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20.052017
 
England Premier League
 

Bet 1: Arsenal @ 1.5 (1/2)

The situation is clear for Arsenal, they have to win and hope that Man City lose or Liverpool fail to take all three points at home to Middlesbrough. Neither scenario is very likely, but I still expect the Gunners to live up to their side of the bargain.

The visitors to the Emirates are Everton and whatever happens, they will finish seventh. It's been a fairly decent campaign for Ronald Koeman's men, but they've won just four times away from Goodison this term and the last one came back in January.

Arsene Wenger's men still have the FA Cup final to look forward to, so they won't be in holiday mode yet, and they come into this game on the back of four straight wins.
source:betfair 

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Bet 2: Man United @ 2.8 (9/5)

This is a slightly risky selection as Jose Mourinho has already said that he won't be fielding anywhere near his strongest XI, but I can't leave them out of this treble at odds of 2.80.

It's their final fixture at Old Trafford of the campaign and there will be two or three players on show who will still be playing for their place in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

Wayne Rooney could well be one of them and it could also be his final appearance at the Theatre of Dreams. He will be desperate to make an impact and he's still capable of putting in a match-winning performance.

Crystal Palace finally confirmed their safety last weekend and I can't imagine that things have been too intense in training this week. Prior to that victory over Hull they had lost three games in a row - all to nil - and they were terrible in their 5-0 defeat at Man City.
source:betfair 

Recommended bet: Back Man United @ 2.8 (9/5)

 


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Bet 3: Leicester @ 1.95 (20/21)

It's been an up and down campaign for the defending champions as they have struggled in the league, sacked their manager and made it through to the last eight of the Champions League.

If they can finish in the top half it would have to be considered a satisfactory season for the Foxes as they were never going to live up to their title winning year. They will want to finish in style though and Craig Shakespeare will want to remind the owners of how he's turned the team's fortunes around.

Bournemouth are finishing the season like a train as they have taken 10 points from a possible 12. They have had a very kind run of fixtures however and three of them were at home.

Eddie Howe's men don't have the greatest of away records this year and although they beat Sunderland on their last road trip, prior to that it was eight without victory - five of which were defeats.
source:betfair 

Recommended bet: Back Leicester @ 1.95 (20/21)

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England Championship play off final
 
 

Sheffield Wednesday v Huddersfield
Wednesday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 3


Sheffield Wednesday


Carlos Carvalhal insists Sheffield Wednesday should make no apologies for their ultra-cautious play-off first-leg approach at Huddersfield. The Owls' risk-averse tactics helped them record a 0-0 draw in a dour stalemate on Sunday, during which the visitors failed to muster a single shot on-target.

Fernando Forestieri was a peripheral figure on his return to the starting XI but their solid, if uninspiring, performance did allow Wednesday's hosts to record a 17th clean sheet of the campaign as goalkeeper Keiren Westwood produced two vital second-half saves to keep the game scoreless.

The Owls now enjoy home advantage with 32,000 supporters expected to flock to S6 to cheer on the side. And Carvalhal should allow his team greater flexibility and attacking impetus at Hillsborough as they bid to reach the play-off final for the second successive season.

Sam Hutchinson is expected to be fit having missed the first leg with stiffness in his knee and Carvalhal will give Gary Hooper until the last minute to see if the striker can recover from his hamstring injury. Almen Abdi remains absent.


Huddersfield

Huddersfield enjoyed the better of proceedings at the John Smith's Stadium on Sunday, bossing 69% of the possession and winning the shot count 12-3. But opportunities were at a premium with Izzy Brown clipping the bar the closest that either side came to a breakthrough.

Congolese international Elias Kachunga enjoyed an exceptional first-half and caused problems for the Owls all over the pitch before fading whilst Aaron Mooy's control in midfield ensured the Terriers were rarely threatened by their pragmatic guests.

Huddersfield are aiming to reach the top-flight of English football for the first time since 1972 and Wagner has drawn inspiration of Town's historic triumphs by filling the training ground walls with previous glories.

The Town boss expects first-choice goalkeeper Danny Ward to return from suspension despite missing training with illness and full-back Chris Lowe should shake-off muscle tightness to take his place in the team. Midfielders Philip Billing and Kasey Palmer remain unavailable.


Match Odds

Just over 18 months ago David Wagner took charge of Huddersfield for the first time in a disappointing 3-1 away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. That match featured one of only two goals the Terriers have managed against the Owls in eight attempts (W0-D3-L5) dating back to 2014.

Contrary to popular belief, Town haven't struggled profusely when playing two league games in fewer than six days this season (W15-D5-L6) but their performance data away to top-half teams is of concern (W4-D1-L6).

Huddersfield managed an excepted goals ratio of 37.83% at the top-12 with none of their shots, shots on-target nor shots in the box ratios creeping over the 43.50% mark in the same sample of matches and opponents. 

The visitors limped over the line, bagging just five victories in 16 across all competitions and losing six of their last 11 (W3-D2-L6) and are rated understandable outsiders at 3.90 to pocket a 90-minute success here.
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Wednesday were a haphazard W6-D0-L5 when entertaining top-half teams but the Owls dominated the bulk of those encounters, returning a very strong 59.42% expected goals ratio plus shot ratios well above the 50% mark.

What's more, the Owls have delivered 10 wins from their last 15 in Sheffield and we should expect their gluttony of attacking options to be given more freedom and opportunity to hurt the Terriers defence here, making the host a solid shout at 2.24 to triumph.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Over 2.5 Goals has been chalked up as the 2.42 market outsider but with 52% of Championship play-off semi-final second legs beating the two-goal line since 1992/93 and with 13/23 (57%) of Hillsborough games following suit, there's value in backing a goal-heavy game.

However, Under 2.5 Goals 1.63 supporters will point to seven of the last eight meetings featuring fewer than three goals and six of Huddersfield's last seven away days also producing no more than two goals. Indeed, only 8/23 (35%) of Town's road trips broke the two-goal barrier.
source:betfair 

 

Bradford City 2.86 v Millwall 2.82, the draw 3.30 
Saturday 15:00
Live On Sky Sports 1


Bradford City 

Manager Stuart McCall has no new injury concerns ahead of Saturday's final, the only doubt remains which formation the Scot will go with. The Bantams' boss is fairly flexible in terms of how he sets up, and they are certainly the more fluid of the two teams with good individual talent on the ball. Forward Alex Jones' return to full fitness is a plus, as he offers plenty of pace.

This will be City's third Wembley date in four years, and they reached the showpiece thanks to a pair of very tight legs in the semi-final against Fleetwood. Bradford nicked the crucial goal at Valley Parade in the home game - and that was enough to see them through. The return leg at Highbury was a tedious encounter where defences dominated. McCall's men showed their resolve in a real war of attrition, and Fleetwood could barely muster a shot in anger.

It must be said, Bradford's opponents in the semi had an average age of 24, Millwall are far tougher in terms of know-how and experience.

Bradford finished fifth in League One, and the last side to finish in that position to reach the playoff final was Swindon in 2010 (who lost to Millwall in the final 1-0). They were also the promotion favourites beforehand at 2.80, with the Lions available to back before the semis at around 3.50.

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Millwall 

The Lions could face a poser at right-back, as defender Shaun Cummings failed to train in the early part of this week after sustaining a hamstring injury in the first leg of the semi-final against Scunthorpe. Millwall boss Neil Harris mentioned that he has an outside chance of making the game - although in Mahlon Romeo they have a decent replacement.

Millwall are something of a playoff specialist, and they know how to play the big games. The Londoners have now reached the final in each of their last four playoff campaigns - although were losers at Wembley to Barnsley in 2016.

Having scraped into the playoff semis courtesy of a dramatic final day victory against Bristol Rovers, the Lions sealed their Wembley spot with a brilliant 3-2 victory at Scunthorpe after a 0-0 first leg. Harris has often spoke about the need to be "aggressive in defensive shape", and I think he'll be the one planning the clean sheet and to keep Bradford quiet in attack.

The Yorkshire club are likely to have plenty of the ball. Millwall only had 40% of possession in the 3-2 victory in the semi-final return leg at Scunthorpe. Whilst in the two matches against Bradford this term (both ended 1-1), the Londoners had a mere 39% and 42% - showing that keeping the ball for the sake of it is often overrated.

Harris' men finished sixth, which was the same position Barnsley filled before winning the 2016 League One playoff final at Wembley. There really isn't an awful lot between the sides from third to sixth.


Match Odds

These two met in last term's playoff semi-finals. Millwall were 1-3 winners at Valley Parade which effectively sealed their final spot 12 months ago with the return game ending 1-1. Although I am not so sure we will have plenty of goals here, as the mentality of the two-legged match often presents plenty of problems for the backers or layers and is wholly different for a one-off final.

Opta stats highlight Bradford's excellent record against Saturday's opponents - losing just once in their last nine matches against the men from the Den.

This market is extremely tight with it struggling to separate the two. As a quick appraisal of the two for a short, sharp answer; I would say Bradford are the better footballing team and better to watch, but Millwall are battle-hardened, physical and know how to win matches - as I have said on many occasions in these parts - Bradford draw too many games. Their Achilles heel.

Therefore we have to look at backing The Draw at around 3.30. City racked up an astonishing 19 draws in 46 league matches this term, and that included a staggering 12 at home (although they were unbeaten at Valley Parade for the whole season - which was some feat). The draw stats however tells me they cannot put teams away.

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Under/Over 2.5 Goals


Millwall's knack for a clean sheet served them well, and at one stage from late January through to the whole of February, they had collected a deeply impressive nine successive shutouts. The well-drilled defensive unit is often forgotten about at this level, so Millwall should be roundly applauded. And with Harris speaking about "aggressive defensive shape", I would certainly recommend a punt on the Under 2.5 Goals.

The Londoners kept 16 clean sheets in all, although their tally of shipping 57 in the regular season was the worst of the top six. This is a somewhat misleading figure which doesn't really do them justice. They let in just 17 at the Den but 40 on the road, whilst 22 of their 48 matches (including the playoffs) ended hitting the Unders.

Stuart McCall's side fared better with the Under 2.5 Goals. 30 of their 48 hit the target for that bet, and with an 'against' record of 43 - they had the joint-second best record defensively in the league.

Focusing on a low-scoring affair, the Correct Score trades appeal at 1-1 and 0-0. Bradford found the former scoreline 11 times this season, although Millwall helped themselves to seven 0-0 results.


To Score

The dynamic duo of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory came to Millwall's rescue in the 3-2 victory at Scunthorpe, which took their joint total of goals to 36 this term. It's a brilliant partnership of a quick and zippy finisher in Gregory, whilst Morison is the leader and the target.

According to Opta, Gregory has scored in each of his last three matches in all competitions against Bradford. He can backed at around the 2.70 mark.
source:betfair 



13.052017
 
 
England Premier League
 
 
 

Bournemouth 2.02 v Burnley 4.10; The Draw 3.80

It will be fascinating to see how Burnley follow up their first away win of the season when they travel to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday afternoon in what is effectively a dead rubber of a game.

Bournemouth are safe, and really can play in 'beach' mode here, and while Burnley still need a point to be mathematically safe (or failures to win for both Hull and Swansea) they will be playing Premier League football next season because of their much better goal difference than the Tigers.

For those interested, the only way Sean Dyche's men can be relegated is if they lose their final two games, Hull win their final two, and there's a 19 goal swing. And that's not to mention a series of other results going against the Clarets. Put simply, they're a billion to one to go down.
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But there's something inside me that's saying there's no way whatsoever that Dyche will let his players relax believing safety is in the bag. The Burnley boss will be desperate to get at least the point he needs at Bournemouth.

And following the Clarets' excellent away win at in-form Crystal Palace last time I believe at the prices we have to back Dyche's men here.

Burnley have rarely disgraced themselves on the road in recent months and I always felt they'd get an away win, and hopefully they can follow it up by immediately bagging another. There's very little between these two teams, two points in fact in the table, and although Eddie Howe's men have home advantage I just can't split the pair.
source:betfair

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Middlesbrugh 4.00 v Southampton 2.04; The Draw 3.65

Middlesbrough's inevitable relegation was confirmed when - typical of their season - they failed to register a shot on target of note in a 3-0 defeat at Chelsea on Monday night.

There's no disgrace in losing to the champions elect of course, but

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starting a game that you had to win with the same formation that just doesn't score goals, well it was asking for trouble. I said as far back as January that no club in the Premier League era had survived relegation having registered the fewest number of wins and scored the least amount of goals.

At the time Boro had won just four games and scored 19 goals, something had to significantly improve for them to survive. Nothing changed at all, apart from the manager, who simply bluffed his way through pre-match interviews by saying he 'will go for it', and then started with the same defensive, lone-striker formation that Aitor Karanka was sacked for.


And then after games, such as embarrassing defeats at Hull and Bournemouth where Middlesbrough conceded four goals each time, Steve Agnew reiterated his deluded belief that his team would fight all the way and were still in high spirits.

You can probably tell I'm a Middlesbrough fan myself. It's not the relegation that hurts, it's the manner in which it happened, that so many fans - and even neutrals - could see months and months ago how dull and ineffective the adopted formation was. And no attempt was made to change it.


Agnew has promised to end the season on a high note by collecting some points, and that his players are still in good spirits. Basically the same old rubbish being spouted out. If Agnew's players are in good spirits after being relegated then perhaps there's another problem.

However, we did see Sunderland produce a very good performance last week at Hull after having their relegation confirmed, but I think that was more down to the Tigers buckling under the pressure rather than anything else.
I wouldn't be totally surprised if Boro won this game as Southampton have gone completely off the boil and have failed to score a single goal in any of their last three matches. It has resulted in Claude Puel coming under a bit of pressure, and I think the Saints boss will set his side up not to lose at the Riverside on Saturday.

It could turn out to be a game that sums up Middlesbrough's season in a nutshell; failure to beat a team there for the taking by not creating enough chances to win. Somehow Under 2.5 Goals is available to back at 1.90, so that has to be the call.
source:betfair

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Sunderland 4.40 v Swansea 1.93; The Draw 3.90

There are only three non-televised Premier League games on Saturday afternoon, so given I usually choose three matches to have a wager in, my hand has been forced this weekend.

And while I believe Burnley are well worth a punt at 4.10, and a low-scoring affair at the Riverside is very likely, I have very little confidence in recommending a wager when Sunderland host Swansea.

The Swans' need is much bigger of course, and they are facing the worst team in the division on the back of a terrific win over Everton last weekend, but it's hard to have huge confidence in a team trading at 1.93 that hasn't won on the road in four months.

Paul Clement's men have lost at Hull, Bournemouth, Watford, and West Ham in that time, and while all those clubs are higher in the table than Sunderland the fact is they were all in the bottom half (at the time of playing) and Swansea losing them all doesn't exactly fill you with confidence.


Of course, Swansea did beat Liverpool away from home in January, and they performed well at Chelsea and Manchester City, as well as earning a 1-1 draw at Manchester United in their last away game. So they have more than enough ability to go to Sunderland and win.

But do you want to back them at odds-on? That's the question you have to ask yourself. They are by far the most likely team to win this encounter of course, as the odds suggest, but my personal preferences is to back them to win in a low-scoring encounter.

Sunderland hadn't scored in nine of their previous 10 outings prior to last week's win at Hull, and I fancy that if Swansea get their noses in front then David Moyes' men will struggle to get back into the game. I'm going to take a punt on a few Correct Scores, but I apologise in advance for the lack of confidence, this is a tough match to call.
source:betfair

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England Championship play off
 
 
 

Fulham v Reading

Saturday 13th May, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports


Fulham


Fulham forced their way into the Championship top-six thanks to an unrivalled run of results from November onwards. The Cottagers accrued more points than any of their divisional rivals across the final 31 games (W18-D8-L5) whilst boasting a monumental +31 goal difference.

Slavisa Jokanovic's free-scoring side have been installed as promotion favourites and should the Whites be at their barnstorming best they'll be tough to stop. However, only one side in the past 11 seasons has finished sixth and won promotion via the play-offs in the second-tier.

Fulham's tally of 10 home wins is the lowest of any side that finished in the top-13 but it's the manner of their scintillating displays that's caught the eye of Championship fans. And with a clean bill of health, the capital club should be primed for the challenge ahead.

Striker Chris Martin is available again after suspension whilst Ryan Fredericks and Stefan Johansen are also set to return after being rested last weekend.


Reading

Reading are hoping to make it sixth time lucky in the play-offs having failed to win promotion in five previous ventures into the end-of-season tournament. And the trends are onside with the third-place finishers enjoying 10/28 (36%) promotions - the best across the four positions.

The Royals have defied all possible performance data to finish third; Jaap Stam's side feature in the bottom-four across shots, shots on-target, shots in the box and expected goal ratio tables in the Championship and only won the shot count in 16/46 (35%) of their matches.

The first goal of this tie could prove pivotal; Reading have scored first on 26 occasions - winning 24 of those encounters - and are experts in game management once ahead. However, the Berkshire boys have often folded when falling behind, resulting in a number of heavy defeats on the road.

Stam must decide whether to stick with his back-three here or revert to a four-man defence and his decision is likely to reside on the fitness of both skipper Paul McShane and midfielder Joey van den Berg, both of whom returned from injury last week. Elsewhere, Gareth McCleary is rated a major doubt.


Match Odds

Fulham thrashed Reading 5-0 at Craven Cottage in December to make it a hat-trick of victories over the Royals on the banks of the River Thames. And the hosts have W3-D1-L1 in their last five Championship meetings across all venues.


The Whites are skinny 1.67 favourites to clinch a first leg lead and arrive having picked up 16 points from a possible 18 to conclude their campaign. Jokanovic's men were the joint-top scorers in the Championship but did claim only two triumphs in their final six outings at the Cottage.

Reading 5.60 are a big price for a side that finished third and ended the regular season with an impressive W9-D0-L2 record. But the Royals were beaten in nine of their 10 visits to top-11 teams and Stam's charges shipped 48 goals in their away days - only rock-bottom Rotherham leaked more.

With the odds on a home success too skinny, I'm going to add Over 2.5 Goals into the mix and back Fulham to win at odds-against quotes of 13/10.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Fulham scored 45 goals in their 23 home fixtures this term and notched an eye-boggling three goals or more in eight of their final 17 matches. Unsurprisingly, the Cottagers crossed the Over 2.5 Goals 1.75 mark in 13 of those encounters.

Both Teams To Score 1.79 has obliged in 13 of Fulham's most recent 15 games and that's a return that should inspire Reading to get forward. Seven of the visitors 10 trips to the top-11 broke the Over 2.5 Goals making goals the obvious play.

Head-to-head fans will also have been encouraged by the fact each of the previous five duels between these two in the capital have produced at least three goals.
source:betfair


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Back Fulham to win and Over 2.5 Goals @ [13/10]

 
 
 

Huddersfield v Sheffield Wednesday

Sunday 14th May, 12:00
Live on Sky Sports


Huddersfield

Huddersfield haven't played top-flight football since 1972 but the 12/1 ante-post shots for promotion are now just 270 minutes away from the Premier League after a marvellous campaign under David Wagner's tutelage.

The Terriers spent only one week outside the top-six but curiously concluded their campaign with a negative -3 goal difference. An incredible 22 of Town's 25 triumphs arrived by one-goal margins but nine of their 15 losses were by two goals or more.

Wagner opted to rest and rotate his weary troops having fluffed their lines with an automatic promotion place within reach and Huddersfield enter the end-of-season jamboree having won just three of their final 10 fixtures (W3-D1-L6).

On-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward is suspended for the first leg leaving 21-year-old Joel Coleman to take his place whilst midfielders Philip Billing and Kasey Palmer are both out. Forward Elias Kachunga has returned to full training.


Sheffield Wednesday

Beaten play-off finalists last season, Sheffield Wednesday accumulated seven points more this time around when finishing fourth. Carlos Carvalhal's men showed steady consistency throughout the campaign and since August only once went longer than three games without a win.

The Owls racked up six successive victories before making 10 changes for last week's loss against Fulham but arrive in-form, with a settled squad and markedly improved away form (W5-D2-L2).

Only top-two Newcastle and Brighton shipped fewer goals across the season whilst Carvalhal's options in attack dwarf that of their Championship rivals with Steven Fletcher, Jordan Rhodes and Sam Winnall the likely candidates to partner Fernando Forestieri here with Gary Hooper a major doubt.

Elsewhere, Marco Matias is suspended and Almen Abdi is likely to miss out with a knee problem once more.


Match Odds

Huddersfield lost both regular league meetings against Wednesday this season without scoring and are winless in seven head-to-head duels with their Yorkshire rivals (W0-D2-L5). In fact, the Terriers have been silenced in each of their last six when welcoming the Owls to the John Smith's Stadium.

Town 2.52 were the lowest scorers in the top-eight of the division and had a dreadful record against top-six rivals, failing to score in five and losing seven of ten games against the league's elite. Coupled with their recent drop-off in physicality and with eight defeats in 14, it's hard to find faith in the hosts.

Wednesday's 3.25 experience of last season should stand them in good stead and their ability to grind out results on the road make them dangerous opponents here. With goals likely to be at a premium, I like the 2.26 on the Owls in the Draw No Bet market.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Huddersfield's past four fixtures on home soil have beaten the Over 2.5 Goals 2.44 line as the hosts have shipped at least two goals on three occasions. But that's arguably the only angle to pursue for those hunting a goal-heavy game.

Carlos Carvalhal favours a pragmatic approach to away games and five of Wednesday's past six road trips have featured fewer than three goals, as have each of the last nine meetings between these two teams at the John Smith's.

Under 2.5 Goals is too short to support at 1.64 but it has provided profit in 16/23 (70%) of the Owls' games as guests, and both previous encounters between the pair this term.
source:betfair


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Back Sheffield Wednesday draw no bet @ 2.26

 

 

07.052017
 
 
 
England Championship
 
 
 

Brentford 2.56 v Blackburn 2.80; The Draw 3.70

Welcome to the last day of the regulation season, in my opinion the toughest round of fixtures of the whole campaign. Most of the games are dead rubbers, and those are devilishly hard to predict, while the markets favour heavily the clubs that need a win in the games with something riding on them.

In recent weeks I've stuck to games that have had some meaning, and I've largely been with the teams that had something to play for. But I think it's a bit different on the very last day of the season. Those clubs that need to win will be under enormous pressure and I actually think there's some merit in opposing them given how unusually short they are in the Match Odds market.

Take Blackburn for example. They are trading at 2.80 simply because they have to win to have any chance of avoiding relegation. Given the form of Brentford at Griffin Park then on a 'normal' match day Dean Smith's men would be odds-on at home to a club in the relegation zone.

So let's back the Bees at an extremely generous 2.56. In fact, let's make them our best bet of the day.

