antonio Spurs -200

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

 

What to Watch

Big 3s – Power trios were certainly not unheard of in the NBA before the summer of 2010, but when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh convened in South Beach the phrase took on new significance and expectations. This wasn’t least because of the now-infamous “not five, not six, not seven…” prediction that James boldly made at their unveiling. Hyperbole or not, the Heat strove for multiple championships, a feat which had already been achieved by another ‘Big 3’ in South Texas. Now, as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili hope to add to their tally at the expense of the James and co., it is undoubtedly these six men who will have the greatest say in crowning the 2014 NBA Champions.

LeBron James is the most dominant player on the planet and the tide sets its watch by Tim Duncan – there is only so much that can be said about greatness.

 

Perhaps the biggest variable in this series will be the left ankle of Tony Parker. The Spurs will need the Frenchman not just to play, but to play at his best, if they are to take down the two-time defending champs, though Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Parker “should be ready” to go in Game 1. Meanwhile, the conservative strategy Miami adopted to preserve Dwyane Wade’s knees during the regular season appears to have paid dividends in the playoffs. Wade described Game 7 of last year’s series as “hell”, as he was forced to have fluid drained from one knee in order to play, but this year he appears to be fighting fit – a huge boost to the Heat’s title aspirations.

It would be unfair to call Chris Bosh and Manu Ginobili the ‘forgotten men’ of the Big 3s, even if they don’t command the spotlight as much as their teammates. Bosh went from underrated to overrated, before finally settling at appreciated, in his spell in Miami. He will again be tested by the Spurs’ bigs as the center in coach Eric Spolestra’s favoured ‘small ball’ lineups, but Bosh has shown he can bang when he has to, and his improved outside shot has given the Heat another weapon this season. Ginobili did just about everything in the final two games of the Western Conference Finals. In last year’s Finals he did very little. San Antonio already has an advantage over the Heat in terms of roster depth, so in coming off the bench Ginobli himself could very easily determine whether or not he wins a fourth ring.

 

The Supporting Cast

This year, the Spurs’ depth is one of the main reasons why they have been installed as slight favourites. It is unlikely that anyone will steal the show in its entirety from the host of superstars on display, but the other starters and bench contributors could swing the balance one way or the other. The Heat’s wing rotation currently leaves a lot to be desired, with Rashard Lewis getting the starting nod in the last few games due to Udonis Haslem’s injury. These ‘small ball’ line-ups are a lot riskier against the Spurs, however, given the presence of Duncan, Boris Diaw, and Tiago Splitter. Such size will require the Heat’s wings to help inside, leaving the likes of Danny Green and Marco Belinelli free to drain 3-pointers all night long.

This is why Chris Andersen is so important to Miami; ‘Birdman’ provides the Heat with invaluable size and hustle for eighteen minutes a night, and affords Spolestra an extra degree of versatility with his line-ups. Eighteen months ago one could have been forgiven for laughing at the notion of Birdman ever having a potential impact on a Finals series, while the prospect of the Spurs’ Boris Diaw being involved would have seemed almost as unlikely, though for very different reasons. Before landing in San Antonio in 2012, Diaw was a figure of ridicule in NBA circles; as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats he was overweight, overpaid, and presumed over the hill. Yet as part of the Spurs’ rotation he enjoyed a resurgence of form that Pop has managed to extract from many a so-called ‘has been’. Now Diaw and third-year stud Kawhi Leonard are charged with the unenviable task of guarding the Chosen One, something which Diaw has proven surprisingly capable of in the past.

 

Advantage Spurs?

Another interesting aside sees a reversion to the old 2-2-1-1-1 format after 29 years of playing 2-3-2. The Spurs will enjoy the home-court advantage that Miami held last year, something which may prove decisive as the regular season series was split between the sides, with the home team winning on each occasion. Overall this postseason, Greg Popovich’s squad boast a 12-6 record (.666), going 9-1 (.900) at home. And, after being one of the most miserly outfits in the league this season, you can bet that the Alamo will be well-defended when the Heat come to town.

The San Antonio Spurs are favourites, but only slightly, given that they have home court advantage and greater depth in a series that could easily go the distance. My money is on the Heat, though, because in my eyes a Spurs victory is dependent on too many variables. We can’t be certain that Parker will be or stay fit, we don’t know which Ginobili will show up, and it would be unwise to depend on Diaw’s defensive capabilities. We do know, of course, that LeBron James will be playing for the Miami Heat, so write them off at your peril.

