Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brisbane desperate for Broich return

Thomas Broich’s importance to Brisbane Roar was always fairly clear but the club’s recent losing streak has more than highlighted just how urgently they need the German back fit. Broich’s absence from the team has coincided with a run of defeats – as predicted by numerous soccer betting tips  that has the potential to undo all the hard work the club did on their way to a record 36-match unbeaten run.

Despite looking dead certainties in the live soccer betting to go on and defend their title, the Roar’s recent form has seen them drop to third in the table – in real danger of losing touch with the league’s two form teams Central Coast and Melbourne Heart.

While head coach Ange Postecoglou hasn’t been helped by a number of injuries to key men, it has been the absence of playmaker Broich that looks to have had the biggest impact on the team. The German’s ability to control the game from the middle of the park has been badly missed by a Roar side that has struggled to create enough chances.

Broich’s heel injury was at first thought of as nothing more serious than bang, maybe resulting in a week out. Further scans revealed more damage than first thought, though, and it looks as if it could be the middle of January before the Roar will be able to welcome back their influential midfielder.

Despite being down to the bare bones in regards fit players, Postecoglou has admitted he isn’t in a position where he can just go out and spend money on new players, backing the current squad to pull together and put an end to their poor form. It’ll remain to be seen just how quickly that happens.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Arsenal looking to bounce back

Although it's fair to say that Arsenal have enjoyed a rather strange season, lurching from one extreme to another, the fact remains that they have somehow managed to get themselves back in contention for a Champions League place, something that seemed like a distant dream after the crushing 8-2 defeat they suffered against Manchester United early in the season. In fact, some soccer betting tips suggested a season of mid-table mediocrity for the Londoners.

That said, the Gunners know all too well that they need to make sure that their season gets firmly back on track after a draw earlier this week against lowly Wolves, two points dropped in domestic competition that they really couldn’t afford to let slip.

With their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur proving that their hot streak can run for some time yet (proving those who bet on soccer games wrong at every turn in the process), Arsenal surely know that their only real hope of showing they can still be one of the top soccer teams in London is by getting ahead of rivals Chelsea. Should they want that to become a reality, they know that they will have to make sure that they not only start winning soccer games, but win them convincingly, bringing belief and confidence back to a side that had previously looked like it was going to flounder badly this season.

In spite of this need to succeed being so prevalent, the fact that head coach Arsene Wenger has managed to calm the fans down after an enormous level of rage sent in his direction earlier in the season is testament to  how well he is running the club. With this in mind, it is key to remember that the Gunners have a man in charge who knows how to pull off miracles when others lack faith, something that he will once again need to do come the end of the season.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Carling Cup: Can Crystal Palace go on to win the Carling Cup?

Crystal Palace are one of two Championship sides that remain in the 2011/12 League Cup. Out of the two Championship sides, Crystal Palace remain to be the team that have performed at a lower level than their Championship counterpart and League Cup semi-final opposition Cardiff City.

In the Championship Cardiff are in 5th position with 38 points, whereas Palace currently reside in 8th position with 33 points. The Eagles have never won any form of silverware, but the last time they came close was back in 1990 where the London club managed to get to an FA Cup final. The final of the FA Cup was played over two legs with the first leg ending in a 3-3 draw after extra-time. The second leg, unfortunately for Crystal Palace fans, ended in a 1-0 defeat against the legendary Man United.

So, to answer the question in the title: “Can Crystal Palace go on to win the Carling Cup?” The answer to this particular question would have to be no. The Eagles are certainly not up to the standards of the other semi-finalists and Premier League outfits Manchester City and Liverpool. People looking at the Carling Cup betting should remember this.

Plus, they have to undertake the difficult task of fending off the Welsh side in the semi-finals of the competition. My match prediction for the first leg of the matchup between Crystal Palace and Cardiff City, hosted at Selhurst Park, will be a 1-1 draw. This result will benefit The Bluebirds more as the away goals rule applies in the League Cup.  Those looking at the odds carling cup final should bear this in mind.

Palace's best player, or the player that will have the biggest impact in the League Cup semi-final first leg matchup, has to be their top goal scorer so far this season, Glenn Murray. The Eagles' striker has so far made a total of 23 appearances and scored a total of 6 goals.

San Jose seal Chavez swoop

The San Jose Earthquakes have snapped up FC Dallas striker Marvin Chavez for allocation money.

The 28-year-old Honduras international scored six goals in 31 appearances for Dallas last season, having previously played for Victoria and Marathon in his homeland.

He also scored the decisive goal in Dallas’ 1-0 victory at Pumas UNAM in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League in August, the first-ever victory by an MLS side in Mexico in any competition, and has been popular among the soccer betting tips ever since.

Those who bet on soccer games will note that San Jose struggled to find a settled attacking line-up last season with head coach Frank Yallop trying many different options with only limited success.

Chris Wondolowski led the line last term, scoring an impressive 16 goals in 30 matches but Yallop may now look to use Chavez as his main striker.

“Marvin is one of the most exciting players in MLS," said San Jose’s General Manager John Doyle. "I can’t wait to see him in an Earthquakes uniform."

San Jose have been very busy in the off-season, adding Jean Alexandre and Shea Salinas to their midfield while allowing the former Reading star Bobby Convey to join Sporting Kansas City.

Meanwhile, FC Dallas have allowed Jeremy Hall to join Toronto FC while head coach Schellas Hyndman has admitted that Maicon Santos also looks set to leave.

Hyndman believes Chavez’s departure will be good for the team in the long run, saying: “Marvin was always an outstanding player and we certainly will miss him, but this move allows us to better balance our team.

“We are losing a solid player, but it’s for the overall benefit of the team. We can strengthen our team in both our back line as well as up front where we really missed having that player who could finish the plays we generated up front last season.”

Anderson admits to first-round struggle

World number four Gary Anderson has admitted he was far from at his best in his scrappy win over the relative unknown German Jyhan Artut in the first round of the Ladbrokes PDC World Darts Championship.

Last year's runner-up was made to fight all the way to make it into the second round after eventually winning the closely-fought clash at Alexandra Palace on a final-leg shoot-out.

The inexperienced Artut, making just his third appearance at the Ladbrokes PDC World Championships, stormed into a 2-0 lead to set up a potential huge shock in the first round before Anderson responded to level the tie at 2-2. The best PDC darts betting reflects this.

Anderson then missed three darts to seal the win in the sixth, before Artut amazingly levelled the match again with a stunning 102 checkout to make it 3-3.

With a a two-leg margin needed for victory, Artut missed a great chance to progress when off target with four darts and Anderson proceeded to take the match into a sudden-death leg. Anderson, finally playing at somewhere near his usual level then hit bull twice in a row to take the darts, before an impressive two-dart 76 finish handed him the hard-fought victory.
Afterwards, Anderson conceded he had been pushed all the way by his German opponent and described the laboured win as a "wake-up call".

He told Sky Sports: "It was a get out of jail free card tonight. He did play well but the first two sets I couldn’t hit a double to save my life, but I managed to nick a few here and there."

Bluebirds looking to send Eagles crashing out

Cardiff City are enjoying a good start to the 2011-12 season, and whilst the priority for all clubs in the Championship will always be to make it to the Holy Land of the Premiership, this season a rare opportunity has opened up for Malky Mackay’s side. 

Having defeated Blackburn Rovers in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup, they now find themselves just two games away from an appearance at Wembley in what would be their second run-out at the famous stadium in the last four years – not a bad record for a side that has been stranded outside the top tier of English football since 1962. 

Currently sitting comfortably within the play-off spots in the Championship, Mackay will understandably be preoccupied by thoughts of promotion, but the lure of Wembley – as well as the added bonus of guaranteed European football next season should they make the final and the team they play qualify for next year’s Champions League – will ensure that strong line-ups are fielded by both sides.  Those looking at the best Carling Cup odds should bear this in mind.

Before this weekend’s 3-2 loss to Middlesbrough, Cardiff were enjoying an unbeaten run which stretched right the way back to mid-October, and the task that now lies ahead of Mackay will be to reaffirm that invincible spirit in the four matches that lie between now and the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Selhurst Park on January 10th – and f this can be done, then Cardiff will surely go into the tie as strong favourites to progress to the final in February.

Tevez dominates City conversation

The Carlos Tevez saga continues to overshadow all potential transfer dealings of Manchester City in the transfer window. City have rejected a loan offer from Milan for the want away striker while there are rumors that Spurs might make an audacious bid for the Argentinian.

The issue of course is not the size of the transfer fee; Tottenham can afford that, but rather Tevez’s wage packet, which would break the salary structure at White Hart Lane. Would City sell to another Premier League club and would Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric accept a vastly disproportionate wage earner on their club? Those are two questions that would have to be answered.

