Last weekend again saw us building up the bank for the inevitable cold snap in betting to match the weather outside. I don't mean to keep shouting the negative, but it pays to be aware that you can't win them all. If you could then we'd all have gone pro!
Everton v Swansea - Win 3.17 points.
Norwich v Newcastle - Lose 2 points.
Manchester United v Liverpool - Win 2.7 points.
Osasuna v Real Madrid - Win 1.5 points.
Catania v Roma - Win 2.4 points.
Totals - Win 7.77 points.
Running Totals - Up 27.65 points.
Music this week from Bad Astronaut with Break Your Frame.
Swansea v Stoke, Saturday 1500
Late last night Swansea were eliminated from the FA Cup by a late Jack Wilshere winner for Arsenal. They probably won't be hugely upset though as they have a lead going into the second leg of the League Cup semi final and are riding high in the Premier League too. In my season preview I was slightly sceptical of how Michael Laudrup would cope in England as he had only previously managed in Spain of the major leagues. However comma he has been going extremely well and looks like a possible manager of the year candidate if he does win a cup. He has been well used to working within a tight budget in Spain and it is this that is perhaps serving him well, as well as his signings from La Liga. Brendan Rodgers had a very well functioning side, but it did somewhat lack in flair or a plan B. Laudrup has added some very good players to the attack from Spain such as Michu, Jonatan De Guzman and Pablo Hernandez. Whilst the latter two have not been as obviously brilliant as Michu, they contribute by showing their technical ability and tricks when required. I still think the bookies occasionally under-value the Welsh side.
Stoke started the season poorly and have still not cured their long term malaise away from the Brittania. Tony Pulis is fortunate in that the fans of the side seem perfectly content to revel in their physical approach and, to his credit, they look unlikely to go down under his stewardship. They still offer very little in terms of passing or flair and rely upon battling qualities to grind out wins. This is majorly aided when they're at home by the backing they receive and it certainly seems to make referees less inclined to dish cards out for their rough stuff. This also means that they have to tone it down somewhat away due to the higher risk of losing players to sending offs. This should give Swansea plenty of chances to overcome them.
Back Swansea at 2.2 with Coral. 2 points.
West Ham v QPR, Saturday 1500
The Hammers have not been outclassed at all really upon their return to the Premier League under Sam Allardyce. I still feel there will come a time not too long in the future when the fans turn against his style of play, but they currently seem sensible enough to realise what a decent job he is doing. With this being said they are in a slightly poor run of late. This has seen them only winning one match since the 3-1 win over Chelsea that made people sit up and take notice of the season they're having. In this poor run they have also lost two of their three home matches, to Everton and Liverpool, and beaten a Norwich side who are beginning to look a little tired. The problem seems to be the forwards for me. Andy Carroll has not found his shooting boots, Carlton Cole also, and this puts real pressure on everyone else. The midfield are working their socks off and I have even seen mentions of an England call for captain Mark Noble, but this won't win them games. They look a little short for a side who are struggling for goals.
The rise of QPR under Harry Redknapp appears to be beginning. Had he been forced to simply persist with the horrendous squad he inherited from Mark Hughes they may well be doomed, but the additions he has made, or is making, look of sufficient quality to make avoiding relegation a possibility. This week has seen QPR sign Loic Remy from Marseille and the signing of Yann M'Vila from Rennes also looks likely, possibly in time for this match. Whilst both of these players have had their issues, or else their sights would be higher than QPR, there is definitely quality in them both. Both were French internationals not long ago and both also have very good physical qualities that should see them settle in quickly in England. The fact that Rangers had already begun to pick up their performances gives me enough confidence to be on their side at these odds.
Lay West Ham at 2.15 on Betfair. 2 points.
Granada v Rayo Vallecano, Saturday 1500
With this one we're taking something of a punt on Rayo's hit and miss away form, but I think it's worth doing. Granada are hovering around the bottom of the table and have a truly dire home record. So far they have only won one match at their own ground with four draws and four losses too. This has in fact left the level on points with Mallorca who are the last side in the current relegation zone. Granada are another club, along with Watford, that the Italian side Udinese have invested in with a view to bringing numerous players into Europe and getting them playing time before either heading to Udine themselves or being sold on at a profit. Watford are beginning to benefit from the approach in the second tier in England, but it would appear that the top league in Spain is a bridge too far for Granada at times. Seven goals in nine home matches tells you where the problems lie.