 

Betting Instinct tip Miami Heat to win in 6 is +350 with Intertops.eu

 

Cathal avatar CATHAL LOUGHRAN (cathalloughran) is a student and writer from Ireland, based in London.  He  writes about college basketball and the NBA for Betting Instinct. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Can Liverpool see off a second Tottenham manager?

 

Raheem Sterling was among the goals as Liverpool beat Tottenham 5-0 in December

Raheem Sterling was among the goals as Liverpool beat Tottenham 5-0 in December

How times can change – for some – in the Premier League.

 

Without a doubt, this has been the most enthralling season in recent years and that doesn’t look set to change any time soon. Liverpool have already won 4 more games than in the whole previous league campaign and are – and please, leave your pants on for this one Liverpool fans – genuinely in with a chance of winning the league.

Tottenham on the other hand, are very much in a similar position to how they ended up last season. They currently sit in 6th, a solitary point being the 5th position they found themselves in last year, albeit with 5th place Everton having a game in hand over them.

 

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Liverpool win – 1.45

Tottenham win – 6.40

Draw – 4.40

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

 

After their promising finish last year, breaking their record points tally for a single Premier League campaign Spurs have struggled to consistently look like real contenders for the top four. While a change in management has brought in a more attack minded brand of football, the results and league position haven’t really altered all that much.

Much was expected of Spurs after they spent a lot of money on new recruits over the summer, but – other than brief flashes – the new arrivals haven’t really hit the ground running. Roberto Soldado has probably drawn the most attention for this, the £26M signing having only scored 6 league goals with the majority of these goals coming from the penalty spot. However midfielder Christian Eriksen has looked a tidy player with some great technical ability, and Spurs will be hoping he can show some more of that promise against Liverpool – a club he was linked with earlier in his career – this coming Sunday.

With the arrival of new manager Tim Sherwood, Emmanuel Adebayor has had one of those spells which makes you wonder why he couldn’t produce the same form over the previous 18 months. When he is in the right frame of mind, Adebayor is absolutely unplayable and Liverpool’s defence has struggled to deal with physicality in recent years. Spurs are likely to pack out the midfield with 5 men in an effort to combat Liverpool’s energetic midfield, while still keeping the back-line busy with Adebayor’s strength and pace. Spurs haven’t beaten any of the current top four in the league this year and have lost three of their last five games.

They were embarrassed by Liverpool at White Hart Lane in a 5-0 hammering which brought about Andre Villas-Boas’ exit, and another defeat of a similar magnitude will hardly help Sherwood as he tries to make his case for being given the managerial position on a full-time basis. Still, Spurs may take heart from the fact that no team has more league away wins than the London club this campaign.

 

Liverpool, meanwhile, have improved dramatically this season under Brendan Rodgers. After limping to 7th place last year, they look an entirely new team, suggeting last season’s squad needed time to gel. Whilst some defensive frailties remain, they’ve now looked comfortable against the best teams in the league whilst also starting to exert more control over those towards the bottom of the table.

They’re in a great run of form at the moment – putting 6 past Cardiff and beating Manchester United at Old Trafford – so will be full of confidence, especially considering how easily they brushed Spurs aside in December. Liverpool’s success this year has come from several places: the obvious attacking threat of the front 3 (Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez being the two highest scorers in the league thus far), the emergence of Jordan Henderson’s and Steven Gerrard’s understanding in the middle of the park, and Rodgers’ tactical nous.

 

They haven’t made many changes to the system as the season has continued, sticking with a successful formula that is as entertaining as it is effective.   If Spurs play with the same high line they did in the reverse fixture – something AVB saw as an ostensibly useful system – they will no doubt suffer another defeat. I’d expect Raheem Sterling to play in anticipation of this, though Liverpool have plenty of other options in midfield, and the passing range of Philippe Coutinho could also be put to good use.

All things considered, I think Liverpool will get the win they need to keep pace with Chelsea at the top of the table. Tottenham have enough technical ability in their locker but they are conceding too many goals and don’t have two prolific forwards like Liverpool do. My prediction is a 3-1 Liverpool win, with Adebayor scoring a goal for Spurs after bench-pressing Martin Skrtel.

