West Ham want to win the FA Cup; does anyone else?

The fifth round of the FA Cup is just about the time of the competition when neutrals begin to hope that the plucky underdogs are all sent packing. With the semi-finals and final a mere 180 minutes away for some teams, the prospect of a third tier side rolling into Wembley with the intent of killing a game so they can snatch a 1-0 win leaves few salivating at the prospect. Instead the desire is for teams that genuinely want to win a trophy finding a way into the hat for the last eight of the world’s oldest cup competition.

 

FA Cup Outright Betting Odds:

Arsenal 5/2

Manchester United 13/5

Liverpool 19/4

West Ham United 10/1

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

 

Hull and Wigan have shown in recent seasons that second-string teams can make it all the way to Wembley, even when their managers show absolutely no desire to mastermind a cup run. And it’s for that very reason that West Ham United have to beat West Bromwich Albion in Saturday’s early kick-off.

Sam Allardyce’s side were in fourth position in the Barclays Premier League on Christmas Day and some fans were allowing themselves to think of the Champions League as an actual possibility. Seven points from eight league games since December 25th have killed those hopes dead; but replaced them with dreams of a trip all the way to Wembley.

 

The Hammers have got 38 points to their name. They aren’t going down. And though Allardyce isn’t going to let his side slack off – Big Sam is well aware of the difference in prize money (both actual tournament winnings and television revenue) that comes from finishing just one place higher – he has made it clear that he fancies a go at winning some silverware; especially without the baggage of having Andy Carroll in his side.

Allardyce can instead focus his side on playing the vibrant, attacking brand of football that delighted so many of us in the opening weeks of the season; rather than relying on finding the target man with long balls. Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have been two excellent signings and without Carroll inclusion forcing them to play wider than they would like, both should be able to take on the mantle as West Ham’s main attacking options for the rest of the season.

In their way stand a West Brom side just four points clear of safety. Regardless of how switched on they will pretend to be when Tony Pulis sends them onto the pitch, the whole group have their minds on the trip to fellow strugglers Sunderland in the Premier League next week.

 

Sadly, there isn’t such a simple case to be made in the instance of Arsenal taking on Middlesbrough on Sunday. Neither side would have too many complaints if they ended up going out of the competition this weekend.

With the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League against Monaco looming and Southampton refusing to budge from the top four of the Premier League, Arsenal really don’t need a cup run. Arsene Wenger won a trophy last season so he’s got another five or six years before he really has to win another and his focus will wander elsewhere. He’ll still be able to pick a strong squad but don’t expect to see Ozil, Cazorla and Sanchez all starting together.

The Frenchman will, one would expect, prioritise European qualification for next season and the chance of European glory over the FA Cup. Unfortunately the competition will also fall down the pecking order for the visitors.

 

Middlesbrough are top of the Football League Championship. That’s normally enough to suggest a side as capable of taking a Premier League scalp in the fifth round. However Boro are set to play three league matches in the 10 days after Sunday’s match and with the promised land of the Premier League moving onto the horizon, Aitor Karanka may want to re-evaluate his hopes for the season.

Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Blackpool did see the Spaniard shuffle his pack a little and give a few of his important players a rest, so he may be planning to have a go at Arsenal. But if his side find themselves 1-2 behind with six minutes to go; a late goal to take things back to the Riverside Stadium for a replay won’t be chased as passionately as it could be.

It won’t finish in a draw; that’s the only thing both managers will be keen for. Neither team needs another fixture added to their schedule.

Betting Instinct tip Draw at half-time/Arsenal at full-time is 11/4 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Ryan avatar RYAN KEANEY (ryankeaney) 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. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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Strikerless Manchester City Look To Boing The Baggies

James Milner looks set to feature as a false nine for a second straight Manchester City game

James Milner looks set to feature as a false nine for a second straight Manchester City game

Manchester City head to the Hawthorns on Boxing Day with six straight league wins under their belt, a run that has seen them return to title contention.

It is a game considered their most difficult in an otherwise favourable Christmas schedule. Indeed it could potentially have been a festive breeze were it not for losing all three of their recognised forwards, one of whom has been so sensational he virtually counts as four.

 

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City Betting Odds:

West Brom win 19/4

Man City win 1/2

Draw 16/5

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

 

The loss of Sergio Aguero, in addition to Dzeko and Jovetic, has forced Manuel Pellegrini into employing a Barcelona-style 4-6-0 formation that clicked ominously last weekend against Crystal Palace with three goals, 656 completed passes, and 73% of possession. You do wonder though whether in private moments the Engineer rues his decision to offload Alvaro Negredo in the summer now that his striking options consist of rookie teens or the versatile James Milner in the ‘false 9’ role.