Meanwhile the soccer betting tips are connecting City with numerous players, very few of whom will make sense, a bi-product of having enough money to purchase any player that the club wish. Players such as Eden Hazard and Alessio Cerci continue to be linked, the latter not least because Roberto Mancini has spoken of his interest in the Fiorentina winger. Mancini has also praise Daniele De Rossi as the Roma midfielder comes to the end of his contract. Should City pry the Italian international away on a pre contract it will signify a shift in City’s ability to attract top talent from just a pure financial deal to one based around trophy opportunities.

Attackers and midfielders galore are linked with the club each day yet it is in defense that City need to strengthen. They may be regular favourites when you bet on soccer games but that may change with the departure of the Toure brothers for the African Nations Cup, leaving City very thin at the back should Vincent Kompany or Joleon Lescott be suspended or injured. A long term solution at left back would also be helpful as Gael Clichy is the latest not to work out for the club who at least seem to have returned Micah Richards to his form of a couple of years ago as the former England international makes the right back slot his own.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Race to sign Ream hots up

Bolton Wanderers and West Brom have stepped up their interest in the highly-rated New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream.

The 24-year-old USA international has spent time recently training with both Premier League sides and was impressed with what he saw.

He said: “I really enjoyed both clubs and I was treated very well. It was certainly good to get a feel for the environment in England and the day-to-day routine there. The level of play is very high and each day was a challenge.”

Baggies boss Roy Hodgson and Bolton manager Owen Coyle have both expressed their interest in signing the former Chicago Fire Premier defender who remains one of the most popular soccer betting tips for the future, although Red Bulls’ sporting director Erik Soler insists Ream is going nowhere.

The Red Bulls signed Ream in 2010 and he made his first-team debut for the club in March of that year when he starred in the 3-1 pre-season friendly victory against Brazilian side Santos. He quickly become a familiar figure with those who bet on soccer games.

His first MLS appearance came later that month in the 1-0 win against Chicago Fire and he has gone on to feature in 58 matches for the club.

Ream represented his country at the CONCACAF Gold Cup earlier this year after making his international debut in the 1-0 friendly victory against South Africa in November 2010.He featured in the Gold Cup games against Canada and Panama before being dropped for the last four matches in the tournament after conceding a penalty in the 2-1 defeat to Panama.

In October it was reported that Arsenal were keen to sign Ream and the Gunners had the player watched in the Red Bulls’ play-off clash against FC Dallas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Soccer fans over the festive season stuck with the EPL – but is that a bad thing?

For those of you who are soccer fanatics and love to bet on soccer games, the only real chance you will get during the festive season to watch any soccer will come early in the morning (especially if you are on the West coast!) watching the English Premier League. Although the league does not feature the two unrivaled stars of soccer – Ronaldo and Messi – is it still worth watching?

Simply put the answer is – sometimes! Sure, the EPL lacks the skills of Messi, and there are a lot more players who look like they want to kick players off the field rather than show off their skills with the ball, but it also has an intensity that many of the other leagues in the world lack.

With the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City playing some really awesome football, and teams such as Arsenal and Chelsea not far behind them in terms of style, there are still sides out there who can display some fantastic soccer performances and provide interesting soccer betting tips.

Despite this, the fact that the games are on so early in the morning, and can also sometimes be very, very boring (Stoke City are one team to really try to avoid watching!) can mean that fans of soccer are not always necessarily fans of the EPL.

Whatever you decide on, there is one truth that cannot be ignored: the only soccer that is going to be on your TV during the festive season will be coming from England, whether you love it or you hate it! So, if you are a soccer fan, you better get used to a few early mornings!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fulham’s effort all in vain

Martin Jol was trying to take the positives from his side’s Europa League group stage exit, but the reality is, there are very little.

True, it now means his side are free to concentrate on improving their league position, currently a below par 14th.

But given their participation in the competition began in June and incorporated 14 matches it does seem like a huge waste of time given they are now out of it before Christmas.

But such were the fine margins of the game they were on their way through heading into stoppage time at Craven Cottage.

They were leading 2-1 against Danish side OB Odense, who were already eliminated and as such were outsiders in the football betting.

However, with the final attack of the game Espen Ruud whipped in a cross from the right for Ejiby Fall to head home and grab a dramatic point that sent Fulham crashing out of the competition.

It was a harsh way for the Cottagers to exit, especially since they have shown a real desire to progress in the tournament which is derided in other circles – they still have fond memories of their run to the final in 2010.

"I think it is a big blow but every disadvantage has an advantage," said a defiant Jol. "There were positive things in the first half, like how much we put them under pressure."

It is scant consolation though for Jol, with the club racking up 30 live football games already this season for no tangible reward bar plenty of air miles.

He can only hope that the extra games don’t hinder his side in the second half of the season as performances so far suggest it will be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Can Rooney fire England to glory?

England's Euro 2012 hopes were given a boost last week when Uefa reduced Wayne Rooney's suspension to two games.

The Manchester United front man was originally handed a three-match ban after being sent off for kicking Miodrag Dzudovic during England's 2-2 draw with Montenegro in October. The ban was reduced on appeal. Rooney will now be available for England's final Group D game against joint hosts Ukraine.

There was some debate over whether England boss Fabio Capello would take the controversial 26-year-old to Poland and Ukraine. It appears the debate is now over following Uefa's decision. Those looking at the England Euro 2012 odds should remember this.

Rooney is arguably England's only world-class player and will be keen to make amends after losing his cool in his last competitive outing for his country. If England need a result against Ukraine, they will be confident of getting it with a fired up and fresh Rooney at their disposal.

The draw itself was relatively kind to England. They avoided the “Group of Death” and a group stage meeting with Spain. The real threat to their hopes is France, the same France side which played them off the park at Wembley last November. Ukraine and Sweden bring with them their own dangers.

Ukraine will be a difficult proposition in front of their home fans, particularly in the final group game, while Sweden have been something of a bogey side for England over recent decades. Although, England's friendly victory over the Swedes last month broke a 12-match winless run and will have given England and Capello a good look at their game two opponents.

It won't be easy, it never is in a major tournament, but with a revitalised Rooney in their ranks, England have an outside chance.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Boost for England as Rooney ban reduced

England’s chances at Euro 2012 have been given a boost after UEFA decided to suspended the third game of the striker’s three match ban following his sending off against Montenegro in October.

It now means that the England striker can play in his country’s final group stage game against Ukraine, though he will definitely miss the first two games against France and Sweden.

England’s reliance on the Manchester United striker was shown in the soccer betting, which took a swing in their favour upon the news of his one game repressive.

In sharp cost to a generation ago, when the Three Lions were blessed with the likes of Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole and Robbie Fowler, the current crop have a distinct lack of world class goal scoring talent among them.

Darren Bent has made great strides at this level in recent months, and he looks likely to lead the line in England’s opening two group matches - barring injury.

But he is a completely different player to Rooney, with Bent much more the predatory striker in the box with Rooney ale to drop deeper and dictate play. That said if you want to bet on the Premiership top scorer, Rooney is never far away from your thoughts.

Fabio Capello and the FA knew this, so pulled out all the stops in their attempts to get the ban educed, including whipping Rooney across from Basel less than 12 hours after Man United’s Champions League defeat to attend the hearing in person. It worked.

Adrian Bevington, the Football Association director of communications and Club England managing director, said: "We've had a very fair hearing.

"Wayne and Fabio are both very pleased. Wayne will head back to Manchester as a matter of priority.

"Wayne has always made clear that he accepted it was a red card offence.

"We arrived with the possibility of him missing the entire group phase - it would have been a huge challenge for Fabio and the team, so to have him available for the final group match against Ukraine is clearly very positive."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gyan looks to shine at the ACN

All eyes will be on Asamoah Gyan at the upcoming African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in January as he attempts to help Ghana go one better than their second place finish two years ago.

The Ghanaian striker was voted African player of the year in 2010 and was one of the players to make the biggest impact on the World Cup in South Africa as he helped his side become only the third African country to make the quarter-finals of the tournament.

Gyan caused controversial earlier this season when he left the Premier League to join Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates on loan from his parent club Sunderland, with a view to make the move permanent when the January transfer window opens. People looking at the best African Cup of Nations odds should remember this.

Steve Bruce signed the striker from Rennes for £13 in August 2010 where he scored 10 goals in his debut season for Sunderland, however, he was swayed by a move to the Al-Ain where he is reportedly on a contract worth £200,000 a week.

The 26-year old has scored 27 times for his country in 54 appearances. One of his latest goals was at Wembley against England in a friendly to earn the Black Stars a draw against Fabio Capello's side.

Didier Drogba is undoubtedly one of the biggest names at this year's tournament once again. Ivory Coast will expect a big performance from their leading talisman and skipper when the African Cup of Nations gets underway in January. The Ivorian has not been in the best form for his club side Chelsea, however, he is still considered very influential for the Elephants where he is their all-time leading goalscorer.

