Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Spurs should easily see off Inter

Tottenham’s reward for their stoppage-time win over Lyon in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 is a two-legged tie with Internazionale, which begins this week at White Hart Lane.

Andre Villas-Boas’ side are in good form of late and football betting news pundits believe that they can make the top four this season, earn safe passage to the Champions League group stage and do battle with the best teams Europe has to offer.

Before then, however, there is the small matter of winning the Europa League – a genuine prospect for AVB’s men who have taken Europe by storm this season.

Having successfully navigated through a tough group stage, Spurs slipped past the Ligue 1 outfit thanks to Moussa Dembele’s late strike in the Stade Gerland. All great teams need a slice of luck like this, yet, up against Inter, they may not need quite as much.

For Inter are currently in a real slump in Serie A and many fans who bet on football expect manager, Andrea Stramaccioni, to restrict players from European action in order to concentrate on the league. Two weeks ago they were lucky to come away with a home 1-1 draw against city rivals AC Milan and in mid February lost 4-1 to fellow-Euro chasers Fiorentina.

Of course, Inter still pack a punch, with Rodrigo Palacio likely to pop up with a goal at any time, while Javier Zanetti is more than capable of structuring their midfield.

Yet Spurs should not be too worried about Inter this week. Three years ago, the teams met in Champions League competition and the Italian giants’ experience was just enough to topple Tottenham’s youthful exuberance.

Three years on and Spurs have grown from a team new to Europe to one capable of challenging for trophies and with Gareth Bale, Emmanuel Adebayor, Dembele and young Lewis Holtby they have a mix of talent, experience and determination that should see them through to the quarters.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Bradford’s Adventure comes to an Uncomfortable End

Bradford City fans had dared to dream the impossible dream; they believed that after a remarkable run to Wembley, the Bantams could overhaul one more giant and lift the League Cup.

Given they had already dumped Wigan, Aston Villa and Arsenal out of the competition, the idea of Yorkshire club beating Swansea was suddenly not such a fanciful one.

Sadly for the 32,000 fans that travelled down from West Yorkshire, the yawning gap between League Two and the Premier League was ruthlessly exposed, though that only served to show how impressive Bradford’s achievements were in making it to the final in the first place.

What made this year’s final special, however, was that whoever won, there would be a fantastic story behind it.

Ten years ago Swansea were battling to stay in the football league, but their remarkable rise – done without a billionaire benefactor yet still playing attractive, highly skilled football – was capped with their first major trophy in 100 years.

Michael Laudrup can rightly take credit for what the team has done this season, but so can Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, visionary managers whose philosophy re-built and re-moulded the football club into something the fans would have scarcely imagined a decade ago.

The big question is now - just how far can they go? They already have a European place in the bag and are on course for their highest top-flight finish for more than 30 years.

Keeping Laudrup at the helm could be their first challenge given apparent interest from Real Madrid. But looking at how they seamlessly moved on from Martinez and Rodgers, I highly doubt the Dane’s departure would stop the Swansea fairytale from continuing on a while yet.

While Swansea may be on their way to the Europa League, fans of the competition will need to find an alternative club to bet on this season. Visit the Europa League betting website for the latest from Europe: http://betting.betfair.com/football/capital-one-cup/

Monday, 18 February 2013

Moyes contract adds to uncertainty

Everton boss David Moyes’ decision to yet again put off contract talks suggests his tenure at Goodison Park may well be coming to an end.

The Scot’s current deal with the Blues expires at the end of the season and he has continually put off talks over a new one, citing a desire to receive assurances from the board regarding finance and investment.

Moyes has worked wonders during his 11 years on Merseyside, turning the club from relegation fodder to regular European challengers, all on a meagre budget that has often forced him to sell his best players.

The former Preston boss can rightly feel like he cannot do anymore at the club without some backing from the club’s hierarchy.

"I want to see how we do in the cups, I want to see how we do in the league, and it's more than likely I won't make a decision until the end of the season," Moyes was quoted as saying on  Betfair Football last week.

 Chairman Bill Kenwright has been open in his desire to sell the club, saying he simply does not have any spare cash, with any the club does have all going to the manager.

However, he has been saying that for more than five years now and with no new buyer on the horizon, it seems unlikely Moyes will receive the assurances he needs in order to commit himself to the club once more.

It isn’t just a case of Moyes jumping ship, however, as his potential new sides also come with caveats.

Chelsea and Manchester United are two names frequently mentioned in Betfair markets, but would the Red Devils go for Moyes, a boss who has never managed in the Champions League? And would Moyes want to make the move to Chelsea, despite all the extra financial backing he would get, given the job insecurity it would bring? Moyes calls all the shots at Goodison Park with no interference from the board, something he would certainly not get at Stamford Bridge.

Rumours over the weekend suggested Arsenal may be a destination, with the pressure growing on Arsene Wenger.

