Sunday, 29 April 2012

Will Team GB win Olympic football gold?

There’s long been a debate as to whether Great Britain should have four different national football sides or not. That debate has lessened in recent years, as Scotland and Wales have secured a greater measure of independence. 

Nevertheless, Britain competes at each Olympic Games as a combined Great Britain team, so why should football be any different?

At London 2012, Great Britain’s combined football team will be doing all they can to win Olympic gold under the watchful eye of coach, Stuart Pearce. 

However, the Football Association of Wales and its Scottish and Northern Irish equivalents fear that endorsing a Great Britain team will encourage other countries to demand that the four home nations always play as a combined Great Britain team. 

What is wrong with that? Why should Great Britain have four different teams? And if the team does win gold at London 2012, or comes anywhere close to it, surely that lends even greater weight to the argument?

Imagine how much stronger a Great Britain side that included Ryan Giggs would have been over the last 20 years, or one that was able to include Gareth Bale today. The side would certainly be a more popular side in Olympics 2012 odds.

The Olympic football tournament is an under-23 competition, but three players over 22 can be included in the team. Perhaps the youthful factor is the key to a future Team GB in international football. If the team wins, there will surely be a clamour in certain quarters, but it is mainly in Scotland where the independence line is strongest.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) refused to attend meetings when the Home Nations first met to discuss the possibility of a combined Team GB – then the Football Association of Wales withdrew, and later, the Irish FA (representing Northern Ireland) announced they would not take part.

Obviously, their fears are that it sets a precedent they would not welcome, but this is ridiculous, as witnessed by the performance of the other home nations at international level. At least a Team GB across all football events would give them a decent chance of winning something, a case that will surely be strengthened by a great showing from Football Team GB at London 2012.

Follow the trials and tribulations of Team GB at

Friday, 27 April 2012

Adrian the Man for Atletico

Adrian further established his growing reputation with a stunning goal for Atletico Madrid, as the club secured their place in the Europa League final in Bucharest, running out 5-2 aggregate winners against La Liga rivals, Valencia.

The striker added a ninth Europa League goal to his tally in this year’s competition, helping the club reach the final, where they will now meet Athletic Bilbao. Madrid are clear favourites for the victory in the Europa League odds.

Going into the second-leg at the Mestalla with a 4-2 lead from the first leg, Atletico always looked as though they were all but booked into the final, and never really looked in danger of being overrun.

The hosts started the game well and had enough chances to ensure Atletico had to maintain their full focus, without ever really managing to show the sort of clinical attacking that they have been producing every week in La Liga.

With an hour gone, the visitors effectively ended the tie as a contest through the in-form Adrian. The striker cut in from the right, and fired a stunning shot past the helpless Diego Alves, in the Valencia goal.

That was all it took for Valencia to realise this was not going to be their year for Europa glory; Unai Emery’s men looked dead and buried with half an hour to go.

With the game all but over, Atletico midfielder, Tiago, decided he did not want to be available for the final. He aimed a needless slap towards the face of Valencia striker, Roberto Soldado, resulting in a red card and suspension for the final against Bilbao, later this month.

The sending off may have taken some shine away from the result. However, when the final whistle went, the Atletico players and staff showed just what it meant to them to have secured their place in the final.

For the best coverage of the Europa League, visit

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Mourinho Planning to Stay Put

Jose Mourinho insists his future lies at Real Madrid, despite media reports that have linked the Portuguese manager to a return to England.

The former Chelsea boss was rumoured to be mulling over a return to Chelsea or Manchester City, should the latter fail to win the Premier League, this season.

Mourinho’s Real are seven points clear in La Liga, leaving the Portuguese on the brink of a league title in a fourth different country.

"At the moment, my future is not important, but I think I will be here next season", Mourinho said. "I have a contract with the club, and no reason to leave. It is better to stay at a club for four or five years."

Mourinho joined Real Madrid from Inter Milan in May 2010 on a four-year deal, but he has publicly spoken of his desire to return to England one day. It now looks as if the English public will have to wait for a second glimpse of ‘the Special One’.

As well as chasing a fourth title in a different country, Mourinho is closing in on a third Champions League success. The 49-year-old lifted the trophy with Porto in 2004 and Inter in 2010.