Brentford have enjoyed a terrific campaign and could finish as high as eighth with a victory over Rovers, and they go into the game on the back of four straight home wins, scoring 11 goals in the process which included a 4-0 thrashing of Derby, and a 2-0 win over then play-off contenders Leeds.

Last weekend the Bees travelled to in-form Fulham with effectively nothing to play for, but they put in a very good performance to draw the match so I have no worries about their motivation and desire ahead of Sunday's final game of the season.
source:betfair

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Sheff Wed 2.38 v Fulham 3.10; The Draw 3.60

I'm absolutely fascinated by this game because I genuinely believe neither of the sides will be too fussed about busting a gut to win it.

Fulham are sixth in the table and will finish sixth regardless of Sunday's result at Hillsborough, so I'm pretty confident Slavisa Jokanovic will rest a huge chunk of his usual starting XI ahead of the play-offs.


With a draw or a win - depending on the Reading result - Sheffield Wednesday could finish third in the table, and that would mean they face the Cottagers again in those play-offs, but I'm not sure they'd want that. I'm pretty confident both Fulham and the Owls will see Reading and Huddersfield as slightly easier semi-final opponents.

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Of course, Fulham's fringe players - should Jokanovic indeed rest his usual starting XI - will want to put in a performance good enough to catch their manager's eye, so if I was going for any result in the Match Odds I'd just favour the away team at 3.10. I'm pretty confident Sheff Wed would be happy with that outcome also!

I think Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal will be more than satisfied to finish fourth or fifth in the table meaning his men will avoid Fulham in the play-off semi-finals.

It's a really fascinating contest which I believe will start in a very pedestrian fashion. I'm certain both sets of players and staff will have eyes and ears on the games featuring the other play-off contenders, and if everything is going to plan then these two will be happy to just play out a lifeless game.

I could be completely wrong of course; this game might easily finish 4-4 just as much as it will 0-0, but I just can't back Over 2.5 Goals at 1.66. Quite the opposite in fact, Under 2.5 Goals has to be the call.
source:betfair

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Brisol City 2.70 v Birmingham 2.70; The Draw 3.80

This is another game where I have to back the home team purely because they're a bigger price than they would be if this wasn't the last game of the season.

The reason of course is that Birmingham are not yet safe from relegation; should they fail to win and both Blackburn and Forest collect three points then Harry Redknapp's men will be playing League One football next season.

But just because you need, and set out, to win doesn't mean you will get the victory, and it certainly doesn't mean you should almost be trading as favourites when you're playing away to a bang in form team.


Bristol City have taken 13 points from the last 15 available and last weekend - when they were already guaranteed Championship safety - they won 1-0 at title contenders Brighton. Lee Johnson's men have also been superb at Ashton Gate recently, scoring 12 goals in recording four consecutive victories over Huddersfield, Wolves, QPR, and Barnsley.

Birmingham on the other hand have won just one of their last 10, that coming against a much weakened Huddersfield team, so I just can't back them to win this match at their current price.

You also have to factor in that Birmingham are by far the most likely club of the three - Blackburn and Nottm Forest being the others - to survive. They can only go down if those other two clubs both win, so if at any point during this match they learn that either Rovers or Forest are losing - and remember we've napped Brentford to beat Rovers - then their own performance levels might drop considerably knowing that they're safe.

All things considered then I simply have to back the home win.
source:betfair

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Back Bristol City to Win @ 2.70

 

 


 

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England Play off
 
 

Fleetwood Town 2.84 v Bradford City 2.64, the draw 3.55 
Sunday 18:30,
Live on Sky Sports
 

So close have been the playoffs involving all four teams, just the solitary goal was all the Sky TV viewers had to enjoy on Thursday evening. However, the Fleetwood v Bradford match was far more entertaining - and the Cod Army came out with a lot of credit.

The Bantams are still favourites in the Promotion market at 2.40, whilst Fleetwood are the outsiders at 7.00. The latter strikes me as a big price considering just a goal separates the two. If you fancy backing the hosts here to win at 2.84, you should be better off taking the promotion price - as that could give you a decent trading opportunity in the final. If Fleetwood win of course! 

Bradford's 1-0 victory at Valley Parade came from a 77th minute Rory McArdle header. The agony of being denied a draw selection with a fairly late goal is nothing new to this column - especially involving Stuart McCall's side; although on the balance of play they deserved the win. They enjoyed 65% of the possession and hit the post in the first-half. They also won the 'corners match' easily 10-1. 

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McCall declared himself happy. The Scot said: "We wanted to play with a high tempo and it wasn't just about battling and desire. There was a lot of quality there and that was pleasing."

Town boss Uwe Rosler has turned to the mind games however, he responded by saying: "Bradford should be in the Premier League." 

The German rued a couple of missed chances for David Ball and Devante Cole, although the switch to the defensive back five worked tremendously well. His team play on the counter-attack, and they nearly pulled off a result on Thursday. They only had 35% of the ball in the first-leg, but that's the way they play.


Match Odds 

Fleetwood were 2-1 winners in the regular season at Highbury and with 82 points collected in the campaign, that tally highlighted what a good team they were. Their tremendous 18-match unbeaten sequence earlier in the season was the obvious highlight, and Rosler has proved himself time-and-time again a fine tactician with an astute brain. 

The Cod Army lost just three matches at Highbury all season and conceded a mere 20 goals in 43 games. Rosler might have centre-back Cian Bolger back for Sunday, although the defence managed well and soaked up plenty of pressure without him a few days ago in the first-leg. 

Bradford's problem of drawing too many games at home almost came off with the bet at Valley Parade - but I am still interested in backing that at around 3.50, and am tempted to go in again. Bradford might go and protect, so we should have trading opportunities by backing the draw. 

McCall's team are not quite the same force on the road as they are at home (where they are unbeaten for the whole season). City have lost seven times away from Yorkshire and have scored as many as they have conceded with 26.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals 

Fleetwood displayed their defensive skills on Thursday, although this could be a different sort of test for the counter-punch style so favoured by Rosler. McCall has outlined plans by saying his team won't sit back and defend, but Fleetwood's record of conceding just 20 goals this term at home makes the Under 2.5 Goals more interesting. Their seasonal record for that bet reads 12/23.

The Fylde coast men have also kept 11 clean sheets this term on terra firma. 

The Bantams have gleaned 14/23 away from home to hit the Under 2.5 Goals - a record in keeping with a team that have scored just 26 away. However, they are a big threat from set-pieces, and their delivery is often of a high quality.
source:betfair


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Back The Draw 0.5pt @ 3.55 
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Scunthorpe United 2.68 v Millwall 2.78, the draw 3.55
Sunday 18:30
Live on Sky Sports


The one scoreline I wasn't expecting from Thursday's semi-final first-leg between these two was the 0-0, which leaves the tie poised beautifully for Sunday's return fixture at Glanford Park. Although such a quick turnaround with the fixtures is all rather puzzling. 

Post-match comments from the Iron boss Graham Alexander gave a strong hint as to how they approached that game. He said: "We didn't want to lose."

Scunthorpe defended for their lives, and in a rather drab encounter of very few chances, United mustered their first real attempt at goal on 80 minutes through a long-range Josh Morris effort. Millwall didn't fare much better; and their best chance came from Lee Gregory who spurned a one-on-one opportunity by hitting straight at the goalkeeper. It was quite hard to get excited during the 90 minutes. Defences really dominated. 


The resilience of the visitors at The Den surprised me, as they are not a 0-0 team. They had only collected one of those scorelines away from home all season (although that did come at Bradford), so it's unlikely we will see a repeat.

Millwall boss Neil Harris gave the impression after Thursday's match that Scunthorpe will play a bit more football in the return leg this weekend. The stats would certainly point to that; as the Iron scored 46 goals at home during the regular season - and that was more than the champions Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Only Rochdale score more on their own patch. 

Whether we will see a really attack-minded performance from Harris' team remains to be seen. They needed the victory on the final game of the season at Bristol Rovers and won 3-4. They required the win for the playoffs and went for it, will we see that again?


Match Odds 

Scunthorpe ran out 3-0 winners at Glanford Park back in December courtesy of two goals from Paddy Madden. For one of the most attacking teams in the division they have six clean sheets from their 23 home matches this term.

Considering a massive wobble which threatened to derail their promotion push, the Iron's home record is fabulous. With 14 wins on home soil, that is the second-most in League One. Sheffield United gained more with 17, but Scunthorpe are at their most potent at home.

Millwall are a vastly different team from home to away. At The Den, the Lions have 12 clean sheets as opposed to just three on the road. The Londoners have shipped 17 at home but 40 on their travels.


Over 2.5 Goals 

Prior to Thursday's 0-0 in the first-leg, Scunthorpe had been involved in nine from 11 Over 2.5 Goals affairs, and that included a pair of 3-1 scores. Millwall meanwhile have hit the Over 2.5 line away from home 14 times from 23 matches. These figures are slightly skewed as ten of those came before the turn of the year, and they certainly have been stronger defensively in 2017.

Both teams have quality forwards and attackers. The hosts have 20-goal Morris - although he hasn't scored since February. Paddy Madden (11) and Ivan Toney (13) both started on Thursday, and the latter is an exciting off-the-cuff talent.

Millwall's front-pairing of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory work very well together and have netted 33 between them this term.


Bookings Odds 

The game earlier in the week produced five bookings, and I would be inclined to take a punt in this often under-used market, especially as the regular season match at Glanford Park yielded seven yellow cards. If you are involved in this bet, keep your fingers crossed that Toney starts. The on loan Newcastle man has collected an astonishing 16 bookings this term in 42 games. Discipline is clearly not his strong suit.
source:betfair


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Back 45 points and over 0.5pt @ 3.50 in the Bookings Odds 
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06.052017
 
England Premier League
 
 

Bournemouth 2.26 v Stoke 3.50; The Draw 3.70

I make no apology for beating an old drum, but regular readers will know that one of my favourite betting angles is to simply oppose - or back - a team based on their current form, regardless of who their next opponents are.

A team can be playing so bad that even if their next opponents were the Dog & Duck I'd still oppose them. Likewise, a side can be in such good form that I'd give them a chance against Barcelona All Stars.

It's the former of those two routes that we're taking on Saturday because Stoke are in such poor away form that they simply have to be opposed, regardless of who they are playing.

Mark Hughes' men have lost their last three away from home without scoring a single goal. The clubs they faced were Swansea, currently in the bottom three, and both Burnley and Leicester who were in the bottom six at the time of playing. There's enough evidence there to suggest that it makes no difference who the Potters are playing on their travels, they are just struggling big time.

Look further into Stoke's away form and it's doesn't make for good reading. Hughes' men have taken just a single point from the last 18 available and they've failed to score a single goal in each of their last six away matches.

So for me Stoke simply have to be opposed on Saturday afternoon, but it just adds more confidence that they will face an in-form Bournemouth side determined to record a top 10 finish.

The Cherries currently sit 10th in the table thanks to back-to-back wins without conceding a single goal, and their recent form at the Vitality Stadium has been very good too, winning three of their last four in front of their own fans with their only reversal coming against league leaders Chelsea.
source:betfair

 

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Burnley 2.26 v West Brom 3.40; The Draw 3.70

Burnley all but mathematically guaranteed their Premier League status for next season with their first away win of this campaign at Crystal Palace at the weekend. It was a terrific performance and one that I felt had been coming for a while.

West Brom on the other hand, a bit like Stoke, have gone completely off the boil, and after being inside the top eight for all of the season they are now in danger of finishing bottom half of the table; Albion are actually only six points above 16th-placed Crystal Palace.

Tony Pulis' men have lost their last four, and they haven't scored a single league goal in any of their last five outings, and while they're not conceding many either - something you'd expect from a well-organised Pulis side - against a Burnley team with their tails up I fancy another defeat is on the cards for the Baggies.

Sean Dyche's men are just two points off ninth and you can bet your bottom dollar they'll have their sights firmly set on a top 10 finish.


The Clarets have been superb at Turf Moor this season as we know, but what has gone slightly unnoticed is that since their opening day defeat to Swansea their only other losses have been to clubs currently in the top six.

In fact, since day one, Burnley's home record against clubs outside of the top six reads played 10, won nine, drew one. And let's not forget it hasn't all been doom and gloom at home to the top six clubs, Liverpool were defeated 2-0 at Turf Moor while champions-elect Chelsea could manage just a 1-1 draw.

Considering everything then, Burnley look a decent bet at 2.26 to defeat fast-sinking West Brom.
source:betfair

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Back Burnley to Win @ 2.26

 


 

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Hull 1.48 v Sunderland 8.20; The Draw 4.70

I can't ever remember seeing a club fighting against relegation with just three games to go trade as short as 1.48, but if we're being honest those odds are very fair and we could actually make a case to say that Hull should be trading shorter.

The Tigers have everything to play for here and have been in stunning form at the KCOM Stadium of late, while Sunderland must be absolutely demoralised and can't wait for the season to finish.

The Black Cats had their relegation confirmed last weekend, and they're probably going to finish rock bottom too. From their last 10 league games they've failed to score a single goal in nine of them. They've lost four on the spin away from home without finding the back of the net once, and they travel to Hull with a host of injuries to contend with.


In other words, as long as Hull don't get too complacent then the visit of David Moyes' men is the perfect game.

The Tigers haven't tasted defat in front of their own fans this calendar year. Marco Silva's men have defeated Manchester United on home soil in the League Cup, they recorded a very impressive 2-0 win over Liverpool, and they've won four straight home league games, scoring 10 goals in the process.

And of course, there's that incredible stat about Silva not losing a home game as a manager for 41 matches now.

I'll be very surprised, massively shocked even, if Sunderland can get anything from the KCOM on Saturday afternoon. As far as 1.48 shots go Hull look just about the most solid there's been for a long time. However that's not a price I ever put up in this column so given Sunderland's woes in front of goal I'm happy to wager that the home team get the win without conceding.
source:betfair

 

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England League Two
 
 

*Please note, all matches kick-off at 17:30 on Saturday


 
 

Exeter 2.80 v Carlisle 2.60; the draw 3.80

There's an interesting piece of fantasy on a media outlet's website that Exeter might actually prefer to lose at home to Carlisle on Saturday, because then they would play them over two legs in the play-off semi-finals.

The theory continues that Carlisle are one of League Two's worst four form teams since Christmas - and you would rather face a side that limps into the top seven than one in fine fettle.

One wonders whether Paul Tisdale, or Exeter's players, would be as cynical as to think that way. You'd hope not - and the FA will surely have spotted the scenario and be keeping a watchful eye on lineups. Does the idea of a long trip for the first leg affect their thinking? If they do beat Carlisle, it would be most likely a trip to Blackpool anyway - unless Luton miraculously slipped up at home to Morecambe and Pools somehow fail to beat Leyton Orient.

Given that they defeated Doncaster last weekend, Exeter's form is fine enough to see off Carlisle - and quite possibly all comers in the end of season shoot-out.

David Wheeler and Liam McAlinden have both scored in their most recent two games - both 3-1 wins, while Ollie Watkins will want to keep up the momentum of his career by proving himself against anyone.


Carlisle's last visit to the West Country - to Yeovil on April 1 - was a successful one, but they ought to find this a much stiffer test. Draws against out-of-form Stevenage and strugglers Crawley and Hartlepool, plus the narrow home win over Newport which has them hanging onto sixth place, show you the struggle they have had.

At least Jabo Ibehre has scored in five consecutive matches, but it would be optimistic of their supporters to cling to the notion that 10 away draws gives them a decent chance of another.

Keith Curle must be cursing his luck in losing top striker Charlie Wyke to Bradford at the turn of the year, even if it was for £250,000. Doubtless he has one eye on shutting the door on the season and being able to rebuild. He'd love to win here of course and extend the campaign, but logic suggests otherwise.
source:betfair

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Exeter to win @ 2.70

 



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Newport 2.02 v Notts County 4.20; the draw 3.80

Newport are going to find it tough to get those extra three points that will guarantee them League Two football next season. But then they've had an extremely tough season.

The Exiles are looking to win both league games against Notts County in a season for the first time in their history, say Opta, who add that the Magpies have drawn nine of their last 13 final day games, but lost their last two.


A draw guarantees nothing for Michael Flynn's team, because their goal difference is already worse than Hartlepool's, who are second bottom.

For Notts County, Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi should make a formidable strikeforce. But Saturday isn't about them, whether they will be retained or what they could achieve with a refreshed squad. It is all about whether Newport can turn their renowned horrible pitch to their advantage for a final time.

A record crowd, more than the 6,615 who witnessed Newport defeat Grimsby in the Conference National play-off semi-final in 2013, is expected to pile in to Rodney Parade, most of them hoping the dream of overturning an 11-point deficit to safety when Flynn took over can be fulfilled.

Six wins and a draw from 11 games would please quite a few managers. Victory, says Flynn, would spark the biggest party Newport has seen for a long time. If only they had a potential player of the month. Mickey Demetriou, their goalscoring defender, fits the bill nicely! It would be even better if a forward such as Ryan Bird or attacker Sean Rigg could help too.

The last five of those six wins have all been 1-0, so don't expect too many goals. If they are going to win, that makes the 4.00 on under 1.5 goals the value. Newport should have enough fire in their bellies to take the pressure and a vital victory.
source:betfair

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Back Newport @ 2.02
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Wycombe 2.60 v Cambridge 3.05; the draw 3.50

In a bid to go for all the hardest to call fixtures this week, I'm going for one that is entirely bonkers to try to fathom. Either of these two could take advantage if Carlisle - or indeed Blackpool - slip up, but a draw does neither any good.

Surely, for example, Bayo Akinfenwa can't have a second fairytale ending for a second season running by making it to the League Two play-off final? Last year, he muscled a colleague off the ball so he could take a late penalty to give AFC Wimbledon a 2-0 win over Plymouth, because he knew he was leaving, before urging managers to "tap me up on WhatsApp", on live TV.

The fact he is top scorer for the Chairboys with 12 underlines their problem - they don't score enough goals to be fully fledged promotion candidates.


Jamal Blackman, on loan from Chelsea, is highly thought of and has marshalled a mean defence at Adams Park, where Wycombe have conceded just 21 times - joint second lowest in the division, with Mansfield. A draw at Morecambe would have left manager Gareth Ainsworth hugely frustrated, but the bunched nature of the remaining play-off contenders gives them incentive enough to win, even without Scott Kashket if his groin injury means he will miss this final game.

The hosts proved they are good enough to beat most teams when defeating Doncaster, but have they got enough to see off Cambridge, who have won three times in five games? Their problem is consistency. Luke Berry has five goals in the last six games and has been named in the League Two team of the year, but insists he would prefer team glory to individual honours.

Opta offer that if Cambridge do win, they will equal their most away wins in a Football League season - 11, but Wycombe have won 10 at home, where they have a +7 goal difference and the key statistic could be that the visitors have lost their last two away games.
source:betfair

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Colchester 1.70 v Yeovil 5.80; the draw 4.20

There's only one way to bet on this match because of the short price on Colchester, who Opta point out have won a league high 65% of their points at home this season.

The U's, who are also one of only four sides to have scored more than 40 goals at home, should win - and there should be some goals in it.

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Give Chris Porter, Ben Dickenson or Curtis Guthrie (if returning from injury) half a chance and they will finish - possibly even finish the job of leaping into the top seven if they can keep their goal difference above their rivals in the tightest League Two play-off race in years.

The rest of a bet on over 3.50 goals relies on Yeovil's ability to at least score in defeat. In their last 10 games, they have drawn a blank just twice. Colchester's tight defence will have to hold at bay Francois Zoko has four in those 10 games and John-Louis Akpa Akpro has netted twice in three games in a belated end-of-season flourish.

So, are the Glovers capable of scoring once, as they have done against decent sides such as Portsmouth and Exeter away (and Accrington at home) recently, to make a grand total of four goals in this game? I'm prepared to run with the gamble.
source:betfair

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Back over 3.5 goals @ 3.00

 
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29.04.2017
 
 
England Premier League
 
 

Southampton 1.70 v Hull 5.80; The Draw 4.10

I was quite impressed with Southampton's performance at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. I know they conceded four goals and were ultimately well beaten but they enjoyed decent spells of possession, scored twice, and looked very dangerous at times.

My only worry about putting the Saints up to win at 1.70 is that they're incredibly inconsistent; from their last nine league games they've won four, lost four, and drawn one.

On Saturday Southampton host a Hull side that, since Marco Silva took charge, have become even more Jekyll and Hyde-like than Burnley when it comes to away form compared to home form.

The Tigers have won five and drawn one of their last six games at the KCOM Stadium, but on their travels it's the complete opposite, one draw and five defeats. That has to be a huge concern ahead of a match at St Mary's.

In the Championship I mention a lot at this stage of the season the importance of tipping in matches where there's something at stake as I really do believe that, once a group of players have very little to play for at that level, their performances levels can drop considerably. But I don't think that's the case in the Premier League; players at this level are a lot fresher, fitter, and more professional.

So I'm going to ignore the fact that Hull are fighting for their lives, and that Southampton have little to play for other than moving up the table one more place, and instead I'll back the team that I believe will win given the dreadful away form of their opponents.

And that team is Southampton. In their last five league victories Claude Puel's men have scored first half goals in all of them and led at the interval four times, so the 2.70 about the Saints HT/FT makes a lot more appeal than just the home win.
source:betfair

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Back Southampton HT/FT @ 2.70

 


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Stoke 2.20 v West Ham 3.80; The Draw 3.60

It's been a common theme this season, good home form compared to dreadful away form, with Burnley the best example but also Hull under Marco Silva adopting a sickness for travelling.


And in recent months you can add Stoke to that list. Mark Hughes' men have rather surprisingly taken just a single point from the last 18 available on their travels, and even more surprising is that in those six games they have failed to score a single goal.

But at the Bet365 Stadium the Potters are usually very reliable, especially when hosting a 
team other than the 'big six'. In fact you have to go all the way back to November to find the last time Stoke lost at home to a team outside of the top four.

West Ham are just a point behind Stoke in the table, but Slaven Bilic's men are on a poor run of form having won just one of their last 10 league outings. And away from home they've failed to win any of their last five, including games at Sunderland, Hull, Bournemouth, and Watford.

Both managers have said that they would like to get another win on the board as soon as possible to be completely safe from relegation, and although there's extremely little chance of either of these two going down we might just be set up for an entertaining affair.

I have to side with the home team though. Stoke are very solid in front of their own fans and they're facing an out of form outfit that has been very poor on the road of late.
source:betfair

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Back Stoke to Win @ 2.20

 


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Sunderland 3.00 v Bournemouth 2.50; The Draw 3.65

Bournemouth thrashed Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend and they can put the final nail in Sunderland's disastrous season by claiming a north-east double on Saturday afternoon.

Eddie Howe's men play a very slick, attacking style of football, and while that can be dangerous against the better teams because of their likelihood to concede a goal or two, against the division's lesser lights they can be very hard to beat on their day.

