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25.02.2017


 

West Brom 2.10 v Bournemouth 4.10; The Draw 3.50

It's impossible to have too much confidence in the outcome of a football match, especially when on the face of it two relatively evenly-matched teams are in opposition, but if this game goes to script then West Brom look an outstanding price at 2.10 to win.

I'll be the first to admit that I got the Baggies completely wrong earlier in the campaign but after two thirds of the season I'm a firm believer in that the league table rarely lies. West Brom are where they are because they fully deserve to be.

The Baggies are currently eighth in the table, five points clear of Stoke in ninth, but undoubtedly the reason behind their excellent season is their performances against clubs below them in the table, especially on home soil.

Boss Tony Pulis clearly knows the importance of beating the clubs that West Brom were expected to be in and around in the table, and their results in such matches this term have continued to snowball. While they've picked up just a single point at the Hawthorns against clubs above them in the table, against those below them West Brom have recorded seven wins and a draw from the eight matches they've played.

What's also impressive is the manner of those victories; in all bar one of those seven wins Pulis' men have won by at least two clear goals.

Bournemouth on the other hand are in huge danger of being dragged into the fight to avoid relegation, in fact lose this game then six will become seven at the bottom of the table. Eddie Howe's men did have a comfortable cushion over the bottom six but just two points taken from the last 18 available has seen the Cherries slip perilously close to the drop zone.

The worrying aspect of Bournemouth's current form is how they're performing away from home. The south coast club has lost six of its last seven away games in all competitions and they've conceded at least three goals in every one of those defeats, including six at Everton a fortnight ago.
source:betfair

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Back West Brom to Win @ 2.10 

 


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Crystal Palace 2.14 v Middlesbrough 4.30; The Draw 3.25

There are a few markets in this game that will be of huge interest to punters, and I have to admit they were the first prices that I looked at also.

I'm taking about the 'Unders' markets of course, and the 0-0 Correct Score, and while I can't put up a solid case for going against the grain I'm now of the opinion that the prices on offer are too short to get involved with.

Under 2.5 Goals is trading at just 1.55 for example, and the 0-0 Correct Score can be backed at 7.80 which I'm reliably informed is the shortest pre-match 0-0 quote of the season so far.

The reasons for those prices are two-fold; one is that struggling Crystal Palace, with the worst home record in the Premier League and managed by defensively-minded Sam Allardyce, are the hosts, and the second reason is that Middlesbrough are the visitors.

Boro are the bore-draw specialists in the Premier League having recorded 10 stalemates already, nine of which finished 0-0 or 1-1. Aitor Karanka's men are also by some distance the lowest scorers in the division having scored just 19 league goals this term from 25 matches played. But it's impossible to knock their defence; only Chelsea, Manchester United, and Spurs have conceded fewer.

Palace meanwhile have slipped to second bottom in the table following a run of six defeats in their last seven games, and in five of those defeats they failed to score a single goal. So yes, I get why the markets heavily favour a low-scoring affair, and it's hard to argue otherwise.

But there's a price that really does catch my eye, and it's the 4.30 on offer about an away win.

As I've already mentioned, Palace have the worst home record in the division having recorded just two wins from 12 games played at Selhurst Park. Do you really want to take 2.14 about such a poor home team who are in dreadful form, especially given they're up coming against one of the best defences in the Premier League? No, me neither.

Middlesbrough have secured draws at Arsenal and Man City this season, while away to Man United and Spurs they lost by just a single goal. True they don't win many on the road either, but given the opposition on Saturday if there is to be a winner then I'd much rather back Boro at 4.30than Palace at 2.14.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Middlesbrough to Win @ 4.30

 


 

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Everton 1.42 v Sunderland 8.80; The Draw 5.30

Everton have been in excellent form of late, winning five and drawing three of their last eight Premier League matches, and in those five victories alone they scored an impressive total of 16 goals.

The key perhaps though is that leading goalscorer Romelu Lukaku scored almost half of those goals and is a pivotal player to the Toffees, and yet he's rated a doubt - albeit a slight one - for the visit of rock-bottom Sunderland.

The Belgian striker flew to his homeland recently to have treatment on a calf problem, and although he is likely to line up against the Black Cats, with doubts also over James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas, I'm willing to take a chance on this game being a slow burner.

Sunderland boss David Moyes will certainly want to keep it tight at his old stomping ground, a goalless draw will be ideal for him as he aims to keep the Black Cats in the Premier League.

And for all Sunderland are a bit Jekyll and Hyde of late, and last time got thrashed 4-0 by Southampton, they have actually kept two clean sheets in their last three outings, one of those coming against title-chasing Spurs.

Ronald Koeman's men are worthy favourites but laying them at short odds at Goodison Park - against the likes of Palace and Swansea for example - was a successful strategy earlier in the campaign, and although I don't expect them to lose this one I just don't see them running riot. A low-scoring affair looks worth chancing.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.36

 


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Aston Villa 2.44 v Derby 3.35; The Draw 3.35

I've said it time and time again, possibly the hardest run to end in football is a winless one, and that's exactly what Aston Villa are learning right now.

Steve Bruce's men have been playing quite well in some games without getting reward - they lost at home to Ipswich for example after the Tractor Boys scored with their only shot on target - but in recent games their performances have started to drop also, perhaps as a result of ebbing confidence and belief.

It's nine Championship games without a win now for Villa, and they've lost five on the spin, so a game against a decent Derby side doesn't immediately spring to mind as one that will see Bruce's men turn the corner.

But the boss need only look at Villa's recent head-to-head record against Derby at Villa Park to learn that his side have won the last nine meetings against them. Surely Bruce's men will glean some inspiration from that.

And the Rams haven't exactly been in great form themselves of late. After an excellent start to Steve McClaren's second reign as boss Derby's surge towards the play-offs has somewhat hit the buffers. They themselves are now four games without a win, but as expected they did keep a clean sheet against Burton on Tuesday night after uncharacteristically conceding seven goals in their previous two home games.

I can see Derby holding firm again at Villa Park, and I'm pretty certain Bruce's instructions will be to keep it tight at the back for as long as possible. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this game ended all square with both sides not in the greatest form and desperate to avoid another defeat.
source:betfair

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Dutch 0-0 & 1-1 Correct Scores @ 4.20

 


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Cardiff 2.84 v Fulham 2.72; The Draw 3.45

Although sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday have a comfortable six-point cushion over the rest of the division, someone invariably makes a late surge to challenge for a play-off slot.

Cardiff and Fulham have both been talked about as possibly the clubs to do exactly that on the back of some good recent form, and although for the Bluebirds it's going to be a very tough task given the ground they have to make up, certainly for the Cottagers it's by no means a forlorn task.

Just as he did with Rotherham last season Neil Warnock has worked his magic at Cardiff. The experienced boss has seen his side win seven of their last 10 matches to move up from the relegation zone into the top half of the table, and in recent games they've been scoring for fun, 11 in their last three games to be precise.

With the threat of relegation now a distant memory you can guarantee Warnock will be sending his men out to attack in a bid to make up further ground on the top six.

Fulham are ideally placed to mount a play-off push after moving up to seventh in the table following Wednesday's 2-0 win at Bristol City, their third consecutive victory. Only Newcastle and Norwich have scored more Championship goals than Slavisa Jokanovic's men this term, and with the need for victories at this stage of the season there's no reason why the Cottagers shouldn't go to Cardiff intent on attacking also.

Cardiff's last three league games have witnessed a total of 14 goals, while Fulham's have witnessed 12, that's an average of around 4.33 goals per game between them in those six games combined. You won't be surprised then that given the form both teams are in I'm making Over 2.5 Goals at even money my best bet of the day.
source:betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00
 

 


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Brentford 1.52 v Rotherham 7.40; The Draw 4.60

Brentford recorded an impressive 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, the fifth game in succession in which they've scored at least two goals, and I'm taking them to brush League One-destined Rotherham aside on Saturday afternoon.

The Bees haven't exactly been watertight at the back mind, but this will be the easiest game they'll face all season and at Griffin Park they're usually a free-scoring outfit.

Dean Smith's men have scored 12 in their last four games in front of their own fans in all competitions, and rather unusually 75% of those goals scored came in the first half. They've also just scored six goals in three consecutive away games, and 50% of those strikes were also before the interval.

So it seems Smith sends his men out to get at the opposition straight away rather than apply the more cautious tactic of keeping it tight and allowing his team to feel their way into a match.

But as I often say in this division, I arrive at a lot of my wagers purely by making a case against the opposition rather than build one for the team I want to back. And when it comes to Rotherham I'm afraid the list of negative is endless.

They have by some distance the worst defensive record, conceding an alarming 73 goals in 33 matches so far, and their goal difference of -43 is upwards of 29 goals worse off than any other club in the division.

The Millers have conceded eight in their last two games, have lost six of their last seven matches, and are fully 15 points from safety. It's impossible to envisage anything but a win for Brentford here, but given how often the Bees score early then backing them to lead at the interval in addition to claiming the three points makes sense.
source:betfair

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Gillingham 3.25 v Southend United 2.40, the draw 3.45


Although Southend are winless in five against Gillingham, this looks the perfect time to face the Kent club - who have not won a game in 11 matches. In fact, since Ady Pennock took over as manager following Justin Edinburgh's departure on January 4th, the Gills have yet to win under Pennock, and they haven't kept a clean sheet either.

Southend meanwhile are becoming a fairly reliable outfit, and they produced a decent performance on Tuesday when whipping fellow playoff hopefuls Peterborough. United boss Phil Brown hailed it as a 'massive team performance', and the Shrimpers are now sitting in fifth.

Armed with the Opta stats, Southend have lost just one of their last ten away league fixtures (W5 D4), and have conceded just five goals. That makes them a good bet at around 2.40 - which is a touch on the large side.

The Essex side do score, and they've enjoyed a profitable February with three healthy wins at 4-1, 2-0 and 3-1. The only defeat of this month came away at Millwall (who are very good at the Den these days), but Brown's side performed with credit despite losing 0-1.

Over 2.5 Goals should come into consideration courtesy of the home team's lack of defensive resolution, and they haven't kept a clean sheet since December 17th.

The Gills have 'enjoyed' a run of netting a string of 1-1 and 2-2 scorelines since December, but Southend should have too much for a struggling team, and the extra bit of insurance with the Draw No Bet will do.
source:betfair

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Back Southend United Draw No Bet @ 1.85 

 


 

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Fleetwood Town 2.12 v Northampton Town 3.80, the draw 3.70 


If Uwe Rosler's Fleetwood pick up three points on Saturday (with results going their way elsewhere with Bolton and Scunthorpe), they can go second in the division behind Sheffield United - and they are the form team in League One at the moment.

The stats are impressive for Fleetwood. They are 16 unbeaten with eight clean sheets in that run, and they haven't lost a game for three months. So why can we back them at 2.12?

I highlighted last week that Scunthorpe were a ridiculous price at 5.50 away to Sheffield United, a game where they took the lead but were held 1-1. Maybe it's the unfashionable name, because if Bolton were 16 matches unbeaten, they would be around 1.70 or shorter to back.

Since switching to the 3-5-2 formation, the Cod Army have excelled. Rosler made a decision to ditch the open, carefree stuff from earlier in the season, to a more resolute side that defend well and pose a threat from set-pieces. Whilst Opta point to the fact that goalkeeper Alex Cairns has yet to end up on a losing side in 16 games for Fleetwood this season - conceding just nine goals at an average of 0.6 per match.

Northampton have yet to win away under new manager Justin Edinburgh, but they have some fine attacking players in John-Joe O'Toole, Paul Anderson and Alex Revell. However Fleetwood are beating some good sides lately and looked very comfortable in winning 1-0 at the MK Dons on Tuesday night - and they can keep the run going on Saturday.
source:betfair

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Back Fleetwood Town to win 2.12 

 


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Oldham Athletic 3.80 v Millwall 2.26, the draw 3.25 


The astonishing defensive record of Millwall continued on Tuesday night with a 0-0 against Chesterfield at the Den. As results go, it was a fixture the Lions should have won. That was echoed by Millwall's boss Neil Harris who said: "We should be winning games like that."

However, for those that have been backing the clean sheet for Harris' side recently, they have been cleaning up in 2017. According to Opta, the Londoners have conceded the fewest goals (three) and are yet to lose this calendar year.

Add to that an unbeaten record of 14 games and seven successive clean sheets, Millwall's defence should be the focus of the bets for Saturday again.

Oldham are not without a chance, and they are a different side under John Sheridan these days, who has turned their results around since taking over from Stephen Robinson. The Latics have picked up ten points in February to haul themselves out of the relegation zone.

However, Opta stats strongly point to an away win here. Oldham have won just two of their last 13 home league fixtures against Millwall, whilst the Lions have won their last five league matches in a row against Oldham (conceding only once).

Both teams could have lacked sharpness in their respective 0-0 draws on Tuesday night, but another low-scoring game could be on the cards here for Saturday.
source:betfair

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Back Millwall to keep a clean sheet @ 2.00

 


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21.02.2017


 

Huddersfield 1.90 v Reading4.80; The Draw 3.80

The game of the night in the Championship pits together third v fourth, two in-form sides separated by just a single point in the table. At this stage of the season it really is the proverbial six-pointer.

At the start of the season I expected Huddersfield to be fighting against relegation; after a few months I was still opposing them and saying that they were a mid-table side at best. So I'm probably being extremely contradictory now by suggesting that they look a decent bet to win this game at an odds-on price against a title-chasing side.

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I've been extremely impressed with the Terriers of late, and it's now obvious that after 31 league games - not to mention their cup exploits - that they're the real deal and deserve serious respect in the promotion race.

David Wagner has barely spent a penny this season, yet he's assembled a squad full of togetherness that has developed an insatiable hunger for success. They go into this crunch game on the back of five consecutive victories, including wins over promotion rivals Brighton and Leeds. That's rock solid form, and despite making six changes they held a strong Manchester City side to a goalless draw in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Reading are also in fine form having gone six games without defeat, and having backed them a few times at big odds this season some will argue that the Royals are being over-looked again in the market, available to back at 4.80 here. That's pretty unheard of for a team fourth in the table on a decent unbeaten run.

But I just feel that the Terriers are brimful with confidence right now, and fresh in the memory is that on two occasions I've recommended backing Reading this season they've threw in a couple of shockers - losing 5-0 at Fulham and 1-0 at home to struggling QPR.
source: betfair



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Derby 1.77 v Burton 5.60; The Draw 3.80

It's been a rather uncharacteristic recent spell for Derby County. Having gone most of the season with comfortably the best defensive record in the Championship they then conceded eight goals in three games, seven of them coming in back-to-back home matches at the Ipro Stadium.

Steve McClaren's men put in an excellent second half display at league leaders Newcastle a fortnight ago, and though they lost the game 1-0 they took a lot of confidence into their double-header in front of their own fans against Bristol City and Cardiff.

Yet to score six goals themselves, but take just a solitary point after conceding three against the Robins and four against the Bluebirds, will surely have got the full attention of McClaren and his defensive coaches.

Admitting that his side need to get back to basics if they are to have any chance of reaching the play-offs you can rest assured that the Derby boss has been working hard to address those defensive issues. So it won't be a surprise to me if the Rams stay firm against struggling Burton on Tuesday night, even if it means being a little less potent in attack.

This is the same side that immediately after McClaren's appointment recorded eight consecutive clean sheets at the Ipro Stadium.

Burton sit 20th in the table just four points above the drop zone, but despite two good victories on home soil recently they've generally been poor away from home. Nigel Clough's men went almost two months without scoring an away goal earlier in the season, while their only victories on the road came at rock-bottom Rotherham and struggling QPR.

The Brewers beat Derby 1-0 in a tight game at the start of the campaign, but now with home advantage I fully expect the Rams to revenge that defeat and the price about them doing so while keeping a clean sheet makes plenty of appeal.
source: betfair

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18.02.2017


 

League One

 

Bradford City 2.20 v Bolton Wanders 3.90, the draw 3.55


The draw plan with Bradford was hit by a late 81st minute goal on Tuesday, but there's no reason to stop us going in again for Saturday as two of the top teams in League One meet at Valley Parade.

Indeed, according to Opta, this will be the first meeting in Yorkshire between the two since 1998, and Bradford are the only team in the third tier without a defeat at home all season (D10 W6).

These two played out a 0-0 draw at Bolton earlier in the campaign in front of a crowd of nearly 18,000. That was a rather cagey affair, and Wanderers managed just one shot on target the whole game. I sense something similar could happen.

Bolton boss Phil Parkinson knows how to shut down teams, and away from home, the Trotters have conceded just ten goals. They are also the best unit at defending from set-pieces according to Opta, and they have let in the joint-fewest along with Sheffield United (five).