Barcelona’s exciting matchup against AC Milan deservedly makes the Spanish giants winners of Group H

The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League has been an enthralling competition so far.

Out of all the groups in the group qualification phase, Group H contains 2 of the best teams in the European competition: Italian giants AC Milan and the current Champions League trophy holders Barcelona.

The other teams confined in Group H are as follows: Gambrinus liga outfit FC Viktoria Plzen, and Belarusian Premier League team FC BATE Borisov. The first matchup between Barcelona and Milan ended in a 2-2 draw with the Spanish side playing at home. People looking at the Champions League promotions should remember this.

It was an extraordinary affair and the excitement lasted even until the final seconds as Brazilian international Thiago Silva headed in a goal in the 2nd minute of stoppage time ensuring that all important draw at the Camp Nou. The second matchup between the 2 sides ended in a 2-3 victory to Barcelona at the San Siro with goals from: Milan’s Mark van Bommel in the 14th minute (o.g.), Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 20th minute, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the 31st minute, Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng in the 54th minute, and a goal from Barcelona’s Xavi in the 63rd minute. Those who bet on Champions League winner should bear this in mind.

Although the Spanish outfit remained in control for most of the match, the Italian’s certainly had their chances. This article must come down to the question – Who will succeed to the latest stage of the European Cup out of group winners Barcelona and the qualified AC Milan? – My thoughts are that Barcelona are the most likely to win the prestigious tournament.

Their eclectic team includes some of the best players in the world and will cause difficulties for any up and coming opposition. AC Milan are another potential candidate for claiming the most prestigious title; although the most likely outcome for the Italian side would be a place in the Semi-Final.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ivory Coast favourite for ACN

Ivory Coast are the heavy favourites going into the African Cup of Nations in 2012 in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.

The Elephants will be able to call upon on the service of a number of high profile European players such as the Toure brothers, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Didier Drogba.

It was a disappointing World Cup campaign for Ivory Coast in South Africa last year. They finished third in their group behind Brazil and Portugal despite only losing one game in the competition. Those following the latest African Cup of Nations betting should remember this.

Their record in the African Cup of Nations is fairly moderate; as they have won the tournament just once and that came in 1992. They were runners-up though in 2006 when they were defeated in the final by Egypt.

In 2010 the Elephants were beaten in the quarter-finals by Algeria 3-2 after extra-time in a memorable encounter.

Ghana are likely to be fancied by many going in the tournament this year. Asamoah Gyan has been the star of African football in the past 12 months and will be expected to be one of the leading goal scorers at the competition.

Household names such as Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and John Mensah will all make up their squad alongside some exciting home-based players that Serbian coach Goran Stevanovic is expected name next month.
Tunisia will be hoping for the same success they had in the African Cup of Nations in 2004 when they won the event. Since then they have had two quarter-final appearances, although they did fail to make it past the group stages last time around.  They lost all three of their games against Cameroon, Gabon and Zambia in a disappointing campaign.

Fergie backs Rio ahead of Palace

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has backed his experienced centre-back Rio Ferdinand to keep playing an important role at the club head of their Carling Cup clash on Tuesday.

The Premier League title holders take on Crystal Palace at Old Trafford following a tough week for the club, which saw them held to two draws at the Theatre of Dreams.

United had to settle for a point in the Champions League with a 2-2 draw with Benfica, followed by a 1-1 stalemate with Newcastle United on the weekend in controversial circumstances. People placing a Carling Cup bet should remember this.

It was that man Ferdinand in the centre of the attention after his seemingly well timed tackle was given as a penalty for the Magpies, which was then duly slotted home by striker Demba Ba to give the Red Devils just a point on Saturday.

United and Ferdinand will be looking to put that behind them when they host Palace on Tuesday and despite his age, Ferguson believes his defender still has a key role at the club. Those looking at the odds Carling Cup need to bear this in mind.

He said: "Rio's been a great player for us and it's important to explain his present position.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with that (age), absolutely not. I have no issues at all with Rio, he can play for another couple of years quite easily.

"He's a big figure in our dressing room, so that will continue. I have no thoughts of letting him go."

Palace will be heading to Old Trafford looking to cause another upset to give Ferguson more to think about after a frustrating week for the Scotsman.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blatter Apologises, but Declines to Step Down

Earlier this week, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, caused a stir in the football world, by intimating that racial abuse on the pitch could be fixed in the same way as a foul or a shove; with a simple handshake. Blatter's comments suggested a naivety – or even an outright ignorance to the effects of racism – that prompted calls for his resignation.

The 'race row' currently boiling in football's cauldron concerns a Premier League match at the end of October, in which Chelsea player, John Terry, is alleged to have levelled a racist slur at QPR defender,Anton Ferdinand. Terry denied the allegations, but he admitted to asking Ferdinand if he thought he had been abused, albeit by using racially-sensitive language. Anyone following the best football betting will have been shocked.

In the ensuing weeks, Sepp Blatter, while claiming that he was committed to expunging racism from football, said that there might be "a word or a gesture" that was offensive to minorities, but that racism as a wider issue did not exist in the sport. "I would deny it. There is no racism."

Blatter, who is well known for his gaffes, including his suggestion that women footballers should wear tighter uniforms, was pilloried in the wake of his comments. England midfielder, David Beckham, said that Blatter's opinions were "appalling", and "not very good" for the game as a whole.

Returning to the present; Blatter has responded to calls for his resignation by refusing to step down.

The 75-year-old said that it would be more appropriate for him to face the problem, rather than offloading it to a successor. "I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations", Blatter said, noting that he "couldn't envisage" the damage caused by his earlier comments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Speed: I would not get into this Wales team

I think it is fair to say that Welsh football is on a high right now. True they are set to spend yet another summer watching a Live Football  tournament from afar, but four wins from their past five games suggests manager Gary Speed’s work is bearing fruit and with the side an average age of 24, pointing to a successful long-term future.

Their latest victory – a 4-1 trouncing of Norway – is another sign that Speed has a young a talented nucleus of a side at his disposal and one that can put up a real good fight in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

In Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen there is a creative hub worthy of the biggest stage, so talented in fact that Speed,  Wales’ most capped outfield player, thinks he wouldn’t get into the current side.

"I'm serious. I don't think I would have got in that team," said Speed, "All the way through it is quality.”

He isn’t talking just about the young player’s either, 32-year-old Craig Bellamy has had a new lease of life at Liverpool this season and an equally fine revival at international level, contributing to their dramatic upturn in football scores.

A player who often divides many due to his outspoken on-field persona, his quality cannot be denied and his international captain Ramsey is all too aware of that.

"Whenever someone moves to a new club they are going to be excited by that and the season ahead,” said the Arsenal man. “I think he has that spark in him again. He was a threat all game getting down that wing. He is still a massive player for us and we hope to keep him for a long time."

"There is a new buzz playing for Wales," Ramsey added. "I think everyone can see how promising this team looks."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can Spain win Euro 2012?

Spain are the bookies' favourite to claim the Euro 2012 title held in Poland and Ukraine but do they deserve to be in this position?

They are undoubtedly the best team in the world and have a respectable history in terms of awards. The Spanish last claimed the European title back in the Euro 2008 where they beat the German powerhouses 1-0 after a goal from the unstoppable Fernando Torres in the 33rd minute. The latest Euro 2012 odds show they are set to do it again.

During the 2008 tournament, held in Switzerland, David Villa – one of Spain's star players – won the Golden Boot award by claiming a total of 4 goals throughout the tournament. The UEFA player of the tournament was given to no other than the awe-inspiring Xavi.

In Spain's last international match versus Scotland, current manager – Vincente del Bosque – fielded a 4-3-3 formation. The man between the sticks was Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Valdes put on a good performance, but I still feel Real Madrid's stopper Iker Casillas as Spain's number one. In right back was Madrid full back Sergio Ramos.

In my eyes, not many players in the Spanish side would be able to match the talents of Ramos in the right back position. Valencia's Jordi Alba adopted the role of left back.

Normally I would prefer Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa, but as Spain were dominant favourites, del Bosque opted to go for Valencia's youngster. In the centre back roles, Barcelona's Gerard Pique, and Carlos Puyol controlled the first third of the pitch.

Directing the midfield in the centre of the pitch was Xavi, veering towards the right side was Barcelona's Sergio Busquets, and to the left was Malaga's Santi Cazorla. Manchester City's David Silva, Barcelona's Pedro, and David Villa led the Spanish attack.

The result against Scotland ended in a 3-1 victory to the Spanish side with David Silva scoring 2, David Villa scoring 1, and Scotland's David Goodwillie scoring the consolation. With such a strong team, Spain are highly likely to succeed in Euro 2012.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Capello keeps Terry but also eyes youth

England manager Fabio Capello chose to keep John Terry in his squad for friendlies against Spain and Sweden but also had one eye on the future.

