Thursday, March 29, 2012

Have Spurs Been Distracted?

It has been a very difficult month for Tottenham who have seen there 10 point lead over 4th place over turned by rivals Arsenal, and fingers of blame are starting to point towards Harry Redknapp being linked with the England job.

It's easy to put two and two together and look for any old excuse but could there be any truth in it?

Redknapp himself will deny it all day long. But the fact that the FA have remained quiet about the appointment of the England manager, coincided with Redknapps stance to not rule himself out of the job while insisting he is concentrating on Spurs, tells us that the writing is on the wall, and that it's only a matter of time before the job is his. Those looking at the Premiership betting odds need to bear this in mind.

You can see why Redknapp would want to ignore the England job until the season is over as Spurs are on the brink of a special season but the uncertainty has probably worked against the initial plan to keep quiet.

The players will surely on some level have taken their eye off the ball to think about what will happen next season when Harry is gone? Will they be at the club? Will the new manager like them? It is all speculation but it is human nature to be distracted and having the thought of your manager leaving the club is a big distraction. Fans of football betting need to remember this.

It is a difficult situation for everyone involved. The FA can't tap up a manager from one of their own clubs midway through the season, even though that is probably what they have done behind closed doors. Nor is it could for Harry to step out and confirm that he is leaving; it is a double-edged sword.

The only thing that can be done is for the Spurs players and management to buckle down and see out the rest of the season. They have taken their eye off the ball for the last few weeks but now they must refocus and turn a good season into a great season by making third place in the league their own and getting to the FA cup final. Should they do this then Harry Redknapp might just stay at the club after all.

Ferguson: Glory must end our run

Ian Ferguson will tell his Perth Glory players they must end a wretched run in Queensland against basement club Gold Coast United on Sunday to be taken seriously as Grand Final contenders (Live soccer betting: Gold Coast United 11/4 draw Soccer betting tips: 12/5 Perth Glory evens - bet365 90 minutes).

The Skilled Park strugglers have proved a thorn in the side for the likes of table-toppers Central Coast and play-off hopefuls Newcastle Jets in recent weeks, and Ferguson takes the view they are dangerous because they have nothing but pride to play for.

Glory have their own agenda going into the cross-country clash on the east coast and can guarantee a first home play-off final by collecting three points.

Perth could mathematically overtake the Mariners and Roar and finish first or second, and Ferguson stressed there was no margin for error.

"If we want to go on and try to get to Grand Finals then there's certain games you have to win and this is one of them," Ferguson said.

He added: "Even though we've reached our target of top six, we're not happy to just accept that. We want to go on and do the best we can and aspire to better things. The challenge is there for everybody.

"Considering we've only reached the finals twice in seven years I'd say it's definitely been a step in the right direction. But I want more, I want to go higher."

Gold Coast pulled off a shock victory over Brisbane on Boxing Day, but have now gone 13 games without a win.

Ferguson said it was important his players did not make the mistake of falling into a false sense of security by expecting an easy ride.

"They're causing teams problems," he said.

"We've got to make sure we don't go up there and underestimate these kids because they've got no fear and they're a team with plenty of mobility and energy."

Jacob Burns (broken ribs) and Liam Miller (hamstring) will be missing, but Shane Smeltz is expected to return as Glory look to improve on a dismal sequence of just one win in 17 A League matches in Queensland.

Hodgson the logical choice

For many the choice of who will be the next England manager is an easy one. Harry Redknapp, darling of the media and fans' favourite, is hot favourite due to his current success with Tottenham Hotspur and his persona that is everything Fabio Capello was not as England boss.

The consensus is that Redknapp's main talent of getting the best out of players is exactly what the under-achieving Three Lions need. The lack of silverware on his CV is not held against him due the glass ceiling that has prevented home-grown managers from getting the very top jobs and fans of Victor Chandler should bear this in mind.

The FA are aware of this huge popular support for Redknapp, but in drawing up a short list they can see the attractiveness of other options. The man who should top a wish-list was born in England in 1947 and was voted League Managers Association Manager of the year in 2010 by a record margin. He is Roy Hodgson and he has everything the FA can want in their next appointment, including the Englishness that favours Redknapp.