Bradford's high percentage of draws this season means the trading option of using the 3.55 is a must, especially given the strength of Bolton's back line on the road. City's defence isn't too shabby either - conceding just 12 goals at home this term.

The Under 2.5 is a fairly obvious bet, as ten of Bolton's 13 away games this season have hit the target. Bradford's ten draws at home are currently standing at 80% in terms of the Under 2.5.

The Bantams were more expansive on Tuesday when switching to a 4-3-3, but the visitors might be able to keep chances at a premium - especially the way Bradford lack a bit of a killer instinct.
source:Betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back The Draw @ 3.55

 


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Sheffield United 1.69 v Scunthorpe United 5.50, the draw 4.20

When Sheffield United take the lead in a game, they have a good record in making it count. According to Opta stats; they have won 19 times in the 23 matches they have gone in front. From an in-running point of view, that doesn't do an awful lot for the skinny price of 1.69, but there's a lot to admire about Chris Wilder's side as they are an intelligent team that also like to take risks.

But I have said before here that no one at this level is unbeatable. Saturday's game is first against second, and I am not sure that Scunthorpe deserve to be as big as 5.50, especially as Sheffield United lost at home to Fleetwood last month.

In fact, I anticipate that price to shorten a bit before Saturday. It's too big.

Between them, these two have 123 points and have scored 115 goals. They are the top two in terms of scoring (Blades 58 and Scunthorpe 57), and according to Opta; have the leading goal-getters in the division with Billy Sharp (20) and Josh Morris (18). With all that considered, the Over 2.5 is a likely play. Especially as the duo played out a 2-2 draw back in September.

Surprisingly for the pair of highest scorers, both were held 0-0 on Tuesday night, although Scunthorpe played against a useful Walsall team in quite an entertaining match.

The visitors have won 17 matches this term and eight of those have been away. They are overpriced this weekend, and it's not often you get the chance to back the team in second at 5.50.
source:Betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Scunthorpe United to win @ 5.50 

 


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Walsall 2.70 v Peterborough United 2.80, the draw 3.45

The market sees this as a potential stalemate, and it is having trouble splitting the two. However, I have been blowing the Walsall trumpet in recent columns as an improving side, and the Opta stats back that up. A victory for the Saddlers in this match would be their best run of home form since winning five on the spin in 2013. They've won each of their last three at home.

Tuesday's 0-0 draw against Scunthorpe was a rattling good result at Glanford Park. The Iron are the highest scoring team at home in the league, yet Walsall looked very organised defensively with their back three, and they are really getting to grips with the 3-5-1-1 system.

I tipped them at a big price the week before at Bolton, but they were bullied in that game, and it was over at the break. They are a better team than that.

Peterborough's attacking mojo is not quite there, and their usual goal tally is probably a bit shorter than the par. In fact they have only scored 19 goals on their travels this term, and manager Grant McCann hasn't really found a front two pairing this season.

Walsall will be hoping Belgian midfielder Florent Cuvelier won't be out of action for too long. He suffered a calf injury on Tuesday, and his run of fitness has coincided with Jon Whitney's side producing their best set of results this term.

Peterborough's form reads WLWLLWL, so the inconsistency doesn't make them a 2.80 chance away from home.
source:Betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Walsall to win @ 2.70

 


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League Two

 

Blackpool 1.78 v Crewe Alexandra 5.10; the draw 4.00

Maybe the layers are still catching up with Crewe's recent successes, or maybe they have taken one look at their away win tally (3) and given them a big price.

However, they have come out of their recent malaise, scoring seven goals in the past two matches, which Opta point out is as many as they have scored in their previous 14 league games.

Maybe David Artell's messages are getting through to players who seemed used to losing. The manager's assertion that "the press" would mark his players as eight or nine out of 10 individually after their 5-0 win over Grimsby didn't quite pan out, but they did so for Chris Dagnall and George Cooper, who both scored twice.

Could the Railywaymen capitalise by gaining a third win in a row for the first time since September? They beat FA Cup kings Wycombe on Tuesday, so it is not impossible.

Blackpool might like to think they have an eye on the playoffs, but although they have a decent overall home record (five wins and six draws) they have won once in six games, drawing their last three at Bloomfield Road, which Gary Bowyer will be looking to improve.

A defeat in midweek at Portsmouth probably won't dent the confidence after a 4-1 win at Carlisle gave them a first win since Boxing Day.

Wigan loanee Jordan Flores helped them look particularly dangerous in that game, but I have a feeling that the visitors' tails are up.

It is worth countering those seemingly negative longer-term statistics for Crewe (7 goals in their previous 14 games) by countering that Blackpool have failed to score in six of their past 10 matches, giving opponents a decent chance of victory.
source:Betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Crewe @ 5.10

 


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Cambridge 1.92 v Newport County 4.30; the draw 3.80

I've got a feeling that either Crewe (as described above) or Newport County can pinch a victory at big odds this weekend.

The case for the Exiles is partly based on a stubbornness to be beaten and partly on Cambridge's particularly poor run of late. 

Newport are unbeaten in six league games, albeit with five of them draws - three 0-0 and two 1-1. They defeated Hartlepool 3-1 and Shaun Derry's men, it seems, are in similar form to Pools, being winless in six with four defeats.

So, surely, there is every chance of Newport turning up with a team prepared to play some decent football on a much better pitch than their own and taking the game to their nervous hosts.

Opta tell us that Graham Westley's side have scored a League Two high 36% of their goals from outside the box -12 out of 33. It is worth adding that only Accrington (26) have actually scored fewer goals, but maybe Newport can afford to take more than pot shots from outside the box.

The U's have not scored in four of their past six games, scoring just once in each of the other two. It's not just shooting practice needed by Barry Corr (who is delighted to be back in action after a knee injury) and Uche Ikpeazu and fellow strikers, but the supply chain including Piero Mingoia and Luke Berry (both capable scorers themselves) need supply chain revision lessons. 

Don't expect a classic, but do back the away win, especially with former Cambridge players Ryan Bird and Mickey Demetriou in the visitors' line-up, alongside Michael Flynn, the player-coach who has re-registered as a player for a fourth spell at Newport, to be Westley's "on-field general". Between them, Craig Reid, Josh Sheehan or Mitch Rose just have to find a way to score.
source:Betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Newport @ 4.30

 


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Grimsby Town 3.40 v Mansfield Town 2.44; the draw 4.40

Marcus Bignot must be scratching his head at present, wondering exactly what has gone wrong - he's even found levity to joke that he's in the same boat at Luis Enrique and Arsene Wenger, whose Barcelona and Arsenal sides also suffered big defeats, as did his side at Crewe last weekend.

He praised his side's "character" as they made five changes and took at point at Newport. Luke Maxwell, 19, on loan from Birmingham, will be in the squad with Chris Clements, who joined from the Stags last month.

Bignot also offered a play-off rallying call, to remind his team and supporters that they should be in the shake up for the top seven.

The thing is, they are quite off the pace on that one, not least a six point and six place gap. The Mariners have scored one and conceded eight in the past four league games, emphasise Opta, drawing twice and losing twice - and host a side who have leapt into the top seven with a run of nine games unbeaten and six wins.

They have also scored 15 times in 5 games, Ben Whiteman (5 goals in eight games since signing on loan from Sheffield United) and Shaquile Coulthirst (three goals in five games since a loan move from Peterborough), both enjoying their opportunities.

Play some 'Steve Evans bingo' afterwards and listen out for the Stags manager saying "Grimsby talking about aiming for the play-offs did my team talk for me".
source:Betfair

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Back Mansfield @ 2.44

 


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Accrington 2.50 v Colchester 3.20; the draw 3.60

John McCreal hailed Colchester's victory over Barnet as their biggest of the season - and no wonder, after losing centre-backs Frankie Kent and Lloyd Doyley to injury in the first 15 minutes. Crawley took advantage of that injury crisis in midweek by defeating the U's, who at least scored twice again.

A change in formation beckons for the trip to the Crown Ground, where the visitors are likely to be without a dozen regulars. They have lost twice in 13 games since switching to 3-5-2, but conceding three against Crawley could change the manager's mind back to a more uniform 4-3-3.

At least players such as Brennan Dickenson have been scoring recently, but draws at Blackpool and Newport, and defeat at Exeter, in their last three away games give Accrington some hope of gaining something after a poor season by their standards.

Stanley have won just one of their last seven home games state Opta, giving the visitors hope whatever their injury problems, while the U's have only failed to score in one of their last 10 League Two fixtures.

Accrington have scored just 11 times in the opening 45 minutes of matches, add Opta, so they definitely bucked the that trend when Omar Beckles, Shay McCartan and Billy Kee all scored before half-time to go 3-1 up at Mansfield in midweek. But the fact they drew 4-4 in the end - and Colchester's ability to score in practically every game - gives the hint that this one can be a draw.
source:Betfair

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Back Accrington and Colchester to draw @ 3.60

 


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14.02.2017


 

England Championship

 

Norwich 2.88 v Newcastle 2.78; The Draw 3.40

The reverse of this fixture was an incredible game of football, and one that I'm convinced derailed Norwich's title challenge.

It finished 4-3 of course, to Newcastle, but the Canaries losing from leading 3-2 up going into the 95th minute of the game was an unbelievable outcome. Alex Neil was livid, and rightly so. And although Norwich won their next two (one was against rock-bottom Rotherham) they would soon go on an awful run of form.

Neil's men lost five Championship games on the spin, conceding 12 goals in the process, before somehow thrashing Brentford 5-0. They'd lose three of their next four before hammering in-form Derby 3-0, and in recent weeks they've lost to Rotherham but then took 13 points from a possible 15.

In other words this is a side that has blew hot and cold since that Newcastle defeat, but they've been far more consistent of late and will fancy their chances of getting revenge on the Magpies following those four wins in their last five matches.

The Canaries thrashed Nottm Forest 5-1 on Saturday, and before that they'd drew 2-2 at Wigan, and in total, seven of their last nine matches have witnessed at least three goals. So I'm very surprised to see Over 2.5 Goals trading at 2.20 here in what is likely to be a high quality affair.

Newcastle remain top of the table following Saturday's 1-0 win at Wolves, this coming a week after beating Derby by the same scoreline, so perhaps this is why Under 2.5 Goals is quite a strong favourite here.

But prior to those low-scoring victories for Rafa Benitez's men, Newcastle had been involved in five successive games that witnessed at least three goals (three of them witnessed at least four goals) so I'm definitely willing to wager on a high-scoring game at Carrow Road on Tuesday night.

I'm not sure we'll see another seven-goal thriller, two stoppage time goals, and 10 yellow cards as we did when these two last met, but for different reasons both will be going for the three points and I'm sure we'll see plenty of goalmouth action.
source:Betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20
 

 


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Aston Villa 1.82 v Barnsley 5.00; The Draw 4.00

Aston Villa are going through a tough time but I watched extensive highlights of their game against Ipswich on Saturday and it's no exaggeration to say that they could have won by three or four.

Steve Bruce's men created enough chances to win a few games in all honesty; they were the better team in every department but somehow failed to score despite having over 20 shots at goal, nine of which were on target. Ipswich took all three points by scoring with their only shot on target.

Admittedly, such bad runs - Villa haven't won in seven now - can be confidence sapping and hard to break, and it won't take much for the Villa faithful to get on Bruce's back so the pressure to win is most definitely mounting. But play like they did on Saturday and they'll be fine. It's all about next season now, and gaining some momentum to take into it.

Barnsley recorded their second successive goalless draw thanks to a battling display at Reading at the weekend. The Tykes enjoyed just 32% possession that day and registered just a single shot on target, but they went to the Madejski to defend, and they'll do exactly the same at Villa Park.

So the onus is most definitely on Bruce's men to take the game to their opponents, and for me this match is all about the first goal. If Villa get one in the first half then I can see them winning quite easily.

Jack Grealish is available again following suspension, so with home advantage, and given the way they played at the weekend, there's every chance Villa will burst out of the blocks in this match, and therefore I'll take a chance on them leading at the interval before going on to take a much-needed three points.
source:Betfair

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Back Aston Villa HT/Aston Villa FT @ 2.90

 


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Wolves 2.00 v Wigan 4.20; The Draw 3.55

I just wonder if some of the Wolves players will have one eye on Saturday's televised FA Cup tie against Chelsea ahead of this game. If they do, I think there's every chance we'll see a few goals at Molineux on Tuesday night as I'd expect Wigan to try and take advantage.

Wigan appear to have adopted a 'last chance saloon' type of mentality in recent weeks, taking games to opponents and seeing where it takes them. It's worked to a certain extent because Warren Joyce's men have started to find the back of the net with regularity and win a few games, thanks in large to some decent counter-attacking play.

Unfortunately the Latics are still conceding too many goals and they're five points adrift of the drop zone still, but Joyce appears to have instilled some belief, and with 16 games still to play they're by no means dead and buried yet.

Wolves aren't exactly comfortable in the table either, currently sitting six points above the relegation places. They've produced two magnificent performances in the cup, but their league form remains inconsistent.

Nine goals have been scored in Wigan's last two games and I can definitely see them getting on the scoresheet on Tuesday night, especially if the home side start slowly with the Chelsea game in their thoughts.

Paul Lambert's men will surely fancy their chances of victory though, and given that their four games immediately before Saturday's defeat to Newcastle all finished with at least three goals being scored I don't see any reason why Over 2.5 Goals is available to back at 2.24 here. That looks generous to me given how I expect the game to pan out.
source:Betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.24

 


 

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England League One
 
 
 

Fleetwood Town 2.20 v Bradford City 2.90, the draw 3.75


If you think this column has been a bit 'Fleetwood-heavy' these days, I am sorry to disappoint for Tuesday night. I went with the Cod Army on Draw No Bet on Saturday, but once again Town missed a one-on-one. That's now four of those in two games. End result; two draws for me.

And if it's stalemates you're after, Bradford are your team. I've often stated the case here that Stuart McCall's side are a draw backers' dream, and following a 1-1 with Bristol Rovers just gone, it could be time to row in with the Yorkshire club every single weekend for that outright - as they now have 15 this season. A truly astonishing stat.

Their game against the Gas was typical Bradford. They looked good and popped the ball around, but they don't score enough goals, and this was yet again evident. Away from home, McCall's men have netted just 15 times (they have only conceded 15 too).

Fleetwood's firm grip on fourth means that Tuesday's fixture against the fifth-placed Bantams could take on extra meaning, and with three draws on the spin, a full maximum is very much needed. They also need to take some of these one-on-one chances.

However, this has low-scoring draw written all over it. Town are unbeaten in 14, so are worthy favourites, but Bradford have nine 1-1 correct scorelines under their belts this season, with a further four 0-0 results for the 2016/17 collection.

The draw is the obvious trade here at around 3.65, whilst the 0-0 and 1-1 scorelines can be used to attempt a green book.
source:Betfair

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Back the draw 0.5pt @ 3.75 
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Millwall 1.70 v Port Vale 5.60, the draw 4.00

Lions' manager Neil Harris hit a club record 138 goals for Millwall, and yet he seems to be enjoying his side's propensity to keep a clean sheet. In that sense, Millwall are the form team in League One at the moment. Also perfect timing for their upcoming FA Cup clash versus Leicester City.

The Londoners have now recorded five clean sheets from their last six matches and earned a tough victory against a big, strong Southend side at the Den on Saturday. That was a bruising encounter, but Harris insisted his men played with "flair and pace". The idea of using Fred Onyedinma in a more advanced role worked, and his strike was the only goal of the game.

Millwall are now in the top six, which pleases me, as I put them up to finish there in my ante-post column. The Lions are very much in the groove defensively, and with just 12 goals conceded on their own patch this term, Tuesday looks bleak for Port Vale.

On reading the local Sentinel from the weekend, the report from Saturday commented that Vale looked a better team without the ball rather than with it. Which is hardly glowing praise. In fact, quite cutting.

The Burslem team played reasonably well at Gillingham, with the formation described as a 4-2-2-2. If Michael Brown attempts to go that defensive way, Millwall should be good enough in the To Win To Nil market. Their Under 2.5 record from their last five games is a perfect five too.

I have one tiny doubt concerning the minds of the players on the Leicester game, but I cannot ignore Millwall's impressive run of keeping clean sheets, especially as Vale have netted just nine times on their travels this term.
source:Betfair

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Back Millwall Clean Sheet 'Yes' @ 2.00

 


 

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Bolton Wanderers 1.85 v Rochdale 4.00, the draw 3.65

I am a fan of Rochdale boss Keith Hill, and the quotes from him after Saturday's 0-0 draw at Fleetwood were good fun. "I'm mending a leaking bucket," said the veteran manager. He added: "I'm spinning plates and I'm juggling balls to make sure we can attack the last twelves games of the season."

