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The Domestic Scene

Normally I don't really enjoy betting on international matches as there are so many awful teams, particularly in the UEFA jurisdiction, that the odds are prohibitively short. However, I came out on top last Friday so I may have to change my mind!

Week 4 (Internationals)

Albania v Cyprus - lose 2 points.

Montenegro v Poland - lose 2 points.

Netherlands v Turkey - win 4.59 points.

Moldova v England - win 8.64 points.

Colombia v Uruguay - win 5 points.

Russia, England and Netherlands treble - win 5 points.

Win 19.29 points.

Music this week comes from Incubus with Nice To Know You, a bit of a blast from the past.

Arsenal v Southampton, Saturday 1500

Arsenal seem to be splitting opinions so far on whether they are primed for a good season or not. This is perfectly understandable when you take into account Arsenal's traditional strength of attacking and weakness in defence has been completely reversed at the moment. The Gunners are still yet to concede a league goal and the introduction of Steve Bould to the senior coaching set-up seems to have been an excellent decision. The problem has been in attack and the fact that Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud are yet to really convince as a pairing. The other major signing of Santi Cazorla already looks at home at Arsenal and is supllying the bullets for the two forwards, but Giroud in particular looks off the pace so far. He is getting in the right positions though so it could be argued that one goal will relieve the burden and see him scoring a few. With that in mind there is probably no better time to be facing a Southampton side who have looked leaky at the back. I can see Santi Cazorla running riot behind the forwards and Arsenal could get a clear victory if they put the inevitable chances away.

Southampton have actually impressed so far, albeit without securing a point. There attack looks good and has seen them scoring twice against both Manchester sides already. The problem lies in the fact their backline is nowhere near the required standard of a Premier League side. I said in my pre-season article that I thought they would struggle to keep sides out if they did not add some quality or experience to their defence and it looks as though I am being proven correct. Manager Nigel Adkins has also not made the right decisions so far and his removal of his three best performers when leading against Manchester United in their last match directly led to them ceding the initiative and ending up losing 3-2. They need to make major strides forward to stay up and I don't see that being the case just yet against an Arsenal team who have the right style to prosper.

Back Arsenal/Arsenal Half Time/Full Time at 1.9 with Paddy Power. 2 points.

Back Santi Cazorla To Score Anytime at 2.75 with Ladbrokes. 1 point.

Sunderland v Liverpool, Saturday 1730

Two sides who have not started the season in the best form meet at the Stadium Of Light on Saturday evening. To be fair to Sunderland they have played two away matches so far and have not lost so they are not exactly in the doldrums just yet. Martin O'Neill's recent spell at Aston Villa also showed he is more than happy to go for home wins and simply play to not lose away from home so these results are not unexpected either. His sides now seem to rely upon having a physical presence in attack, a solid defence and good set pieces delivery and routines to looks for goals. He was lucky in that sense to inherit Seb Larsson from Steve Bruce at Sunderland as it could be argued that his delivery is amongst the best in the division. The loss of the loan striker Nicklas Bendtner was a blow, but the late addition of Steven Fletcher has gone some way to remedying that. I still think they overpaid for him, but with a debut goal against Swansea in their last match he has again showed he can score at this level. With Liverpool's defence looking shaky and Sunderland happy to let them have benign possession they should be well set up in this one.

Liverpool are yet to spark into life under Brendan Rodgers. The ex-Swansea boss is clearly trying to instigate a whole new tactical approach to the club and naturally this is not reaping immediate rewards. The signing of Joe Allen and his subsequent displays have shown how players need to play to fit in, but some of the old guard don't look up to it. When you look back at Rodgers successful side at Swansea he also relied on quick, direct wide players and this is perhaps the main reason the system is not working. Raheem Sterling has been fast-tracked into the side as he fits those criteria, but at only 17 it is no surprise he is not going to win games on his own. Luis Suarez has also carried over his worrying habit of last season of looking great in the build up, but fluffing his lines in front of goal. It has been over a year of this now and at some point there will have to be a serious look at this for me. Throw in Fabio Borini also not settling well at all and you don't imagine opposing managers are having sleepless nights over Liverpool's attack.

Lay Liverpool at 2.3 on Betfair. 3 points.

Osasuna v Mallorca, Sunday 1700

So far our experiments in laying short priced home favourites in Spain has been a resounding failure. This week I'm going to count on Mallorca, who have started well, finding it difficult at Osasuna. Barring the best of the best noone has an easy game in Osasuna, who are very much the leagues Stoke City in terms of an in your face, physical approach to the game. I think at current prices they're worth a punt.

Back Osasuna at 2.37 with BetVictor. 1 point.

Hannover v Werder Bremen, Saturday 1430

It is still only two matches into the season in Germany and therefore a little tricky to give any strong assessments on teams chances just yet. Even Borussia Dortmund have looked uninspired so far, although they haven't lost. Bayern have stormed away, but in truth they have had a very easy start. Hannover are another side who have started pretty well, as they generally do. They are not a flash side by any means, but they are set up in a simple manner with an organised defence and midfield and physical, pacy forward players. They have opened up with a home draw with a good side Schalke side and then tharshed Wolfsburg 4-0 last time out. The encouraging thing about both of these results is the fact they have already scored six goals as they will certainly get chances against Werder and if players are in confident form then they should get a few. They have established themselves as European spot contenders in recent seasons and will not fear this fixture at all.

