Saturday, 28 September 2013

NFL Betting Preview – Steelers at Vikings @ Wembley

The NFL convoy returns to Wembley tomorrow, unfortunately the two sides they've picked are having rotten seasons so far. Perhaps it'll be a decent contest then rather than a blowout like some years. In charge of the preview is an old mate of mine who happens to be an NFL guru - Andy Richmond. Follow him @bickley14 and read his great work at Betting Insight.

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NFL Betting Preview – Steelers at Vikings



The NFL comes to London with the first game to be played at Wembley Stadium this year although I’m sure that the league didn’t envisage the two teams involved being 0-6 between them and they have both struggled this year; at least one of them will break their duck here. The Steelers are rated favourites across the board and best priced at the strange price of 5/7 (1.71) with the Vikings at a best price of 11/8 (2.38) and Pittsburgh are generally asked to give up three points in the market on the handicap.

As mentioned before these two have yet to put a W in the Win column yet this year and quite frankly both of them have been struggling with the Vikings giving up plenty of yards – over 400 per game, and although the Steelers have been far from electric on offence this year they do have some players at the skill positions that can hurt you.

Those skill players are going to be crucial for the Steelers especially against a defence which has been poor at generating pressure on the opposing quarterback and has struggled to defend the pass and if you give Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger time he will hurt you and he has the receivers to be able to do that. The two that I’m particularly thinking of are WR Antonio Brown and TE Heath Miller and I can see the Vikings struggling against both of these players and was keen to get them onside in various scoring and player markets. Both Brown and Miller are of interest in the first TD scorer market and are priced at 9/1 (10.0) and 12/1 (13.0) respectively with Paddy Power, although if you want to take a more conservative option you can back them at 11/2 (6.6) and 15/2 (8.6) respectively with the same firm to be the first Pittsburgh TD scorer. The best way to play either though is to back them to score a TD at anytime; Brown at 6/4 with Paddy Power is an outstanding price given the numbers that he produced against the Bears last week and with the Vikings struggling to cover tight-ends properly this year the 21/10 for Miller to pop up with a score with Paddy Power is also attractive.

That’s not to say that the Steelers D has been a shining example this year and they have really lacked the aggression that they are noted for this year and have not had one takeaway in the first three games, the last team to repeat that feat was the 2005 Houston Texans and they finished 2-14. We all know that the Steelers will be keying on stopping RB Adrian Peterson and that focus does open up opportunities for the rest of the offence and I particularly like TE Kyle Rudolph who could see plenty of action this week as the Vikings play a conservative ball retaining game to keep the chains moving. They will undoubtedly use Peterson but Rudolph makes appeal on two markets; the first to score a TD at anytime where he is 7/4 (2.74) with William Hill and the receiving yards market with Ladbrokes where they have his line pegged at 30.5 yards and I think he’ll easily go over that and the 10/11 (1.91) with the Magic Sign is good value especially with the Vikings playing veteran back-up QB Matt Cassel and that for me makes the Vikings less expansive on the offensive. Incidentally that Rudolph line is as high as 36.5 yards with Paddy Power and I think Ladbrokes have made a mistake in pitching it as low as they have.

Just thinking about Cassel for a moment, this will be his first game for nearly a year and he’ll be facing a defence which although lacking their usual aggression did only allow the Bears QB Jay Cutler only 159 yards passing last week and Cassel’s passing yards is pitched at 210.5 here and I’d be looking at going under that in the situation he finds himself in and the unders are available at 10/11 (1.91) again at Ladbrokes.

The Vikings defence is a mess at the moment so having talked about Miller and Brown in the TD markets for the Steelers I went in search of some other markets to play those two in and came across a couple of more that I liked concerning the Miler and Brown combo. Brown lit up a far better secondary than the Vikings last week with nine receptions that gave him 196 yards receiving and two TD’s so the 5.5 receptions line available at Ladbrokes looks generously priced at 10/11 (1.91) and Miller is also worth playing with the same firm that he has more than 40.5 receiving yards, that’s also priced at 10/11 (1.91) and once again the line is set way under where other firms have it; he has been limited at practice this week but I think that’s a precautionary measure as he’s just come back from injury and he is still one of QB Ben Roethlisberger’s favourite targets.

Finally these two teams may have struggled to win this year but their points scoring capability isn’t that poor and I thought the points market was a little low at 42 but rather than get involved with that the 5/4 (2.25) available with Ladbrokes (I’m not picking on them honestly) that there would be more than 4.5 TDs in the game looked a price that was out of kilter with the market and should be taken advantage of.

Jockey Club Gold Cup preview

Super Saturday at Belmont racetrack in New York. Regular US racing contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop chimes in with some previews of a fantastic day's racing.

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Jockey Club Gold Cup
1 mile 2F Dirt
Belmont


BTW if you want to visit a race meeting in the US, this is the one! You get five Group 1s costing $2 to get in. Contested in front of a minuscule crowd in a stand capable of holding 10s of 1000s. Pick your row not just your seat.

Although this is clearly a big prize and before the Breeders Cup would have been a season-ending super race. Now it's the final prep where many 3 year olds will try the older brigade for the first time.

This race would not disgrace a Breeders Cup Classic frankly. We have: classic winners Orb and Palace Malice: against the upcoming sensation Cross Traffic: the King of Belmont and holder Flat Out: not to mention the horse Alpha who pipped him in the Whitney with one writer looking like a douche having said he was a goat: not to mention the last horse to finish in front of Wise Dan Ron the Greek.

This is a trial and when looking ahead be aware Blame was beaten 4 lengths here by Haynesfield before lowering Zenyatta's colours in the Classic.

Prices best available from UK Bookies. I think morning lines are at best a guess and with so many public horses likely to serve up some PMU value so might be worth keeping some powder for nearer the time.

Ron the Greek 16s
Whilst no real excuses for his last 2 drubbings (behind Alpha and Cross Traffic) some suggestion he was on the wrong part of the track. Has been below form this year however you look at it. Nonetheless he is a closer and close enough to his best to be considered if the pace melts down. 6th in this last year.

Orb 5s
The Kentucky Derby winner where the pace collapsed and the closers had Christmas in May. Since then has run respectfully in races dominated off the front. Much better run in the Travers close to pace even leading at the final call. This could set up better with an extra furlong. Can make an argument this is the first time he's going to get quick fractions to close into since the Derby (give or take The Belmont over 12 furlongs).

Last Gunfighter 16s
Progressive horse who won a grade 3 (won 3 G3s this year) last time. decent but unspectacular speed ratings a bit behind the best here. Closed strongly over a 1/16th less to win easily at Pimlico over his only bout beyond 9 furlongs. Won 6 of last 7 but loss was attempt at a Grade 2 was over 9 furlongs and Flat Out beat him 2.5 lengths. Not forlorn.

Vitoria Olimpica 33s
Brazilian turf winner off 1 winning dirt start in a 100K Stakes race and whilst he posted a good figure a lot more needed here. In deep with at least 5 of these serious contenders. Timeform give his breeding a good rating but price probably reflects the lottery ticket nature of selecting him. Not enough in his win for me to make him a wild card.

Alpha 9s
Made a goat of me last time as I dismissed a 2 time Grade 1 course and distance winner. Dominated then and no 25s against a better field with more guaranteed pace. Albeit as last time if Cross Traffic flops he could get the box seat as he did when Paynter flopped out of the stalls. Flat Out was only a head behind last time when arguably this one got the run of the race. Well beaten when he faced the pace Cross Traffic laid down in the Whitney but that was the notorious first start back from Dubai.

Flat Out 7/2
The holder and lover of the big 12 furlong track here. Narrowly beaten at Saratoga by Alpha in the slop when the other led at each call. Beat Cross Traffic a head at this course earlier in the season over a mile when the other endured torrid fractions. Best figures at Belmont.

Palace Malice 4s
Clearly improving and after toasting himself in the Kentucky Derby took the Belmont over the course and the grade 2 Jim Dandy. Considered the best horse when held up arguably too much when 4th in the Travers. Strong suggestion the extra 1/8 is in his favour here and likely to have more pace to run at in speedster Cross Traffic. Arguably reason for tactics last time was Pletcher's Verrazano was the pace and similar here with Cross Traffic also a Pletcher horse.

Cross Traffic 7/2
The pace. The improver. Coming here for only his 6th lifetime run after 5 this year in his 4 year old season. Lost a couple of grade 1s going hard early and held on last time doing the same. Also a chance Alpha or the Brazilian rag might challenge him. Is 1-1 with Flat Out albeit over a mile. First time at 10 furlongs.

Conclusion

No link between the 3yos and older horses makes this intriguing. To add to that Cross Traffic in only his 6th start is incredibly exciting and likely to get it easy up front. Also have the dynamic of the Fletcher pair again. An overbet on the PMU of classic winners Orb and or Palace Malice would make this a race to bet Cross Traffic. Flat Out will run his race at his home track track and is an exotic lock.

7/2 is a 22.2 % chance and I think the young improving Cross Traffic could wire them. I would love to bet this race after a furlong but let's hope John Velasquez can ration his effort and he can improve again.

Cross Traffic @ 3s or more.

Joe Hirsch Classic preview

Super Saturday at Belmont racetrack in New York. Regular US racing contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop chimes in with some previews...

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Joe Hirsch Classic
1mile 4f Turf
Belmont


Joe Hirsch was a sportswriter apparently. Of course I always think of this as the Judd Hirsch the star of Taxi which broke the view that US comedy was not funny something Friends spent 10 series proving was true after all.

You probably want a Bookies to back this with all the dual entries. Timeform are predicting a fast pace here and Brisnet pace horses run from 0 to 8 and we have two 8s and a 7 = Burn up.

Imagining (coupled with Boisterous)
Allowance and stakes horse seeming exposed in graded company.