That point at Highbury was a super result considering Fleetwood are unbeaten (as outlined above) in 14 matches. In fact, the performance was described as Rochdale "doing a number on them". I'm sure Hill will take that.

The visitors here do look overpriced, after all, they had won ten games on the spin at Spotland earlier in the season before the wheels spectacularly fell off in the 0-4 drubbing against Oxford.

The worry in terms of an attacking force is that Rochdale have managed just four shots on target from their previous two games - which have both finished 0-0. With Hill juggling plates and mending buckets, he might just be able to do a number on Bolton too.

The Trotters gained a crucial 4-1 victory against Walsall, but they are by no means world beaters at the moment. Of course they are good side as they sit third in the table with 51 points, but they were turned over by Swindon and Charlton at the Macron last month (both finished 1-2), and Rochdale could be a nasty opponent on Tuesday night.

Considering the recent pair of 0-0 scorelines for the visitors, that could be worth looking into for the trade.
source:Betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Rochdale Draw No Bet @ 3.00

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11.02.2017

 

England Premier League

 

Manchester United 1.28 v Watford 14.00; The Draw 6.60

The recent evidence of shock results in the Premier League makes putting United up as a confident selection at just 1.28 very tough indeed.

Both Arsenal (v Watford) and Liverpool (v Swansea) failed to land odds of around 1.20 recently, Tottenham played their part as 'coupon busters' when failing to beat bottom-of-the-table Sunderland a fortnight ago, Liverpool again were on the back of a surprise reversal last week at Hull, and United themselves have a few times left long odds-on backers scratching their heads this term.

Jose Mourinho's men failed to beat Burnley at home earlier in the season when priced at around the 1.20 mark, and just 10 days ago United again failed in front of their own fans when drawing 0-0 with Hull.

Perhaps significant is that all the lowly clubs these big boys have struggled against are, or were, fighting for their lives at the time of playing. Watford's recent form puts them in a slightly different category now and that might just make matters a little easier for Mourinho's men.

The Hornets are unbeaten in four, but unlike when they went to the Emirates Stadium on the back of some poor form and sitting just four or five points above the drop zone, Walter Mazzarri's men are now comfortably in mid-table fully 10 points clear of the relegation places.

I think this is important because I don't think Watford will go to Old Trafford and try and defend a 0-0 like Burnley and Hull did. This is effectively a free shot; they can go to the Theatre of Dreams and play their usual game, give it their all, and if they lose by two or three goals then so be it, no damage will have been done.

Or looking at it another way, United - who dominated against Burnley and Hull in those goalless draws - could quite easily get an early goal which will open the game up if Watford do go there to defend, and a similar outcome might be on the cards; a comfortable home win.

In a nutshell I'd be reluctant to include United at 1.28 in my accumulator this weekend, but given that I do think they'll win, and if forced to have a bet on the game, then I'd back the home side -1 on the handicap to enhance those win odds.
source:betfair

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Back Man Utd -1 to Win @ 1.82

 


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Stoke 2.10 v Crystal Palace 4.10; The Draw 3.50

Stoke have slipped to 11th in the table following a three-game run without a win, but two of those matches were against in-form Everton and Manchester United, where the drew both times, and the other was an away trip to top-eight side West Brom.

So there's certainly nothing to be worried about for Mark Hughes, especially when you look at the bigger picture and see that the Potters have lost just one of their last five in the Premier League and are unbeaten in six in front of their own fans.

But I fancy Stoke to win this game - and odds of 2.10 really appeal - more because of the form of Crystal Palace.

The Eagles sit second bottom of the table after losing five of their last six in the league, and last Saturday's shuddering 4-0 home defeat to rock-bottom Sunderland will have done absolutely nothing for confidence within the camp.

Palace are conceding far too many goals and already on their travels this term they've shipped five at Swansea, and three each at the likes of Burnley, Hull, Leicester, and West Ham. All those clubs - at the time of playing - were below Stoke in the table so Saturday's trip to the bet365 Stadium looks a tough ask.

There have been suggestions that Sam Allardyce has returned to the game too soon following his debacle with England, and from the outside looking in he does look like a man who has lost a bit of his belief with even Allardyce himself admitting it will be a tough task to keep Palace in the Premier League.
source:betfair

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Sunderland 4.10 v Southampton 2.08; The Draw 3.60

I don't expect for one second that Southampton will get dragged into a relegation battle - it's three from six at the bottom for me - but their recent league form has to be of huge concern to their followers.

It's gone slightly under the radar that the Saints have actually lost six of their last seven league games, conceding a total of 15 goals in those defeats, and they were also thrashed 5-0 by Arsenal in the FA Cup. They have an EFL Cup final to look forward to at the end of the month but they mustn't let that Wembley appearance distract them from the bread and butter of the league.

Claude Puel's men are looking a bit stretched defensively following the departure of Jose Fonte and the injury to Virgil van Dijk, and this, plus the Saints' poor form, allows Sunderland a great opportunity to record back-to-back wins.

The Black Cats produced a stunning first half performance to lead 4-0 at Crystal Palace last weekend, the same scoreline that they eventually won by, and that result should act as a huge confidence-booster for the remainder of the season.

David Moyes has quite a long injury list, which taints confidence slightly, but it's hard to understand why Southampton are such strong favourites. And as I say every week, Jermain Defoe is a natural in front of goal, he'll undoubtedly be Sunderland's saviour this season and I wouldn't be surprised if he won this game for them either.
source:betfair

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Back Sunderland to Win @ 4.10

 

 


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England Championship

 

 

Derby 1.90 v Bristol City 4.70; The Draw 3.70

I know that Derby have a few injury problems, and that they've effectively lost two on the trot following their midweek extra-time FA Cup exit at the hands of Leicester, but I have to admit that I fully expected them to be trading nearer the 1.60 mark to win this game.

In fact, Aston Villa - who are in terrible form at present - are a shorter price to win on Saturday than Derby, and yet Steve Bruce's men are playing a mid-table side.

The Rams are playing a team sitting 20th in the table, one that recently lost eight league games on the spin and whose only league victory in the last 10 weeks was a narrow home win against rock-bottom Rotherham.

As I've alluded to already it's been a poor week for Derby. Or has it? Steve McClaren made a plethora of changes for Wednesday night's replay at Leicester and I'm pretty confident that he won't be in the slightest bit bothered that his team are no longer in the cup.

And last Saturday at league leaders Newcastle the Rams produced a very good second half performance and were slightly unlucky to come away empty handed.
source:betfair

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Leeds 2.00 v Cardiff 4.50; The Draw 3.50

Leeds remain firmly in the promotion picture despite losing two of their last four league games which included last weekend's ill-tempered loss to rivals Huddersfield.

Garry Monk's men had won seven of their previous nine league outings prior to last Sunday's narrow defeat and perhaps key to their success is that they've made Elland Road a bit of a fortress this season.

United's recent league defeats were both on their travels, while since the 0-2 home reversal to Newcastle back in November Monk's men have played six Championship games in front of their home fans, won all six, and haven't conceded a single goal in the process.

It's a glorious run of home form, not just because of the results but because of the sides they have defeated. Admittedly a 3-0 win over Rotherham had to be expected, but defeating the likes of promotion-chasing Derby and Reading, solid mid-table side Brentford, and a couple of huge clubs in Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, all without conceding a goal, has been extremely impressive.

Cardiff were showing sings of getting their act together themselves under Neil Warnock recently when they won three games in succession, but the reality is two of those victories came against clubs struggling against relegation, and since then they've lost three of their next four.
source:betfair

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Reading 1.92 v Barnsley 4.60; The Draw 3.70

Completing my trio of home wagers, all for clubs chasing promotion, is Reading, a team that have regularly been underestimated by the layers this season.

I don't think we'll ever forget the 3.50 that they were priced up at to beat Bristol City earlier this year, and although we're not getting anywhere near those odds here I still think that the Royals are worth backing at home to Barnsley.

Jaap Stam's men have steadily closed the gap on Newcastle and Brighton at the top of the table and now sit just five points behind the Seagulls thanks to taking 10 points from a possible 12 recently.

Like Derby and Leeds, Reading have been extremely strong on home soil recently, winning seven of their last eight games at the Madejski Stadium. It's perhaps no coincidence that all the promotion-chasing club are very strong in front of their own fans and this is an angle we should look to exploit.

Barnsley are perhaps exceeding expectations, currently sitting ninth in the table, and therefore they deserve huge respect on Saturday afternoon. Paul Heckingbottom's men have struggled of late however, failing to win any of their most recent two home games.

At first glance the Tykes have a decent away record, but all their recent wins - Rotherham, Forest, Cardiff - have been at clubs in and around the bottom third of the table, while when they've faced promotion-chasing clubs like Leeds, Fulham, Sheff Wed, Brighton, and Huddersfield they've been defeated each time.
source:betfair

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League One

 

Bolton Wanderers 1.71 v Walsall 5.70, the draw 4.00


No team is unbeatable in League One, and Bolton have proved that in their last six games. In fact, the Trotters are without a win in that sequence and they are in danger of losing pace with leaders Sheffield United.

And the Blades are a good example of how short price home favourites get turned over in this division. Chris Wilder's men were beaten 0-2 by Fleetwood recently, and were also held 2-2 at Bramall Lane by Gillingham.

With that to consider, I think Walsall have been written off completely here, and the 5.70 on offer is a massive price.

The Saddlers have been quite reliable for this column in recent weeks, and I don't want to discard them just yet. After all, Jon Whitney's side are within four points of the playoffs, and are unbeaten in four away league matches. Compare that to Bolton's overall form, and this looks one of those markets where people just assume Bolton as the giants should win.

Walsall have to beat history, as according to Opta stats, their last away victory came at Wanderers in 1972. But on the plus side there will be absolutely no pressure on the visitors here to gain a result, and they've been playing very well in recent games - especially with the 3-5-2 formation. This makes them look a lot more solid at the back - and they are worth an interest on Saturday.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Walsall to win @ 5.70

 


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Oldham Athletic 2.18 v Coventry City 3.65, the draw 3.40


New Oldham manager John Sheridan described his side after the recent loss to the MK Dons as "a good workmanlike team that put in a good shift." And whilst those qualities are unlikely to hold truck with Marcelo Bielsa disciples (and of which there are plenty), those hallmarks might be enough to win a game at the bottom of League One.

The Sky Blues are rock bottom and hold a dreadful away record. They have won just once on the road and lost ten times, shipping 30 goals in 15 matches and scoring just ten.

The Latics have been an "Unders" team this season, and 12 of their 13 matches at Boundary Park have hit that particular target - which surely is one of the highest strike rates in the Football League?

This should be a low-scoring affair, but the market is squeezed at around 1.65 for the 2.5. Therefore the Under 1.5 might be an option, as it could be a game where both are so nervous at losing, they might just completely abandon the idea of going forward. Indeed, Oldham's workmanlike style has meant there's a complete sacrifice of any attack-minded options. Although Sheridan has hinted at addressing that.

Opta reveal that five of the last seven league matches between these two have ended in a draw, so the outright at 3.40 is worth trading. So could the 0-0 correct score, as Oldham have collected five of those at home alone.

However, the Latics might just be able to nick this, in whatever style they choose.
source:betfair

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Back Oldham Athletic to win @ 2.18

 


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Fleetwood Town 2.52 v Rochdale 3.00, the draw 3.50


My success rate with Rochdale in recent weeks has not been good. Keith Hill's side were on a staggering run of 10 successive home league victories until their 0-4 loss at Spotland to Oxford. I have heard of the phrase "stopping a train", but it felt like I had stopped an entire fleet of cruise liners that day. But as I've said before on countless occasions - everybody beats everybody in this division.

So if you are taking the price of 3.00 this weekend, you have to trust you are getting the Rochdale turning up that were in such blistering form prior to their most-recent three games.

I am more interested in a fair price on Fleetwood - who have turned themselves into genuine playoff contenders with an unbeaten run of 13 league games. And whilst Rochdale have dropped out of the top seven, Town are currently sitting in fourth position.

The Cod Army gained a 1-1 draw on Saturday with Charlton thanks to a 94th minute equaliser, but it was a match they probably deserved to win. They hit the post and they had plenty of chances (including three one-on-ones).

What I like about Uwe Rosler's team is they play on the counter-attack and concede very few goals. In fact, at Highbury this term; Rosler's side have let in 14 goals in 15 games. Their reliability is a bit stronger than Rochdale's at the moment.
source:betfair

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Back Fleetwood Town Draw No Bet @ 1.90

 

 


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League Two

 

Friday February 10, kick off 19:45
Newport County 5.00 v Doncaster Rovers 1.84; the draw 4.00


There would be so many reasons to add Doncaster automatically into your weekend accumulator list, but then that's exactly what the layers want you to do. This fixture, where bottom club hosts top, has the feel of an FA Cup tie where the upset is possible. Even more so, because it is on a Friday night, when many of the recent early round upsets have happened, Exeter and Hartlepool both being victims in recent seasons.

Graham Westley has signed practically a whole new squad - let alone a team - in January, with Ryan Bird, among others, believing that many teams will underestimate Newport, thinking that a trip to League Two's basement club will be an easy one.

It will not. Not least because their pitch is terrible (they share it with a rugby side) - adding to the sense of the "minnows" having an advantage that will be level out the differences between the two sides. "Dark Ages football" is what Westley has said he has had to adopt, ie long balls and not playing the ball along the ground.

Eyebrows were raised when Westley brought back David Pipe and Craig Reid to the Exiles, but both could be crucial to their survival hopes, Pipe for his defensive qualities and experience and Reid for his deliveries of set pieces as Newport take to the air.

Sean Rigg has made a big difference, too, since returning to the team, while Jaanai Gordon, on loan from West Ham, has begun to look sprightly. With eight shots on target to three, Westley can reasonably claim his side deserved to win at Cheltenham last weekend, where they drew 1-1 on a pitch as bad as their own and also shared with a rugby club.

Aaron Williams was playing for Westley's Peterborough when they beat Doncaster last season (they are a different side now, too) while he clearly trusts Mark O'Brien to handle Rovers' attackers having played 50 Championship games for Derby. They also hosted high-flying Plymouth in the FA Cup and held them to a goalless draw not so long ago.

Doncaster might have the division's second top scorer John Marquis (18 goals in all competitions), state Opta, but Newport are four games unbeaten (three draws) after a shocking winless run and determined to finally bridge that gap to third bottom. They are in sight of that first target. Darren Ferguson's men are unbeaten in nine league games, their longest unbeaten run since December 2007 (10 games). While it is tempting just to lay them to cover the possibility of a draw, the odds of 5.00 are too tempting on the new-look hosts to ignore.

Despite claiming that he doesn't know who is available and what team he will put out, you can bet your bottom dollar Westley has a plan.
source:betfair

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Back Newport County @ 5.00

 


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Saturday February 11, 15:00 kick offs
Carlisle 2.30 v Blackpool 3.50; the draw 3.70


Blackpool, state Opta, haven't drawn five consecutive league games since 1977, which they would match if they drew again at Brunton Park.

The chances of them doing so are, in my opinion, fair to small, despite manager Gary Bowyer urging them to turn their cup form into a run for the League Two play-offs, having lost 2-0 at his old club Blackburn. Distractions now over, the Tangerines should be looking to make inroads on the top seven, if the likes of Jamille Matt can show their best form.

However, scoring in league games has seemed to be a problem: they have failed to net in five of their last eight matches.

It will have raised Keith Curle's spirits at Carlisle that his side managed to win without Charlie Wyke, with one of his replacements, Jamie Proctor, managing to net on his debut - before being sent off. It's just as well he has another replacement, George Waring, in the wings! And equally as good that he didn't ditch Jabo Ibehre, who could really do with hitting a purple patch to retain his place in the side.

Carlisle have come through a period of draws to win and will now want to secure a place in the top three. With Exeter breathing down their necks, they can ill afford a draw and the price offers an opportunity to back them at decent odds to win.
source:betfair

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Back Carlisle @ 2.30

 

 


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Yeovil Town 1.96 v Leyton Orient 4.50; the draw 3.60

Leyton Orient must have set some sort of record for most permanent managers a club in the top four tiers of English football have had in one season. It is four and counting at Brisbane Road. They've been through all the plan As it seems - Andy Hessenthaler, Alberto Cavasin, Andy Edwards. Now for plan D - Danny Webb, internally promoted after Edwards quit to work for the FA.

Webb insists fans have reason for optimism, despite extending their losing streak to six games via a 1-0 home defeat to Morecambe on Tuesday.

He seems to be placing his hopes in youth, as Orient try to avoid losing their Football League status which they have held for 112 years. Five starters in that defeat were aged under 20, keeper Sam Sargeant and midfielder Sam Dalby among them. Nothing new there, perhaps. Edwards was forced to rely on youth after senior players left.

