It comes to this…
Well… this weekend seems to be a weekend of finals in terms of betting, with the Champions League and the play-off finals from The Championship, Leagues 1 and 2 in England. France is the only league in Europe that I pay any attention to that hasn’t finished yet, but it’s last games from there so I’ll be avoiding them as nearly every position is tied up and I don’t know how seriously teams will be taking their matches. The numerous end of season matches we have could well be dull affairs as there is so much riding on them that everyone is extremely careful to avoid any slip-ups that will cost their team the match. As mentioned previously, I am happy to keep the tips coming over the summer months from the leagues and tournaments that are still going on if there is a demand for it. So please leave a comment below if you’re still wanting some guidance over the warmer months. Music comes from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the wondrous Fault Line, a cracking tune from a cracking album.
Stevenage v Torquay, League 2 Play-off Final 2011, Saturday 1500
Stevenage under Graham Westley have become very effective, but pretty widely hated due to their manager’s many eccentricities. He is something of a modern day John Beck; he is more than happy to rub teams up the wrong way before the match, to water the pitch, to take breaks around half an hour in to the match. He’s a very intriguing character. They are a team built from the back; I personally remember seeing Jon Ashton at centre half against Cambridge and being hugely impressed. He’s a bleeding enormous lump of a man, and he will clear the lines at every opportunity as well as posing a threat from set-pieces. Torquay beat Cambridge in the play-offs three years ago now in one of the most pathetic matches you’re ever likely to see. Both teams froze on the day and neither really deserved to go up after that performance. Torquay have a very similar goal difference to Stevenage, but they have scored and conceded more to get there. Top scorer Chris Zebroski up front is their star man. I see this being a tight match, mostly due to Stevenage’s inherent reserved play. I think both sides will be happy to head into the break level. I would take the Half Time Draw at 2-14 with Betfair and also possibly take Stevenage to win 1-0 for a bit of extra money, best price for that is 8.0 with Totesport.
Huddersfield v Peterborough, League 1 Play-off Final 2011, Sunday 1500
I can barely bring myself to talk about this absolutely repulsive town and team, but for the sake of betting I’ll try. Just before I do though I would advise everyone to avoid the dank, depressing, grey dump at all costs. A more horrible town you’re unlikely to find. Now, back to the match. Both sides have reputations for playing attacking football under young, forward-thinking managers. Huddersfield under Lee Clark have a solid defence allied to a young, pacey attack. They have old head Zinedine Kilbane in midfield to provide calmness and guidance to an otherwise youthful forward line. Jordan Rhodes has been a revelation since Roy Keane foolishly let him leave Ipswich for peanuts last year. With the future England international Benik Afobe also up front on loan from Arsenal, they have both pace and flair in abundance and have been unplayable at times this season. If they play to the best of their ability tomorrow then Huddersfield should win this comfortably. The problem will come if they let their standards slip. Posh are also a very attacking side, and if gaps appear in the Huddersfield backline they have the players to exploit them, in particular Craig Mackail-Smith. This will be likely to be his final match for Peterborough as both QPR and Norwich are supposedly looking to give him a go in the Prem next season. I think this will go to form if there’s an early goal and we’ll see end-to-end attacking and plenty of goals. I fancy Mackail-Smith to sign off with a goal and you can get 2.87 anytime with Stan James. I would also probably go for the Second Half to be highest scoring at 2.1 with Coral as both teams look to win.
Reading v Swansea, Championship Play-off Final 2011, Monday 1500
Another match with two sides perfectly capable of plenty of goals if the mood takes them. Swansea have been low scorers for the past few seasons, but have come alive of late with the loan signing of Fabio Borini from Chelsea. He has already agreed a move back home to Parma on the back of his excellent performances for the Jacks and this will be his last match in England. Reading have had one of the better strikers in the whole of the Championship this season in Shane Long. He’s always been on the fringes of being the main man, but has come alive this season and has caught the attention of most of the Premier League outside of the Top Six. Whether Reading get there or not I would expect to see him in the top division next season. For Swansea, Ashley Williams has been a rock at the back and has picked up numerous club awards over the past few seasons and probably deserves his chance at Premier League level. There is also the fact that Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers was in charge at The Royals before Brian McDermott took over. He had not exactly set the world alight at Reading, but will probably feel he has something to prove to his old club and will be even more desperate to win this one. The bookies all have this as a tight one, but I think it could come alive if there is a goal before the hour mark. These matches are often dependent on a goal to get them going as the teams then know they have little choice but to go for a goal themselves. I fancy a goal early on so I’m happy to take on odds of 2.25 at William Hill on Over 2.5 goals. I would also get on Shane Long to add to his reputation with a goal, odds of 3.25 at Ladbrokes for him to score anytime look superb to me.
Manchester United v Barcelona, Champions League Final 2011, Saturday 1945
Da, da da. With both sides wrapping up the leagues in their respective countries with matches to spare, they have had plenty of time to prepare for this. It’s a repeat of the final from 2009 and Sir Wrigley reckons he’s learnt from the mistakes he made in that final. I think the biggest mistake was thinking he had a hope in hell of matching them anywhere on the pitch. Barcelona will go down in history as the most dominant team the game has ever seen. They regularly rack up possession percentages around 75% and no team can compete with that. The only way to beat them is to defend deep, let them play in front of you and hope they are short of inspiration for a change. Then hope to nick a goal when you get one of the few chances that will befall the opposition. I have seen a lot of people getting their knickers in a bunch this week over Barcelona’s supposed ‘constant cheating’. Now, I’m no fan of either Dani Alves or Sergio Busquets, as they’re both two of the most disgusting cheats I’ve ever seen. The amount of rolling round, harranguing the referee and waving of imaginary cards is abhorrent. However, we are talking about Man Utd, the team that pretty much invented surrounding the referee to gain an advantage. And the disgusting antics of Alves and Biscuits are somewhat offset by the fact you are watching three of the world’s best weaving patterns in play in Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. When you compare those three to Man Utd’s probable midfield of Giggs, Carrick and Fletcher/Anderson, you get some ides of how much of a task Fergie faces. Giggs has done well in his more central role, but he pales in comparison to the very best there. Carrick is just about the worst big game player you’ll ever see and Fletcher has barely played while Anderson has just gotten very fat. I think there’s only one possible outcome, one-off match or not, and that’s another Barcelona trophy parade. Take them at a fantastic 2.2 with William Hill to get the job done in 90 minutes. I would also be tempted to dabble at odds of 10.0 on a repeat of the 2-0 scoreline from 2009 at William Hill too.