The latter will presumably start again on Friday and one would expect him to run his socks off in typical fashion. While ex-Blue Joleon Lescott will certainly be glad of Aguero’s absence, he will struggle with the unfamiliar movement of an interchangeable attack made up of an array of mini-marvels.

The relentless probing for pockets of space from Milner, the rejuventated Nasri and fit-again Silva are integral to this unusual formation’s success but equally so is the forceful runs of Kolorov and Zabaleta out wide.

 

If the Baggies have any hope of enjoying their post-game turkey sarnies their own full-backs must be brave, take risks, and dare to venture forward at every opportunity. All too often when facing the current champions the opposition look to stem the tide and hold out against a constant barrage of tiki-taka magic and driving runs from deep with a breakthrough always imminent. Pinned back inevitably that breakthrough arrives.

So it falls upon Andre Wisdom and Sebastien Pocognoli to offer support and speculative overlaps further afield knowing that should City break there is no killer instinct up front to punish them quickly. More so it puts doubt into Kolorov and Zabaleta’s minds every time they ‘go’.

For this strategy to be employed the home side must show more adventure than they’ve mustered this season. The supporters are growing tired of Alan Irvine’s negativity and baffling team selections and their capitulation to QPR on Saturday after being two goals to the good has meant whispers for his dismissal have noticeably increased in volume. Yet their recent 1-0 triumph over local rivals Aston Villa and an exhilarating opening twenty minutes of attacking intent at Loftus Road hints at a coach willing to loosen his cautious ways. West Brom were largely undone by three poor pieces of defending and each can hopefully be remedied on the training pitch ahead of three extremely tricky fixtures that Irvine would certainly not have requested from Santa. After hosting City they face daunting trips to Stoke and West Ham.

 

As for the visitors the expected return of Vincent Kompany will boost them further and the manner in which they have overcome adversity of late seems to have re-energised the whole squad. Since Aguero pulled up early in the game against Everton – prompting one well-known pundit to prematurely declare Chelsea champions-elect – they have shared out the goalscoring duties admirably with Yaya Toure, Silva, Zabaleta, and Frank Lampard all mucking in. They will go into this encounter full of rediscovered confidence.

No team has ever won the league or avoided the drop at Christmas time but City know the immense value in momentum coming into a new year while Irvine will be acutely aware there are two kinds of sack in December. One contains presents in the form of much-needed points. The other is a P45 some claim is already in the post.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Man 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.

Fulham hoping for Magath magic

Fulham hoping for Magath magic

Felix Magath

Calm and sophisticated away from the pitch, Felix Magath is well-known for his temper on the sidelines

After picking up just 20 points from 26 games so far, club bosses at Fulham have turned to German manager Felix Magath to steer the west London club out of its crisis and out of the Premiership relegation zone. The 60-year-old former Germany international star has a CV full of success both as a player and a manager and has hardly ever been out of the Bundesliga headlines in recent seasons. Magath built a reputation early in his career of being the man to save struggling clubs from the drop, although his success often proved of a short-term nature. Championship title challenges with a very young team in Stuttgart from 2001 – 2004 earned him the chance to take over the reins at Bayern Munich where he led the club to two consecutive league and cup doubles. Perhaps Magath’s greatest achievement, however, was leading underdog VfL Wolfsburg to the Bundesliga title in 2009 after which he promptly left the club to take over at Schalke.

Always calm and sophisticated away from the pitch, Magath is well-known for his temper on the sidelines that has seen him clash with both officials and his own players over the years. He has nurtured a fearful reputation as a tough disciplinarian who is not afraid to drop star players from crucial games if he feels they are not prepared to give 100 percent to the job in hand. Fulham fans can look forward to their first taste of their new boss on the road at fellow strugglers West Bromwich on Saturday.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Fulham, Odds:

West Bromwich Albion                  1.7
Draw                                                     3.6
Fulham                                                 4.75

Fulham to be relegated:               1.36

(All odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are accurate as of today, but subject to change)

______________________________________________

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

Who’ll win in a big day at the bottom of the Premier League?

Villa will be looking for Christian Benteke to fire them to victory this weekend!

Villa will be looking for Christian Benteke to fire them to victory this weekend!

While the big draws in the Premier League this weekend are the Liverpool v Arsenal match at Anfield and the South Wales derby at the Liberty Stadium, both of which have been covered elsewhere on the site, Saturday sees a big day at the bottom of the Premier League for four sides in addition to Swansea and Cardiff.

I’m previewing the matches at Villa Park and Selhurst Park where Aston Villa welcome West Ham and Crystal Palace host West Bromwich Albion. The bottom ten sides from Villa in tenth to Fulham in 20th are separated by just eight points, so who’ll win these two vital Premier League relegation battle matches?