Rayo Vallecano have kicked on again this season. They have been a side on the up and up ever since promotion to the top flight and have generally used an attacking approach to do it. This has again been true this season. They do leave themselves very open to being picked off if not everyone is on top of their games, but this risky approach has seen them up to sixth in the league so far. They have only drawn a solitary match all season and that was at home. Away from Vallecas they go won four and lost five of nine, with thirteen scored and a whopping twenty one conceded. The gamble is that with Granada offering little attacking threat Rayo will be able to outgun them.
Lay Granada at 2.3 on Betfair. 2 points.
Roma v Inter Milan, Sunday 1945
Last weekends laying of Roma was a good choice with the capital side again struggling away from home. The return of the previously successful manager Zdenek Zeman was meant to usher back success and with it plenty of the excitement his sides are famed for. As these things often do though, it has not gone according to plan. Zeman's magic touch appears a little outdated now with sides much less likely to give up spaces to exploit as easily and possession the name of the game. There will still be matches where it all clicks and they absolutely bombard sides until they fold, but I think he'll be lucky to last past the summer in the managerial position. He has also again exposed his prickly character in leaving Daniele De Rossi out of the side when they could really do with his application, experience and leadership. They have been far better at home with five wins, two draws and two losses, but they do run themselves close at times.
Inter Milan looked the most likely challengers to Juventus at the start of December, but some mixed results saw them drop back to fourth and possibly out of it. That Juventus have dropped points in their last two matches should give them hope that a good run of results could push them back into contention though, however unlikely. Inter are yet another side with an incredibly patchy away record. They go four wins and six losses from ten, in fact they haven't won away since early November when they broke Juventus's incredible unbeaten run. They really haven't found those heights since and it is possible the unrest surrounding the popular Wesley Sneijder has transferred to the rest of the side. Diego Milito looks less of a player in his absence and without his goals they will always struggle.
Back Roma at 2.1 with Ladbrokes. 1.5 points.
Schalke v Hannover 96, Friday 1930
This is the only match that stands out to me in the Bundesliga this weekend. It is also the first match for many sides after the winter break and I'd be keen to see a few of them in action before committing my money. That being said, Schalke earnt us plenty of money by laying them before the break and this still appears to be the case in this match. They clearly have some good players in the ranks, but it seems the fact they are in the Champions League has seen them priced very short by English bookmakers for a side that was performing so badly they sacked their manager before Xmas.
Hannover are a much more reliable side. They always put the effort in, although this season has seen them not getting the rewards away from home. This sees them well down the table from their usual position around the Europa League spots, but they should be looking to put this right. They have struggled for goals away from home so far with only thirteen scored compared to twenty in the same amount of home matches. It's a punt, but they're good enough to upset the odds I think.
Lay Schalke at 1.72 on Betfair. 1.5 points.
Besiktas v Istanbul BB, Saturday 1700
Another league that returns this weekend is the Turkish Super Lig. Similarly to Germany, I'm not keen to commit loads of money to bets until I've had a week or two to see how well prepared the returning sides are. Besiktas can usually be relied upon to have plenty of goals in their matches and as ever this is the case. They have had more goals in their matches than any other side in the Super Lig so far. They also sit second in the table thanks to getting themselves together in a way that has seemed beyond them for years. The re-signing of Manuel Fernandes was a master stroke. The Portugese would fit in in any league in Europe in my opinion and is capable of running games in Turkey.
Istanbul BB had been riding high for a couple of seasons, but have fallen back this term. They were one of the first sides to attempt the attack when away approach a few are now going with and to an extent it is working. They have a record of won four and lost five with eleven scored and ten conceded. This may not be huge numbers, but in Turkey it's plenty good enough to rely on them getting a goal. I can see goals in this one, possibly plenty of them.
Back Over 3.0 Goals at 2.05 with Bet365. 2 points.
Trabzonspor v Karabukspor, Sunday 1400
I think Trabzonspor are a bit short for this match. Their home record of four wins, three draws and two losses is not bad, but only scoring nine goals in nine matches in not good enough. The sale of Burak Yilmaz robbed them of over 50% of their goals in the previous two seasons so they need to find a way of replacing those goals. It looks increasingly like only signing a new striker can get them back up the table.
Karabukspor seem to be the latest side in Turkey to take on the score more than you approach away from home. This has seen them comfortably in mid-table and only one place behind their more illustrious opponents Trabzon. They have won four and lost five of nine matches away from home, but the real shock is their goals record. They have scored an enormous sixteen and conceded nineteen in those matches. Turkey is not a high scoring country so this is unheard of. I'm backing Trabzon not having enough threat to hurt Karabuk and Karabuk to somehow capitalise.
Lay Trabzonspor at 1.9 on Betfair. 1.5 points.