Some Eggceedingly Good Tips…
Good evening all. It was a better weekend last time out for us with a return to profitable ways. The best price for me was the ridiculous odds of almost 3.0 on Newcastle to beat Liverpool at home. I understand that Liverpool have spent a lot of money and therefore should be a good side, but all they’ve shown this season is that they are anything but good. At present you could argue no-one barring Wolves is in worse form in the entire league. Sometimes these opportunities present themselves where anyone can see that the price is wrong and should be taken up by punters everywhere to get one over the bookmakers.
We also saw something of a procession in the Champions League with the three big favourites of Real, Barca and Bayern all progressing with relative ease to the Semi-Finals. Chelsea again made hard work of beating Benfica, but did manage to progress to take on Barcelona in a couple of weeks time. I can only see that match going the way of the Catalan side. Chelsea have built their entire team around John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba since Mourinho’s reign. The system was designed to have a holding midfielder who did nothing but prevent a ball over the top exposing Terry’s lack of pace, this player also did the dirty work freeing up Lampard to concentrate on only attacking and Drogba was good enough to feed off scraps and bulldoze a path on his own. Now that all three of these have aged and their talents waned the whole thing looks slow and ponderous. The lack of a class defensive midfielder now also means that they no longer have that solid look that they have been renowned for.
This weeks music is from Tim Barry with Moving On Blue.
Bolton v Fulham, Saturday 1500
As we get to the business end of the season Bolton are another side who seem to have realised they are going down unless they put some performances in. I am still shocked that Owen Coyle seems to have been left immune from criticism from either the mass media or Bolton’s supporters. After an initial flurry of results immediately following his appointment, the Trotters have been pretty dire. It also seems every season he relies upon borrowing one good player from a better club to drag Bolton to safety. First it was Jack Wilshire from Arsenal, then Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea and lately it has been Ryo Miyaichi of Arsenal who is providing a touch of class. He and a rejuvenated Martin Petrov are currently bombing down the flanks and causing opposing sides problems.
Fulham have again failed to address their poor away form. It has been a little better this time compared to recent seasons, but if they ever aim to move above mid-table they really need to do better. They also seem to have slowed down since thrashing Wolves 5-0 around a month ago. This is something you often see as the season draws to a close and a side has very little left to play for. Fulham are in no danger of relegation, and they are miles off challenging for a European place, so they seem to have eased off. The January signing of Pavel Pogbrebnyak also looked inspired but after his flurry of goals, he too seems to have taken an edge off his efforts.
Back Bolton at 2.62 with SkyBet.
Liverpool v Aston Villa, Saturday 1500
This could be a horrific game to watch. As already mentioned, Liverpool look nothing short of dreadful at the moment. If reports are to be believed this week the American owners of the club have asked ‘King’ Kenny to submit a report on how he feels the season has gone. They are currently on course for their worst season since the 1950s so I would have to say it has been something of a disappointment. It really is very easy to criticise the signings made over the summer as well as Andy Carroll, but they were all hugely over-priced and none have performed well. The strangest thing to me is that Stewart Downing was signed with the impression given it was to supply Carroll with crosses, but the two have not played together often enough to do that. Jordan Henderson looks far too raw, and Charlie Adam looks horrendously out of his depth and too slow. Basically I think the whole team needs another overhaul, with pace being a key element missing and if Dalglish is again allowed to preside over it I’ll be amazed.
Villa fans never wanted Alex McLeish as manager, and it is now obvious why. The man had taken Birmingham down twice in three seasons and had them playing some of the worst football in the entire Premier League during his time there and Villa supporters wanted no part of that. He has somehow managed to take Villa to the brink of a relegation fight in only one season. The players look absolutely miffed about the ‘style’ of football they are being asked to play, and N’Zogbia has even publicly described it as ‘the worst season of my career’. Emile Heskey is still being regularly played, the centre backs look like an accident waiting to happen, and most painfully for Villa fans the promising crop of youngsters the club has are not being used at all. Even saying all this though, Villa are not easy to beat. McLeish’s tactics at every side he has managed have been to pack men behind the ball and try and nick a goal and Liverpool will have to break them down to get a win, something they look incapable of at present.
Back Aston Villa and the Draw Double Chance at 2.75 with Stan James.
Espanyol v Real Sociedad, Saturday 1700
In Spain there is still the possibility that any side between fourth and ninth could qualify for the Champions League next season. At the bottom of that group in ninth is Espanyol with forty one points so far. They have got this high up the league mostly on the back of some very good home form. Their home record reads won eight, drawn two and lost five. They did also lose last week at home to an in-form Malaga side who are looking to cement that Champions League spot after heavy investment over the last year. Their two home matches before that though were won by a combined scored of 8-2. This is a much more realistic view of how good they can be against sides that aren’t up for it when visiting.
Sociedad are these days pretty pleased if they stay away from the relegation spots having been something of a force in the late 90s and early 00s. They are now eight points clear of the final relegation place and should be safe for another season in the Primera next term. They haven’t been too bad at all at home, but on the road they’ve been dreadful for the most part. They have won just three matches, drawn two and lost ten away from home and it is this that has them well away from European spots. Their away goal difference is -17 and now they’re seemingly safe I can’t see them getting anything from this match.