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

Aston Villa v West Ham Betting Odds:

Aston Villa – 2.06

Draw – 3.15

West Ham – 3.45

Tenth placed Villa have league position and an eight year unbeaten record at Villa Park over 18th placed West Ham this weekend, so they are rightly deserving of being favourites to win this vital match for both sides. They also ended a six game winless streak in front of their own fans in the Villa v West Brom Midlands derby match recently in a back and forth 4-3 victory that saw top scorer Christian Benteke score the winner.

Villa will be relying on the impressive Belgian to fire them to victory today, but after West Ham’s fine back to wall defensive display at Stamford Bridge to claim a point against Chelsea seeing them record back to back clean sheets on the road will they be able to prevent Villa from taking all three points this weekend?

The Hammers will certainly be more motivated to claim all three points, but without Andy Carroll following his controversial red card against Swansea, they may struggle to find a winner themselves. The two sides have scored 51 goals in 48 Premier League games this season, including drawing 0-0 at the Boleyn Ground in November, and I do not see this game being a goal fest, so I’m sticking my cash on few goals at Villa Park.

Back two or fewer goals at Villa Park in this Villa v West Ham game @ 1.81 with GR88.com.

Crystal Palace v West Brom Betting Odds:

Crystal Palace – 2.50

Draw – 2.98

West Brom – 2.84

Although Palace start this weekend in 17th place in the Premier League just four points above the bottom of the table, the fact that Tony Pulis was nominated for Manager of the Month in January shows how far they have come since his appointment. Both themselves and Sunderland have been in impressive form to move out of the bottom three positions in the league and for Palace is has been their form at Selhurst Park that has done it.

They have won four and drawn two of their last seven in front of their own fans and with West Brom without a win in nine away games since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in September the home side in this Premier League relegation battle must fancy their chances of pushing up the table and going ahead of West Brom.

The Baggies have changed managers, but new boss Pepe Mel does not seem to be able to rouse his men from the slump they are in and they could be in big trouble if he does not get a handle on things shortly. They are known in parts as the ‘Boing Boing’ Baggies for their continual relegation and promotion cycle and I can see them as one of the favourites to go down this season. I see a defeat for West Brom today and this will not help their cause, but with 1-0 wins over Hull and Stoke for Palace in their last two home games I’m not confident in West Brom’s ability to find the net this weekend.

Back Crystal Palace to beat West Brom @ 2.50 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.

West Brom Vs Liverpool – The game in tweets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wba10

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.

Welcome to gambling Christmas: the Super Bowl

You can bet on almost anything at the Super Bowl, even the toss of a coin

You can bet on almost anything at the Super Bowl, even the toss of a coin

Merry Christmas! Kind of, because you see, while the Super Bowl is many things to many people, to gamblers, specifically NFL gamblers – it’s our Christmas. This season will be no different, with a heap of different stuff to bet on, as well as one of the tastiest looking matchups in years – Denver Broncos taking on the Seattle Seahawks. Here’s the plan – we’ll take a quick look at the game, and then get on to the fun bits – the bets.

 

Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Betting Odds

Seattle win – 1.98

Denver win – 1.78

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

It’s hardly possible to express too much excitement about this matchup. What Peyton Manning has done this season is something else. The Broncos’ offensive unit which he has led has set a record for points, while he has set single-season yardage and touchdown records. His set of receivers offers countless weapons. Well, not countless, that would be ridiculous, but the receiving quartet of the Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker would be pretty terrifying with an average QB at the helm, with Peyton Manning in control, it’s downright obscene, and their running game, spearheaded by Knowshon Moreno is a more than useful accompaniment.

However, Peyton and co will face one of the best defences in the history of the league. A pass rush that can get to the QB in any number of ways, and a secondary led by ‘that guy’ Richard Sherman and backed up by the best safety in football, Earl Thomas. It couldn’t be a tougher test for Peyton, nor could this secondary face a tougher one.

 

It feels like those two will cancel each other out, so the game may come down to how well Seattle can score. Russell Wilson has yet to catch fire in the playoffs, but with x-factor Percy Harvin back and BEAST MODE Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, they’ve got weapons. The Denver D is missing a big piece in Von Miller, but have performed brilliantly against the Patriots and Chargers in the playoffs thus far – two of the best offensive units in the league.

To be honest, we could talk for hours about the game. Here’s the deal – Seattle opened up as favourites, the line quickly moved to make Denver favourites, it’s going to be tight between easily the two best teams in the league, I say grab the points.

 

Betting Instinct Tip  – Seattle +2.5 is 1.91 at allyoubet.ag, get all over that.

