My sincerest apologies for the non-appearance of my column last week, due to a computer crash it was lost at 90% completion and I did not have the time available to redo it. I did put all my tips out on Twitter for those [email protected], and it was another profitable weekend so it's well worth getting on there.
Swansea v Stoke - Win 2.2 points.
West Ham v QPR - Win 1.92 points.
Granada v Rayo Vallecano - Lose 2 points.
Roma v Inter Milan - Lose 2 points.
Schalke v Hannover - Lose 1.5 points.
Besiktas v Istanbul BB - Win 2.1 points.
Trabzonspor v Karabukspor - Win 1.67 points.
Totals - Win 2.39 points.
Week 23 (Twitter only)
Reading v Sheff Utd - Win 1.4 points.
Hannover v Wolfsburg - Win 2.6 points.
Hamburg v Werder Bremen - Win 2.7 points.
Catania v Fiorentina - Win 1.6 points.
Gaziantepspor v Fenerbahce - Lose 2 points.
Galatasaray v Besiktas - Win 1.8 points.
Totals - Win 8.1 points.
Running Total - Up 38.14 points.
Music this week from Austin Lucaswith Shoulders, bit of folky stuff of an afternoon!
Newcastle v Chelsea, Saturday 1500
As the transfer windows end approaches by far the busiest club have been Alan Pardew's Newcastle United. The Magpies have been poor for most of the first half of the season with various possible reasons combining to see them drop well off last seasons fifth place finish. My reading of the situation is that they managed to keep a settled first eleven playing nearly every week and managed to get every player to put in a bit more than there average efforts and credit should go to Pardew for that. However comma this time out injuries have robbed them of nigh on every player at one point or another and they have looked miles worse a team without everyone fit. The buck must stop with the manager for this really as there are enough players there to do better than they have. It looks like the board still retained faith in Pardew and his chief scout Graham Carr though, as they have once again raided France to give a crucial injection of bodies, and hopefully quality. I think they have bought exceptionally well. For around £15million all in they have got five very good players. Both Moussa Sissoko and Yoann Goufran have been linked with big money moves and have been in the national side and are still under twenty six. Sissoko in particular always looked an excellent player to me and excelled on his debut against Aston Villa. It looks to me like they have more than enough to pull well clear of the bottom.
Chelsea's season is in danger of being all over soon. They have been knocked out of the League Cup, held to a draw by Brentford in the FA Cup and also failed to beat Southampton and Reading in the Premier League lately. There now looks to be absolutely no chance of Rafa Benitez staying on as manager beyond the seasons end and rightly so. There are huge issues to solve at the club and he doesn't seem to be getting anywhere at all. That he is still persisting with Fernando Torres up front when he has Demba Ba itching to get on the pitch is baffling. The defence seems to give up at points in matches and the midfield offers them little help or protection either, a tactical slight on the usually defensive minded Benitez. With Newcastle's buoyed state I'd not fancy Chelsea here at odds on.
Lay Chelsea at 1.97 on Betfair. 2 points.
Wigan v Southampton, Saturday 1500
Those of you who have been readers of the column for a while will know I avoid Wigan the majority of the time when betting. It doesn't matter how badly they seem to be playing, they always seem to get a result that robs me of my hard earned cash! Every so often though the odds seem so far out they have to be played. This appears to be one of those occasions. When you look at the stats it seems to show Wigan are 'playing the right way', coming out on top of possession amongst other things in most matches. But, they are near to the bottom of the table again as they just don't win matches. A huge part of this is that they don't score enough goals. They currently have twenty seven in twenty four matches, which is not many by the divisions standard. They're a poor side in my opinion and do not justify the odds this week at all.
Southampton started the season like a side that looked doomed to return to The Championship after a solitary season. They have since turned things round to the extent I don't think they'll have any trouble steering clear of trouble come seasons end. The sacking of manager Nigel Adkins seemed harsh, but for all the media coverage of his poor end to his Espanyol managerial post, he was fighting against a host of problems, not least their massive debts. In his first two games it has appeared apparent the players are happy to put in the required effort for his pressing tactics, which I read as a sign they're not too upset at his appointment at all. I think they're a good side with weaknesses in defence. Against a poor attacking side like Wigan they should cope.
Lay Wigan at 2.24 on Betfair. 2 points.
Osasuna v Celta Vigo, Saturday 1500
There does not appear to be much value in Spain this weekend sadly. This looks the best bet to me, although I'm not sure there's much in the price either. It's more a case of looking at respective form of the two sides and betting accordingly. Osasuna are a physical side who have traditionally been excellent at home. They started this season really badly, but have since improved a lot to climb off the bottom of the table since December. This good run has even included a win against Real Madrid at home. As poor as Real have been away, that's no poor effort.
