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World Cup – Who’s Your Money On?

Now the Premier League is over, we need our fix.

What are we going to do to provide our football buzz?

Thankfully, there’s the small matter of a World Cup taking place less than a month away to sate our withdrawal symptoms.

Like footballing methadone, the World Cup will fill the gap in our lives as we go cold turkey from a lack of Premier League action. The World Cup is a festival of football that will provide daily thrills and spills, but how can we replicate the drama of watching our beloved clubs do battle?

Let’s face it, aside from the few England matches that will take place before the inevitable Last16/Quarter Final defeat, there will be plenty of action, but not enough to really make you care who exits and who carries on toward the famous trophy and the potential to be World Champions.

Spicing it up with a wager always helps.

I’ve consulted stats, a concise world cup betting guide, and the FIFA rankings to gauge who will be the teams to back with your hard-earned dough – or alternatively – just to win points with your mates and make you look like the ultimate football nerd.

Here are the teams who could pull up trees in Russia:

Croatia

The Croats have Nigeria, Argentina and debutants Iceland in their Group and it’s fair to say that they’ll give top spot a run for its money.

They have AC Milan’s Vrsaljko in defence, but it is in midfield that they are near unrivalled.

Inter Milan’s Brozovic, Real’s Kovacic, the electric Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic who plays for Barca and then the jewel on the crown is Luka Modric of Real. Up top they have Juve’s Mario Mandzukic to profit from the plethora of chances too.

If they can avoid the big guns at the Last16 stage, then a Semi-Final spot beckons at least – much like France 98.

Germany

The Germans are the holders, have continuity with the retention of Joachim Loew as Manager, and much of the World Cup winning squad is still present.

They have liberal sprinklings of brilliance throughout. Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng, Leroy Sane, Julien Draxler, Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Ilkay Gundogan and the safe hands of Manuel Neuer to compliment this star-studded squad.

That is just the tips of the talent, and the bench for Germany will be nearly as strong as the first eleven. Whoever wins the tournament will have to get past the Germans, who always represent in the latter stages.

France

There have been recent signs that Les Bleus have been on the recovery path. A whole new squad, filled with electric young players, has given manager Didier Deschamps a few selection headaches, but what a choice to have.

There’s the record-breaking Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir – and some of these may not even make the final cut!

Whatever the side that rolls up in Russia, know that France qualified quite easily for the tournament, and will take some beating in the knockout stages.

Argentina

This may be the team to back. Always blessed with a squad to be jealous over, the South Americans have failed to show in a World Cup since a certain Diego Maradona lit up the stage.

That’s what makes them a great punt for your money. Most will be expecting another Quarter-Final exit, but this year may just be their year.

They have the most fearsome attack in the world, with Lionel Messi, Paolo Dybala, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Carlos Tevez making up the front line. With Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi and United’s Marcos Rojo in defence, they will be well armed to deal with opponents too.

The biggest change though? They have Jorge Sampaoli as coach. The former Chile man was hot property before deciding to take charge of Argentina, and if they make it to the final, they’ll come up against holders Germany.

There are plenty of other contenders too. Spain and Brazil will be looking to lift the trophy again, and Belgium have perhaps the strongest squad in the tournament.

It makes for a mouth-watering prospect.

So who’s your money on?

The Champions League – What Makes a Euro Giant?

When you think of the football clubs that would be the equivalent of a footballing superpower, there are certain clubs that spring to mind.

For good reason too. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich are the three that are top of the tree when musing upon which club has the most clout, the most illustrious history and crucially – the biggest haul of silverware.

This years European Cup has now separated the wheat from the proverbial chaff, and the rollcall for the knockout stages has the same familiar faces of previous years. The aforementioned trio of Euro behemoths will be taking part as they always do, but they won’t have everything their own way.

There are a host of clubs with liberal sprinklings of stars within their team that can hurt the conglomerate that is Real, Bayern and Barca. The odds for the potential winners of this years Cup is interesting reading, and shows that in terms of stature, the chasing pack are catching up.

