The Season Starts Here…
Welcome back everyone! After my hugely disappointing Euro2012 tipping escapades, I will be looking to get back in business with the new seasons starting this week and next around Europe. This weekend sees the English Premier League, Turkey’s Super Lig and Spain’s Primera all kicking off so we’ll be looking in them.
Also to bring the column in line with ‘real’ tipping services, we will now be introducing a points system for how much to place on each bet. This is something I employ in my personal betting as whilst every choice I make I think represents a backable bet, I fancy some more than others and bet accordingly. There will also be a running total introduced. Every weekend will include last week’s profit/loss with monthly updates too.
The points system is a ’5 point’ one, with each point representing 20% of your maximum single bet stake. Therefore if your maximum stake is £25, then a ’2 point’ bet would represent £10 and so on.
We’ll kick off with some loud tunes from Refused with Protest Song ’68.
QPR v Swansea, Saturday 1500
No early kick off in the Premier League so there is a big bundle of matches at 1500. This one is the first to grab me. I can only see QPR improving this term under Mark Hughes. Whilst I’m no huge fan of him and his constant bleating about how he was ‘unfairly’ sacked from Man City and the way he left Fulham, he can build a mid-table side. With Joey Barton also a pain dependent upon his mood, his 12 match ban may also work in Hughes’ favour if he can remove him from first-team routines. The loan signing of Djibril Cisse becoming permanent looks a great move to me. He was good whilst on loan last season, except for the obvious disciplinary procedures which hopefully have been cut down after a summer to cool off. Getting hold of Junior Hoilett was a real coup. The lively forward looked excellent in a poor Blackburn side last season and adds extra attacking impetus, goals and assists. Hughes tends to build organised defences too and the signing of Rob Green is definitely an upgrade on Paddy Kenny in goal. I think they could go well, and particularly at the compact Loftus Road.
Swansea did very well last season after promotion and won a number of plaudits for the way Brendan Rodgers had them playing. Unfortunately for the Swans, Rodgers moved on to Liverpool and took key central midfielder Joe Allen with him. In comes Michael Laudrup, who has a mixed record in La Liga. He made Getafe a very good side and got them into Europe before failing at Mallorca miserably and walking out after numerous disagreements. Either of these things could happen at Swansea! He will probably look to continue the way Swansea have been playing, but has brought in some familiar players to him from Spain like Michu and Jonathan De Guzman. Both of these looked good players in Spain, and Michu was the highest scoring midfielder outside of Barcelona and Madrid, but adapting quickly may prove tough. I think Swansea are best avoided early on until everything settles down under Laudrup.
Back QPR at 2.1 with Stan James. Two Points.
Newcastle v Tottenham, Saturday 1730
Two teams who excelled at points last season meet in the first match on Sky TV this season. Newcastle surprised many people when their new signings gelled quickly to stay the course and finish in fifth last season. The worry of whether they can maintain their position is a widely asked question at the moment, but the stability they have compared to many around them should work in their favour. Papiss Cisse’s signing in January freshened up an already good attack and gives them a very good front three of Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Cisse. This should worry most defences as they are all quick, all can dribble and all pose a goal threat. Cheik Tiote may miss this match, but then should return to form a brilliant partnership with Yohan Cabaye in the middle and the defence looks solid when everyone is fit. I think they’ll go well again.
Tottenham moved pretty quickly to replace Harry Redknapp with Andre Villas-Boas, but don’t seem to have strengthened the squad in key areas. This can often be seen when Redknapp leaves a club as he plans for the short term and often the incoming replacement suffers the consequences of this. Spurs have Brad Friedel in goal, decent full backs, a selection of crocked centre backs, lack of passing ability in midfield, injury prone wide players and one senior striker in Jermain Defoe. The transfers of Luka Modric and Steven Pienaar added to Ledley King’s retirement and Louis Saha, Ryan Nelsen, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor all leaving the club means I would be extremely worried as a fan. They have no time to add players before this match and I could see Newcastle getting a relatively easy early win.
Back Newcastle at 2.7 with William Hill. Three Points.
Manchester City v Southampton, Sunday 1600
Last season’s champions return to action, hosting newly promoted Southampton this Sunday. Having watched the Community Shield last weekend, we saw Mancini continue his pre-season experiment with 3-4-1-2 but I would expect a return to a 4-2-3-1 in this match. Stefan Savic again looked lost and surely Mancini will not persist with the formation unless someone more comfortable at centre back can be found. The good news from the match was that they got a good warm-up match and the strikers looked sharp. At the end of last season it looked like the beginnings of a good partnership between Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez and they both looked excellent against Chelsea. I think Mancini will probably falter again in the Champions League, but he’ll retain the title as I fail to see any obvious weaknesses in the squad and the strikers look hungry. It is an ominous sign for the rest of the league. If he can get another international centre back to add to the excellent Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott then they shouldn’t falter like they did last season to let Man Utd back into the title chase.