Werder Bremen so far have a win and a loss to their name. They beat a poor Hamburg side in their last match and narrowly lost away to Dortmund in their opener. This doesn't really give us much to go on as Hamburg are widely predicted to have a real struggle on their hands this season and Dortmund have hit nothing like their true form yet. They do look to still be continuing with their approach of attack first and defend later and that should leave good sides plenty of room to exploit. I think at these odds you have to be against Werder.

Back Hannover at 2.37 with Boylesports. 2 points.

Greuther Furth v Schalke, Saturday 1730

Greuther Furth were very impressive in beating Mainz away in their last match after losing their baptism of fire against Bayern Munich in their first match back in the top division. Last season they were promoted as champions having only lost twice at home all season and only conceding twelve goals in seventeen home matches. With the Bundesliga 2 often providing high scoring matches and not always concentrating on defending this is a very good record. To concede three goals to a rampant Bayern Munich who are desperate to regain the league title this season is no shame and to bounce back against a good Mainz side shows they have not been left too despondent and have confidence in their own abilities. This will be a tough test though.

Schalke ended last season in fine form in all competitions and a lot of that was due to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring over 30 goals in the league. With Raul enjoying a fine swansong in major competition alongside the Ducthman they had an attack that most sides feared, but the Spaniard has now departed. The problem Huntelaar has encountered since he left Holland for Italy is that he is not a complete forward in the sense he can create and score all on his own, he requires players around him laying the chances on. Do this and he will get a side loads. The loss of Raul may well see the side struggling to match last seasons achievements and for Huntelaar to again cut a frustrated figure. I think they have enough quality left to push towards the higher positions, but wouldn't be entirely shocked to see a season of adjustment.

Lay Schalke at 1.95 on Betfair. 2 points.

Genoa v Juventus, Sunday 1400

The only bet that catches my eye this weekend is Juventus away at Genoa. Having layed Juventus away at Udinese in their last match at a roughly similar price and watch them demolish them this looks a good bet. Genoa enjoyed a few good seasons around five years ago, but they have sold all their good players since and have struggled to stay in Serie A. Nothing they have done over the summer or in their opening matches suggests they have enough to beat the leagues standout side.

Back Juventus at 1.66 with Paddy Power. 3 points.

Antalyaspor v Galatasaray, Saturday 1830

As expected Galatasaray are already at the top of the table after three matches and I would expect them to continue in that position for the season. However comma sitting in joint second so far are Antalyaspor. It would be fair to say that noone would expect Antalya to continue in this position for very long, but their early performances have been excellent. They lost their opener 3-1 away to Genclerbirligi, but Gencler are traditionally strong at home and are capable of picking teams off once ahead. They have won their next two matches with a dominant 3-0 win at home to Kayserispor and also an excellent 1-0 away win at Istanbul BB last time. That match showed that they have come out this year with a much improved defence and these two clean sheets in a row give them something to build on.

Gala have won both their home matches so far and drawn their solitary away match at city rivals Besiktas. Whilst I have already nailed my colours to the mast in predicting they will emerge as champions again due to their shear strength in the squad, they have started with a worrying habit of conceding goals. In three matches they have already conceded six goals and this is probably due to the injury to centre back Tomas Ujfalusi and them missing his experience and organisational skills. He is due to be out for a while so they may well have to rely on scoring more than the opposition until either he returns or the new defence gel better. I think they will be forced into attacking again so this should be another high scorer.

Back Over 2.5 Goals at 1.97 with Bet365. 3 points.

Trabzonspor v Sivasspor, Sunday 1600

Over the summer Trabzonspor lost over half of last seasons goals in the shape of star striker Buruk Yilmaz to rivals Galatasaray. Some have predicted that this will eventually lead to them being a better side as Yilmaz was definitely a selfish player and if the rest of the side can adjust to score more they may well become a better team as a whole. They have been pretty uninspired so far though with a win and two draws and only three goals scored. The defence has continued to perform well, but they clearly have not made up for the loss of Yilmaz in attack. They drew their opener away at Karabukspor, then defeated promoted Elazigspor 2-0 before losing to ten man Gaziantepsor in their last match. They'll be around the European places without doubt, but they looks a very short price on current form.

Sivasspor have looked like they could make something of a breakthrough at various points in the last two seasons. After some dodgy investment they have regrouped as an attacking side in a defensive league and it has reaped rewards on numerous occasions. They have drawn two of three so far, including holding Fenerbahce to a 0-0 draw in their last match to show they have definitely worked on the defensive side of their game. It looks to me as though they have become more mature in their approach and will only now pour forward when given the chance, leaving them much less exposed. They drew 3-3 with Mersin Idman Yurdu, but Mersin are something of an anomaly in Turkey in that they actually attempt to win away from home, so gaps are to be expected. I think this will be a very cagey encounter.

Back Under 2.5 at 2.0 with Boylesports. 3 points.

Matt Howard

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