Standing in Mourinho and Real’s way are Bayern Munich, who take a 2-1 lead into the semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu.

Real go into the clash on Wednesday buoyed by a crucial 2-1 victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, last weekend, and as favourites to book their place in the Munich showpiece. Make the fixture even more enticing with some Champions League promotions.

Following Chelsea’s stunning aggregate victory over the Catalan giants, on Tuesday night, Mourinho could face his former employers in a mouth-watering final, on May 19. The match is likely to be a highlight of the season for fans gambling on football.

Monday, 23 April 2012

United Lack Firepower as Evans Begins Jail Term

With two games remaining in the regular League One season, the race for automatic promotion couldn’t be much tighter. Sheffield United are now just one point ahead of their steel city rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, and must now contemplate life without top scorer, Ched Evans.

Evans, 23, was sentenced to five years in prison, this week, after being found guilty of rape. It now seems likely that his promising football career is at an end. 

Evans, who signed for Sheffield United from Manchester City, in 2009, for a reported £3m, had scored 35 goals, this season, and had been instrumental in launching the Blades towards the Championship. 

Following his side’s recent defeat to MK Dons, Manager Danny Wilson commented: “you miss a player who scores 35 goals in a season, of course you do”. Sheffield United’s second top scorer, this season, is midfielder, Lee Williamson, who has scored just 12 goals.

The club will undoubtedly miss Evans’ potency in front of goal. The Blades do have striking experience in their squad, with the likes of Richard Cresswell and James Beattie, who have both scored heavily over the years, available to Wilson.

Despite the defeat, Wilson was positive about United’s chances: “you're dealt little blows at certain times in the season, every club is. We've had a couple, this season, that we've dealt with, and we'll deal with this one”, he said.  

Sheffield Wednesday could temporarily regain second spot in the league, if they win away at Brentford, next Saturday; their game kicks off two hours ahead of United’s clash with Stevenage. 

The final weekend of the regular season sees the Blades travel to Exeter, whilst the Owls host Wycombe. Both Sheffield clubs will be hoping to make this their last action of 2011/12, to avoid the dreaded play-offs. United are the favourites for promotion to the Championship, after the triumphant Charlton, at 2/7 with YouWin.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Martinez Delighted with Incredible Run

Wigan Athletic boss, Roberto Martinez, believes that his side are finally getting full value for their performances, following four wins in their last five games.

The Latics have hit form at just the right time of the season and, arguably, during their toughest run of the campaign, to pull clear of the relegation zone.

Wigan were bottom of the pile only a month ago, but first-ever victories at Liverpool and Arsenal, and a maiden win over Manchester United, have turned their season around. The only blot on their copybook was a controversial 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

Martinez admitted Wigan were struggling for confidence while they were rock bottom.

"We had performances - to mention a few: Norwich, Aston Villa and West Brom - where we played really, really well but didn't get the points", he said.

"That was because of the position we had in the table and the connotations that affect our final-third play – that stops you from scoring goals and getting points."

The shock 2-1 victory at Anfield proved to be a watershed in Wigan’s season, and Martinez believes they have gone "into a different dimension" since the famous win.

"Probably the most pleasing aspect is that we deserved the points. That's credit to the players and how hard they've been working under the circumstances – with the real need of points and being in that position in the table", he added.

Wigan’s incredible run of results appears to have ensured another season in the Premier League. Martinez’s side sit 16th, five points clear of safety with four games remaining, though third-bottom Bolton Wanderers have two games in hand.

Managers prefer points on the board at this stage of the season and Martinez will feel confident of securing safety with time to spare if Wigan maintain their current form. Make your Premier League betting predictions with Betfred.

Tiote Not Leaving Tyneside

 Newcastle United star, Cheick Tiote, has refuted claims he is about to leave the club, and insists his future lies on Tyneside.

The Ivory Coast midfielder has been a revelation since his £3.5m switch from FC Twente, in the summer of 2010. He impressed enough to be offered a new six-and-a-half year deal, in February 2011. The contract will keep Tiote at Newcastle until 2017.

The length of the deal has not deterred interested parties, with Chelsea among the clubs reported to be lining up a bid for the 25-year-old.

Despite the interest, Tiote has no intention of going anywhere. He wants to help the side claim an unexpected Champions League place.

