Friday, 28 September 2012

Teammates Right to Jump to Suarez's Defence

Luis Suarez has been defended by some of his Liverpool teammates and manager, Brendan Rodgers, after claims that he does not get free kicks or penalties because he goes to ground far too easily.

In the past, the Uruguayan has irked plenty with his 'ability' to go tumbling in the box after the slightest touch - or sometimes the lack of it - but, in recent weeks, the forward has had at least two legitimate penalties waved away. 

It is about time that referees judged each incident on its own and forget about his past misdemeanors. 

Plenty of other top players have managed to win penalties by going down under the slightest contact without too much criticism but, for some reason, Suarez is a marked man, and appears to have no chance of getting a spot kick at the moment, unless he is blatantly hacked down.

It is true that sometimes Suarez has been guilty of looking for penalties but, again, in only the same way plenty of other players, past and present, have done so. However, Suarez appears to be being singled out by refs who are deliberately ignoring his just appeals because of who he is.

The striker was somehow booked for simulation at Sunderland last week when he went down after clearly being caught in the area and, to compound the Reds' striker's misery, he was then denied a spot-kick against Manchester United at Anfield, when Jonny Evans clipped him.

Again, it is true that Suarez did throw himself down a tad too excitedly but, again, it was a legitimate foul - no more or less than when Antonio Valencia stumbled at the other end but, this time, referee Mark Halsey did point to the spot.

It has been an extremely frustrating start to the season for Liverpool, as results have failed to match plenty of positive, attacking performances. Against both Manchester clubs, Rodgers' side did more than enough to win after dominating last season's top two at Anfield but ended up with just a point out of both games.

But refereeing decisions have also gone against them at crucial times this term, with penalties and sendings-off hitting Rodgers' side hard. Daniel Agger and Jonjo Shelvey have both been rather harshly shown straight reds while three spot-kicks in five league games could all be placed in the 'soft' category.

Liverpool's luck must surely have to change soon. Suarez, regularly one of the most fouled players in the league, will hope his does too.

Fans planning to bet on football, this weekend, should check out the Opta Stats: Norwich v Liverpool. Alternatively, gamblers looking forward to next week’s European fixtures can find more tips to bet on Champions League football on Betfair.

Friday, 21 September 2012

McDermott not worried by controversy

Reading boss Brian McDermott insists that everyone at the club is behind him despite the recent controversy surrounding his decision to drop goalkeeper Adam Federici.

The Royals have struggled since their promotion to the Premier League and have so far earned just a single point from their three games, a run that has left them languishing in the relegation zone ahead of Saturday's trip to West Brom.

One of the reasons for their slump has been the form of Federici, who despite making a number of fine saves, has also made a string of errors, most notably spilling a late equaliser into his goal on the opening day against Stoke.

This inspired McDermott to look for alternatives to the Australian and he opted to start with youngster Alex McCarthy for Sunday's 3-1 home defeat to Tottenham, a result predicted by most experts from within the sports betting community.

The decision prompted Federici's girlfriend to take to twitter to criticise the coach for dropping the 27-year-old, a move that caused outrage amongst the Royals' fans.

However, the unflappable McDermott says he's not too concerned about the incident, or the latest odds that suggest the Royals will struggle to avoid the drop, insisting that everyone at the club is pulling in the same direction.

"I've had many issues at football clubs that have been kept very quiet, we've dealt with them and moved on,” he said. "Sometimes these become public for whatever reason.

You see it every day at other clubs, but generally you don't see it here. If it's out there then that's a shame.

"I would understand the fans could think there is unrest, but there is no unrest around here, it's very simple.

"Adam Federici has done fantastic for me and I know him really well as a person and player. He works really hard, but things haven't gone his way so Alex has come into the team,” he added.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Celtic Now Have it all to Do

Neil Lennon’s Celtic have a tough task ahead of them to qualify for the knock-out stages of this season’s Champions League, after drawing their opening match 0-0 with Benfica this week.

