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Back And Raring To Go

Last week I sadly got tremendously busy and was unable to write a full column, so my apologies for that. Until the momentous day I become paid for all this my real job has to take priority! Those that follow me on the Twitter using @TopTopTips will have made some money over the weekend though and also a small bit on the Champions League so far.

 

Week Fifteen

 

Total - Win 2.35 points.

 

Week Sixteen

 

Total - Win 2.3 points.

 

Running Total - Up 6.39 points.

 

Music this week from Above Them with Give It Up To Start Again, Leeds based band who are very good live.

 

Swansea v Norwich, Saturday 1500

 

Two of last season's promoted sides meet in Wales this weekend. Swansea are under new management with Michael Laudrup now the man in charge and attempting to build on the work Brendan Rodgers did in keeping them up last year. He has had a mixed start, as might be expected, due to some players leaving and him also wanting to bring in some players of his own to add a different element to the side. The most successful of these imports so far has been the Spaniard Michu. Touted as something of an unknown by a lot of the English-centric media, he was in fact last seasons top scoring midfielder in La Liga, but he was a bargain at £2million. He added to his burgeoning reputation last weekend by bagging a brace to beat Arsenal at the Emirates and push Swansea above the Gunners in the table too. Although that result was very good, they can be frustrated by a more tactically aware side than Arsenal as they do still like to play around, with Michu and fellow new boy Pablo Hernandes given licence to roam. 

 

Norwich have looked every bit a tactically aware side in the last two months under new manager Chris Hughton. They some into this unbeaten in nine matches with a win over Manchester United a stand-out result for them. Since the centre back pairing of Michael Turner and Sebastian Bassong have gotten used to each other they have looked a very assured duo and they repel most attacks. The tactical adjustment to see Wes Hoolahan behind Grant Holt and Anthony Pilkington able to cut in from wide has also seen a much swifter attack than under Paul Lambert. It has also seen the goals shared out a lot more with Hoolahan's set piece delivery also adding yet another dimension. I've been very impressed with Norwich of late and think they're being underestimated by the bookmakers at present.

 

Lay Swansea at 1.82 on Betfair. 2 points.

 

Manchester City v Manchester United, Sunday 1330

 

I am in Manchester this weekend surrounded by my wonderful girlfriends family, who are all huge Man Utd fans! This being said, my Dad is a dyed in the wool Man City fan and I have always had a soft spot for the Blue side because of this. This leaves me bound to upset someone with this prediction, although I can assure you it is a purely betting led decision. For those who don't want to see me tipping against The Red Devils I would look away now...

 

Manchester City exited the Champions League this week with their bottoms well and truly spanked. My colleague at work is no admirer of Roberto Mancini to put it mildly, but I had previously defended him slightly because he had improved Mark Hughes team and won the league. I was aware of his previous poor record in European competition with Inter Milan though so I can no longer defend him from that. City were poor in every match they played and deserved to get nothing from their group. However comma in the Premier league they stand unbeaten and seem to be able to get something from every match. This, in my opinion, reflects the regression in quality in the English top flight in the past few seasons, but that's for another day. They are solid enough when Mancini doesn't tinker and certainly possess enough attacking threat to worry any side in England, United included.

 

Manchester United had already qualified from their Champions League group so took the decision to field a young and inexperienced side who lost at home to Cfr Cluj. This was largely a measure taken to rest key players for the Manchester derby and a chance to pull away from City in the title race. The problem with this is that they haven't looked tired to me particularly, just not good enough in some key areas to comfortably beat the very best. I always criticise their midfield, but for a reason. Michael Carrick has a purpose, but needs a far stronger partner than United currently possess. Antonio Valencia can be effective, but is a one trick pony. Anderson needs some serious fitness advice, although I still think he has talent. Nani appears to be on his way out. Ashley Young is not good enough for a top level side. They are being pulled through matches by Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie too often and this won't keep working. I don't see them being the side to halt City's unbeaten run, although I doubt they'll be blown away as City aren't playing the greatest stuff either of late.

 

Lay Manchester United at 2.95. 3 points.

 

Levante v Mallorca, Sunday 1100

 

Most of you will have noticed a pattern emerging somewhat in my Spanish tipping, namely that I have followed Levante for almost a year now! This is because although they have proven themselves in that time to be the most consistent side outside of the top three, they are still priced like everyone else in the betting. I don't think this is right and I'm ahppy to keep following them, particularly at home where they are exceptionally hard to beat.

 

Back Levante at 2.05 with Bet365.

 

Inter Milan v Napoli, Sunday 1945

 

Just the one from Italy's Serie A as ever this weekend. I've gone for possibly the biggest match though between the two potential challengers to reigning champions Juventus. Inter Milan had been in a great run after a slow start that had seen them rise to second in the table and ending Juventus's long unbeaten run in Turin with a well deserved victory. The young manager Andrea Stramaccioni should take an awful lot of credit for all this as he has proven himself well able to handle the ego's amongst the players and owners of the notoriously unstable club. Unfortunately it seems Inter have decided things were going too well and have chucked a Wesley Sneijder shaped spanner in the works. The Dutchmen has always been a prickly character, but an undoubted talent, and this has shown in his current contract negotiations. Inter desperately want him to take a pay cut and he, understandably, does not want to. This has led to various levels of management criticising him in public and has coincided with a noticeable drop in performances as the players seem distracted. With him also missing from the side Diego Milito's rejuvenation is put on hold with him receiving a much worse supply of balls.