 

Now for the fun bit, the Super Bowl has all kind of rubbish you can bet on. Here are a few of my favourites. (All of these are found at Intertops.eu)

 

Heads or tails: 1.98

You can bet on stuff that happens before kickoff! C’mon, who doesn’t want some of that! I’m not going to tell you which way to go, but this is always a fun way to get the gambling night going.

Total penalty yards 126 or over: 2.50

This is an odd little bet, but Denver and Seatle are two of the most penalised teams in the league, averaging over 130 yards a game combined, add in a some Super Bowl nerves (offside and false start penalties) and chippiness (RICHARD SHERMAN) and this one should go over.

More goals in West Brom-Liverpool than Peyton Manning TD passes: 1.87

Cross-sport bets are brilliant and I love this one. Peyton will score points, but Liverpool scored four midweek, and West Brom lost by the odd goal in seven.

There will be a defensive/special team TD: 2.35

There has never been an NFL post-season with a defensive or special teams touchdown. There hasn’t been one so far during the playoffs, bet on the streak to keep going, especially with Percy Harvin involved.

The MVP to thank his coach(es) first: 9.00

I’m all over this one – a lovely bet to finish the night. The MVP will (probably) be a quarterback, Russell Wilson has had Pete Carroll onside from the start, while John Fox’s belief in Peyton brought him to Denver. (Though you may want to cover a Russell Wilson win by taking God at 4.50.)

 

And if you’re still looking for somewhere to watch the game, head down to Bloomsbury Lanes for the mother of all Super Bowl parties. Fun and games, beer pong, pool, bowling, food, we’ve got it covered. Details and tickets at www.bloomsburylive.com/superbowl

 

Jamie avatarJAMIE CUTTERIDGE (jamiecutteridge) is a journalist for a real magazine, but spends an inordinate amount of time writing about NFL. He’s the editor-in-chief of anygivensundaynight.co.uk and its associated twitter feed @UKNFL

Lukaku to Return to The Hawthorns and Fire Everton to Victory?

Lukaku scored 17 Premier League goals for WBA last season, will he score against them tonight?

Lukaku scored 17 Premier League goals for WBA last season, will he score against them tonight?

Steve Clarke led West Bromwich Albion to eighth in the Premier League table last season and the main reason that he managed to pull the Midlanders so far up the table after the full 38 game calendar was thanks to the 17 goals scored by Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku. This season is all change as Clarke has been relieved of his post at The Hawthorns and Lukaku is now on loan at Everton, the visitors to the Midlands this evening and the young Belgian, who is Everton’s top scorer this season with nine EPL goals, will be looking to fire his new side to all three points at his stomping ground from last season.

GR88.com firmly believe that Lukaku and Everton will manage to take all three points this evening too, despite the fact that West Brom have their new manager, former Real Betis boss Pepe Mel, taking charge of the side for the first time, and their WBA v Everton match odds backs up their thoughts on this final match of the Premier League’s 22nd round of games.

WBA v Everton Match Odds:

Home Victory – 3.75

Draw – 3.20

Away Victory – 1.95

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

West Brom come into this evening’s match 14th in the Premier League, just three points above the drop zone having taken just four wins in their 21 matches played so far this season – a joint Premier League low. They need to take all three points in this match, but they have suffered losses without a goal scored in both of their last two matches as Crystal Palace sent them crashing out of the FA Cup at The Hawthorns and a 66th minute Adam Lallana goal saw a 1-0 defeat in front of the Southampton faithful. With Shane Long having been snapped up by Hull City this week and their sponsors having pulled out of their deal with West Brom today due to Nicolas Anelka’s controversial gesture after scoring against West Ham last month, the omens do not look for Mel to get off to a winning start.

Although Everton were beaten here last season 2-0 this is their only loss in six games against the Baggies and they themselves are a much changed, and improved, side. Following the seemingly disastrous decision of David Moyes to move from Everton to Manchester United his replacement, Roberto Martinez, has come in and done wonders with the Toffees. Victory this evening will see them move to fourth in the Premier League table and extend their unbeaten run to five games in total and seven games on the road. They have won three of their last four matches and with them having scored 11 more goals and conceded nine fewer in their 21 matches this season they will believe that they can take all three points tonight.

I am certainly in agreement with both Everton football club and the match odds provided by GR88.com as I see the away win in this WBA v Everton clash tonight. I feel that, if anything, the odds on the away win are too generous as Lukaku alone has more goals this season than all of the West Brom strikers and I feel that he will be the difference between these two sides as he shoots his new team to victory against his side from last season.

Back Everton to take all three points at The Hawthorns tonight in this WBA v Everton match tonight @ 1.95 with 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.