And that's because the Cherries are usually always good for a few goals themselves against weak opposition; they scored a total of nine goals in three recent games against Boro, Swansea, and West Ham for example.

Bournemouth will give you chances, but when you're struggling for goals - like Middlesbrough were, and like Sunderland are - then it's difficult to take advantage. And the Black Cats are really struggling for goals.


Since beating Crystal Palace at the beginning of February David Moyes' men have played nine games. In that time they've faced bottom half club likes Burnley, Watford, Leicester, West Ham, and Middlesbrough, and yet quite incredibly they failed to find the back of net in eight of those outings.

I just don't see how the Black Cats prevent an attack-minded Bournemouth from scoring on Saturday afternoon, and given Sunderland's dreadful record in front of goal themselves then an away win simply has to be the call.
source:betfair

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Back Bournemouth to Win @ 2.50

 


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England Championship

 

 

Reading 1.94 v Wigan 4.30; The Draw 3.65

This is a match between two clubs with still something to play for, but while Wigan's need is far more greater than Reading's admittedly, I'm genuinely amazed that the Royals can be backed at 1.94 to win.

But then this is by no means the first time I've been surprised by Reading's price this season, as regular readers will know. A lot of big-hitting Betfairians out there obviously don't rate them, but I don't know why.


Jaap Stam's men are fourth in the table, which is 19 places and 38 points above Wigan, and they go into this game on the back of five wins in their last seven matches. And they're at home too. I fully expected them to be trading at 1.60.

Reading's play-off place is not yet guaranteed. Their goal difference is by far the worst of the clubs that can overtake them so if they were to lose their last two matches, Leeds were to win their last two, and Sheff Wed and Fulham picked up at least one and three points respectively, then Stam's men would lose out.

The above sequence of results are very unlikely I agree, but the fact is Reading still require at least a point to be guaranteed of a play-off place and there's no way they won't be trying their hardest to win Saturday's match. Finishing third or fourth is also a huge advantage, so Reading still have a lot to gain by winning this game.

Wigan need to win, anything less will mean they are relegated, so yes, they'll be busting a gut to get all three points also. But the reality is that they're a very poor side and are almost certain to be relegated for a reason.

The Latics have lost five of their last eight and I think a price of 1.94 about a home win is simply too big.
source:betfair

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Back Reading to Win @ 1.94

 


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Fulham 1.54 v Brentford 6.60; The Draw 4.80

Our Over 3.5 Goals wager in the Huddersfield v Fulham game last week was never really in doubt from the moment the Terriers took an early lead. The Cottagers replied with four goals of their own before half time!

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I expect a similar outcome here between two free-scoring sides, with Fulham desperate for the three points that, because of their goal difference, will guarantee them a slot in the end of season play-offs.

Slavisa Jokanovic's men have been in fine form too, winning their last four Championship games, but the most notable factor about their recent results is the amount of goals that have been scored. Incredibly, eight of Fulham's last nine games have featured at least four goals, and 11 of their last 12 have resulted in both teams getting on the scoresheet.

On Saturday Fulham host a Brentford team that has enjoyed a terrific season thanks largely to their form at Griffin Park. They're still a very decent side on their travels and can score plenty when on song, like the 5-3 win at Burton recently for example, but now that they have absolutely nothing to play for I'm expecting a comfortable home victory.

Odds of 1.54 about that home win don't make massive appeal however, so we'll try and squeeze a bit more out of a Fulham triumph by backing the game to witness at least three goals also.
source:betfair

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Leeds 2.24 v Norwich 3.40; The Draw 3.75

Leeds only have themselves to blame for the fact that a play-off place is no longer in their own hands, but they need to regroup knowing that with Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham playing each other next week, two victories will give them an outstanding chance of breaking back into the top six.

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Garry Monk's men have surprisingly lost four of their last six, just when it looked like they were certainties to book a play-off place. Their latest defeats to Wolves and Burton were particularly disappointing, but they at least now know that only wins will do this week and next.

That means that Leeds simply have to go for it against Norwich, and therefore we should expect quite an entertaining game, and hopefully at least three goals.

The Canaries have been involved in some high-scoring games of late, most notably in a 7-1 win over Reading, and 3-0 and 3-1 defeats to Huddersfield and Fulham respectively. It's perhaps no coincidence that those three rivals were all chasing points and the matches ended up being open, entertaining affairs.

None of the play-off chasing clubs need the points more than Leeds this weekend, it really is last chance saloon; fail to win and they'll be a Championship side for another season at least. So it's impossible not to see Monk's men go for the win at some stage.

Norwich are a very good side however, with recent wins over Reading, Preston, and Brighton filling them with confidence ahead of their trip to Elland Road. It promises to be a ding dong battle between two of the best teams in the division, and given the circumstances I'd be very surprised if we don't witness at least three goals.
source:betfair

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England League Two

 

 

Accrington Stanley 2.70 v Luton Town 2.84; the draw 3.60

The only problem with suggesting that Luton can grind out one of their famous 1-1 away draws in this match is that Danny Hylton has scored penalties in the last two of them - and he is suspended. It's a minor problem.


Luton boss Nathan Jones loves his star striker to bits, but gets infuriated when the player does something silly, like receive two yellow cards. Mind you, Hylton (21 goals) is on 13 yellows for the season and two more will instigate a three game ban, so sitting out one match for an accumulative red will postpone a longer suspension and give him a rest as the Hatters wrap up fourth place and ponder the play-offs.

Intriguingly, they have never been promoted via the play-offs, but we'll come to that in future weeks. Their huge +23 goal difference will give them serious confidence and means they are unlikely to slip out of the top seven.

Isaac Vassell (6 goals) or perhaps driving force Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, among others, should be able to make up for Hylton's absence against a side who need to win to keep their promotion hopes alive. If a draw occurs, it would be Luton's eighth 1-1 away draw of the season, hence the rare correct score prediction.

Stanley, in racing terms, could do with the season being a couple of extra furlongs, having risen from third from bottom to belatedly push for promotion.

Apart from a 5-0 win over Leyton Orient, a 3-2 win over Crewe and a couple of 2-2 away draws, their last 14 games have been pretty tight, which is another reason to think this will be too. They are unbeaten in 11 in the league at home say Opta - to which you can add the FA Cup 2-1 win over the Hatters in January, Omar Beckles and Shay McCartan the scorers.

And that's another reason for Luton to want to beat them: they won't fancy being upstaged by John Coleman's men in the play-offs. So, keep Billy Kee and Sean McConville quiet (Opta state the latter has a league high 16 assists, 12 at home) on Saturday and Luton won't have to face them in a couple of weeks' time.

Another Opta stat points to a tight match: Luton have conceded a league low 16 goals (equal with Portsmouth) on their travels.
source:betfair

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Notts County 3.70 v Blackpool 2.20; the draw 3.70


Notts County showed their relief at surviving potential relegation in the first half against Luton last weekend, by being distinctly lacklustre - and that's not my assessment but that of manager Kevin Nolan. A "frank discussion" with his players followed.

Discussions are surely to be had by Nolan with Shola Ameobi, signed as a free agent earlier this year, and fellow striker Jon Stead, courted by United States teams, about staying on if the Magpies are to push for promotion next year.

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Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer expects a tough match at Meadow Lane. But if you think life will be tougher without Jamille Matt after an Easter Monday injury against Doncaster, Mark Cullen, Clark Robertson and Neil Danns should be giving you other ideas. They were the three scorers against an admittedly poor Cheltenham side.

Realistically, a victory for the Tangerines would cement a play-off place, because their goal difference is at least 15 better than the sides below them. Three consecutive clean sheets give them every chance of gaining a third straight win. It would be handy if Blackpool, having beaten Doncaster, could manage back-to-back away wins, something Opta remind us they haven't done since December.
source:betfair

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Plymouth Argyle 1.86 v Crewe Alexandra 5.00; the draw 4.00

Plymouth could yet pip Doncaster to the title, but with two games to go I won't be breaking habits by tipping teams who are odds-on to win. So the key markets here are about goals.

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In the past six games, Crewe have scored 10 and conceded 10, with Chris Dagnall (11) doing his best to inspire George Cooper (8) and James Jones (9) into hitting double figures, too. But for all their hard work the defence is insistent on conceding, especially away in the past couple of months - four at Hartlepool, three at Yeovil and Accrington.

In slight contrast, Plymouth, who scored six against Leyton Orient, have scored 10 but conceded four. But with the chance of the title still alive and much coveted Graham Carey's 14 goals and 14 assists - which Opta say is a league high - the Pilgrims have the desire and firepower to give us a chance of landing a bet on over 3.5 goals at 3.20. If the title did come down to goal difference, Plymouth need a seven-goal swing. Combine that with Crewe's ability to score one as well as concede more and this bet has legs!
source:betfair

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Back over 3.5 goals @ 3.20

 


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Carlisle United 2.20 v Newport County 3.50; the draw 3.90

It's not just Newport's players, facing possible relegation, who are fighting for their futures, Keith Curle has made it quite clear that Carlisle's players are also battling for next season's places, whether they are under contract or not.


The Cumbrians need to win their two remaining matches (finishing at Exeter) to stand a realistic chance of re-entering the top seven. Current form doesn't suggest they will. They failed to hold on to a hard-fought lead at Crawley, after Jabo Ibehre - not on song early in the season - scored for the fourth game running.

Neither a third consecutive draw, nor the stat of one victory in 12, inspires confidence that they can defeat a Newport side who have won four games from five (all 1-0).

The Exiles have beaten in-form sides Exeter and Accrington on that run. Captain Joss Ladabie says Michael Flynn's men know they still have work to do and won't rest on their laurels, but are confident and enjoying their football. Winning sides usually do. Another victory would give them a giant step towards safety, if not secure it and it is within their grasp.
source:betfair

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Back Newport @ 3.50

 


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Top seven finish

In one of the tightest races for a play-off spot in League Two for years, 10 teams have a chance of making the end-of-season showdown. But, just as Carlisle have slipped away, Stevenage's form - combined with the absence through injury of star striker Matt Godden - makes them very vulnerable to losing their grip on seventh place. One win and two draws from six give no indication they can gain sufficient points at Yeovil or at home to Accrington to fend off the chasing pack. They are a lay at 2.20.

So, who will benefit and join Luton, Exeter and Blackpool whose goal differences makes them almost certainties for the play-offs? Stanley are unlikely to make up the four point gap from 13th, while Mansfield are likely to find a Portsmouth-shaped roadblock in their way (but can punish Crawley on the final day).

Meanwhile Wycombe at 3.20 in this market, Cambridge 12.00 and Colchester 8.00 should power on this weekend, the latter having the crucial chance to supplement their goal difference at Leyton Orient. Wycombe's strong home record and Cambridge's great away one make their final day shoot-out a potential draw, making Colchester, whose fantastic home record will be examined only by Yeovil on the final day, a decent value bet.
source:betfair

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Back Colchester to finish in the top seven @ 8.00
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22.04.2017
 
England Premier League
 
 

Bournemouth 1.91 v Middlesbrough 4.50; The Draw 3.80

Middlesbrough are as good as relegated - and results involving the other relegation candidates could effectively seal their fate on Saturday afternoon - but I do expect them to put up a decent showing at Bournemouth, knowing that quite simply they have to win.

It was pretty much a similar scenario in Boro's last away game when I put up Over 2.5 Goals at around 2.30 as a strong recommendation. That game - away to Hull - saw five goals scored before half time! I'm not saying we'll get that many before the interval, or even in 90 minutes, this time, but I think a price of even money about witnessing at least three goals is definitely worth a wager.

Steve Agnew' men have to attack and go for goals, it really is that simple. And I know they're pretty woeful in both those departments, but by playing that style of football it diminishes their main strength, which is defending and cancelling teams out.

And if Agnew feels he can get at any team then surely it's a Bournemouth side that have the third worst defensive record this season, and whose 33 league games have averaged 3.27 goals per match, the second highest of all 20 clubs.

Eddie Howe's men conceded six at Everton recently in a nine-goal game, last month on home soil they beat West Ham 3-2, and all of their last three matches have witnessed at least four goals. And of course, earlier in the season at the Vitality Stadium they were involved in 6-1, 4-3, and 3-3 games.

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So we know that the Cherries are often involved in entertaining games, and given the way I expect - and hope - Middlesbrough to approach this encounter then I'm fairly confident we'll witness at least another three goals on Saturday afternoon.
source:betfair

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Hull 1.95 v Watford 4.40; The Draw 3.80

It looks extremely likely that the final relegation place will be taken by either Hull, currently 17th in the table on 30 points, or Swansea, 18th and two points behind the Tigers.


What's definitely in Hull's favour however is their superb home form. The Tigers haven't lost a single game at the KCOM Stadium - in any competition - since losing to Manchester City in

December. Marco Silva's men have since played nine games on home soil, winning seven of them and drawing the other two.


What is also in the Tigers' favour is Silva's incredible record as a manager in front of his own fans. The 39-year-old in now unbeaten for three years, a period stretching 40 games, on home soil during stints with Sporting Lisbon, Olympiacos, and now Hull.


As well as crucial wins over Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, and Swansea, Silva has also overseen home victories over Manchester United (EFL Cup) and Liverpool, and although an odds-on price of 1.95 about a relegation-threatened club doesn't instantly scream value, another home win definitely looks on the cards against Watford.

The Hornets have won three of their last four to secure their Premier League safety for another year, but all those victories were hard fought and came at home to clubs - Sunderland, West Brom, and Swansea - in no sort of form.

Away from home Watford have lost three on the spin without scoring a single goal, and considering some of their players might now be looking towards their summer holiday I don't see any reason to oppose another home win for Hull on Saturday afternoon.
source:betfair

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Swansea 2.26 v Stoke 3.70; The Draw 3.50

Swansea have hit a bit of a brick wall in recent weeks but still have an excellent chance of avoiding the drop given they trail Hull by just two points.

After a bright start with the Welsh outfit Paul Clement has seen his men take just a single point from the last 18 available, that coming in a poor goalless draw against goal-shy Middlesbrough, but he surely has to take heart from the fact that Swansea haven't lost touch with the club immediately above them.


The Swans had been in decent form at the Liberty Stadium prior to that draw with Boro, and they performed very well against Tottenham in their last home game, leading 1-0 until the 88th minute before agonisingly conceding three goals at the death, so I believe they're still a solid proposition in front of their own fans.

Clement's men face Stoke on home soil on Saturday, and like relegation rivals Hull they face a club safe from the drop and effectively with nothing to play for. How much that comes into it remains to be seen, but the Potters' form on their travels recently has been so dire that Swansea simply have to be fancied to take all three points.

Mark Hughes' men have taken just a single point from the last 15 available away from home, that coming courtesy of a goalless draw meaning that Stoke didn't score a single goal in those five matches.

The Potters actually lost four on the spin prior to seeing off Hull in gritty fashion last weekend, but I think they'll do well to record another victory over a relegation-threatened club on Saturday. In fact, if Clement's men can get back to the form they were showing six weeks ago then I can see them grabbing a crucial win.
source:betfair

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Back Swansea to Win @ 2.26

 


 

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England Championship

 

 

Bristol City 1.76 v Barnsley 5.00; The Draw 4.20

Bristol City have all but secured their Championship status thanks to a superb run of home results that has seen them take 11 of the last 15 points available at Ashton Gate.

The Robins looked dead and buried when the lost 2-0 at Aston Villa in late February, but they've since lost just two of their next nine while remaining unbeaten in front of their own fans.

Lee Johnson's men earned a very good draw with Norwich before thrashing promotion hopefuls Huddersfield 4-0 in front of the live TV cameras, and they've since recorded back-to-back home victories over Wolves and QPR respectively to give them some much-needed breathing space at the bottom of the table.

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A home game against Barnsley is arguably the perfect match for Bristol City on Saturday afternoon give that the Yorkshire side have absolutely nothing to play for, and in their last away game they lost to second bottom Wigan.

With a win the Robins will be absolutely safe, so they have everything to play for here, and given that their next game is away to Brighton before facing a Birmingham side that could be fully motivated under new boss Harry Redknapp, I think they'll go all out for the three points in this match.

I strongly fancy Johnson's men to succeed in getting the points too, and I'd wager that they do so in comfortable fashion by backing them to overcome a -1 goal handicap.
source:betfair

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Huddersfield 2.40 v Fulham 3.20; The Draw 3.60

What a game this promises to be, though I have to admit that I don't have an inkling as to who will come out on top if there is to be a winner.

But what I do expect is goals, and that's simply because a victory for either side will be like gold dust, with one side still in with a chance of automatic promotion and the other desperate to secure a place in the play-offs.

Huddersfield may be seven points behind Newcastle who occupy the final automatic promotion slot, but they have a game in hand and with the Magpies stuttering big time of late a victory for the Terriers will move them to within just four points of Rafa Benitez's men and both clubs will have three games to play.


Fulham are in fine form, winning four of their last five which has been good enough to climb to sixth in the table, but they have absolutely no room to spare over Leeds - both clubs have 73 points - with just three games remaining.

The Cottagers' all-out quest to win games of late has seen their matches provide tonnes of entertainment and goals; five of their last six league games have witnessed at least four goals, and their last four matches have averaged exactly 4.5 goals per game.

Huddersfield haven't been quite as entertaining recently, though their last four matches have produced 12 goals which is an average of exactly three per match, and I'm sure David Wagner will send his men out to attack and get the three points given that they still have hopes of overhauling Newcastle.

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Even ignoring the magnitude of the game the fact is that no club in the Championship has scored more than Fulham this season (78), and they also have the second worst defensive record of the top six clubs.

I'm surprised that Over 2.5 Goals can be backed at 1.92 then, but that also means we'll get a good price on witnessing at least four goals so that's how we'll play.
source:betfair

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Brentford 2.10 v QPR 3.65; The Draw 3.90

My first two recommendations are involving games where at least one side has everything to play for, and as I've said a few times recently that's a very good angle to take as the season approaches a climax.

But although this game doesn't involve at least one club desperate for points it does feature one that has been in desperate form of late that we've opposed with great success in recent weeks, so if it's not broken, then don't try and fix it as they say.

QPR have lost five on the spin now, and I keep alluding to the fact that boss Ian Holloway is continually aware of people doing exactly what I'm doing, which is effectively saying that they've given up for the season.


Holloway has of course been saying that his men are trying their hardest, and I'm sure before the season is out QPR will avoid defeat somewhere, but away to Brentford, who on their day are easily one of the best home sides in the division, I fancy the Hoops will suffer another defeat.

The Bees have shown exactly why they are so highly rated at Griffin Park in recent weeks with a trio of wins over in-form Bristol City, promotion-chasing Leeds, and a Derby side that were unbeaten under their new boss, by an aggregate scoreline of 8-0!

Dean Smith's men were superb in thrashing the Rams 4-0 last time, and a reproduction of anywhere near that form will see them beat QPR quite comfortably. If this game had anything riding on it I'd have expected to see Brentford trading at odds-on, so that fact that we can back them at 2.10 is a huge bonus.
source:betfair

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England League One

 

 

Shrewsbury Town 3.45 v Southend United 2.22, the draw 3.50


The visitors are the right favourites here, and I have no question mark about how the market looks considering the league positions of the two. However, Southend are wobbling a bit in their quest to seal a playoff place - and following four wins on the spin, they have lost three of their last four. It's not a great time to start faltering.

Shrewsbury are not exactly flying themselves. With just one victory in their last nine league games, they are still towards the foot of the table and remain just three points above Port Vale (who currently occupy a relegation spot in 21st position).

Neither are screaming out to back them, although Opta give a positive regarding Southend, revealing they have failed to score in only two of their last 13 league matches against the Shrews. They are capable of scoring goals away from home - and have hit Chesterfield with four and Oldham with three - although they were poor against Bristol Rovers last month.

I've mentioned Shrewsbury's home form before in this column, and it might just be enough to side with them here. In their last 11 matches, they have lost just two, and they were against Millwall and Bolton. It's a fairly even split in terms of the Under 2.5 Goals, as six of the 11 crossed that particular line.

Paul Hurst has done a good job at Greenhous since taking over as manager, and with back-to-back Bank Holiday draws, it might be worth using the Draw No Bet on the home team with the extra insurance.
source:betfair

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Oldham Athletic 3.40 v Rochdale 2.28, the draw 3.55


If you like unpredictability in life, then you might have enjoyed Rochdale's topsy-turvy season. One moment they look like playoff candidates, the next they are lacking winning mentality and losing games they should win. 

An example of their up-and-down nature comes courtesy of results in March and April. Last month; all seven of their games hit Over 2.5 Goals with some really entertaining affairs. Indeed, a couple were 3-3 scorelines. You would be forgiven for latching on to a team expecting loads of goals.

Au contraire. Step forward April, with four of their five Under 2.5 Goals, keeping three clean sheets against Port Vale, Coventry and Bury. Although if you were aiming for a clean sheet you would probably pray to have all three of those in opposition. 

Unreliability is their middle name. I am not sure I want to back them at such a short price. 

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Oldham's recent home form however under John Sheridan makes them the bet here, and I suspect their price is more to do with league positions as Dale need the win to push for the playoffs, whilst Oldham are six points clear of Port Vale. According to Opta, the Latics have the most clean sheets at home than any other team in the division (13), and since January they have kept eight. 

The run under Sheridan has seen them beat Bolton, Fleetwood and Oxford. They've even drawn with runaway winners Sheffield United. 

Rochdale have picked up the win on just two of their last nine away trips to Oldham in the league (D2 L5) according to Opta, and that's enough for me to stick with Sheridan's men.
source:betfair

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MK Dons 4.00 v Sheffield United 2.06, the draw 2.06


I made the mistake of opposing Sheffield United against Bradford on Easter Monday. The thinking behind the bet was that Chris Wilder's men might have eased off in celebration mode and not been on their game fully for the Yorskhire clash. I got it badly wrong, and was rather disappointed with the effort of the Bantams considering they still had an outside shot at a top-two place.

Therefore admitting the punting error by not taking the 1.96 on offer for Sheffield United last week, do I perform a swift about-turn and go in with Wilder's men at the same price against a weaker team? The answer is yes, and hopefully the celebrations can wait.


United are unbeaten in 15 matches and have won all five of their previous matches. A victory for the Blades here would see them set a new club record for points won in a season.

They could also record six successive wins for the second time this season (something they did between December and January). The argument is that United at least have that record to play for, whilst the MK Dons are safe - but the gulf in points is massive at 36 between the two.

The Buckinghamshire club have started to pick up a few wins at home recently, going LWWDWL in a sequence of six games, but hopefully I can go out on a high with Sheffield United for the final time.
source:betfair

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Back Sheffield United to win @ 2.06

England League Two
 
 
 

Hartlepool 2.80 v Barnet 2.70; the draw 3.50

When you are struggling to avoid relegation, the last thing you want to do is compound a bad run by losing to a side whose plight looks hopeless.