Succeeding in international management needs different skills to those needed to prosper at club level. Many make the transition from domestic leagues to the national set-up productively, but in analysing past success it is best to look for a CV that includes national team triumphs.

It is therefore dangerous to ignore the claims of a man who led Switzerland to two consecutive major tournaments, including a first World Cup since 1966. The Swiss rose to third in the world rankings under Hodgson and whilst he could not quite manage to get Finland to their first major tournament at Euro 2008, his was still a productive tenure in Scandinavia, a region that he has done so well in at club level. People looking at should take the time to check out his CV.

Hodgson's detractors question his ability to handle star players and to his failure at Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool. A 36-year career is bound to include some disappointments and those who choose to highlight his work at Ewood Park and Anfield conveniently forget his success at Inter Milan, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.

It might be an easy choice for many, but the FA should take the risk and make the difficult choice by appointing a man who is seen as second choice. They have ignored Hodgson in the past and might regret doing so this time.

A-League update

Liam Miller and Jacob Burns are rated "about 90 per cent" to make Sunday's Hyundai A-League semi-final against Melbourne Heart in Western Australia, the Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson has claimed (Live soccer betting: Perth Glory evens draw 12/5 Melbourne Heart 11/4 - bet365 90 minutes).

Former Celtic and Manchester United midfielder Miller has missed the last five games of the regular season because of an ongoing back injury but is finally closing in on a welcome return.

Former Leeds United midfielder Burns has been sidelined since picking up a rib injury against Central Coast Mariners on March 11 and is also now expected to make his comeback.

News of the experienced pair's impending return was tempered by confirmation that defensive pair Josh Mitchell (back) and Bas van der Brink (calf), and midfielder Steven McGarry (hamstring), are under more pressure to prove their fitness.

"It's very good," Ferguson said of the chances of Miller and Burns playing in the match at nib Stadium.

"I'd probably say it's about 90 per cent. The reaction with them will be tomorrow. But I spoke to them both before I came here and they're happy."

On the rest of his walking wounded, Ferguson added: "[McGarry and van den Brink] are very close. We've got a bit of time on our hands because the game's on Sunday. I don't want to rush it. If they can come in on Friday or Saturday, then they'll be considered."

Glory have beaten Melbourne Heart twice during the regular season - both games finishing 2-1 at AAMI Park - but Johannes van 't Schip's men repeated the dose when collecting a 2-1 win in Perth in December last year (Soccer betting tips: Perth Glory 8/1 - Grand Final outright bet365).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bilbao Face German Giants, Schalke

The first and second legs of the Europa League quarter-finals will be contested on March 29 and April 5, respectively, featuring representatives from the Ukraine, Spain, Portugal, Holland and Germany.

Diligent fans will have noticed that there are no British clubs in the final eight of the tournament, after both Manchester United and Manchester City followed up their Champions League exit with a similar escape from the Europa League.

United's 5-3 aggregate defeat to Basque club, Athletic Bilbao, last Thursday was the low point of an awkward season for the Red Devils, in which they failed to reach a cup final for the first time in a decade. Those looking at the Europa League betting will have been shocked.

City will perhaps count themselves the more unfortunate of the two Manchester clubs, given that they were sent packing despite a 3-2 win over Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese outfit won on away goals.

Bilbao have since been drawn against German team, Schalke 04, who progressed with a 4-2 aggregate defeat of Steve McClaren's club, FC Twente. In the second quarter-final match of the Europa League, Valencia face Dutch outfit, AZ Alkmaar.

Valencia dispatched PSV Eindhoven 5-3 on aggregate. The two clubs cancelled each other out in the second leg, recording a 1-1 draw. However, the Spaniards' previous 4-2 victory over the Dutch was enough to see them through to the quarters.

Manchester City's nemeses, Sporting Lisbon, will contest the third quarter-final with Metalist Kharkiv, a Ukrainian team who broke Greek hearts with their away goals victory over Olympiakos in the second leg, last week. Those who bet on football should bear this in mind.

Finally, Athletico Madrid will attempt to wrestle a place in the Europa League semi-finals away from German team, Hannover 96. The latter team steam-rolled Belgian club, Standard Liege, 6-2 on aggregate, while Madrid defeated the Turks, Besiktas.