Chelsea skipper Terry is currently the subject of a police investigation of allegedly racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry strongly denied the allegations and Capello insisted he should not be punished for a crime he hasn’t even been convicted of.

"We had a meeting with the FA on Friday," said Capello. "We spoke to John Terry. I think he is innocent until proved guilty."

Despite Terry’s inclusion Capello has revealed he intends to play a number of young players against World and European Champions Spain at Wembley on Saturday.

Kyle Walker has been in squad before but is expected to make his debut, while Daniel Sturridge and Jack Rodwell are called-up for the first time.

Chelsea forward Sturridge has been in fine form this calendar year, building on a impressive loan spell with Bolton Wanderers before a carrying a profitable pre-season into matches for the Blues.

He's an interesting player and a player who scores goals," said Capello. "I've seen him play right wing, left and centreforward. He has improved a lot."

Everton midfielder Rodwell meanwhile has benefitted from playing Live Football  regularly in the Toffees starting line-up and is set to add a senior England cap to his collection earned at Under-21 and youth levels.

There is no place for Wayne Rooney, with Capello looking at other options as he prepares to cope without the Manchester United striker for the first three games of the Euro 2012 campaign thanks to his red card against Montenegro last month.

Manchester City’s in-form full-back Micah Richards isn’t included either. The defender just doesn’t seem to be in favour with Capello and with have to Watch Football Live on TV like the rest of us. Liverpool defender Glenn Johnson – never the most convincing at international level - has been called-up 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mancini aware of Villarreal test

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has warned his players that they will be in for a tough test against Villarreal on Wednesday.

City travel to Spain with their hopes of qualification still intact after Sergio Aguero’s late, late leveller against the same opposition two weeks ago.

However, they have yet to win in the competition this season after drawing at home to Napoli in their opening game and then losing 2-0 away at Bayern Munch – a match remembered more for Carlos Tevez’s apparent refusal to warm-up (or play – depending on your point of view).

The club know that three points in this encounter are vital if they are to defy the football betting and make the knock-out stages in what is their first appearance in this format of the competition.

Villarreal - who finished third last year - are struggling in La Liga this season. Their manager Juan Carlos Garrido is under severe pressure and their star play Guiseppe Rossi out for six months with a knee injury.

The Champions League odds suggest City and their expensively assembled all star line-up will come out on top, but Mancini is not taking anything for granted.

"That goal [Sergio Aguero's late winner] was really important. It is not easy to play against Villarreal,” said the Italian.

"They are a good team, used to playing in the Champions League. Also, when they played against us in Manchester, they did very well.

"Many top teams have played at El Madrigal and had big problems. The supporters are very close to the teams, and Villarreal when they play at home are a strong team."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gerrard backs Redknapp

The FA should look no further than Harry Redknapp when it starts the process of finding a successor to Fabio Capello, Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has suggested.

Italian coach Capello will step down from one of the biggest positions in world football after Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine when his contract expires.

The former Real Madrid coach has overseen an unbeaten Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, with three uninspiring draws - two against Montenegro - the only blemish to an otherwise trouble-free route to next summer's showpiece finals. People looking at the Betfair betting will be wondering how the side will get on.

Now talk has inevitably lead to who will replace the 65-year-old and Anfield hero Gerrard is hoping the FA looks to these shores.

Redknapp leads the betting as the obvious candidate to replace Capello and can count on Gerrard for his vote when the selection progress begins. Fans of Euro 2012 betting will know the Spurs man is among the favourites.

"There are very good English managers out there," Gerrard told Sky Sports News.

"Harry Redknapp's name crops up a lot and he's done an unbelievable job. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for what he's done at Tottenham.

"There's also maybe two or three other candidates along with Harry."

He added: "I don't see why we should have to look abroad if the English managers are good enough to do it, which I believe they are.

"But, for me, it's always the case of picking the best manager that can bring success for the country."

England will be joined at Euro 2012 by co-hosts Poland and Ukraine as well as holders Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark, France, Greece, Russia and best runners-up Sweden, while the play-offs will involve Turkey, the Republic of Ireland, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

Monday, October 17, 2011

England need to look at bright side of Rooney ban

I don’t think anyone can argue that Wayne Rooney acted foolishly when he was sent off for England against Montenegro.

But eyebrows were certainly raised when he was given a three-game ban, ruling him out of the first three live football  games of Euro 2012 – the entire group stage. It appears UEFA wanted to make an example of Rooney and England – who aren’t exactly flavour of the month in international football circles at present.

It has left Fabio Capello with a quandary as he now has to re-work a system previously built around the Man United forward and try and come up with a viable solution using the replacements available.

But who is there?

Well Ashley Young and Darren Bent play well alongside Rooney, with the pair finally realising their potential and transferred their club form to the international stage.

Young is versatile enough to switch to Rooney’s position, allowing room for another forward, like his United team-mate Danny Welbeck.

He has progressed significantly over the past 12 months, with his successful loan stint at Sunderland and bright start to the season at Old Trafford.

However, for me, the man who could be England’s saviour is Daniel Sturridge. The 22-year-old hit eight goals in 12 appearances on-loan at Bolton last season and many wondered whether he would return to the Reebok, given the number of senior strikers at Stamford Bridge.

However, Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas resisted the Trotters attempts to lure the striker back up north and his loyalty has been repaid. Sturridge has now hit four goals in his last four games, revealing at the weekend that he has a spot at Euro 2012 in his sights.

For me he has that extra spark and unpredictability that makes him the ideal replacement for Rooney - He can drop deep if necessarily and can create goals as well as score them, just like Rooney. He is even an outside tip in the Top Scorer Betting .

He obviously isn’t as accomplished the former Everton man – yet. But it needs to be pointed out that Rooney hasn’t scored at a major tournament since Euro 2004, so his absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes in football opportunities are presented through unfortunate circumstance, an injury, a suspension, a manager’s impulse decision.

The emergence of Sturridge – who is expected to make his England debut next month – could make Rooney’s indiscretion in Podgorica a blessing in disguise.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Liverpool’s TV plans given quick rebuff

It was always a risk for Liverpool to stick their head above the parapet and suggest Premier League clubs should negotiate their own TV rights.

The proposal – like the deal currently used in Spain – would allow Liverpool to try and cash in on their worldwide appeal, rather than coming as part of a complete 20-club package that we have at present.

Well, I suspect the idea will now disappear as quickly as it arrives if the initial reaction is anything to go by. Manchester United (who stand the most to gain from such a deal), Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have all distanced themselves from the idea.

Wigan – one of the clubs who stand the most to lose – are understandably against the plan, with chairman Dave Whelan labelling it ‘diabolical’.

The thing is though; Liverpool may not actually gain as much as they think if they negotiated their own rights. After all, TV companies would love to divide the Premier League up to try and save cash, rather than pay 
for one package, and so that would drive prices down.

You also only have to look at La Liga for evidence of how damaging individual TV rights could be – Barcelona and Real Madrid are now streets ahead of the rest, with many sides in Spain on the brink of administration. 

Part of the Premier League’s appeal is the idea that no one can regularly predict the football scores and that anyone can beat anyone – that won’t happen if the financial disparities are allowed to expand still further.

Liverpool’s owners are just trying every avenue possible in order to raise more funds to build a new stadium and therefore improve their premier league odds. I can understand that, but on this occasion I think they have badly mis-judged the mood. And, as has already been pointed out in the media, for a club whose most famous manager preached socialist ‘for the people’ principles, this stance is as capitalist as you can get.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Laudrup steps down

Michael Laudrup has stepped down as manager of Mallorca after just over a year in charge of the Spanish club.

The Dane has come under pressure recently after a poor string of results at the start of the new Primera La Liga competition, but his side did beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Sunday.

Laudrup's assistant Erik Larsen was dismissed by club owner Lorenzo Serra Ferrer on Monday evening, after Larsen went public with his thoughts on Serra Ferrer. He described him as a "bad person" and stated that he was "unfit to lead the club". Fans of Betfair may have been shocked by the spat.

It took the former Danish international midfielder a matter of hours to hand in his resignation from the club, following the removal of his assistant.

The 47-year-old made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday morning, in which he stated a breakdown in relationship with the Serra Ferra. Laudrup made it clear that it was now untenable. He can know put his feet up and watch the Betfair Manchester United bowling video.

"This situation cannot continue like this. From now on, Mallorca will be whatever it is Serra Ferrer wants," he said. "Why go now that you've won a game and you're in the middle of the table? I had long been thinking about this, but I could not do it with the team in a bad situation."

Laudrup had criticised the club's transfer policy over the summer in which several of his best players had left the club, including Jonathan de Guzman to La Liga rivals Villareal. He felt that the moves had left in short of forwards this season.

