Return Of The Matt, Once Again…
Due to a technical hitch, (Editor’s note – the hitch being I was playing FIFA and forgot about it…) last week’s column was not published on site, but it was on my personal site so here are the selections and results from another profitable weekend.
Arsenal v Chelsea – win 1.8 points.
Sunderland v Wigan – win 2 points.
Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao – win 1.4 points.
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Schalke 04 – win 2.04 points.
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich – win 1.8 points.
Inter Milan v Fiorentina – lose two points.
Eskisehirspor v Istanbul BB – lose two points.
Trabzonspor v Mersin Idman Yurdu – scratch.
Total – win 5.04 points.
Running Total – win 12.96 points.
Music this week comes from Rancid lead singer Tim Armstrong with Hold On.
West Brom v QPR, Saturday 1500
In my season ante-post betting preview, I expressed my concern at West Brom’s appointment of Steve Clarke as manager and thought they were worth an investment to go down. They have started off well though and look well placed to disappoint anyone who followed me. I am well aware of the reputation Clarke holds as a very good defensive coach and he has certainly made West Brom a very organised side in defence. This is the reason they have so far won three from three at home whilst not conceding a single goal in that period. They have also scored six goals in those three matches and they have a good set of options in attack with the hard-running and physical presence of Shane Long and then the flair and unpredictability of Peter Odemwingie too. These two are enough to provide questions for most defences on their own. They got a creditable away draw in the derby at Aston Villa last weekend and should take continued confidence from that.
QPR have looked dreadful so far. I watched them at Loftus Road against Reading in the League Cup last week where they managed to throw away the lead twice to finally succumb 3-2. There was heavy investment in both January and over the summer in the playing staff, but this has not reaped rewards at all so far. I think a lot of this blame has to be laid at the door of manager Mark Hughes. I’ve not been impressed with Hughes for a long time and his high opinion of himself certainly doesn’t help. He did do a good job at both Blackburn and Wales, but since then he was poor at Man City and then steadied Fulham before leaving, wanting a better job. He has some very good players at his disposal at QPR, but is not getting any sort of performance out of them. There seems to be very little tactical direction when I see them and the defence is often alarmingly poor. I don’t see how they get anything out of this.
Back West Bromwich Albion at 1.9 with BetVictor. Two points.
Newcastle v Man Utd, Sunday 1600
Newcastle have not been as impressive as last season, but they should still be confident of a top-half finish and possibly European football again. The side that impressed last season has been kept together and that should stand them in good stead so long as a few fresh faces are brought in during the January window to freshen things up. Alan Pardew has a settled defence which helps to keep clean sheets and in attack possesses numerous options to unleash. Demba Ba continued his excellent Premier League scoring record with both goals against Reading last weekend to salvage a draw. Even if he is unhappy to be seemingly behind Papiss Cisse in the pecking order, Pardew seems to be getting him to try and prove him wrong, which is good for the team. There is also the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa marauding from wide positions to supply the strikers and also to shoot himself, which has produced a few stunning goals. The key battle will be in the centre of midfield though, if Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye can neutralise whoever Alex Ferguson picks then they have every chance of getting something.
Having lost at home to Tottenham last Saturday evening, United proceeded to fall behind to CFR Cluj in Romania on Tuesday and have to struggle back to a 2-1 win. This could be seen as a more positive result as they battled back strongly to win in the end, but it again highlights where they have issues. Patrice Evra was once again at fault for the Cluj goal with him simply letting the Romanian side’s winger go by him and cross unchallenged. This isn’t the only time he has done this in the last 18 months and it is surely a matter of time before he is dropped. Then there is the continuing issues at centre back, mostly due to at least one from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans being injured at any time. This is not aided by the lack of cover provided by the centre of midfield. Alex Ferguson has numerous options with Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Michael Carrick, as well as a returning Darren Fletcher. The problem is that apart from Fletcher, none of them are defensively minded, and in the case of Scholes, Giggs and Anderson are not even able to harry back and forth for any stretch of time. This is where the battle will be won or lost again.
Lay Manchester United at 1.95 on Betfair. Two points.
Real Valladolid v Espanyol, Saturday 1900
There’s been an improvement in La Liga tips lately and it’s been by going against those teams who seem to be in dire straits. This may sound simple, but it’s hard to pick who these teams are going to be in pre-season, with so many changes in personnel as well as everyone barring a select few being completely broke. It currently looks likely that Espanyol are going to struggle a lot unless something changes quickly. They look uninspired in attack and awful at the back, not a good combination at all. They are still yet to get a victory and have lost all three away matches whilst conceding six goals.
Valladolid have started pretty well and sit mid-table at this early stage. They also thrashed Rayo Vallecano 6-1 last weekend to provide them with a huge boost. The ex-Man Utd forward Manucho is really beginning to show signs of why he was signed after a strong African Cup Of Nations campaign. He is a physical presence and should relish going up against a weak Espanyol back-line.
