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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

NFL Antepost Preview 2013 - Falcons can soar to the Super Bowl

The 2013 NFL season is right upon us now & it looks like it could be one to savour with several teams making moves to challenge for the Super Bowl right now & the usual powerhouses still fielding strong sides. We're taking a look here at some of the best antepost bets for the season that will culminate in the Super Bowl on the first weekend in February 2014. Last year we gave the San Francisco 49ers to be the NFC champions at 7/1 & they duly obliged so hopefully we can pick out some more value here.


Denver Broncos

This year everybody has been talking about the Denver Broncos who start with legendary passer Peyton Manning for the 2nd year after his move across from Indianapolis after a serious injury & it's easy to see why the Broncos have been the talk of the league with several big moves. The addition of the prolific Wes Welker at receiver was probably the most eye-catching move; he's had over 1,000 receiving yards in 5 seasons & Manning will relish having him to pass to. Welker is 32 though & that's probably why the Patriots let him go, the Broncos are going all out for this season & that could put the pressure on from a very early stage. They've also added to their defense at the deep positions with the signings of the veteran safety Quentin Jammer & the excellent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback. We really like Rodgers-Cromartie who probably wasn't used to best effect at all times in his two years in Philadelphia but he was great at Arizona previously & could be a key player here.

(Von Miller is suspended for 6 games & that could cost Denver dearly)

It isn't all good for Denver though with their running game looking light now Willis McGahee has departed, it is a passing league now though so maybe they'll get away with it & just because teams know they'll pass a lot doesn't mean they'll be able to stop Peyton anyway! A bigger loss to the Broncos was that of their ace defensive end Elvis Dumervil who ended up going to Baltimore in part due to a late submission of paperwork by his agent. The worst news though was the suspension for 6 games (of their 16 game season) of their star defensive player, outside linebacker Von Miller for a substance violation. Miller is one of the league's very best players & with him missing it could mean the Bronco's don't end up winning quite enough games to be a top seed in the playoffs. The AFC West should still be a formality for them but without home advantage through the post-season their odds look short enough for the AFC & the Super Bowl so are reluctantly passed over.

Houston Texans

We were keen on outright glory for the Houston Texans last year & not too much has changed to think they shouldn't be right there again this year. They amassed an impressive 11 wins from their first 12 games last season before slumping at the end to 3 losses in 4 & missing the AFC's top seed that would have kept them at home throughout the playoffs which is key as they're a dome side meaning inclement winter weather can really harm their chances. Some labelled the Texans as 'soft' but we're not sure it was a choke & it's no coincidence the slide came when their dominant inside linebacker Brian Cushing was injured, we're certain if he'd stayed fit the story would have had a different outcome.

(The return of Brian Cushing from injury is great news for the Texans)

The Texans have some of the best players in key positions in the league with Arian Foster an elite running back, Andre Johnson an ace wide receiver, Brian Cushing as already mentioned & the 2012 defensive player fo the year J.J. Watts at defensive end. Add to that a very good offensive line, including maybe the game's best left tackle Duane Brown, & it's difficult to see how they won't end up close to 13 wins this year but many doubt the capabilities of the quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub doesn't have a reputation for being a 'clutch' player, meaning he doesn't come up with the plays in key situations often enough, but he's definitely highly talented as evidenced by him leading the league in key passer stats in 2009 (passing yards, completions, yards per game & attempts). If defensive co-ordinator Wade Phillips can keep his young & hugely talented defense firing Schaub may not have to improve much anyway as they should always be in with a chance whilst keeping their opposition's scoring opportunities low.

At 7/1 to win the AFC Houston seem to be the value picks as we think the New England Patriots may eventually start to slow this year after being exceptional for so long & the Broncos are just to short in price. Of the other AFC contenders according to the bookmakers we don't think the Ravens will even win their division (we like the Bengals in the AFC North so that also rules out Pittsburgh who could end up with a losing season) & 2013 is too early for the improving Colts, Dolphins & Chiefs.


