Thursday, 24 January 2013

Six Championship clubs eyeing fifth-round spots

While most of the attention surrounding the FA Cup fourth round will focus on Premier League teams and possible giant-killing fixtures, there are six Championship clubs going head-to-head with league rivals to earn a place in the fifth round.

No doubt Derby v Blackburn, Hull v Barnsley and Huddersfield v Leicester will see little air time on Match of the Day Saturday evening, but just ask fans of this Championship sextuple if they care about progressing or not. The answer will overwhelmingly be positive, and up against opponents from the same league all six teams will fancy their chances on Saturday.

Looking at the FA Cup betting, as well as the form guide, Leicester appear favourites to progress, sitting as they do second in the league against 18th placed Huddersfield. They beat the Terriers 6-1 at the Walkers Stadium on New Year’s day and have won both ties ever played between the two at the John Smiths (formerly the Galpharm) Stadium.

Derby and Blackburn must both fancy their chances between each other: just one point separating the pair in the league and equal on +1 goal difference. These sides have played more than 100 competitive fixtures over the years and in October shared a 1-1 draw at Pride Park. Expect another close encounter with neither side showing good form of late.

Possibly the most enticing Championship tie of the fourth round is relegation-threatened Barnsley’s trip east, where a Hull side stuck in a rut awaits. This cross-Yorkshire derby saw Hull sneak a 1-0 win earlier in the season but under new boss David Flitcroft the Tykes have begun to turn things around. They have won two of their last three matches and rose off the bottom of the table – a feat few fans in the thought would happen.The best value tips football -wise this weekend could well be with the Tykes.

Hull are without a win in five matches (excluding their extra-time exploits over Leyton Orient in round three) and harbour hopes of gaining promotion this season, so Steve Bruce’s side may waver their Cup efforts and not prove the formidable opponents their league position suggests. If Flitcroft can inspire his troops to continue their purple patch an upset is very much on the cards.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Villas-Boas Admits he has Learnt his Lesson

Tottenham boss, Andre Villas-Boas, says he has learned from the mistakes of his short-lived spell at Chelsea and believes it has made him a better manager.

The Portuguese coach arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2011, following a record-breaking season with Porto that saw them surprise fans placing a bet on football, by doing the domestic double and winning the Europa League.
Part of his remit was to reinvigorate the squad as the Blues looked to be coming to end of a cycle, having relied on many of the players that saw them to success under Jose Mourinho for almost a decade.

However, the 35-year-old struggled to impose himself in West London, regularly clashing with some of the club’s senior squad members, as he immediately tried to change the playing staff, often excluding the likes of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole form his starting line-up.

This inevitably led to tension at the club and he eventually left the Bridge in March, but was quickly brought back to the Premier League by local rivals, Tottenham, during the summer.

Despite losing both Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart in the summer, the young coach recruited extremely well and his side have now even set a target of finishing second in the table.

Villas-Boas freely admits that he made mistakes during his time at Chelsea but believes it has only benefited him at White Hart Lane.

"What we are doing nowadays at Tottenham with my staff is a reaction toward Chelsea, an echo to the mistakes we did," he told the Premier League betting news.

"Everything we did there was not wrong, but we could have done better. It has not affected the way I am viewing football, but I admit I thought a lot about it."

Monday, 14 January 2013

Scoreline Proves Benitez was Right to Start Ba

The look on Fernando Torres’ face as he took his seat on the Chelsea substitutes bench before kick-off against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon said it all.

New boy, Demba Ba, who joined the club for just 14% of Torres’ transfer fee a week ago, was given the nod for a second time in three games and proved a competent lone striker against two of the Premier League’s toughest and most robust centre-halves.

Granted, Ba did not score but that does not matter: he did his job, was instrumental in Chelsea’s forward plays and looked a constant threat up front.

Indeed, he may not have found the net but his ability to hold the ball up, distribute to an oncoming midfield, and get into space in the box proved just what an asset Rafael Benitez now has in his arsenal.

Chelsea have lacked someone of Ba’s stature and physical presence since Didier Drogba left in the summer and have struggled because of it – and we all know how good he was.

Benitez was brought in to try to inspire more out of Torres but that effort has not really paid off – the striker has not scored in five games since Christmas. Chelsea have no other recognised striker after selling Daniel Sturridge and so Ba’s arrival is pivotal to their efforts to get back into the title race.

All this means that when Benitez brings in a £7m signing and immediately feels the benefit in his two-goal debut against Southampton, it is clear the boss will start that new arrival for the next couple of games. Torres looked furious on the bench but there is no real way he can complain if his new strike partner continually puts in good performances.

Don’t forget that with the New Year’s football firmly underway, now is a great time to indulge in some betting on Premier League. Visit the Betfair website for the latest odds, tips, and news for England’s top competition:

Friday, 4 January 2013

Everton begin policy to keep stars at club

Phil Jagielka will probably see out his career at Everton after the centre-back penned a new contract with the club extending his stay until 2017, a time span that could witness a Toffees resurgence on the world footballing stage.

Jagielka signed the new deal on the day the club released financial results that show a steep increase in net loss from £5.4m in 2010/11 to £9.1m in 2011/12 – a rise mainly down to higher wage demands as David Moyes builds a more competitive squad.

Indeed, the club now reportedly spend £63.4m on player salaries per year, around 75% of its turnover. In 2010/11 Everton were the 15th highest spenders in the league yet finished in 7th place, a result that raised this patronising adulation for Moyes of having ‘done oh so well on such little resources’.

Well, with the news Jagielka has signed a new deal and Seamus Coleman extended his contract until 2018, it appears the club are ready to move forward and speculate more with their finances – securing the long-term services of their players so they can stage an attack on the upper echelons of the Premier League, something punters over at Betfair  have taken note of.

Everton have already looked healthy this season and sit in fifth place below the cavalier Tottenham and an unpredictable Chelsea side. Although income is scarce they have invested in the squad with Steven Pienaar (£4.5m), Kevin Mirallas (£6m) and Nikica Jelavic (£6m) all arriving over the past 12 months and their top four Premier League odds are the lowest they have been for years.

Moyes was ‘lucky’ to sell Mikel Arteta and Jack Rodwell for £25m combined, two transfers that have probably instigated a new policy of anchoring stalwart players to big contracts.

For that is where Everton will find success in the future: not in big-name signings but from a team of players together over a number of seasons battling for the same cause. In Jagielka they have a leader in defence for four more years and Coleman an exciting talent for the midfield.

Darron Gibson, Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini are all tied down until 2016, while Jelavic will stay with the Toffees a year later, meaning Moyes now has a settled squad ready to take on more difficult challenges in the league and in Europe.