In the semi-finals, the winner of Schalke vs. Bilbao will play the victor of Lisbon vs. Kharkiv. Equally, whoever takes the spoils from the AZ vs. Valencia match will take on the triumphant party in the Madrid vs. Hannover fixture, in what could ultimately be an all-Spanish affair.

An early look at Euro 2012

England fans can look forward to Euro 2012 with some excitement. Without the burden of unrealistic expectation – not even the most short-sighted England observer would makes the Three Lions one of the favourites – any promise shown by the young squad the as yet unknown manager takes to Poland and Ukraine will be a bonus.

Should they make the squad the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chris Smalling, Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge will gain useful experience for future events and tentative optimism for the future might build although fans of Bet Victor will know all about the side's poor form at major tournaments.

The tournament will also be of great interest as a neutral. The higher concentration of strong teams sees European Championships produce a greater number of good matches than the World Cup does and the winner could play six tough matches on the way to lifting the trophy, something that does not happen in World Cups.
Indeed, should the much-fancied Germany prevail they will need to get past Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark (the obligatory group of death) and then could face knockout opponents Czech Republic, Italy and Spain. No one will have an easy ride to glory, as the Victor Chandler odds show.

World and European champions Spain are rightly favourites, having completed a second consecutive qualifying campaign with a 100% record. They have unearthed some exciting new talent that have bedded in alongside the big names that have taken them to the pinnacle of the world game and it will take a brave punter to bet against them, although Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland will keep them on their toes in the group phase.

Germany have made it easier to look elsewhere. They also arrive after winning all their qualification matches, which is more instructive than their patchy friendly results over recent months – wins over Brazil and Netherlands have been mixed with defeat to France and draws wit Poland and Ukraine. In Mario Gomez they have one of the continent's most in-form players in their ranks.

Netherlands also have a potential tournament top scorer as their talisman, but the Dutch proved at Wembley last month that they do not rely excessively on Robin van Persie. France have improved swiftly under Laurent Blanc and are the best of the rest, but another Spain-Germany final is easy to envisage.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Houston Beaten in Washington

The Seattle Sounders' David Estrada is quickly becoming the man to fear in the MLS. The forward has scored four goals in two outings – three against Toronto on March 18 and one in the game with the Houston Dynamo, on Friday.

Estrada fired the Sounders ahead after 23 minutes at the imposing CenturyLink Field, last night.

The strike, which went in courtesy of a deflection off Geoff Cameron, was against the run of play. Houston dominated the first 20 minutes of the game, even forcing a smart save from Austrian goalkeeper, Michael

The Dynamo's problems got worse less than five minutes later, when Seattle were awarded a penalty.

Houston keeper, Tally Hall, dived the right way, but was unable to stop Brad Evans' confident shot. “I thought we lost some composure after the second goal”, lamented Dynamo coach, Dominic Kinnear.

Moustachioed American, Roger Levesque, hoofed the ball wide at the 52nd minute, to miss what would've been Seattle's third.

Houston's Will Bruin had a weak header saved by Gspurning in the second half. Going the other way, Alvaro Fernandez managed to land the ball on top of the Dynamo goal, prompting a rescue from Hall.

Colin Clark, of Houston, had one of the final chances of the game in injury time. He headed it high and wide of the Sounders' goal. The whistle was blown in front of a reported 38,000 fans just after the 93rd minute, when Seattle were lining up to take a corner.

The result was Houston's first loss of the season. However, the Dynamo enjoyed most of the possession, ending on 55%.

Kinnear recognised the positives in his team's most recent performance: “Our possession and passing and moving was better this week”, the coach said, adding that the Dynamo played better than they did against the San Jose Earthquakes, a match they won 1-0.

“All-in-all I thought it was a good, spirited performance by us.”

Those looking to bet on soccer games should take note of these developments and soccer betting tips.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fergie on the War Path over 'Desperation' Comments

Former footballer, and current development executive at Manchester City, Patrick Vieira, has sparked a war of words with Manchester United chief, Alex Ferguson, by stating that the re-introduction of Paul Scholes into the Red Devils' midfield was an act of desperation.

Scholes 'retired' at the end of last season, alongside veteran custodian, Edwin van der Sar. He returned for United in January 2012, taking his place on the bench for Manchester's FA Cup victory over rivals, City.