Boisterous (coupled with Imagining)
Has wins over Big Blue Kitten but beaten last two including by the progressive Big Blue Kitten over course and distance. Won the Man O War grade 1 earlier this year however beaten in a grade 2 last time. Not clear why he should bounce back and over turn the Sword Dancer form here with the Kitty.

Big Blue Kitten (Joe's Blazing Aaron & Real Solution)
He's not blue and he's no pussycat so there is a chance David Cameron might like him unlike Downing Street cat Larry who is apparently a PR stunt a bit like Cam' himself. No showed behind So You Think last year at Ascot but does show the ambitions connections held for this fella. Last 2 big wins over 11 and 12 furlongs so this should suit well. Will be coming late if you back him.

Real Solution (coupled with Big Blue Kitten & Real Solution)
Real Solution is not the name of a soccer team BTW as the town of Solution does not have one and may not exist. The ummh winner in the stewards room of the Arlington Million - valid DQ but writers like to make everything controversial. Previously an Italian Derby winner who has only had 3 starts in the US. Can win but I think I take against the Million in that Side Glance was 3rd showing running prominently on tight foreign tracks brings loads of prize money for one paced group 3 horses. Could progress again.

Joe's Blazing Aaron (coupled with Big Blue Kitten & Real Solution)
A Brisnet pace indicator of 8 says this is the pace and we may assume this will suit his coupled mates.

Nutello
The continental Marmite you either love this fella or you hate him. So my view was he came to the US for fast ground and 10 furlongs and wo he should get that here except it's 12 furlongs again.... Did not settle (nuts?) on his US debut behind Big Blue Kitten over 12 furlongs but I felt he could have gone closer. Big pace on here and I believe he will relax and step forward.

Slumber
Ex Charlie Hills Listed type. Won a couple of optional claimers in the US very impressive in last win. Could step forward here on 4th US start but will need to.

Twilight Eclipse
2nd to Boisterous and Big Blue Kitten last 2 starts. Solid grade 2 animal but often finds 1 better.

King Kreesa
Another with the 8 pace. This one has the ability to get loose and win too. 2nd to Wise Dan last time which is the equivalent of winning the race you are in. Seems to have been campaigned as a miler so obvious doubt there. One for the lone pace twitchy eyed brigrade except there is some other pace in this race, sorry fellas.

Little Mike
2012 Million and Breeders Cup winner and has been bang out of form. The sweeping nature of Belmont and the pace loaded up in this race says to me he will not dominate or win. The 3rd race back from Dubai swivel eyed loon brigade will like him.

Conclusion

Could make a case Big Blue Kitten overpriced at Coral's 4s but for me Nutello maybe nowhere near as good as Marmite but makes for a tasty treat here. Bung him in an exacta with the Big Blue Kitten entry and book a holiday (The value of investments can go up and go down to 0 so make sure you can cancel it later at no cost).

Nutello 12s with Lads so you should be able to get a 10er on.

Football Form Labs weekend preview

Another big weekend of football ahead - make sure any gut feelings you have are backed up by data, otherwise your P&L will pay the price. Courtesy of Football Form Labs, here's a tiny sample of what their software can do for you.

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Form Lab Black is down from £150pm to £40pm (£100/qtr, £300/annual) – Try Form Lab Black here with Promo-code: FLBPROMOMONTHLY

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And, there's a live webinar this afternoon at 2pm UKT to explain how this powerful software works. Sign up for it here.

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PERFORMANCE REVIEW

We’ve started publishing our first Daily Reports from the winter leagues in the past week and we’ve taken a look at some of the recent performance highlights.

Head-to-Head and Over-Performing Strategy: Since we started tracking and publishing the matches that come up under these two strategies that we highlighted last month there have been 34 relevant matches. These strategies both look for home teams to bet on their handicap line and so far just one of the 33 home teams has lost. Combined the two strategies are 9.03 points up, giving a 26.6% ROI.

Daily Reports: Recommendations for over/under goals have been flying for the past six weeks. These are up 8.93 points from 28.5 points staked – a 31.3% ROI. The Allsvenskan has enjoyed a particularly strong run with seven winners from the last eight goals recommendations and the winter leagues have also started with four winners from five.

With the over/under goals Daily Reports in the Big 5 leagues having produced a 20% profit, from over 250 points staked in the past three seasons, we look forward to another successful season in the goals markets.

#FFLtips: our tips posted on Twitter with the #FFLtips have made an encouraging start since we published our first one on the 6th August. They are currently 3.25 points up from 22 recommendations, including a run of seven wins from the last eight tips given on top-flight divisions (with an average price of 2.31).

These tips are generally posted close to game time and are based on matches one of our analysts is checking at the time. The reasons these won’t have been posted as a Daily Report are usually down to waiting for a particular piece of team news, or due to having not spotted the game early enough to publish to Form Labs. As such we are unable to say when, or how often, we will tweet these tips.

MATCH PREVIEWS

Premier League: Spurs v Chelsea


Spurs have conceded just one goal this season to sit second in the table behind arch rivals Arsenal . However, they lost their only major test so far, in the North London derby, so if they want to prove they are genuine title contenders they will look to make full use of home advantage here against Chelsea.

Four of the last six meetings between these teams have finished all-square and if we look at the 10 head-to-heads since 2008/09 there hasn’t been much between the two sides with a W2-D5-L3 record for Spurs.

Spurs have lost just one of their last 15 home matches, during which only Everton have managed to score twice at White Hart Lane. Furthermore, The Lillywhites have won four and lost just two of their last 10 home games against top-six sides.

Chelsea have not found their net in their opening two away games this term and they seem to be paying the price for Jose Mourinho’s decision to ignore their most creative player, Juan Mata. Since joining the club Mata has missed only 10 away games and The Blues have the unenviable record of not winning any of them (W0-D5-L5) – scoring just five goals in the process. Since the opening 30 minutes on the first day Chelsea have looked far from convincing and Spurs look great value at 1.91 on the Draw No Bet.

Of their combined games this season, nine of 10 have had fewer than three goals (6/10 -1.5). Again we’d point to seven of the 10 away matches Mata’s missed, and 8/11 anywhere since the start of last season, having fewer than three goals. Contradicting this is the strong record of both teams scoring, and over 2.5 goals, both teams have against top-six teams. -2.5 goals was decent value at 1.95 earlier in the week but that’s come down to a best price of 1.83 and at that price we’d leave it alone and stick to the match outcome markets.


Bundesliga: Hoffenheim v Schalke

Hoffenheim have offered plenty of excitement this season with their opening six games seeing a massive 30 goals. They’re unbeaten at home this season, and against an inconsistent Schalke side they’ll look to extend that run. Schalke have lost two of their three away games and were thrashed at home last weekend by Bayern.

It’s surprising to see Hoffenheim as outsiders here given they’ve never lost at home to Schalke, who are without a couple of important players. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is still injured, and in the 14 matches he’s missed since the start of last season Schalke have lost six times. This includes five defeats in the eight away games he’s missed, during which they’ve scored only six goals. Furthermore, Schalke have lost nine of their last 16 away matches, including five of their last six trips to middle-third teams.

Hoffenheim have improved since last season, and even then they had a respectable record of W3-D1-L3 record hosting teams that finished 3rd-9th. They had to play 120 minutes in midweek but the extra 30 shouldn’t overly affect them with no significant injury worries. At 2.1 they look a really solid bet on the Draw No Bet market.

Hoffenheim have scored before half-time in all their six games this season, and their last 14 matches have all featured at least three goals (8/14 +3.5). Schalke’s scoring power might be reduced without Huntelaar but three of the five games he’s missed this season have had +2.5 goals, as have seven of their nine away games since the start of last season when conceding in the first half (W0-D2-L7). This match finished 3-2 to Hoffenheim last season and a repeat looks possible with over 3.0 goals a good looking 1.962 with Pinnacle.


La Liga: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid

Last season Atletico came into the first derby of the season having lost just one of their opening 13 games. They lost 2-0 and then lost the second derby later in the season to make it eight consecutive derby defeats in the league. They did, however, win the Copa del Rey final against their rivals in May, courtesy of an extra-time winner so will hope they have now ended the hoodoo which had seen them go 25 games, and almost 14 years, in all competitions without beating Real Madrid.

This time Atletico have won their opening six games while Real have been unconvincing in winning five. However, Atletico have not played a team currently in the top half yet while Real are unbeaten in 34 home games including 20 wins in their last 21 at the Bernabeu. 16 of those 20 wins were by more than one goal and while Atletico have lost only five away games since the start of last season four were by more than one goal. 1.7 looks a huge price on Real and we’d back them on the Asian handicap -1.0 at 2.2.

Incredibly, Real have conceded in all of their last 10 home matches and 16 of their last 18 have had +2.5 goals. With Atletico having scored at least twice in their last five on the road, goals look likely. Last season’s derbies were tighter affairs but over 3.0 goals still looks a great price at 1.826 with Pinnacle.

Using Football Form Labs you can identify thousands of betting opportunities every week across over 40 different leagues.


PLAYER ANALYSIS

Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we look at a couple of significant players who will be missing this weekend and see what that might mean.

N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Aston Villa v Man City

Christian Benteke, Forward, Aston Villa


Benteke has missed just six games since joining Villa and without him their matches have averaged just 2.17 goals per game with 4/6 having -2.5 goals.

Fiorentina v Parma

Amauri, Forward, Parma


Amauri has missed nine away games since the start of last season and without him Parma have scored just six goals and lost six times. He missed trips to three of the top four last season and Parma were beaten by two goals each time.

Form Lab Black can analyse the impact players on team trends to provide the most complete betting solution.