What exactly sees a successful club transform into a giant? To start, the respective number of European trophies would be top of the list. Any club that can boast of European honours can show that they not only earned the right to play in Europe by beating their domestic rivals, but they also overcame the cream of the continent. So what club has the most European honours?

No surprise to see Real Madrid and Barcelona in the top 3 of the list, with 19 and 14 respectively, but Bayern Munich have amassed 10 and are 7th on the list. Above them are teams such as Ajax, AC Milan and Liverpool – teams who have failed to maintain a constant presence in Europe’s premier competition.

Do former glories count as much as the present? If so, then Liverpool would be able to claim some part of the dominion that Real, Barca and co currently hold. Ditto AC Milan, who in the 90’s – and were a pretty big deal in the noughties – alone held Europe within their tight grasp. 

These clubs though, have faltered on the domestic front. Liverpool especially have been unable to jump over the first hurdle to ensure their membership for the ‘Giant Club’ is not revoked. The Merseysiders, Milan and Manchester United more recently, have not been able to make a dent in their home countries league. Liverpool have not won a title since 1990, can they really claim to be part of the European heavyweight scene?

Some part of the equation is financial heft. Like it or not, Chelsea and Manchester City have muscled their way into the scene and now compete on a near equal footing to the Barca’s and Bayern’s of this collective. They regularly lift silverware on the domestic front and now have European delights firmly within their reticule. Do they now qualify as a giant even though their previous decades were far from glorious?

Other variables should warrant a mention too. A global fanbase generates interest around the world and more importantly, it ups the amount of income a club gets. If this is included, then Arsenal, United, Real and Barca can renew their membership cards to the Giant Club. 

The only clubs that can really tick the boxes on all of these comprising factors is the first three clubs I mentioned. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have trophies in their past, present and more than likely, their future. They contend every year at the top, they have more than enough pulling power in terms of fiscal amount and they can look upon their trophy cabinet with a smile and an empty can of polish.

This season will be no different, as will the next. If a club truly wants to elevate their standing, they need a glittering history, a well stocked trophy cabinet, a revenue stream that allows the club to duke it out in the transfer market, and a regular presence in the Champions League.

Which club will make that leap this season? The Champions League is wide open, but rest assured if any team has genuine aspirations, then they will surely have to beat one of the big three. 

Arsenal Odds On For Success In May?

Predicting the future is pretty much impossible – no matter what that lady in the tent in Blackpool told you. 

Predicting the Premier League though, is as difficult as gravel-throated Sean Dyche singing falsetto. 

Fear not though, there are certain pointers and clues between the lines that can shorten the odds and ease your mental anguish.

Fourteen games into the thirty eight that consist of a Premier League season, it is as typically tight as ever. Can Arsenal finally break their thirteen year hiatus from the title? The football odds suggest so.

The clues are there, but how much faith can we place in them when Leicester City won the title last year? The Foxes pretty much cantered the league and the season prior, they escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. Can form really last over a whole season like it did with Ranieri’s men?

One thing Leicester did well was deal with the big teams. The clubs who begin every season with genuine title aspirations were undone by Vardy, Mahrez and company as their pragmatic style and switched-on defending were the rocks which Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and pretty much every other team crashed upon.

Everyone but Arsenal, that is. 

The Gunners – and Liverpool once – were the only teams to break down the equation that was Leicester’s gameplan and Arsenal did it both home and away. Yet Arsene Wenger’s team finished a distant ten points behind the Foxes in second place – and lost four more games than the eventual champions.

The fact remains though, that it is usually how you deal with the big games that keeps your ship on the correct course. Those that crumble on the big occasions can be found in a heap, crawling towards the Europa League.

On that front, approaching the halfway point, Arsenal are faring well. In four matches against their traditional rivals (United, tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool) hey have picked up five points from a possible twelve. Not exactly fanfare-inducing, but crucially, they have lost only once – the first game of the season against Liverpool with a makeshift backline.