Atlanta Falcons

The NFC looks stronger than the AFC this year with powerhouses like the San Francisco 49ers & Green Bay plus the impressive & improving Seattle Seahawks & always dangerous New Orleans Saints & Chicago Bears but the only team we want to side with is the Atlanta Falcons.

(Steven Jackson - last piece in the Atlanta Falcons' jigsaw?)

The Falcons are just scary in the passing game with a very good quarterback in Matt Ryan helped out by an amazing receiver corps of the ever youthful Tony Gonzalez at tight end & Julio Jones & Roddy White at wide receiver. The latter two thrive in the NFL with the rules helping their style of play by very much favouring them against the cornerbacks who will be trying to stop them - it's possible we could see Matt Ryan throw for career high numbers this year with them to aim at. The big improvement on offense has been the capture of Steven Jackson from the Rams at running back & he should mean that they can run the ball & use up the clock once they establish their now customary leads in games. Getting pegged back late on due to their inability to pound the ball up the middle really hurt Atlanta last year & it could be key to them getting their number one seed this year & staying at the Georgia Dome where they are so dominant.

Atlanta have also tried to improve their defense this year & taken a gamble on the now veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora from the Giants but if he stays fit he'll add another dimension to their play bringing real aggression & pressure on opposition QB's - along with Justin Babineaux at defensive tackle they could have a lot of sacks this year. They've also looked to upgrade at cornerback with their first two draft selections & Desmond Trufant looks like he could thrive in the professional game, with their safety positions already solid look out for a much improved defensive showing this year.

Again like the Texans in the AFC Atlanta just look the value here with Seattle & San Francisco too short as joint favourites considering they'll have to play each other twice in the regular season meaning dropped games & Green Bay need to improve a little defensively even though their offense remains incredible. Take big odds of 9/1 for Atlanta to win the NFC & even bigger odds of 18/1 for them to collect their Super Bowl rings in early 2014.

Houston Texans to win AFC at 7/1 (Ladbrokes)
Atlanta Falcons to win NFC at 9/1 (General) & to win Super Bowl at 18/1 (Paddy Power)

Friday, 30 August 2013

Solid Seagulls can heap more misery on Langusihing Lions

We're avoiding the Premier League this weekend with value seemingly a little thin on the ground from the prices we can see although there are various money back offers on Sunday's derby games fro those wanting a punt so keep your eyes & ear open for them. We're instead looking to get a double up in the Championship where the season is already into it's 5th round of games.

The NFL season starts next week too & we should have a preview (maybe split in two parts for the AFC & NFC) up early in the week - it's a great competition to bet on with an edge to be found on plenty of markets & a great sport with a real cerebral side to add to the physicality. Be sure to check back for bets right through the season to add to the football bets already underway.

Brighton vs Millwall

In our first game we see Brighton host Millwall in a game that looks like it could be a good opportunity for the home side to make it three league wins in a row as their silky style of football could undo their less cultured opponents.

(Leonardo Ulloa is on fire up front for Brighton & could strike again here)

Brighton started off their season a little sluggishly with defeats away at Leeds & then more disappointingly at home to Derby but they scored in both games through their star Argentinian striker Leonardo Ulloa & they've since beaten Birmingham & Burnley to get their campaign rolling. After last season's histrionics at the end with their acrimonious split with manager Gus Poyet, plus their playoff loss to chief rivals Crystal Palace, it was understandable that they may have suffered a slight hangover (they also lost to Newport in the League Cup) but they now seem to got going under new coach Oscar Garcia. It's fortunate for the Seagulls that Ulloa is playing so well & scoring so frequently because due to a smallish selection of players & injuries he looks likely to be their only fit out & out striker here as Ashley Barnes looks doubtful for selection.

