Barcelona Champions League Favourites After Quarter Final Draw

Barcelona remain the bookmakers favourites for the Champions League following the quarter final draw.

Pep Guardiola’s side were drawn in a “glamour tie” against AC Milan but will not fear the Italians who showed their vulnerability in a 3-0 second leg defeat against Arsenal – edging through to the last eight 4-3 on aggregate.

Milan will have to be much better if they are to have any chance against a Barcelona side that smashed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 in their last match, winning their tie 10-1 on aggregate.

Lionel Messi became the first player to score five Champions League goals in a single match:

[dailymotion]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpapeg_barcelona-7-1-leverkusen_sport[/dailymotion]

Chelsea overturned a 3-1 first leg defeat against Napoli by winning 4-1 after extra time and 5-4 on aggregate at Stamford Bridge.

The ageing Blues are the only remaining Premier League side in the competition and will fancy their chances against Benfica, who reached the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 2006.

Watch Chelsea’s remarkable comeback against Napoli here:

[dailymotion]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpgaun_chelsea-4-1-napoli-hoofoot-com-14-03-2012-all-goals-hq_sport[/dailymotion]

Bayern Munich will be confident of progressing to the semi finals after they were drawn against Marseille. The Bundesliga side overturned a 1-0 first leg defeat at Basel by crushing their Swiss opponents 7-0 at the Allianz Arena.

Watch all seven goals here:

[dailymotion]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpfnuc_bayern-munchen-vs-basel-7-0-agg-7-1-highlights_sport[/dailymotion]

The lowest ranked side left in the competition APOEL, edged past Lyon on penalties following a 1-1 aggregate score and they face the might of Real Madrid who coasted past CSKA Moscow 5-2 on aggregate.

Outright Champions League Winner:

  • Barcelona @ 2.25 (Ladbrokes)
  • Real Madrid @ 3.2 (Coral)
  • Bayern Munich @ 7.0 (William Hill)
  • Chelsea @ 11.0 (Sportingbet)
  • AC Milan @ 23.0 (Betfred)
  • Benfica @ 67.0 (Bet Victor)
  • Marseille @ 81.0 (Sky Bet)
  • APOEL @ 251.0 (Paddy Power)

Spurs Favourites In FA Cup Betting

Tottenham Hotspur edged into pole position as the bookmaker’s favourites to win this season’s FA Cup following their 3-1 fifth round replay victory against Stevenage.

The League One side looked to cause an upset when they took a shock lead after four minutes at White Hart Lane. Joel Byrom scored from the penalty spot but Jermaine Defoe equalised after 26 minutes.

Striker Emmanuel Adebayor put the Premier League side in front 10 minutes after the break with a penalty and Defoe netted his second 15 minutes from the end to ease Harry Redknapp’s side into a quarter final tie against Bolton Wanderers.

The previous evening, Chelsea won their first match under caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo with a 2-0 victory at Birmingham City.

The in-form Championship club kept the scoreline goalless until 54 minutes when Juan Mata scrambled the ball over the line and Raul Meireles sealed victory six minutes later with a spectacular finish.

Chelsea were the biggest movers in the betting, cut from 5.5 to a best-priced 4.0 with the bookmakers fancying them to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

The Blues have home advantage in the quarter finals against the remaining Championship side in the FA Cup, Leicester City.

Elsewhere, Everton host Sunderland while recent Carling Cup winners and second favourites to win the FA Cup, Liverpool, play Stoke City at Anfield.

Best odds available for all teams remaining in the FA Cup:

  • Tottenham Hotspur @ 3.75 (Bet Victor)
  • Liverpool @ 3.8 (Ladbrokes)
  • Chelsea @ 4.0 (Betfred)
  • Everton @ 8.5 (Ladbrokes)
  • Sunderland @ 10.0 (Sky Bet)
  • Stoke City @ 23.0 (bet365)
  • Bolton Wanderers @ 34.0 (Boylesports)
  • Leicester City @ 67.0 (Betfred)

Premier League Predictions 5 February 2012

On Sunday 5 February, Manchester United look to end a winless run at Chelsea that spans almost a decade in the Premier League while Newcastle United could unleash the “Two Demba’s” on an Aston Villa side unbeaten in their last five away fixtures.

