After the thrills of building a fantastic bank every week for the last seven, I'm afraid we'll have to console ourselves with a tiny profit this weekend! Mind you, that now means no losses for eight weeks for a free tips column. Not to get too cocky, but there's plenty of people out there who will charge a decent amount to give you tips offering little or no value at all. The way I want to do it is so that we can all have the fun of getting some bets on every week, but also to make us all some money. The only way I think that is viable is too look for an edge/value in the odds. It's all very well saying 'back Manchester United at home to QPR, they can't lose', and you'd be right most of the time. But, if the odds are way too short, you'll not have made enough money to cover the inevitable upset that WILL happen.
Norwich v Fulham - Lose 2 points.
Sunderland v Arsenal - Lose 2 points.
Deportivo v Granada - Win 1.75 points.
Atalanta v Catania - Void
Hannover v Hoffenheim - Win 3.13 points.
Augsburg v Mainz - Win 1.39 points.
Karabukspor v Bursaspor - Lose 2 points.
Sivasspor v Trabzonspor - Win 1.37 points
Totals - Win 1.64 points.
Running Totals - Up 45.64 points.
Music this week from column favouriteThe Unseen with Paint It Black.
Liverpool v Swansea, Sunday 1600
Just one Premier League match this weekend with FA Cup matches on the agenda, but fortunately I think there's certainly a bet to be had. I was probably as bemused as anyone to see Brendan Rodgers describe Monday nights defeat at home to West Brom as 'the end of a terrific run'. Liverpool had won one in six before that and had been beaten by Oldham Athletic. I'll admit that at times since Daniel Sturridge's introduction they have shown signs of being a more threatening side, but they are a mid-table side now and make no mistake. The defence seems to have developed a worrying tendency to allow itself to be bullied by any sort of physical presence at all and the midfield offers very little help in that regard. Lucas Leiva's return to the side was trumpeted as a huge boost, but whilst he is undoubtably a nuisance, I don't think he adds much to this side. Steven Gerrard has again been the best performer for them, barring Luis Suarez, and that says it all after his struggles to adapt to the system early on in the season. How on earth they keep getting priced so short I don't know, but some idiots must still be backing them at the prices.
Swansea have kicked on since Brendan Rodgers moved to Anfield and Michael Laudrup came in to replace him. I've commented numerous times on who I think got the better end of that deal, and it's not the red half of Merseyside. The addition of some flair and goals to what was already a functional side at Swansea has seen them looking like an outside bet for Europe through their league position and odds on to win the League Cup and qualify that way anyway. Michu has been everyone's favourite addition to the side and ended his somewhat barren run with two goals against a woeful QPR side last weekend. They looked like they needed a confidence restoring win like that and should never be such long odds when they're a better overall side for me.
Lay Liverpool at 1.6 on Betfair. 2 points.
Huddersfield v Wigan, Sunday 1555
I've stated before I'm no lover of betting on friendlies or cup matches and that hasn't changed, although latter stages usually at least guarantee most sides are taking the cups seriously. This should be the case in the FA Cup matches this weekend, but there's an awful lot of short prices around. Probably justifiably so when you look at the draw. The only match that springs out to me is the trip Wigan have to Huddersfield. Huddersfield have appointed Mark Robins as manager this week after a season so far where they are only three points above the relegation places in the Championship. In his short managerial career so far though Robins seems to have promise. He had a good spell at Rotherham, did well at Barnsley for the most part and steadied Coventry too. I think he'll pull the Terriers to safety and a cup run continuing would really aid the spirit. There's not an awful lot of flair in the side, but against Wigan that may be a good thing.
Wigan have more important things to worry about than the FA Cup with them again in serious danger of relegation from the Premier League. They keep narrowly surviving, but with a lack of more than one truly dreadful side in the top division this year I think they'll fall. The manager Roberto Martinez gets his fair share of plaudits for trying to 'play the right way', but I would regard this as folly when it keeps putting them in danger. He might well do better with a better side, but I don't think a parting of ways would seriously harm either manager or club. I'd want a bit longer than their current odds to back them in this.
Lay Wigan at 2.12 on Betfair. 2 points.
Real Valladolid v Atletico Madrid, Sunday 1800
The very definition of a mid-table side in La Liga this term is Valladolid. They're a solid side at home and get the odd result away to keep their heads above water. Their home form so far reads won five, drawn four and lost three. When two of those losses are to Real Madrid and Barcelona, and they gave a good account of themselves in both, you should see they're a very decent side. They've won two and drawn one at home since the winter break too to show they're still going well. Basically, they give anyone a match at their own ground.
Atletico Madrid are currently enjoying a season well ahead of city rivals Real Madrid in second position. They also seemed to have eliminated the inconsistencies that would see them look like world beaters one week and relegation candidates the next since Diego Simeone came in as manager. However comma since the end of December they're away form has unravelled a bit, leaving themselves in serious danger of being overtaken by Real. They've not won in six away from home, with four defeats in there too. Coming off a Europa League match on Thursday too I think you have to be against them in this.
Lay Atletico Madrid at 2.1 on Betfair. 2 points.