Sometimes it takes a few defeats to get your new message across, he insists, adding the team needs camaraderie and team spirit. They certainly do. They will also need experience to get them past the minefields of fellow strugglers Notts County, Newport and Cheltenham in the next few weeks.

Nevertheless, Webb's revolution has to start somewhere and, having lost their last five away, won't want to extend that run to equal the six from September 2012, which Opta point to.

They also point to Yeovil taking 14 clean sheets - the most in League Two - since December 2015 when Darren Way took over. But equally they don't score many - they flit between scoring none, one or two goals per game. They've scored 18 at home, and Orient have 16 away. Midfielder Otis Khan is top scorer in the squad with five. This is a chance for the visitors to earn a positive result.
source:betfair

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Back the draw @ 3.60

 

 


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Stevenage 2.80 v Wycombe Wanderers 2.80; the draw 3.40

With League Two throwing up five draws last Saturday - and only one game out of the 12 involving a side that scored more than twice - there is reason to expect another set of tight games.

Wycombe's cup wanderings are finally over, after their Football League Trophy semi-final defeat at Coventry, just a couple of weeks after their dramatic last-gasp exit at Tottenham in the FA Cup. In between which they put in a gargantuan effort to defeat Portsmouth.

So, they are quite probably feeling drained all round. Gareth Ainsworth might have used a few fresh legs in midweek, but it was still a strong line-up. But now with no Wembley final in sight, they have to return to the business of trying to secure a top seven place, for the play-offs. The battle is strong this year, and their opponents are still in with a shout.

How will Ainsworth use Ade Akinfenwa when he reads the Opta stat that the striker has had a hand in five goals in his last five appearance as a substitute? Will he start him on the bench as some sort of good luck charm?

Opta also point out that Stevenage have not won three games in a row since December 2015, being on two now, which seems strange given a burst of positive home results in recent months to add to a great away period. The two didn't quite correspond. Wycombe's away form is not great - four wins and four draws - while Darren Sarll's side have five wins at home and, in 14 home games, have scored 26 and conceded 26. In fact, Opta point out that Stevenage's games this season have seen 91 goals (Matt Godden top scoring with 13) - 44 for and 47 against - second only in the division to Doncaster (59-35). It sounds like they are vulnerable to a draw against weiry opponents pushing hard at the top end.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back the draw @ 3.40

 

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 04.02.2017

 

Crystal Palace 1.67 v Sunderland 5.90; The Draw 4.20

With 15 Premier League games to go every clash between two of the table's bottom clubs between now and the end of the season becomes the proverbial six pointer, but Palace at home to Sunderland is massive.

Win it and Sam Allardyce's men move six points clear - and probably out of the drop zone - of Sunderland, lose it and the Eagles will be on level points with the Black Cats. The draw arguably suits neither.

With home advantage, Mamadou Sakho signed on Transfer Deadline Day, and on the back of a terrific win at Bournemouth in midweek, I get that Crystal Palace are favourites to win this game. But I think 1.67 is remarkably short for a team that had taken just two points from a possible 24 prior to Tuesday night.

It's hard to be enthusiastic about Sunderland admittedly, but it's worth me pointing out that over the last 10 league games both Palace and the Black Cats have collected exactly the same amount of points. So we could argue that there's nothing between these two sides, so does home advantage swing it in Palace's favour as much as the Match Odds suggest?

My answer to that is no. It's easy to envisage David Moyes setting up his side very defensively aiming to stifle Palace just like they did Tottenham in midweek. And with Jermain Defoe in their side, as I seemingly say every week, they always have a chance of getting on the scoresheet at the other end.

I expect this to be a very tense low-scoring affair, but I have to lay Crystal Palace at 1.68 simply because, on what we've seen of both sides in recent months there is very little between them in terms of quality.
source:betfair

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Lay Crystal Palace to Win @ 1.68

 


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Hull 8.00 v Liverpool 1.47; The Draw 4.80

If this game had have taken place six weeks ago I believe Liverpool would have been trading more near 1.30 than 1.50 to win, and we'd have been making a case for that price being a spot of value.

But a lot has changed for both clubs since before Christmas; Hull suddenly look like a team prepared to fight for their survival while Liverpool have endured a torrid January.

The Tigers are still 19th in the table and four points adrift of safety, I think that's worth reminding ourselves of, but they are looking far more organised under new boss Marco Silva and they actually go into this home game on the back of three straight victories at the KCOM Stadium.

True, victories over Swansea and Bournemouth don't mark the Tigers out to be world beaters but they won with room to spare both games before getting the better of a strong Manchester United line-up in the second leg of the EFL Cup.

And of course, Silva's men avoided defeat against an even stronger United line-up at Old Trafford in midweek.

Jurgen Klopp will be glad to see the back of January, but of course, the results they had - just a solitary win against League Two Plymouth from nine games played, plus defeats to the likes of Swansea and Wolves - had nothing to do with what month it was, the Reds simply missed some key players and fell into a poor run of form.

But while Philippe Coutinho should now be back to full fitness and Sadio Mane has returned from international duty I think it would be folly of us just to expect Klopp's men to bounce back to their best.

A lof of confidence must have been destroyed during Liverpool's current poor spell, and it's worth remembering that even when at their best they're not exactly the most solid defensive side in the world.

They will hit form sooner rather than later, but at these prices I just have to take Liverpool on. Remember, in the last few weeks they've failed to win when priced up in the Match Odds at around 1.40 (v Sunderland), 1.10 (v Plymouth), 1.18 (v Swansea), 1.50 (v Southampton), and 1.30 (v Wolves).
source:betfair

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Lay Liverpool to Win @ 1.48

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Watford 2.18 v Burnley 4.00; The Draw 3.40

I've been incredibly impressed with Burnley this season, or to be more precise, as the season has gone on.

The whole world knows about their magnificent home form - and their dreadful away form but we'll come to that shortly - and a lot of people, including myself, have been saying week after week that surely it has to come to an end sooner rather than later.

But if anything Sean Dyche's men have got stronger. They've now won seven on the spin in front of their own fans, the last four without conceding a single goal. And I actually believe that the Clarets are worth backing to finally reproduce their excellent home displays on their travels.

The facts are that Burnley are now in the top half of the Premier League table, three places ahead of Saturday's opponents Watford. They've taken 12 points from the last 18 available, double the tally the Hornets have claimed in the same period. Yet Dyche's men are largely unconsidered here, priced at 4.00 to win.

Obviously the reason behind that is because of their away form, so let's take a closer look.

Burnley's last four away games have all been against decent opposition, in fact three of them were against top-five clubs Tottenham, Chelsea, and Man City. In each of those games they performed very well and after 90 minutes they lost by just a single-goal margin.

In other words Burnley are keeping themselves in games, and I just can't help but feel that their recent stunning run in front of their own fans will have added so much belief and confidence within the camp that they're worth backing here.

The addition of Republic of Ireland international Robbie Brady, a terrific left-sided player, will only improve the squad, and although the Clarets are facing a side that are on a high themselves after defeating Arsenal in midweek, I honestly belief they won't be phased, and I think they should be much shorter than 4.00 in the Match Odds market.

For that reason, I have to make Burnley my best bet of the weekend.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Burnley to Win @ 4.00


 

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Championship

 

Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa
Saturday 4th February, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports 1


Nottingham Forest


No Championship side has made more changes to their starting XI or used more players than Nottingham Forest this season but their appears to be a degree of semblance returning to the City Ground under the caretaker watch of Gary Brazil.

The Tricky Trees have added a brand of defensive resolve and organisation to their structure in recent weeks, contributing to three clean sheets in four and back-to-back victories on home turf to ease relegation concerns.

Forest have also pleased supporters with a number of eye-catching January additions. Starlet Zack Clough and speedy winger Gboly Ariyibi are both available to bolster Brazil's options in the final third on Saturday but McCormack and Aaron Tshibola will not be permitted to play against their parent club.

Britt Assombalonga should lead the attack following his brace against Rotherham last time out whilst Matt Mills edging closer to a return and Chris Cohen is back in light training but unlikely to be involved.


Aston Villa

Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce was forced to apologise to travelling fans on Tuesday night after seeing his side well beaten 3-0 at Brentford. Bruce insisted: "We were totally abject in everything we did, apart from the first 20 minutes."

The Villans were given a footballing lesson by the Bees who were without their leading goalscorer Scott Hogan for the clash. Hogan was in the midst of completing a big-money move to Villa Park and is available to make his debut at the City Ground on Saturday.

That midweek defeat has left the Villans 10 points adrift of sixth-placed Derby as the visitors bid to end an unwanted five-match winless streak. To do so, Bruce will require big improvements from his new-look midfield as well as the usually-reliable James Chester and Nathan Baker at the back.


Match Odds

The last time Aston Villa 2.64 travelled to Nottingham Forest for a league meeting was November 1988 and the visitors arrived as Premier League leaders. That encounter ended 2-2, extending Villa's unbeaten run to five at the City Ground (W2-D3-L0).

Nineteen years later things aren't quite as pretty for the Second City club. No Championship club has scored fewer goals away (7) and Villa's road results (W2-D5-L8) include five defeats in six as well as five blanks from their last six games as guests.

Struggling Bristol City and Rotherham have both been dispatched from the City Ground without scoring in the past fortnight and Forest 3.05 will fancy their chances of bagging a hat-trick of home victories having collected 24 of their 33-point tally as hosts.

The Tricky Trees have W7-D3-L4 at the City Ground and are too big to ignore at 2.14 off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line - essentially the same bet as a play on the Draw No Bet market.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Nottingham Forest started the campaign in flying goalscoring form. Twelve of the Tricky Trees' opening 14 fixtures featured Over 2.5 Goals 2.30 but gradually the high-scoring games have petered out and 10 of their most recent 15 games have produced no more than two goals.

Aston Villa have remained rock-solid Under 2.5 Goals specialists since relegation. A chunky 19/28 (68%) of matches have rewarded Unders backers, including 10 of their last 12 on the road. Considering each of Forest's last five at the City Ground have also banked in the Under 2.5 Goals column, it's no surprise to see a repeat trading at just 1.70.
source:betfair


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Back Nottingham Forest 0 Asian Handicap @ 2.14

 


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League One

 

 

Rochdale 2.22 v Bristol Rovers 3.30, the draw 3.65


According to Opta stats, the Dale have won three consecutive games against Bristol Rovers at home, and despite getting them horribly wrong two weeks ago - I'm happy to stick with Keith Hill's side once again. After all, their record on their own patch is still one of the best in the division.

I would rather not dwell on that painful 4-0 loss at home to Oxford, and it was all the more agonising considering prior to that defeat, Rochdale had won ten successive matches at Spotland, and they hadn't gone behind in a game since August. So how a team with such a good record can lose so heavily is beyond explanation - and these results do happen in the third tier.

The stats are really against Rovers here, who have only ever won on two league trips to Rochdale (D6 L6), with their last victory coming in January 2007. Plus they have lost their last six away fixtures, conceding 19 goals at an average of 3.2 per game.

Hill's troops were on the wrong end of another 4-0 thumping in the FA Cup last weekend, but he did make a few changes. And at around 2.20 for a team that have picked up 31 points at home, it makes them a bet here. The argument is still the same; and we just have to put a line through the heavy defeat against Oxford.

Rovers have conceded 50 goals this term, the second-worst defence in the division - and only Bury can beat that. So it could be worth going with the Over 2.5 Goals here - as Rochdale won 3-0, 2-1, and 3-2 in December, and won a couple of games 4-0 the month before.
source:betfair

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Back Rochdale to win @ 2.22 
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Walsall 2.40 v Northampton Town 3.10, the draw 3.45

A 91st minute equaliser scuppered the Walsall win bet last week at a decent price, but Bury played well in the 3-3 in a very exciting game. Hopefully the Saddlers' exertions from Wednesday's fixture against Millwall won't take too much of a toll on the players, as Jon Whitney's side are playing quite well these days.

I touched on the switch to the 3-5-1-1 formation recently, and this has coincided with a return to form. At times they can play some excellent football - which is not surprising given they have Flo Cuvelier in the side, a player who is so graceful when on song. The system clearly suits him, and the wing-backs provide tremendous energy down the flanks.

Again - hopefully the Wednesday encounter won't have blunted that.

Opta stats tell us that Walsall have a good record against Northampton, and have won six of their last eight league games versus the Cobblers. Town also have a fairly leaky defence - conceding 14 in four games prior to last weekend's 3-0 victory against Coventry.

In fact, after five successive losses and conceding 15 goals, Northampton are looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since October. I would rather stick with a team that have served the column reasonably well, and also have a bash with the Over 2.5 Goals.
source:betfair

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Charlton Athletic 2.40 v Fleetwood Town 3.00, the draw 3.30

Both of these teams are in good form and are going about their business with stealth-like progress. Fleetwood's rise to fourth in the table has not been accompanied by any sort of fanfare (well not outside of Highbury), whilst Charlton's serene run of results should be put down to the calming hands of Karl Robinson.

The Addicks are unbeaten in five matches and have a big recent win to their name against Bolton - but the price of 2.40 is probably a bit bigger than you would expect for a high-profile team who have won three of their last five matches.

The odds could well be down to Fleetwood's marvellous run of 12 games unbeaten. That sequence is a club record in the Football League according to Opta, yet manager Uwe Rosler is still "doing a Ranieri" by claiming his side need 50 points for survival.

Town's success comes from their brilliant counter-attacking style - especially away from home. Their recent run of four away games has seen Rosler tighten up at the back, and they have conceded just once in those matches - and have a huge victory over Sheffield United to boast about.

Quite a few teams in League One are playing with wing-backs, and Fleetwood's pair seemed to be camped in Sheffield United's last third for much of that 2-0 win.

The away side price of 3.00 is worth taking here, as their counter-punch style might just work against Charlton.
source:betfair

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Back Fleetwood Town to win @ 3.00 
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31.01.2017

 

Arsenal 1.25 v Watford 16.00; The Draw 7.20

On current form this should be a straightforward victory for Arsenal, and if truth be told I'm finding it very difficult to make a case for the outcome not being exactly that.

After damaging back-to-back defeats in December the Gunners have taken 13 of the last 15 points available to them, while they've made smooth progress in the FA Cup thanks to a 5-0 demolition of a below-strength Southampton at the weekend.

Arsenal weren't exactly at full strength either for Saturday's victory at St Mary's, so it bodes well that they were so impressive and yet can bring back Alexis Sanchez from the start for the visit of struggling Watford.

I mention Sanchez for a reason, and that's because he has a tremendous record against the Hornets having scored three times and assisted a further two goals in his three league appearances against them.

Watford are in extremely poor form having won just one of their last 10 league games, and on Sunday they were dumped out of the FA Cup thanks to a pretty lifeless display against League One outfit Millwall. Admittedly Walter Mazzarri made plenty of changes ahead of that cup tie but the defeat will have done nothing for confidence in the Hornets' camp.

Arsenal have failed to concede a goal in open play in their last seven league games at the Emirates Stadium, and their recent head-to-head record against Watford is impressive; Arsene Wenger's men have won the last seven meetings scoring an impressive 19 goals in the process.

It's impossible to look beyond a home victory here and I see no reason why Arsenal won't cover the -1 handicap and win with room to spare.
source:betfair

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Back Arsenal -1 to Win @ 1.75

 


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Sunderland 10.00 v Tottenham 1.40; The Draw 5.30

Tottenham made life extremely hard for themselves at home to League Two side Wycombe on Saturday, having to come from 0-2 and 2-3 down before snatching a dramatic 4-3 win.

Like many managers over FA Cup weekend Mauricio Pochettino made plenty of changes to his starting XI meaning that, barring the odd one or two, the side that starts against Sunderland - including fit again Harry Kane - will be the strongest one possible, relatively fresh from not having to play for 10 days.

Sunderland weren't even in cup action so we know they are well rested also, so at least we're not having to second guess managers and predict what line-ups they'll field ahead of this Premier League clash.

The reality is, a full strength Tottenham side (from the players available of course) should be far too good for a Sunderland team that has endured a torrid start to 2017.

The Black Cats were dumped out of the cup by Burnley, and they've taken just a single point from the last 15 available, conceding an alarming 14 goals in those last five league games.

What's more, David Moye's men have a horrible recent record against Spurs, drawing just three, losing 10, and winning none of their last 13 meetings. On Tuesday night Sunderland face a Tottenham side that has the biggest positive difference in the Premier League in terms of shots on target (137) versus shots on target conceded (64). The Black Cats have the biggest negative difference - 77 shots on target, 141 shots on target conceded.