Celtic Park was the scene of jubilation just three weeks ago, as the Scottish champions qualified for their first European Cup campaign in three years, defeating a despondent Helsingborg.

Maybe it was seen as ‘job done’ then, with Champions League qualification top priority, yet as soon as Wednesday’s game kicked off suddenly a new challenge arose: escaping the group stage.

Fan expectation was high, yet Lennon’s men could not force any momentum into the game while Benfica were happy to sit back.

The betting tips for football had suggested that the key to Champions League progression from the group stages is to win your home games and hope to pinch a point on the road.          

Benfica have certainly got their campaign off to a good start with this point earned in Glasgow. Brazilian goalkeeper, Artur, was barely tested in the opening froes and, as the game went on, the Portuguese side looked increasingly comfortable in the middle of the park.

Neither team deserved to win, yet Lennon will still be disappointed about the result. Celtic are notoriously bad on the road in Europe and so home form is critical in escaping a difficult group that also incudes Barcelona and Spartak Moscow – two treacherous away trips.

Their fans will not be expecting much from the Nou Camp and so they will have to find three points in either Moscow or Lisbon. Celtic don’t yet need a miracle to qualify from this group but they do need to eke out a win on the road.

They travel to Moscow next to take on a Spartak side determined to take second place in Group G, and Lennon must instruct his team to go for it if they are to progress in the Champions League this season.

Fancy a safer bet for the Champions League title than the Hoops? Place a Manchester United bet on Bet Victor for the best odds on Fergie’s Red Devils.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mancini Wrong to Lambast Hart

Joe Hart gave one of the most honest and refreshing interviews, following Manchester City’s last gasp 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday night, and his manager, Roberto Mancini, had the nerve to round on him.

Coming off the pitch, the City keeper, who had a special game between the sticks, was collared by a TV reporter to give his assessment of City’s display, a match in which they squandered a 2-1 lead with minutes to go and lost the chance of an historic win at the Bernabeu.

Hart reflected with emotion on what was essentially a headless chicken display when the finish line beckoned. He refused to take the positives; thank God! There were none.

As he rightly said: “It's hard to come off the field after losing 3-2 and be positive. I'm really sorry. We're not a team that should come here and pat ourselves on the back for doing well. We're a team that gets results.”

Hart was right to criticise the team; anything less after the game would have been the same old pathetic media-trained garbage that the football-watching public have to stomach every match.

Mancini is a master of mind games during interviews, but he should not round on his keeper for speaking the truth.

Maybe Mancini should look at himself in the mirror and wonder why his team – who, let us be honest, have been awful in the Champions League since they joined – failed to get across the line.

If his team want to start winning at the top level, then they need mental toughening. Hart was merely pointing out the obvious.

City can take solace from the fact that the bookies still rate them highly in the Champions League odds; the Citizens are 62/5 with Betfair to win at Wembley in 2013.

Giggs puts faith in attacking duo

Manchester United veteran Ryan Giggs believes the attacking partnership between Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie could take his side to the next level in Europe.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were one of the major casualties of the group stages of last season’s Champions League, crashing out of what sport updates and predictions suggested was a fairly straightforward pool, before being destroyed over two legs by a rampant Athletic Bilbao side in the Europa League.

This prompted the veteran boss to try and add an extra dimension to his side and the introduction of Kagawa has even seen him change from his trusty 4-4-2 formation into a more fluid, continental set-up.

This means it’s more than likely that he’ll persist with playing just on up front and in former Arsenal skipper Van Persie, he has possibly the best target man in the world at his disposal.

United open their European account for the new season against Turkish side Galatasary on Wednesday and will also face Portuguese side Braga and CFR Cluj of Romania in the opening stages.

Giggs admits that the Red Devils were embarrassed by their shortcomings last season but believes their new star duo have the ability to take them back to the levels that previously saw them reach three Champions League finals out of four.

"Robin has the experience of playing in Europe with Arsenal," Giggs told a latest sport news network.

"The goals he has got will hopefully give us that extra edge this season.