 

Betting Instinct Tip Liverpool to win 3-1 is 9.60 with GR88.com. Odds on Adebayor bench-pressing Skrtel are unavailable at the time of writing.

 

 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.

Luis Suarez to fire Liverpool to second in the Premier League at WHL?

Suarez scores the first of four against Norwich.

Suarez scores the first of four against Norwich.

Liverpool travel to North London and White Hart Lane for this Spurs v Liverpool match leading their hosts by three points and two places in the Premier League table. Victory for the home team this afternoon will move Spurs ahead of Newcastle into sixth place but behind the visitors due to Liverpool having a much better goal difference, while a win for the team from the red side of Merseyside will see them move into second place in the league standings.

Liverpool certainly have the ability to outscore their hosts today as they have found the net on 34 occasions in their 15 Premier League matches this season, with Luis Suarez having 15 of those in the ten matches he has played following his suspension, while Tottenham have only found the net on 15 occasions in total all season long in their domestic campaign. Will the man who is likely to terrorise the English defence at the World Cup next summer be the difference between these two sides today?

GR88.com do not believe so as they favour the home win for the goal shy North Londoners and their Spurs v Liverpool match odds are as follows.

Spurs v Liverpool Betting Odds:

Tottenham Hotspur to win – 2.24

Draw – 3.15

Liverpool to win – 3.00

Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.

The hosts at White Hart Lane this afternoon have looked impressive against some weaker sides in their Europa League group as they claimed six wins in six matches to ensure top spot and a more favourable draw for the last 32 stage. However, they have not been so ruthless and efficient in the Premier League as they have managed to win just two of their last six matches, with both of these coming as 2-1 away wins at the bottom two sides in the table. While the six points were important Spurs will need to be much better against a side looking to go second than coming from behind against Sunderland and Fulham if they are to win today. They have only beaten Hull City in five at home and have scored just four goals in these five matches, so will they be able to improve and see off the threat of Suarez?

Liverpool have not looked great on the road this season as they have failed to win any of their last four away games and have only secured all three points against Aston Villa and Sunderland away from Anfield so far. However, in Luis Suarez have a goal scorer that has found the net on 15 occasions this season, including three braces as well as a hat-trick against West Brom and four against Norwich, and when you have one player with as many goals as your opponents have all season you have to believe that you stand a great chance at winning your match against them, despite having a poor away record leading up to the game.

I certainly feel that Liverpool deserve to be closer to Spurs in the outright market for this match today and that Suarez will be the difference between the two sides. However, Liverpool do not perform well in this section of North London as they have been beaten in each of their last six matches at White Hart Lane since May 2008. Like I have already stated, Suarez and his prolific goal scoring record this season will be the one thing that separates these two sides and as a result of this I cannot see anything but a Suarez led victory for the visitors today.

Back Liverpool to beat Spurs at White Hart Lane this afternoon @ 3.00 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

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 to Continue Impressive Home Form Against Arsenal

Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City are chasing a sixth win in seven games

Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City side are chasing a sixth win in seven games

To be fair to Manuel Pellegrini, I doubt anyone except journalists with hindsight knew that the Champions League group standings were decided on head-to-head rather than goal difference – it’s a stupid rule that makes it hard for people who can’t add up/remember stupid rules. That said, while the rest of us don’t really have to know these things, it’s part of Pellegrini’s job to understand exactly what kind of game he’s playing. Thankfully, the Premier League is a little easier: if his side scores more goals than Arsenal, they’ll win.

Manchester City are favourites – indeed, almost all the statistics seem to point in their favour. Pellegrini’s men have won their last seven home matches, scoring four goals or more against Newcastle, Manchester United, Norwich and Tottenham. Throw in an impressive win away in Munich midweek, consider that Arsenal didn’t get an impressive away win in Napoli, or Munich, or anywhere midweek, and you can start to make a solid case for a home win. Arsenal shouldn’t be written off – they have the best away attack and defence in the Premier League – but City’s form at the Etihad – they have the best home attack and defence in the Premier League – should be the difference.