So with Pochettino's men in such good form - eight wins and a draw from their last nine games - I see no reason why they won't win by at least two clear goals at the Stadium of Light in midweek.
source:betfair

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Swansea 3.35 v Southampton 2.42; The Draw 3.40

It's the easiest decision in the world to forgive Southampton's dreadful display at home to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Saturday. The Saints were thrashed 0-5, which is of course a worry, but it was effectively a reserve team and I'm confident the reversal won't have damaged morale in the camp.

And at the moment Southampton are back in a good place. Claude Puel's men thrashed Leicester the last time they were in league action, and they've just reached the EFL Cup final thanks to two very effective displays against Liverpool.

I thought the Saints were excellent on the counter attack in both of those semi-final matches with Nathan Redmond producing superb displays. He looks to be a player who is getting better with each game, and he could be key in this match if Southampton can hit Swansea on the break with pace.

The Swans produced the upset of the season when they defeated Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield 10 days ago, and while that was a magnificent result we've seen throughout January how badly out of form the Reds are (which admittedly could also be used as an argument for those wanting to oppose the Saints).

What I'm trying to say is that I'd like to see more evidence of Swansea being a more difficult proposition under new boss Paul Clement than that victory at Anfield.

The facts are Swansea have lost their last three at the Liberty Stadium, conceding an incredible 11 goals in the process. I'm not sure Clement can shore up that defence in such a short time. And in Southampton, they not only face a side that is relentless at churning out clean sheets this season, they're facing a team that has defeated them on home soil for the last three seasons, all without conceding.
source:betfair

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Back Southampton to Win @ 2.42

 


 

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Birmingham 2.68 v Reading 2.94; The Draw 6.40

It's been seven weeks since Birmingham last won a game of football, and of course that was with Gary Rowett in charge.

The victory over Ipswich in mid December moved the Blues up to seventh in the Championship table, but just a few days later Rowett was dismissed and immediately replaced by Gianfranco Zola. It remains the most surprising, and baffling, managerial change of the season.

From nine attempts Zola is yet to oversee a single win in charge of Birmingham. His men have dropped to 12th in the table and they've been knocked out of the FA Cup, and sections of the St Andrew's faithful are becoming restless.

Yet Zola insists that he has the full backing of the owners, and more importantly, his players. It's hard to know how a team that can win regularly enough to challenge for a play-off place can turn into one that can't win for love nor money if they're fully behind their new manager, but perhaps that a discussion for another day.

Reading are up to third in the table following wins over Fulham and in-form Cardiff so it's a little surprising that they aren't favourites to beat Tuesday's out of form opponents.

Jaap Stam's men can definitely throw in a stinker from time to time but on their day they are a match for anyone at this level, so at the prices I have to take a chance that they are on their game, and that their opponents continue to fail in Zola's attempt to get that first win.
source:betfair

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Back Reading to Win @ 2.94
 

 


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Bristol City 3.00 v Sheff Wed 2.64; The Draw 3.40

Sometimes at this level it's not about backing the teams in form, it's more about opposing those that are out of form. And in Bristol City we have the country's most out of form league side.

Since the end of October the Robins have played 13 Championship games and incredibly they've lost 12 of them. Their only victory came over a relatively out of form Ipswich side, and they've dropped from in and around the play-off places to 21st in the table, just two points above the drop zone.

One of the big worries is the teams Lee Johnson's men have been losing against. Six of their last seven defeats were to Nottm Forest, Cardiff, Ipswich, Wolves, Preston, and Brentford. All of those clubs are currently, or were at the time of playing, in the bottom half of the table.

Failing to win football matches is the easiest habit to fall into, but the hardest one to break, and until Bristol City get a good result we have to keep opposing them.

Sheffield Wednesday haven't exactly been in brilliant form of late but a narrow defeat to league leaders Brighton wasn't at all a bad effort, while recent wins over promotion-chasing Huddersfield and away to title favourites Newcastle show just how good the Owls are on their day.

Carlos Carvalhal's men have kept five clean sheets in their last seven league outings, and against a team massively lacking in confidence another shut-out is on the cards. But I think it's best to just keep this simple and back play-off hopefuls Wednesday to condemn the sinking Robins to yet another defeat.
source:betfair

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Back Sheff Wed to Win @ 2.64

 


 

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Ipswich 3.30 v Derby 2.50; The Draw 3.30

I've struggled to call some of Ipswich's games this season, like most clubs in this division they ae largely inconsistent but unfortunately for me they keep doing the complete opposite to what I expect.

But I can't get how bad the Tractor Boys were away to non-league Lincoln two weeks ago. I appreciate that was a cup tie and that Mick McCarthy made a few changes the night, but I was amazed at the lack of desire shown and the awful performance as a whole.

Ipswich have played just two league games since, losing to highflying Huddersfield and gaining a point at in-form Preston, so they haven't exactly been terrible. But they've won just three of their last 10 Championship games and suffered some disappointing defeats in that time, including reversals to out-of-form, lowly QPR and Bristol City.

McCarthy will need a big improvement from his men if Ipswich are to avoid defeat against play-off chasing Derby.

Steve McClaren's men have dipped slightly in form of late, losing to Norwich and Leeds, but they bounced back 10 days ago with an excellent win over promotion-chasing Reading and they were extremely unlucky not to beat Premier League champions Leicester in the FA Cup on Friday night.

The Rams are just two points adrift of the play-offs, which in itself is a great achievement given where the club were when McClaren took over, and I believe they'll have too much quality for their inconsistent opponents on Tuesday night.
source:betfair

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Back Derby to Win @ 2.50

 

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28.01.2017


 England FA Cup

 

Blackburn 1.83 v Blackpool 4.50; The Draw 4.00

It's hard to recommended any side at odds-on when they're in such poor form, regardless of the opposition, so although Blackburn are undoubtedly the better side and have home advantage they're not for me in the Match Odds market.

Owen Coyle's men have won just one of their last nine Championship fixtures, a run of results that has seen them drop to 23rd in the table.

Blackpool haven't been in the best of form lately either, winning just one of their last six in League Two. But the Tangerines are comfortably in mid-table and will be confident of going to Ewood Park and causing the home side some problems.

From their last eight league games Rovers have been involved in four 3-2 matches, and just shy of 3.5 goals have been scored on average. In a cup tie where both teams are likely to fancy their chances, witnessing at least three goals seems a likely outcome.
source:betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.88

 

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Burnley 1.70 v Bristol City 5.90; The Draw 4.10

Of all the clubs priced at above 1.50 this weekend - so we're excluding the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Middlesbrough, and Man Utd here - Burnley are easily the most attractively priced to win, even at 1.70.

Sean Dyche's men have been sensational at Turf Moor this season and although the boss is likely to make a few changes for this cup tie the Clarets should still be far too good for struggling Bristol City.

Dyche made changes to his side for the home game against Sunderland in the last round, and his side still won comfortably. And for all that the Black Cats are a very poor side they're still head and shoulders above the Robins in terms of ability.

Lee Johnson's men have lost eight on the spin in the Championship and now sit just two points above the drop zone. With a huge home game in the league on Tuesday night there's every chance that Johnson will also make changes for the trip to Turf Moor, and that for me makes Burnley an absolute banker bet on Saturday.
source:betfair

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Chelsea 1.20 v Brentford 19.00; The Draw 7.80

One of the most important things to remember this FA Cup fourth round weekend is that all Premier League and Championship clubs are in league action in midweek, and therefore weakened starting line-ups can be expected even more so than usual.

Antonio Conte made nine changes for the win over Peterborough in the last round, and with a huge clash away to Liverpool to come on Tuesday night surely he will rest the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, David Luiz, and N'golo Kante again for the visit of Brentford.

The Bees haven't been in the best of form of late and it's hard to envisage them causing even a makeshift Chelsea defence many problems, so hopefully they'll go to Stamford Bridge with a defensive mentality and aim to cling onto their 0-0 for as long as possible.

I fully expect the Blues to win given the strength in Conte's squad, but it might not be the cakewalk that odds of just 1.20 suggest, and given Chelsea are unlikely to bust a gut to run up a big victory then backing Under 2.5 Goals at 3.10 makes some appeal.
source:betfair

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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 3.10

 


 

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Crystal Palace 7.00 v Man City 1.55; The Draw 4.60

If you're not one of the top six clubs in the Premier League table but still have high hopes of a good cup run then you really would have liked to have seen some of the FA Cup favourites drawn against each other, while you yourself get a kind home draw.

Unfortunately for the likes of Crystal Palace and Southampton, not only were the 'big six' kept apart when the numbers came out of the hat, they were actually drawn to play one of them.

It makes you wonder just how much ambition the Eagles will have to win this game. Even if they produced a big shock it's very likely that clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd, and Spurs will be in the last 16 once the weekend is over.

And with Palace now in the relegation zone following a run of desperate league form, and facing a massive game at Bournemouth on Tuesday night, I have to wonder just what team Sam Allardyce will field.

I'm taking the view that it will be a weak one, and if that's the case then backing Man City to win by at least two clear goals could be the bet here.

City were excellent going forward against Tottenham last week, and they lined up extremely strong and thrashed West Ham away from home in the third round, and with their midweek league game not coming until Wednesday night I'm expecting Pep Guardiola to name a similar strength side for round four, and that makes backing an easy away win a no-brainer.
source:betfair


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Lincoln 5.00 v Brighton 1.78; The Draw 4.00

Similar to the Burnley game, I'm extremely confident that we'll witness the 'class act' prevail when Championship title chasers Brighton travel to non-league Lincoln on Saturday.

When you get to this stage of the competition every game is like a cup final for a National League club, and with that comes a little more pressure.

Imps boss Danny Cowley would have been forgiven for fielding a much changed side last weekend when Lincoln faced Barrow but, barring one forced change, he stuck with the same starting line-up that beat Ipswich in the third round replay. His team were thrashed 3-0!

That worries me slightly as it suggests the Lincoln players had one eye on this tie against Brighton, and sometimes it can be difficult to 'switch' your best game back on.

And besides what I've said already I just can't for the life of me see Brighton being as poor as Ipswich were at Sincil Bank two weeks ago. The Tractor Boys were awful, yet it needed a stoppage-time goal for Lincoln to beat them.

I'll be surprised if Lincoln play as well as they did that night, and I'll be even more surprised if Brighton aren't 10 better than Ipswich were. That makes Chris Hughton's men a must-have wager.
source:betfair

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Middlesbrough 1.33 v Accrington Stanley 11.50; The Draw 5.70

Middlesbrough are strong favourites to win this game and if you think they'll comfortably land the odds then a price of 2.34 about them winning without conceding surely must appeal.

Aitor Karanka's men are just about keeping their heads above water in the Premier League and undoubtedly the reason behind that is their strong defence. They have conceded fewer goals than any top flight club currently eighth or lower, and against Sheffield Wednesday in round three they were barely troubled at the back as they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Accrington Stanley are fully two divisions below Wednesday, and they're bang out of form too, so no mater what line-up Karanka goes with the home side ought to be good enough to progress to the fifth round.

Stanley have won just one of their last 11 league games, but a strong pointer towards the recommended bet is that they lost seven of those matches and every one of them they were defeated without scoring a single goal.
source:betfair

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Oxford 4.90 v Newcastle 1.78; The Draw 4.10

It was slightly disappointing that Newcastle couldn't win their third round tie against Birmingham at the first time of asking but I don't think they'll have many problems getting past Oxford on Saturday.

Rafa Benitez's men warmed up for this tie with back-to-back home wins, scoring seven goals in the process and conceding just one, but away from home they've been excellent all season.

The Magpies have already won 10 times away from home in all competitions this term, with some big scalps too like victories at Derby and Leeds, while the 6-0 win at QPR was arguably one of the best and most one-sided away performances you're ever likely to see.

Oxford sit comfortably in mid-table in League One so you can be sure they'll give this their best shot, and on their day they're a well organised side under Michael Appleton. They were excellent in winning 4-0 at Rochdale last week but at the Kassam Stadium they've failed to win any of their last three league games and scored just the solitary goal.

On current form and ability Newcastle are by some distance the better side, and even though Benitez could make a few changes to his regular starting XI I just don't envisage them not winning this.
source:betfair

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Back Newcastle to Win @ 1.78

 


 

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Rochdale 3.45 v Huddersfield 2.26; The Draw 3.60

I originally had this game down as a very tough one to call but the more I've looked at it the more I can make a decent case for backing the underdogs.

Rochdale were thrashed 4-0 on home soil last week but prior to that they'd won a remarkable 10 league games on the spin at Spotland, seven of them without conceding a goal. They defeated teams like Scunthorpe, Bolton, and Fleetwood in that spell - three of the current top four in League One - suggesting that in front of their own fans they are one of the best sides in the division.

If we can forgive last week's surprising defeat to Oxford then I'm sure there will be many people willing to take a chance on them at odds of 3.45 to beat Huddersfield.

The Terriers remain firmly in the promotion hunt in the Championship but I've been largely unconvinced by them - sometimes to my cost - for most of the season.

The angle I'm taking here is that David Wagner could easily field a weakened side given that finishing in the top six of the Championship is the club's biggest priority this season, and with their next two league games being at home to Brighton (1st) and Leeds (3rd), I'm sure he'll want to go into that huge double header with as many of his regular starters fresh and available as possible.
source:betfair

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Back Rochdale to Win @ 3.45

 


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Tottenham 1.18 v Wycombe 21.00; The Draw 9.60

It's not very original but I rate Spurs the most reliable long odds-on shot of the weekend, and I'll be backing them to win very easily.

While I wouldn't want to be on Liverpool at 1.33, or Manchester United at 1.19 against Championship rivals, or can't make a case for Chelsea thrashing Brentford at odds of just 1.20, when it comes to Tottenham I just can't pick any holes in what should be a convincing home win.

I'm sure Mauricio Pochettino will rest a few of his star names but any line-up similar to the one that brushed Aston Villa aside in the third round should be good enough to score three or four against League Two Wycombe.

Wanderers are actually in excellent league form, and are now on a run of 12 unbeaten games, but I feel that might be their undoing.

They'll be full of confidence going to White Hart Lane and while you have to admire them for giving it a go if that's what they end up doing, I just sense that an early goal for the hosts will open up the floodgates.
source:betfair

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Back Tottenham -2 to Win @ 2.20

 


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England League One

 

Oldham Athletic 4.00 v Bradford City 2.18, the draw 3.65


Considering Bradford City are fifth, their price this weekend is slightly surprising against an Oldham side down at the foot of the table. However, regular readers here know that the Bantams draw far too many games - which might go some way to explaining their odds-against figure for the trip to Boundary Park.

This game is screaming Under 2.5 Goals, and for those braver souls, look to the Under 1.5 Goals at bigger odds.

The evidence is fairly damning. Oldham beat Peterborough 2-0 at Boundary Park last weekend. The Posh were atrocious by all accounts, and it was one of those games where the Latics fancied it more. They were more aggressive and were biting into their tackles. The constant stop-start to that match on a poor pitch gave John Sheridan's side the points.

The 2-0 win meant that Oldham scored more times in that match than their previous seven combined. And just to back up the tilt at the Unders, 12 of their 13 home matches in the north west have crossed the line.

The Bantams like a clean sheet, and according to Opta, only Fleetwood have kept more (11) than Stuart McCall's side. Nine of Bradford's 13 games away from home have hit the Under 2.5 this campaign, and they have scored more than one goal on just three occasions in that run.

Throw into the mix the home side's grand total of just seven goals at Boundary Park all season - this is likely to be a low-scoring game.
source:betfair

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Back Under 1.5 Goals @ 2.80 

 


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Bristol Rovers 
1.81 v Swindon Town 4.80, the draw 3.45


It's perhaps not the wisest move to preview a game where my initial reaction to the market was having absolutely no idea who to back. Bristol Rovers are ridiculous with their unpredictability - so I wouldn't go anywhere near the 1.81. Although they could quite easily win 5-0 as they could lose 4-1.

Just to give you an idea of recent results for The Gas; they beat Northampton 5-0, and hammered Coventry 4-1 (both at home). However, they have also lost their previous two matches 3-1, and were beaten 4-1 by Charlton.

Opta stats shed some light on why they are so up-and-down. Manager Darrell Clarke has made 92 changes to his starting line-up this term - 17 more than any other team in the division.

With 29 scored at home though - they are the top scorers in the third tier on their own patch, and have recently picked up four signings in the transfer window.

Swindon are generally quite poor, but they surprised everyone by winning 2-1 at Bolton recently. The Robins can do it on their day, but those days are few and far between. Indeed, their form at the moment is not looking good with a run of LWDDLLDL.

Rather than take the skinny odds on the home success, I'd rather take a chance on a few going in either end. Bristol Rovers have hit the Over 3.5 Goals in nine of their home matches this term, and all four of their recent ones, and it might be worth taking that.
source:betfair

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Back Over 3.5 Goals 0.5pt @ 3.50

 


 

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Bury 2.50 v Walsall 3.00, the draw 3.65


Teams in League One often fail to back up a brilliant performance with a good one. So I was delighted that Walsall followed their 4-1 drubbing of Sheffield United with a 3-1 success against Bristol Rovers last weekend. That was a good point for the column - but the less said about Rochdale the better.