Newcastle United vs Aston Villa

Newcastle welcome back top goal scorer Demba Ba and could hand a debut to £10 million striker Papiss Cisse in the televised lunchtime kick off. Alan Pardew’s side are in good form at home, winning their last three in all competitions, including a 3-0 defeat of Manchester United.

What is exciting about Newcastle’s form is they have won four of their last six league matches, even when key players like Ba and Cheick Tiote have been missing. The Magpies are unbeaten in their last five at home against Villa, including handing out a 6-0 drubbing at the beginning of last season.

This is not a cut-and-dried home victory though. Villa are unbeaten in their last five away matches in the Premier League and have won their last two – at Wolves and Chelsea.

Alex McLeish’s side showed great spirit coming from two goals down against QPR midweek to draw the fixture but they have not scored in their last three visits to Newcastle.

With a bolstered front line – the “Two Demba’s” have scored 59 league goals between them since the start of last season, the Magpies are tipped to outgun Villa, with Darren Bent having scored in his last three league appearances.

Verdict: Newcastle United @ 2.15 (Bet Victor)

Chelsea vs Manchester United

This is a crucial time in United’s season – having beaten Arsenal a few weeks ago, they face Chelsea this weekend and then host Liverpool next Saturday. They have also played Manchester City and Liverpool in the FA Cup in recent weeks.

The big games are coming thick and fast and it is time to put the notion that United always step up a gear in the second half of the season to the test.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine home league matches against United – winning six and drawing three with United scoring just five goals during that sequence.

But, with John Terry missing with a knee injury and Ashley Cole suspended, United have a great opportunity to end their winless run at Stamford Bridge. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Nani and Tom Cleverly are all available for Sir Alex Ferguson too. Under-fire goalkeeper David de Gea is set to return between the sticks after Anders Lindegaard was ruled out for six weeks.

Chelsea’s form has not been great. Since beating Manchester City at the Bridge convincingly, they have won just twice in eight league fixtures, despite having a relatively easy run of opponents.They lost at home to Aston Villa and dropped points against Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City and Swansea City.

Rooney has a great record against Chelsea – scoring six in 12 meetings while it is now 17 hours and 56 minutes since Fernando Torres scored for the Blues. Only youngster Daniel Sturridge looks dangerous for Andres Villas-Boas and he hasn’t found the net in his last five league and cup appearances.

Verdict: Manchester United @ 2.9 (Betfred)

FA Cup Fourth Round Betting Preview 28 January 2012

The FA Cup fourth round is in full swing on Saturday 28 January and here are some insights into all 12 matches taking place including the titanic lunchtime kick-off at Anfield where Liverpool take on Manchester United!

Queens Park Rangers vs Chelsea

A potential powder keg awaits at Loftus Road which may explain the midday nature of the kick-off. It’s the first time both London sides meet since the race row between Chelsea’s John Terry and QPR’s Anton Ferdinand and it’s likely the focus will surround that rather than the action taking place on the pitch.

New QPR manager Mark Hughes got his first victory since taking charge when his side beat lowly Wigan Athletic last week and have a solid chance at home against stuttering Chelsea. The Blues were held to a goalless draw last week and were unconvincing in a 1-0 victory against Sunderland the week before.

This could turn out to be a bad tempered game and one which may need a replay.

Verdict: Draw @ 4.0 (Sky Bet)

Liverpool vs Manchester United

The second fixture dogged by racist abuse is also set for an early kick off on Saturday. This will be the first time both teams have played eachother since Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for abuse directed at Patric Evra during a 1-1 draw last October.

Liverpool were good value for their 2-2 draw against Manchester City midweek, a result which set up a Carling Cup final clash against Cardiff City (correctly predicted here and here). Kenny Dalglish’s team will not fear United and the FA Cup is a welcome distraction from their poor league form which sees a top four finish increasingly unlikely.

United demonstrated their quality when they beat Arsenal late on at the Emirates last weekend and while Sir Alex Ferguson would prefer this tie not to need a replay, there is a strong chance it will.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.3 (Bet Victor)

Blackpool vs Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday caused an upset in the third round when they defeated Championship high-fliers West Ham 1-0 at Hillsborough but they may find the visit to Blackpool a much tougher prospect.

Blackpool still have the on-form Matt Phillips, who has scored seven goals in his last six games for the Seasiders, including two hat-tricks, after the club rejected a bid from Cardiff City.