To see which other players are key, and which are not, use the Player analysis in Form Lab Black. Tools within the Player Analysis allow you to examine what a team’s most effective partnerships are in key positions and the impact of players on a variety of different markets.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Sun Chariot Stakes preview

It's a quality card at Newmarket tomorrow. The 'name' race is the Cambridgeshire (preview up in the morning) but the class of the day comes in the Sun Chariot Stakes. Declan Meagher, @declanmeagher76, casts a discerning eye over this year's classy field. You can read more of his work on his site, LearnBetWin.

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Sun Chariot Stakes – Tips and Preview – 3.10 Newmarket

Seven runners go to post for tomorrow’s Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket, and I preview and provide my tips for the race. It looks a pretty good renewal as 3 of the 7 contenders have already won a group 1 this season. The ground at Newmarket today was good to firm, good in places. I’m not sure if they intend to water this evening but with no rain forecast the ground should be similar tomorrow.

Sky Lantern is favourite for this, although I don’t understand how the 7/4 quotes are arrived at. Her most visually impressive performance so far was when winning the Coronation Stakes by 4l at Ascot. It made her look a superstar, but if you delved into the performance it looked no such thing. She was held up near the back in a race run at an overly strong gallop, and by coming through to win going away, she was only beating rivals who had gone too fast, and were finishing very tired as a result. Sky Lantern was the only one of the main contenders to be paced optimally that day, and further evidence to back that up was the run of the 5th, Mizzava, who was also held up. She was only 2l off the 2nd, despite the fact she hasn’t looked any better than her 102 rating, either before or since that race.

Since then Sky Lantern got beaten by Elusive Kate in the Falmouth without any obvious excuses. The slow pace may not have suited, but she was ridden close to it, so wasn’t at any great pace disadvantage. In any case Elusive Kate is likely to get an uncontested lead again tomorrow so a similar scenario might unfold. Last time out Sky Lantern stepped up to 10 furlongs in the Nassau Stakes. She didn’t get a run when she wanted it, but I don’t think she was in any way unlucky, and if he had the horse underneath him, I’m pretty sure Richard Hughes could have engineered a gap. He didn’t, and he couldn’t. She would have finished a length or two closer with a clear run and stronger ride but that’s about it.

When Elusive Kate beat Sky Lantern she was giving her 9lb, tomorrow she is given her 4lb. To say Sky Lantern is 5lb worse off is a very simplistic and flawed argument though, unless you think a 3 year old is fully developed over a mile in early July. The official WFA scale suggest a 3 year should improve 5lb between then and now, the Timeform WFA scale suggests only 3lb improvement though. If you think Timeform are right, and I’d rather a recent evidence based scale, over a 100 year old one, then that suggests that Elusive Kate is 2lb better off tomorrow. So we have a 7/4 favourite whose best form was off an overly fast pace, running in a race that is very unlikely to provide similar circumstances, coming into it on the back of a substandard run, and has been on the go since April. Given her best may not even be good enough I thought 4/1 would better reflect her chance.

Elusive Kate was second in this last year, but she was unlucky not to win, as she stumbled badly leaving stalls, it only cost her a length or two, but there was surely an energy cost too, and give she was only beaten 3/4l, I think its fair to assume she would have won. That day, like when she beat Sky Lantern, she drifted to her left under pressure. She will probably do it again tomorrow, but the effect of that is overplayed and mathematically it costs her very little ground, as long as it doesn’t cost her momentum, and Buick is clever enough to not let it cost her that.

After beating Sky Lantern, Elusive Kate put up what I thought looked like a career best at Deauville, beating Duntle by 2 1/2l. She went a good pace that day and was quite impressive in what was a decent field. Last time out she was a little disappointing, again at Deauville, but this time against the colts. It was a red hot race though, and while she ran well in that race last year after winning the same race on her previous start, the difference was this year the race she won was on softer ground, and she went a faster pace relative to the ground. As such it was more of a test and she may not have recovered in the 2 week gap between races. She’s had a 6 week break since then, and with an easy enough lead likely tomorrow I think she should be favourite at around 5/2. The bookies have her at about the same though so there’s no value in her currently.

Integral has had just the four runs, winning 3 of them. The defeat came in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood when she finished about 1l behind Sky Lantern. Like that one she didn’t get the clearest of runs, and could have finished a length or two closer. That was only her 3rd start so she still ran very well, and last time she dead heated in a group 3. That wouldn’t appear good enough to win this, but a bare reading of the form doesn’t do that effort justice. She was held up in a race that the horse who dead heated with her, got away with slow fractions on the front end. Ryan Moore made a rare mistake on his part when he pulled her out fully 3 furlongs out, and proceeded to go from near last, to hit the front in the space of a furlong.It was a pretty big move and it told in the end, Integral showing guts to battle on for a share of the spoils. The turn of foot she showed could stand her in better stead if the pace is again steady tomorrow, and it also suggests a mile will suit her better than the 10 furlongs she ran in the Nassau, which makes her performance there look even better. She will need to improve tomorrow, but has the scope to do so, and unlike many of these is coming into the race in good form and on an upward curve.

Just the Judge was just beaten by Sky Lantern in the 1000 Guineas, and was third to her at Ascot, this time 4 1/2l behind. She had excuses that day though as she was up with the strong gallop and faded late. In between those runs she won the Irish 1000 quite well. Last time in the Nassau she ran no race at all, but was found to have ripped off a shoe and part of her foot, so that’s easily excused. The fact she can be ridden close to the pace, could see her at a tactical advantage tomorrow, and she could very well bounce back to her best. While some ratings might beg to differ I don’t think there’s anything between her and Sky Lantern at their best and as such she must have a chance. I thought about 11/2 would be the right sort of price for her so the 8/1 with Coral makes some appeal.

I thought Duntle was going to develop into a top notch filly this year, after being unlucky to get disqualified when she won a Group 1 last season. She won a Group 2 at Ascot this season with a bit more in hand than a 1/2l margin suggests, but was easily turned over by Elusive Kate in France. Maybe the soft ground didn’t suit that day, but she has since been well beaten in America. The ground that day was firm though and perhaps she didn’t like that either, and the trip of 10 furlongs may have been to far. She will have no excuses tomorrow on either ground or trip, and if she is at her best she could win. I thought 8/1 was about right for her, so 10/1 looks a little big.

La Collina won a Group 1 last time out at Leopardstown, having got beaten in her previous 11 starts. The form is nowhere near up to even an average group 1 though, and I’d be very surprised if she made it 2 group 1′s tomorrow. Her price of 16/1 looks about right. Chigun looked a potential Group 1 winner when easily beating La Collina at the Curragh in May. She has disappointed since but the ground wouldn’t have suited the last twice, and if she did bounce back she’d have a chance. I thought 14 or 16/1 was about right, so the 33/1 on Betfair looks too big.

As you might have noticed I have quite a few shorter than the market prices, the reason being is that I have Sky Lantern at a much bigger price than her 7/4. There is two ways you could approach this race. You could lay Sky Lantern on Betfair at the current 2.86, or back a few against her. I’d recommend backing Integral at 7/1 with Paddy Power, and Just the Judge at 8/1 with Coral. I do think a small bet on Chigun at 34.0 on Betfair is value too, and if Duntle drifted to 12/1 I’d back her too. It might seem like I’m picking them all, but my tissue suggests the race is far from the 2 horse race the market seems to think it is. If you take the 7/1 and 8/1 on Integral and Just the Judge, back Chigun at 34, and look for 13.0 on Duntle, she is 12.0 at the moment. If you get them bets matched your getting almost 2/1 any of those four to win, and I think that’s a great bet. I’m not going to advise any specific bets for the race, so it's up to you, lay Sky Lantern or back a few against her.

Cycling World Championship Road Race preview

The UCI Road World Championships are taking place in Florence this week, with the big finale being the Elite Road Race. Who better to draft in for the preview than the expert... For premium quality cycling tips, follow @wheeliebets and sign up to his service via his site. Here is his free preview without odds references.

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World Championship Road Race

I have gone over this race in my mind 100 times already and it's actually given me sleepless nights. It's my joint favourite race along with the Tour of Flanders simply because it's often a political game of enthralling tactics and broken promises year on year. In my opinion, recent editions in Copenhagen and Geelong devalued the race and even Valkenberg didn't serve up the treat I expected but this Firenze course promises so much, just waiting to see how the tactics will work on a course that is twisting and turning and expected to be run off in wet conditions. Add in a few climbs and the best climbers taking on the best Classics hard men all without their trade team support and under the umbrella of their home nation and we have a race to whet the appetite.

My background form guide had to be races over the 250km mark on hilly circuits and that means my starting place was this year's Monuments. Just to refresh your memory, there are 5 Monuments and we have raced 4 already in 2013. The Big 4 in 2013 were

Milan San Remo - March
Tour of Flanders - April
Paris Roubaix - April
Liege Bastogne Liege - April

There is no hiding place in the final 40 kilometres of any Monument. More often than not, all the Worlds top riders take part in 2 or more of these annual races but the make up of the peloton can be markedly different depending on the race, for example, I can't remember Cancellara ever racing in Liege Bastogne Liege nor Rodriguez riding Flanders, the races are completely different.

That's what makes this course in Florence unique in that it takes the climbing elements from a Monument like Liege or Lombardy which should favour Nibali, Gilbert, Martin, Rodriguez and Valverde but with the extreme distance, brings in endurance Classic Flanders specialists like Cancellara and more recently Sagan.

Add in a political feel to the race and there can be hearts broken. Riders, stripped of their trade team duties and meshed together under their nation's colours are willed upon to forget a season's competitiveness against fellow countryman with the common goal in obtaining an oddly striped jersey. The Rainbow Bands, synonymous with brilliance, is so prized as to make even the most unselfish heart hard with the finish line in sight.

Can a fellow countryman, someone who's an opponent 364 days of a year be trusted not to stab you in the back with the finish line in sight ?