Saddlers' boss Jon Whitney might have struck gold with his 3-5-1-1 formation, and the number 10 role for Erhun Oztumer is working.

Walsall are an improving side, so their price is probably a bit too big for the trip to Bury. Overall Whitney's men are WWLDWD and have beaten some good sides since November.

Bury meanwhile are not quite as bad as they were earlier in the campaign, but their Over 2.5 record continues; with all of their last four matches hitting the target. Striker James Vaughan has 16 goals this term - and according to Opta stats, he is enjoying his best-ever season. The forward has hit in six in his last two matches.

Former Arsenal man Jermaine Pennant has signed for the Shakers, but they probably need a defender. They've conceded 55 goals this term (the worst in the division), and Opta point to the fact that they have conceded more first half goals (29) than any other team in League One.

Walsall's away record is not as free-scoring as their home one, but they are starting fast these days and look a good side. I'm prepared to give them a chance, especially as Bury would not feature too many times as a favourite in a game.
source:betfair

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England League Two

 

Portsmouth 1.80 v Exeter 5.20; The Draw 4.00

The form book says Exeter are a huge price to win at Portsmouth. Or does it?

Let's be forensic about the statistics. Away from home, the Grecians have a +13 goal difference, while Pompey have +14 goals at home. For the visitors, that ratio has earned nine wins and a draw on their travels, giving them the best points tally for any team away from home in League Two. Paul Cook's men can't claim runaway success at home, with seven wins and two draws only putting them joint sixth among the division's best home records.

Had Paul Tisdale's men started winning home games earlier in the season, they would be vying for an automatic promotion place - alongside Portsmouth - rather than still scrabbling around trying to force their way into the top seven.

If Portsmouth are to contain a side who have taken six wins and a draw from their past seven games (conceding just twice in nine games) they are going to not only have to break open a pretty stubborn defence but stop Ollie Watkins from enhancing his burgeoning reputation.

The 21-year-old striker provided all three assists when Exeter sliced through in-form Colchester last weekend, setting up a grateful David Wheeler for his 10th goal of the season, after providing Reuben Reid with the chance for the opener.

Amid growing interest from other clubs in Watkins and fellow young star Ethan Ampadu, aged just 16, Tisdale says he wants to keep the squad together this season and the club are in no rush to sell, which is great news for their belated push for a play-off place.

Kal Naismith is really relishing his time at Portsmouth now, he says, perhaps having made a slow start and being put on the transfer list. He will want to be in their squad next season, but all the 28 players in the squad know they won't be talking contracts until Pompey know what division they will be in next season. So said chief executive Mark Catlin this week.

It is a measure of their intention to reach League One that these matters will not be settled until after the season, but many have contracts that end this year, Gareth Evans and Michael Doyle, the 35-year-old skipper, among them. Conor Chaplin is one on a long-term deal already, because there are persistent rumours that other clubs want the teenager, whom some believe to be struggling with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Cook is after yet another striker, Eoin Doyle, of Preston, to add to his stock.

Portsmouth's recent form doesn't have the same flow as Exeter's, gleaning six wins from their past 11 games, winning exactly every other game, including the 2-1 victory over Leyton Orient a fortnight ago (Chaplin scoring twice). They have only lost twice in that time, but been held to two 0-0 draws in their past six games, including by lowly Hartlepool at home. In fact Portsmouth have the most clean sheets in League Two, state Opta, level with Grimsby.

Exeter are right behind them with 10 add the stats men, which is another reason to think there is a better chance of Exeter going away from Fratton Park with a positive result than the odds suggest. On that basis, lay Portsmouth is the bet.
source:betfair

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Yeovil Town 3.80 v Doncaster Rovers 2.14; The Draw 3.70

Darren Ferguson has backed Conor Grant to score a lot more goals before the end of the season, after he scored his first against Crewe - and also provided an assist.

The Doncaster manager was full of praise for a midfielder who had a torrid time at Ipswich on loan from Everton, before he took him back to Rovers where he spent much of last season.

Ferguson felt he need more goals from midfield, although James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe might disagree, while John Marquis has really found his feet up front this season, with 15 from 26 starts. It must be a great feeling for a player like that to finally find a "home" after several years going out on loan - including into League Two several times - from his former club Millwall.

Rovers have scored three times in each of their last three games, winning six from their past seven and conceding four goals, never more than one per match. In fact, emphasise Opta, they have won 10 of their past 13 games, losing once.

So Yeovil will have a tough task not only keeping the league leaders at bay but breaking them down, given that they have only four points - all from draws - from their past seven games. They have not scored at Huish Park in 287 league minutes, according to Opta.

They haven't had the best of luck, even with loan signings. Jack Storer, 18, has returned to Birmingham after playing only 45 minutes. They will hope Shayon Harrison will work out better. At least they have form with taking players on loan from his parent club Tottenham, having blooded Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason among several others.

Scoring remains a problem, even though Francois Zoko and Kevin Dawson managed to give them two in a game against Blackpool. Before that, they netted a penalty against Wycombe, to end a scoring drought in four of their five previous matches. Two of those were against in-form teams Exeter and Portsmouth, both 0-0 draws. They will find top placed Doncaster an even stiffer test and the visitors can take a victory.
source:betfair

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Back Doncaster @ 2.14

 


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Notts County 2.40 v Crawley 3.20; The Draw 3.65

It is interesting that Notts County this week claimed the moral high ground, revealing that they sacked former boss John Sheridan for his verbal abuse and threats of violence to match officials. He also received a five-match ban. In the same week, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger has been charged with verbal abuse of match officials - and pushing one. Will he get a ban or the sack?

The Magpies have moved on. New owners. A new manager: a pretty inexperienced one in Kevin Nolan, who hopes to pull in an old West Ham team-mate Carlton Cole, 33, who left Celtic in August before playing in the USA.

Nolan hopes to sign him if Notts County can have a transfer embargo lifted, imposed because of HM Revenue and Customs chasing them for money. So, it's not a totally clean slate, then, at Meadow Lane: they are still beset by an all-too-frequent problem in football.

On the pitch, they need a quality finisher badly. They have been unable to score in four of their last six games, while conceding 14 goals and taking just one point - from a 0-0 draw. They are now 13 games without a win, taking just two points, say Opta.

For now, Jonathan Forte (seven goals) and Jon Stead (10) seem their most likely scorers, but the disruptions in the background can't have helped.

This all gives Crawley, who had to call off their home game with Portsmouth last week because of the weather, a chance to improve their away record, against a side with only one win and five draws at home.

Apart from being refreshed from a week's rest, they will feel boosted from consecutive clean sheets and perhaps buoyed by scoring twice in two of their past three away games, winning 2-0 at Crewe, but losing 3-2 at Leyton Orient before the 2-0 defeat at Plymouth, which neutrals would have expected.

Boss Dermot Drummy has felt confident enough to extend midfielder Conor Henderson's deal until the end of the season and to sign defender Josh Lelan 22, who left Northampton in the summer. Interestingly, James Collins' 12 goals is four times as many as any other Crawley player this season, Opta adding that he has scored in five of his last six games.

Overall the Reds should be in a better place than their opponents on Saturday, with the Magpies' revolution yet to take off. Crawley have never won at Meadow Lane in four league visits, emphasise Opta, who also note that Notts County are the first team in League Two to ship 50 goals this season.
source:betfair

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Back Crawley @ 3.20

 


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Stevenage 2.60 v Grimsby 3.00; the draw 3.55

For a while, Stevenage looked like pushing for the playoffs, but Darren Sarrl's side seem to have gone off the boil somewhat - even if they have been scoring at a decent rate. Eight goals from six games places them joint ninth in that regard in the six-game form table, but they lie 21st in that cross-section of results, courtesy of three points from a victory over Newport.

They scored three goals that day, all from Matt Godden, and then struck two more at Plymouth a week later, but lost 4-2.

Four defeats in their last five games at home will give Grimsby the idea that they could take a victory, especially after winning four and drawing one of their past six games and keeping four clean sheets. Stevenage might struggle to keep Omar Bogle and Adi Yussuf, now on a mission after a switch from Crawley, at bay.

Opta points out that Bogle is one goal away from 20 this season and last season two players promoted from the National League scored 20, Matty Taylor of Bristol Rovers and John Akinde of Barnet. They also point out, rather deliciously, that Stevenage keeper Jamie Jones has made the most saves in League Two this season (103). He is likely to be in big demand again.
source:betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Grimsby @ 3.00

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21.01.2017
England Premier League


 

Middlesbrough 2.48 v West Ham 3.30; The Draw 3.30

Middlesbrough have signed two strikers already during the January Transfer Window, perhaps suggesting that boss Aitor Karanka is willing to change his favoured formation of playing with just a lone attacker.

Rudy Gestede and Patrick Bamford have joined the attacking ranks at the Riverside Stadium, which means in addition to Alvaro Negredo, Jordan Rhodes, Christian Stuani, and Viktor Fischer, Boro have at least six players who can comfortably play as a central striker.

Yet in all bar two or three of Middlesbrough's 23 games this season Karanka has played just one man up front!

So unless Rhodes is definitely on his way out - which admittedly seems likely - and Gestede and Bamford are extremely happy to come and just sit on the bench, then Karanka might be contemplating a change of system in an attempt to get his side to score more goals.

The Boro boss has been incredibly negative this term, regularly playing three holding midfielders in front of a back four, and it has resulted in his side scoring the fewest amount of goals in the Premier League - just 0.8 per game on average.

On the plus side no club outside of the top six has conceded fewer than Karanka's men this season but it means that watching Middlesbrough has become about as exciting as a trip to the dentist.

Expect another defensive set-up for Saturday's home game against West Ham given that avoiding defeat will undoubtedly be Karank's number one priority. And against a Dimitri Payet-less Hammers side this game has all the makings of another slow burner.

Slaven Bilic's men have been far from prolific themselves in recent weeks. They recorded much needed back-to-back home games in December, winning 1-0 each time, and prior to Saturday's 3-0 win over Crystal Palace - which came courtesy of a trio of late goals - the Hammers had gone three consecutive games without finding the back of the net.

I think this game is ripe for trading the 0-0 Correct Score, but my preference is to back Under 1.5 Goals at 3.00. Remarkably, six out of Middlesbrough's last 10 league games have finished either 0-0 or 1-0/0-1, and 11 of their last 14 have resulted in both teams failing to get on the scoresheet.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Back Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.00

 

 


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Stoke 6.40 v Manchester United 1.64; The Draw 4.20

It's 16 games unbeaten for Manchester United in all competition so it goes without saying that they are the rightful favourites to collect all three points at Stoke, but there are a few factors that suggest taking them on at odds of 1.64 is worthwhile.

The obvious one is the form of the home side. Mark Hughes' men had an awful start to the season and were bottom of the table for the first six weeks, but they've since climbed to ninth thanks to collecting around 1.8 points per game during the last three months.

In fact an interesting statistic is that since Stoke managed to avoid defeat at Old Trafford in early October they've since collected 24 league points, which is just three fewer than the 27 points United have collected in the same period.

So the fact is, there is very little between these two clubs if considering just a three-month form guide.

Admittedly United have been better in recent weeks and they have looked far more cohesive now that Jose Mourinho is close to finding his ideal starting XI, but it has to be said that barring the narrow victory over Tottenham, United haven't really defeated any team that they weren't expected to beat.

Swansea, Palace, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, West Ham, and West Brom have all been victims of United's improved form, but since the first meeting between these two clubs Mourinho's men have failed to beat Burnley and the Hammers in the league at Old Trafford, while they've also lost to Chelsea, and failed to beat Liverpool (twice), Arsenal, and Everton when presented with much tougher assignments.

With Stoke being a top seven or eight-type team during the last three months I believe there's definitely enough mentioned already to suggest that they can give United a stern test.

But consider also the Potters recent head-to-head record on home soil against the Red Devils. Stoke won 2-1 almost three years ago, drew 1-1 in January 2015, and last season they defeated them again, this time by a scoreline of 2-0.

At the odds it's worth chancing that Hughes' men can make it four seasons on the trot that they'll avoid defeat against United in front of their own fans.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Lay Man Utd to Win @ 1.65
 

 

 


 

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West Brom 1.75 v Sunderland 5.60; The Draw 3.90

Since winning three league games out of four during November/December Sunderland have now won just one of their last nine in all competitions, and that run of form makes putting West Brom up to win as the obvious selection.

David Moyes' men have been particularly poor away from home, losing five on the spin and rather worryingly losing them all by at least two-goal margins. The Black Cats have faced a few tough tasks admittedly, but conceding six goals in two games to Burnley and three against rock bottom Swansea will have done absolutely nothing for confidence within the camp.

On Saturday Sunderland travel to West Brom, and on this season's form alone playing the Baggies at the Hawthorns represents an intimidating task.

And that's because Tony Pulis' men have been ruthless on home soil against teams below them in the table. Since the goalless draw at home to Middlesbrough at the start of the season West Brom have won five out of five in that particular category, scoring a very impressive 17 goals (at least three in each game) in total against the likes of Burnley, Hull, Swansea, Watford, and West Ham.

But as well as current form pointing us in the direction of a comfortable win for the Baggies, recent head-to-head stats between the two sides at the Hawthorns makes for alarming reading if you're a Sunderland fan.

West Brom have won six and drawn one of the last seven meetings at home to the Black Cats, keeping five clean sheets in the process and winning by at least three clear goals in three of those matches.

I wouldn't put anyone off backing West Brom -1 here, but I'm more than happy to back Pulis' men at the current odds so I'll reluctantly pass on pushing the boat out.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Back West Brom to Win @ 1.75

 


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England Championship


 

Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday
Friday 19th January, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1


Brighton


Chris Hughton has called on his Brighton side to bounce straight back from Saturday's 2-0 setback at Preston with the perfect pick-me-up - beating promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday at the Amex on Friday evening.

The Seagulls suffered only their third loss of the Championship campaign - three fewer than any other team - as their unbeaten 18-match league streak went up in flames at Deepdale.

Dale Stephens, Gaetan Bong and suspension-free Lewis Dunk are all expected to return to the starting line-up with Stephens and Beram Kayal on course to be reunited in central midfield after the former's lengthy injury absence.


Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday produced a sluggish first-half performance against Huddersfield last time out but the introduction of new centre forward Sam Winnall at the interval sparked the Owls into life.

The Winnall added an extra dimension to Wednesday's play with the Owls eventually running out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Ross Wallace and Fernando Forestieri. Winnall, along with fellow new signings Callum McManaman and Morgan Fox, are all hoping to starts here.

Carlos Carvalhal's kept his cards close to his chest with regards to who'll play but the Portuguese coach urged his team to keep their impressive league form going with the visitors cementing their place in the top-six thanks to six victories from their last 10 outings.


Match Odds

This is the first meeting between these sides at the Amex since last season's play-off semi-final, which ended in a 1-1 draw and Wednesday progressing 3-1 on aggregate. However, Brighton did gain a slice of revenge in October when the Seasiders recorded their first ever victory at Hillsborough.

The hosts have claimed nine wins from their past 12 games at the Amex and are rated 2.04favourites to clinch another maximum point haul here having already seen off top-six rivals Leeds and Huddersfield on home soil.

Sheffield Wednesday can be backed at a fancy 4.40 for victory and with Carlos Carvalhal's men already beating Newcastle and Huddersfield on their travels this term, a repeat shouldn't be ruled out.

But it's the stalemate that stands out most, at 3.40. Since the start of last season, Brighton have recorded 9/14 (64%) draws against fellow top-six teams. And Sheffield Wednesday have followed suit in 7/16 (44%) from the same sample.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

No second-tier side has shipped fewer goals than Brighton's tally of 17. In fact, the Seagulls have never conceded fewer goals following the first 25 matches of a season in their history and that rock-solid defence should lead towards another low-scoring encounter.

Eight of the past nine meetings between the two in Suffolk have seen Under 2.5 Goals collect and it's an angle that tallies kindly with the visitors recent trends. Nine of the Owls' last 11 away days have featured fewer than two three goals with Glen Loovens and Tom Lees' helping to secure five clean sheets in six.

Under 2.5 Goals has proven profitable in 22/30 (73%) of the pairs collective games against promotion rivals dating back to the beginning of 2015/16 although 1.63 quotes are prohibitively short.
source:betfair

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Back the draw @ 3.40

 


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QPR v Fulham
Saturday 20th January, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports 1


QPR


Ian Holloway lost six of his first seven games after his return to QPR but three successive Championship triumphs against Wolves, Ipswich and Reading has drastically improved the mood around Loftus Road.