Celta Vigo have the worst away points total in La Liga with just four points. They have one win and one draw along with nine defeats, a terrible record. Were this last season Osasuna would be odds on and they look like they're certainly getting back to that form at home so I want to be on their side.
Back Osasuna at 2.1 with William Hill. 2 points.
Nurnberg v Borussia Monchengladbach, Sunday 1430
Nurnberg are not having much of a time of it in the Bundesliga this season and sit just above the relegation places at present. In the highest scoring of the major European leagues their goals for column showing just eighteen from nineteen matches stands out as the biggest problem they are facing. They actually don't let that many in either, but this is translating into loads of draws which are not getting them enough points to pull anywhere clear of the relegation zone. At home this season their record reads won three, drawn four and lost two. They are not easy to beat, but they are not hard to contain either.
Monchengladbach were a favourite side of mine last season when their mean defence and attack (read Marco Reus mostly!) guided them into Europa League qualification. They sold Reus over the summer to Borussia Dortmund where he has shown how good he is again and they have had to adjust tactically to compensate. This has meant a move to get goals from more sources and utilise a more attacking formation. The flipside of this is that they are also more open at the back. Their away record is actually pretty good as they have not been so gung-ho and have been happy to pick up draws and search for wins at home. They go won two, drawn six and lost just two on the road so far. Points to a draw for me.
Back the Draw at 3.4 with Coral. 2 points.
Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund, Sunday 1430
Second plays third in this important clash on Sunday afternoon. Leverkusen have been the side who have most benefitted from Dortmund making a real go of the Champions League this season. Since Sami Hyypia was drafted in as manager they have looked a very good side, albeit one with no massive stars or egos. Basically they're a side who play to their strengths and don't rely on any fashionable tactical tweaking. They have two excellent forwards in Stefan Kiesling and Andreas Schurrle who would fit in up front for many larger sides, such is their quality. With the also brilliant Lars Bender in front of the defence sorting things out they are well covered. They're a side built to play regularly well, a dream for punters really.
After all I have said about Leverkusen's brilliance, they can't match up to the quality of either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund on their day. Munich have stormed away with the league's top spot with Dortmund focussing on European football more, but Dortmund tradtionally come on strong after the winter break and look likely to again this season. They opened up with a stunning 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen and followed that with an easy 3-0 win over Nurnberg last weekend. With the Champions League a little way off and everyone fit and firing currently I wouldn't want to be against them.
Back Borussia Dortmund at 2.2 with William Hill. 2 points.
Besiktas v Karabukspor, Friday 1800
In the Turkish Super Lig it looked likely that the only side with a hope of stopping the Galatasaray juggernaut was city rivals Besiktas. Last weekend the two sides met in the aftermath of Gala signing both Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba for a full on assault on the Champions League too, needing a win to apply some pressure. Sadly, even after Gala went down to ten men, Besik could not come back and lost 2-1 to leave themselves five points behind. This shouldn't be a huge problem, but there is no flakier side than Besik. They have now not won since the winter break and are all but out of the title race. Not a good place mentally for a fragile team.
Karabukspor have been the latest side in Turkey to adopt a policy of going all out for three points away from home, and it has propelled them to mid-table safety so far. Their away record of won five and lost five with no draws shows just how precarious a tactic it is for us to bet on though. They do have a league high record of nineteen goals in away matches too which they share currently with Galatasaray. I think they look a touch too long in odds with this in mind.
Lay Besiktas at 1.65 on Betfair. 1.5 points.
Bursaspor v Galatasaray, Saturday 1700
Bursaspor have spent pretty big in the past eighteen months to populate their squad with Turkish players returning from other leagues and foreigners like Scott Carson in the hope they should be of better standard than the local players. The two biggest names in this policy have probably been the aforementioned Carson and Tuncay Sanli, formerly of the Premier League. Both of these have been a let down for the weight their names carried and the no doubt huge pay packets they are on. Carson in particular has been dreadful of late and is a large part of Bursa conceding so many goals. They have been a lot better at home than away with a record of won four, drawn four and lost two. They have also only conceded eight goals in those ten matches, but were well beaten 4-1 at home by a by no means great Istanbul BB side last weekend. They are well out of form.
Galatasaray managed to extend their lead at the summit of the Super Lig last weekend by beating their nearest rivals Besiktas in the Turk Telekom stadium. This was after the euphoria of signing Wesley Sneijder and announcing that the now completed deal for Didier Drogba was in the pipeline. Whilst Sneijder has not been phenomenal since his 2010 heroics for Inter Milan and Holland, he is still far better than anyone else in the league. Similarly Drogba may now be thirty five, but he is still an excellent addition to complement the excellent Burak Yilmaz in attack. I expect Sneijder to dominate against Bursa and lead Gala's continued march to the title.
Back Galatasaray at 2.2 on Betfair. 2.5 points.