This season started with a wet and cold Milan San Remo. They raced through dirty snow and freezing fog which left some riders hypothermic, some frozen and others cursing but the favourites were in evidence with 10 kilometres to go as they started the Poggio. First Chavanal and Stannard, then Sagan, then Cancellara and then Sagan again all to be denied by rank outsider, Gerald Ciolek in a dash to the line between 6 of the bravest souls and a flying American. Ciolek doesn't ride this weekend but this weekend's market is headed by those left and right of him.

The cold spell continued throughout March and into April and the second Monument was billed as a battle between Sagan and Cancellara. The Ronde didn't disappoint; Cancellara crushing the Slovak on the Paterberg before soloing into the finish at over 28 mph for the final 16 flat kilometres to Oudenaarde, the undisputed Lion of Flanders, no one able to live with him on a hilly testing circuit over 250kms.

Cancellara wasn't finished and he doubled up at the third Monument of the season a week later, Paris Roubaix, this time crushing Sepp Vanmarcke in a two up sprint. Cancellara was immense, feigning fatigue in the last hour of racing before attacking and blowing everyone off his wheel in the final pave sectors. Only Vanmarcke could live with the speed and pace but couldn't better the Swiss rider.

Cancellara finished his Spring season with two wins and a third, quite easily the best rider of the campaign but with Sagan lurking in the shadows. With that, the Swiss star took the next 3 months off and focused on his end of season target, the World Road Race.

Liege Bastogne Liege is the final race of a series of races coined the Ardennes Classics which generally feature the lighter climbing centred rider. Peter Sagan bypassed Paris Roubaix so he could take a shot at Amstel Gold but he was a long way short of his best and the races were dominated by riders we would see in the Alps and Pyrenees later in the Summer.

La Doyenne is the second longest Classic but is regarded as the hardest of the Monuments mostly because there are so many metres climbed (4700m) across 11 peaks in the race. Each year it is an attritional race but is a form guide of the highest calibre. With so many metres climbing, I am of the opinion it is possibly the go-to race for our contenders this weekend. The cream of the crop attended 2013's edition, some coming in fantastic form fresh from Tirreno Adriatico as well as from Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone. There were no hard luck stories.

With so many big names, it wasn't unusual that the Cote du Redoute was raced largely negatively but it did strip the peloton down and we had attack after attack before the end culminating with a very experienced sextet racing for the finish. I was obviously delighted to see my countryman Daniel Martin win but it was the manner in which he did it makes me think he's a massive favourite for this weekend no matter how the race pans out. The calibre of the opposition contained riders in form - Nibali, Froome, Rodriguez, Valverde were the three big names who joined riders like Hesjedal, Scarponi and Betancur with no answer in the end to the pace and panache of the Irishman

Finally, it's gut feeling time...
The race will be incredibly quick from the start with the promise from the British, Italians and Spanish teams to make it a real test. There are riders who can't do the distance, who can't do the hills and who'll lack the endurance at the level required so here's a list of the main men to keep on side of

Early season Classics men - Cancellara, Sagan, Stannard, Boasson Hagen
Mid Season Ardennes Classics men - Martin, Gilbert, Iglinsky, Betancur, Moreno, Valverde, Rodriguez,
National Champions - Wegmann, Vichot,
Climbing Gods - Nibali, Contador,
Recent Form - Gesink, Scarponi, Ulissi, Stybar, Bakelandts, Voeckler, Barguill, Roche
Olympics & Worlds Form - Degenkolb, Uran, Breschel, Sanchez,

My Top 20

1. Cancellara
2. Martin
3. Rodriguez
4. Valverde
5. Nibali
6. Roche
7. Sagan
8. Stannard
9. Scarponi
10. Gesink
11. Gilbert
12. Boasson Hagen
13. Vichot
14. Bakelandts
15. Moreno
16. Uran
17. Van Avermaert
18. Rui Costa
19. Stybar
20. Voeckler

Silver Cambridgeshire preview

Apologies for the late posting, please welcome to the blog a new contributor, and an old contact of mine, someone I taught in the Betfair Academy many years ago.
Welcome aboard Billy Blakeman.....

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Following the relatively new trend of running the same big handicap twice, or even three times to allow those that did not make the cut for the big one a consolation race, the ‘Silver Cambridgeshire’ is run over the Cambridgeshire course and distance.

@five2tenracing specialise in 5f to 10f all-aged handicaps and here, chief analyst Billy Blakeman breezes through the 28-runners. Billy writes for a number of sites and his work can be found at BetRacingNation and his OLBG blog.

HAAFHD Handicap (Silver Cambridgeshire)
5.00 Newmarket
1m1f Class 2


1. NICEOFYOUTOTELLME - Improved on his 3-y-o form when winning an AW handicap in April and followed up on turf a couple of months later. Not gone on from that upped in class but slow start a valid excuse for his John Smiths Cup flop and then he was dealt a dreadful draw at Haydock, resulting in another game of catch up. Far from disgraced in that Haydock race in a hood (dispensed with here) and I like the fact he has proven his stamina over a bit further than this; could have more to offer.

2. BEAUMONT’S PARTY - Tough sort who will have a certain Ryan Moore for company this afternoon. Escapes a 4 lb rise for getting beat last time and whilst some will jump on that as evidence the horse is well handicapped, I am not convinced and a good run without winning looks the likely scenario for a horse who may need further.

3. CREDIT SWAP - N/R

4. BANCNUANAHEIREANN - This has almost killed my spellchecker and if I was a commentator, I would pretend I couldn’t see this horse! An admirable fourth in the Cambridgeshire itself in 2012 was not the first time the horse has placed in a big handicap but now a 6-y-o, he needs to find something more. Maybe Mr Fallon can help in that respect but maybe still more of a place than a win prospect.

5. SPIRIT OF THE LAW - Multiple winner across all ground types and a consistent animal to boot so a good start. Trained by Richard Fahey which is another obvious plus and Paul Hanagan takes over from regular partner, George Challoner.

6. AUSSIE REIGNS - N/R

7. SHAVANSKY - I am going to declare this 9-y-o a most unlikely winner.

8. TIGER’S TALE - Laid out for this race? “Sort of” according to trainer Roger Teal and given that the services of Richard Hughes have been secured, it is clear a good run is expected. Based on a trio of placed efforts over a mile this year, the horse is handicapped to go close and I fancy the extra furlong could well unlock some improvement on this return from a short break.

9. ALBAQAA - After a long season, I would be surprised if this veteran were able to take a race like this.

10. HEFNER - A winner over hurdles last September and wouldn’t be out of this on his best form. Perhaps a slight stamina doubt though.

11. ICEBUSTER - On a fair mark but 3/28 and others have more scope to improve.

12. MORPHEUS - Impeccably bred colt who is a half-brother to Frankel no less. Owned by Price Abdullah and trained by Lady Cecil, this 3-y-o looks to have just the right profile and comes here nice and fresh from a 6-week break.

13. GEORGE CINQ - Michael Bell trained 3-y-o and whilst it is fair to consider his stamina is in question, the trainer has no doubts. Has been kept away from fast ground but assuming he takes his chance, he has prospects re-united with Jamie Spencer who steered him to his last win. Wearing a hood second time.

14. STEVIE THUNDER - Out of form 8-y-o, stop there.

15. CLASSIC COLORI - 43 races so far and this 6-y-o is better in small fields.

16. CALAF - 4/38 and all wins in fields of 6 or less.

17. DREAM WALKER - Hugely improved for new yard and it makes you wonder what the old yard were doing! Quite possible the handicapper hasn’t yet got to him but softer ground may be a requisite.

18. ROYAL PRIZE - Had a long season but latest effort was much his best. Step up in trip in a bigger field could unlock further improvement from this 3-y-o and looks a contender.

19. BANK ON ME - Not managed to win any of his last 15-races and nothing in hand of his mark based on his last couple of efforts. However, well treated if you go back a bit further and I think he has a race like this in him. Drawn 27 and no surprise if he outran his odds.

20. CHRISTMAS LIGHT - Oisin Murphy the only positive about a 6-y-o mare whose form appears to be tailing off.

21. SCOTTISH STAR - I wouldn’t worry too much about the drop back in distance and could go well from a high draw. Prefer others though and 0-11 on grass.

22. ON MY OWN - 4-y-o colt who shot clear of his rivals here in July before suffering a 20-length defeat next time out at Redcar. Possible soft ground that day didn’t suit and so far from impossible if you can forgive that run.

23. DOLPHIN ROCK - Veteran of 47-races looks too exposed.

24. SILVER DIXIE - Progressive colt with Jeremy Noseda whose stamina is proven up to 12f. Handles quick ground just fine and has to be considered a prime contender, especially as 3-y-o’s have taken all three previous renewals of this race.

25. COPPERWOOD - Again I am going to be dismissive about an 8-y-o with plenty of miles on the clock.

26. SHEILA’S BUDDY - Had 29-races and yet to win this year but this 4-y-o looks on a cracking mark off 71. Previously run to a mark of 81 on fast turf, slow turf and polytrack so undoubtedly well-handicapped. Proven stamina and one of the better outsiders.

27. SAVE THE BEES - N/R

28. PELAMISM - Quirky, high-mileage come from behind sprinter basically so happy to leave him out today.

Summary - It goes without saying that there are many possible winners of this and there is no need to restrict yourself to one horse. I have to make a call though and number 1 on the card NICEOFYOUTOTELLME gets the nod for the reasons mentioned above. Fellow 4-y-o’s Sheila’s Buddy, Bank On Me and Tiger’s Tale all warrant close consideration.

