After a very hard weekend in Krakow last week I am back and just about human enough to put this together. Turns out I had a pretty good return from the last round of matches and will be hoping to continue this and once again build our bank back up after the nightmare of a fortnight ago.
Man Utd v Arsenal - win 2.1 points.
Sunderland v Aston Villa - win 0.95 points.
Granada v Athletic Bilbao - win 0.95 points.
Fiorentina v Cagliari - win 1.63 points.
Hamburg v Bayern Munich - lose 1 point.
Werder Bremen v Mainz 05 - lose 3 points.
Genclerbirligi v Elazigspor - lose 3 points.
Antalyaspor v Trabzonspor - win 3.2 points.
Total - up 1.63 points.
Running Total - up 3.31 points.
Music this week from my current favourites Time Again with Movin' On.
Everton v Sunderland, Saturday 1500
There could be an argument to say that so far this season Everton are the most improved side in the division. Last season saw one of their famous early slumps mean that their later form could not push them to challenge for the Champions League places, but this season they went off like a rocket. Whilst they are still well short of having a squad large enough to make a realistic challenge for the title, their starting eleven is a match for anyone in the Premier League. The two players that were the catalyst last season were Nikola Jelavic and the returning Steven Pienaar. They added the creativity and the goals that changed them from functional to a very good side. They have been joined over the summer by Kevin Mirallas and with Tim Cahill leaving Marouane Fellaini has been pushed further forward to become a pivot for the rest of the side. This has made them into quite an attacking force, which allayed to their always formidable defence should see them pushing for a top four position.
Sunderland could well be the most disappointing side in the league so far. I've been saying that I think Martin O'Neill's tactics are massively outdated since his spell at Aston Villa and it looks like the same thing is happening in the north. So far this season they have only had twelve shots on target in total and only Steven Fletcher has scored for them apart from a Demba Ba own goal. The main problem I see with O'Neill's tactics are that he completely sets a side up to defend from kick off and gives his one striker one player capable of unlocking a defence to play with. When this one player is out of form then the goals dry up, as they have so far. Stephen Sessegnon was very good last season, but for whatever reason this time out he looks jaded. This has left Fletcher to create chances for himself or wait for set-plays for chances. It is to his credit he has done so well, but no other player in the current side is playing well at all.
Back Everton at 1.53 with Ladbrokes. 3 points.
Chelsea v Liverpool, Sunday 1600
Arguably the 'big' match in terms of neutral interest this weekend sees Liverpool travelling to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fell off the top of the Premier League when losing the hotly contested match with Manchester United two weeks ago. Whilst the decisons from that match were without doubt a bit off, Chelsea probably didn't deserve to win either. Alex Ferguson set his side up to attack and therefore go after Chelsea's weakest spot and got that completely right. Fortunately for Chelsea there is no other side in the Premier League with the wealth of attacking options that United have and they should continue to push back for the title. The attacking triumvirate of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar who play behind Fernando Torres are definitely the best forwards in the division and if they had a better striker than Fernando Torres to play off they would probably blow sides away every week. Expect them to bring this player in in January or next summer.
Liverpool have had their worst start to a league season since 1903 under Brendan Rodgers. The ex-Swansea manager is being given time as it is clear that he is trying to change the style of play at Liverpool with very little investment compared to his predecessors. Unfortunately there are the beginnings of those familiar rumblings of discontent as it is also clear that the current squad is not able to get results in this style. The major issue is the forward players are just not good enough except for Luis Suarez. Suarez himself bears this opinion out most matches with his clear distrust of those around him by trying to do everything himself and shooting on sight whenever a chance presents itself. Sometimes this does come off and he looks a world beater, but all too often he could do with some help. There is a lot of hope being placed in Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling, and they do look fine prospects, but to throw them into a side fans expect to be challenging for European football is too much too soon for them.
Back Chelsea at 2.0 with BetVictor. 2.5 points.
Espanyol v Osasuna, Saturday 1700
I'm going to go for two from Spain's Primera Liga this weekend, although the next one up will be something of a long odds punt. This one is between two of the sides currently struggling in the league, although Espanyol seem to be turning their form around. They stand unbeaten in their last four matches and in such a tight division one more win could well see them in mid-table. This is one of the things I dislike about betting on Spanish football that because the big two squeeze so much of the money and best players away from everyone else it becomes a free for all for the rest barring one or two every season. The thing to do seems to be to follow the mini runs of form and try to take advantage.
Osasuna have been terrible so far and only have five points thanks to a win and two draw from five at home. They have relied upon this home form in previous seasons as they have a physical style and are aided by a small and raucous set of fans backing them to aid them getting results. They have lost five from five away and I see no reason this is going to improve this weekend.
Back Espanyol at 1.95 with Coral. 1.5 points.
Levante v Real Madrid, Sunday 2030
This is my aforementioned punt. Levante managed to hover around the Champions League spots all of last season and eventually ended up in the Europa League this season. This is no small achievement for a club who are permanently broke, play in a dilapidated old ground and have plenty of players the wrong side of thirty. However, they have been moulded into a formidable team who are more than capable of getting results. They have four wins and one draw with no losses at their home ground so far.