 

Napoli seem able to get at the leaders of the table, but then falter at the critical moment. To credit the owner and manager though, they have come an awful long way in the past five years. A mixture of investment and the signings and tactics of manager Walter Mazzari have seen them move from a mid-table side to title challengers. And with their best talent often sold on for large profits this is no mean feat. They have so far resisted the temptation to sell star striker Edinson Cavani and I can see why. He is one of a dying breed of strikers who are in the mould of doing things themselves, most now seem to be 'forwards' who prefer to start away from goal and move in. Cavani provides a target and no lack of goals either. Napoli play a tighter game away from home, as can be seen in only five conceded in seven, and I think they can frustrate a failing Inter side.

 

Lay Inter Milan at 2.4 on Betfair. 2 points.

 

Stuttgart v Schalke 04, Saturday 1430

 

Stuttgart had what has become a traditional very poor start to the Bundesliga season, but they have managed to turn their form around enough to be in upper mid-table now. They certainly have the talent with players like Vedad Ibisevic and Zdravko Kuzmanovic in the ranks to be making a challenge for European football. It is also to their credit that they stuck with coach Bruno Labbadia as there were certainly calls to remove him after three seasons of poor starts. He may well have taken them as far as he can though so I would expect the calls to mount again at some point. Anyway, they have won the last two matches and should be on something of a high, but with only three clean sheets all season they may well be worried about Schalke's forward line.

 

As mentioned Schalke have something of a fearsome forward line that is currently not firing on all cylinders and has led to some good profits for followers on here and twitter of late. They have not won in four matches now and there have been murmurings from the squad that they are shattered from a long season last time and now the same again here whilst battling and qualifying in the Champions League on top of the league program. The Xmas break cannot come soon enough for most of the squad. They still look deflated and I'll oppose them once again here.

 

Back Stuttgart at 2.9 with William Hill. 2 points.

 

Borussia Monchengladbach v Mainz 05, Sunday 1430

 

Another team I followed for a while last season and have been on lately are Monchengladbach. They have completely revamped their style of play in the absence of last seasons star man Marco Reus and it seems to be beginning to bear fruit. Reus has shown his quality at Dortmund already and Gladback relied heavily on him to sneak wins in matches where they simply defended and gave him the ball. This season has seen them go from 1-0 merchants to possibly the most entertaining side in a very entertaining league. The reason I've liked them recently is that they have tightened up a little at the back soon to add to a more rounded attack. They're unbeaten in three and against a side who don't enjoy their travels.

 

Mainz have also featured heavily in columns this season and last as they are a fairly reliable side and definitely so at home. They seem well set to feature around the European spots for the next few seasons as they don't rely on any one player, but rather a system of hard work and pressing. This means that as long as they replace players and bring in new bodies who buy into this work ethic they will give every other side a tough match. Unfortunately for them their away form is their achilles heel. They go won two, drawn two and lost four away from home so far and look much more shaky and unwilling to enforce their gameplan on their travels. They meet a side in good nick and will struggle here I think.

 

Back Borussia Monchengladbach Draw No Bet at 1.72 with StanJames. 2.5 points.

 

Gaziantepspor v Karabukspor, Saturday 1400

 

A mid table match up to start us off in this weeks Super Lig. Home form is often all important in some of the more minor leagues around and that is definitely the case for most of the Super Lig. Gaziantepspor are one of these sides who are kept out of danger by a good home record. This season has been no different, although a lot of that is because they throw it all in for three points instead of a draw. This has left them with no draws so far, but rather four wins and three defeats in front of their own fans. They have a healthy eleven goals for them in those matches, and remember it is a very tight division outside of the giants, and only eight conceded too. They're unbeaten in three and looking good at present.

 

Karabukspor celebrated a brilliant win at Galatasaray a couple of weeks ago, but that performance was very much a one off when looked at with the rest of their form. They have shifted a huge amount of goals away from home so far, eighteen in seven matches is appalling, and find themselves in a relegation scrap. It's a decent attack against a poor defence with home advantage playing well into it. 

 

Back Gaziantepspor at 2.1 with StanJames. 2 points.

 

Fenerbahce v Istanbul BB, Sunday 1700

 

This one is a bit of a punt so bear with me...

 

Fener have an excellent home record so far this season and part of this as I see it is due to teams turning up already beaten mentally. This sees them able to attack at will and score plenty of goals. But, this also naturally leaves them exposed at the back to any side that can be bothered to have a go. I see Istanbul BB as such a side. They, along with Mersin Idman, have bucked the home record trend in Turkey in the last six months by actually being better away from home. They attack sides thinking that they can disrupt them and go after a game knowing the home sides probably don't expect it and leave gaps. I'm not sure they'll get anything, but we should see plenty of goals regardless.

 

Back Over 3.5 Goals at 3.1 with William Hill. 2 points.

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