Back Espanyol at 1.9 with Bet365.
Levante v Atletico Madrid, Sunday 1100
Another couple of sides who still have hopes of Champions League qualification are Levante and Atleti. Levante were widely expected to again struggle in the top flight as they are completely broke, play in a run-down stadium and have an ageing, small squad. But they have occupied the fourth spot in the table for most of the season, only recently relinquishing it to Malaga. They had looked lethargic for a while in truth, but no side had won enough to take the fourth spot from them. However, they do seem to have found an extra bit of gusto again of late. Their home record is also excellent as many sides do not like travelling to the rougher part of Valencia to their ramshackle home. Their home record is won eight, drawn three and lost four. In this time they have only conceded sixteen goals to show that their strength is a very good defence.
Atleti have now progressed to the Europa League Semi Finals and will be looking to win the competition to salvage what has been another topsy turvy season for them. They have rallied enough under Diego Simeone in the league to also now be able to qualify for the Champions League. However, with their poor away record this might well prove beyond them. Away from home they have only won two matches, drawing five and losing eight. A big part of this record is that they have struggled for goals, only scoring thirteen in these fifteen matches. Falcao often seems lacklustre when travelling and without him firing they look short of ideas. I would imagine this will be a tight game, but Levante can definitely sneak it.
Back Levante to win 1-0 for half stakes at 9.5 with William Hill.
Atalanta v Siena, Sunday 1400
Sunday afternoon and we have a mid-table clash from Serie A. Both sides will be fairly happy to have ended the season free from the worries of relegation. Atalanta’s season has seen them giving some very good sides a tough match at home and it is this home record that has seen them safely in mid-table. Their home record reads won seven, drawn six and only lost two. In these fifteen matches they have scored nineteen, but only conceded eleven goals. Even in the notoriously defensive Serie A that goals against record is excellent and they deserve praise for it having not spent any money really.
Siena have also avoided the threat of relegation, and similarly it is due to a good home record. The reason they do find themselves in the bottom half of the table is a horrible away record. They have won a solitary match on the road and have drawn six and lost seven. In fourteen away matches they have only scored nine goals, and obviously this makes it very difficult to beat sides when goals are so rare. Atalanta will fancy another home victory in this.
Back Atalanta at 2.5 with BlueSq.
Freiburg v Nurnberg, Saturday 1430
Freiburg have been near to the the threat of relegation for a lot of the season, but have now pushed on and won four of their last five matches to put themselves as good as safe. That they have done this does make it seem like they could have done a lot better with a bit more effort this season, but that is no reason to put us off backing them. Possibly their most impressive win came last weekend against Leverkusen and consigned their manager to the chop. They won 2-0 away and could have had more, such was their dominance. Their home record is mixed with five wins, four draws and five defeats, but it is their position as one of the most in-form sides that has me interested.
Nurnberg, on the other hand, have lost their last four games and would probably just like this season to end so they can start again. They were on the cusp of a chance of a European place, but this poor recent run has left them in lower mid-table no man’s land. They have been poor away from home all season and a record of won four, drawn one and lost nine will attest to. They have also only scored nine goals in those thirteen matches and that is simply dreadful in a league where goals are a regular fixture.
Back Freiburg at 2.15 with SkyBet.
Schalke 04 v Hannover 96, Sunday 1430
Both sides that meet here were in action in the Europa League during the week, but both exited the competition. In truth Hannover didn’t do nearly enough against Atletico Madrid to deserve to qualify, but Schalke provided two excellent matches against Athletic Bilbao. There were goals galore and it was a shame to see either side exit the competition. Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Raul both got a goal and both impressed immensely. After a number of moves to big sides it seems Huntelaar has finally found a home and has scored fifteen goals in his last thirteen matches. Raul has also found some excellent form in the twilight of his career and seems to be enjoying a free role behind the Dutchman. They are on the rise in the league too and are still looking for automatic Champions League qualification.
Hannover make life hard for themselves by not scoring very many goals. The January signing of Mame Diouf from Man Utd has been a good one, but even his good form can’t mask the fact the rest of the side needs to start contributing. They are a solid, hard-working outfit and any side that beats them will have earned it, but the addition of some flair would add an extra dimension to their play that they sorely miss at present. They are up to fifth in the table, but are too far from Schalke to qualify for the Champions League. Their home form is excellent (they are unbeaten still) but their away form is not up to scratch. They have only won two matches, drawing five and losing seven. As mentioned they struggle for goals and have only got ten in those fourteen matches. I don’t see them getting anything at all here.
Back Schalke -1.0 Asian Handicap at 2.19 with BetVictor.
There may be some Turkish tips on Twitter over the weekend for those following @TopTopTips, but due to it being the last match before the play-offs there is still some debate as to how some teams will approach their matches if they have nothing to play for. This uncertainty means I’ll not dive in yet.