From the classic generation, the pick of the contenders are Silver Dixie, Morpheus, George Cinq and Aussie Reigns.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Moir Stakes preview

The biggest non-racing sporting event of the year takes place in Melbourne this weekend, the AFL Grand Final, which moves metropolitan racing to Friday night at Moonee Valley and Sunday at Caulfield. So we get the rare treat of a Group 1 night race. The big sprint race of the weekend takes place at the Valley, and the preview is provided by regular contributor Lara Pocock. Follow her @lara_pocock or read her blog.

For a formguide to this race, visit Racenet.

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Moir Stakes

The 1200 metres Moir Stakes will be run at Group One level for the first time this evening at Moonee Valley and will feature a field of ten, including a number of Group One winners and performers. The race will be run as the final race on the flood lit card to maximise betting turnover, a decision which has not pleased everyone.

1. Buffering
The perennial Group One performer won this race last year when it was run at Group Two status but has been unable to break through record his maiden Group One success. The six-year-old will be making his seasonal reappearance with a heavy weight of expectations but rightly so, he has an excellent record first up and should be in the frame to add to that today.

2. Epaulette
Darley's Group One Doomben 10,000 winner Epaulette won the Group One Golden Rose last spring. Although he has won over this distance at a juvenile, the four-year-old has won all of his Group races over 1350 or 1400 metres and may not quite have the turn of foot to win under this distance. He is another making his seasonal reappearance, not something that should be counted against him.

3. Bel Sprinter
The well-being of Bel Sprinter, who spent longer than his trainer expected in quarantine after his second in the Group One Singapore International Sprint in May, is questionable. He finished second in a barrier trial at the beginning of September but the Group One Galaxy Handicap winner maybe worth watching here to see whether he is race fit however his first up record is immaculate.

4. Moment Of Change
Second on his seasonal reappearance to Kuroshio in the Group Two McEwen Stakes two weeks ago, Moment Of Change finished second to Black Caviar and Shamexpress last preparation in Group One races. The Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winner should improve for his last run and is one to watch in the betting market.

5. General Truce
The dual Group Three winner General Truce is likely to be out classed here. He finished second in the McEwen Stakes on his last start having been fourth in a Listed race first up. His Group One performances to date have not yielded anything better than an eighth place.

6. Conservatorium
Another one who is likely to find this opposition stiff, the triple Listed winner Conservatorium is resuming this season. He was second in the Group One Goodwood to Platelet last season but has struggled to break through in Group company to date.

7. Le Bonsir
The six-year-old won the Listed Golf Stakes at Moonee Valley two weeks ago, his first start at stakes level. He beat the dual Group Two winner Rekindled Interest by a length and a half on that occasion and although he could certainly continue up the ranks this maybe a step too far at the moment.

8. Captain Fancypantz
Captain Fancypantz has already got his spring campaign well underway and finished third in a handicap a month ago. He is yet to record a stakes victory and is unlikely to do so today.

9. Snitzerland
A winner at the meeting last year when taking out the Group Three Champagne Stakes, Snitzerland won a Rosehill barrier trial two weeks ago. She finished second in The Galaxy earlier this year but has yet to record a success at the highest level. A leading chance to do so today if she can reproduce her best form, which includes Group Two victories in the Danehill Stakes and Challenge Stakes.

10. Samaready
Plagued by injury since her juvenile campaign, Samaready won the 2012 Group One Blue Diamond Stakes and finished third behind Pierro and Snitzerland in the Group One Golden Slipper Stakes in the same year. After missing the majority of her three-year-old campaign she proved she still had ability when taking out the Group Three Shark Stake slash month. She needs to step considerably from that run to win here but certainly has the ability to do so.

Verdict
An interesting race with many who could easily take this on paper. Unfortunately Buffering is likely to find some others better on this occasion, with the fillies likely to make the most of their weight allowance, with Snitzerland the pick of the pair. Moment Of Change has already won at this level and has put in some fine performances since so he is the pick of the field due to the question mark over the possible conditions of Samaready and Bel Sprinter.

1. Moment Of Change
2. Snitzerland
3. Buffering

Oh So Sharp Stakes preview

Newmarket's Cambridgeshire Festival is underway and tomorrow's meeting begins with a Group III race for the 2yo fillies. And when the babies of the turf are in action, who better to call upon than @twoyearoldtips. For previews of juvenile races all year round, visit his blog.

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Aqlaam Oh So Sharp Stakes, 1.40pm, 7f, Group III

Gown- Charlie Hills inmate who was a fortunate winner of a Sandown nursery off of 72 on her penultimate outing. Was unable to win off 76 in a nursery on her most recent start and looks to be flying too high in this company.

Lightning Thunder- Unbeaten filly who comes here having won a conditions race at Doncaster last time. The runner up that day Justice Day is a useful tool, albeit likely flattered by his OR of 101, and her performance can be upgraded as she had a difficult passage early on. Showed a good attitude to get up close home that day and very much respected back against her own sex.

Midnite Angel- Richard Hannon juvenile who despite having won only one of her seven starts comes here with the arguably the strongest form in the book. Her seconds behind J Wonder and Ihtimal stand up to scrutiny in this field and although slightly disappointing last time she still ran with credit behind the potentially top class Amazing Maria. Rated 97 it is likely she will find one or two too good but should run her usual honest race.

Miss France- Well-bred Andre Fabre filly who arrives here on the back of a conditions race victory at Chantilly last time. Obviously difficult to weigh up that form, needs to improve on RPRs, but is trained by a master and doubtful she is coming over to make up the numbers. Very much one to take seriously with Mickael Barzalona on board.

Radiator- The X factor of the field who routed her rivals by 15 lengths at Lingfield on her second start. Would be natural to assume that wasn't a great race but the second was only beaten 2.5 lengths by group placed Wedding Ring next time at HQ. From an incredible family and obviously has any amount of talent, but may be an all or nothing type, beaten 10 lengths on debut, and has to be opposed purely on value grounds here.

Sleep Sioux- Winner of a Bath maiden on her fifth visit to the racecourse and highly unlikely to follow up here.

Stealth Missile- Has contested two Ascot maidens finishing down the field on debut before springing a 25/1 surprise last time out. Not sure that was a strong maiden, for all that the fifth was an impressive winner on Wednesday. Looks like a classic example of Clive Brittain aiming too high.

Suite- Debut winner who has had her limitations exposed since. Only sixth in her last two runs off of a mark of 88 she looks to be out of her depth in this company.

Sweet Acclaim- From a mare who had produced four winners from four runners and who cost £100,000, so it was therefore surprising she was allowed to go off at 40/1 on debut at Yarmouth. That looked a decent maiden for the track, but she made it into a procession winning eased down. Likely she has been found a warm heat but definitely has potential and could run into a place at big odds.

Verdict
A race that revolves around the impeccably bred Radiator who having won by a furlong last time is as short as 12/1 for next years 1000 guineas. However she was well beaten, when fancied, on debut and at the current odds has to be taken on. A credible opponent can be found in the shape of Lightning Thunder who is unbeaten and showed a willing attitude to win against the boys last time. Her trainer has been talking up a trip to Paris on Arc weekend and she will have to take this if she is to make the trip across the channel. Coming the other way is Miss France who is a very rare two year old runner on these shores for her faultless trainer and she has to be taken very seriously. Of the rest Sweet Acclaim looked useful on debut and can make the frame at rewarding odds.

1 Lightning Thunder
2 Miss France
3 Sweet Acclaim

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Football derby day previews from Football Form Labs

With the formlines getting stronger each week, the quality of data from Football Form Labs gets better. There are a couple of big Sunday derbies in Europe this weekend, so let's remove the emotion and take a look at the cold hard facts.

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ANALYSIS – Fiery Italians Produce Dirty Derbies

Out of the Big 5 leagues, Serie A comes second to La Liga, for the worst disciplinary record. In the past 10 years, there have been 4.46 yellows per game and 0.30 sending offs, accumulating 52.2 booking points. So if regular Serie A matches are this fiery, how dirty must their derbies be?

Well it turns out very. In the three biggest Serie A derby matches (Milan, Genoa , and Rome Derbies), there have been, on average, 84.7 booking points per derby (50 derbies in last 10 years). In comparison, the average Premier League derby saw 42.7 booking points – less than one extra caution more than the average Premier League game. English derbies seem a bit timid in comparison.

The most ill-tempered Italian derby in recent years has been Genoa v Sampdoria particularly when played at Genoa’s ground, Stadio Luigi Ferraris. A recent encounter in the 2009/10 season, reached a staggering 200 booking points, involving four red cards, and ten bookings. This isn’t an anomaly either. The season before, the derby there produced 175 points. In the last five meetings at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, every game has generated over 100 booking points and involved at least eight bookings and one red card.

This weekend sees the Capital derby, as Roma play Lazio at Stadio Olimpico. This, like the Genoa derby, produces a tremendous amount of ill-discipline. In the last 10 years, none of the 20 Rome derbies have had fewer than 50 booking points. Moreover, in the last five seasons, the 10 derbies have averaged 111 booking points. Nine of these 10 games have seen a red card, and half have seen more than one player take an early shower. So when these teams meet on Sunday another dirty derby should be expected.

To see the full analysis, and analysis on derbies in the Premier League please go to the Strategies tab within Form Labs.

MATCH PREVIEWS

Premier League: Man City v Man Utd

The first Manchester derby of the season looks set to be an important battle, with city bragging rights the difference between first and second in the past two seasons. It’ll also be the first derby for both managers and while David Moyes hasn’t enjoyed much success at the other big clubs, his record over City is superb. Since 2007/08, Moyes’ Everton won nine of 12 league meetings with City, losing only twice.

Man City have won three of the four league meetings between these teams in the past two seasons but they’ve not had huge success in the home fixture. They’ve W1-D1-L3 at home in the past five seasons and three times they failed to score. Their home record, as a whole, however, has been excellent in recent years. Since 2010/11 they’ve won five of nine home games against top-four finishers.