Hartlepool's defeat at Leyton Orient left the gate open for Omar Riza's men - just a little. But it allowed Newport manager Michael Flynn to assess that it is between his side and Pools to stay up. And that's the last thing a manager wants to hear, even an experienced one like Dave Jones.

Hartlepool have been "just surviving" for weeks - lately on just two draws from six matches as they seek to keep their necks above water.

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In their defence, Pools have lost to some of the better sides recently - Wycombe, Portsmouth and Blackpool - before drawing with crumbling Carlisle and Morecambe.

Can Lewis Alessandra and Padraig Amond find one last effort to overcome Barnet, a side who seem in even worse form. Rossi Eames has to pull a side with just three points (one win) to show from their last six games, including when Kevin Nugent was still there as manager.

John Akinde can't be feeling that inspired. Expect mistakes. Expect nerves. Expect tension. Expect a scrap. Barnet haven't scored in four of their last six matches, but have conceded in each of their last 12 - sometimes once and sometimes twice. Hartlepool only seem to score once and rarely keep a clean sheet. Hartlepool might scrape a victory.
source:betfair

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Stevenage 3.00 v Mansfield 2.50; the draw 3.60

Stevenage have been remarkably hit and miss for a team who find themselves in the play-off places. After eight wins from nine which got them there, Darren Sarll's men have won just two games in seven outings - and not scored in four of them.

Yet such has been the inconsistency of the teams just below them they are still fifth and pretty likely to be in the top seven after the weekend, whatever happens against Mansfield.

Striker Matt Godden's broken toe, picked up against Morecambe on Good Friday, will keep him out for six weeks and severely hamper Stevenage, however much people might like to point to goals by Charlie Lee and Harry McKirdy (on loan from Aston Villa at the time) scoring in the 2-1 win over the Stags in October.

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Godden has 20 goals this season and nobody comes close to matching that. They would be lucky to have him back for the play-off final, if they got there. Ben Kennedy is next best with eight, but Tom Pett and Steven Schumacher need to step up.

A draw would definitely keep Stevenage in the top seven. If Mansfield have other ideas, they could do with stating them pretty loudly. Like their hosts, their form doesn't inspire confidence, although with three wins and a draw it is marginally better. Wins against Carlisle, at Morecambe and especially Wycombe in current form show they have grit and determination - hallmarks of successful sides put out by Steve Evans.

Scoring just three goals in their last four games show they might be feeling a little pressure. If Stevenage don't have many goals in the squad after Godden, Mansfield struggle a little in that department, too. Matt Green (10) and Danny Rose (7) are top scorers who have not scored in weeks, while the team can point to debatable penalties going against them.

Perhaps defeats to Exeter and Doncaster - as better sides - can be forgiven. But then again if Mansfield are to be promoted - or even reach the play-offs - they are going to have to match those types of team. They did so against Luton, but after Stevenage come Portsmouth a week on Saturday.

According to Opta, Mansfield have won back to back away games just once, while the two teams have never drawn in the Football League. A win from the visitors' point of view seems vital, but the hosts' strong home record might just steer them to a draw.
source:betfair

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Back the draw 3.60

 


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Grimsby 2.80 v Yeovil 2.84; the draw 3.30

At a glance, it might seem that neither team has much resting on the outcome of this match, so it wouldn't be worth considering betting on.


However, the players have plenty of incentive to earn places in their respective squads for next season. Yeovil boss Darren Way will be looking jealously towards near West Country rivals Plymouth who have been promoted and noted Derek Adams' statement that a clear-out of the previous season's players helped.

Grimsby have another new manager to impress. Russell Slade will impose the high standards his board demands for a promotion campaign next season. It might be over ambitious to expect it, but that won't stop him analysing whether his current players are up to the job.

A number of different players have scored recently - Callum Dyson, Chris Clements, Sam Jones - and the Mariners have drawn only one blank in 10 games. They have only kept two clean sheets in that time, too, however, something which no doubt contributed to Marcus Bignot's downfall as manager.

Beating Blackpool and Cambridge recently show what they are capable of, which should make them a slightly bigger price than they should be to defeat the Glovers, who have not scored in three of their last four games.

One thing Way will want to address in the summer is the Somerset side's lack of goals: scoring three times at Morecambe and at Exeter were exceptions to their general rule. They have scored in each of their last four away games, however, but three wins on their travels all season suggests they struggle to find their tempo away from home.

Perhaps without the threat of relegation hanging over them Yeovil have begun to relax and show their true potential, but the Mariners should have too much for them - and that's what makes this game value to bet on. The Opta stat that Yeovil have not won back-to-back league games since October is also in Grimsby's favour.
source:betfair

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Back Grimsby @ 2.80

 


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Crawley 3.35 v Carlisle 2.34; the draw 3.60

There are a number of tempting away bets this weekend, from Plymouth to upstage Colchester, who have one of the division's strongest home records, as they attempt to snatch the title from Doncaster to Accrington to dent Newport's chances of survival or Doncaster to win at Wycombe.

However, the most tempting, at relatively short odds it has to be said, is Carlisle to win at Crawley, who have not scored in three of their last four matches.

The Cumbrians have an urgency to stoke the embers of a dying play-off bid. Keith Curle was a manager spoken of as one being looked at by other clubs a few months ago, but since Charlie Wyke left in January - even before - Carlisle have been on a desperate run, falling from a comfortable looking second place to eighth. At least they have found the net in their past four games, with Jabo Ibehre's timely return to form. Previously to that, they went seven games without scoring.

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But draws, as they achieved with Stevenage and Hartlepool, won't do at this stage. They have to do what they did at Yeovil and win, to stand any chance of going back into the top seven. Strugglers Newport will be hard-bitten opponents next week, then on the final day if Exeter need anything to gain the best play-off position they can they will be tough opponents. Carlisle have to take a victory now.

Crawley, with James Collins failing to net in three games and getting sent off against Plymouth, don't seem to be inspiring one fan, who wrote in his local paper that there had been no progress since this time last year and that there were calls for the manager Dermot Drummy to be sacked. Lacklustre seems to be a word to sum up their end of season.

That stems from the Red Devils winning just one of their last nine home games, stress Opta, who add that Crawley have scored the fewest (2) and conceded the most (11) goals in the first 15 minutes of matches. Score early has to be Curle's message.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Carlisle @ 2.34

 
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15.04.2017
 
Premier League
 

Bet 1: Everton @ 1.53 (8/15)

This should be a routine home win for Everton as they got back to winning ways with an impressive 4-2 victory over Leicester last Sunday, and today they are taking on a Burnley side who are still to win on the road this season.

The Clarets have at least drawn their two latest away games - both 0-0 - but they came against the two worst teams in the division in the shape of Sunderland Middlesbrough.

Ronald Koeman's men on the other hand are still pushing for a top five finish and they have won their last seven at Goodison Park. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that they won all of them by at least two goals, and that includes a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City.
source:betfair

 


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Bet 2: Stoke @ 2.05 (21/20)

The hosts are in miserable form as they come into this fixture against Hull on the back of four straight defeats. They haven't had the easiest run of matches though and it is not like they have been beaten out of sight.

Mark Hughes' side have lost their last two on this ground - both 2-1 - but they came against Chelsea and Liverpool. Prior to that it was eight unbeaten - four of which were victories.

Marco Silva's Hull team have shown great battling qualities under his leadership and they are now two points clear of the relegation zone. All of their victories have been in front of their own fans though and on their travels it's played six, drawn one and lost five.

All of their losses have been by at least two goals, and they fired blanks at Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton.
source:betfair

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Bet 3: West Ham @ 2.63 (13/8)

My faith in David Moyes and Sunderland has gone. I have been backing them for the last couple of weeks, expecting their usual end of campaign flourish, but it hasn't even come close to materialising.

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The Black Cats are still rooted to the foot of the table and they are now 10 points from safety. Even at home they haven't won since a 1-0 success over Watford in December and since then it's been four defeats and three draws - they haven't even scored a goal in their last five.

Today's opponents are West Ham and they picked up a much needed win against fellow strugglers, Swansea, last Saturday. That result ended a run of five straight defeats and they are now up to 14th - eight points clear of safety.

Their record away from the London Stadium isn't too bad this year as they have taken three points from their trips to Crystal Palace, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Southampton.
source:betfair

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Recommended Treble
Back Everton @ 1.53 (8/15)
Back Stoke @ 2.05 (21/20)
Back West Ham @ 2.63 (13/8)
The Treble pays approximately 8.25 (7/1)

  
 
 

14.04.2017

Norwich 2.46 v Fulham 2.96; The Draw 3.75

Norwich thrashed Reading 7-1 on Saturday. I have absolutely no idea where the result came from, and it was only slightly embarrassing that I'd tipped up the Royals!

But you have to keep reminding yourself that absolutely any result is possible in this division. The Canaries went into Saturday's game on the back of two straight defeats without scoring a single goal. Reading had won three on the spin including an excellent win away at Sheffield Wednesday. And then that happens.

We're at the stage of the season now when it's important to stick with games, or clubs, that have something to play for. Fulham most definitely have something to play for being just two points off a play-off place, and as unlikely as it may sound, I don't think Norwich have completely given up on finishing sixth just yet either.

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Nine points is a huge amount of ground to make up with just five games remaining but the Canaries have just three clubs ahead of them going for that final play-off position, and one of those clubs is the one they face on Good Friday.

All Alan Irvine's men can do is win their final five games and see where it takes them. So anything less than a win against Fulham will effectively be the end of the Canaries' season, and I see no reason why they just won't go for goals, and the victory.

The Cottagers are in a much better position points-wise obviously, and while this isn't necessarily a game that they must win it's easy to envisage Slavisa Jokanovic setting his side up to attack knowing that the three points could turn out to be priceless.

So given how I expect the game to pan out it's no surprise at all to me that Over 2.5 Goals is available to back at just 1.60. At first glance that may appear short, but even ignoring the importance of the encounter we still have two of the Championships's most entertaining teams in oppositions. Both have played 41 games this term; Norwich's games have averaged 3.27 goals per match, Fulham's have averaged 3.03.

And if we taken only into account each club's most recent 10 league fixtures, the Canaries' games have averaged 3.7 goals per outing, while matches involving the Cottagers have averaged exactly 3.5 per game.
source:betfair

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Back Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50
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Bristol City 2.02 v QPR 4.10; The Draw 3.70

My final two selections for Good Friday feature home teams with lots to gain with a victory, playing against sides that could be excused if they were already looking ahead to their summer holidays. So my reliance on clubs 'with something to play for' theory will be fully tested.

Bristol City are just one place above the drop zone, and although they have a four-point cushion over Blackburn below them Lee Johnson will be targeting eight or nine points from their remaining five games, which would surely guarantee survival.

That means that games at Ashton Gate become crucial, and on recent evidence the Robins certainly aren't shirking the task in hand. In their last three home games Johnson's men have taken seven points from a possible nine, drawing with Norwich, thrashing promotion-chasing Huddersfield 4-0, and beating a Wolves side that had won five on the spin 3-1 last Saturday.

That's extremely strong home form from Bristol City, and a reproduction of it will be far too good for a QPR side that literally have nothing to play for.

Ian Holloway's men have lost three on the spin now, scoring just a single goal in the process, and after last week's defeat to Brighton the far-from-shy boss had this to say about his team's performance, "If the league are looking at us wondering if we had a go, then boy oh boy did we have a go."

That suggests to me that Holloway is extremely conscious about the position his club are in, and if the manager knows then you can bet your bottom dollar that his players will also know. Of course, it might inspire the Hoops to play well, but deep down I think they all know they have little to play for, and subconsciously performance levels can drop. We'll see.
source:betfair

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Back Bristol City to Win @ 2.02

 


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Sheff Wed 1.94 v Cardiff 4.60; The Draw 3.70

After winning just one of their previous seven, a run of form that saw them drop out of the play-off places, Sheffield Wednesday have rediscovered their mojo with back-to-back wins, the latter being a superb 2-1 victory over title-chasing Newcastle.

The Owls are back in the play-off places, but with just a two-point cushion over Fulham in seventh Carlos Carvalhal's men can't afford another dip in form at this stage of the season.

But it could be that Wednesday, with that win over Newcastle surely acting as a massive confidence boost, are gathering momentum at exactly the right time. If they can win three or four of their remaining games and secure a top-six finish then it's hard to envisage any of the other clubs in the end-of-season play-offs being in much better form.

Cardiff, another club with absolutely nothing to play for, narrowly beat Brentford last week in a drab affair that had boss Neil Warnock saying afterwards that he feared falling asleep at one point.

Away from home though the Bluebirds have been far from impressive of late. Warnock's men have failed to win any of their last four road trips, all against clubs currently in the bottom half of the table, so against a very decent Sheffield Wednesday team with everything to play for I fancy it will be the home team collecting all three points on Friday afternoon.
source:betfair

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Grimsby 3.70 v Cambridge 2.30; the draw 3.45

Cambridge, chasing a playoff place, couldn't bump into Grimsby at a more opportune moment. It is just five months since the Mariners appointed Marcus Bignot as manager - and now they have sacked him.

His crime? He didn't keep up the attack on the playoff positions, having inherited a team who were ninth. Nine wins in 27 matches and a slippage into solid mid-table. Surely after promotion last season they can't automatically expand a second on the bounce? And they could have waited for Bignot to have the longer-term influence that he had on Solihull Moors as they became an established National League team.

Omar Bogle's departure in January didn't help either.

There's nothing wrong with ambition, of course, and Cambridge still hold on to the chance that they can reach the top seven. Shaun Derry, not always a popular incumbent manager with fans since his appointment, has steered his charges on a great run of form.

They are strong away from home, with 10 away wins, Luke Berry has 15 goals and George Maris has started to make a real impact while full-back Greg Taylor has signed a new contract for another year. A contrast, then, to Grimsby shedding personnel.

It's a little risky to oppose a team which has just appointed a new manager, especially if he is someone as experienced as Russell Slade, returning for a second spell. However, Cambridge's need - and therefore desire - for victory is stronger. As Opta point out, they also have men in scoring form away: Berry (3) and Medy Elito (4) have shared the U's last seven away goals and the league.
source:betfair

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Back Cambridge @ 2.30

 


 

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Colchester 3.80 v Doncaster 2.10; the draw 3.80

I'm sure the BBC reporter thought he was being flippant when he suggested Doncaster might spend some time celebration promotion and they might be on course for a defeat in their next match, especially if it was away.

However, he clearly hadn't noticed that Darren Ferguson's side will face Colchester, a side who have 12 home wins - the second highest number in League Two. They have very much still to play for - a play-off place.

Rovers would never want to take their foot off the pedal because the divisional title still has to be won, but newly crowned League Two player of the year John Marquis will have to work hard to break down Colchester's defence. He has scored 26 goals, 16 of them away emphasises Opta.

John McGreal says supporters are getting "full value" from matches at home, where the players really look forward to playing. The prospect of a Wembley final spurs his squad, he says.

Brennan Dickenson says he is in the form of his life and he and Chris Porter, another key attacker, might have to put Doncaster on the back foot with an early goal to really take advantage of any "celebration fatigue" in the away side, who have scored more away goals than any other League Two side.

Opta add that Colchester's 41 points from 20 home games so far is only bettered by Doncaster's 48 from 21.

This game will be anything but an odds-on, or even money, march to a simple three points that the odds might suggest.
source:betfair

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Back the draw @ 3.80

 


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Newport County 2.36 v Yeovil Town 3.30; the draw 3.50

Newport's climb since they lost 4-0 at home to Leyton Orient at the start of March has been remarkable.

That defeat left them 11 points adrift of safety. Now they are just three behind Hartlepool, four behind Cheltenham and seven behind Yeovil after four wins and a draw in seven games under Michael Flynn, including back-to-back victories twice.

The Exiles have failed to score in three previous games against Yeovil, according to Opta, something they will be looking to put right, even if three of their last four goals have been from outside the box. What does that tell us? That they shoot too early through lack of confidence? That they can't get closer to goal? That they take the option to shoot too early?

Whatever it says, it hasn't stopped them taking some much-needed wins and showing fighting spirit. Flynn has challenged forward Tom Owen-Evans to keep up the good work after scoring his first professional goal to beat Exeter. The experienced Sean Rigg is close to a return while Joss Ladabie will still be suspended, but the south Wales side have been showing mental strength as they hunt down security.

Darren Way's Glovers had Otis Khan back against Portsmouth after a lengthy spell out, giving him a creative option while Ben Whitfield is still suspended. But they have been on a run which offers little confidence they are up to facing a side who have been in a dogfight for weeks and winning many scraps.

The Somerset side have won once in 13 matches, drawing eight. So they are capable of frustrating their hosts, especially if Francois Zoko is on form. He has scored three of their last five goals in the league, two of their last four away, say Opta. They could come away with a draw, but Newport really need that win.
source:betfair

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Back Newport County @ 2.36

 


 

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Blackpool 2.34 v Accrington 3.40; the draw 3.60


Mark Hughes scoring twice in a comeback victory? Sounds like the stuff of legend from Manchester United. But that was actually Accrington last weekend, at home to Crewe.

The way Stanley came back from 2-0 dow shows great character, determination and skill. Belated this season, some might say, after a cracking 2015-16 when they reached the play-offs.

They might do so yet this season. With each set of results, it seems, they are making ground. Carlisle's stumble at home to Notts County now puts them just four points ahead of Stanley. The Cumbrians are the only team in the top 13 with a negative goal difference, giving six teams below them a chance to replace them.

To do that, Accrington would probably have to win four of their final five games to keep building up the goal difference - and hope that Blackpool, who have a huge goal advantage over the chasing pack of pretenders, don't pick up the points.

One way for John Coleman's side to prevent the Seasiders picking up those points is to inflict a third straight defeat on them.
source:betfair

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Back Blackpool @ 2.34

 


 

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Shrewsbury Town 2.42 v Walsall 3.20, the draw 3.60

Friday 15:00 

According to Opta, Shrewsbury have won just one of their last eight home league meetings with Walsall, but I am hoping that will change on Friday in a must-win affair for Paul Hurst's relegation-threatened side.

Saturday's crucial 1-0 success last weekend against Rochdale at the Greenhous was a big win, and ended a run of six without success for Salop. Rochdale were awful up front in that fixture, and this could be something similar as Walsall don't score many on the road. In fact with just 16 netted away from home all season, it's reason enough to oppose the Saddlers this Friday.

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We'll add another factor too, they've won just three times away from home and last tasted three points in December - and that was against Port Vale.

Shrewsbury's home form under Hurst has been fairly good for a low-ranking team. They've suffered two losses in their previous nine, and those came against two of the division's heavy-hitters in Bolton and Millwall.

Walsall are safe on 54 points, and it could come down to Shrewsbury needing the points more. Don't expect fireworks in the opening stages though from an in-play view, as the Shrews have scored only twice in the first 15 minutes of games this term.
source:betfair

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Back Shrewsbury Town to win @ 2.42

 


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Port Vale 
6.20 v Sheffield United 1.60, the draw 4.10

Friday 15:00 

Sheffield United sealed promotion last Saturday with victory at Northampton, and with 88 points at the summit, it's a tally that might take Port Vale three seasons to get near. I've avoided tipping the Blades for near-enough the entire season, as every game they are ultra-short at around 1.45 to 1.70. Friday is the time to go against them.

Obviously the Blades could spank a poor Vale team, but with them clinching Championship football for next season, there is every chance the foot could come off the gas. Manager Chris Wilder says there is no chance of that happening, but it's worth a risk on the hosts here.

Why? Well Port Vale are not the worst team at home (they are away though with just one win all season on the road). It's a different story at Vale Park for Michael Brown's side in the past month, with three victories against AFC Wimbledon, Shrewsbury and Swindon Town.

The home team's predicament comes into play, as they are in the bottom four with 45 points, and we have seen in the past how struggling teams pick up because of the situation.

Brown has plenty of injury problems to deal with, but at least they are scoring in the victories mentioned. Their home form reads WDWWLD - so the price is worth the risk for Friday. Also with 4500 travelling fans, there's every chance Port Vale could get fired up even more.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Port Vale to win @ 6.20

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08.04.2017
 
England Premier League
 
 

Man City 1.22 v Hull 18.00; The Draw 8.00

As the Match Odds tell you, Man City are by far the most likely team to win this game, but at odds of just 1.22 it will take a braver man than me to plough into them.

In a nutshell, City have been far less impressive at the Etihad Stadium this term than they have been away from home, and on Saturday they face a rejuvenated Hull side in fine form and scoring goals for fun.

For a club that had genuine title hopes at the start of the season Man City's position of ninth in the Premier League 'home results only' table is probably the reason they currently sit 14 points behind league leaders Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola's men have won just half of their 14 Premier League home games this season, and against the likes of Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Burnley, and Swansea - very similar teams to Hull - they either failed to win, or won by no more than a single goal. They go into Saturday's match on the back of four games without a victory including a goalless draw at home to Stoke.

The Tigers will arrive at the Etihad Stadium in confident mood having climbed out of the relegation zone thanks to back-to-back wins over West Ham and Middlesbrough, scoring six goals in the process.

Admittedly those two wins were at the KCOM Stadium, and away from home Marco Silva's men haven't exactly been tough to beat at times, but they're playing with a lot more belief at present and I'm expecting them to go to the Etihad and put up a brave fight.

Backing Hull with a two-goal start at around 2.60 is the way I'll be playing here which means a Hull win, a draw, or a Man City victory by a single goal will result in us getting paid out.
source:betfair

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Back Hull +2 to Win @ 2.60

 


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Stoke 4.30 v Liverpool 1.94; The Draw 3.80

I pointed out Liverpool's dreadful record against 'weaker' teams a few months ago, but I genuinely thought it was just a poor run of form they were going through and eventually they'd start churning out the wins against the league's lesser lights.

In fact I was confident that the Reds would win easily against Bournemouth in midweek, but once again Jurgen Klopp's men struggled and it's now obvious that Liverpool are a very risky proposition at an odds-on price against a club in mid-table or lower.

It sort of defies logic how Klopp's men can beat the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Man City, and Spurs this season, yet they somehow have lost to or at least once failed to beat Sunderland (20th), Swansea (18th), Hull (17th), West Ham (15h), Burnley (14th), and Bournemouth (13th), while they also drew to League Two outfit Plymouth and lost to Championship side Wolves in the FA Cup.click here for more info...

And what's more, ahead of Saturday's trip to Stoke Klopp has a number of key players out with injury, including Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana.

Mark Hughes' men have also struggled of late, but their problems have been away from home where they've failed to score a single goal in their last five outings. At the bet365 Stadium the Potters have lost just once in the league since November, and that was a narrow, and late, defeat to league leaders Chelsea.