Ian Holloway’s team are unbeaten in their last six matches at Bloomfield Road and haven’t tasted defeat in their home turf since Nottingham Forest beat them 2-1 last October. Wednesday have won their last six out of seven league and cup matches on the road, but I feel they will come unstuck against Blackpool.

Verdict: Blackpool @ 1.91 (bet365)

Bolton Wanderers vs Swansea City

Bolton Wanderers are in real danger of relegation from the Premier League this season but proved they will not go down without a fight by beating Liverpool 3-1 last Saturday.

Swansea City are also doing their best to remain in the top flight but their results are as excellent as they are awful. At home, Brendan Rogers’ side are a match for anybody – as proven in their 3-2 victory against Arsenal. But, on the road, they are prone to defeat and have lost seven out of 11 against Premier League opposition this season.

Let’s not pretend Bolton are any great shakes at home either – the victory against Liverpool was only their second of the season. But with Swansea almost incapable of scoring goals away from the Liberty Stadium, the bet has to be Bolton.

Verdict: Bolton Wanderers @ 2.5 (Betfred)

Derby County vs Stoke City

After a bright start to the Championship season, Derby now find themselves in eleventh place but are just two points behind sixth placed Birmingham City. The Rams have won their last five league and cup fixtures at home, including beating West Ham United on New Years Eve and Carling Cup semi finalists Crystal Palace in the third round.

Stoke appear to be stuttering of late. Last weekend they lost 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion (as predicted here) and have won just once in their last six Premier League outings. It could be that Europa League involvement is taking it out of their relatively small squad.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis may want as high a finish as possible in the Premier League as a priority to FA Cup progress and with ground to make up on Liverpool in seventh, a few fringe players may be selected here.

Verdict: Derby County @ 3.5 (Betfred)

Hull City vs Crawley Town

Hull are progressing quietly and confidently under Nick Barmby this season and occupy fifth spot in the Championship table. The Tigers have won five of their last six league and cup fixtures at home, including a confident 3-1 dispatching of Ipswich Town in the third round.

League Two Crawley have been excellent value in the FA Cup this season. They are unbeaten in their last 10 league and cup fixtures on the road since they were thumped 6-0 by Morecambe last September. Steve Evans’ side defeated Championship outfit Bristol City in the last round and will be looking for another scalp here.

But, Hull are a different prospect to the Robins, who have hovered around the lower reaches of the Championship all season. Crawley will certainly not be underestimated but the team from the higher division will progress here.

Verdict: Hull City @ 1.91 (bet365)

Leicester City vs Swindon Town

Swindon Town caused arguably the shock of the third round when they beat Premier League strugglers Wigan Athletic. Just like Hull vs Crawley, this match pits a confident League Two outfit against a Championship side expected to beat them.

A few weeks ago, I would have given Paolo Di Canio’s side a much better chance of turning over City but this is not perhaps the best time to play against the Foxes. Things appear to be clicking into place under manager Nigel Pearson and in their last two matches, Leicester won at Southampton in the league and smashed local rivals Nottingham Forest 4-0 in a FA Cup third round replay.

Just like Crawley at Hull, Leicester will not underestimate the quality Swindon possess but with confidence high at the Walkers Stadium, I expect the Foxes to be in the draw for the fifth round.

Verdict: Leicester City @ 1.57 (Ladbrokes)

Southampton vs Millwall

After an incredible first half of the season, Southampton’s league form has been patchy. A 3-0 away victory against Nottingham Forest was sandwiched between defeats against Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol City. Indeed, the Saints have lost two of their last three in front of their home supporters.

Millwall have spent most of the season near the bottom of the Championship and are in mixed form themselves. Their last two results have been positive – a 3-1 away win at Barnsley in the league and a 5-0 thumping of Dagenham & Redbridge in a third round replay but prior to that Kenny Jackett’s side lost four out of six in the Championship. Including a 6-0 mauling at the New Den by Birmingham City.

Neither side are in great recent form but with the Saints winning 11 out of 14 at home in the Championship this season and beating Millwall 1-0 at St Mary’s earlier in the campaign, I will side with Nigel Adkins’ team.

Verdict: Southampton @ 2.6 (Coral)

Sheffield United vs Birmingham City

Sheffield United have made excellent progress this season under Danny Wilson. After winning eight out of their last 10 League One fixtures, the Blades are up to third in the table, level on points with second placed Huddersfield Town. But, two of their last four in the league have ended in defeat – most recently last Saturday when table toppers Charlton Athletic beat them 1-0.