Man Utd lost at Anfield in their last away game, but while they didn’t create much they were rarely threatened after conceding an early goal. The champions have lost just two of their last 20 road games, and have W3-D3-L3 at top-four finishers in the past three seasons. On the balance of things, City look a touch too short and, with David Silva a major doubt, the value looks to be with the away side. Since joining City, they’ve won 71% of matches with Silva compared to just half the games he’s missed and United look underrated at 2.06 on the Asian handicap +0.25.

We wouldn’t expect a particularly open game, however. Since 2004/05, all 18 Everton/Man City matches had fewer than four goals, with 13 having -2.5 strikes. Moreover, this fixture has had fewer than two goals in four of the past five seasons. City have had -2.5 goals in six of their nine home games against top-four finishers in the past three seasons and neither team has looked particularly fluid domestically under their new managers. Silva’s likely absence again leads to an expectation of fewer goals with 39% of the matches he’s missed since 2011/12 having -1.5 goals and 56% having -2.5 strikes. If this game is anything like the Liverpool/Man Utd game a few weeks ago the Under 2.5 goals price of 2.05 will look crazy come 6pm Sunday.

Wayne Rooney has looked particularly sharp in United’s last two games and having scored in eight of his 17 starts in Manchester derbies he looks decent value to add to his tally. Six of the eight derbies he scored in, he netted the first goal of the match, and with the expectation of a low scoring game 9.0 looks a massive price to be the first scorer.

Serie A: Roma v Lazio

We’re only three games into the Serie A season but Roma fans should be feeling optimistic after a 100% start. Lazio have also begun well with two wins in their opening three games and now they face their biggest game of the season.

This derby doesn’t tend to be one for the faint-hearted. Since 2008/09, nine of the 10 league meetings have seen a red card, and half have seen more than one man walk. This creates an obvious problem for predicting the match, but it should be an interesting one nonetheless.

Despite a few disappointing years, Roma have lost only two of their 16 home games against top-half teams since 2011/12, winning nine times. Lazio, meanwhile, tend to struggle on the road, as they’ve lost seven of their last 10 away matches, and 10 of their last 15 away to top-half teams. Lazio have had the better of the derby in the past two seasons, but a large part of that is down to Roma receiving red cards in the first 50 minutes in three of the four games. Roma made some exciting signings this summer, and Rudi Garcia has proven to be an excellent manager at Lille. Providing they keep 11 men on the pitch for most the 90 minutes Roma look an excellent price at 2.15.

When Roma appointed Zedek Zeman at the start of last season the inevitable result was a lot of goals. Garcia, however, is far more measured and their opening wins have been built on a strong defence. Furthermore, Roma’s last seven matches have seen just one first-half goal. Half the last 10 league derbies have had fewer than three goals, and the first meeting of the season tends to be the tighter affair. Three of these five games have been goalless at the break and one of the exceptions was a classic Zeman five-goal thriller. Seven of Lazio’s last 12 trips to top-half teams have had fewer than three goals, as they’ve failed to score seven times, with six defeats to nil. It’s been a high-scoring start to the Serie A season but Under 2.5 goals looks the way to go here at evens.

Using Football Form Labs you can identify thousands of betting opportunities every week across over 40 different leagues.

PLAYER ANALYSIS (data provided on Friday, before a couple of these matches)

Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we look at a couple of significant players who will be missing this weekend and see what that might mean.

N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Liverpool v Southampton

Philippe Coutinho, Midfielder, Liverpool


Coutinho has missed just five games since joining Liverpool last winter. With him they’ve had an impressive W10-D3-L1 record. Without, however, they are yet to win, drawing four of the matches he’s missed.

Atalanta v Fiorentina

Luca Cigarini, Midfielder, Atalanta


Cigarini is suspended for Atalanta and since the start of last season they’ve lost eight of the 13 matches he’s missed. Moreover, when you discount matches against teams that were relegated from that sample their record reads W1-D1-L8.

Yeovil v QPR

Bryon Webster, Defender, Yeovil


Webster has missed just six games since the start of last season and Yeovil have conceded 40% more goals per game without him. Four of the six matches had +2.5 goals and their loss rate rose from just 36% with him to 50% without.

Friday, 20 September 2013

NFC ante-post previews

I posted the ante-post expertise of Ian Steven, @deevo82, a couple of weeks ago from the AFC, I'd neglected to complete the set with the NFC. Here they are...

Please note, these were written on Sep 15, so there may be some slight changes to prices etc...

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NFC West

This might be the toughest division in the NFL. San Francisco are the losing Super Bowl finalists after a momentous collapse at the hands of Baltimore. There is a definite hangover attached to losing in the Super Bowl and not making it back to the big show the following year but the Niners may have enough talent to escape that hoodoo. Colin Kaepernick has quickly become one of the NFL’s hottest commodities after stepping into the breech last season when Alex Smith went down in Week 10. Frank Gore is still a capable running back despite edging close to the dreaded age 30 when halfbacks traditionally fall off the cliff in terms of ability. Their offensive line is more than serviceable and their defense is one of the best in the business. The only area of concern for the Bay Area franchise was the serious Achilles tendon injury to prima donna receiver Michael Crabtree who was Kaepernick’s favourite target. San Francisco quickly moved to bring in veteran receiver Anquan Boldin who repaid the front office’s faith by catching 13 balls for 208 yards last week against Green Bay.

Seattle are many pundits' choice as the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl and with good reason. Pete Carroll’s men may rival the Niners for the deepest roster in football and are almost a mirror image of their deadly division rivals. Russell Wilson is a mobile quarterback just like Kaepernick and also came to prominence last season as a rookie quarterback who was defying the expert’s proclamation that the Wisconsin graduate was too short to make it in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch is a bruising running back, the Seahawks have a consistent offensive line and a punishing defense and just like the Niners, their top receiver went down in the pre-season as free agent acquisition Percy Harvin has been ruled out till Thanksgiving due to hip surgery. Seattle have not been able to replace Harvin with a player of Boldin’s quality which may well be the defining factor in what settles this division. The Week 14 clash between these two sides might be the most compelling regular season game of the year.

If it was any other division then St Louis would be considered as a team moving into the upper echelons. Quarterback Sam Bradford has displayed a level of maturity with the stability of coach Jeff Fisher coaching the Rams. They have a young and talented defense with players like James Laurinaitis, Michael Brockers, Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Janoris Jenkins but they just don’t have the skill players on offense to consistently rack up the wins needed to keep up with the “big two” in the division. They can play spoilers however which they did last season, defeating the Seahawks one then tying with and defeating the Niners.

The Cardinals have a lot of talent but their season rests on how protected they can keep veteran quarterback Carson Palmer with a less than stellar offensive line. He has one of the best wide receivers to play the game in Larry Fitzgerald to throw to and a young and talented secondary but they will ultimately be over whelmed by the strength of opposition in this division.

Winners – I can’t call it. The Niners have the shorter odds at just over evens and could win the division simply through the acquisition of Boldin. Seattle is the loudest stadium in the league and have such a prominent home field advantage. Both teams have really low odds to make the playoffs. Walk away from this one.

NFC North

The Packers looked like they were Super Bowl bound last year until they encountered Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco’s read option offense that left Green Bay completely befuddled. The majority of that squad are back in 2013 and look set to be able to make a deep playoff run again. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is definitely in the top five at his position in the NFL and excels at getting the ball out of his hand quickly, which is a must as the Pack have a weakened offensive line with Brian Bulaga and Derrick Sherrod sidelined. Rookie Eddie Lacy steps into the backfield to add some consistency at running back and Randall Cobb will step up to fill the void of the departed free agent Greg Jennings. Clay Matthews remains the playmaker in the Wisconsin defense with Johnny Jolly returning to the NFL after a prolonged absence to help solidify the defensive line. This is an intelligent unit of veteran players who are comfortable in their respective systems, are well-coached and are definitely playoff bound barring injury.

Chicago have jettisoned long-time head coach Lovie Smith and replaced him with former CFL guru Marc Trestman. There has already been an offensive revolution in the Windy City with Jay Cutler no longer needing five seconds for a play to develop, with a more West Coast offensive style introduced that will feature running back Matt Forte heavily. Brandon Marshall is clearly the top target for Cutler, catching 118 balls for the Bears last season. Watch out for Martellus Bennett being a viable target in the red zone from the tight end spot. The main change on defense was the retirement of the legendary linebacker Brian Urlacher with the Bears drafting John Bostic in the second round in the hope he could go some way to replacing the icon. The Bears defense excels at causing turnovers but can end up relying too much on the big play rather than stopping a team marching for yards. Their last game of the season is at home to Green Bay and it could be a division decider but I don’t think there will be a wildcard slot open for the team that finishes in second place.

Detroit have been threatening to be good for a couple of years now and have arguably the best wide receiver in the league with Calvin Johnson. Reggie Bush was brought in from Miami to add some speed to the backfield but ultimately this is a team built to excel in a dome and not the frozen tundra of the NFC North. Matt Stafford is definitely a talented quarterback but throws more interceptions than other signal callers in the elite category. He could well lead the league in passing yards this season but that is probably because the Lions are playing from being behind on the scoreboard and need to gulp yards quickly. Ezekial Ansah was drafted to add some edge rushing to a defence already possessing the intimidating and ill-disciplined Ndamukong Suh but is still raw and can be considered a project. The linebackers and secondary are below par and as a result, the Lions will be an 8-8 team at best.