Brighton play some nice football right throughout their side with plenty of Latin influence meaning they pass the ball well, certainly amongst the best in the Championship, & build from the back - usually they have the fullbacks Inigo Calderon & Bruno as key cogs in the plan but Bruno's out with a hamstring injury meaning it won't be quite so straightforward. We like the permanent signing of Matthew Upson in central defence & he's added a real solidity at the back in his time at the club plus Tomasz Kusczak has a great deal of quality in goal & is proving his worth after spending too much time as a back up in Manchester. They've a bit of quality in midfield, both in the centre & out wide & Kemy Augustien looks like a potentially great signing from Swansea - they should be able to get service into Ulloa who's good on the ground & in the air.

(Shaun Derry on loan - as far as Millwall's resources stretch...)

Millwall have unfortunately started this season, much as they finished the last, in dire form meaning they are now on a streak of 7 losses & 2 draws in 9 games & they've only scored 3 goals over the period. That lack of forward threat doesn't look likely to change with Steve Morison out with a hernia op & they've been failing to fire ever since Chris Wood finished his loan spell after Christmas. They always have a bit of fight in them but the quality looks to be lacking & with no money to go around they've not been able to make significant improvements in the off-season, Shaun Derry's on loan from QPR but he's 35 & has always relied on work rate rather than class to succeed. This looks to be a long season for the Lions & we don't see any outcome other than relegation, they could be in a whole heap of trouble even by the end of September.

Brighton only lost 3 times at home in the league in 2012-13 & with Millwall failing to score in 3 of their first 4 games this year they'll feel confident that they can keep the visitors at bay whilst netting at the other end, only SkyBet go as big as 4/5 for the Brighton win & that should be taken.

Doncaster Rovers vs Bournemouth

This selection seems a rather simple one but we can't understand why BetVictor have gone a standout Evens about there being over 2.5 goals in the Doncaster vs Bournemouth game in the Championship.

(Lewis Grabban is finding the environs of the Championship to his liking)

Bournemouth have tended to be fairly open so far & seem to need to learn to defend at a higher level after conceding 5 to Watford then 6 to Huddersfield so far on their travels & Doncaster have scored in all 3 of their games so far including twice away to fancied Wigan & there were 4 goals in their League Cup game here with Leeds. There was only the one goal here when they met last season with Bournemouth taking the win but their other game saw the over 2.5 land & both teams have strikers who are in the goals with Lewis Grabban with 4 for Bournemouth & Doncaster's new signing Theo Robinson bagging in consecutive games against Blackburn & Wigan. We thought the price would be around the 4/6 mark so think this looks a great value bet & it's unlikely you'll see these sort of odds too often for a game that seems to promise goals.

Brighton to beat Millwall at 4/5 (SkyBet)
Doncaster vs Bournemouth Over 2.5 goals at Evens (Bet365 & BetVictor)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Villa Upstarts to go all ASBO over Liverpool

Another weekend of football action coming up & with 5 out of 6 winning bets, including 3 on the Premier League last week, we're hoping to continue in a similar vein with selections from the top division down to the lower leagues. As always if you find us here but don't follow us on Twitter please do; you can find us @LikeBuyingMoney & we'll hopefully keep you entertained as well as informed!

Aston Villa vs Liverpool

This is maybe the weekend's most interesting Premier League game (at least until Man United vs Chelsea on Monday night) as we get to take a look at a seemingly much improved Aston Villa side who take on the still Suarez-less Liverpool who for all their good play last week still only beat Stoke thanks to a late penalty save.

(Gabriel Agbonlahor finished 2012-13 in fine form & has continued so far this season)

Paul Lambert seems to be getting the best out of his squad of young players at the moment, particularly the forwards Christian Benteke & Gabby Agbonlahor with the lifelong Villa man looking unplayable at times with his pace & power in their opening two games against Arsenal & Chelsea. The ever-promising Fabian Delph may also be ready to deliver this season judged on the start he's made & whilst there remain issues with regards to Villa's sturdiness they look like they have the potential to give any side a game of it at the moment.