While admitting that he admires Scoles as a footballer, Vieira said: “for him to come back just shows a little bit of weakness in United. [Scholes] coming back shows that they don’t have talent in there to replace him.”

Vieira, who played the most games of his career at Arsenal, with 279 appearances over nine years, added that the recent loss of Ravel Morrison and “maybe" Paul Pogba indicates that Old Trafford is no longer the dream destination for youngsters.

Fergie responded to the Frenchman's comments at a press conference earlier today. “If it’s desperation bringing back Scholes, the best midfielder in Britain for the last 20 years, then I think we can accept that.”

Sir Alex intimated that Vieira was being hypocritical, given that City had played Carlos Tevez in their midweek clash with Chelsea, a player who became a pariah in Manchester after he refused to warm-up for a Champions League match with Bayern Munich, last year.

City boss, Roberto Mancini, previously said that the Argentine would never play football in a sky-blue jersey again.

Fergie continued to say that United have sufficient depth in their squad. On the topic of the veteran midfielder's future, the Scot said that he and Scholes had not come to any conclusions.

However, the fact that the player, who, according to soccer betting tips, is a 6/4 bet to play for England at Euro 2012, has expressed a desire to play more games for United seems to suggest that he may well remain at Old Trafford next season. Those looking to bet on soccer games would do well to note these developments.

Bayern fire Euro warning

The brilliant attacking and goal-scoring of Lionel Messi and Barcelona has overshadowed the current form of Bayern Munich. The German giants might not mind sneaking under the radar in this year’s Champions League, content they are playing as well as anyone in Europe.

Bayern have won their last three matches by 7-1, 7-0 and 6-0scorelines. The second of those crushing victories came against Basel in the Champions League after they lost the first leg to the Swiss underdogs, which rather puts into context Manchester United’s struggles against that team.

Mario Gomez scored eight goals in these wins, taking his season tally to 35. In any other season the in-form hitman would be the hottest property on the continent, but the superhuman efforts of Messi grabs the attention and neatly represents the emphasis on things the Catalans do at the expense of others – Gomez is joint-top scorer with Messi in the competition and fans of Bet Victor need to remember this.

This current purple patch Bayern are enjoying was preceded by a limp 2-0 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen, their sixth league defeat of the season. Like Barcelona, Bayern have been outgunned on the domestic front by a fierce rival and they are still five points adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund and people placing a Bet Victor bet need to bear this in mind.

Bayern have been hitting the net freely all season. They followed an opening day home defeat with successive 5-0 and 7-0 wins in their next games at the Allianz Arena. They have since scored four times in a league match on three occasions before their recent 13-goal salvo over two matches and also stuck six past lower league opposition Ingolstadt 04 in the German Cup.

All this means Bayern are hot favourites to beat Marseille in their Champions League quarter final. Many people are already taking up a Real Madrid-Barcelona final, but Bayern will have a strong say and ware imperfect form to tear up the script.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Madrid lose their cool as Barca sense an opening

It was an ugly end to and ugly and scrappy game, with Real held to a 1-1 draw for the second consecutive game to breathe new life into the Spanish title race.

First things first -matters on the pitch. The irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo was once again the main man for Real as he gave Madrid the lead against struggling Villarreal at El Madrigal.

However, Marcos Senna’s free kick seven minutes from time ensured a share of the spoils in a laregely dour game.

The point means Real’s lead from Barca at the top has been cut from 10 points to six in the last two matches and punters who bet on La Liga are no longer sure of the destination of the title.

To make things worse for Real both Sergio Ramos and Mezut Ozil were shown the red card, while trainer Rui Faria and boss Jose Mourinho himself were sent from the dugouts by the referee Paradas Romero.

Not that it was all the player’s fault – Romero himself appeared to lose control and failed to get a grip on proceedings. La Liga is not a division for weak referees, as the players will seek to exploit any signs of weakness to push the boundaries of legal play.

Meanwhile Barcelona will be sitting quietly, watching the shambolic proceedings with increasing optimism.

Their nature of this result and the displays of petulance at the final whistle suggests the pressure is getting to Real as they see their lead at the top get chipped away. They remain favourites in the La Liga betting , but they are not highly fancied as they were just a few weeks ago.