Southampton ‘did a Norwich’ and earnt back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League in the last two seasons. The similarities in the sides don’t end there either. Both have looked to the lower leagues and bought players consistently performing well and given them a chance at a higher level. Take Rickie Lambert and Grant Holt. Both have scored loads of goals and never been given a chance until the last two seasons at a higher level. Holt thrived last season by using his strength in alliance with more than decent technique to provide Norwich with numerous goals and Saints fans will be hoping for the same from Lambert. I think they may be disappointed as I think Holt is the superior player and has more intelligence to his game. I fail to see how a mostly Championship side stops a thrashing here.
Back Manchester City -2.0 Asian Handicap at 2.1 with Bet365. Two Points.
Celta Vigo v Malaga, Saturday 1800
The Spanish Primera returns on Saturday and first up is promoted Celta hosting debt-ridden Malaga. Celta had a very good run in the Primera in the late nineties and early part of this century before being bitten by money problems and falling to the Segunda, starting from scratch in the process. They have always been involved in the promotion picture though and finally climbed back up this time round. They have a fairly raucous fanbase who back them every week and last season their back line conceded the joint least goals in their division. This should serve them well in the Primera as aside from the big boys, most teams actually don’t score too many and if they can get their forwards firing they’ll have a very good chance of being clear of relegation worries. The fact they were also top scorers in the Segunda last season suggests they might just do that.
Malaga were being widely tipped to be future Champions League regulars after the arrival of oil money two summers ago and an influx of talent including Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Santi Cazorla and Joaquin. However, this summer has seen the wheels fall off spectacularly with revelations players haven’t been getting their wages and the club had to sell players just to stay afloat. This has seen Van Nistelrooy encouraged to retire (he did) and Santi Cazorla sold to Arsenal with more departures expected. They were challenging for the Champions League spots most of last season, but even this was almost by default with nobody aside from Barcelona and Real Madrid being able to perform every week. They were awful at times and particularly bad away from home. Celta were 3.2 shots for this match at the start of the week and have been cut a lot, but they still look a bet to me.
Back Celta De Vigo at 2.4 with BlueSq. Two Points.
Mallorca v Espanyol, Saturday 2200
Up and comers meet fallen giants on Saturday night in Spain. Mallorca were something of a force in Spain around a decade ago with the likes of Samuel Eto’o in the side, but have since fallen well off those heights. As with many clubs in Spain, this is due to them almost being encouraged to invest well beyond their means gambling on Champions League football and then being left skint if not achieved. If you imagine the Leeds situation at about 80% of the severity, it probably applies to at least ten sides in Spain’s top division. The fact Barcelona and Real Madrid take so much TV money also compounds the problem. Anyway, Mallorca were fortunate to escape relegation last season and with the newly promoted sides looking alright they may not be so lucky this time. There’s been little activity to improve the playing squad and they may well struggle from the start.
Espanyol have steadily improved since appointing Mauricio Pochettino three years ago. He has built up the squad without much money to spend and has been rewarded with the move to the new stadium seeing an increase in crowds, revenue and improved performances from the players. The goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez is very good and Javi Lopez in front of him is a solid centre back. There is also Sergio Garcia, Juan Albin and Joan Capdevilla all adding experience and nous to the squad with the club looking to either bring through or sign young players who can benefit from these older heads. So far it seems to be working and with the financial side of the club seeming very stable for a Spanish side they should be looking forward to once again making a push for Europe.
Lay Mallorca at 2.05 on Betfair. One Point.
Karabukspor v Trabzonspor, Saturday 1500
Karabukspor hardly set the world alight last season, but they were well clear of relegation and scored quite a few for a side in their position. Their definite weakness was a penchant for getting hammered when the defence seemingly decided to have a day off. Barring these mad matches, they were a decent mid-table side. This season will largely depend on whether they can eradicate these strange lapses and push on to make a play for European football. This will probably be beyond them, but I don’t see them being too worried about relegation.
Trabzonspor lost star striker Burak Yilmaz to champions Galatasaray and he takes away half of the side’s goals from last season with him. The fact he was also available for only around £5million has somewhat hamstrung any attempts to replace him. On the positive side Yilmaz was definitely a greedy player and needed the whole team set up to allow him to thrive, which might see him not do so well at Galatasaray. Trabzon however could benefit from his removal from the side if other players step up to provide goals and assists. Presumably manager Senol Gunes has been bright enough to try to alter the team’s setup tactically, but it could take a while for them to really start functioning. They may be best avoided the first few weeks.
Lay Trabzonspor at 1.95 on Betfair. One Point.
Istanbul BB v Besiktas, Sunday 1800
Istanbul BB have proven in the last two seasons that they can perform very well when they want and have had a brilliant home record on the back of a solid defence. They only lost once at home last season and only conceded 15 goals in those 17 games. They don’t score very many either, but they don’t need to when they are as adept as they are at keeping clean sheets.
Besiktas have continued their hit and mostly miss transfer policy of buying and offloading in bulk every single summer in the hope they throw together a wonder team. This has seen them get rid of last season’s best player Manuel Fernandes and then re-sign him. They have also added ex-Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor, which actually looks a rare excellent investment to me. However, they do still have the likes of Simao and Ricardo Quaresma who should really set this league alight, but are clearly only in Turkey for the large tax-free pay cheques. They won’t be awful this season, but don’t expect them to make any sort of impact on the title picture. I think they’ll struggle in games like this as they traditionally do.
Back Istanbul BB at 2.8 with Stan James. One Point.