Liverpool finished off last season in pretty hot form (7 wins, 4 draws & a loss in their final 12) but by then it meant little in terms of what they could achieve in the league & it remains to be seen whether they can put that kind of form together over a whole season in order to claim a Champions League spot. Brendan Rodgers would surely be happy so long as they don't drop too many points whilst without their star striker Luis Suarez, out of action because of his ban & he's got his side a tricky contest here. Liverpool's main area of weakness for us is their lack of width in midfield with the fullbacks Johnson & Enriquez having to provide nearly all of that especially now that Stewart Downing has departed. Downing was considered a flop at the club but only Steven Gerrard started more games than him last season & it's not an ideal problem to have against Villa in particular.

(Brendan 'Envelope' Rodgers may find it hard to gain a victory away from the Anfield faithful)

Villa tended to struggle with balls into the box from out wide last year, including corners, so it's an ideal avenue to attack for most teams but with Weiman & Agbonlahor in advanced positions they should be able to defend from the front & keep Liverpool's fullbacks a bit quieter. Of course Liverpool are still dangerous with the classy operator Couinho & Gerrard, still capable of the spectacular, in midfield but Villa should be able to put men in against them & their defence will be happier to see the ball in front of them - they were relatively comfortable for long periods against a similar approach from Chelsea in the 2nd half on Wednesday.

Benteke is already on fire & his signing of a new contract looks the best bit of business done by a Premier League club this summer, with the young Belgian firing Villa have every chance of getting all 3 points here & with SportingBet & Paddy Power offering odds of 15/8 with the extra insurance of draw no bet this selection has to be advised. The fact Villa had to play in midweek is of course taken into account but at this stage of the season their players should be able to handle the quick turnaround & the extra football may come in handy whilst other teams try to shake off the pre-season rustiness.

Rotherham United vs Shrewsbury Town

In League One we see newly promoted Rotherham playing host to Shrewsbury in a clash that could be well be heavily influenced by the crucial home advantage. Shrewsbury ranked 20th in League One last season for points gained on the road whilst Rotherham ranked 4th at home in League Two & have started the season very respectably indeed.

(Rotherham's bruising centre forward Alex Revell could cause problems here)

Both teams gained their first wins of the season last week with Rotherham's 2-1 defeat of manager Steve Evans' former club Crawley particularly sweet for The Millers & that means Rotherham remain unbeaten thanks to a good draw with fancied Preston & two late goals away to Crewe salvaging a 3-3 draw & showing their battling qualities & good fitness levels to keep going to the end. Shrewsbury just don't seem to have many goals in their side, they didn't find the net in their first two games & their top scorer last season Marvin Morgan bagged just 7 goals with their number 9 Tom Bradshaw scoring his first goal in two years in their win against Swindon. We've already noted that Swindon appear to be a club in a bit of turmoil so we're not too impressed with that win & we reckon Graham Turner will be setting his team up not to lose rather than be proactive & aim for 3 points in this one.

Rotherham haven't looked bereft of ideas in attack so far this year & it's possible that their Irish midfielder Lee Frecklin could keep up his decent scoring record & the 6"3 forward Alex Revell poses a problem for most opposition defences & can link up well with either Nardiello or Agard. With the odds on offer at Evens with BetVictor (they're odds on everywhere else) Rotherham look worthy of a decent punt here to gain another victory in their push for successive promotions.

Aston Villa to beat Liverpool draw no bet at 15/8 (Paddy Power & SportingBet)
Rotherham to beat Shrewsbury at Evens (BetVictor)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Monday Night Football - Magpies gonna sing the Sky Blues

A nice start to the Premier League season this weekend with plenty of new signings making their mark including our tip for top scorer honours Roberto Soldado, Simon Mignolet in goal for Liverpool & Ricky van Wolfswinkel for Norwich. It wasn't too bad for us on a betting front either with Rickie Lambert sealing a perfect 2 out of 2 with his last minute penalty to bring up the Southampton draw no bet winner to add to West Ham's impressive home victory. We're keen on both sides to have good seasons, Southampton have landed the striker they very much needed to help loosen Lambert's load with the capture of Roma's Pablo Osvaldo & West Ham can challenge for a top 7 spot if continuing their excellent home form from last year.