Real Madrid may not admit it, but I would see them already turning their focus away from the league title they won last year in search of the elusive Champions League trophy they are desperate to win once again. With Barcelona looking all but unbeatable in the league this should be no surprise. They have looked plenty beatable away from home with a record of won two, drawn one and lost two so far and I think they're worth opposing.
Lay Real Madrid at 1.3 on Betfair. 1 point.
Atalanta v Inter Milan, Sunday 1945
Atalanta have improved considerably in the past couple of seasons and a lot of it is down to home form. This season they go three wins and two losses from five at home to actually have them above AC Milan in the table. The problem they have had that has stopped getting above mid-table has been a lack of goals. For those three wins they have only scored and five goals and have managed to concede seven at home to actually have them in negative goal difference from what is, on paper, a good record. This is because they seem to be capable of beating everyone below them, but really struggle when up against a good side. This is no bad thing for the club, but will see them not looking forward to this fixture at all.
Inter Milan initially seemed to struggle for consistency under their young manager Andrea Stramaccioni, but are now flying. They actually ended Juventus's amazing unbeaten run of league matches last weekend in Turin after going behind. The manager seems completely secure in his own ability and this leads to him making some astute substitutions and tactical changes not brought on by panic when things are not going their way. He has also seemingly managed to restore the confidence of striker Diego Milito who was previously so impressive when Inter won the treble under Jose Mourinho and does have all the necessary attributes of a top level striker. He has now got four in his last three matches. With Inter winning every away match this season I think their price is worth backing here.
Back Inter Milan at 2.25 with StanJames. 2 points.
Mainz 05 v Nurnberg, Friday 1930
Last weekend we were undone by a very late Werder Bremen goal giving them victory over a very good Mainz side. With this in mind I think they are still worth following as I still think they are the best of the rest in the Bundesliga. An awful lot of the credit for this should go to manager Thomas Tuchel. He has a system which has the team pressing from the front and trying to starve the opposition of the ball and force them into mistakes. This works against even the best sides due to the fitness and discipline of the players as well as having a settled team who all rely on each other working just as hard. The additon of striker Adam Szalai has added the dimension of goals too and they now look a side capable of again qualifying for Europe.
Nurnberg have shown signs of improvement lately, although that is compared to wretched early form. They got a win last week, but this was against the equally poor Wolfsburg in a 1-0 home win, it should also be taken into account that Wolfsburg have been poor away for around eighteen months. That still stands as their only win of the season and considering the opposition I would not be keen to be with them until they can put a few good performances together in a row.
Back Mainz 05 at 1.8 with Coral. 2 points.
Sivasspor v Eskisehirspor, Friday 1800
Last season saw the Super Lig ending with Sivasspor looking like they could make a serious push for European football this season, but that has not come to pass. Strangely enough they seem to be struggling for goals after two years of being a seriously attacking side. This seems to have been a tactical decision to start trying to keep goals out and allay that to their previous attacking talent to make a great all round side. Sadly their forwards have been completely off colour and the definitely improved defence has led to lots of draws at home. They have an entirely symetrical home form table at the moment with one win, three draws and one loss with seven goals both for and against. Up against another side who have a tight defence this will be difficult.
As mentioned Eskisehirspor seem to have recovered their defensive solidity this season after a very poor end to last. They are traditonally one of the stronger sides outside of the Istanbul trio and currently sit in third position in the table. Whereas previously they relied upon plenty of tight victories they have been blowing sides away at home so far with fourteen goals for them at home actually being a league leading total. They go one win, two draw and two losses away though with only seven scored and eight conceded. I think this is worth split stakes.
Back the Draw at 3.4 with BetVictor. 1 point.
Back Over 2.5 Goals at 1.95 with William Hill. 1 point.
Kasimpasa v Antalyaspor, Saturday 1400
Both these sides would not have been expected to be doing as well as they are in the Super Lig so far. Kasimpasa were only promoted over the summer, but started off fantastically well to find themselves sitting in fifth. A lot of this is down to the signing of players with previous top division experience and some very good home form. They go three wins, one draw and one loss at home so far with ten goals for and six against. They have appeared in the last month to possibly be falling into form more befitting the squad they have though with only a solitary win in the last four matches. Although that was last week they appear to be scratching around for improvement and are up against the current best side in the league here.
Antalyaspor came up for us last weekend by beating one of the leagues big boys Trabzonspor by two goals to one. This followed the hugely impressive 3-1 away victory over giants Fenerbahce to see Antalya sitting in second position and within striking distance of Galatasaray should they slip up. This huge improvement seems to have come from a switch to a very counter attacking approach and the form of striker Lamine Diarra. The big striker has the strength to take the ball on a quick break and beat his man before getting a quick shot off, as Fener discovered twice in quick succession. They even came from behind last week against a Trabzon side who are very hard to score against to underline the confidence currently flowing through the side.
Back Antalyaspor Draw No Bet at 2.05 with William Hill. 2 points.
Posted by Matt Howard