Adrian Peterson is the Minnesota Vikings. His performance last season gaining 2,097 yards after returning from a torn ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve was nothing short of remarkable and he is definitely considered the best in the business. That is where the plaudits end unfortunately as quarterback Christian Ponder is nothing more than a game manager. Greg Jennings was brought in from Green Bay to add some pep to the wide receiving core but will struggle with constant double teams or zones rotating his way. Matt Kalil is turning into a highly capable left tackle on offense but the Vikings defense is beginning to age, with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams both the wrong side of 30. If you enjoy watching throw back football where a running back barrels through tackles then the Vikings are the team to watch – they just don’t have enough in the tank to keep up with the rest of the division.

Winner – Green Bay will come out on top with Chicago running them close but Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the division and that really matters in the NFL. 4 points on Green Bay @ 1.9 from 888sport.

NFC South

The prodigal son has returned as New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is eligible to stand on the sideline once more after being banned for a season for his role in the bountygate scandal. This is good news to acolyte Drew Brees who is the perfect quarterback for the offensive-minded Payton and the assault on the NFL’s passing records can begin once more in earnest. The biggest disappointment for the Saints is the lack of talent at the running back position with Heisman winner Mark Ingram failing to set the heather (or artificial turf) alight. Payton prefers a run by committee approach and the gaping holes left by the defense that have their hands full with Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, Marques Colston and rookie Kenny Stills can be exploited. The Saints switched to a 3-4 defense in the off season, bringing in former Dallas coordinator Rob Ryan in a bid to get more pressure onto the opposition quarterback. It is a lot easier playing defense when the opposition is down by 21 points but they will be tested once the playoffs come round – especially if they don’t get home field advantage and have to play in winter conditions.

Atlanta revelled last year as the Saints toiled and quickly wrapped up the division and defeated the Seahawks in the playoffs, only to endure a second half collapse at the hands of the 49ers. Former Rams powerhouse Steven Jackson was brought in to add some oomph to the ground attack whilst Julio Jones and Roddy White have blossomed into the best wide receiver partnership in the league. Matt Ryan is dependable under centre and receives good protection from his offensive line. The key for the Falcons is generating a consistent pass rush to knock their opponents out of their stride. Osi Umenyiora arrived from the Giants to being pressure but the Falcs will struggle to harass quarterbacks when it really matters. Look for teams baiting cornerback Asante Samuel with double moves as the former Eagle is a really aggressive corner and gets suckered easily by crafty QBs.

The Carolina Panthers rely on the talents of quarterback Cam Newton for much of their offense as he can beat you with his arm as well as his legs. There was no sophomore slump as the third year quarterback almost mirrored his stats from his rookie year. Steve Smith remains the top receiving option for the Auburn graduate with DeAngelo Williams carrying the bulk of the rushing load with Jonathan Stewart currently on the PUP list. They are a physical team on offense and difficult to stop once they start running the ball. The big problem for the Panthers last year was a 2-8 start to the season but they boasted a top ten defense with Luke Kuechly looking like a star linebacker in the making. Seven of the games they lost last year was by a touchdown or less so they have to find a way of protecting the football and limiting the opposition within the redzone – which is a tough thing to ask when Atlanta and New Orleans are in your division. Ron Rivera’s men have a pretty tough schedule with games against the Patriots and the 49ers as well as facing the Saints twice and the Falcons once in the last four weeks of the regular season.

The boo birds are out for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman who was not head coach Greg Schiano’s pick in the draft and as a result the duo are not tied at the hip. There is a top draft class coming out in 2014 and there is a real chance the Florida franchise move on from Freeman and start afresh unless he makes heads turn. Running back Doug Martin was a pleasant rookie surprise for the Bus, posting a 1,000 yard rushing season. Vincent Jackson remains a huge target on the periphery but there is little else in the skill positions to help out Freeman. Left tackle Donald Penn also has to up his game or he could find himself replaced by a newer model as the 2014 tackle class is stocked as well. The Bucs brought in high profile free agents Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to shore up their secondary but they are still in the process of rebuilding and are likely to prop up their division.

Winners – 2 points on the Saints to win the division @ 2.25 with Sky Bet. 2 points on Atlanta to make the playoffs @ 1.73 with Ladbrokes.

NFC East

Where to start with the most unpredictable division in the NFL? Let’s start with America’s team – as they like to call themselves. They are called other names by the Giants, Redskins and Eagles fans. The Dallas Cowboys revolve purely around Tony Romo. When he is fit and in form he can create miracles. He can also be a blundering oaf and essentially a head coach killer. Romo has all the weapons he needs in Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant but a stuttering run game can sometimes open Romo up to pass-rush-happy defenses and he can buckle under pressure. Penalty prone Tyron Smith aside, there is not a lot of talent on the offensive line and it could end up being their downfall as they face Von Miller, Jared Allen, Jason Pierre Paul, Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews in a very gruelling schedule. The defense has converted from a 3-4 to a 4-3 Tampa 2 under the stewardship of the guru that is Monte Kiffen. Demarcus Ware will be asked to stick his hand in the dirt but it should not faze the sack master. The Cowboys are very weak up the middle and could be exploited by post patterns if Sean Lee does not drop back into coverage quickly enough.

Washington are hoping that they have not brought RG3 back too quickly from knee surgery after sustaining ligament damage at the end of last season. The Baylor grad looked very tentative against the Eagles and did not plant his front foot when passing meaning he did not drive into his throws. Alfred Morris had a superb rookie year in the zonal run scheme employed by Mike Shanahan and expect the Skins to ride the second-year player behind what is a very capable offensive line. Defense is a different matter as the Eagles tortured the Redskins in week one with London Fletcher looking like age has finally caught up with him. Brian Orakpo aside, there is not much to write home about for the rest of the defense and it seems unlikely that Washington will ride the same crest of the wave that knocked out seven straight wins and a playoff berth at the end of last season.

The Giants seem to enjoy torturing their head coach Tom Coughlin with moments of genius coupled with moments of buffoonery that leave their head coach beside himself with rage. The prime target for the New York boo birds used to be Eli Manning but with two Super Bowl appearances under his belt, the younger of the Manning brothers is now regarded as a highly-talented quarterback and will evolve into a Big Apple legend. It is fumble prone running back David Wilson who is the current target of Coughlin’s ire, so much so that the Giants signed free agent Brandon Jacobs to return to the Meadowlands as an insurance policy. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are a fantastic receiving duo and are a consistent deep threat against any secondary in the NFL. The New York offensive line are consistent if not spectacular but as is the trademark of a Coughlin coached team, the defensive line is loaded with ability. Jason Pierre Paul and Justin Tuck are the most talented but they are also injury prone and must stay healthy if the Giants are to consistently push the pocket. The linebackers and secondary units for the G Men are barely serviceable and if faced with a quality offensive line, the Giants can be picked apart with ease. Maybe the most glaring stat facing Tom Coughlin’s men is that the Super Bowl will be held in their lovely new stadium this year – and no host team has ever made the Super Bowl – although they are very likely to make the playoffs.

The Eagles are the biggest variable in this division. New head coach Chip Kelly arrived in South Philly with the reputation of a mad scientist. His Oregon Ducks offense was prolific for points and for the tempo they set in matches. He wants an average of 18 seconds to still be on the play clock when the ball is snapped. A competitive camp battle saw Michael Vick eventually win out as the starter behind centre with Nick Foles relegated to a spot holding a clipboard. Vick looks ideal to run Kelly’s read option offense as his reads are minimised allowing Vick to quickly get the ball out of his hand. The biggest knock on Vick is his inability to avoid injury and it is likely he won’t last the season which could be the difference in winning the division. The running back position is vital for this offense to work and in LeSean McCoy the Eagles have the most electrifying ball carrier in the league. If McCoy, much, like Vick, can stay healthy then he will put up serious numbers. The biggest blow to the Eagles this off-season was the loss of Jeremy Maclin to a knee injury which means the only deep threat the Birds have is the precocious DeSean Jackson. Tight ends Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz will be expected to pick up a lot of the slack over the middle. One of the reasons why Philly were so poor last year was the injuries to the offensive line – most strikingly – to Jason Peters who was regarded as the best left tackle in the game before tearing his Achilles tendon. Peters is back healthy and the O line can be dominant with rookie Lane Johnson manning the other tackle slot. Defense is the biggest weak point for Kelly’s men as they are running a 3-4 hybrid defense but essentially still have the personnel for the 4-3. They could also have the worst safeties in the NFL which means one thing – the Eagles could be the best team to watch in the NFL this year when you combine points scored and points conceded in the same game. Ultimately, injuries and a poor defense will eliminate Philly from the playoff race.

Winner – The New York Giants should win the division but they may just squeak it with a 9-7 record. 1 point on NY to win division @ 4.5 with 888. 2 points on Dallas not to make the playoffs @ 2.00 with Ladbrokes.

Underwood Stakes preview

The action hots up every week in Melbourne through to the Melbourne Cup with most racing enthusiasts salivating at possibly the strongest WFA field in decades tomorrow at Caulfield. Can the nation's latest super mare, Atlantic Jewel, live up to the hype? This is the race to prove it, surely the Cox Plate can't get much tougher than this.

Saddling up to provide the preview for the blog is Melbourne form specialist, media identity and ranter extraordinaire, Racetrack Ralphy. Download his iPhone app for his astute race analysis including all-important speed maps or subscribe via his website, RacetrackRalphy.

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Race 9 - Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes

Race Time:4:55pm
Track:Slow
Weather:Showers
Distance:1800m
Race Overview
Basic numbers: 12-11-7-8

ATLANTIC JEWEL is the headline act and the new superstar of Australian racing, but today tells exactly what she's got under the bonnet as a serious Cox Plate chance. Around Caulfield and over 1800 she has to be favourite, but there are two world class middle distance horses in SEA MOON (definitely) and IT'S A DUNDEEL (my opinion) taking her on and as such, the gap in the market is too big for mine. PUISSANCE DE LUNE was flat out plain last start when just beaten. Will he improve? Most probably. Is he under the odds on that run? Definitely.