Barca – buoyed by record breaker – Lionel Messi – suddenly have fresh momentum and with a El Clasico at the Nou Camp to come, Pep Guradiola’s men may just complete the unlikeliest of title comebacks.

Bristol Sign Ephraim, Amougou on Loan

As the end of the 2011/12 league campaign draws near, Bristol City have improved their ranks – and their chances of surviving relegation – by bringing in some fresh blood.

The Robins have signed QPR's Hogan Ephraim and Andre Amougou, of Burnley fame, on loan until the end of the season.

Ephraim, 23, is a product of the West Ham youth system. He joined QPR in 2008, racking up 95 appearances and four goals and fans of Championship betting will be keeping a close eye on him.

He was sent to Leeds United on a short-term deal a year later, before find himself on the road once more, joining Charlton Athletic for five games. His spell at Bristol will be his fifth loan contract since 2006.

Former QPR boss, John Gregory, said, in 2007: "Hogan is technically very gifted and has the versatility to play on the right or left of midfield."

The Englishman can also play as a striker, a trait that should give the goal-shy City something extra going forward. Bristol have scored just four goals, this month.

Ephraim will be accompanied by defender, Andre Amougou, on the bus to Bristol. Amougou, 27, is a Cameroonian international, who has only recently begun playing in England.

He spent much of his career in Russia and Portugal, moving to Reading in 2006. He played 70 games for Burnley, from 2009, scoring three goals and those looking at the Championship betting odds will be wondering what he can add.

The two players, Ephraim and Amougou, could make their debut as early as Saturday, when Bristol take on Middlesbrough, in what promises to be a difficult clash for the Robins.

Bristol are three points shy of the relegation area in the Championship, while Boro are pushing for promotion, in sixth.

City also face Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Barnsley, and West Ham, among others, in their final few games of the season.

Toure keen on Tevez return

Manchester City defender Kolo Toure is looking forward to the return of Carlos Tevez and is confident he will add to a City side short on confidence.

The Argentina star has not featured for the club since September after a touchline row with manager Roberto Mancini in Munich and followers of Victor Chandler will not have expected him to return.

Tevez was subsequently fined and spent months in his homeland as a January moved seemed inevitable. However, the striker offered Mancini an olive branch last month and is on course for an unexpected return to first-team action.

Toure is excited by the prospect of lining up alongside the experienced forward once again and people looking at Bet Victor will be wondering if he can make the difference.

"Carlos is a great player and I can't wait to see him play in this team," said Toure.

"He's a fighter, he is a strong character and his quality is fantastic. For me, I can't wait."

Beating rivals Manchester United to the Premier League title is City's sole aim after they fell out of the Europa League. A late rally in their last-16 tie against Sporting Lisbon was not enough to prevent them from exiting the competition on away goals.

City went into the game at Etihad Stadium 1-0 down from the first leg and fell further behind after a lacklustre first-half showing. The three-goal deficit proved too much and Toure bemoaned City's attitude before the break.

"In the first half it wasn't Man City. We didn't run, it was as simple as that, and when you don't run you can't win anything," admitted Toure.

"The second half was much better and we need to play like that every game, for the whole game."

Toure added City are desperate to lift the title: "We don't want to lose the Premier League. It's going to be fantastic. This team will fight with all our power and give all we have."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spain target more Euro glory

Spain were peerless on their way to winning Euro 2008 and are quite rightly favourites this time around after sweeping all before them in the years since.

Spain became only the second nation to emerge from the group with a 100 per cent record and win the European Championship itself, and were the first side since Germany in 1996 to go through the competition undefeated.

Spain laid down a marker in their very first game. They began the championship with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over a dangerous Russia outfit, David Villa sending out a strong message with a brilliant hat-trick. Fans of Betfair will have been impressed.

The striker was the hero again in the second game as Spain broke Swedish hearts in Innsbruck. Villa's last-gasp winner denied Sweden a hard-earned 1-1 draw.

Luis Aragones' side had already secured top spot and a place in the quarter-finals by the time they beat Greece 2-1 in their final group game.

Spain's reward for topping the group was a clash with World Cup champions Italy, who had found their way out of the Group of Death. Spain edged past Italy on penalties and set up another meeting with Russia for a place in the final.