The Balearic Islands club will face Osasuna at the weekend without a coach, following Laudrups's decision.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hargreaves eyes England return

Manchester City midfielder Owen Hargreaves has not given up hopes of playing for England, after scoring on his debut at Eastlands in the 2-0 victory over Birmingham in the Carling Cup.

The 30-year old has been plagued with injuries in the last four-years, and his career in the Premier League was in doubt when he was released by Manchester United at the end of the last season, after making just four appearances in the last three years for the club. Those betting online will be wondering if he can get back to his best.

However, he was given a surprise lifeline by the Reds' local rivals City, Roberto Mancini handed the midfielder a one-year contract, after he proved his fitness to their doctor Phillip Batty.

Mancini may be forced to use Hargreaves more in coming months after injuries to several of his midfield stars. The Italian will also lose Yaya Toure to the African Cup of Nations at the start of next year.

Hargreaves had been linked with West Brom, Leicester and Celtic before the move to the Blues. Roy Hodgson had offered him a pay-as-you-play deal, but the opportunity to play City was the chance to continue challenging for the Premier League title, and the added bonus of Champions League football. Fans of will be following his progress.

The former Bayern Munich man has targeted a return to the international set up, in which he has already picked up 42 caps for England. He was voted England's player of the year in 2006, and their best player in the World Cup that year in Germany. However, he has not played for his country since 2008.

Current England manager Fabio Capello hasn't ruled out a return for Hargreaves, if he can continue to prove his fitness and be successful at Manchester City. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

England down rankings despite two wins

The curiosities of the FIFA world ranking system reared its head again this week after the latest edition saw England drop four places from fourth to eighth, despite winning their last two games.

Not that fourth is anywhere near an accurate assessment of where England sit among the world’s footballing elite, but is seems the way teams are ordered is done in an apparently random way, regardless of their recent football scores.

Those who arrange the standings will insist – and seek to prove – it is not. They are worked out using the results over the past four years. However, if you consider England moved up to fourth last August despite not even playing a game – only to drop down again after winning two out of two – you can understand why some people find the rankings a little confusing and therefore dismiss them as a reliable way of judging the best teams in the world.

Elsewhere in the rankings common sense was restored with Spain moving back above Holland into top spot - anyone who goes to watch football live will tell you that they are the best team in the world by a distance at present. The ever reliable Germany are third just ahead of Copa America winners Uruguay.

There was mixed news for the home nations. Wales – who were always unnaturally low - return to the top 100, climbing 27 places to 90th after their Euro 2012 qualifying win over Montenegro, but Northern Ireland fall 11 places to 70th following damaging and disappointing defeats by Estonia and Serbia.

The Republic of Ireland are up two places to 29th after draws with Slovakia and Russia (though I feel they deserve to go higher than that given the importance of the Russia result) while Scotland rise three to 52nd after drawing with the Czech Republic and beating Lithuania.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

England back to their old selves

I never seem to learn from my mistakes when it comes to watching England. With the absence of club football I guess their matches fulfil my fix for the week, which is reflected in the media, who with pages to fill go a little bit England-crazy.

The problem is that the games – usually friendlies but also now competitive matches – prove to be turgid, frustrating let-downs. And so it proved against Wales on Wednesday.

The game was made worse by the fact expectations were raised following Friday’s convincing 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria, though in hindsight it appears they were a lot worse than we thought.

A lot was also made of the two side’s respective FIFA rankings –England 4 and Wales 177. Everyone knew that they were wildly inaccurate but on this display – as well as the football scores from Friday – suggests they are a lot closer together than previously thought.

Part of it I feel was down to Capello’s team selection. His desire to protect Scott Parker from picking up a second yellow card that would rule him out of the Montenegro game meant the Italian recalled Frank Lampard while also brought in James Milner to counter Gareth Bale. The midfield trio of Milner, Lampard and Gareth Barry for me is dull, defensive and uninspiring. Lampard is approaching the end of his international career while Milner and Barry do not have the mobility to drive England forward. The result is the attacking players becoming isolated, none more so than Wayne Rooney who came far too deep to claim the ball – a sure fire sign he is frustrated at the lack of service. Capello should go out and attack teams like Wales, not construct a plan around their one star player, make them worry about England instead.

The Wembley nerves that seem to permeate the team every time they play Live Football in their home Stadium once again grew as the game went on and the match fell into a similar pattern that we saw in qualifying draws against both Switzerland and Montenegro.

In turn Wales grew in confidence and you always thought that they would get once chance – in these sorts of games there is always at least one. Step forward Robert Earnshaw, Wales sub, who blazed over when it was easier to score and deny Wales a deserved draw (there is no way England would have scored again).

So in the end England were grateful for the win that pushed them onto the brink of qualification, they are good enough to grab a draw in Montenegro. However, problems still remain and the same old ‘its results not performances’ excuse can’t be used. Because in the past the problems have never been resolved and masked in the blinding effects of patriotism and mindless optimism when major tournaments come around.

They got away with against Wales; they may not get away with it next time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Odemwingie still struggling

West Brom’s top scorer from last season Peter Odemwingie has suffered a setback in his bid to return from a niggling ankle injury, with Roy Hodgson confirming the striker’s return date is yet unknown. The Nigerian first sustained the injury during West Brom’s pre-season, although the striker did come off the bench for 15 minutes against Chelsea.

Last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Stoke came after Odemwingie had been forced to pull out after his ankle problem flared up again during the week. Hodgson revealed the news after seeing his side suffer a controversial last minute defeat to Stoke.

“How serious it is, we don't know. He played last Saturday for 10 minutes against Chelsea, he trained Monday-Tuesday, then we had two days off.”

“When we came back in, the ankle injury was plaguing him again. I'll have to wait and see. But his ankle isn't okay and we will have to wait and see when it will be.”

The 30-year old front-man was the subject of a failed Wigan bid in the summer before committing his future to West Brom by signing an improved three-year deal. Baggies fans will have been desperate to see how Odemwingie and new signing Shane Long played together up front but will now have to wait. Getting the problem fixed now though will give the speedy Nigerian the best chance of making another huge impact on the Premier League betting this season.

Odemwingie’s first season at the Hawthorns went better than anybody could have expected, the striker finishing with 15 goals to his name and began the campaign a outside tip in the Premiership top scorer betting stakes. This season will be a different story though and opposing defenders will be well aware of just what the nippy goal-poacher is capable of if given a yard a space. West Brom fans will believe their man has the ability to be as effective this season as he was the last.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welbeck hit by hamstring blow

While it’s fair to say Sir Alex Ferguson will have been a tad chuffed by Sunday’s 8-2 spanking of Arsenal, it did come at a price for the Manchester United manager following the news that Danny Welbeck suffered a hamstring injury. The striker had earlier scored his second goal of the season and the first of his side’s eight in this memorable match. The youngster will now be out of action for between four of five weeks, ruling him out of England’s Under-21’s upcoming matches against Azerbaijan and Israel and the senior sides’ games with Bulgaria and Wales.

Sir Alex revealed the news of Welbeck’s injury, confirming the striker had been due to substituted before sustaining the problem.

“Danny complained of a tight hamstring before he actually pulled it and we couldn't get Javier Hernandez on quick enough.”

“It is a shame for Danny but it [his absence] will be around four to five weeks.”

Welbeck will be desperately disappointed to have picked up the problem after such an impressive start to the season.Those who want to bet on the top scorer will also need to re-consider looking at the youngsters chances. United had received plenty of offers to take Welbeck on loan this season – following the youngster’s successful spell with Sunderland last season – but Ferguson was keen to begin blending the striker into the senior squad.

The 20-year old has proved his manager’s decision was right though and two goals in two league matches this season show just why Welbeck is so highly thought of amongst the United coaching staff. The speedy front-man has the ability to play as either an out and out striker as well as playing on either flank if needed and that versatility will make him a valuable asset to United this season. Welbeck will be hoping to pick up from where he left off when he returns to live football give Ferguson a real selection headache

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cesc departure could mean Fab time for Jack

I think it is fair to say that Arsenal fans are feeling a little frustrated and worried at the moment.
With the Gunners exit door proving much busier than the entrance, they fear their side is slowly being dismantled with no readymade replacements coming in.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is not one to listen to the calls of fans or journalists – in fact it makes him more determined to follow his own path, namely the development of young players rather than paying over the odds for more established stars, adding to the fans frustrations.

The departure of captain Cesc Fabregas is perhaps the most painful of all the players to leave the club this summer. The Spaniard is one of the club’s most talented ever players and a real crowd favourite, as well as being the hub of his team. It is an undoubted blow for Arsenal to see him in a Barca shirt. Those who bet on the Premier League will notice they have slipped down the rankings this season.

However, while the door has closed on Fabregas’ Arsenal career the door could open still further for Jack Wilshere.

The talented midfielder became a regular in the first team last season, as well as earning his first caps for England.

He is widely tipped by many – including Fabregas – to become a future captain of his country and therefore a key player for Arsenal.