Back Real Valladolid at 2.0 with Ladbrokes. One point.
Genoa v Palermo, Sunday 1400
Nothing really stands out again in Italy for me this week. You could argue AC Milan are a good price off the back of beating Zenit in midweek, but I’m not keen to be betting on a derby in a shared stadium. Juventus look a bit short this week, even if it is against a fairly poor Siena side. I think the best bet is on a Genoa side that is a shadow of its former self at home to a Palermo side in a similar situation. Genoa have not been quite as poor as I thought they might be and have managed a symmetrical record of won one, drawn one, lost one both at home and away. They have also scored and conceded seven so far. They are an open side, and I think that will continue in this.
Palermo started terribly and look to have improved a bit in recent weeks and finally posted a win last weekend with a 4-1 home victory against Chievo. They have lost every away match though and failed to score in that time. The victory last week may well spur them on a bit, but I’m not sure they’re at all backable yet. This poor away record has been a feature for all of last season as well as this so the odds for Genoa appeal.
Back Genoa at 2.25 with BetVictor. One point.
Greuther Forth v Hamburg, Saturday 1430
Greuther Forth have been struggling since promotion over the summer and currently sit second bottom of the Bundesliga with only one win to their name. That win was in their second game away at a Mainz side who have also started the season very slowly. They have lost all three of their matches at home so far and have also lost three matches on the bounce to leave them looking almost devoid of any confidence in themselves. Their main problem is a lack of goals. They are yet to score at home and have only two goals in total from all six matches. In a high scoring league like the Bundesliga where you will inevitably ship a few goals, it is imperative you have a few players capable of scoring and Greuther do not look able.
Hamburg have finally started to look a backable prospect after almost 18 months of me betting against the team and doing very well out of it. The signing of Rafael Van Der Vaart does not solve all their problems, but it has given the fans and squad a timely boost and results have improved since he arrived. However, the best performer so far has been their goalkeeper Rene Adler. Against any side with a decent attack Hamburg are likely to give away chances and it is only the form of their goalkeeper that has allowed them to get positive results of late. Adler was previously seen as a great prospect so this return to form is much needed. The team have scored seven goals in their last four matches and with Greuther unable to offer much threat they look backable. I can hardly believe I’m saying it!
Back Hamburg at 2.62 with BetVictor. Two points.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt, Sunday 1430
Monchengladbach regularly featured last season due to their uncanny ability to frustrate sides and then rely on Marco Reus for goals and inspiration to win. Unfortunately the wonderful Reus has now departed for Borussia Dortmund and left Gladbach desperately short of attacking threat. This was most keenly shown last week as Reus grabbed two goals for his new side in a 5-0 win over his old one. Before then, Gladbach’s previously solid defence had also been shown to be leakier than anticipated with twelve goals conceded in six matches and only one clean sheet. They have only won one match so far and are now up against the league’s form side besides Bayern Munich.
Frankfurt have started off like a train and would be top, were it not for the unstoppable Bayern Munich. They have only dropped points in one match so far, in a 3-3 draw with reigning champions Borussia Dortmund where they also showed great determination to recover from 2-0 down. They have shown that they can score goals with 16 in their six matches so far. They have conceded goals, but have actually managed to only concede one in their two away matches so far. They seem tactically aware enough to reign it in a bit away from home, but have still managed six goals for in those two matches, including a fantastic 4-0 win away at Hoffenheim. With Monchengladbach coming off the back of a Thursday night Europa League match with Fenerbahce Frankfurt must fancy their chances of continuing their run.
Lay Monchengladbach at 2.2. Three points.
Sivasspor v Bursaspor, Sunday 1400
I thought Sivasspor would be one to watch this season as they have been steadily improving for the last 18 months and they currently sit in fourth position. A lot of this improvement has been a scaling back of their very attacking approach and trying to make their home form a lot better. They are so far unbeaten at home with a win and two draws, including a good win against form side Kasimpasa. They also beat Besiktas 1-0 last weekend away in an impressive defensive showing, they have now won three matches 1-0 and only conceded in two games. This is hugely different to previous years where they attacked all the time with an approach of scoring one more than the opposition.
Bursaspor were also a side I was interested in watching as they seemed to be back to their previous best in their early matches, and they were scoring plenty. Unfortunately for them they have reverted back to being very inconsistent and making themselves very hard to back with any confidence. They thrashed Karabukspor 4-1 one week, but then drew with pointless Elazigspor the next weekend. They followed this disappointment with a late goal to nick a home draw with a struggling Gaziantepspor side and they look out of sorts at the moment. They wont be looking forward to what now looks a tough game for any side against Sivasspor.
Back Sivasspor at 2.5 with BetVictor. 2.5 points.