Here though we're going to take our first look at Monday Night Football for this season with the dysfunctional Newcastle United travelling to take on Manuel Pellegrini's new look Manchester City side in a game that is important for City to win if they're to lay down a marker of their intent.

Manchester City vs Newcastle United

(New Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini - he's from Santiago...)

Manchester City certainly signalled their intent at the end of last season with the removal of Roberto Mancini, his backroom staff & the superbly talented but troublesome Carlos Tevez (with Balotelli also departing 5 months before). They've signed players who're at the age & performance levels that they should be able to contribute straight away & all seem to fit areas of the team where upgrades could've argued to have been needed - it's a strategy that other clubs seem to have failed at (United & Arsenal failing to sign anybody & Chelsea seeming to sign players in just one position - they now have 732 creative midfielders...). Spending just £14.9m on Jesus Navas looks an inspired bit of business in today's extortionate market as the winger has bags of pace & offers genuine width that City lacked previously. Navas will be able to link up with Negredo straight away (they both came from Sevilla) & he'll find the underrated Edin Dzeko a superb target to cross to also. Pellegrini has been tasked with getting his side to play more attractive football than they sometimes did under Mancini & also to get some success in Europe compared to their humiliations over the past two years & he'll view a home match against Newcastle as a good opportunity to begin.

 (Cheick Tiote could be given the runaround by Yaya Toure & co.)

City should have a more attacking philosophy than last year & although they may concede a few more (they were the meanest in the league in 2012-13 with 34 conceded) they won't mind that if they can turn a few draws into wins. We'd say it was more the strategy than the personnel which contributed to City's good defensive record as we're not keen on Hart in goal & although Kompany & Zabaleta are stars we're not so sure about Clichy at left back or whoever they pair Kompany with. Gareth Barry looks to have lost his place with loan deals mooted & that should mean a pacey, scary lineup in this game with the freakishly powerful Yaya Toure & the delightfully talented Fernandinho likely to prove too much for Newcastle to handle in the centre of the pitch. Cheick Tiote's form dipped considerably last year & James Perch lacks the necessary quality, whilst the promising youngster Gael Bigirimana would find this a big ask - they could struggle to both win possession & keep it here & that will strangle the supply to their key attacking players of Gutierrez, Ben Arfa & Cabaye.

Newcastle's off-field issues have been commented on plenty & the problem we see from the off is that they underperformed last season yet haven't been able to do much business in the transfer market to attempt to rectify that with just the minor signing of Oliver Kemen ( a French midfielder surprise, surprise) & the loan signing of Loic Remy coming in so far. They struggled on the road last year with just two league wins (against QPR & Aston Villa) & the lack of firepower without Demba Ba particularly hurt them meaning draws tended to be the aim. That does mean they're used to trying to frustrate opposing sides & they've two very good defenders in Collocini & Santon plus a decent keeper in Tim Krul. The problem is as noted above that they probably won't have too much protection in front of the back four & their other defenders lack a bit of real quality with, for our money, Steven Taylor being a particularly poor player to have played so many Premier League seasons. To be fair Mathieu Debuchy only joined last January & he may well be bedded in now & he's certainly a step up on Danny Simpson at right back.

(City's Stevan Jovetic (right) could be value at 7/4 to score anytime)

This could be a long night for Newcastle & we've a feeling that City will come bursting out of the blocks in this one & could take a grip of the game early on, with that in mind the 9/10 that BetVictor (fast becoming our favourite bookies for football betting) offer for a Man City half time/full time result is the suggested punt. City managed that in 9 of their 19 home games last season & although that suggests odds on isn't a fair price Newcastle are a weaker side than many & poor travellers. The other selection is contingent on him being in the starting lineup & that is Stevan Jovetic anytime goalscorer at 7/4 - the skillful Monetengrin knocked in 27 goals in 58 league games for Fiorentina over the past two years & that's pretty close to the magic 1 in 2 so the odds are very fair.