With their captain gone and Samir Nasri also expected to leave there will be greater pressure on Wilshire to try and carry Arsenal’s creative burden.

However, from what we have seen so far of the 19-year-old he looks well capable of filling Fabregas’ shoes. The football betting also suggests he is a ready made replacement.

He has a steady temperament, a good touch, excellent vision and creativity – all the attributes required for a successful attacking midfielder.

Cesc may have gone but a good season for young Jack and the fans may soon forget about the Spaniard.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Transfer window builds to frantic finish

On the face of it it would sound churlish to suggest this summer's transfer window has been quiet so far, with nearly £200million spent. But with a number of big money deals rumbling on and other sides sitting on their hands, I get the impression transfer deadline day could be the most frantic of all time.

After all it would only take one big deal to kick things off, as the selling club then goes shopping with their new found wealth. Only then, after all the drama has finished, will we get a true sense of where each club lies and the soccer betting will become clear.

Should Chelsea finally buy Luka Modric then Spurs will have £35million burning a hole in their pocket – and we all know Harry Redknapp loves to shop!

Should Cesc Fabregas finally (finally!) make the move to Barcelona then even Arsene Wenger might be forced to spend money.

Everton boss David Moyes has had his hands tied in the transfer market this summer, but should he decide to sell one of his top stars all of a sudden the Scot would be plunged into the thick of the transfer market.

Managers, CEOs and chairman appear to be holding back – both buying and selling – in order to get the best deal for their side. But when the clock begins ticking on deadline day offers will be increased, asking prices will be dropped and demands will be met, sparking a manic last minute rush to beat the deadline.

For fans and TV companies this is great stuff, internet forums, rumour websites and Twitter feeds go into melt down as players, agents and executives are randomly spotted across the country (and beyond). It is often more exciting than going to watch live football itself.

Is it good for football? Personally I don't think it is, both in a financial sense and for allowing managers to prepare their squad for a new season.

But despite that I admit I will be there with the best of them, tuning into Jim White's increasingly crimson face and screeching voice, manually refreshing internet forums and desperately awaiting tweets as fans of every club dreams for that big last minute buy just before the window slams (it always has to slam doesn't it) shut for four long months.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Curing the penalty blues

It is a familiar summer scenario. England, in a major international tournament knockout match, are out-passed and out-classed by an illustrious opponent after qualifying with patchy group stage performances. An at-times heroic defensive display is not enough to clinch victory, with defeat being inflicted on penalties after a tense period of extra time.

In truth this painful outcome that England's women experienced at the World Cup last week would have looked upon by their male counterparts with a degree of jealousy. The dismal performances at last year's World Cup and failure to qualify for Euro 2008 makes Fabio Capello's men yearn for the good old days of heroic penalty disappointment.

Penalty defeats are nonetheless a recurring scenario and whilst looking at the reasons for this shortcoming should not be a priority – England were second-best to France and never looked like tournament winners – this peculiarly English phenomenon is a big issue. Those looking at the football online betting wouldn't have been surprised by the way things went.

English penalty problems have been given special resonance after coach Hope Powell's 'cowardice' comments. These were unsurprisingly poorly received by the players, but the long-serving boss makes an important point.

Having so few genuine volunteers in such a situation is alarming. It is of course not ideal to force unwilling players to taking spot-kicks, but it is only slightly less preferable to having semi-willing volunteers who do not possess the necessary technical attributes.

But this asks another question – are strikers really better-suited to spot-kicks? Beating a stationary keeper with a dead ball is a different skill to being accurate with an instinctive shot past a moving target. Midfielders and defenders are more used to being accurate with build-up play passes and might in fact be more comfortable from 12 yards.

Knockout stage penalties are supposedly missed due to psychological weakness rather than technical shortcomings. Wanting to take one is only part of the picture. Confidence can be misplaced and perhaps the best tactic is to identify the most accurate takers in training and drill them repeatedly in low-pressure situations to help overcome the nerves that take hold when the pressure is on.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Are England better than Brazil?

FIFA have released their latest world rankings which sees England jump from sixth to fourth, over such giants as Brazil and Argentina. After a disappointing World Cup in South Africa, England have not impressed many in their Euro 2012 qualification campaign, despite leading Group G on goal difference. Both of these rankings flatter an England team that have struggled to live up to their potential. England have only lost once since the World Cup to a French team that are recovering from an embarrassing tournament but have also failed to beat Switzerland, Ghana and Montenegro. Those following the Premier League promotions will know there seems to be a lack of quality in the English game right now.

Qualification for Euro 2012 is far from in the bag, a fact all England fans know when remembering back to Steve McClaren's failure to guide England to Euro 2008, leaving an entire country to watch on and pick another team to support. Those who bet on Premier League action will want the national team to pick up their standards.

Elsewhere, Argentina and Brazil both drop more than 280 ranking points as European teams climb around them due to the South American teams not having to qualify for a competition since the World Cup, only playing friendlies. Expect this to change in July as both teams will be participating in the Copa America, hosted by Argentina.

Both Argentina and Brazil will be looking to make up for an unsatisfactory World Cup which saw them both crash out in the quarter-finals to eventual finalists Spain and the Netherlands who are sitting pretty atop FIFA's world rankings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pearce to stay as Under-21 boss

England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce says he will stay on in the role despite his side's disappointing showing at the European Championships in Denmark.

Two late goals from the Czech Republic meant Pearce's young side crashed out in only the group stages of the competition despite both players and management insisting they believed they had the ability within the squad to win the competition.

Pearce's was recently offered a new two-year contract by the FA with them insisting the former Manchester City boss would not be sacked whatever the outcome of the tournament. Those following the free sports betting may be a little surprised by this.

Pearce has been heavily criticised for both his team selection and his tactics throughout the competition which the Three Lions arrived at as number one seeds but produced three disappointing performances, scoring only once. The sports betting tips suggested they would do much better.

Many have laid the blame squarely at the manager's feet after he continued to stick with skipper Michael Mancienne, a natural centre-half as a holding midfielder as well as striker Daniel Sturridge who after a superb second half of the season playing up-front for Bolton, was continuously employed a right winger.

Pearce has now held the job for four years and despite helping to develop players such as James Milner, Joe Hart and Adam Johnson, now all regulars in the senior side, many believe it could be time for him to move on.

However, he is the favourite to lead a combined Great Britain side at the Olympics as the side must be made up of mainly under-23 players and it is likely this will be the case although nothing has been confirmed.
"It's not been ratified" Pearce told reporters. "Whoever the manager is, he will have some players from the age group".

Friday, June 17, 2011

England's young lions continue to toil

I have seen some poor matches in my time, but Wednesday's England Under-21 European Championship clash with Ukraine is definitely up there in the 'depressingly dreadful' stakes.

It certainly won't stem the flow of negative headlines that spilled from the back-pages following their opening game draw with Spain on Sunday.

Part of that criticism was probably extra words spilling over from reports on the senior team, who following last year's disastrous World Cup have been the staple diet of critical journalist's overworked keywords.

The main thrust of the negativity centred round the English player's lack of technical ability compared to their continental rivals, something that mirrored itself in the Spain game. Fearing another overhyped, overrated 'golden generation' the young side woke up to similar headlines on Sunday morning. Those looking at the Premier League betting will wonder if these players can really make an impact.

Manager Stuart Pearce was fierce in his defence of his players following the game on Sunday, despite the youngsters receiving a lesson in how to keep hold of the ball, and perhaps hoped a performance against Ukraine would prove those doubters wrong.

Instead, against a hard working but limited Ukraine side this collection of English prospects – some of whom have commanded gigantic transfer fees – looked clueless in their attempts to break their opponents down.

Quite what Kenny Dalglish saw in Jordan Henderson to fork out £16million on him is beyond me. Neat and tidy yes, but he lacked any drive or creativity, consistently giving away possession and was seemingly afraid of trying to take players on.

He wasn't alone though, players like Jack Rodwell and Danny Welbeck failed to live up to their apparently now over-inflated reputations while Pearce also needs to be questioned for his reason behind a 4-3-3 formation that included a defender – Michael Mancienne – in midfield and a front three completely isolated. The Premier League best odds suggest these players aren't ready for the big time.

Even his substitutions, including bringing on defensive midfielder Fabrice Muamba for the final five minutes, were puzzling.

They now face a do-or-die match against the Czech Republic, the sort of get-out-of-jail match the senior team are used to.

But given the hype and disproportionate praise we have heaped on previous generations, lowered expectations may actually be a good thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Who should Capello be selecting?

Building for the future and immediate success are the balancing acts that team selectors need to manage. The Australian cricket tem selectors are under fire for looking too far ahead, which is something Fabio Capello, virtually guaranteed to leave his post as England manager next year, need not do.