Birmingham have won their last four league and cup matches in a row and are unbeaten in their last eight in all competitions. After labouring through the first half of the season Chris Hughton’s side are climbing the table and are into the play-off positions.

United are solid at home, winning 10 out of 14 at Bramall Lane and losing just twice while Birmingham are shaky on their travels, losing seven out of 13 and winning just three times. This tie may need more than 90 minutes to settle it.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.4 (Sky Bet)

Stevenage vs Notts County

An all-League One fixtures pits play-off chasing Stevenage against mid-table Notts County and with a place in the last 16 at stake, neither side will take this match lightly. Stevenage, now under manager Gary Smith are solid, if not spectacular at home – winning six, drawing four and losing three.

That is better than County who are poor on the road, losing nine out of 14 in the league. Indeed, that is a record matched only by Tranmere Rovers in seventeenth and Rochdale and Chesterfield who prop up the table.

County inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Stevenage when the pair met in League One last September but Smith has cup victory experience – leading Colorado Rapids to MLS Cup glory in 2010 and I’m tipping the home side to exact their revenge.

Verdict: Stevenage @ 2.0 (Boylesports)

West Bromwich Albion vs Norwich City

Norwich City recorded a Premier League victory at the Hawthorns just a fortnight ago and it would not be a shock to see Paul Lambert’s side do the same again in the FA Cup.

Norwich are fresh from holding Chelsea to a goalless draw last weekend – their first clean sheet of the season and are riding high in ninth place in the Premier League. The Canaries are decent enough of their travels – winning three, drawing four and losing four in the league.

The Baggies earned a much needed victory at Stoke which kept some distance between the bottom three and themselves but it is their home form which is a huge concern. Two defeats, two draws and seven defeats does not inspire confidence and I choose Norwich to progress.

Verdict: Norwich City @ 4.0 (Ladbrokes)

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Newcastle United

Championship side Brighton needed extra time and penalties to see off the challenge of Conference promotion contenders Wrexham in the last round. But, strangely, they may have an easier time of it against Premier League side Newcastle United.

Despite leading at half-time against Fulham last weekend, Alan Pardew’s side were thumped 5-2 at Fulham and are unquestionably missing the likes of Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote who are on Africa Cup of Nations duty. While not terrible away from the Sports Direct Arena, the Magpies are vulnerable to defeat.

Brighton are solid enough at home, winning seven out of 13 and five of their last six, including a 3-0 victory against Southampton. Under Gus Poyet the Seagulls play good football and Craig Mackail-Smith is always a danger when fit.

Verdict: Brighton & Hove Albion @ 4.0 (Paddy Power)

Premier League Predictions 14 January 2012

There are plenty of what should be routine home victories in the Premier League this weekend and the bookmakers will hope one or two slip up to bust those coupons! Here are previews for all seven matches taking place on Saturday 14 January 2012.

Aston Villa vs Everton

Two former greats languishing in mid-table are boosted by new signings going into this match. Aston Villa have signed Robbie Keane who gets to fulfil yet another dream of playing for yet another club he supported as a boy. He’s so lucky!

Everton boss David Moyes have attempted to fill a Mikel Arteta-sized gap by bringing in Manchester United fringe player Darron Gibson in on a four-year-deal. If the £2.5 million signing makes the same impact Phil Neville has over the years, I doubt the Toffees supporters will be disappointed.

Two sides lacking in both goals and creativity are hardly likely to produce a classic at Villa Park. Alex McLeish’s side have scored just 11 goals in 10 matches at home while Moyes’ team have scored 10 in 10 on the road. A low scoring, bore draw is my prediction.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.13 (Bet Victor)

Blackburn Rovers vs Fulham

Blackburn Rovers are in trouble. Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and an unlikely win at Manchester United on New Year’s Eve was soon followed by back-to-back defeats against Stoke City and Newcastle United. That’s more like the Rovers we have grown to know and pity this season!

To make matters worse, Steve Kean’s side are struggling defensively and will be further weakened by Chris Samba’s desire to leave Ewood Park. Two bids from QPR have already been rejected and the big defender has stated he is open to a move to Paris St. Germain. If his heart is not set on playing for Rovers he may not feature in this match.