Manchester City half time/full time at 9/10 (BetVictor)
Stevan Jovetic to score at anytime at 7/4 (General) if he starts 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Super Saints to get a Divine Start to the Season

Well... seeing as it's the start of the season in the top division in England we thought we'd better go for a Premier League double bill & have selections from games involving new England hero Rickie Lambert's Southampton & everyone's favourite manager 'Big Sam' & his West Ham side. So far we've started out with 2 of 3 outright selections hitting the mark with Peterborough in the first week of the season & Watford slamming home the pick with a 6-1 hammering, the loser was a 9/4 draw bet & we're hoping to improve this week! As always make sure you're following us on Twitter @LikeBuyingMoney - it's a good place to let us know your views & we'll put picks up there sometimes too.

West Bromwich Albion vs Southampton

Last year's overperformers West Brom host substantial summer spenders Southampton at the Hawthorns where Mauricio Pochettino's men will be hoping to add to their rather measly 3 away victories in comparison to 2012-13.

(Morgan Schneiderlin's exceptional 2012-13 season went unrecognised for the most part but people should sit up & take notice this time around)

Southampton have gone fairly big on the signings front in an attempt to avoid second season syndrome that sides promoted from the Championship that do well in their first season can tend to suffer; Victor Wanyama has come in from Celtic for £12.5m & should help shore up the midfield area in front of defence & Croatian centre back Dejan Lovren has come in for around £8.5m. We like the approach that Southampton have taken, bringing in relative youngsters (22 & 24 respectively) & going for quality rather than quantity in an attempt to strengthen in specific areas. We still reckon they may want to upgrade between the sticks at some point as Artur Boruc is slightly unpredictable & they don't appear to have much strength in depth behind new England cap winner Rickie Lambert with Jay Rodriguez not convincing on the goals front in the top flight so far.

(Ben Foster - England's No 1?)

The lack of strike options could cost Southampton over the season but we reckon Lambert will be bouncing after his debut against Scotland & could prove too hot for the West Brom defenders to handle - he'll already have had shooting practice against Ben Foster in midweek & will be ultra confident & that spells trouble for the Baggies who were pretty toothless, Lukaku aside, last year.

West Brom will have new signings in Nicolas Anelka & Matej Vydra still trying to bed in & goals could be at a premium for the first few weeks of the season & although they'll remain somewhat hard to beat with Yacob & Mulumbu physically dominating a lot of midfields those two probably don't have a great match-up in this one. Wanyama will be there for the Saints but will also be joined by the emerging Jack Cork & one of the stars of the entire league last season Morgan Schneiderlin whose stats last season were through the roof topping tackles & interceptions showing just what a good young player he is - there hasn't been much transfer talk around the young Frenchman but it wouldn't be surprising to see a big club come sniffing around before long. Adam Lallana & Gaston Ramirez should keep the West Brom fullbacks busy too & that should limit chances for Wes Brom. Just 3 away wins last season remains a concern & we'd rather not take them outright instead having the insurance offered at 13/10 with Ladbrokes on the draw no bet market we like the Saints chances of starting the season very brightly indeed.

West Ham United vs Cardiff City

West Ham bounced back up to the top flight last season & ended up just inside the top half with a very respectable 10th placed finish & they'll be looking to build on that this year whilst Cardiff's number one priority is to avoid slipping straight back to the Championship. This game is actually a repeat of their opening fixture from two seasons back in the Championship where Cardiff prevailed 1-0, West Ham however gained their revenge by beating the Bluebirds three times in a row after that including in the playoffs. We're keen on the home side again this time as they'll see this as an ideal opportunity to get the season off to a flyer.

(Andy Carroll & Kevin Nolan - maybe the Premier League's most effective partnership?)