Capello is under pressure to deliver success in the short term and his team's abject failure at last year's World Cup will further prevent him from blooding youngsters for the benefit of his successor. It is not cynical to suggest the Italian on a £6m per year salary does not have the future of English football at the top of his list of priorities.

To this end, who should he be picking to ensure qualification for the 2012 European Championships? The first-choice defence is settled, with Joe Hart virtually unchallenged as goalkeeper and John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole hard to argue with as the mainstays of the defence. Those placing a football bet are aware of this.

In reality none of the above should be guaranteed their place. Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are younger, faster and more athletic versions of Terry, whose famed leadership skills and top level experience perhaps mask a divisive nature and arrogance that does more harm than good. Leighton Baines and Kieran Gibbs are serious alternatives to Cole at left back.

Critics of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard claim their club level reputations are enhanced by the quality of their club mates and it is becoming hard to argue against this. Joey Barton was right to highlight the displays of imaginary saviour Gareth Barry at the World Cup. Jack Wilshere, Michael Carrick and Tom Huddlestone need to be given as much chance as the older guard to cement their places. Jordan Henderson and Matt Jarvis need to do more at club level to earn regular selection.

Theo Walcott and James Milner have not progressed after impressive breakthroughs but should be persevered with. Darren Bent must be considered first choice striker, as Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe need to deliver for their club as they have on occasion for England. Andy Carroll should be closely monitored.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Picking over the relegated carcasses

By their very nature relegated teams are not overloaded with talent worthy of the Premier League. That is not to say that West Ham United, Blackpool and Birmingham City do not have players who will attract interest from top flight clubs. Some players are already the subject of approaches.

West Ham have a core of English players who, whilst generally have been disappointing this season, will be attractive due to their Premier League experience and native nationality. Scott Parker would be a decent addition to any Premier League squad, but Carlton Cole, Robert Green, Mark Noble and the out-of-contract Matthew Upson would do a job for most mid-table outfits. Those following the Premier League odds wouldn't be surprised to see these players in the top flight again next season.

The Upton Park hierarchy will want to retain the younger brigade to rebuild around, but Jack Collison, back to action after an injury nightmare, Freddie Sears, James Tomkins, Zavon Hines and Jordan Spence will surely have their head turns by top flight interest.

Charlie Adam is already packing his bags for a big move, but there are bargains to be had elsewhere in the Blackpool squad. DJ Campbell was the second highest Premier League scorer and can expect a bid, whilst journeymen such as Keith Southern, Ian Evatt and Alex Baptiste have proved themselves in the top flight relatively late in their careers.

Birmingham were the division's lowest scorers, so their strikers and creative players will not be under consideration and in fact the biggest target on their books might be an injured player. Scott Dann has been missing since January, breaking up his central defensive partnership with Roger Johnson, a big factor in the Blues' slide. Both men, along with the consistent Ben Foster and Craig Gardner will be on plenty of radars.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chelsea already planning for next title hunt

John Terry has issued a warning to Manchester United by stating that Chelsea are now focussed and determined on winning back their Premier League title next season.

The Blues captain saw his side effectively hand the title to United when they lost at Old Trafford at the weekend, meaning the Red Devils are six points clear with two games to go and need only one point to be crowned Premier League champions.

Chelsea endured a roller coaster of a campaign; they started off firing on all cylinders and looked like they would defend their Premier League title with ease.

Over the new year period they then slumped and went on the club's worst run for 15 years which put them 15 points behind United at one stage in the title race and the Premier League betting suggested they could struggle to make the top three.

Terry claims Chelsea need to be applauded for recovering from that position to put themselves in title contention for so long, but it was that slump that turned out to be "vital" in them handing their title to United.

But the England skipper reckons United should not get too attached to the trophy and it will not be long until Chelsea win the Premier League title again.

Speaking about losing, he stated: "It does hurt when you do it, and it drives you on as well.

"You get a focus for next year and we will be aiming to take it off them."

Newspapers reports have not begun speculating about the future at Chelsea and who they could sign to bolster their title bid for next season and those looking at the Premier League best odds need to bear this in mind.

The likes of Kaka and Javier Pastore have been linked with Stamford Bridge, but it remains to be seen who will be in charge as there is some speculation Carlo Ancelotti could leave the club.

Monday, April 11, 2011

English absence raises questions about second tier of top English clubs

Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester United can say (up to a point at least) that they have done the Premier League really proud this season, with all those clubs at one stage or another putting on a fantastic show and thoroughly entertaining in the Champions League. However, in the Europa League, the same surely cannot be said of the English sides that have taken part this season. Indeed, it could be seen as a worrying mirror for the England international side's recent failures.

With both Liverpool and Manchester City falling at a stage that can accurately be described as downright disappointing and actually quite humiliating for two clubs that stood great chances of winning the whole competition, and with the other English contenders barely able to make the slightest impression on the competition, the strength in depth down in the second tier of the Premier League must surely be questioned, or at the very least these sides' commitment to the competition must be and anyone looking at the best European football betting will realise this.

This somewhat negative outlook aside, it would seem that it is the latter option (a lack of interest and a true lack of motivation to compete) that means the top sides are now no longer too bothered about competing in a competition that brings little financial reward to the top sides and offers little to no interest to top players who have no want or desire to play a part in the competition, when the only natural place for the top players to be in Europe is the Champions League.

Until UEFA decide to take the Europa League seriously with another change in format, the top clubs in England are not going to offer it a decent level of respect any time soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Better late than never for Scott Parker

Wales were so abysmally poor on Saturday it is hard to give too much praise to England but considering so many are quick to criticise when they lose they perhaps deserve positive word when they win.

For Capello he finally seems to be picking a formation that suits his players. Gone is the 4-4-2 and in comes a fluid 4-3-3 formation that suits the roving tendencies of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young. In midfield Frank Lampard, not before time, plays in an attacking role he is comfortable with while Jack Wilshire – who was more defensive minded in his last England appearance – looked a better player in a more advanced role.

But it was Scott Parker who caught my eye. The West Ham midfielder is a talisman for his club and has been putting in consistently excellent displays for years, as anyone who has bet on Premier League action will know.

But whether it is because he plays for an 'unfashionable' club I don't know, but England managers have been reluctant to give him a run in the side, a move that has baffled those looking to bet on Premier League winner.

Instead the endless, tedious Gerrard/Lampard combination is forced upon us even though we know it will never work. Gareth Barry then briefly stepped into the breach, providing a barrier in front of the back four that allowed others to attack. But his decline has been stark, in fact he appears half the player, especially at international level, since signing for Manchester City and his dreadful World Cup (he wasn't alone) confirmed my thoughts that he just isn't up to international football anymore.

So I was delighted for Parker to finally be rewarded for his patience. His commitment to the cause is well known but his tenacity and measured defiance in front of the defence gave the platform for Rooney et al to wreak havoc at the other end.

I seriously hope Fabio Capello doesn't revert to the Gerrard/Lampard combo upon the Liverpool man's return. The past two games against Denmark and Wales suggest he has found a system that works, but only with the right players. Now he seems to have found them it a disaster if he went back now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bale injury a blessing in disguise?

Here in England, even the neutrals seem to have a quiet affection for young Gareth Bale, a man who seems to have emerged from nowhere to become one of the best players on the planet. So talented is the Spurs man that even Arsenal fans have had no choice but to send plaudits his way, watching him rip apart the best teams in Europe and become a prime transfer target for the continent's elite and the football rumours reflect this.

It is, therefore, tempting to forget that Bale isn't actually English. A darling of the Premier League he may well be, but this is a man who represents a side fighting against England for Euro 2012 qualification. With England taking on Wales this weekend in Cardiff in a crucial group match, Bale is now set to miss the clash through injury. No doubt the player himself is upset at this but could it be that missing the game has saved him from adopting a slightly different place in the hearts of us England and Premier League fans?

With Bale stating earlier this week that the Welsh team are "quietly confident" as they prepare for the game, and with the Welsh players well aware of the need to secure a result after finding themselves bottom of Group G, the 21-year-old clearly believes that the England team could be in for a shock this weekend when the game comes around even if the international football betting suggests otherwise. The Spurs man was light-hearted in his descriptions of the banter that has become the norm over the past month or so between him and the English contingency at Spurs but those England fans still desperate for their side to continue their post-World Cup recovery without any unexpected interruptions may not have been quite so forgiving if the Welsh star had been the driving force in a home victory at Cardiff.

With England distracted by the captaincy issue rearing its ugly head again, it could be that Wales do take full advantage of their raucous home support and cause a group upset that threatens to derail England's hopes of making Euro 2012 their opportunity to prove they can taste success under Fabio Capello. Bale, though, through his forced non-involvement will still occupy a special place in the hearts of Premier League fans, at least for now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Will Wenger finally lose the fans if he fails again?