They created a hatful of chances at Burnley in midweek suggesting that they're still playing well, and back on home soil I can see Stoke avoiding defeat against a below full strength Liverpool side who have generally struggled this term in this type of fixture.
source:betfair

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Lay Liverpool to Win @ 1.95

 


 

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West Brom 3.15 v Southampton 2.60; The Draw 3.40

After an excellent season it's perhaps understandable that West Brom's form has dipped of late, but they're at home to a team below them in the table that aren't exactly firing either, so I see no reason why the away side should be favourites here.

The Baggies have an excellent record at the Hawthorns at home to clubs beneath them; they'd won eight and drawn one of nine such games prior to a surprising loss to Crystal Palace recently.

Tony Pulis' men got over that Palace defeat by convincingly beating Arsenal the next time they were on home soil, and only last week they defended brilliantly in securing a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, so their current form isn't perhaps as bad as the bare results read.

Southampton beat Palace in midweek, but they're fully seven points behind Saturday's opponents and they've become a very inconsistent side, certainly not one to take short odds about anyway. Claude Puel's men have lost three of their last seven, including suffering defeats to lowly Swansea and West Ham, while last Saturday they could only manage a goalless draw at home to Bournemouth.

Perhaps the Saints' away form has been slightly better than it has at St Mary's recently, and to me that can be the only reason why they're trading as 2.60 favourites, but given West Brom's strong home form against teams below them in the table I have to go down that angle and back them to win this game.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back West Brom to Win @ 3.15
 

 
 

Middlesbrough v Burnley
Saturday 15:00

After a brave display against Man Utd (albeit one that ended with a 3-1 defeat) and a good 0-0 at Swansea, Steve Agnew's Boro came crushing back down to earth with a painful 4-2 loss at Hull. The problem with that loss wasn't just the zero points taken from the game, it was also the three points that Hull secured. Agnew's side simply don't look like they've got what it takes to claw back the points necessary to beat the drop. What this also proves is that whereas the managerial changes at Leicester and Hull turned the team's performances and fortunes around, it's not a ploy that always works. What certainly hasn't helped matters has been the injuries to key defenders. On Saturday they could well be without the trio of Callum Chambers, Fabio and George Friend.

 

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I don't think I've ever seen a promoted side that was favourite for the drop at the start of the season most likely beat relegation almost purely based on home performances. How they've managed to be that good at home and that bad away is a discussion for another day but it's certainly been remarkable. It means that home matches are almost must-win games these days and away matches are to coin a favourite phrase of the snooker commentators, a 'shot to nothing.
For all the excellent performances coming from their defence- especially at home- and in particular 'England men' Tom Heaton and Michael Keane, let's not forget about the contributions of their three forwards. Between them, Andre Gray, Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes have scored 18 league goals. To put that into perspective, Boro's three out and out forwards have 13 goals between them.

That may not sound like that much but those five extra goals have a lot to do with where these two teams are in the table.

If you're desperate for a bet on this market go for the draw at 3.20.
But, maybe it's best to leave the bookings markets alone for this one.
source: betfair


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Back Under 1.5 goals @ 2.90

 


 

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Bournemouth v Chelsea
Saturday, 17:30
Live On BT Sport 1


Bournemouth 

The fine form of the Cherries continued in midweek when they held Liverpool to a surprise draw at Anfield.

Bournemouth came back from 3-1 down to beat Liverpool 4-3 in the reverse fixture earlier this season and on Wednesday they created more stress for Jurgen Klopp. Eddie Howe's team opened the scoring and though Liverpool recovered to take the lead, a late equaliser from Josh King saw Bournemouth leave with a 2-2 draw.

The result stretched Bournemouth's unbeaten run to five games, of which they won both of their home games. This change in form has seen Bournemouth rise to the relative safety of 13th in the league, though they remain only seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Howe will be without the suspended Tyrone Mings for this game, as the defender serves the last game of his five-match ban for violent conduct. Mings will join long-term casualties Adam Federici, Andrew Surman and Callum Wilson on the sidelines.

 

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Chelsea

It's been a mixed week for the Premier League leaders, as they suffered a shock loss at home to Crystal Palace, before recovering to beat Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

With second placed Tottenham winning both of their games, Chelsea's lead at the top of the table dropped from ten points to seven. Both teams showed resilience in midweek, as Chelsea fought off a strong challenge from Manchester City to get back to winning ways, while Spurs produced a stunning late comeback at Swansea to win 3-1.

Chelsea's loss to Crystal Palace has reignited the possibility of the title battle going into the final weeks of the season, where not so long ago it looked a foregone conclusion. Bournemouth represents another tough game for Antonio Conte's side, especially when you consider that Tottenham could have cut the gap to four points if they can win their Saturday lunchtime game at home to Watford.

One of the advantages that Chelsea have had over the North Londoners this season is a less busy schedule, which has resulted in Conte's squad suffering few injuries. Victor Moses is the only doubt for the trip to Bournemouth.
source betfair


Recommended Bets

Back the draw in the Bournemouth +1 market at 3.60
Back the draw half-time/Chelsea full-time at 4.90
Back both Bournemouth and Chelsea to score at 1.93

 
 
England Championship

 

 

QPR v Brighton
Friday 7th April, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1


QPR


QPR fell to a second successive 1-0 away defeat at Aston Villa on Tuesday, conceding very early on to a Jonathan Kodjia strike. However, the R's competed well and despite only firing in one on-target attempt, Ian Holloway believed the capital club deserved at least a point.

Massimo Luongo put in a superbly energetic performance as Rangers made five changes in midweek. With Championship safety all but assured, Holloway's expected to rotate his troops during an extended pre-season period for the hosts.

Strikers Matt Smith and Conor Washington should both be recalled here but Jordan Cousins is out for the rest of the season after surgery on a thigh injury whilst centre-back Joel Lynch has missed the last two matches.


Brighton

Brighton recorded a fourth win in five on Tuesday night to push the Seagulls even closer to Premier League football. Chris Hughton's charges overcame Birmingham 3-1 at the Amex despite the early departure of an ill Lewis Dunk.

Hughton admitted the Seasiders' past two outings could have gone "either way" but Glenn Murray continues to give opposition defences nightmares; the veteran forward is the first Albion player to reach the 20-goal barrier at this level since 1960.

Dunk is expected to return here to strengthen a central defence that featured on-loan Fikayo Tomori and Uri Hunemeier for over an hour in midweek. Meanwhile, striker Sam Baldock remains absent with a gluteal injury.

 

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Match Odds

Each of the past four renewals between QPR and Brighton at Loftus Road have ended all-square but the visitors are now unbeaten in eight meetings with the Hoops and arrive with an impressive record against the lesser lights.

Since the start of last season, Albion have W14-D6-L2 at bottom-half clubs, recording 10 clean sheets in the process. It makes the 2.12 available on away success this Friday night reasonably appealing.

Nevertheless, QPR 3.95 have finally found their groove and are relishing playing in W12 under Holloway. The R's have churned out four successive home triumphs, admittedly against teams in the lower half of the table, scoring at least twice in each encounter.

Bar a record 6-0 shellacking by Newcastle early in the campaign, Rangers have competed ably against the division's elite and appear overpriced.

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Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Brighton have silenced QPR in six of their past eight meetings and although Under 2.5 Goals 1.83has banked in 12 of Albion's last 12 away days in the Championship, I'd be keen to oppose a low-scoring clash with the visitors missing a few key defensive components.

Each of Rangers' most recent six at Loftus Road have broken the two-goal barrier with the hosts failing to keep their sheets clean in 13 home outings. And under Holloway the Hoops have recorded 9/12 (75%) Over 2.5 Goals 2.18 winners.

Both Teams To Score is available to back at 1.93 - a price I'm happy to invest in. It's proven profitable in 10 (83%) of those 12 Loftus Road tussles under Holloway, as well as 10/22 (45%) Brighton road trips to bottom-half clubs.
source:betfair


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Back Both Teams To Score @ 1.93

 


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England League One
 
 
 

Oldham Athletic 3.00 v Fleetwood Town 2.58, the draw 3.25


Perhaps the most redundant market for this match is the Over 5.5 Goals. Oldham don't score many at home, in fact with just 15 at Boundary Park all season, they have the worst attack in League One by some distance.

That's not to say they are a bad side at the moment, and new boss John Sheridan has got a tune out of the players to take them up to 18th in the table. For a team that struggle so badly in front of goal, that rates a job well done for 'Shez' so far. He called on his men to be more attacking a couple of weeks ago, but their pitch is not built for the beautiful passing game. Over 2.5 Sandcastles maybe.


Sheffield United were held 1-1 recently at Oldham, and Blades' boss Chris Wilder shunned any sort of tactical post-match talk by simply summing up the game as "who booted the ball the best". I'm not sure this will be pretty, and with all the sand on the pitch, I am half expecting Greg Rutherford to turn up and jump off the long run.

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Fleetwood annoyed me on Wednesday, so did Rochdale actually. As a punter there is nothing worse than tipping and backing a side to win, who fail when backed, and bounce back immediately with a win just a few days later. It shows if you fancy a team at this level, they cannot do it every game.

The Cod Army set up in a different formation for the 3-1 victory at Oxford - arguably a tougher game on paper than the home match against Swindon in which I backed and tipped them. Town boss Uwe Rosler used a 4-1-4-1 instead of the customary wing-backs in a 3-5-2. Amari'i Bell was outstanding used further up the pitch, and West Ham are reportedly linked to him.

Oldham's home form warrants an interest here, but their games against the big boys recently have been low-scoring affairs. 1-1 with Sheffield United, 0-0 with Millwall and 0-1 versus Charlton means we should look that way again. Correct Score backers should note that the Latics have collected five 0-0 draws at home this term.
source:betfair

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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.85

 


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Charlton Athletic 2.96 v Southend United 2.60, the draw 3.35


I mentioned in a recent column that Charlton were not a good side, and things are clearly not working for Karl Robinson there. I thought he would have been a good appointment as a manager that knows the division inside out, but his damning words in midweek in saying "we're far, far from a good team" means that the Londoners are in for a nervy end of season.

There was £31 to take at 32.00 in the Relegation Market at the time of writing, but they are only four points above the drop zone and Port Vale have a game in hand. It would be unthinkable to see the Addicks play in the division below, although Leyton Orient's demise is just as sad in League Two. These are worrying times for London football fans.

Charlton lost three on the spin with a 0-2 defeat against the MK Dons in midweek. Robinson went with a diamond, but he said players were lacking bravery in not wanting the ball and turning their backs. Whatever level you have played, you will know that is an extremely worrying sign. Reports saying no fight, no energy and no effort are just as damning.

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Robinson's team are just one victory in 14, so they must be opposed, especially as the nerves will be more apparent at home.

If the hosts lost to MK Dons, they should fear Southend who are a better team. They are currently in the playoff places and are fairly good at the back with a defensive record of conceding just 23 on their travels. They might have suffered a 1-0 loss to Bolton on Tuesday, but they won three successive matches prior to that, and are worth going with again on the Draw No Bet market.
source:betfair

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Back Southend United Draw No Bet  @ 1.90

 


 

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Scunthorpe United 2.90 v Bolton Wanderers 2.60, the draw 3.40


I watched the live Sky game involving Scunthorpe United and Bradford recently, and I couldn't believe how open the 90 minutes were. Having tipped the draw it took me a while to get over the 3-2 scoreline as the Bantams hit the bar in the dying embers of the game. But the defence of Scunthorpe worried me.

Things are not looking good for the Iron either for Saturday, as manager Graham Alexander has recently lost eight first-time regulars in a short space of time, and the latest expected to miss this weekend is full-back Harry Toffolo. Young players could get their chance, and Alexander is most certainly down to "bare bones".


Whilst United are in danger of dropping out of the top six for the first time this season, Bolton are chugging along nicely. As my antepost tip to win the title, we are still in there with a fighting chance. After Burton last season, another second will be a further kick in the teeth.

Bolton are epic away from home, and the addition of winger Filipe Morais was a masterstroke from Phil Parkinson, as his delivery is world-class. His assist ability has been a big factor in the Wanderers picking up their form. In March alone they beat Oxford, Shrewsbury, Gillingham and Fleetwood on their travels - scoring four times on two occasions. They now have 11 away victories this season - so their price of 2.58 is a good one.

The hosts concede too many, and plenty of their matches have been entertaining (not just the Bradford one). Seven of their previous eight games have hit the Over 2.5 Goals, whilst nine of their last ten have helped the BTTS backers collect.

The visitors don't need a lot of possession to win a game, as they demonstrated by hitting Oxford 2-4 recently with around 40% of the ball. They also have two big centre-backs who score plenty in David Wheater and Mark Beevers.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Bolton Wanderers to win  @ 2.60

 

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04.04.2017  

 
 

Manchester United v Everton
Tuesday April 04, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1


Manchester United

After yet another draw at home, Jose Mourinho yet again pointed to the fact that his team dominated a game, and deserved to win. He certainly had a point if you look at the balance of play - West Brom came to Old Trafford to be compact and difficult to break down, and succeeded where they had failed in recent defeats at Everton and Spurs.

United have now drawn four of their last five home games in the Premier League, and they have now finished a game level 11 times in the top flight this season. No other team in the league has drawn more matches. As we head into the home stretch of the season, United find themselves five points adrift of crosstown rivals Manchester City, and six behind perennial north-west foes Liverpool. Yes, United have games in hand, but you'd always rather have points in the bank.

There is at least some good news in terms of available personnel. Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Ander Herrera are both likely to start after suspension, while Paul Pogba has recovered from a hamstring problem. Mourinho says he will select his strongest available side.


Everton

For all the progress Everton have made in their first season under Ronald Koeman, Saturday's derby defeat at Anfield shows there is still work to be done. The Toffees haven't won at Anfield since 1999, and unless they can rise to those big occasions as a collective, they won't make the next step they crave so desperately.

A top-eight finish is virtually guaranteed, but with Arsenal stuttering above them, there is scope for Everton to secure a place in the top six with a late-season push. A final-day trip to the Emirates to take on the ailing Gunners could prove crucial.

There are some reasons for Everton fans to be optimistic. Koeman's side have taken four points off Manchester City this season, they beat Arsenal at Goodison Park, and they held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw on Merseyside. It's also worth noting that Everton have lost just four of the clubs' last ten meetings in the Premier League.


Match Odds

United are trading at 1.60 to win the match, and given their recent run, that seems a touch short. I thought they would be able to break down West Brom at the weekend, but they lacked guile and composure in attack.

It's tempting to lay the hosts, but Everton have a pretty unimpressive away record this term. They have won just two of their last 13 league games on the road, and have lost seven of those.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

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Under 2.5 Goals is trading at 2.06, and seven of United's last nine games at Old Trafford have featured fewer than three goals. One of the games that bucked the trend was a 4-0 FA Cup stroll against Wigan. United haven't seen a Premier League home game feature three goals or more since New Year's Eve.


To Score

Zlatan's back, and no doubt raring to go. The big Swede hasn't scored since his match-winning brace at Wembley against Southampton in the EFL Cup final, but you can't keep him quiet for long (he has scored 26 goals in all competitions), and I fancy him to make the difference on Tuesday.
source:betfair


Recommended Bets

Back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.06
Back Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score at 1.80

 
 
 
 

Watford v West Brom 
Tuesday April 4, 19:45 BST


Watford

A 1-0 victory over Sunderland ended a run of just one point from a possible 12 for Watford and it also eased any lingering relegation concerns. They are now safely tucked away in 12th place and while they need at least one more victory to pretty much guarantee safety, the pressure is now off.
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Walter Mazzarri's men were up against a very poor Sunderland side on Saturday so I wouldn't get overly carried away with their victory. It was their sixth home win of the campaign however and they've only been beaten five times.

I can't imagine that the manager will make too many changes other than perhaps freshening up the team for their second game in four days. The defensive unit will likely be the same as they kept their first clean sheet since a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough back in January.


West Brom

It may have been backs to the wall stuff for the Baggies at Old Trafford but they got the draw that they would have taken prior to kick off and they've now taken four points from matches against Arsenal and Manchester United of late.

Tony Pulis cuts his cloth to suit and I would expect a slightly more adventurous performance at Vicarage Road tonight. They've only been beaten on the road half a dozen times this term and that is a contributing factor to why they are in eighth place - eight points clear of Stoke in ninth.

Matt Phillips has been a revelation since his move from QPR but he isn't quite back to fitness, but he may make the bench and be in line for his first appearance since his team's 2-2 draw at West Ham in February.


Match Odds 
Watford 2.64 West Brom 3.10 The Draw 3.25


I'm siding with the visitors in this one as despite the hosts winning on Saturday, Sunderland basically didn't turn up. West Brom have been one of the surprises of the campaign as not only are they getting results, they are playing some good stuff in the process.

I appreciate that they were dogged in their goalless draw against United, but that was a completely different challenge and Pulis won't mind throwing extra bodies forward at Vicarage Road.

They may have only won three times away from the Hawthorns all season, but they've picked up plenty of draws and this should be one of their easier assignments.

Prior to that 1-0 at the weekend, Watford had been beaten here by Southampton and held by West Ham. That's hardly scintillating form and with a seven point gap to the relegation zone, I wonder if the players will ease off slightly.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals 
Over 2.5 Goals 2.44 Under 2.5 Goals 1.68

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A slightly difficult market to call but I'm leaning towards over 2.5 goals at the prices. It's almost a 6/4 shot and that seems like a bit of value as I expect both teams to score.

The selection would have landed in four of Watford's last seven on this ground and four of West Brom's last six on their travels - a stat which may surprise some.

A further thing in our favour is that both managers will view this as a very winnable game, so I don't expect either to play or even settle for a point at any stage.
source:betfair


Recommended Bets

Back West Brom @ 3.10 
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.44

 
 

 

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Burnley v Stoke
Tuesday 4 April, 19:45


Burnley


With nine victories at Turf Moor this season, Burnley have registered three more home wins than Man Utd, two more than Man City and the same number as Arsenal.

And yet they find themselves just five points above the drop zone following the weekend.

Burnley remained on nine home victories after being turned over by Spurs on Saturday; no shame in that but victory for Hull left Clarets fans as anxious as they've probably felt all season in terms of staving off relegation.

The positive view is that Burnley could finish in the top half if only they could add a few away wins. The negative that has kept some Burnley fans awake at night is 'what if our home form suddenly goes?'

After their previous three home losses (Swansea, Arsenal, Man City), Sean Dyche's men bounced back by taking all three points in their next home start. A repeat would be hugely welcome here.

The realists/pessimists are struggling to see another bounceback victory having now witnessed Burnley fail to win any of their last eight games, including none in the last three at home.

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Stoke

First-half goals from Jonathan Walters and Marc Muniesa gave Stoke a 2-0 win over Burnley back in early December.

But beyond that formline which could actually mean almost nothing given the discrepancy between Burnley's home and away form, there little to cheer for Mark Hughes' men.

They've lost three of their last five games in the top-flight and, on current form, they're challenging Burnley for the division's worst performers on the road.

A 2-0 loss to Leicester on Saturday means they've picked up just four points from a possible 32 in their last eight away games and they haven't managed a single goal on the road since beating Sunderland in mid-January. That was five games ago.

There shouldn't be anything to worry about in terms of the drop as Stoke are in their usual position of ninth although the meagre haul of 36 points isn't enough yet and it's a jump of eight points to West Brom, who are just one place above them.

Hughes said after the Leicester loss: "We didn't perform. We never produced the quality that was required." He will expect a reaction at Turf Moor and, at the very least, a show of the more dogged spirit they displayed in a recent 0-0 draw at Man City.


Match Odds

Burnley are 2.50 to hit double figures in the home wins column while Stoke are 3.35 to score their first away victory since beating rock-bottom Sunderland 3-1. Stoke's other two road wins, incidentally, were at Watford and Hull. The draw is 3.30.

This pair have only played each other twice at Turf Moor in the Premier League and both matches ended in stalemates - 1-1 in 2010 and 0-0 in 2015.

It does seem fair to give Burnley the benefit of the doubt for the Spurs defeat but the bottom line is that they're winless in eight games.

Despite being below their best against Leicester, Stoke had a Marko Arnautovic 'goal' incorrectly ruled out for offside and Peter Crouch missed a sitter with his head.

Stoke aren't in form but look capable of getting something here against a host side becoming increasingly nervous.
source:betfair

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Preston 2.32 v Bristol City 3.35; The Draw 3.40

Preston have enjoyed an excellent season and still retain an outside hope of reaching the play-offs.

Simon Grayson's men currently sit eighth in the table with just Sheffield Wednesday separating the Lilywhites and Fulham in sixth, though they do have a six-point gap to bridge with just seven games remaining.

North End have lost just one of their last 10 league games, ironically that coming against Fulham who they are now hunting down for that play-off place. Grayson's men have perhaps drawn too many games in that spell, but they are tough to beat and on home soil against struggling Bristol City they look good for another three points tonight.

The Robins are in huge danger of being relegated straight back to League One. Lee Johnson's men sit just one point and one place above the drop zone and they go into tonight's game on the back of a lacklustre performance against Brentford on Saturday.

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Prior to that defeat Bristol City had appeared to have turned around a dreadful run of form with wins against Wigan and Huddersfield, but the Latics - currently 23rd in the table - are no great shakes and the Terriers had a complete off night in front of the TV cameras.

I'm taking nothing away from that victory for Johnson's men, but it's much easier to raise your game for a live TV match against a title-chasing side than it is for most other matches, and against a decent Preston team I think they'll do well to avoid defeat.

From an odds perspective, at this stage of the season it's reasonable to expect a promotion-chasing side, at home to a team sitting 21st in the table, to be odds-on to win. The fact that we can back Grayson's men at 2.32 makes plenty of appeal.
source:betfair

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Back Preston to Win @ 2.32
 

 

 


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Brentford 2.50 v Leeds 3.00; The Draw 3.65

Brentford are a tough nut to crack at Griffin Park admittedly, but I see no reason why Leeds shouldn't be shorter in the betting to win this game and I have to put them up as the selection.

Garry Monk's men remain firmly on course for the play-offs, but they'll want to mathematically make certain of their place in the end of season lottery as soon as possible, and they'll also want to build up some momentum too.

Following Saturday's defeat to promotion rivals Reading they'll be desperate to get back to winning ways and I'm expecting a strong performance tonight.

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Leeds had been in terrific form prior to Saturday's reversal, going seven games unbeaten which included a great 2-0 win over Brighton, and an important victory of play-off hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday.

At this stage of the season I think you can make a bit of hay by backing teams that very much have something to play for against the clubs that have next to nothing to play for. It's perhaps a little early to start finding those games just yet, but if there is one such match then this is it.

Brentford are 12th in the table, with no chance of reaching the play-offs and no chance of being relegated. The most they can achieve from here in all likelihood is a top-10 finish, and while that's something to aim for, subconsciously some players probably won't care less about it.