Spain overcame a nervy first half display to overpower the Russians. The 3-0 victory set up a final date with Germany in Vienna.

Spain were favourites and lived up to the billing with a composed and stylish display in a 1-0 win. They had finally shaken the tag of underachievers and lifted their first major title in 44 years. Those looking at the Betfair Euro 2012 betting will be expecting a repeat performance.

The final was the perfect end to the perfect tournament for Spain and they have not looked back. Despite some indifferent form in 2011, they will be the team to beat at Euro 2012.

N'Zonzi concentrating on Blackburn

Blackburn midfielder Steven N'Zonzi has laughed off talk comparing him to his idol Patrick Vieira but says he would love to have as successful a career as the former France captain.

Comparisons have been made between N'Zonzi and his hero this season due to the similarities in both their build and style of play and the23-year-old has now been linked with a possible move to Vieira's old club Arsenal, as the Gunners' look to add some extra physicality to their midfield.

Vieira enjoyed a glittering career at both club and international level, including winning the World Cup in 1998 and N'Zonzi says he is flattered to be compared to him, especially so early in his career.

"It's true many people have said that I remind them of Vieira," he told The Independent.

"Everyone was looking to be like Vieira. I think people said it more of me because of my face, and I'm tall and quite skinny like him.

"He was a big, big player. I'm just beginning. I'm a little player compared to him."

N'Zonzi moved to Ewood Park in 2009 and has slowly developed into an all action midfielder. His progress this season has led to Rovers' boss Steve Kean repeatedly praising his performances as the side look to avoid relegation.

The youngster is understandably pleased that he has impressed his manager and says he's not worried about the responsibility of now being seen as a senior player in the side.

"I don't feel any pressure from that," he explained. "I just try to do my best like any other player.

"Even if I am still a young player, and have some experiences to learn, I think that year after year you learn more, grow in confidence, and it becomes easier to play".

Written by Tom, a fan of football and online betting.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Who will win Euro 2012?

The European Championship in Ukraine and Poland is approaching so I feel it's time to take a more in-depth look as to which nation stands the best chance of winning this competition.

I don't think that you'd have to look beyond the usual heavyweights to find the winner of this tournament, either. The usual suspects are Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, and England and I'd be amazed if it wasn't one of them.

England are traditional let-downs in big tournaments due to either a lack of determination, a lack of cohesion, or perhaps even just a lack of confidence. Either way, England never do well in big tournaments nowadays and given the severe lack of quality in the English ranks, I don't see it being them that wins this tournament and the Euro 2012 betting reflects this.

Portugal promise a lot but generally fail to deliver due to a lack of quality strikers. Their midfield is absolutely superb and Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the top players in the world but this side misses a poacher and they'll miss that the most in the tighter games and thus I don't see this European Championship ending as theirs.

Italy boast some huge names but little else nowadays as they're in something of a transitional period. Barring the likes of Pepe and Balotelli, Italy are very slow and predictable. This means that they find it harder to score against sides and thus an early exit from this tournament would not surprise me.

Netherlands are in a bit of a transitional period too, realistically speaking. They've still got world-class midfielders in Robben, van der Vaart, and Sneijder. However, if we take them out of the equation then their midfield is good to average and the onus would be entirely upon Robin van Persie to carry them. Netherlands are good enough in attack to cause problems but weak enough in defence to lose the big games.

France under Laurent Blanc are not to be underestimated as he's instilled strong belief in the French squad and he's given them a lot of discipline. They now play football like Bordeaux when he was in charge there and they're very efficient as a result. They're not the best side in this tournament but they could go far with Blanc at the helm. People who bet on football need to bear this in mind.