Few managers are able to get away with defeats in crucial games as well as making the same high-profile mistakes time and time again, but Arsenal fans seem to forgive Arsene Wenger no matter what he does or how he does it, a fact that often leads to rival fans scratching their heads at the manner in which the club's loyal fans appear to tolerate such failure despite the stature of the club and its place in English football.

With the Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood a man who clearly has nothing but reverence for Wenger, and the rest of the board seemingly terrified at the prospect of being responsible for firing a man who has brought the club glory in the past as well as a worldwide following, it appears that only a sustained and vocal lack of support for Wenger from the fans would lead to any real chance of him being dislodged. It would be a shocking piece of football news if he did go.

However, with fans of Arsenal obviously desperate to see the club achieve the success that has been promised over the past five or six years, they have so far publically done everything they possibly can to stay firmly behind their manager, despite the fact that in private many Gunners fans are wondering whether their manager will ever learn from his own mistakes and start to copy the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United by spending money on players who can benefit the club in the future, but also improve the squad significantly in the short term and although the football rumours link Arsenal to big names, they never seem to buy them.

As well as this, Arsenal fans are beginning to wonder whether or not their manager really believes in his side after so much failure, or if he is now just using the club as a means to pick up a final paycheck as he looks to end his career in England. With the club needing a trophy soon if it doesn't want to risk losing its status as a big club in the global context of football, Wenger either needs to deliver or else leave the club.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Finding the domestic and overseas balance

After watching the talent on display between Manchester United and Chelsea this week , I noticed that only Seven English players featured at the Stamford Bridge out of a total of 28, with only two of those came in under the age of 29.

As a football nation, we are proud of being able to boast about having the greatest league in the world with the world's greatest players providing the entertainment.

However, despite the talent we love so much, it is a great shame on the international front that English players in the Premier League are certainly a minority.

Despite turning our concern to the lack of home grown talent being present in the Premier League after every England failure in a major tournament, the excitement of the league quickly clouds over the serious matter of developing young English players and goalwire live score fans should remember this.

The issue has been attempted to be met head on this season however, as the FA implemented the home grown quota at the start of the campaign where clubs have to name at least 8 home grown players in their squad of 25.

This is a great idea to urge Premier League clubs to nurture home grown talent, although the defining of home grown players as being registered for at least three seasons at an English or Welsh club between the ages of 16 and 21 whether you are indeed English or foreign – is a clear contradiction of what the quota suggests It is aiming to do and those who follow the latest football scores will realise this.
This doesn't at all prevent clubs from going overseas to nurture talent and it is difficult to see how so the quota will increase the number of English players in the Premier League and in turn an improved national team.

As a football fan proud of our fascinating elite league, I am also desperate for some International success. I fear as football and the premier league continues to develop as a business, driven by money and profits, the FA will find it difficult to implement a system which will balance both.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Premier League's international star performers

England fans are a bunch of supporters who don't turn their noses up at friendly victories over apparently lesser sides in world football such as Denmark. After all, we can't really afford to do that after the general misery and frustration, not to mention lack of success, of the past four years or so. However, last night's win over Denmark really was bordering on the impressive for a number of Premier League stars who furthered their case for consistent inclusion in boss Fabio Capello's plans.

Jack Wilshere is perhaps the most obvious example of this. A man whom the England camp were warned by none other than Mr Confident himself, Nicklas Bendtner, to protect rather than thrust straight into action, the young Gunner looked accomplished in a midfield he was tasked to act as a protective shield for.

Some Arsenal fans may have worried that, denied of the free role to join up with attacks, Wilshere's performance would go unnoticed by the England boss, but it was this very fact that made his performance so strong; we did notice him and his tackles brought more applause from the crowd than some of England's play up front. Of course the international football betting suggested England would win, but it was still nice to see a youngster doing well.

Ashley Young looked more confident in an England shirt than he ever has done before, playing in a more advanced role than usual, just as he has been doing for Villa this season. His goal was the icing on a pretty tasty cake from his point of view, and he's another decent option for Capello to bear in mind and it's something that would no doubt be covered in the latest Andy Gray podcast.

Darren Bent grabbed a goal that, although not exactly the best he'll ever score, will provide him with further confidence when lining up for the national side in the future, whilst a hardworking performance from James Milner may give Roberto Mancini pause for thought when he considers his starting eleven for the weekend's clash against title rivals Manchester United.

England aren't the finished product just yet, that's for sure, but the signs are certainly encouraging for Capello's wounded unit.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

McClaren sacked again, but reputation is rebuilt

The very fact Steve McClaren is already being tipped for vacant positions in English football shows you how his stock has risen despite being sacked as Wolfsburg boss this week.

Rewind three-and-half-years and that fateful, soggy November night at Wembley, McClaren – the wally with the brolly – was dismissed as England boss with his reputation in tatters.

Chairman and boards across the country dared not appoint him - even if they recognised his talents - given the derision and vitriolic abuse he received from fans and press alike. It took a long time for England fans to forget the livescore from the game against Croatia.

So, credit to the former Middlesbrough boss he picked himself up and went across to Holland where he rebuilt his shattered reputation with FC Twente - how we could do with other players and coaches trying their luck abroad.

This culminated in the Dutch title, the first Englishman to guide a Dutch team to a national title since Bobby Robson in 1992 and Twente's first title since 1974.

His reward was the job at Wolfsburg, who won the Bundesliga title in 2009. The German league though has made a habit of swapping Champions in recent years (in stark contrast to the Man United/Chelsea/Arsenal triumvirate in the Premier League) so their 2009 title was no guarantee of future success and livescore football fans should remember this.

And so it has proved with their season going from bad to worse. After just five victories in 21 games McClaren leaves with the club just a point above the relegation places.

A return to England looks likely, but the very fact that is considered an option is testament to the rebuilding job undertaken in Holland.

I wouldn't expect him to go near a brolly anytime soon though.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Home Internationals unlikely to be regular fixture

The FA has suggested it is unlikely to resurrect the Home Nations tournament on a permanent basis, instead looking to reinstate the tournament to celebrate its 150th birthday.

New sponsors Vauxhall are said to be eager to have the competition on a yearly basis but the FA have now moved quash any speculation surrounding the tournament.

General Secretary Alex Horne says the governing body is still in talks with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish FA’s about hosting the tournament in 2013 to celebrate the FA’s landmark anniversary. He said: “We’re talking to the home nations about a possible one-off round of matches with them.”

"I think we’d be talking about a series of one-off matches in 2013 to mark our 150th anniversary (rather than a regular tournament). He added.

The Home Nations was a regular fixture in the international until 1984, where a combination of falling attendances, crowd trouble and the emergence of the World Cup and European Championships put paid to the tournament.

A smaller 4 Nations tournament has been organised between every Home Nation country and the Republic of Ireland except for England in 2011, to be hosted in Dublin. The existence of this tournament is not said to be a threat to any future Home Nation’s tournament.

Vauxhall are now hoping to tie up sponsor deals with the remaining Home Nation sides to ensure the completion goes ahead on a regular basis. Both the Scottish and Welsh governing bodies have expressed an interest in reviving the tournament and football bets will be placed in favour of a return of the once popular competition by fans.

England boss Fabio Capello has also hinted he would welcome the return of the tournament and football betting would likely see his side installed as favourites were the tournament to go ahead.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunderland welcome back key players

Sunderland have been handed a major boost ahead of their massive north-east derby at the weekend, with the news that three key players could return to action in time to face Newcastle. Nedum Onuoha, Danny Welbeck and club captain Lee Cattermole could all be named in a Sunderland side desperate to gain some pride back after their 5-1 at the hands of their arch-rivals spanking earlier in the season, something the football betting suggests they have every chance of doing.

Steve Bruce will be desperate to go into the match with all guns blazing and the return of the trio will certainly give the squad a boost. "Onuoha, Cattermole and Welbeck might be in the equation, but we'll see how things go. It's early in the week right now. I hope we'll have some of our big players back for Sunday's game," he told the club website.

Onuoha has been absent from Sunderland's defence since suffering a hamstring injury in the 2-0 home defeat against Blackpool on December 28th. The 24-year-old has impressed during his time at the Stadium of Light, since arriving on a season loan from Manchester City. Bruce could be exploring the option of trying to organise a permanent deal for the versatile defender.

Cattermole's return will be essential in the midfield battle against Newcastle's Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton. The skipper injured his back in the Blackpool defeat but has returned to training this week. After struggling earlier in the season with his poor discipline on the pitch, Cattermole has matured into a very valuable player for Bruce’s side.

Up front, Bruce will be pleased to see Danny Welbeck able to take his place in attack with Darren Bent. The young striker has been something of a revelation this season, his form keeping record signing Asamoah Gyan restricted to the bench, although the football predictions indicate he could play a part in Sunday's game.
With the Black Cats riding high in the league, Newcastle will need to be very wary of underestimating their rivals. This will surely be a different Sunderland side that was so easily demolished earlier in the season.