The Rangers boss was justifiably proud of his players after an interchanging 5-3-2/4-3-3 system helped to keep fourth-placed Reading in check at the Madejski Stadium - Grant Hall operating in a peculiar centre-half and centre-midfield position when in and out of possession.

Young midfielder Ryan Manning continues to earn rave reviews in the centre of the park and although Kazenga Lualua is pushing for a start, Holloway looks unlikely to change too much after the impressive performance at Reading.


Fulham

Fulham make the short journey to W12 having suffered only two defeats in their last 12 league and cup games, both arriving against title-chasing Brighton in keenly-contested matches.

Slavisa Jokanovic's side overcame Barnsley comfortably in their most recent outing and won 2-0 at Ipswich on their previous road trip. However, the Cottagers haven't won back-to-back away fixtures since December 2014.

The Cottagers are without Floyd Ayite and Neeskens Kebano - both on African Cup of Nations duty - though Jokanovic is likely to name an unchanged starting XI following the beating of Barnsley.


Match Oddsclick here for more info...

Fulham 2.08 have enjoyed the upper hand in recent skirmishes, bagging maximum points in three of their past four visits to Loftus Road. In fact, the Cottagers have claimed top honours in seven of their last nine meetings against the Hoops.

QPR 4.00 were victorious when the pair clashed at Craven Cottage back in October but the R's rode their luck in that encounter as Fulham missed two penalties and a sackful of excellent goalscoring opportunities.

The visitors have only suffered six (27%) defeats on their travels under Slavisa Jokanovic's watch with five of their seven triumphs games as guests under the Serbian head coach arriving this term.

Although QPR have posted an usually poor W4-D3-L6 return at Loftus Road in 2016/17, the R's newfound confidence and game-plan under Holloway makes the hosts dangerous prospects at a kind price.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

The majority of trends are pointing towards a low-scoring duel - nine of QPR's past 12 when welcoming top-half teams have featured Under 2.5 Goals and seven of Fulham's previous nine trips to bottom-half sides have followed suit.

But this fixture tends to produce plenty of goalmouth action. Backing Over 2.5 Goals 1.87 would have seen punters collect in each of the last five meetings, as well as four of Rangers' last five outings and seven of Fulham's previous nine contests.

With the Cottagers notching at least twice in six of their last seven, as well as in five of their 11 road trips, goals should be on the agenda. The visitors have only kept 4/22 (18%) away clean sheets under Jokanovic but have managed to find the back of the net themselves on 17 (77%) occasions.
source:betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.87

 


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England League One


 

Rochdale 2.20 v Oxford United 3.50, the draw 3.65


As usual, Sheffield United are very short this weekend as they entertain Gillingham - and you can back the League One leaders at 1.44 if that's your thing. The Blades hold a top record at Bramall Lane - picking up 31 points there so far, yet Rochdale have an identical record at Spotland and can still be taken at 2.20 to beat Oxford. 

That impressive run of results at home for Rochdale, with ten victories and two draws, scoring 28 and conceding just nine, ranks them as one of the best teams in the division - so they are definitely overpriced here. In fact, they look the bet of the day. 

Opta stats also point to the fact we should seriously consider the hosts, as Keith Hill's side are looking to win three successive home league fixtures against Oxford for the first time. 

A recent 2-1 defeat at Southend halted a run of six straight victories for Rochdale. They might have been a bit unlucky in Essex and decisions certainly didn't go their way, but you can never ever be put off from backing anyone in the third tier after a loss. 

The U's were 1-0 victors in the reverse fixture back in September, but they haven't beaten the Dale twice in the league during the same season since 2003/4. Hill's men were out of form when losing four months ago. Nowadays they are a good team, and turned over Scunthorpe recently 3-2. 
source:betfair
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Back Rochdale to beat Oxford United @ 2.20

 


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Shrewsbury Town 2.58 v Oldham Athletic 3.55, the draw 3.55


It's probably safe to say the Under 8.5 Goals market will face little pressure this Saturday. Oldham rarely score, and Shrewsbury have really tightened up at the back in their previous five home matches. Therefore the Under 1.5 Goals option should be the one. 

We have to start with Oldham, who have scored a measly 13 goals all season. Opta back up the tale of woe, as the grim stats reveal the Latics have failed to score in more League One matches than any other team in the third tier (16). 

John Sheridan has taken over the north west club for the third time, and he gained a first win last weekend thanks to a 1-0 success against Gillingham. 

Shrewsbury's recent home defensive record of conceding just once in their previous five games highlights how Paul Hurst has given them a fighting chance of surviving. Saturday's 1-0 victory against Bradford was their first win in five, and they kept a good side quiet and restricted them to very few chances. 

The Latics away from home have hit the Under 2.5 target in ten of their 13 matches, whilst Shrewsbury's home record for the same market is nine from 13 - so this could present an ideal game to trade the correct score markets of 0-0 and 1-1 in-play to yield a green book. 

However, the hosts might just be strong enough to win, for an encounter that won't be a classic.
source:betfair
Recommended Bets 
Back Under 1.5 Goals @ 2.92
Back Shrewsbury Town to beat Oldham Athletic @ 2.58

 


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Walsall 2.94 v Bristol Rovers 2.52, the draw 3.60


Bristol Rovers seem to provide the entertainment these days. They score and concede plenty - in fact with a record of 47 goals against - they should be down towards the bottom of the table. However, they are capable of hitting anyone for a few on their day, and that makes them wildly unpredictable. 

For example, the Pirates recently lost 3-1 to Fleetwood, yet had beaten Northampton 5-0 the week before, and lost to Charlton 4-1. 

Therefore I am not in a mad rush to take them at around 6/4 - especially being the away side as favourites. 

Recency bias is a dangerous thing for a League One punter due to the up-and-down nature of the table, but the Saddlers were brilliant in smashing leaders Sheffield United 4-1 last Saturday. 

Manager and former physio/head of medicine Jon Whitney described it as the best display in his 13 years at the club. Some might say it was just what the doctor ordered. 

Whitney matched the Blades' 3-5-2, so I want to see him go that way again against Rovers, and according to Opta, the Gas are winless in their last five league games with Walsall. I'm slightly worried about the ability to back up a fine display, but we are compensated for that with the price. 
source:betfair
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Back Walsall to beat Bristol Rovers @ 2.94

 

 


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England League Two


 

Exeter 2.60 v Colchester 2.90; the draw 3.60

Mid-January brings fresh uncertainties for tipsters, managers and players, with teams able to change coaches and personnel at a moment's notice. It is no wonder a team's fortunes start to change, because there is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. I'm not talking about the transfer window closing, but the end of the season. Players suddenly see promotion, relegation, or the end of their contracts looming. Or two of those three.

It suddenly makes predicting results even trickier, especially in games when the two top form teams come together.

Exeter and Colchester both have fantastic momentum with 16 points from their last six games. Paul Tisdale's Grecians have even started winning at St James' Park, 4-0 against Leyton Orient and 2-0 against Mansfield. They have conceded just twice in eight games, Ollie Watkins really emerging as an attacking force with nine goals so far. David Wheeler is not far behind with seven.

Exeter really need to maintain that home momentum but Colchester have marched into the top seven, their great run being seven wins and two draws from nine games. Kurtis Guthrie was delighted to gain his last set of goals - a hat-trick - before Newport dented that winning run by clutching a draw. But Colchester have rattled in the goals too in many games, scoring 17 in nine games, while Exeter have netted 17 in an eight-game unbeaten run.

So, whether it is Chris Porter for Colchester or Reuben Reid for Exeter, defences are likely to have a hard time against two attacking teams, so it should be a good game to watch with plenty of goals. Therefore a bet on over 3.5 goals appeals much more than the three match odds options, as it did with many games early on this season.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Back over 3.5 goals @ 3.50

 


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Accrington 2.60 v Carlisle 3.00; the draw 3.60

Cash-strapped Accrington. It's become a cliche used by lazy journalists on live Saturday afternoon results shows to describe why John Coleman's men are struggling in yet another game.

Did these reporters miss Andy Holt's cash injection of £600,000 only 18 months ago? 'Cash-strapped' is how you describe Morecambe, who can barely put out a full subs bench some weeks and paid their players late at the end of last year. Actually, Morecambe can't be that badly off if they just signed an 18-year-old forward, Anthony Evans, on loan from Everton.

It is true that Stanley remain one of the worst supported teams in the Football League and on that basis have over-performed for several seasons including by reaching the play-offs. But that has been down to Coleman finding gems to keep their standards high.

Like the Shrimps, they remain capable of winning games when you think they are down. Take their FA Cup match against Luton, which they won 2-1 with Sean McConville and Omar Beckles scoring that day, while Billy Kee helped give them a first league win in 11 games just a few weeks ago. 

Coleman deems their on-field plight, just above the relegation zone, "critical" and continues to curse their bad luck, referees and repeated mistakes. Opta remind us that they have scored the fewest goals in League Two. 

So why, exactly, are automatic promotion chasers Carlisle 3.00 and Accrington, struggling at the wrong end of the table, 2.60? 

Carlisle have not lost three times in a row under Keith Curle and avoided that again with a draw at home to Morecambe. However, we at this point have to measure how likely it is they will do a "Devon Loch" and collapse, like Plymouth did last season, into the play-offs.

"New Players" was Curle's call after the shockingly big 4-1 defeat to Colchester, but notably striker Derek Asamoah and Russell Penn have left, making room in the squad for midfielder Gary Liddle from Chesterfield. 

United have plenty of quality in the shape of Charlie Wyke and Jabo Ibehre, if selected, and Jason Kennedy's 10 goals to inspire them. Nicky Adams, say Opta, has the most assists in League Two with 15.

Is there enough in the price to justify the away win or enough in the form to suggest Accrington can pinch a point? The draw is worth the punt.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Back the draw @ 3.60

 


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Hartlepool 3.10 v Stevenage 2.50; the draw 3.50 

Stevenage are one side who should take a victory this weekend, unless there is a sudden reversal of trends in their favour or the Dave Jones revolution starts extremely quickly. 

Overall, Stevenage's form is not fantastic, with two wins and four defeats in six games. However, they did win six away games in a row before suffering defeats at Doncaster and Plymouth, a forgivable state of affairs as those are the top two teams in League Two as it stands.

Darren Sarrl has his eyes on a play-off spot that looked hugely unlikely a few weeks ago, but Matt Godden's goals and the experience of Steven Schumacher are among benefits which have had them striking high. Home form needs improving, but they did at least defeat Newport last time out at the Lamex Stadium.

Craig Hignett's Hartlepool came away licking their wounds once more from Crawley, losing 1-0 again after the same reverse against Grimsby. They do put in goals and battling performances against the weaker teams, Padraig Amond (9 goals this season) netting twice in recent matches. But it has been another tough old season for Pools, not giving super fan Jeff Stelling much to rave about. Stevenage will be all guns blazing to put their top seven ambitions back on track.
source:betfair
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Back Stevenage @ 2.50

 


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Grimsby 2.10 v Notts County 3.90; the draw 3.70

How long will it take Kevin Nolan to make his mark on the Magpies? He couldn't do it with Leyton Orient, but that was one troubled club with so many managerial changes in the past few years. Wait! It's a similar story at Notts County.

He has already set his stall out that Thierry Audel and Richard Duffy can continue to be as "exceptional" in central defence as they were against Mansfield last week. He also has a fully fit squad - something he was grateful for when he walked through the door.

Another clean sheet will be tough against Omar Bogle, whose 18 goals in all competitions has attracted Rotherham, Nottingham Forest and Barnsley.

If the visitors can get away with a clean sheet it will be a surprise, but they have something to build on after 10 straight defeats and it could just be worth taking the draw against a side who are clearly enjoying life under Marcus Bignot, but whose form is hit and miss. 

They haven't actually scored a goal in three of their last four home games - albeit against Exeter, Blackpool and Portsmouth, three of the sides who are shaping up to be in the shake-up for promotion at the end of the season. Notts' own shake-up gives them a chance of taking a point.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Back Grimsby and Notts County to draw @ 3.70

 

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14.01.2017


 

England Premier League

 

Burnley 3.75 v Southampton 2.26; The Draw 3.40

I mention regularly in my previews the word value, or 'perceived value' as I call it because that's exactly what it is; one person's perception of what is a value price. I perceive Burnley to be value at 3.75 to win this match, and therefore they have to be the selection.

I'm not overly confident that the Clarets will bag yet another home win on Saturday, but what I am confident about is that if these two sides met 11 times under the exact same circumstances then Burnley would come out on top at least three times.

And that makes a price of 3.75 about a home win a value one.

The reason I mention 11 above - a rather strange sample you may have thought - is because not only is it the perfect number to use to explain why Burnley are value at their current odds, it's also the number of games they've played at Turf Moor in the league this season.

Yet remarkably Sean Dyche's men have won seven of those games including victories over top-nine clubs Liverpool (2nd), Everton (7th), and Bournemouth (9th). They've also defeated Palace and Watford who were both comfortably in mid-table at the time of playing.

Southampton are also a mid-table side - currently sitting 10th to be precise - but they travel to Lancashire on the back of three consecutive league defeats, conceding nine goals in the process. The Saints also failed to beat Norwich in the FA Cup last weekend, and although they defeated Liverpool in the EFL Cup in midweek the Reds were very much out of sorts that night and I'm happy to dismiss that result as a sign that Claude Puel's men have bounced back to form.

I do fancy Burnley to win this, I just don't think you can ever be too confident about a 3.75 shot in football - the outsider of the three Match Odds options may I add - and I do have this worry that the Clarets' home form will desert them sooner rather than later.

Mind you I've been saying that for the last six weeks and regularly been proved wrong, so let's stick with Dyche's men at an attractive price.
source:betfair
Recommended Bet
Back Burnley to Win @ 3.75

 


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Swansea 7.20 v Arsenal 1.53; The Draw 4.80

Swansea did win with new boss Paul Clement in attendance - a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Crystal Palace - but it was 'business as usual' when the former Derby boss officially took charge for the first time as the Swans were dumped out of the FA Cap by Hull last weekend.

Clement expressed his surprise at the quiet nature of the crowd, stating that it was different to what he's been used to recently. He's arrived at Swansea, and travelled to relegation candidates Hull, having been assistant manager at Bayern Munich. What was he expecting?

Clement's only previous managerial job of course was at Derby, where he flopped and was sacked after winning just 14 of the 33 games in which he was in charge of the then Championship title favourites. I have serious doubts about his ability to guide Swansea to Premier League safety.

Immediately before the league win over Palace Swansea had lost back-to-back games at the Liberty Stadium by an aggregate score of 1-7, losing by three clear goals on both occasions, to West Ham and Bournemouth respectively.

Arsenal are a far better team than those two outfits so it's easy to expect another heavy defeat for the Swans.

The Gunners were the big losers over the Christmas period, picking up just seven points from the 15 available, but prior to that they were in excellent form and I expect them to get back to that sort of level on Saturday afternoon.

Arsene Wenger's men are the third highest goalscorers in the Premier League while Swansea have conceded more than any other club in the division so it's not difficult to envisage the Gunners not just winning at the Liberty Stadium, but winning with plenty of room to spare.
source:betfair

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Back Arsenal -1 to Win @ 2.50
 

 


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West Ham 2.44 v Crystal Palace 3.25; The Draw 3.45

Saturday's six 3pm kick-offs hardly set the pulses racing; 11 of the bottom 12 clubs in the Premier League are in action and there are some very tough-looking fixtures.

This game became slightly more interesting with the news that Dimitri Payet no longer wants to play for the club. The Frenchman now looks set for period in limbo with boss Slaven Bilic standing firm and declaring he's going nowhere, but until his attitude changes Payet won't be considered for the first team.
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I'd like to say the situation is one of disbelief, but unfortunately it isn't. Players generally hold all the aces these days and more often than not will get what they want.

West Ham without Payet are a considerably weaker team, that's for certain, and at the London Stadium they look slightly vulnerable against Crystal Palace. The Hammers have already lost six times at their new home in all competitions and they've just conceded seven goals in back-to-back home defeats to the two Manchester clubs.

Facing Palace looks a much easier assignment as the Eagles concede a lot of goals away from home. In fact since the beginning of September Palace's nine Premier League away games have witnessed a total of 38 goals - 17 for, 21 against - at an average of just over four per game.

All bar one of those nine away matches resulted in both teams getting on the scoresheet and that's the bet I fancy here.

Sam Allardyce is sure to tighten the Eagles defence up in time but until we see evidence of it I'm prepared to wager that they'll concede at least one at the London Stadium. And given the magnitude of this game, and the fact that West Ham have been pretty poor on home soil this term, I expect Palace to get on the scoresheet themselves.
source:betfair
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Back Both Teams to Score @ 1.85

 

 


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Charlton Athletic 3.05 v Millwall 2.50, the draw 3.55
Both of these teams met just before Christmas, and Millwall took advantage of a woeful Charlton performance that day with a 3-1 victory. Unsurprisingly judged on that, the away side head the market as the favourites here.