West Ham can trouble pretty much any team in the Premier League because most sides just aren't used to dealing with many teams that play quite the way Sam Allardyce's sides do with Stoke maybe the only other side who've had a similar style in that they're quite happy to concede possession & instead make the most of when they do have the ball by getting it forward with pace. Allardyce clearly believes that he's got a squad capable of executing his plans because there haven't been too many major changes in the summer apart from clearing out a bit of expensive dead wood in Carlton Cole's departure & the recent signing of Stewart Downing. Romanian left back, the amusingly named, Razvan Rat has joined & the signing of Spanish keeper Adrian looks a smart move as Jussi Jaaskelainen's time as a top stopper looks to be coming to an end. Downing will join up with his ex-Liverpool team mate Andy Carroll who's been added as a permanent signing & although the big Geordie isn't everyone's cup of tea he fits just right at West Ham who always look to play to his strengths.

(Cardiff's Kim Bo-Kyung could take his game to another level in the top division)

Cardiff may be planning to play their new signing Andreas Cornelius in a similar type of role to that of Carroll because the young Danish international looks a bit of a beast at 6'4" & given the right service he'll cause teams problems - it might not be West Ham though who have strength & height (not to mention experience) across the back line & are rarely troubled by balls into the box. The Bluebirds looked very sound defensively last season & that'll help out here but they don't appear to have a proven goalscorer at this level, Frazier Campbell could be that man if he can stay fit, & they may also lack a little bit of guile in midfeld. Club record signing the Chilean Gary Medel probably won't add that creative touch as he's more of a destroyer type & although he's made himself into a club legend over the past 6 years Peter Whittingham never stood out as a youngster when with Aston Villa so has it all to prove. The young South Korean Kim Bo-Kyung could be the man to watch for Cardiff, he's settled in after a promising first season & may prefer the slightly less physical environment of the Premier League than the Championship - he's seen as a potential star by many fans & has taken on Park Ji Sung's number 7 shirt for his national team.

Cardiff continued to signal their intent with the slightly surprising signing of Steven Caulker from Tottenham, the North London club seemed to be singing his praises for much of last season but clearly he didn't feature in AVB's plans as he wanted to turn his team into genuine title challengers. Caulker could be a steal at just £8m, having the potential to be a mainstay for many years; he has only very recently signed though & may take time to settle in & that's a big reason why we reckon West Ham are good value for the win here. The Hammers have a very settled squad & they should look to take advantage of that over the first few weeks of the season starting here. They've retained the excellent Mo Diame & he should handle the Cardiff midfield whilst Kevin Nolan will be relishing linking up with Andy Carroll again further up the pitch, Matt Jarvis &, if he starts, Stewart Downing should keep the Cardiff fullbacks busy & this could be a long afternoon for the Welsh side's defence & keeper David Marshall. Take West Ham to get a win on the board at best odds of Evens with BetVictor or Paddy Power.

Southampton to beat West Brom draw no bet at 13/10 (Ladbrokes)
West Ham United to beat Cardiff City at Evens (BetVictor & Paddy Power)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Premier League 2013-14 Antepost Season Preview - Relegation & Golden Boot

The general consensus was that the 2012-13 Premier League season was not a vintage year & it probably didn't help that the race for the title was effectively over by mid-January thanks to Manchester United's blisteringly winning form. 2013-14 looks to be shaping up nicely though with plenty of new faces on the pitch & in the dugouts & we've taken a look through the markets to try to identify some value, season-long bets.


Last year we got it spectacularly wrong when selecting West Bromwich Albion to be relegated, we reckoned that with a new manager in place & a lack of high profile names that they would struggle but Steve Clarke had his men raring to go at the start of the season (26 points from the first 39 available) & the excellent Romelu Lukaku's goals helped steer them to an unlikely 8th place finish.
(West Brom could suffer without Lukaku's goals & Shane Long doesn't inspire us with confidence)

Of course the upside of West Brom doing so well last season is that their price for relegation this year is a rather large 9/1 (BetVictor) & there's reason to believe that may just be value this time around. Last year the Baggies were just 4/1 for relegation & we thought that was justified due to the apparent lack of goals in the side (Lukaku had not shown anywhere near the same level of form when appearing for a superior Chelsea side) & of course with him returning to London it seems fair to raise that question again. Shane Long scored 8 times in the league last year (3 times from February onwards) & at times looked shorn of confidence when in front of goal & the signing of Nicolas Anelka at the ripe old age of 34 doesn't inspire confidence. Matej Vydra could be making his way to the Midlands via a loan signing & he was certainly great for Watford in the Championship but this is a step up on the defences he faced there. Another mooted signing is Man City flop Scott Sinclair but he may be rusty after not playing much football & occasionally appears a little lightweight.