"Shinji is that kind of player who will thrive in Europe, where possession is key. He keeps the ball and gets into positions where he is hard to pick up.

"I am sure they will both be very good additions in Europe for us," he added.

Tough season ahead for Saints

The season may only be a month old but already many who enjoy betting at Bet Victor are starting to see signs of who will be competing at the top and bottom of the Premier League table.

The top is already taking a familiar look, while at the bottom one club is finding life back in the top flight difficult.

Southampton, back in the Premier League for the first time since 2005, have lost all four of their games so far, the latest a 6-1 thrashing at Arsenal.

They have had a horror fixtures list, with the Gunners also joining the two Manchester clubs lurking the south coast club’s opening games, but their failure to grab even a point from their first month of the campaign means they are already on the back foot.

A fast start is essential for newly promoted clubs as they can build up a head of steam – momentum can take you a long way in this league.

Once the defeats start flowing though it becomes difficult to stop the rot, with the pressure to get a result increasing with each passing game.

It needs to be pointed out that just two years ago the Saints were in League One and still have a number of the players who played in that division in their squad. But Norwich City were in that same position 12 months ago and their solid start resulted in an eventual 12th place finish.

Some kinder fixtures await in the coming weeks for Southampton so there is time for them to turn their season around. But there is already pressure to win those encounters, pressure you don’t always have at this early stage of the season.

It’s sink or swim time, and if the Saints fail to keep their heads above water in the coming weeks, it will become a long, tough and ultimately heartbreaking campaign.

The race to avoid relegation is well and truly on, so make sure you check out the great odds at Bet Victor.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Rodgers to go before September Ends

Liverpool’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, will be out of contract before September ends. You heard it here first.

Since the American owner, John Henry, took over, little remorse has been shown to managers who have failed to deliver top results. Anyone who gets rid of Kenny Dalglish from Liverpool F.C. is clearly happy to pull the trigger when they are not happy.

Rodgers appointment from Swansea was a brave decision but since he has taken the reins at Anfield, the Merseyside-outfit have not lived up to the high standards expected by the 18-time league champions. 

Rodgers’ arrogant decision to leave out England and former Newcastle United striker, Andy Carroll, has left a bitter taste in the mouth, and the subsequent failure to secure the services of Clint Dempsey means the Reds are woefully short up front.

Nuri Sahin is untried and Fabio Borini has not looked like a marksman likely to net 20-plus league goals in his three outings so far.

Three games into the season and Liverpool sit in the relegation zone with a solitary point. Since Rafa Benitez left the club, Roy Hodgson and Dalglish have both failed on Merseyside, hardly two unknowns. 

With Sunderland away, an experimental Manchester United at home, and a trip to Carrow Road to face Norwich left this month, anything but seven points from those three fixtures and the Northern Irishman will be walking the plank.

Rodgers’ transfer policy has been poor. Joe Allen for £15million from his former club, who themselves have picked up what looks to be the bargain of the season, Michu, for £2million from Rayo Vallecona, and the inability to off-load Jordan Henderson means that Liverpool’s bench looks like a glum place to be right now.

If things do not change quickly, then there will be a vacant position on Merseyside once again, and it will not be at Goodison! 

Check out the weekend football betting odds on Betfair to see what the bookies think of the Reds’ chances against Sunderland.

Nations begin long road to World Cup qualification

With the 2014 World Cup qualifiers beginning this month, it's the perfect time to assess which countries out of the home nations can make it to Brazil in two years' time.

Roy Hodgson appears to be overseeing a transitional period for the Three Lions with a mixture of ageing but established stars being complemented by plenty of exciting, up-and-coming talents.
Hodgson had little time to prepare for the European Championships this summer and, after taking over from Fabio Capello just a few months before the tournament began, did a decent job of steadying the ship and taking England to the quarter-finals amid lower expectations.
They face what looks like a straightforward Group H with Moldova, Ukraine, Poland and San Marino. Not exactly representing the cream of Europe and the latest odds suggest they should top the group with ease. England have qualified with ease for the last few major finals only to struggle when through. They should again top the group without too many problems and a place in Brazil should be theirs. It's just then the hard work will begin.