Suggested bet: I'm going small outlay on two to beat the favourite. 3 win units (lock in $10:00) IT'S A DUNDEEL and 2 win units SEA MOON.



1 - Green Moon - Brett Prebble • Robert Hickmott (10) 59kg
Powered home first up here behind ATLANTIC JEWEL and should be doing similar here. Disappointed the market 2nd up last prep in the Australian Cup, but probably was unable to cope with the high pressure early in the race? This likely more moderate tempo should suit better, and he'll again be hard late

2 - Manighar - Daniel Stackhouse • Peter G Moody (3) 59kg
Was just ok in the Makybe but perhaps that's what he's now become? This race probably decides what he's got left as he should get the gun run, but he hasn't won since April 2012.

3 - Mr Moet - Damien Oliver • Adam Durrant (13) 59kg
Went forward in what turned out to be a better speed than expected in the MAKYBE and unsurprisingly knocked up. Oliver replaces Staeck which is significant, but the outside alley again presents a challenges.

4 - Foreteller - Craig Newitt • Chris Waller (11) 59kg
Proved that he's brought his standard to a new level with a nose win over PUISSANCE DE LUNE last start (as predicted here without having the guts to do so properly...) and the extra 200 is no problem. With the right run, he can again be in the placings, though this is up another level.

5 - Happy Trails - Dwayne Dunn • Paul Beshara (4) 59kg
Was a late scratching last week on suspicions of raceday treatment, and I was risking him on the day in that race off just an average run here behind ATLANTIC JEWEL. I want to see him return to a genuine sign of his best before following him again.

6 - Ethiopia - Rhys McLeod • Pat Carey (1) 59kg
Had a soft run first up and it was ok, but not enough to expect vast improvement here.

7 - Sea Moon - Craig Williams • Robert Hickmott (5) 59kg $12:00
Is seriously scary and can win this. He was nice and strong in the market for his Australian debut, but splayed his legs at the start and the run can be totally forgiven. There is no way he would be risked if the camp wasn't happy with him since, and such is his world class ability, he's worth specking for mine.

8 - Puissance de Lune - Glen Boss • Darren Weir (14) 59kg $21:00
Was ok last start when picked off late by FORETELLER after being exposed at the top of the straight and being stalked by the winner. His Grand Final is still 6 weeks away and while he'll improve again, he does need to in this hot field.

9 - Waldpark - Ben Melham • Anthony Freedman (9) 59kg
Was ok first up for his Australian debut without much market love. He'll improve again but off that being deep in the finish would surprise.

10 - My Quest for Peace Luke Nolen • Peter G Moody (2) 59kg
Was plain first up behind ATLANTIC JEWEL with the biggest mystery being why Moody persists with him. Clearly he is showing something on the track, as the trainer hardly needs to fill a box!

11 - It's a Dundeel - James McDonald • Murray Baker (12) 58kg $7:00
Is a superstar getting out to this distance range and the super strong market support first up indicated that the market isn't afraid of ATLANTIC JEWEL with him, but the inside barrier meant he was unable to unwind into his paralysing sprint. Here from the outside alley that won't be a problem and he'll be powering home late. Too late? Possibly. But at the odds I want to be on him.

12 - Atlantic Jewel - Michael Rodd • Mark Kavanagh (7) 57kg $1:75
Taught us nothing last week with her Moonee Valley trackwork for $134,000. She showed her typically world class turn of foot when asked, but then Rodd understandably shut her down late. The reality of the data is that she didn't break 12 seconds in either win. Is she vulnerable late? Here she'll again put it on show on the home turn, but at 1800, both SEA MOON and IT'S A DUNDEEL start to come into their own. I've got her top pick, but would love to be alive in the quaddie with the other two as well!

13 Silent Achiever - Steven Arnold • Roger James (8) 57kg
Had no room last start so the run wasn't an indication of her - very good - ability. She won the MV Group 2 mile 2nd up last spring but this is another level.

14 - Dear Demi - Brad Rawiller • Clarry Conners (6) 56kg
Powered home from too far back behind COMMANDING JEWEL and most years would be a chance in a race like this. However the depth of the race means she isn't in the market, but everything going right for her and a couple of things wrong for others could see her place without surprise.

You can also follow Ralph on @rtralphy

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Take a crack at the Colossus

I'll preface this by saying I'm not the biggest football fan in the world, however as you might have guessed from my blog name I love a punt, love most sports and love having a crack at huge pool bets. Previously they've mostly been restricted to horse racing, now we have a format to win a mint on a bunch of football matches. Naturally, it ain’t easy!

Let's look at this week's Colossus coupon. Off the back of a Champions and Europa League midweek schedule, I had hoped to take on several of those teams, but the shrewd chaps picking the card have avoided most of them! I'm going for where the big money is - if there's £10m up for grabs, why waste time attacking pools to win a few grand?

(Also posted on the Colossus Bets blog)

Have a crack yourself by signing up at ColossusBets and use my Refer and Earn code - RAFMRN9VW1. Just for using that code, you will get three free chances to win the £10m Colossus, after making a deposit.

West Brom v Sunderland

A clash for the ages, 19th vs 20th! Now those table positions don't mean a great deal after just four rounds, but these clubs have largely played mid-to-bottom half teams so far, bar Sunderland's defeat by Arsenal last weekend. Brom have only conceded four in four, while the Black Cats have leaked six goals in their past two, including three to Palace.

West Brom have won this clash six of the last seven times, and of the four at home, the for/against is 10:1. Eight of the last nine meetings have gone over 2.5 goals. They might have only scored once this season, but I think this is the week they break the shackles.

WBA 2-1 and 3-0

West Ham v Everton

Tenth host ninth, just eight goals between them after four rounds. The Hammers haven't won since picking off Cardiff on their Premier League debut while Everton pinched a goal against Chelsea who probably had their mind on Champions League. Since Andy Carroll joined West Ham, he has proved pivotal to their winning chances. With him in the team, their goals per game average is 1.36, without him, just 0.89, while goals conceded stays the same at 1.27/1.28 (stats via Football Form Labs). And that goals without him figure gets even worse if you remove a purple patch mid-last season of seven goals in three. In their last 13 matches without the long-haired frontman, the Hammers have scored only eight times.

West Ham haven't beaten the Toffees home or away since 2007 (11 matches - seven Everton wins, four draws). There's no obvious reason why they'll break the trend here but they'll score again soon surely.

Draw 1-1, Everton 1-2.

Chelsea v Fulham

Chelsea haven't scored in their last two EPL matches on the road, but will relish the return to Stamford Bridge. Their injury list is minimal so they have plenty of resources to call upon even after playing midweek. This local derby is always tight at the Bridge, it's not since May 2009 that Chelsea won by more than a goal (although Wednesday's loss to Basle sparks fear of an instant response). With Bent, Berbatov and Stekelenburg likely to miss due to injury, I can't see past a low-scoring home win.

Chelsea 1-0 and 2-0



Valladolid v Atletico Madrid

Saturday's night late game in La Liga pits 12th against second. Atletico won 3-0 at Valladolid last season and are scoring for fun at the moment, putting three past a much stronger rival in Zenit St Petersburg during the week. More goals! With a bigger ticket, I'd probably add 3-0 as well.

Atletico AOA

If I'm still alive at this stage then it's probably worth thinking about a hedge... but then again, the Sunday EPL matches are the ones I want to go wide in. If I did hedge at this stage, it would be to take my stake back and a little bit more, leaving plenty to trade with to play with if I got down to the last match.

Crystal Palace v Swansea

Tough Sunday match to decipher, Swansea will start favourite based on Palace's lengthy injury list and the Laudrup factor, but they will be playing three matches in seven days. When in doubt, side with the home team.

Palace 1-0 and 2-1

Man City v Man Utd

EPL matches between the elite clubs seem to be either boom or bust, such as City's glorious 6-1 away win in 2011 or drab 0-0 affairs (especially when Mourinho plays away). Will either manager be prepared to put it all on the line this early in the season? Both teams were in fine touch in front of the net during the week and tensions will be high so I'm taking the higher scores.

City AOH, Draw AOD, United AOA

AC Milan v Napoli

A classy pairing of Italian clubs, both coming off successful Champions League fixtures on Wednesday. I've tactically chosen this match to be the skinny leg. If my ticket is still alive, I'll be hedging significantly – I don’t have the fingernails to watch a match with so much riding on it! Six of the last nine clashes between these two sides have ended in a stalemate, but both sides like to dispel the myth of boring Italian football, so I'll take the high scoring draws.

Any Other Draw.

To finish off this weekend's bank of £100, I've taken a couple of lines in a La Liga Pick 3, the Sep 22 16:00 edition.



Celta Vigo and Villarreal appear quite evenly matched and not too focussed on defence. Any Other Draw.

Real Madrid are starting to click now and Getafe are yet to score away this season. In Real's last three home wins over Getafe, they have scored four. This could get ugly. Any Other Home.

Valencia and Sevilla are former leading Spanish clubs now struggling at the base of the table. Both teams have had three of four matches this season with at least four goals being scored. Could go either way so Valencia 3-1 and Any Other Draw.

A series of links on this week's match-fixing stories

Singapore arrests

Interpol: 6 arrested in Singapore linked to Europe

Singapore arrests 14 people in crackdown on football match-fixing

Football match-fixing arrests in Singapore



Southern Stars scandal

Victorian detectives bust alleged soccer match-fixing syndicate

Police arrest coach, nine players in $2 million match-fixing probe

Match-fixing scandal spreads to Queensland

Global criminal suspected despite police control

Million-dollar pay days as players earn beer money

Six charged over fixing scam

Extradition move on syndicate

Coach offered Southern Stars a good deal



Snooker fixing case

Lee guilty of match fixing

Stephen Lee - where did it all go wrong?