I could be completely wrong of course, but I think you'll find in a few weeks time that when you get a game similar to this - a team with something to play for and desperate for a win against a mid-table side, then the odds will be much shorter on the team that is still fighting for success.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Leeds to Win @ 3.00

 
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01.04.2017 

 
 
England Premier League
 
 
 

Burnley 6.00 v Tottenham 1.70; The Draw 4.00

Despite Burnley's remarkable home record - remember, they have collected 29 of their 32 points at Turf Moor - they are still trading at 6.00 to win in front of their own fans on Saturday afternoon.

I'm sure there'll be a lot of takers at that price, especially given Sean Dyche's men have defeated the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, and Premier League champions Leicester on home soil, while only a few weeks ago they held champions elect Chelsea to a 1-1 draw. But given Tottenham's recent form I won't be one of them.
The bet I really like here is for both teams to get on the scoresheet. While it's hard to see the Clarets beating a Spurs side second in the table, it's easy to envisage Dyche's men scoring at least once.

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Don't be put off by Burnley's recent poor form as all of their last four games were on their travels, and we know that Dyche's men don't travel well. They actually haven't lost a home league game since November when they went down narrowly to Manchester City. And they've actually found the back of the net - home or away - against all of the current top four in the table.


We know Tottenham will be without Harry Kane, but there's still plenty of firepower in Mauricio Pochettino's side, and given they've scored a highly impressive 20 goals in their last six matches I don't see them having any problems getting on the scoresheet at Turf Moor.

The big question is will Burnley score, but from what we've seen of them this term in Lancashire we have to be extremely confident that the answer will be yes.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Both Teams to Score @ 2.10

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Chelsea 1.31 v Crystal Palace 13.50; The Draw 6.00

Exactly as I said a fortnight ago, Chelsea may be winning the title in style in terms of the points dominance they have over the chasing pack, but in terms of winning it with blistering performances week after week then that's far from being the case.

By no means is that a criticism. After a slow start the Blues went a long way to putting the title race to bed with a stunning run of form that included a record-breaking winning run and a defence that refused to concede goals.

Antonio Conte's men are still in great form of course, winning six and drawing two of their last eight league games, but they've conceded a goal in each of the last six of those outings including against teams like Burnley, Swansea, West Ham, and Stoke.
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Saturday's opponents Crystal Palace have just recorded three clean sheets on the bounce in winning three straight league games, and although I don't expect them to record a fourth at Stamford Bridge I do believe they'll be confident enough to put in a positive performance against the Blues.

And until Chelsea do start churning out the clean sheets again I think there's a lot of merit in backing both teams to score in their games with Conte's men taking the three points, just like they did when landing the 11/4 best bet selection against Stoke just before the international break.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back BTTS & Chelsea Win @ 13/5

 


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Leicester 2.12 v Stoke 4.00; The Draw 3.50

Leicester hadn't scored a single league goal in 2017 before the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. Under Craig Shakespeare they've scored nine goals in recording three straight Premier League wins, while they've also dumped La Liga highflyers Sevilla out of the Champions League.

Make of that what you will.

But what it does tell us is that the Foxes are back playing like they did when they became champions of England last season, and in the hope that the international break hasn't disrupted their current wellbeing then they look a solid wager to beat Stoke on Saturday afternoon.

Shakespeare's men have won three home games on the bounce under his management, including a very impressive 3-1 victory over Liverpool as well as that memorable night against Sevilla, so confidence couldn't be any higher at the King Power Stadium.

Stoke remain a solid mid-table side but they have been in some mixed form of late, winning two, drawing three, and losing three of their last eight matches. Away from home however Mark Hughes' men have been disappointing recently, failing to score in any of their last three games including that nightmare match at White Hart Lane where they were 4-0 down before the interval.

Given Leicester's much improved form of late, most of it coming in front of their own fans, and considering Stoke's poor recent away form I'm surprised that the Foxes aren't slightly odds-on to win this match, so on a tricky afternoon in the Premier League they just about get the best bet vote.
source:betfair

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England Championship
 
 
 

Newcastle 1.42 v Wigan 10.50; The Draw 4.90

One of my Twitter followers mentioned to me that I should give up on backing Newcastle all together, and he's probably correct given that the last four times I've recommended them - against Bristol City, Reading, Fulham, and Birmingham - they failed to win each time.

But we know what this Newcastle side are all about now, especially at St James' Park, I've been saying it since early in the season, if they don't get their noses in front relatively early then they generally struggle.

The Newcastle faithful aren't the most patient in the world, and if they're being honest most of them well tell you that they expect their team to beat the likes of Wolves, Fulham, Bristol City, Blackburn etc on home soil, and when they don't get that early breakthrough it all becomes a bit tense.

But let us not forget that Rafa Benitez's men are top of the table, and that's because they have the best squad in the Championship, and they've scored more goals and won more games than any other team. If they do get a first half goal on Saturday against Wigan then I expect them to win convincingly.

The Latics are in desperate trouble at the wrong end of the table and they go into this game having scored just a single goal in their last five matches. They haven't been getting thumped admittedly, but they conceded three at Fulham and two at QPR recently, and they go into this game on the back of a 0-2 home defeat to Aston Villa. And of course, they're still without a permanent manager following the sacking of Warren Joyce.

I'd wager that Newcastle will get that early goal to calm everyone's nerves, and if they do so then I fully expect them to win by at least two clear goals.
source:betfair

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Back Newcastle -1 to Win @ 2.28
 

 


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Brentford 2.34 v Bristol City 3.15; The Draw 3.80

If it's goals you're after this weekend then look no further than Griffin Park. The only surprise to me ahead of this match is that Over 2.5 Goals isn't trading at 1.50; it's actually a 1.72 shot, and even though that's not the sort of price I like to recommend I still think it's an extremely generous price.

I've mentioned many times that Bristol City are the biggest kamikaze side in the division, they love to attack and are generally good for a few goals, but they really struggle to shut the opposition out. But more on this later.

It's actually Brentford who have been the goal kings of late. In January their six matches produced a total of 23 goals, which is just shy of four per game on average. In February, quite incredibly, their five matches produced 26 goals, which is an average of 5.2 per game. Four of those five games saw Over 4.5 Goals paying out.

The goals dried up slightly in March - if that's what you call 19 goals in five matches at just under four per game on average - but what it all means is that in 2017 the 16 games featuring Brentford have witnessed a huge total of 68 goals, which is an average of 4.25 per match.

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As for the Robins, they put four past Huddersfield last time, but it's away from home - as they are in this fixture - where they generally entertain. In recent weeks they've lost 2-1 at Leeds, scored three at Derby in a six-goal thriller, and scored two at Newcastle in a 2-2 draw.

I'd be amazed if this game doesn't feature goals. We don't care who wins either, just as long as the net bulges at least four times. It's not the greatest price in the world for Over 3.5 Goals admittedly, but given the statistics above it's certainly about right.
source:betfair

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Back Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.74

 


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Huddersfield 1.62 v Burton 7.00; The Draw 4.00

The last time Huddersfield played they were thrashed 4-0 by lowly Bristol City, so that doesn't auger well as the season approaches an exciting climax.

But every team in this division is allowed one bad result, and it really was just one bad result for the Terriers as they've been terrific this season, and in very impressive form prior to their Ashton Gate set-back.

From their previous 10 games David Wagner's men had won eight and drawn one, with their only defeat being to league leaders Newcastle. In that run of excellent form Huddersfield defeated the likes of Brighton, Leeds, and Reading, three promotion-chasing clubs who currently sit second, fourth, and fifth in the table respectively.

Burton have generally been poor travellers all season, and they go to the John Smith's Stadium on Saturday on the back of conceding five to Brentford just before the international break.

Nigel Clough's men have also struggled away to some of the better sides in the Championship this term, conceding three at Norwich, two at Leeds, three at Reading, and four at Brighton. All four of those games resulted in at least two-goal defeats for the Brewers and I think 3.00 about Huddersfield bouncing back and winning by a similar margin is a very generous price indeed.
source:betfair

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Back Huddersfield -1 to Win @ 3.00

 
England League One
 
 

Fleetwood Town 1.80 v Swindon Town 5.20, the draw 3.70


There is the potential for a shock or two for this Saturday's fixture list, especially given that with just seven games to go, teams are now priced up on what they need to achieve, hence why we have plenty of long odds-on shots this weekend.

Fleetwood might be the safest 1.80 chance, as their record of conceding just one goal in their last seven League One fixtures, and 13 clean sheets in 22 games is rather impressive. Town boss Uwe Rosler said on the crucial run-in: "I think now it's important to keep clean sheets."

The German has been linked with the manager's job at Norwich City this week, so I am hoping despite the speculation, the Cod Army are going to be their usual miserly best.

According to Opta, Fleetwood have failed to score in their previous two games (0-0 draws with Bury and Wimbledon) - as many as they'd failed to do so in their opening 37 matches of the season. Three points will be imperative for Town on Saturday, especially as second-placed Bolton have hit form with a vengeance of late.click here for more info...
Swindon are capable of a big away victory, as displayed with a shock 2-1 success at Bolton earlier this season. However, they have lost five of their previous six on the road and are conceding too many goals. In fact, of those six matches, four have been Over 2.5 Goals.

Brighton loanee Rohan Ince has been a bit of star for the Robins, and his ball-winning attributes have helped with three victories in the nine matches he has appeared in - and he made a big impact in Saturday's 1-0 success against Millwall. I expect a similar sort of low-scoring affair here, and would certainly look to the Fleetwood 1-0 win to trade on.
source:betfair

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Back Fleetwood Town to win @ 1.80

 


 

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Peterborough United 2.50 v Charlton Athletic 2.98, the draw 3.50


The Peterborough Telegraph's assessment of the Posh performance during Saturday's 1-0 win at Gillingham pulled no punches. It sounded a terrible match, with the one highlight being the 25-yarder from Junior Morais. The manner of the victory might cause concern for Peterborough fans, as the Gills are the worst defensive team in League One - yet the match still finished 1-0.

Whether Grant McCann can find that attacking football for the remainder of the season looks questionable. They are 11th in the table and time is running out for a promotion push, but in truth, there are many superior teams to Posh at the moment. Although Charlton are not one of them.

The Addicks have not been playing well for a while. They are winless in six away League One fixtures, with just one victory from their previous 12 matches. I would want a higher price to back than the 2.98 on offer for Saturday.
Where does this leave us for a proposed punt?

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According to Opta stats, Peterborough have never beaten Charlton in a home league match (W0 D3 L2). However, with the hosts priced-up at 6/4, I'm not sure the backers are too convinced either.

Considering Peterborough really struggled to break down a poor Gillingham team and offered little of note in terms of attack, I would lean towards the Under 2.5 Goals here. This despite Opta revealing that in 18 matches between these two, they have never played out a goalless draw (and that includes 30 goals in the last seven matches). But for me, the two sides are struggling for rhythm and they both look too nervous and frightened to make mistakes.
source:betfair

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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.85

 


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Rochdale 1.81 v Northampton Town 4.30, the draw 3.95


Keith Hill's Rochdale are not exactly easy to predict. I'll reel off their previous nine games to highlight their form; 3-1, 1-3, 3-3, 4-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1 and 3-3.

Those numbers might resemble a new intricate tactical formation (false full-backs anyone?), but one thing the Dale are guaranteeing at the moment is goals. Backing the Over 2.5 Goals and the BTTS would have proved very profitable for those that latched on to this, whilst the 3-3 Correct Score going in on three occasions is something we are unlikely to see with any other team at this level.

Can we get another? Hopefully. Northampton ship a few, in fact they are one of the worst defensive teams on the road in the third tier with a 'goals against' tally of 37. We can add to that too, as the Cobblers have been involved in six Over 2.5 Goals from their previous seven matches.

Despite Northampton's manager Justin Edinburgh insisting his team are improving on their travels, I am not as convinced - by either the form and also Edinburgh (who failed at Gillingham).

Rochdale are a robust team, physical, and they like to move the ball forward as quickly as possible. With a Spotland record of W11 D5 and L3, they are one of the better home teams in the division.

A bet on the home team is also backed-up by the Opta stats here, as Dale are unbeaten in six home matches with Northampton (W3 D3), and the Cobblers' only victory in their previous 10 came in 2013.

If you are looking for a bet in-running, Northampton have conceded a league-high seven times in the 90th minute this season.
source:betfair

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Back Rochdale to win @ 1.81 
Back Both Teams To Score @ 1.75

 


 

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England League Two
 
 
 

Notts County 2.64 v Colchester United 3.10; the draw 3.30

Chairman Alan Hardy says he has no regrets in buying Notts County in January, despite admitting it will take until 2022 to even break even. Unless, of course, the Magpies get lucky in the giant money fest (for lower division clubs) which is the FA Cup. Or they sell all their players for £1 million each.

The first scenario is more likely than the second, especially given that Kevin Nugent's men remain in the lower reaches of League Two. In one sense Hardy knew what he was taking on - a business he needs to turn around, in some ways no different to handling our national deficit or a mortgage.

Except football is no ordinary business. It offers the shallowest potential for profit and is full of short-termism, because a few bad results can bring utter disaster such as relegation out of the Football League. What's important is for the fans to have a relationship with their board or leader, otherwise their ire quickly becomes the story. See Blackpool and Leyton Orient.

On the positive side, Hardy tweeted on Thursday night that he'd had an unprecedented number of agents whose players want to join next season.

Anyway, to the action. County actually have another good chance of winning here, having been in decent nick with one defeat in nine, winning six. 

Narrow margins were often involved, mind, such as when Shola Ameobi netted the only goal at Wycombe, or Matt Tootle, a defender, did the same in the home win against Barnet. Victory at Plymouth in that run is also a big scalp and Opta point out that County have won four of their last six home league games. They also drew the seventh to last, which was Nolan's first game in charge.

Four clean sheets in their last six games won't do their confidence any harm either, unlike Colchester, who the stats men add haven't stopped opponents scoring in any of their last eight away games, failing to win their last seven. 

Add to that Colchester have earned a positive result in every other game in their last seven, and the pattern suggests a defeat. Without scoring either, having drawn blanks in those losses. It's a slightly spurious pointer, because those opponents (Grimsby, Portsmouth and Crewe) are much better placed than the Magpies. 

So Ben Dickenson, who has had a hand in four of Colchester's last five goals, emphasise Opta (and who has 10 this season), and his team-mates including fellow recent scorers Chris Porter (13 in total) or Sammie Szmodics (5) have some way to go to convince me they can earn anything here.
source:betfair

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Back Notts County 2.64

 


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Newport County 2.20 v Crawley Town 3.70; the draw 3.50

One wonders how teams have been preparing to face Newport on a reportedly terrible pitch. I can remember hearing tales of the club near where I grew up, Aldershot, training in the local park. But that was because they didn't have any money - this was decades ago, before they went bust.

But it sounds like it might have been good preparation for Rodney Parade. Even Graham Westley resorted to having one method for playing there and another for away games. 

How will it affect Crawley's pretty decent recent away record of four unbeaten? Skipper Jimmy Smith is hoping the Reds can earn back-to-back wins for only the fourth time this season, having defeated Leyton Orient.

More consistency in the remaining seven games is what Smith demands.

Will that be enough against a side showing remarkable signs of life and six points from safety. The Exiles are not ready to be annexed from the Football League just yet if manager Mike Flynn has anything to do with it. He says continuing speculation about the ground, with the Welsh RFU wanting to take over Newport Gwent Dragons and potentially call the shots over County, has not affected the players.

I would imagine they have enough to worry about, such as whether they will have a livelihood to continue if they are relegated. At least if they were in the Conference they would be allowed to play on a planned 4G pitch (planned by the WRFU to clear waterlogging), which isn't allowed under Football League rules.

County, who top the League Two Opta stats for yellow cards with 93, just have to find a way to turn one goal - or a maximum two - into definite victories. Alex Samuel has two of those, Sean Rigg is capable of providing or scoring, while Ryan Bird also needs to find a purple patch again. It's not so hard to imagine a home win as necessity dictates.
source:betfair

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Back Newport County @ 2.20

 


 

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Yeovil Town 2.56 v Carlisle United 3.10; the draw 3.50

It is amazing how a few weeks and a sale of your top player in the January transfer window - something every manager fears - can do to your season.

Carlisle were flying high at Christmas the only real criticism that seemed to be levelled against them being that they drew too much instead of winning. Well, at least it wasn't losing, which is what Keith Curle's men have done in six of their last seven games (one draw).

I think I read something Exeter based that said they were now only just in the playoffs, "only above Carlisle on goal difference", as if the Cumbrians were a dragon-type beast fast charging up to take their precious top seven spot away. Far from it. The visitors to Huish Park have huffed and puffed without scoring for seven games - and their once healthy goal difference is now -2. 

It's a far cry from sitting second in the division for much of the season and looking like they could push on possibly even to win the title. Now it seems as if they seem to be apologetically driving against the traffic in a one way street.

The last side to play eight games without scoring were Hartlepool in March and April 2013, say Opta, a statistic they neatly juxtapose with Carlisle having won more games from behind than any other League Two side this season (5). Not recently, though, clearly. 

Three of them have been away from home - a league high, Opta add. So does that give the side that signed two players to replace top scorer Charlie Wyke a chance against the Glovers? Without Shaun Miller as he starts a four-game ban? Without Nicky Adams who has joined the injured list?

There is a lot resting on the likes of Jabo Ibehre, injury returnee Jamie Devitt, who was substituted in his first game back to protect him, and the new faces signed in January who have not played yet, such as Ben Tomlinson, who needed more time to get fit. 

At least midfielder Samir Nabi's international clearance has finally arrived. If he is now fit enough to play, could that be the tiny turn of luck to change their fortunes? Or is it that falling out of the top seven will finally inspire them to grind out a positive result, with a goal in tow?

Darren Way's men will have other ideas, with three straight draws being scoring ones at least. They have only won once in 11 however, drawing eight. Even when 3-1 up through Francois Zoko, Shayon Harrison and Alex Lacey they managed to draw, at Exeter. 

That brings Carlisle's "comeback" statistic into sharper focus - if they haven't forgotten how to implement it. The best option might be to plump for the draw, as Carlisle try to prevent themselves feeling like April Fools as well as March ones.
source:betfair

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Back Yeovil and Carlisle to draw @ 3.50


 


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Crewe 2.56 v Cambridge 3.20; the draw 3.30


Changing a style of play - according to halted opponents Stevenage last Saturday - perhaps didn't do Crewe any good after their 0-0 draw, because they then lost at Accrington in midweek. To be fair, Stanley have shot up the table and could leapfrog Cambridge who would have to lose at Crewe.

I think the U's might slip up, even if Accrington have a very tough ask to take three point at Plymouth.

Reasons to think the Railwaymen can win include that they have won four of their last five games and kept a clean sheet in each win, stress Opta. In the other game they contributed to helping Newport keep their survival chances alive, by losing 2-1.

Chris Dagnall and co have put that right since, netting seven goals in their next three games, Leyton Orient loanee Jordan Bowery, once of Aston Villa, also netting his first goals of the season (from 13 starts). The playoffs are now a bridge too far for Cambridge's patches of form and, for me, they have far too many recent zeros in the "goals scored" charts, failing to net in four of their most recent six games. 2.56 looks like a decent price to me.
source:betfair

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Back Crewe @ 2.56

 
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25.03.2017
 
 
 
England League One
 
 
 

Gillingham 3.30 v Peterborough 2.18, the draw 3.75

 

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This time last year Gillingham were a serious promotion contender. This time a few years ago Peterborough were one of the most exciting teams to watch. Neither are doing anything in League One this season, and my first reaction is that Posh are terrible favourites here. They are winless in five games yet can be backed at 2.18. No thank you.

However, if old Mother Hubbard went to find a bet in this cupboard, she wouldn't discover much if the other option was Gillingham. They have suffered two heavy losses recently (conceding four goals in each), and head coach Ady Pennock could potentially have six defenders ruled out. The Gills at least have something to play for, though, in the sense they are fighting relegation. But I wouldn't like to back either of these teams.

The smarter play might be to look towards goals. The Kent side are the worst defensive team in League One, with nine of their last 11 games securing a result for Over 2.5 backers. Siding with the Both Teams To Score option has also been profitable, with 12 of their last 13 notching.

Gillingham were ripped apart by Rochdale last weekend, and the hopes here for Posh to score on their travels are boosted by the fact they picked up a 3-3 at Chesterfield recently, and also scored three at Port Vale at the start of February.

United have also released first-team coach Lee Glover, who reportedly was deemed too negative. If Posh want to make an unlikely challenge for playoff football, then they have to believe they can score against the leakiest defence in the third tier.
source:betfair

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Port Vale 3.60 v MK Dons 2.00, the draw 3.45

 

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Six points separate these two clubs, although Port Vale arguably need the three more than Saturday's opponents.

Again we have a team with injury problems, as Vale are struggling with numbers. Boss Michael Brown has issued the "nine cup finals" rallying cry, he might have to issue some sellotape and bandages for his patched-up team too.

The Valiants were beaten by bottom-club Coventry on Tuesday night, with Brown's men struggling to replicate their recent performance levels after home victories against Shrewsbury and Swindon.

In fact, Vale's home form gives them a chance here. They have won nine times on their own patch, and have managed to stay in games against much better opposition such as Bradford City and Bristol Rovers.

There's a line of form with both here through Coventry. Vale lost 2-1 in midweek, whilst the MK Dons beat the Sky Blues 1-0 on Saturday - and that was the Buckinghamshire side's second victory in nine.

The Dons away from home are not flying either, with a form line of LLDDLWDL, and a few have been low-scoring against the likes of Bury (0-0) and Chesterfield (0-0). Saturday could be that sort of tight game, and the trading option to use is most certainly the 0-0 correct score.
source:betfair

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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.88

 


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Scunthorpe United 2.76 v Bradford City 2.76, the draw 3.25


Sunday 12:30, live On Sky Sports 1


It's no surprise to see the draw trading at a slightly shorter price than usual, after all, Bradford are the specialists. They have netted an astonishing 18 this term - more than any other team in League One. Manager Stuart McCall must be thinking "what if?" with some of those stalemates, as the Bantams are still in the hunt for promotion in fourth.

Talking of promotion, Scunthorpe were in the box seat at the start of February, and sat top of the table. However, a wretched run of just one victory in 11 matches has seen the Iron drop down to fifth, and they have kept just one clean sheet in 17 games.

Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander has admitted that automatic promotion now looks unlikely, and that has to be a worry mentally for his players after such a good start and strong position. Decisions have been going against them recently, but surely they are going to bounce back soon?

However, any game with Bradford usually gets "the draw" juices flowing, and with the 18 collected as mentioned previously, it's no surprise these two played out a 0-0 when they met at Valley Parade on Boxing Day.

The Bantams are very good from set-pieces, and that's a big part of the game at this level. Dead-ball specialists Tony McMahon and Billy Clarke could be influential in this match, but Scunthorpe are still a good side.