"I'm a Newcastle player; my future is at Newcastle. I'm playing for Newcastle and I have to finish this season strongly to help the team get into Europe", Tiote told the Evening Chronicle.

"If we do that, it will be good for the club and the fans. We are in a great position now."

Newcastle are all but assured of a place in Europe, next season, after Liverpool beat Everton in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final. The Football Association confirmed the result means that a sixth place finish in the Premier League will earn a Europa League spot for the Magpies.

Following an incredible season, the Magpies will not be content with (only) a first European appearance since 2006. They have their eyes on a top-four spot with five games remaining. The team have a good chance of accomplishing their goal, according to the Premier League best odds.

Newcastle sit fifth, level on points with Tottenham Hotspur in fourth, and five points behind Arsenal, with a game in hand. They face Stoke City at home, on Saturday. The side could be a fixture of Champions League knock-out bets, next year.

Tiote has played a central role in Newcastle's return to prominence. The club will be looking to add to their key men in the summer, rather than have to replace them.

Falcao gives Atletico advantage

Radamel Falcao continued his stunning form, this season, with two more goals to guide Atletico Madrid to a 4-2 victory in their Europa League semi-final first-leg against Valencia.

The Columbian striker’s brace, along with goals from Miranda and Adrian Lopez, ensured that the Madrid side would head to the Mestalla for the return leg with a two-goal advantage.

Falcao’s first came just before the 20-minute mark, when the striker headed home from an Adrian cross to give the hosts the lead. Valencia managed to get themselves back into the tie just before the half-time break, when an Adil Rami knockdown was finished by Jonas.

Atletico, the 2010 Europa League champions, came out of the break full of life, quickly gaining the advantage courtesy of Miranda’s head and some shocking marking by the Valencia defenders.

Adrian slipped home his side’s third soon after, coolly sliding in from a tight angle, after some more poor marking.

The tournament’s top scorer, Falcao, made it 4-1 on the night with 12 minutes remaining, smashing home a belting effort from outside the box, to send the home fans away in dreamland.

Ricardo Costa gave the visitors some hope, with the last touch of the match, when he headed a late goal, giving Valencia something to hang onto for the return leg.

The man-of-the-match, Falcao, admitted that it was a case of job done following the comprehensive victory. While not claiming the tie was all but over, the striker made it clear Atletico had achieved what they had set out to do: achieve a healthy lead going into the second-leg.

"The important thing is that we won convincingly. The victory is ours, as well as the advantage in the tie, so we have done a very good job." Madrid are now very strong favourites for the win in the return leg in the Europa League odds.

For more information on the Europa League, visit

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Terry Heaps Praise on Hero Drogba

John Terry heaped praise on Chelsea hero, Didier Drogba, after the striker’s winning goal handed the Londoners a 1-0 advantage in their Champions League semi-final tie against Barcelona.

The Ivorian frontman swept home the only goal of the game just before half time, getting on the end of a Ramires cross to send Stamford Bridge into raptures. It was a lead that Chelsea managed to hang onto, fending off wave upon wave of Barcelona attack.

Roberto Di Matteo’s men produced the kind of defensive display they will need to repeat at the Camp Nou, next week, if they are going to surprise the Champions League odds and progress to the final.

Drogba’s goal came at the end of a half that had seen the striker put himself about without any rewards. The 34-year old deserved his goal, and weighed in with his fair share of defensive work when called upon.

Many had predicted Drogba would struggle to follow up his match winning performance the previous weekend, against Spurs, with another in the same week. The former Marseilles star proved those doubters wrong, however, making it clear that he is still capable of producing the goods on the big occasions.

While some believe Drogba’s Chelsea career is ending, his captain admitted the striker is still an essential part of the team’s plans. Terry admitted that the victory against Barcelona had not been easy, praising the defensive effort put in by the whole team.

“We had to be very patient, I don't think we touched the ball for the first 15 minutes but from Didi on his own up front, the midfield and defence, it was a great team performance.”

“Didier is all about these big nights, the big occasions. He put fear into the Spurs defence, at the weekend, and he did that again tonight.”