Betting Instinct tip – Manchester City win and both teams to score is 2.80 with Bulldog777.com

Tottenham have yet to make up their minds as to whether they want to be part of a title race, or part of an inelegant stumble towards fifth. For all the money spent, for all the new players with exotic names and nationalities, it’s not really working for AVB. They’ve ground out a few good results at home – Soldado (pen) – but Liverpool are arguably better than any of the other visitors to White Hart Lane in the league this season – Chelsea aside, perhaps. Spurs are struggling for goals here, but against a Liverpool side that place an emphasis on attack over defence, you’d expect them to score somehow. And what about Liverpool? Hey, they’ve got Luis Suarez.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool Betting Odds

Tottenham Hotspur to win – 2.40

Draw – 3.25

Liverpool to win – 2.80

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

 

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE 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.

Tottenham aren’t in a lull, Manchester United haven’t turned the corner

Nani scored the pick of the goals in Manchester United's midweek win

Nani scored the pick of the goals in Manchester United’s emphatic midweek win

One match is seemingly a long time in football. Whereas teams used to be allowed weeks to get up a head of steam, players were allowed months to return from injury and everyone tried to avoid too many kneejerk reactions; that is no longer the case.

Tottenham Hotspur are a club in apparent turmoil after their 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City on Sunday. The fact that Spurs had conceded only six goals in their previous 11 league games or that they went into the match ahead of Manchester City in the table after a steady start has been forgotten.

On the flip side, Manchester United – just two places and one point ahead of Tottenham – are a club that have finally “turned the corner” under their new manager David Moyes after their 5-0 win over a disappointing Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

(It’s at this point that we would like to clarify that the Europa League doesn’t count. We don’t know why; but it just doesn’t.)

Both reactions to recent results are kneejerk; plain and simple. Manchester United are not back to the “team of old” nor are Tottenham Hotspur a club in disarray with a buffoon for a manager. They are two teams with Champions League ambition and as such, victories over each other are necessary.

Despite a comprehensive win on the opening day, David Moyes’ Manchester United have failed to sparkle so far. After many years under the control of Sir Alex Ferguson, the change to a new boss was always going to take time. The players are still getting used to the change in system and the change in management style. Wednesday was the first sign of a “United team” still remaining at the club.

The selection was under-strength but they went out and got the result they needed. Leverkusen failed to show up and United profited with swift, attacking moves. It marked the first occasion since the beginning of last season that the Red Devils scored more than four in the Premier League or Champions League without needing Robin van Persie on the pitch. Fixed? No; but showing signs that Moyes has what it to takes the keep the players performing.

The same problems are affecting Spurs; and only a string of confidence boosting performances will help matters. After spending the summer improving the overall quality of the squad, Andre Villas-Boas is having a tough time integrating the new bodies into his system. It doesn’t help that he can no longer call on Gareth Bale to haul the club through a tricky situation.

Instead, he has to continue to work with the attacking players at his disposal and hope they can finally piece together their abilities. Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli are far too good to be part of a squad that has contributed just nine goals in 12 league matches. However, it may simply be that Tottenham aren’t quite playing to their individual strengths.

Soldado doesn’t come alive until inside the penalty area. He doesn’t make runs beyond the defenders or into the channels. As such, Eriksen’s vision and ability to thread a pass is rarely seen by the Tottenham faithful. Instead, the former Valencia comes alive when presented with wide deliveries that he can put himself on the end of. Sadly, the only “out-and-out winger” that Tottenham possess is Aaron Lennon and he’s only played 500 minutes of Tottenham’s season so far.

The rest prefer to cut inside and look for the movement ahead. For now, that isn’t Soldado’s game. His scoring figures are only able to remain relatively impressive thanks to the three penalties that he has dispatched.

As for Sunday, it’s unlikely both teams will continue to fulfil the apparent narrative based on their last result.

We’d expect goals. Manchester United have kept three clean sheets in their last four games (all competitions); but two of those results were in the Champions League. Seven of their last eight league games have seen both teams find the back of the net.

At home, Tottenham aren’t going to concede six goals as they did last week but they’ll be feeling the pressure to respond with a strong performance for their fans. That’ll mean scoring goals against Manchester United, which hasn’t proved tricky to do so far this season for other teams.

Betting Instinct tip: Both teams to score is 1.71 with Bulldog777.com, while over 3.5 goals is 3.30

Ryan avatarRyan Keaney is a huge sports fan who spends most of his week toying around with sports data. He is the editor of www.thefootballproject.net and a co-editor for In Bed with Maradona.