Considering Bradford have collected an astonishing ten 0-0 scorelines and four 1-1s, those are the results to trade in-play on the correct score markets, but I find it very hard to look away from the backing the draw outright.
source:betfair

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England League Two
 
 
 

Cambridge 2.40 Stevenage 3.40; the draw 3.50

Darren Sarll suggested, after defeating Portsmouth 3-0 last weekend, that nothing mattered more in Stevenage's achievements this season than beating derby rivals Cambridge this Saturday.

Fans will surely disagree, bearing in mind that Boro are riding high in fourth after a great run and, if Pompey drop further points, could even pip the south coast side to automatic promotion. The manager is probably kidding himself, in order to take the pressure off League Two's in-form side who have sprinted up the table in the past couple of months.

On that basis, they are a big price to win at Cambridge, given that Matt Godden has hit a mean streak in his 20 league goals this season, netting 13 since the turn of the year.

Plenty of teams had reason to feel lacklustre last weekend after a midweek set of games, but Sarll was impressed with his side's energy after the previous Tuesday's defeat to Blackpool.

As well as Godden, Jobi McAnuff has also scored a few goals and that will give Shaun Derry a lot to think about, especially as they have a strong away record.

Cambridge have not been particularly strong at home and, recently, they have gained points from every other game. Having won at Cheltenham, then, they are due to be defeated in this one.

Much could depend on whether Dany Elito will be fit, having been taken off injured in the win at Cheltenham. One point in four home games suggests that Stevenage have a big chance here.
source:betfair

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Back Stevenage @ 3.40

 


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Barnet 2.20 v Cheltenham 3.70; the draw 3.55

It would be churlish to suggest that Cheltenham might not be able to win because they have been affected by the illness of their manager Gary Johnson, who is now recovering from a heart operation.

Russell Milton is a perfectly capable No 2 who has probably introduced some of his own ideas. Fresh ideas. Fresh momentum.

Quite why last year's Conference champions have struggled to find their feet in League Two is a mystery, but they need a few more points to secure their Football League place, as Newport make a late dash for safety.

Billy Waters and Danny Wright were among those who failed to take chances for the Robins last weekend in defeat to Cambridge.

The visitors will be encouraged that the Bees are yet to win under their new manager, Kevin Nugent, in seven games. It is not as if Barnet were a bad side when Martin Allen left from Eastleigh - although they had only won once in their previous six games before he left, too.

However, any ambitions they have of a top seven finish are fast diminishing, when the best they can achieve is draws. Scoring draws, it has to be noted, with three of them 2-2.

John Akinde, having scored half their goals, is a bit of a talisman who has to find the net again, but Barnet should be able to put their barren run, where victories are concerned, to bed.
source:betfair

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Back Barnet @ 2.20


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Morecambe 5.00 v Mansfield 1.80; the draw 4.20

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Clearly, we have reached the stage of the season where the teams who need to win, as well as those who seem certain to win, are being priced up at short odds.

Blackpool, Crawley, Exeter, Portsmouth, Wycombe and Doncaster (who host Plymouth) are all considered odds-on shots by the layers, while to my mind Mansfield are in the category of needing to win, rather than being certain to do so.

They need a victory to maintain their push for the top seven and are close to evens.

The Stags had not scored in four games, before a rousing win over out-of-form Carlisle - Matt Green and Shaq Coulthirst finally putting that right - but the layers think that could be the kick start they need to reignite their play-off push.

Another big reason that Steve Evans' men could be so short, of course, is that Morecambe's form has been even worse than Mansfield's. Tuesday's home defeat to Accrington was their fifth in a row. They also barely score, netting just six times in eight games. They have also been average at The Globe Arena, and only Leyton Orient and Newport have conceded more than their 30 goals at home.

True, they have lost to some of the top sides - Plymouth, Portsmouth and in-form Blackpool - but Jim Bentley must be worried about their lack of strike power. We'll see how many more seasons Kevin Ellison can maintain his furrow down the wing to supply chances, but Lee Molyneux could do with returning to his purple patch of scoring or supplying goals and there could be a few here, to fit with both sides' abilities rather than their recent droughts.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back over 2.5 goals @ 2.10

 


Colchester 3.60 v Luton 2.20; the draw 3.65 

Captain Scott Cuthbert believe Luton Town have no fears about dropping out of the playoff spots, despite Blackpool breathing down the necks of any of the four sides who might slip up (Carlisle seem in particular danger of continuing their Devon Loch impression).

However, anything is possible, with manager Nathan Jones labelling his side "naive" after their draw with Newport. They are giving too many free kicks away and not learning from mistakes, seems to be his complaint.

He has no complaint, though, about the performances of Danny Hylton, who struck his 24th goal of the season in that draw - or yet another draw if you perceive it correctly. The Hatters have notched five draws in seven games and, away from home, have taken five draws from six games.

Striker Hylton is the one player Jones feels he can rely on to change a game and, with the former Oxford player suffering with a tight hamstring, took the precaution of substituting him at half time last Saturday.

Colchester have shown little consistency in their recent results (unlike Luton's unwanted string of draws). They have gained a positive result in every other game of their last six, losing last time out at Crewe.

Reserve home keeper Dean Brill, trying to be diplomatic about Luton - his home town club for whom he has played in two spells - says it would be great to see both clubs go up this season. The U's have never really been on the promotion radar as far as I am concerned, despite a great home record of 11 wins. They just need Ben Dickenson and Curtis Guthrie, their two top scorers, to start hitting the net consistently. For now, Luton hold the upper hand, sitting in the playoff places, and can attain another point.
source:betfair

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Back the draw @ 3.65

 
 
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18.03.2017

 
England Premier League
 
 

Sunderland 2.66 v Burnley 3.00; The Draw 3.40

As much as I think Burnley are better than Sunderland, and as desperate as I am for the Clarets to win - so that they're still not chasing that first away win of the season when they visit my club Middlesbrough in a few weeks time - it's just impossible to make the Clarets the recommended bet given their dreadful away form.

Sean Dyche's men are without a victory on the road all season, they've taken jus two points from a possible 42, and they've scored just nine goals in their 14 away games played.

It's hard to recommend a team with such poor stats on the road, but I'm sure there will be plenty wanting to back Burnley here given the opposition is Sunderland. Dyche's men have certainly been playing okay on their travels recently and keeping themselves in games; all their defeats since early December have been by single-goal margins and they've faced the likes of Spurs, Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool in that time.

Sunderland can be very hit and miss; on their day - which admittedly is very rare - they can be very good, like when they held Liverpool and Spurs to draws in front of their own fans, and thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 away from home.

David Moyes' men have really struggled at the Stadium of Light recently however, those draws with Liverpool and Spurs being the only points they've taken on home soil this calendar year. But those two results do emphasise how tough the Black Cats can be to beat when on a 'going' day.

These two sides met in the FA Cup in early January and that game - also played on Wearside - ended in a stalemate, and I think of the three Match Odds options the Draw has to be the call here. It's hard to be confident about a Sunderland victory at just 2.66 given their home form, and it's impossible to back Burnley at 3.00 given their record on the road this season.
source:betfair

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Stoke 6.60 v Chelsea 1.64; The Draw 4.10

 

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You can split Chelsea's season to date vaguely into three parts.

The first being the 'finding our feet' months of August and September, where Antonio Conte and his players had some mixed performances, including back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, as they got to understand each other.

Then came the invincible months of October through to December, where the Blues went on a dreamy run of 13 consecutive league wins, recording 10 clean sheets in the process.

And finally came the 'getting the job done' spell. A defeat to Tottenham at the start of 2017 didn't hinder their progress, and they've since built up a 10-point lead at the top of the table without doing anything spectacular. My wager in this match is based on the Chelsea we know now, the 'getting the job done' tea.m

Because that's exactly what Conte's men are doing. They are no longer churning out clean sheet after clean sheet, but they're still winning games. In fact the Blues have now gone five consecutive league games without keeping a clean sheet, conceding goals to Burnley, Swansea, and West Ham in their last three outings.

But Chelsea rarely look in danger of getting beat, so while I don't expect them to romp to a three or four-goal victory at the bet365 Stadium, I do expect them to record another win.

Stoke have been in mixed form of late, but a first half thrashing at Tottenham a few weeks back seems to have re-focussed Mark Hughes' men as they've since won in a canter against goal-shy Middlesbrough before earning an excellent point at Manchester City.

The Potters are usually good for a goal on home soil too, scoring in each of their last six league games in front of their own fans including goals against Everton and Manchester United. And Hughes' men have also scored in each of their last five games against Chelsea. Let's wager that they score again, while ultimately cheering on an away win.
source:betfair

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Back BTTS & Chelsea Win @ 3.20

 


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Crystal Palace 1.94 v Watford 4.80; The Draw 3.50

Crystal Palace appear to be gathering up some much needed momentum at exactly the right time of the season, and I fancy they'll take another three points at home to Watford on Saturday afternoon.

The Eagles looked hopelessly in trouble a month ago, failing to gain any sparkle from Sam Allardyce's appointment. But a 2-0 win at Bournemouth was the start of three wins in five games, and now they are confidently looking up the table under a boss who never gets relegated.

Of course, within their last five games was that shocking 0-4 defeat at home to Sunderland, and despite beating Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park recently the Eagles still have the Premier League's worst home record.

But Allardyce's men have now recorded back-to-back wins thanks to an excellent victory over highflying West Brom last week and I believe they are worthy favourites to beat Watford this weekend.

The Hornets have won just two of their last 13 league games and last week conceded four in a home defeat to Southampton. They look safe in the top flight for another season at least - just another win or two is likely to confirm their Premier League status - and I just fancy that a Palace side gaining in confidence and fighting for their lives will have that little too much for them.
source:betfair

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 England Championship

 

 

Birmingham 5.10 v Newcastle 1.78; The Draw 3.90

It's been a crazy week in the Championship, mainly off the pitch with a trio of sackings at Derby, Norwich, and Wigan.

The only surprise is that the man I fully expected to get the chop, Gianfranco Zola, is still in charge at Birmingham, though as I said from the minute he was appointed I don't expect him to still be there at the end of the season.

I could be way off the mark of course, Birmingham have been in such poor form that if the board were going to sack Zola you'd have to imagine that they'd have done it by now, so perhaps they're going to stick with him. Though I doubt a heavy home defeat on Saturday will do the former Chelsea player any good.

For almost two seasons one of my favourite bets was to oppose Birmingham at St Andrew's but back them on the road as they had a dreadful home record but picked up regular wins on their travels. Under Zola they're dreadful at home and away!

Brum have lost four of their last five games in front of their own fans and now host the league's best away side in Newcastle. Rafa Benitez's men threw in another shocker at St James' Park last week, but as I've regularly said, if the Magpies don't score within the first half hour in front of their own fans a home defeat is always likely. So the defeat wasn't a total surprise given the way the game panned out.
source:betfair

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Sheff Wed 1.94 v Reading 4.70; The Draw 3.55

 

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I'm surprised this Friday night cracker isn't on TV, and although I usually prefer to make my weekend selections from Saturday's 3pm games I think there's a good chance that we'll see goals here and therefore I can't pass on the price.

Wednesday are sixth in the table, Reading are fifth, and both are in the biggest danger of falling out of the play-offs should any of the chasers put a decent run together. In fact Fulham in seventh are just a single point behind the Owls and three behind the Royals, and with Norwich and Derby sacking their managers in the last week, those two clubs are more than capable of going on an excellent run.

So the victory on Friday night will be priceless to the side that can grab it, and for that reason I think we'll see an entertaining affair with neither team settling for a point.

By pure coincidence the six-game form of both Sheff Wed and Reading is identical - WLLWDL - and with three defeats each in that spell neither side are at the top of their game right now. Both have been conceding more goals than usual, perhaps as a result of nerves as the season approaches a climax, and hopefully that will continue at Hillsborough tonight.

And down the years this has been a fixture that has traditionally thrown up some big wins. The Royals won 5-0 and 6-0 in consecutive seasons within the last eight years, and the Owls won 5-2 just over three years ago. And their last three meetings have all resulted in both sides getting on the scoresheet.
source:betfair

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England League One
 
 
 
 

Millwall 1.65 v Bury 5.50, the draw 4.00


The usually excellent Millwall defence was ripped apart by Tottenham in last Sunday's FA Cup defeat, and whilst the Bury strikeforce of James Vaughan and Tom Pope aren't quite Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, they are still quite a handful in this division. 

Vaughan has surprised plenty of people this term. He collected his 21st goal of the season in a 3-0 victory against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday as the Shakers ended the nine-match unbeaten run of the Pirates. The feeling in the Bury camp seems to be that new boss Lee Clark has vastly raised the standards. That's now four wins from six for Clark - as Bury reside in the relative calmer waters of 18th. 

However, Millwall have been serving us well in terms of their defence and clean sheets recently. Whilst the 1.65 to back is too short to take for a home win, there's no reason not to side again with the hosts keeping Bury quiet here. 

Their defensive record has been immense recently. In their last 14 league matches without defeat (the best unbeaten sequence in the division according to Opta), they have collected a deeply impressive nine clean sheets. Millwall possess the joint-best record for conceding goals at home alongside Sheffield United (13). 

To back up the bet, Bury historically have fared poorly in London. Opta state that Millwall have won five of their last six matches against the Shakers, with Bury managing to score just once in their last eight league visits to The Den.
source:betfair

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Southend United 2.00 v Walsall 3.80, the draw 3.40


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Bradford City are the masters of the draw at home in League One this term - with a staggering 12 already at Valley Parade. Going unnoticed however (by me anyway) has been Walsall's liking for a stalemate on the road.With ten draws away from the Banks's Stadium, Walsall have the most in that department on their travels in the third tier. For a top-half side, that is quite surprising. The goals are the problem though, as they have only scored 14 times away.

That stat slightly puts me off the Both Teams To Score here, and that's where I was looking initially. Southend have hit that target 14 times in 18 games at Roots Hall this term, and the BTTS backers have collected in all six of Southend's previous home matches.

Walsall might not score many, but they are quite a good side, and I've mentioned a couple of times recently they have improved. A narrow loss at second-place Fleetwood on Tuesday doesn't totally rule them out winning this game at 3.80. They are only four points behind Southend too.

Opta stats highlight the fact that Walsall haven't won away from home since Boxing Day, whilst Southend played poorly against Bristol Rovers recently, but responded with a 2-0 victory against Coventry. Manager Phil Brown made five changes then.

The Draw looks the trade on the outright, but I might just take a chance with the Under 2.5 bet, as Walsall will want to keep this tight. They managed a 0-0 at Millwall last month, and I will take the same again.
source:betfair

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England League Two

 

Hartlepool 3.40 v Wycombe 2.40; the draw 3.50

This column has made plenty of profits out of odds that just don't make sense, in the belief that the layers haven't quite called the form and abilities of teams correctly.

Jeff Stelling, Hartlepool's president, might not have had a huge amount to shout about when hosting his Sky show on a Saturday afternoon, but Pool's fortunes have improved in recent weeks, especially at home where they have three draws and three notable wins, most recently 4-0 over Crewe, then 3-1 over Exeter.

And on Tuesday Dave Jones' men finally managed to turn that promising home form into an away win - their first points in seven games on their travels and first win in 14 attempts away.

That away win came against one of the form teams of League Two, Cambridge United. It will give them huge confidence. Brad Walker returned at centre-back to put in a big performance alongside Scott Harrison, whose presence was also recognised by reviewers.

Skipper Nicky Featherstone seems in good form, while Lewis Alessandra remains in good form, supplying scorer Michael Woods with an assist having scored four goals in the previous three games. Padraig Amond will also be looking to gain scorers' bragging rights here.

Wycombe, in fairness, have drawn with two of the division's in-form teams recently, Plymouth on Tuesday preceded by Blackpool on Saturday - and they did win their last away game, at hit-and-miss Grimsby.

They are finding their feet again after their FA Cup exit to Tottenham winning just twice in 11 games since, averaging a goal a game and conceding 18.

Gareth Ainsworth can point to absentees such as Dominic Gape (who returned against Plymouth) and in particular striker Scott Kashket for a stalled push for the play-offs, while Bayo Akinfenwa and Paris Cowan-Hall are left to chase the chances. But they simply don't score enough goals to be serious promotion contenders. They have netted 45, while every team in the top nine has scored at least 53. That gives the hosts every chance of another victory, although possibly not quite as emphatic as their recent two.
source:betfair

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Yeovil 3.20 v Accrington 2.50; the draw 3.50

Huish Park might be a strange place to go hunting for goals, considering that Yeovil have only scored five in six games - yet they have scored them all in the last two matches.

Ben Whitfield, on loan from Bournemouth, has really been raved about recently, topping off a fine performance at Barnet on Wednesday with a goal, something Francois Zoko could do well to emulate.

Having become the latest team to deny new Bees boss Kevin Nugent a first win, what will the Glovers make of in-form Accrington?

Darren Way must be looking forward to dealing with League Two's form team over six games (14 points) and third best team over 10 matches (19 points) who seem to be on a role.

Accrington have not conceded a goal in three games, and stuck five past hapless Leyton Orient on Tuesday. There is often a lull after such a large victory. However, they have scored two goals in each of their last three away games - and four at Mansfield the time before that.

It is quite possible that over 3.5 goals at 3.70 could be rewarded, while John Coleman's visitors could have the edge, through Billy Kee or Shay McCartan snatching a goal. Sean McConville is a huge danger man, having been involved in Accrington's last six goals, say Opta, scoring two and producing the assists for four. Defender Matthew Pearson has even knocked in a few recently and Stanley are entitled to look up the table rather than down.
source:betfair

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Luton 2.20 v Exeter 3.50; the draw 3.60

Paul Tisdale has nicely complicated the betting by changing up his team and earning Exeter a victory in midweek against Cheltenham without young star Ollie Watkins.

Now what does he do? It appears the presence of the teenager might have been restricting the talents of Reuben Reid, who was top scorer for Plymouth in the last two seasons but plays with his back to goal when Watkins is in the side. David Wheeler makes a more natural fit, in that sense, but Watkins, reveal Opta, has scored nine goals in away games, more than any other Exeter player and one in each of his last two appearances.

Tisdale served up Jack Storey, on loan from Reading, into the team having been dropped against Accrington and so now Nathan Jones must decide what to defend against: he will know the strength of the Grecians' players, just not which ones he will face.

Luton are also a side looking to find the best combination of players for the run-in. Glen Rea has been restored to centre-back and is also a threat going forward at set pieces. He looked good alongside Alan Sheehan as the Hatters secured a goalless draw at Carlisle.

The question for Jones is how far forward can Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu be allowed to go or Luke Gambin, to support Danny Hylton? There is a strong argument that Watkins will return for the visitors because of the open football that Luton will offer him the chance to play. But is it the best for Exeter? Tisdale can out-think his opposite number as he seeks to hold the visitors' position in the top seven.
source:betfair

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Back Exeter @ 3.50

 


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Newport County 3.30 v Blackpool 2.50; the draw 3.50

Ryan Bird believes County can beat anyone. Well, every player in every team believes that. The Exiles have been proving it in the past week or so, though, under yet another new boss Michael Flynn. They are now off the foot of the table, on goal difference.

They gave away a replica shirt to all 48 away fans at Morecambe, which was a great gesture, but it will be how Tom Owen-Evans, and others such as Alex Samuel, make the most of their continuing chances that will make the difference in the run-in.

Can they further close the gap to third-bottom place and safety? There seems a sense of relief all round after Graham Westley was sacked as manager. However, much will depend on whether Mark Randall - persona non grata under their previous boss - can thwart the Seasiders, who finally converted a penalty to win at Stevenage.

They have missed five this season, which has been calculated as the difference between challenging for the top-seven and the top-three. So it must have been a relief when Mark Cullen netted against Stevenage, Opta pointing out that he has scored in three of his last four outings for the Seasiders, each goal being the game's first.

Their good form has coincided with Dean Lyness replacing Sam Slocombe in goal, but the latter is now available again after injury. Gary Bowyer would have to think hard about replacing Lyness, but promises not to rush striker Kyle Vassell back from injury.

It is interesting - and a little bit odd - that Newport were 2.80 to win at Morecambe but are longer to win at home (on a terrible pitch which is therefore to their advantage). The Welsh club must look on this as a chance to pick up a further positive result.
source:betfair

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16.03.2017

 

UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE 

 

Borussia Monchengladbach v Schalke
Thursday March 16, 20:05
Live on BT Sport

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These two sides will meet for the third time this month on Thursday. They drew the first leg 1-1, and Gladbach stuffed Schalke 4-2 in the league. Schalke were much improved in Gelsenkirchen, and would've carved out a first-leg lead if Foals keeper Yann Sommer hadn't been on top form.

Both sides have excellent attacking players who are on form. If Gladbach skipper Lars Stindl recovers from a hip injury, he'll hope to continue a run that seen him involved in seven goals in his last five appearances. His attacking partner-in-crime Raffael should return, after missing the weekend's 2-1 defeat in Hamburg with a virus.

Schalke's Guido Burgstaller scored twice in Sunday's 3-0 win over Augsburg, and the burly Austrian has slammed in six goals in all competitions since signing from second-division Nurnberg in the winter window.

Both defences have gaps to exploit. Gladbach were very shaky at Hamburg at the weekend, while Schalke haven't looked the same since Brazilian veteran Naldo was ruled out for the rest of the season.

These teams shared out six goals in the corresponding league fixture, and I fancy goals again. Four of the last six meetings between the sides have featured at least three goals, and I expect both coaches (Dieter Hecking and Markus Weinzierl) to decide that attack is the best form of defence.
source:betfair


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Ajax v Copenhagen
Thursday March 16, 20:05
Live on BT Sport

For a team with a proven European pedigree (four European Cups and one UEFA Cup), it's been a lean time for Ajax. They haven't been to the quarter-finals of a major European trophy since 2003, and they haven't won one since 1995, the team of Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Edwin Van der Sar and Frank Rijkaard.

Now a place in the Europa League quarter-finals is up for grabs, with Ajax only 2-1 down from their first leg against Copenhagen in Denmark. They became the first opposition to score at the Parken since August in the first leg, and their own home form suggests they can turn the tie in their favour, as they have won 15 of their last 16 matches in all competitions at the Amsterdam Arena.

Copenhagen have had some great results in this season's European competition, with wins at Club Brugge in the Champions League and Ludogorets in the Europa League. However, all-action midfielder Thomas Delaney has joined Werder Bremen, and he's just the kind of player you need when you're trying to dig out a result away from home. Defender Mathias Jorgensen is also absent, as he is suspended.

Ajax have won all four of their Europa League home games, and even without the suspended Davy Klaasen, I suspect they'll just about get over the line here.
source:betfair

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Back Ajax to qualify at 1.93

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Besiktas v Olympiakos
Thursday 16 March, 18:00
Live on BT Sport

Besiktas are in pole position to reach the quarter-finals after a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Greece against Olympiakos. The Turkish champions went a goal down in Athens, but levelled after a poor clearance, and then made chances that could've led to a precious away victory.