“He was up there on his own against some of best defenders in world and he did it brilliantly”, said Terry. Whether the player can replicate his performance at the Bridge in the Premier League is debatable. However, ‘Didi’ remains a popular conversation topic over at Betfair Premier League.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Liverpool Playing Second Fiddle

“Celebrate good times c’mon” were the lyrics pumping out of every Liverpool fan's vocal cords, at the weekend, as the Reds celebrated overcoming their bitter rivals, Everton, in the FA Cup semi-final.

However, whilst the celebrations in the red half of Merseyside may well continue for a few days to come, the reality remains that Liverpool are now a side playing second fiddle to the top teams in England.

It could be argued that Liverpool are using their cup success to disguise the fact that they have completely and utterly failed in the Premier League, this season.

Granted, Liverpool won the Carling Cup, and are now in the final of the FA Cup, but they have achieved this after pulling off a few decent performances in the Cups, rather than through confidence built after a consistent run of league form.

The owners of the club, Fenways Sports, are more than aware that they are not going to earn the big bucks by playing well in the FA Cup or the Carling Cup - although, anybody indulging in some FA Cup betting is likely to view the situation differently.

With the Reds needing Champions League football, if they are going to stand a chance of taking Liverpool back to the levels that the club achieved in the 1980s, when they dominated British football, and to an extent European football as well, you can see where the problem currently lies.

The aim for Liverpool this season has boiled down to winning the FA Cup, but the players will know that they'll have to stand up and be counted next season in the Premier League, as they once again face the reality of life without the Champions League. 

Whether King Kenny is the man to lead next year's charge remains to be seen. Pending some drastic changes, the Reds are unlikely to start the season as favourites in the Premier League odds.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Would QPR be missed?

The likes of Norwich and Swansea have offered something new and exciting, in what has been a tough season for the Premier League, with both sides playing great football and entertaining fans of soccer betting beyond their respective fan bases.

The reality remains, however, that fellow newly-promoted team QPR have become an outfit that is all too easy to dislike.

Sure, they didn't exactly lose any fans by sacking Neil Warnock, who isn't the most universally loved manager in the English game, but they have shed supporters through the manner in which Tony Fernandes has conducted himself, as well as the team's behaviour on the pitch at times this season.

With Joey Barton having failed to control his 'dislikeable' side, and the likes of Paddy Kenny bringing a fair bit of baggage along with them to the club, QPR have somehow managed to get rid of the spine of the team that brought them up into the Premier League. The escapees have been replaced with the sort of overpaid player that has no real love of the club or its history.

If QPRdo go down then it seems likely that they will have to replace large sections of the team they have assembled, while also massively cutting their wage bill, if they are to stand any chance of coming back up and staying in a decent financial position.

This may well be pure speculation at the moment, but there's little doubting the fact that the trap door is slowly but surely opening for QPR, leaving them in a position where they are just about ready to drop down into the brutal world of the Championship. The Hoops are currently third-favourites for the drop in Relegation Betting.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Wilshere to make Euros?

Arsenal fans will have been disappointed not to see midfielder, Jack Wilshere, in action in the Premier League this season. With the youngster nearing a return to full fitness, will he do enough to earn a place on the plane for the European Championships, this summer?

It was disappointing to hear the news that Wilshere had suffered a nasty ankle injury before the first ball was kicked in the ongoing Premier League season. The 20-year-old was injured during a pre-season tour of the United States, and has since been frustrated by setbacks, having originally been told that he would be back in the thick of the action by February.

Arsenal - and, indeed, people enjoying a bet on the Premier League - have missed Wilshere in the middle of the park. Arsene Wenger has limited options in midfield at the Emirates, this season. The Frenchman has admitted that the next few weeks will be important in the player’s recovery.

He said: "We try to keep the hope alive for him and without taking too many risks. That means we adapt day to day, to manage him, to improve his physical state and get him fit as quickly as we can without taking too big a risk, which means when he has pain, we stop him."

The big question on most peoples’ lips is: will Wilshere will be fit enough to delight fans of live football in the last few games of the season, and to push for a place in England’s Euro 2012 squad for the trip to Poland and the Ukraine this summer?

As with the Gunners, there are limited top-class players in the middle of the park for the Three Lions, and if Wilshere can get himself playing before the end of the domestic campaign, then he will certainly have a chance at the national side.