Interestingly, Fulham striker Andy Johnson may be on his way to Rovers but it is unlikely a deal will be completed before kick-off. The Cottagers are enjoying a mini-revival of late and go into this match fresh off the back of a 4-0 victory against Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup last week and a 2-1 victory against Arsenal on 2 January.

Martin Jol’s side will be the more confident and Fulham have the perfect opportunity to add to their one away win this season.

Verdict: Fulham @ 2.5 (Boylesports)

Chelsea vs Sunderland

A potential coupon buster this weekend. Chelsea will be expected to record a home victory but Sunderland are a different prospect since Martin O’Neill took over. The Black Cats have won five, drawn one and lost one in the seven matches under the former Aston Villa boss and will relish the visit to Stamford Bridge.

Remember, Sunderland won 3-0 in West London last season and although the goalscorers that day (Nedum Onuoha, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck) are no longer at the club and O’Neill will feel confident against a team that has kept just one clean sheet at home this season.

Chelsea have been beaten at home in the league three times this season, most recently by Aston Villa on New Year’s Eve and Sunderland are more than capable of taking a point from this match.

Verdict: Draw @ 4.75 (Paddy Power)

Liverpool vs Stoke City

Liverpool will face Stoke full of confidence after their smash-and-grab victory at Manchester City in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi final earlier this week. The Reds have not been beaten at home in the league this season either and I can’t see Stoke City being the first to inflict defeat.

Tony Pulis’ side are doing very well this season and are currently in eighth position. But, they are hit-and-miss away from home. A record of four wins, one draw and five defeats, scoring just eight goals in the process does not inspire a lot of confidence. Liverpool are not particularly free scoring at home either, with 14 in 10 matches but they also have a mean defence which has leaked just eight goals.

In three Premier League visits to Anfield, Stoke have not scored a single goal and with their away record as it is this season, I can see another blank. A low scoring home win is the call.

Verdict: Liverpool @ 1.44 (bet365)

Manchester United vs Bolton Wanderers

Manchester United are going through a tricky spell after league defeats by both Blackburn and Newcastle but got back to winning ways by beating Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend.

Manager Alex Ferguson will be keen to build on that victory and make sure United do not drop points against a Bolton side sitting third from bottom in the table.

United have beaten Bolton at Old Trafford for the last eight seasons in a row since Kevin Nolan netted the only goal back in the 2002/03 season. Five of United’s subsequent victories have seen them keep a clean sheet and Alex Ferguson’s side put five past Bolton without reply at the Reebok Stadium in September. Wayne Rooney bagged a hat-trick and Javier Hernandez a brace that day.

Ferguson will not accept any Blackburn-style hiccups this weekend and judging by the price on offer for a home win, the bookmakers believe there is only going to be one result.

Verdict: Manchester United @ 1.17 (Ladbrokes)

Tottenham Hotspur vs Wolves

It’s great to see Tottenham giving it a real go this season and pushing the Manchester teams all the way at the top. Their 2-0 victory against Everton this week put Harry Redknapp’s team level on points with United and just three points behind City at the top of the table.

Spurs have won eight and drawn one of their last nine at White Hart Lane after losing their first home match of the season 5-1 against Manchester City. It’s an incredible sequence and all three points will be expected against Wolves who hover precariously above the relegation zone.

Mick McCarthy’s side have lost six out of 10 away from home and scored just eight goals. They have conceded 19 on the road, almost two per match and a Spurs side that has netted on average two goals at home this season will fancy their chances. Spurs keeper Brad Friedel has also kept a clean sheet in five of his last six home matches in the league.

Verdict: Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.3 (Coral)

West Bromwich Albion vs Norwich City

Just three points separate these teams in the Premier League but it is Norwich that look the healthier, sitting in ninth place while West Brom look at those below them in fifteenth. The Canaries have drawn more matches on the road than anybody in the current top 12 and they may settle for another today.

In their last three away games, Paul Lambert’s side recorded a win and two draws one while West Brom have not won at home in their last four league matches. Roy Hodgson’s team have a poor record at home this season, winning just twice.

The last time these sides met at The Hawthorns in the Premier League back in the 2004/05 season the match ended goalless. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat here, especially as the Baggies have not scored at home in their last two league fixtures.

Verdict: Draw @ 3.5 (Betfred)