Besiktas drew all of their Champions League home games, against Dynamo Kiev, Benfica and Napoli. Having avoided defeat against that lot, I'd expect them to be able to get the job done against an Olympiakos side that isn't quite as dominant in Greece this season, and that hasn't really impressed in European competition.
source:betfair

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Krasnodar v Celta Vigo
Thursday March 16, 18:00
Live on BT Sport

I must admit I underestimated Celta Vigo ahead of the previous round's action against Shakhtar Donetsk. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in northern Spain, Celta grabbed a questionable late penalty right at the end of the second leg in Kharkiv, and went on to win the tie.

This time Celta take a 2-1 lead to Russia, as they look to advance against Krasnodar. The Bulls have built up a reputation recently as a team who are very strong at home in European competition, but their move to a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium (the 360 degree video wall is awesome) has removed the fear factor for opposition sides. Krasnodar have only won one of their three European games at the new ground.

Celta have only lost two of their last seven matches, and one of those was a routine dismemberment at Barcelona. I won't make the mistake of underestimating them again.
source:betfair

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14.03.2017


England League One

 

Oldham Athletic 3.45 v Oxford United 2.36


Oxford boss Michael Appleton fired off an interesting post-match comment following his side's 2-1 victory at Peterborough on Saturday. He said that he found the game almost "too easy" at times, something that is unlikely to be heard in the aftermath of Tuesday's trip to Boundary Park. Surely this will be a harder test?

It's not often you hear that sort of quote. The managers' union meant little to Appleton apparently. It must be said though, Peterborough are a very fragile team at the moment, and Oxford continued their fine away form of five successive victories.

Unsurprisingly their odds are slightly on the cramped side. Rightly so, as Appleton's men have won more on their travels than at home. They also score plenty on the road; netting 27 times, failing to score in just three matches during that run.

However, Oldham's pitch is not conducive for the visitors and their pass and move game. The poor state of the surface was evident in Oldham's 0-0 home draw with Bury on Saturday. In truth, that was a game neither wanted to lose. There was very little creativity, and both were extremely cautious. It was a scrappy affair between two relegation candidates - so we shouldn't have expected too much.

The Latics really struggle to score goals - and I'm happy to take the Under 2.5 here. They have netted just 12 at home all season, and head into Tuesday night with just three goals in their last six matches.

Oxford are in-form on the road, but it's the sort of match that Oldham boss John Sheridan will be the happier of the two with a point, as he will know the importance of not losing this game considering they are just two points above the drop.

From Oldham's last 18 matches, 15 have ended Under 2.5. They don't score many, but they don't concede many at home either - and their record of shipping just 15 stands up to the likes of Millwall, Sheffield United and Bolton.
source:betfair


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Walsall 2.70 v Fleetwood Town 2.80, the draw 3.50


Fleetwood finally let me down on Saturday - and how. Their 18-game unbeaten run was ended by Bolton, who collected a rampaging 4-2 success at Highbury.

It was quite a performance from Phil Parkinson's team, who had just 38% possession but executed their set-piece plans with clinical efficiency. The Cod Army, who have been so good at defending this season, couldn't stand up to the physical onslaught from Wanderers - who bullied their way to victory and had a massive height advantage. The pinpoint delivery of Felipe Morais was a big help - it was commented afterwards that his set-pieces were of Championship quality.

That loss doesn't make Fleetwood a bad team overnight, and back away from home might suit them, as they have excelled on the counter-attack for much of their unbeaten run.

I also believe that Town boss Uwe Rosler will be furious at the amount of goals conceded, as prior to Saturday's defeat they had kept ten clean sheets in the 18-match sequence without defeat. He'll demand a better defensive display, and a reversion maybe to their form of six clean sheets in nine games before Saturday.

The market is very close here, as Walsall are playing well. So well in fact, they are now just five points away from the playoff places.

The Saddlers looked a quality team for the first 45 minutes in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Charlton. They dominated the first half and should have killed off the game in the second with a string of missed chances. Manager Jon Whitney said a spell of 20 minutes early in the game was their best of the season both home or away.

All six of Walsall's recent matches have ended up Under 2.5, and if Fleetwood get back to their defensive best, that's the way I am leaning for Tuesday night.
source:betfair

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Charlton Athletic 3.25 v Bradford City 2.44, the draw 3.40


Charlton boss Karl Robinson said he was "exhausted" on Saturday following the 1-1 draw at home with Walsall. To clarify, the exhaustion was due to the relentless amount of games in League One rather than watching the performance against the Saddlers. Although the first 45 minutes was one of the poorest halves of football they have produced this term.

In fact, not only was Robinson tired, but the players looked thoroughly jaded too. I'm not sure they're in the best shape heading into Tuesday's fixture - and that tiredness is a worry considering Robinson has had to deal with absentees and injuries.

In short, the Addicks are not a good team, although I'm hardly Eddie Shoestring in discovering that. They are in 14th, not playing well, and no one quite knows what system Robinson is playing. They did run and hassle in Saturday's second half, but I'm a bit worried about the quick turnaround from that to Tuesday.

Bradford are a decent team, whereas Charlton looked inferior to Walsall, especially in Saturday's first half, and that has to be a big worry against Stuart McCall's outfit.

The Bantams produced two moments of quality to win at Coventry recently, and overcame quite a poor surface in doing so. Tony McMahon could be a key man here, as his set-piece delivery is excellent.

I think the 2.44 is a fair enough price, especially as City have picked up eight victories on the road this term. However, they draw too many, so for that reason the extra bit of insurance of the Draw No Bet comes into play.
source:betfair

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Back Bradford Draw No Bet 1.80

 


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England League Two

 

Morecambe 2.84 v Newport County 2.80; the draw 3.40

Even the tone of the local paper online seems happy that Graham Westley has been ejected from the position of manager at Newport County.

The former manager was always talking about Tom Owen-Evans and others from the academy, but never gave them the chance. Owen-Evans impressed in midfield in the comeback win at Crewe, where Joss Ladabie was captain on his first start since before Christmas.

Mike Flynn, the Exiles' third manager of the season, says they will not go down without a fight and added that Ben Tozer and Mark Randall could be back in the squad soon, having been ousted by Westley a few weeks ago. Only he said that he had tried ringing Tozer and had no reply. Clearly the pair have not been training with County, their youth side or any side. Which is a bit of a worry. He admits they will not be match fit.

Westley himself, back in football exile, says Newport's win at Crewe was, in part, down to the return from injury of Ladabie, Sean Rigg and David Pipe who had been out injured while he was there. Westley says he was "relieved" to leave, while many fans would argue they were relieved to see him go. There certainly seemed some relief and new belief in the victory at Crewe.

Whatever the reasons for improvement, the visitors to The Globe Arena do seem reinvigorated and the Shrimps have suffered a couple of setbacks.

Dean Winnard might have been restored to the back three after the death of his brother, but it did them little good as they conceded three goals for the second game running, against Yeovil. Michael Rose's return here, after a two-match suspension, cannot come soon enough it seems, to organise Jim Bentley's men during matches.

Paul Mullin both missed chances for the hosts, who rarely score more than once in a game but who had, until the 3-1 defeat at Blackpool, only conceded seven goals in 11 games in 2017.

They are safe from relegation, while Newport need to play further catch-up very quickly and could be great value at the price.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Newport County @ 2.80

 


 

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Blackpool 2.16 v Stevenage 3.80; the draw 3.70


The trouble in the past couple of weeks has been being able to pick the teams in form at a decent price. Stevenage are both, but does this fixture have the third, vital ingredient? Is it a game they can win?

When you have just been to Kenilworth Road and defeated a side who had suffered only one defeat in 10 matches and the answer has to be a resounding "yes". Let's not forget that the Hatters are battling equally hard for not only a play-off spot but possibly automatic promotion.

Darren Sarll's men are on an unbeaten nine game run and have won eight of those League Two matches, keeping four clean sheets, letting in no more than one goal in each of the other five games and scoring 21 goals.

Sarll even avoided the manager of the month curse at Luton, where a recipient typically loses their next game. Matt Godden was also player of the month for February, during which he scored eight of his 19 league goals this season. Tom Pett and Ben Kennedy are other players in form and delighting their manager.

The reason "the Boro" as they are still known despite dropping the second word in their former name, are so long to actually win is that Blackpool are unbeaten at Bloomfield Road in six games, the last time losing to Mansfield on January 2. However, five of those six games have been draws, against the not entirely top teams: Yeovil, Colchester, Crawley, Crewe and Barnet.

The hosts also have their players in scoring form including Brad Potts, a defender who remains their top scorer with 10, alongside striker Kyle Vassell. Mark Cullen has also grabbed a couple recently while Jordan Flores has settled in nicely from Wigan on loan with a couple.

Overall, Gary Bowyer's side have one defeat in 10 games, six of them draws, scoring 17 and conceding 11, so the two sides have similar scoring records, while Stevenage's defence is slightly better, giving them an edge to win, just as much as being four points behind third-placed Portsmouth gives them huge incentive. The away win is worth the chance.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Stevenage @ 3.80

 


Wycombe 2.60 v Plymouth 3.10; the draw 3.40

Plymouth have scored in 88% of their away games. They have the best away record in League Two, winning 11 and drawing two, with a goal difference of +11.

Derek Adams' men haven't been in the best of form in recent weeks, but have started to show their spark again with 2-0 wins on consecutive Saturdays.

The Pilgrims really need to overturn one statistic however - they have lost all their Tuesday night games in League Two in 2017. Quite what it is about midweek league games which scares Graham Carey, Jake Jervis, Matt Kennedy and co is a mystery. But they need to solve it quickly and can do so at Adams Park.

Bayo Akinfenwa is one player Plymouth will have to keep quiet, along with Paris Cowan-Hall. There is also the little matter getting past Jamal Blackman, a goalkeeper on loan from Chelsea whom Gareth Ainsworth believes could hold his own in the Premier League. They are unbeaten in three games but Plymouth, after holding Mansfield at bay and finding an opening, ought to be able to prize them open somehow.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Plymouth @ 3.10

 


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Wednesday March 15
Barnet 2.10 v Yeovil 4.00; the draw 3.65


Five games in to his first full managerial appointment, Kevin Nugent is still trying to find his first win. Three draws are the best his new charges have done, two of them 2-2. Teams of varying qualities have been held, from Portsmouth to Blackpool and Crawley.

The Bees boss has one of the division's most prolific strikers, John Akinde, to call upon. He has scored roughly half his side's goals.

Barnet have a divisional high (shared with Blackpool) leight home draws. Yeovil, meanwhile, have seven draws away, joint second with a number of teams and only pipped by Carlisle's eight.

Darren Way would love it if they could turn some of those into wins, but for the moment has to be satisfied with mid table security, the win at Morecambe being against the grain in terms of number of goals scored per game. Three, from Matt Butcher, Alex Lacey and Bevis Mugabi, followed a run of four games without scoring. The previous three games to that were 1-1 draws. There is every chance of another game finishing level here.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Barnet and Yeovil to draw @ 3.65

 

 


11.03.2017


 

England Premier League

 

Bournemouth 2.64 v West Ham 2.86; The Draw 3.40

Bournemouth ended a four-game losing run when they held Manchester United to a spirited draw at Old Trafford last Saturday when playing the whole of the second half with just 10 men.

The dismissal prompted Eddie Howe to change his team's set-up and mentality, and it was effectively an exercise of defending for the remainder of the game, but credit to the Cherries for holding out and securing a vital away point.

The concern I have however, is that when Bournemouth had 11 men on the pitch the game was wide open and their defence looked all over the place. How United didn't score two or three in the first 20 minutes remains a mystery, but it's easy to see why Howe's man have conceded so many goals this calendar year.

Bournemouth are without a win in nine games in 2017 and they've conceded an alarming 24 goals in that time, and sitting just five points above the drop zone the pressure is most definitely on to get a few more wins on the board as soon as possible.

The Match Odds market just favours a home win but I think it's hard to make Bournemouth favourites here given their current form, their defensive problems, and the fact that Tyrone Mings will be missing through suspension.

West Ham lost narrowly at home to Chelsea on Monday night but as I alluded to prior to that match the Hammers have a dreadful record at home to the top six clubs, and they've been far more consistent on their travels in recent months.

In fact Slaven Bilic's men have lost just once away from home in the league since narrowly losing to Tottenham almost four months ago. They drew at Manchester United and Liverpool in that time, thrashed Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, and recorded two-goal victories over both Middlesbrough and Southampton. Strong away form indeed.

I'd understand the market favouring Bournemouth if the south coast club were in any semblance of form, but they're not, and given West Ham's recent away form I have to side with Bilic's men here.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back West Ham to Win @ 2.86 

 


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Everton 1.68 v West Brom 6.20; The Draw 4.00

By no means a confident selection but I just have to oppose Everton at an odds-on price against the club immediately below them in the table.

I had huge reservations about the Toffees earlier in the season, reservations about their ability to finish in the top six that is, and I even laid them to finish in the top 10. I've had my fingers burnt with the latter bet of course as Ronald Koeman's men have been in fine form of late and now look certain to finish in the top half of the table.

But they're still a long way from being a top six side for me, and this is exactly the type of game that proved very profitable - by laying the Toffees - earlier in the season when Everton, as short-priced favourites, failed to beat the likes of Bournemouth, Palace, Burnley, Swansea, and Hull.

The five clubs I've just mentioned are all sitting 12th or lower in the table, and I fully expected West Brom to be in and around those positions also, but Tony Pulis' side have been much better than that this season.

The Baggies have a terrific record against clubs below them in the table, so it's a slight worry that Everton are above them, and of course they go to Goodison Park on the back of a very disappointing home defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend. But this is a decent West Brom side, and one that I'm happy to forgive one bad result.

It's worth pointing out, that although the Baggies have a poor record against teams in the top six, they actually haven't lost away from home to any club seventh or lower in the table since the beginning of September.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Lay Everton to Win @ 1.69

 


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Hull 2.52 v Swansea 3.20; The Draw 3.40

click here for more info...The relegation six-pointers keep on coming in the Premier League, and for the likes of Sunderland, Palace, Middlesbrough, and of course the hosts here Hull, this is a massive one.

If the Tigers avoid defeat then it keeps Swansea right in the thick of it, but if Paul Clement's men were to win they'd move eight points clear of the drop zone, and at this stage of the season that sort of gap, with five or six clubs below them (and not just three), their top flight status would be all but guaranteed.

And it's for that reason that I believe we'll see goals in this match. A draw for the Swans will be a decent result of course, but the victory would be absolutely massive, and given that a defeat won't really change much I just don't see any reason why Clement won't set his side up to go for the win.

The Welsh side are in great form having won four of their last six league games. Even in away defeats to Man City and Chelsea they performed very well, and they've actually scored a very impressive 12 goals in those last six matches, including five in three away games.
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So I can easily see Swansea getting on the scoresheet at the KCOM Stadium, but I don't think they'll have it all their own way.

The Tigers have looked far better under new boss Marco Silva, and it can be argued that they've been held back slightly by an incredibly tough run of fixtures. Games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea were always going to be tough, and last week Hull had the misfortune of bumping into a Leicester side more akin to last season's Premier League champions rather than the relegation candidates they've become this term.

Having said that, Hull did beat United in the league cup, and they beat Liverpool on home soil, and given that they know that defeat is out of the question here I fancy they'll try to attack Swansea, which will hopefully lead to an entertaining game with both sides getting on the scoresheet.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Both Teams to Score @ 1.90

 


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 England Championship

 


Newcastle 1.88 v Fulham 4.70; The Draw 3.90

From early on in the season I've always felt that - to use a racing term - Newcastle like to blast from the gates early and try to lead from start to finish.

A lot of the Magpies' victories this term have been secured when they've scored early in a game, while most of their defeats have come when the opposition has frustrated them and prevented that early goal going in.

From Newcastle's last eight victories, they took a first half lead in seven of them; only their recent win over Brighton - when they scored twice in the dying stages - went against their usual, and no doubt preferred, method of victory.

And that win over Brighton, plus the away win at Huddersfield and draw at Reading confirmed Newcastle's excellent form and class at this level. Going into a three-game run of fixtures against the teams in second, third, and fourth - all away from home - looked daunting, but Rafa Benitez's men took seven points from a possible nine. A job very well done indeed.

Fulham are the visitors to St James' Park on Saturday afternoon and they're also in decent form, having won four and drawn two of their last six league games. The problem is, the Cottagers always concede goals; eight in those last six games for example. They're obviously out-scoring the opposition at times, but I don't think their style of play will match up against Newcastle.

The teams that have frustrated Newcastle in their own backyard have gone to the north-east intent on defending. I don't think Fulham have that in their game. I could be completely wrong of course, but I'm expecting an open affair here and that should enable the hosts to take all three points.

But I'm prepared to go with the trend of Newcastle leading at the interval before going on to secure victory. Benitez's men will relish the prospect of getting at Fulham early, and a price of 3.10 about Newcastle HT/Newcastle FT looks very appealing.
source:betfair

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Back Newcastle HT/Newcastle FT @ 3.10
 

 


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Norwich 1.74 v Blackburn 5.70; The Draw 4.00

Ignoring anyone at home to hapless Rotherham (because that team will always be long odds-on) Norwich are the shortest-priced side to win in the Championship this weekend. And that really gets my attention.

Norwich, a team that hasn't won in five games, one that was thrashed 5-1 at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, and the same Canaries side that could only take a single point in two games against relegation-threatened Burton and Bristol City, are just 1.74 to win against a revitalised Blackburn side.


So for the third game running I'm sticking with the 'new manager bounce' theory.

True, Blackburn needed a late goal to avoid defeat against Cardiff in midweek but they performed extremely well in that game. In fact they dominated proceedings and new boss Tony Mowbray was left extremely frustrated that his side couldn't take the three points.

But that game proved that the Rovers boys are still busting a gut to impress Mowbray, and as so often happens when a club changes manager performance levels have gone up quite markedly.

Blackburn are unbeaten in four since the former Celtic, Middlesbrough, and West Brom boss took over at Ewood Park, and up against a team that is on another long winless run, and one that has conceded 11 goals in their last five matches, I just don't see why the away side is such a big price here.

I wouldn't put anyone off backing Blackburn to win at 5.70, but I'll take the slightly more cautious approach by getting the draw on my side also.
source:betfair

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Lay Norwich to Win @ 1.75

 


 

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Cardiff 1.90 v Birmingham 4.90; The Draw 3.65

I rarely go a week without having a wager that is simply based on one team, and this week that team is Birmingham. I'd happily oppose them against the Dog & Duck right now.

There just seems to be no sign of life in Gianfranco Zola's side, and if we're being honest, there hasn't been since the Italian controversially took over from Gary Rowett in the middle of December.

I've mentioned the new manager bounce quite a lot in recent weeks, but it can work the other way also. Admittedly it's rare that a manager is sacked with his club going well, but that's what happened at Birmingham. It seemed the players were happy, and things were going smoothly at St Andrew's. Then Zola came in.

I'm not suggesting for one second that Zola is completely to blame, but it's pretty evident to me that the Birmingham players have dropped a level or two performance wise since Rowett departed.

The Blues have won just two of their 17 games played under Zola, and in midweek they were awful against a Wigan side deep in relegation trouble. They were booed off the pitch at both half and full time, and Zola admitted after the match that the performance was unacceptable.

I just can't help but feel that a change is needed. In fact a change should never have been made in the middle of December.

Cardiff are in decent, if not spectacular form, but they've improved massively since Neil Warnock took over and now sit very comfortably in mid-table. They beat struggling Rotherham 5-0 on home soil a few weeks ago before earning a very respectable 2-2 draw against Fulham, so they're a tough nut to crack in front of their home fans having lost just once in five games at the Cardiff City Stadium.

But as I said at the outset, this selection is very much based on the poor form of Birmingham and I really fancy a home win here.
source:betfair

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Back Cardiff to Win @ 1.90

 


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England League One

 

Bristol Rovers 2.42 v Southend United 3.10, the draw 3.45


I like to have a scan of all the games on the fixture list to get a feel for an outcome before deciding which matches are picked, and my first impression for this was to back the draw. The Opta stats make me lean this way too; as the last four league meetings between the two have ended in stalemates.

Indeed, Rovers have shown a liking recently for picking up draws, and considering I have been hollering about Bradford's penchant for such, I feel I am a bit late to the party with the Pirates. In February, all six of their games ended in draws - a nice tidy profit for those backing at 5/2 or thereabouts every time. Even better for those that got involved in correct scores - as four were 1-1, and two finished 0-0. 

Whether you want to back a team at home with a 2.42 asking price is another matter. Saturday's 0-2 win at Oxford was their first away victory in five months, and also their first success in seven matches. 

This match is 7th against 9th, and only three points separate the two. Shrimpers' boss Phil Brown has described this as the most important week of the season, and they need to fire again after a slightly below-par performance against Port Vale last weekend.

Brown mentioned too many of the top players had 'off days', but they do score away from home. Peterborough were beaten by Southend 1-4 last month, and the Essex team also turned over Oxford.

I wouldn't put you off backing the visitors Draw No Bet, but I prefer going with the draw here. It could be low-scoring too, as Clarke seems to have shifted from the goal-happy side earlier in the season to an Under 2.5 team - as all seven of their recent matches have ended that way.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back the draw @ 3.45 

 


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Gillingham 3.55 v Scunthorpe United 2.18. the draw 3.60


click here for more info...There are a couple of puzzling teams in League One at the moment. Rochdale are one, and they seem to have dropped out of the playoff race. The other is Scunthorpe - who were the leaders, but they are eight without a victory and have slipped out of the automatic places.

The Iron were beaten again (three in succession now) on Tuesday, and lost to a mediocre Charlton team at the Valley, They struggled to create anything worthwhile, and they again showed their problem of starting games slowly.

Scunthorpe beat Gillingham 5-0 in the reverse fixture this term, but Graham Alexander's team just cannot find their form. It's a pretty risky price to be honest at 2.18 considering their run of LLLDDDLL.

Gillingham are hardly the great Ajax team of the 70s, and according to Opta stats; they haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last five home matches against Scunthorpe since a 0-0 draw back in 1996.

The 'goals against' column has been problematic all season for the Kent club - with just two clean sheets this 2016/17. However, the stats on the Both Teams To Score market are impressive. All ten of Gillingham's recent games have hit the target, whilst seven of the ten have been Over 2.5 Goals. The Gills have now scored 15 in ten, so they could be worth a goal on Saturday.click here for more info...

If you are looking at first goalscorer markets or to score anytime, Scunthorpe's Kevin van Veen's last five goals have been scored away from home.

With the need for Scunthorpe to pick up points, I can't really see them going to Priestfield looking for a dull draw - they need the points to keep tabs with Fleetwood and Sheffield United, so I'll be looking to the BTTS market and for Gillingham to deliver again.
source:betfair

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Back 'Yes' Both Teams To Score @ 1.80

 


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