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 Betfair.com 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