Given we are entering the final three months of the season, we won’t have to wait long to find out whether Moyes' time on Merseyside is coming to an end. But speak to plenty of Everton fans and they are already bracing themselves for his departure.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Bull Versus the Artist

Among the numerous one-on-one battles in Glasgow, as Celtic entertained Champions League betting favourites, Juventus, on Tuesday night, one stood out as maybe the most captivating midfield duel of the season.

While Gary Hooper and Stephan Lichtsteiner wrestled each other in the penalty area and Gigi Buffon handled Kris Commons’ long-range efforts with ease, in the middle of the park, Scott Brown and Andrea Pirlo, were going hell for leather.

Brown, the Hoops captain that leads by example, used Celtic Park’s atmosphere to his advantage. He looked focussed and energised in the tunnel before kick off and brought that passion onto the field – his instructions evidently to mark Pirlo out the game.

While Brown was positively frothing at the mouth, Pirlo looked his cool, calm self. He’s seen this all before: the crowd, the animosity, the occasion. He knew what would be coming his way and prepared for it as he has prepared for uncountable one-on-one battles over the years.

Early in the first half the bull and the matador collided, and it was the bull that got the first dig. Brown left Pirlo dispossessed after the Italian slipped and a minute later the pair clashed again, this time Pirlo almost losing his rag.

However, in the next play, Juve’s defenders passed into the centre to Pirlo. The bull charged head on, about to implant a challenge that would put his adversary out the game. Pirlo had other ideas, dropping a shoulder before turning away with the ball, the matador away and free as the bull fell to the ground.

That one deft move set the tone for the game, and, when Claudio Marchisio made it 2-0 late on, the Celtic beast died. Pundits on Betfair.com felt that the Hoops certainly deserved more for their troubles and they had plenty of chances to score, but that is the fate of the bull, and, as always in the bullring, the matador comes out on top.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Gomes Arrival Sparks Immediate Success at Hoffenheim

Hoffenheim’s chances of staving off Bundesliga relegation this season have been given a huge boost after the club signed Tottenham goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes, on loan on transfer deadline day last week.

Gomes, out of favour at White Hart Lane, immediately proved his worth to his new side with a resplendent debut display at the weekend, as Hoffenheim earned three valuable points in a 2-1 home victory over Freiburg.

The result was an unexpected triumph for fans betting on the game, and ended a run of nine straight games without a win. Much credit must go to Hoffenheim’s new stopper, for Gomes proved why he has 11 international caps for Brazil with a string of saves as Freiburg’s attack battled in vain to encroach his goal.

Of course, Gomes wouldn’t be Gomes without a little misfortune – the Brazilian stopped Max Kruse’s initial effort just four minutes in but parried the ball straight back to the striker to tap home the opener – yet when Kevin Vollard set the scores level on 10 minutes the goalkeeper appeared to settle between the sticks.

Heading into another round of Bundesliga fixtures this weekend, Hoffenheim sit nervously in 16th place and seven points behind Wolfsburg in 15th. They face Hannover next week before welcoming Stuttgart to the Rhein Neckar Arena, two games that fans football betting online have earmarked as potential upsets in Hoffenheim’s favour.

The importance of these three points from last Saturday can therefore not go unnoticed. With their first win since 3 November, Hoffenheim should now have confidence to go forward and attack both Hannover and Stuttgart, who have been largely unimpressive this year.

With Gomes behind them, they have a competent goalkeeper with Premier League experience that has settled in well at the club: an invaluable figure for a relegation-threatened side heading into the back-end of the season.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Golden Generation Fails Again

The Ivory Coast’s so-called Golden Generation has once again failed to live up to the expectations of football betting news pundits after crashing out of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations to unfancied Nigeria.

The Elephants, spearheaded by legendary striker, Didier Drogba, struggled to puncture a resolute Nigerian defence that held off Ivory Coast’s formidable strike force just enough to earn a 2-1 victory in the Afcon quarter-finals.

The result has shocked fans who wasted an in-play bet offer on the side, many of whom expected Ivory Coast to finally get over their heavy name tag of ‘favourites’ and claim the continent’s greatest international football trophy for the first time in 21 years (they won the Afcon 11-10 on penalties in 1992).      

Indeed, the pain will be felt ever more so in the Ivorian dressing room, for this defeat ends an era of the so-called Golden Generation, a group of players destined to win trophy after trophy and put African football on the map.

Yet after five Afcon tournaments and two World Cups since 2006, this Ivorian generation leaves with nothing to boast of. Drogba and midfielder, Didier Zakora, have both played their last tournament for the Elephants, while even the formidable Yaya Toure suggested recently he will soon hang up his international boots.

It is disappointing yet not too surprising this team failed to win the 2013 Afcon, for they have never coped well under the pressure of being favourites and, despite boasting a large number of top-flight players in their midst, have struggled for consistency when major tournaments begin.

While Ivory Coast have stuttered on the big stage, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon have taken the baton of Africa’s major footballing force in the 21st century and impressed the rest of the world.

Sadly, we should expect no different should the Elephants make Brazil 2014 – stripped of form, spirit or precedent to guide them to glory – a dying generation further detached from its past.