Jose Mourinho has made a career from playing crunch fixtures with the mantra ‘Do not lose.’ He sends his troops into battle happy to play for a point, and they will get back to winning ways against the weaker swimmers. It has served him well and even with an unsettled team at United, his eleven are still a formidable test.

Arsene Wenger has assembled a far stronger unit that in previous seasons,  and possess one of the most lethal strikers in the league in Alexis Sanchez.

Last season the Chilean was out on the left which is his preferred position, but this campaign has seen a move to a central striking spot – and Alexis now sits atop the scoring charts. Every title challenger needs a prolific goalscorer and Arsene Wenger has once again worked his magic and made some subtle changes to create a goalscoring threat.

Just one of the reasons why Arsenal are vastly improved from last season, and one of the biggest lies with the Gunners annual malaise come each November.

Their yearly wobbles have seen them first clumsily stumble, then cruelly trip over their own feet in years gone by in the eleventh month of the year. This season, as well as their more stoic outlook in the bigger games, has seen that stiff upper lip affect their statistically weakest moments.

Three Premier League matches were played by Arsenal in November – and none were lost. They weren’t pretty, in fact they were the antithesis of what Arsenal represent, but they did not taste defeat. One win and two draws were bagged and if we were to count cup games as well, then there would be only one loss in six.

They kept pace with Chelsea at the top of the league, they present a much stiffer challenge to their title rivals, and their squad is well stocked in all positions. 

These are the pointers, the clues between the lines, that say that Arsenal are nearer than ever to holding aloft the trophy they haven’t touched in thirteen years. There are huge hurdles to overcome yet – at least twenty four of them – but Gooners everywhere can be filled with optimism that they are on the right track.

The bookies see Arsenal as one of the favourites as well as a few others. Perhaps they might be onto something. 

January Signings To Make Instant Impact?

There were more than a few signings in the as always overhyped transfer window last month. The headline grabber was the much-vaunted move of Pep Guardiola to Manchester City in the summer, but what of the many strikers who joined their respective clubs? Will the monetary gamble made by clubs be paid off with a return of goals?

So much rides on a good start and this weekend represents the starting pistol for many of the players who recently joined a new club in the Premier League. Confidence is a huge thing for a player, especially those whose main trade is hunting goals, so can these newbies make the perfect start, get their fans behind them and get on the scoresheet?

Well, TitanBet has had a look and delivered their verdict –

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This season has been perhaps the most unpredictable in recent memory. No sooner has one team established themselves top of the league and odds have been slashed to reflect this, than another team has stolen a march on them and taken first place away. Arsenal, Manchester City, maybe Tottenham and the most surprising being Leicester City all have their sights on the League crown but only one can win and with the Premiership throwing up surprise results each week, who knows who will be victorious over thirty eight games?

John Barnes, that’s who.

Yup, Barnesy has had a stab at predicting this weekends Premiership matches and has looked at the odds of each team.

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Tale Of The Tape – Premier League Contenders

The international break has once more snuck up on us, bringing with it boredom, a restless eye on matches only to make sure the players who play for your club stay clear of injury – and also a penchant for shuddering to a halt any rhythm the club you support had built up.

But fret not, as the lull in Premier League proceedings isn’t all bad. It does give you an opportunity to take a step back and take in all the events that come with a flurry of results. All the variables that either boost or hinder your team can be scrutinised and enable you to gauge whether it will be a season of pain or triumph.

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The Premier League Top Scorer – Who’s YOUR Money On?

Aguero, Suarez, Van Persie, Berbatov, Drogba, Anelka, Ronaldo, Drogba again and then Thierry Henry twice.

No, this isn’t a list for potential WAG’s to set their claws into.

This is the last ten winners of the Premier League Golden Boot.

Continue reading The Premier League Top Scorer – Who’s YOUR Money On?