Catania v Bologna, Sunday 1400
Slim pickings again in Serie A this week in terms of any sort of standout bet. Roma under new management could do better with more harmony so their match against Juventus is best left alone I think. A side I have mentioned a few times lately is Catania. For me they are the sort of side I like to keep an eye on for betting possibilities. They're no big name so in foreign leagues they can often slip under the radar of the odds compilers, or simply be left at appealing odds against the big boys as punters won't know to back them either. The reason I'm keen on them is their home form. They go eight wins, two draws and two defeats in Sicily so far, with the trip across the water not appealing to sides at all. They have also scored twenty (very good in Italy) and only conceded ten to show just how dominant they've been.
Bologna are more of a recognisable name to many outside of Italy, due to them having been in Serie A for a good proportion of the last decade or two. They look safely away from the relegation spots at present, but they seem to be more likely to drop to Serie B than to push towards Europe these days. They've ground out results at home to keep them away from the drop zone, but their away form is not good at all. They have won three and lost nine with no draws so far on the road and that's dreadful. Although one of those wins was just a fortnight ago, it was against the bottom side Pescara who look miles from a top division side.
Back Catania at 2.05 with BetVictor. 2 points.
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Greuther Furth, Saturday 1430
This match looks the pick of the bunch in betting terms in the Bundesliga this weekend to me. Both sides were promoted over the summer and both still harbour fears of returning to the Bundesliga II at this stage of the season. But, Fortuna Dusseldorf have far more chance of staying up due to one of the better home records in the bottom half of the table. They go four wins, four draws and three defeats with seventeen both scored and conceded. They lost two of those defeats back-to-back in October for nine goals to Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg in a terrible week for them. If you remove those and put them down to one useless week though, your left with a good home record. I'm happy to do so in this one.
Greuther Furth are bottom of the table and almost certain to be relegated with a paltry twelve points so far from twenty one matches. They simply look miles out of their depth at this level and only thirteen goals scored in those matches tells its own story about where there major flaw is. They've actually got their only two wins when on their travels, but they were both against sides in the worst spells of their seasons and I think the odds on the home side are generous.
Back Fortuna Dusseldorf at 2.4 at BetVictor. 2 points.
Mainz 05 v Schalke 04, Saturday 1430
The odds on Mainz are shortening in this as I write so get on as quick as you can would be my advice! They have been involved in the European places now for a number of seasons thanks to the work of Jurgen Klopp and now Thomas Tuchel. Both of these appointments were seen as brave at the time, but the board have been proven to have an excellent eye for a coach in both instances. Klopp established the hard-working, pressing style most are now familiar with in his Borussia Dortmund side and Tuchel has carried on in this vein. They have a very good home record of won six, drawn one and lost three so far with fourteen scored and just nine conceded. They're not prone to attacking, but they score enough to get the results they need.
Schalke have been a favourite lay of mine since the start of December when I spotted them unravelling. They were last seasons surprise package for many with the goals of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar firing them to third in the table and the Champions League knockout stages too. This season they have found it much harder going with Huntelaar subdued with no Raul beside him. This led to the sacking of coach Huub Stevens before the winter break, but they don't look loads better yet to me. In their last two matches they have been beaten at home by the dreadful Greuther Furth and thrashed 4-0 by Bayern Munich.
Lay Schalke at 3.2 on Betfair. 3 points.
Antalyaspor v Karabukspor, Saturday 1700
Before the winter break I was following an Antalyaspor side who looked likely to be the surprise side in the Super Lig. Since they have returned though they have not looked the same side that beat Fenerbahce 3-1 away and was so lethal on the counter attack. In Turkey this is not unusual with the Istanbul giants having much bigger squads than everyone else and this eventually telling when injuries and tiredness set in for everybody else. As it is Antalya have been very good at home still, but have lost one of their last two in their own stadium as well as the last three away. They're out of form and look likely to drop down the table.
Karabukspor have been the side I've been following since the winter break and I think they've not been spotted as a side on the up yet by the odds compilers. They've grasped the attack when away fashion now so prevalent in Turkey and it has left them with an away record of won five, drawn one and lost five. They go for it and it usually goes one way or the other. They're actually also joint away scorers with twenty one in those eleven matches. Against an out of form Antalya I think they're worth a chance.
Lay Antalyaspor at 1.87 on Betfair. 2 points.
Trabzonspor v Fenerbahce, Sunday 1700
This one is a tough one to call as Trabzonspor are under a new coach and Fenerbahce are not good at all away from home. But, the crucial thing for me all season when being against Trabzon is the lack of goals in the side. It might seem obvious but you can't win if you don't score and that often factors in my decision of whether to lay a side. In Trabzon's case they have completely failed to adjust to life without the now Galatasaray striker Burak Yilmaz and this has left them miles off the European spots. Their home record of won five, drawn three and lost three is ok, but they've only beaten the divisions poorest sides. This is good enough to keep a side out of trouble, but no good for a team as big as Trabzonspor.
Fenerbahce have failed in their quest to take back the Super Lig title from eternal rivals Galatasaray this season. They've even fallen behind the other big side from the capital, Besiktas. They have pulled themselves to within a win of Besiktas now though and will be keen to get at least second spot and a shot at Champions League football next season. They've not won many away from home with a record of won three, drawn five and lost two, but they're not easy to beat either. With Trabzon so short of goals I couldn't back them in this one.
Lay Trabzonspor at 2.8 on Betfair. 2.5 points.