West Brom do look better at the back than their lacklustre attack & we're particularly fans of Ben Foster in goal, he seems a serious footballer who seems happier at a slightly smaller Premier League club like West Brom. Foster will be seeing a fine footballer step into the back four in the form of Uruguay captain Diego Lugano at centre back, he's on loan from French champions PSG, understandably not being able to get ahead of their Brazilian contingent of defenders. The worry with Lugano is that he turns 33 in November & hasn't played a lot of club football in the past two seasons & he may not have quite the motivation of other contracted players if they do start to struggle. Jonas Olsson was in fine form last year & has been a fine servant for the club, he'll surely be one of the first names on the team sheet again. West Brom are weaker elsewhere in defence though & it seemed some players stepped up on all known form last year including Liam Ridgewell, Billy Jones & Gareth McAuley - we can't see them having such good seasons again.

(Gareth McAuley & others overperformed last season & a reversion could see the Baggies in danger)

In midfield Mulumbu & Yacob are solid but a lack of creativity, particularly from wide areas, that will be needed to supply that unconvincing attack, looks likely to cost them. We can't see how they'll replace Lukaku's goals, many of which were scored by him seemingly through sheer force of will, & their 53 goals scored total from 2012-13 (remember boosted by the freak 5-5 with Man Utd) will drop considerably & wins will start turning to draws & draws to losses. The 9/1 for West Brom to fill one of the relegation spots is too much of a tempter & a small bet over the season could offer a very nice return.

Golden Boot

Talking of goals this year's top scorer market seems an interesting one with Robin van Persie deservedly topping the betting as he's been the winner for the past two seasons & already looks sharp judging by his two goals in the Community Shield. van Persie's odds of 7/2 are short enough though considering he has tended to pick up injuries through his career until these last two years, if you could guarantee he'd play 30+ games he'd be an automatic pick but we'd rather go for a player at bigger odds.

(Spurs' record signing Roberto Soldado is a top marksman & can strike at 20/1)

Roberto Soldado is the man we like to make a big impact in his Premier League debut season & although foreign imports have never won this particular race in their first season we reckon he has the right circumstances to do it. He's easily banged goals in at a rate of more than one every other game for the past 4 seasons in Spain & that includes a stint for Getafe where he scored 33 in 66 over two seasons & his league goals tally reads 16, 18, 17 & 24 for the last 4 terms. He'll be playing in a Spurs side that is full of creative talent in midfield with Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Moussa Dembele, Lewis Holtby & exciting new signing Paulinho all providing him with opportunities.
We've purposely left Gareth Bale off of that list as he looks fairly likely to head off to Madrid by the time the transfer window shuts & that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for Soldado's chances as Spurs tended to fall into a habit of letting Bale rescue them last year but they'll have to impose themselves more without him. The Europa League could prove a distraction but we imagine that Spurs will field a shadow side for the league stage & Soldado should see plenty of Premier League games & seems to have the type of game to excel in England with a willingness to shoot on site that has certainly evaded Emmanuel Adebayor at times, a player who could end up providing a lot of chances if selected to play as a strike partner.

(van Persie is a deserving favourite in the Golden Boot market)

At odds of 20/1 Soldado looks a solid option away from van Persie when you consider Man City will rotate their strikers aroun, the dangerous Luis Suarez will be banned for the first part of the season & Wayne Rooney's status remains up in the air. Back him & take the each way terms of 1/4 odds for the first 4 places & he should be in contention all season.

West Bromwich Albion to be relegated at 9/1 (BetVictor)
Robert Soldado each way to win the Golden Boot at 20/1 (1/4 odds 1-2-3-4)