 Scotland's last taste of major tournament football came way back in 1998 and it is high time they treated the Tartan Army to another.
Craig Levein appears to have a squad better equipped to fulfil that dream than at any point over the past 10 years and there is quiet confidence in the camp that the Scots can make it to Brazil in 2014.
They kick off against Serbia and will hope to get off to a good start because tougher tests await. Belgium, with a growing array of stars, are tipped to top Group A but Levein's side will fancy their chances of going through as runners-up ahead of the Serbs, Croatia, Wales and Macedonia.
Jordan Rhodes could just be the man to fire the goals required while there is plenty of talent elsewhere in the first-choice XI with the likes of  Ross McCormack, Robert Snodgrass, James Morrisson, Charlie Adam and, hopefully, a fit-again Darren Fletcher to call upon throughout the qualifying campaign.

 With Wales in the same group as the Scots, though, unfortunately it does not look so rosy for Chris Coleman's side ahead of their qualifying campaign.
The sad passing of Gary Speed affected plenty of the Welsh players and, understandably, the country, in football terms, was in a state of shock for several months after the manager's sudden death.
His absence meant much of the good work he was doing on the pitch has gone to waste and Coleman has had to pick up the pieces in very difficult and totally unwanted circumstances.
However, they will do their best to recover and some will hope they can even be inspired to serve Speed's memory well by qualifying for their first World Cup appearance since 1958, which is the only time they have made it onto the biggest international stage of all.
Do not rule out some Wales wins over the next 12 months and beyond, but the quality of their opponents means more overall disappointment looms.

Northern Ireland
It is also a very big ask for Michael O'Neill's side to make it through to Brazil despite Group F not looking too formidable beyond the experienced duo of Russia and Portugal.
The minnows may well fancy seeing off Israel and Luxembourg but, sadly for the province, they do have the aforementioned big two to contend with and their chances of finishing above either Russia or Portugal looks remote.
A lack of strength in depth could again be the biggest problem for the Northern Irish as their squad lacks players with big soccer games experience. Much will depend on how those with plenty of Premier League appearances, like Jonny Evans, Chris Brunt and Steven Davis, perform while Kyle Lafferty will be expected to find the net up front. They are always capable of a shock win here and there and expect effort and commitment in abundance but the quality beyond a couple of players is just not good enough for their qualification dream to be realised.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Distin lauds Everton ’quality’

Sylvain Distin stopped short of saying this is the best Everton squad since he moved there, but he did reveal his excitement at the team’s potential

The close-season is usually a grim time for the Toffees as they are often forced to sell their best players with limited funds being released from the banks’ clutches in order to fund replacements.

That leads to a sluggish start when the action does kick-off, leaving them to much catching-up to do when they do re-discover their form. It is no surprise then that most Premier League predictions had tipped them to start slowly this time around.

There have been major departures once more this summer, but Joseph Yobo, Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell are all not considered first-team players, leaving the core of the team intact.

With the money raised boss David Moyes has once again worked wonders, bringing in Steven Naismith, Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas, Bryan Oviedo, Matthew Kennedy and - bery late on deadline day - Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe on loan.

The boost that had given them contributed to a flying start that saw them beat Manchester United and then Aston Villa in their opening two games, though a 2-0 reverse at West Brom did bring them back down to earth. That said many punters betting on sports believe the Toffees could achieve something spectacular this season.

It could be the disappointing defeat at the Hawthorns that has strengthened Distin’s caution to go with his optimism, but he admits the positive feeling around the club makes a refreshing change after recent summer struggles.

"When you see new players coming in you know everything is moving in the right direction and that is what every single player wants," said Distin.

"It's a bit early to say this is the best squad during my time here.

"We need a bit of time for players to adapt and see how well they are going to do but I rarely remember the squad having so much quality.”