I can't look past Spain winning the tournament though. They have far too many quality players in every position for me to consider any other side. The only sides that Spain tends to struggle with are South American nations and they won't be encountering any of those here. Germany pose Spain's biggest threat with some excellent midfielders but they lack the defensive composure and the finesse to better the likes of Spain. I'll be surprised if Spain don't win the Euro 2012 because it really is theirs to throw away, given their golden generation of players.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mancini hints at Tevez return

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has hinted that Carlos Tevez could feature in next week’s crunch Premier League clash with Chelsea.
The 28-year-old Argentina international striker has not been used by Mancini since September when he was accused of failing to warm up during the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
Tevez has played two reserve games in recent weeks to build his fitness levels up but is ineligible to play in Thursday’s Europa League last-16 second leg encounter with Sporting Lisbon. City trail 1-0 after last week’s first leg in Portugal.
Asked whether Tevez would play his first competitive live football for six months against Chelsea, Mancini replied: "We will see in the next week. It depends on Carlos. Will he be OK? Probably, but it depends on a lot of things."
When City play Chelsea they could be four points behind rivals Manchester United in the title race.
Mancini’s team lost the leadership of the Premier League on Sunday when they were beaten 1-0 at Swansea City while United were easing to a 2-0 victory against West Brom, meaning their premier league odds have slipped in favour of their bitter rivals.
United play at Wolves on Sunday while City are without a match this weekend.
Tevez has scored 44 goals in 69 Premier League games for City having previously played for Boca Juniors, Corinthians, West Ham United and Manchester United.
He seemed certain to leave City during the January transfer window after returning to Argentina without the club's permission, but now looks set to return to action this month.
City’s faltering run away from home is behind their recent stutter. They have won all 14 of their Premier League matches at the Etihad Stadium this season but have secured three-point hauls in only two of their last eight away games.

Fergie: Man U have had a "disappointing year"

Sir Alex Ferguson reflected on a "disappointing year" after Manchester United were unceremoniously dumped out of Europe by Athletic Club at San Mames on Thursday (Live soccer betting: 4/7 Manchester United - Premier League outright bet365).

The reigning Premier League champions were given a harsh lesson on home soil in the first leg when Marcelo Biesla's high-energy La Liga outfit ran out comfortable 3-2 winners.

The task was made even more difficult when they conceded an early goal in the return fixture to the impressive Fernando Llorente. Oscar de Marcos doubled his side's advantage before Wayne Rooney halved the deficit on the night with an excellent consolation strike from range.

The result means United have won just three of their 10 games in Uefa competition and suffered a hat-trick of losses for the first time since 2004 - an alarming fall from grace for a team that contested three of the last four Champions League finals.

Ferguson pulled no punches with a damning assessment of his side's form in Europe this season and confirmed he would endeavour to find out what went wrong.

"Trying to analyse this season against others is a bit difficult," he said. "There is a route in terms of some of the goals we have lost in these tournaments. They have been pretty poor.

"It has been a disappointing year."

The game's longest-serving manager said sulking was not an option and demanded his players pick themselves up for a trip to Wolves on Sunday and the chance to open up a four-point gap over local rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League (Soccer betting tips: Wolves 8/1 draw 4/1 Manchester United 1/3 - bet365 90 minutes).

"Feeling sorry for myself is not an issue for me," he added. "There is a disappointment but analysing the performances is more important and we have an important game on Sunday."

Lavicka: Sydney can gaing revenge on Melbourne Heart

Vitezslav Lavicka says Saturday night's clash gives his Sydney FC players the chance to right the wrongs of their 4-0 hammering by Melbourne Heart when the two clubs last met at the end of 2011 (Live soccer betting: Melbourne Heart 13/10 draw 12/5 Sydney FC 2/1 - 90 minutes bet365).

Lavicka said the Sky Blues should not need any reminders about their night to forget at the Allianz Stadium on December 29 and urged his players to use it as motivation to give their play-offs push a shot in the arm.

Sydney trail John van 't Schips' men by one point and two places - with the two teams separated by Newcastle Jets - but have their end-of-season push in their own hands (Soccer betting tips: Sydney FC 20/1 - A League outright bet365).

The final game of the regular season will see the Jets make the trip south for what could be a pivotal clash.

"Please don't remind me," Lavicka replied, when asked about the 4-0 defeat by Heart.

"We know they have quality. They play good quality football, especially if they have time and space to play quick counter.

"We watched how we played them last time in Sydney and we were destroyed by them."

He added: "We know another tough game is coming this week, but they need to pick up the points as well.

"So it's going to be a very exciting game for both sides and a very important game for both sides."

Sydney will be without last weekend's goal-scoring hero Karo Kisel because of suspension after the Slovakian picked up an eighth yellow card of the season.

Date: Saturday, March 17
Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT
Venue: AAMI Park