Considering the inconsistencies of the duo, there could be some mileage in backing the home team for this derby, especially at odds of around 2/1 or bigger. Their home record at The Valley is good enough (W5-D4-L3), and their defensive record of conceding just ten goals in their own backyard is amongst the best in League One. 

But you have to excuse the shocking defensive lapses they produced in the heavy loss to their London rivals just a few weeks ago.

Millwall will be buoyed by the fantastic 3-0 FA Cup success against Bournemouth, and their Christmas was rather productive with ten points gained from four matches. They are going better after a wobbly period. 

The Over 2.5 Goals or the BTTS are bets worth considering, as we are counting on Millwall's poor record of conceding goals on the road. The Londoners have shipped in 27 on their travels, and have failed to keep a clean sheet away from The Den this season. 

Both are patchy though; Millwall were beaten at home 1-0 by Shrewsbury before their decent run, whilst Charlton have only showed brief glimpses of 'Karl Robinson football', and for that reason I'll chance the away team. 

OPTA STATS: The Addicks have not beaten the Lions in the league since 1996, drawing four and losing five of their last nine meetings. Millwall have conceded just two goals in their last eight league matches against Charlton (keeping six clean sheets in that run). 
source:betfair
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Back Millwall to win @ 2.50

 


 

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Shrewsbury Town 4.90 v Bradford City 1.91, the draw 3.60


My record in successfully tipping a Bradford victory is fairly atrocious - so it's fair to say I'll be leaving alone the 4/5 on offer for the Bantams this Saturday. 

One place I will be heading though is the Under 2.5 bet. City's away record in 12 games reads F12 A12, whilst Shrewsbury's home ledger for goals stands at F12 A16 - so if we can get anywhere near 1.85 for that, that is the call. 

The Bantams have some terrific players and are a decent side, but they draw too many games. Correct scores of 0-0 have popped up on four occasions for Stuart McCall's men, whilst the 1-1 has fared even better with seven appearances. Both bets are worth looking at to trade in-play. 
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Shrewsbury managed to haul themselves out of the relegation recently for the first time in what seems likes years. Manager Paul Hurst deserves a lot of credit for that, and under his watch, they have conceded just one goal in six home league matches. 

Added to that stat, the Shrews have managed to stay in games against the better teams in the division, and they will simply have to see this as a 90 minute duel to keep the Yorkshire side at bay for as long as possible. And remember, Bradford are not a free-scoring team, as 17 of their League One matches this term have hit the Under 2.5 line. 

OPTA STATS: The Bantams have not won away in the league at Shrewsbury since September 2009; drawing one and losing three of the four trips. The Shrews have kept three clean sheets in their last four home league matches - the same amount as their previous 27. 
source:betfair
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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 
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Port Vale 4.40 v MK Dons 1.95, the draw 3.65


The brief flirtation with a European experiment at Vale Park failed, and the patient (and often slow and painful) passing of the previous incumbent's 4-2-3-1 has been ditched in favour of a more urgent, pressing game. Vale's caretaker manager Michael Brown has put his new plan to good use in his two League One games since Bruno Riberio's departure - gaining a 0-0 draw at Oldham, and a 1-0 victory against Chesterfield. 

I have a feeling that's how Brown will be approaching Saturday's match, although surprisingly the home team are three places above the MK Dons. 

The Buckinghamshire outfit were dumped out of the FA Cup at Brighton last weekend, and their previous 0-0 clash with Chesterfield was a game of very few chances. Dour in fact. 
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New Dons' boss Robbie Neilson arguably has greater strength up front, and he fielded a 'forward three' in the match against Chesterfield. They will be the side capable of the moments of brilliance, but the MK Dons away from home have only scored 11 times this term - and they have hit the Under 2.5 target in three of their last four matches. 

Vale have just snapped up former Manchester United winger Chris Eagles, but Brown's style might just be a bit more defensive. 

OPTA STATS: The last four league games between these teams have produced just three goals; each of them helping in victories by a one-goal margin. MK have failed to score in consecutive away matches for the first time since December 2015. 
source:betfair
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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80

 


 

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Cheltenham 2.84 v Accrington 2.76; the draw 3.40

"Don't tell him yer name, Pike!" said Captain Mainwaring in a famous line from Dad's Army. Or, if you've just signed for a new side, perhaps you shouldn't tell anybody what you can do so the opposition can't find out. I'm sure Gary Johnson will want to keep the skills of West Ham's Alex Pike a secret from Accrington, now he has hooked the defender on loan.

Equally, he will hope to use Carl Winchester, brought in from Oldham, as a surprise element as Cheltenham seek to prove former Southampton and England striker Matt Le Tissier right, that they shouldn't be sat as lowly as they are in League Two.

Pictures of robins looking proud in snowy scenes abound at this time of year. With snowy scenes still possible, it is time for the Robins of Cheltenham to flourish. I rarely base anything on Checkatrade Trophy results, but they will have gained a huge amount of confidence from their 6-1 win over Leicester U21s. Yes, they faced a young side, but they scored six goals.

Johnson will be delighted with new loan signing Diego De Girolamo's hat-trick - will the 21-year-old be in the frontline for a regular starting place? The Bristol City striker seems to have dislodged Billy Waters, one of Cheltenham's better performers this season, from his striker's position. But Waters has a licence to thrill from the centre of midfield. 

Cheltenham have reserved their better performances for the Checkatrade Trophy and have only won once in seven league games - at Morecambe, who are struggling for their very existence. It has been hard to give them the vote against many teams, but Accrington might just be one - because they, too, have been struggling for form. 

Victory against Luton in the FA Cup last weekend, putting them in the fourth round for only the second time, was against the grain of form. 

Can Sean McConville and Omar Beckles produce that magic in the league? Or Billy Kee find his scoring touch again? Arguably, both sides will fancy their chances of a point or three here, with John Stanley of Accrington bemoaning for several weeks how his side have not gone away from games without their just deserts. Opta emphasise they have failed to score in six of their last nine games.

Whichever side can build themselves up and puff their chests out best could win here - and I'm going for the Robins.
source:betfair
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Back Cheltenham @ 2.84

 


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Crewe 3.80 v Luton 2.10; the draw 3.65

The boot was on the other foot at Accrington last Saturday, where Luton manager Nathan Jones was moaning that his side didn't get what deserved and were committing the same old errors - rather than it being the home side's boss. 

No doubt the Hatters will still be smarting and therefore eager to push back up into the playoff places, having slipped out of the top seven by a point.

Their away form is pretty solid, their eight goals conceded the best in the division, alongside Plymouth. They have conceded one goal in their last four away games, losing at Portsmouth. 

Competition for places is stiff, with Craig Mackail-Smith saying he might seek a loan elsewhere if he can't nail down a striker's berth and Jones admitting he can't hold back defender Jack Senior much longer from a starting place.
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Could he start against Crewe? With Glen Rea sent off in the FA Cup, he might be able to keep his place and make his full league debut. He is an attacking defender, too, which will help his and Luton's cause.

Crewe have really started to struggle, taking two points from seven games and not scoring in the last three games. Alex Kiwomya and Chris Dagnall need to find their scoring touches again.

Crewe do not change their manager often, so they must have thought long and hard about parting with Steve Davis, but have a man who knows them well in David Artell, 36, a former club captain, to take over. He says he will make mistakes - but at the same time "bleed" Kenny Lunt and many others for their knowledge. 

It's a steep learning curve when you step up to management. It is hard, however, to see that his "fresh start" can start with a victory against a team who have tangible ambitions to gain promotion, with Danny Hylton looking to celebrate his new contract by finishing chances from a new enthusiast like Jack Wright.
Opta point out that Luton have lost just one of their last eight away games while Crewe have won just one in eight at home.
source:betfair
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Back Luton @ 2.10

 


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Grimsby Town 2.60 v Exeter City 3.00; the draw 3.55

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson, and his defence, earned rave reviews after Grimsby's 1-0 win at Hartlepool. In fact, they have conceded just one goal in four games, beating Carlisle and Accrington while drawing with Blackpool.

Adi Yussuf has also proved a useful addition up front, scoring in consecutive victories to take some of the weight off Omar Bogle's shoulders. Opta state that Bogle has been directly involved in a higher share of his team's goals than any other player in the top four tiers this season (70%).

For all that, the Mariners might just meet their match in Exeter, whose away points haul is second to none in League Two and whose ability to finally find form at home has propelled them from the bottom three to 12th in a matter of weeks. They are also fresh from not having played last weekend.

Paul Tisdale's men are seven games unbeaten, have conceded just two goals in that period and banged in 14. Ollie Watkins is just one of several players full of confidence and whom the Grecians will be desperate to keep in the transfer window. He scored eight times last season, having only started 12 of the final 13 games, and the academy product has eight goals to his name already this season. Reuben Reid, an experienced hand along side him, must be teaching him well.
The price is good on an away win and given the visitors' record on their travels this season, it is too big to ignore.
source:betfair
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Back Exeter @ 3.00

 


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Newport County 3.65 v Colchester 2.22; the draw 3.60

Graham Westley clearly has been champing at the bit for the transfer window to open. Having made a few initial inroads into improving the Exiles' form, the manager has released six players and signed eight since January 1.

He wants winners - those who have won promotions before, because they know how to keep winning. Unfortunately, one who has done so, defender Mickey Demetriou, released from Shrewsbury with whom he climbed out of League Two, is unlikely to be fit to start against Colchester. And how Newport could do with some quality defenders! They have conceded twice or more in teach of their last six matches - 19 in total.

Five of those signings began against Stevenage, who won 3-1, with the other of the six at the time, much-travelled striker Craig Reid, coming on as a substitute. Not even he could arrest a slide of eight straight defeats.

Given all these transitions and that bad run, Colchester should be red hot favourites with their record of five straight wins and eight games unbeaten. Kurtis Guthrie will be on a high after his first hat-trick and while John McGreal doesn't want United to "get above themselves" there is every chance they are thinking they can reach the top seven.
source:betfair
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Back Colchester @ 2.22

 

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FA Cup third round

 

Birmingham 4.50 v Newcastle 1.94; The Draw 3.75

Predicting the outcome of a FA Cup Third Round tie 48 hours in advance is pretty much a case of the blind leading the blind.

In fact, the only thing we can wager on confidently during the new few days is that we won't hear a manager declare in his pre-match press conference that, "We've been looking forward to this game for weeks, having a good cup run is our priority and I'll be fielding my strongest side possible."

Unfortunately that just doesn't happen anymore. League titles, qualifying for Europe, avoiding relegation, achieving promotion; those are your priorities these days. They always have been of course, but they used to go hand-in-hand with managers still taking the FA Cup seriously.

But not anymore, and you can rest assured managers up and down the country will be making a plethora of changes to their starting XIs this weekend.

Newcastle have easily the strongest squad in the Championship and Rafa Benitez hasn't been afraid to rotate his men for league games, so he'll no doubt freshen his side up for the trip to St Andrew's after a hectic Christmas schedule.

But given United's quality we can be confident that whoever Benitez starts with should be good enough to progress to the next round. The Magpies have been excellent away from home this term, and facing an out-of-form Birmingham side should present few problems.

The Blues have taken just a single point from a possible 12 since Gianfranco Zola replaced Gary Rowett and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Italian juggled his side here, more in the hope of trying to find a few players he can trust for league games ahead than anything else.
source: betfair

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Back Newcastle to Win @ 1.94 

 


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Everton 1.92 v Leicester 4.60; The Draw 3.75

Everton have hit a bit of form in the Premier League, winning three of their last five matches including a 2-1 victory over Arsenal, an impressive 3-0 win over Southampton, and a 2-0 triumph over Saturday's opponents Leicester.

However, Ronald Koeman's men find themselves fully nine points behind sixth-placed Manchester United in the league so a good cup run would be very welcome on Merseyside.

I can see Koeman fielding a strong side, and given Leicester's dreadful away form backing the home win carries a lot of confidence.

The Foxes have yet to win a single league game away from home this season, and with a relegation battle ahead, and the club losing a few players to Africa Cup of Nations duty during the next four weeks or so, I envisage Claudio Ranieri resting some of his more important players for the trip to Goodison Park.
source: betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Everton to Win @ 1.92

 


 

 

Hull 2.66 v Swansea 2.88; The Draw 3.60

At least one boss will commence his tenure at his new club by progressing to the fourth round of the FA Cup, but don't expect it to be at the first time of asking.

Both Hull and Swansea are in such poor form that it's impossible to make a confident selection in the Match Odds market, though given the Draw is trading as the outsider of the three options at a quite appealing 3.60 then that's the call from a value perspective.

I'm pretty confident that if these two clubs met under the exact same circumstances three matches in a row then at least one of them would finish in a stalemate, and that would be enough for us to make a profit.

It's also impossible to know exactly how new managers Marco Silva (Hull) and Paul Clement (Swansea) will approach this tie given Premier League safety is undoubtedly their priority.

It could be that both managers will simply go all out for the win given that a replay is probably the last thing they'll want, and I'm not surprised that the Over 2.5 Goals options is a shade of odds-on at 1.98. When these two sides met in the Premier League earlier in the season it was Under 2.5 Goals that was favourite. Hull ran out 2-0 winners at the Liberty Stadium.

If you're thinking of having a decent wager on this match it will probably mean you waiting for the team new. Unfortunately I don't have that luxury but at this stage I just feel that the draw is slightly over-priced.
source: betfair

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Back The Draw @ 3.60

 

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Norwich 3.50 v Southampton 2.26; The Draw 3.50

There could potentially be a minor shock at Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon given Southampton's poor run of form.

Many will argue that with the Saints safely in mid-table then boss Claude Puel may as well play his strongest side possible and go for FA Cup glory. It's certainly a possibility, but his strongest side aren't exactly playing well at present.

And with club captain Jose Fonte handing in a transfer request on Thursday a few cracks might just be starting to appear within the Southampton squad.

Puel's men have lost three league games on the spin now, conceding nine goals in the process. That's quite an alarming statistic for a team that recorded six clean sheets on the spin earlier in the season.

Norwich haven't exactly been in great form either, in fact I've been keen to take them on recently, but on Monday they recorded a superb 3-0 win over in-form Derby, and with Alex Neil still under pressure I'm confident he'll send out a strong side to try and gain some more momentum against a vulnerable Premier League outfit.
source: betfair

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Back Norwich to Win @ 3.50

 


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West Brom 1.86 v Derby 4.80; The Draw 3.60

click here for more info...A meeting of two in-form teams though it's unlikely we'll witness a high-scoring classic when the Baggies host the Rams on Saturday afternoon.

Tony Pulis' men are enjoying a fantastic season, currently sitting eighth in the table with a four-point cushion over those below them. They've just recorded back-to-back wins over Southampton and Hull but I've got a feeling that the visit of Derby will present a very tough challenge.

Steve McClaren's men have been on a terrific run of form in the Championship, winning eight of nine games prior to Monday's defeat at Norwich, and they've recorded a very impressive seven clean sheets from their last nine matches.

At the Ipro Stadium Derby haven't conceded a goal for over three months, and although this tie is away from home it shows how organised and defensively tight McClaren's men have become.

West Brom will have plenty of possession but if they don't make an early breakthrough I envisage a very tactical affair with both defences coming out on top. Don't be surprised if this game remains goalless for long periods.
source: betfair

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Back Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.00

 

 


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 England football leagues

 

Swindon Town 2.22 v Shrewsbury Town 3.50, the draw 3.55

A glance at the footballing runes will not be top of the 'must do' list for Shrewsbury manager Paul Hurst, as according to Opta, his club have lost their last five away games against Swindon in league competition.

Taking their first-half performance in a 1-0 defeat against Fleetwood on Bank Holiday Monday, you are likely to say those stats won't be broken, as they produced a fairly forgettable 45 minutes. With three defeats on the spin and just two victories on the road all season; Salop do not exactly stand out as a bet this weekend at 5/2.

This match pits 23rd against 19th, and it's a must-win game for both. Swindon's home form could just make them the bet here however, with only one defeat from their last seven at the County Ground.

I have fond memories of Swindon's home. I interviewed the gigantic goalkeeper Bart Griemink many years ago, and following an in-depth chat, I realised I hadn't turned on the record button on the hard-to-carry Marantz tape machine. It was a corker too.

I also haven't erased from my memory the out-of-the-blue performance from the Robins when they trounced Charlton 3-0. They have kept four clean sheets in that run of seven home games, and they also beat Rochdale 3-0. If they produce that, they win.

Shrewsbury have plenty of industry but lack creation going forward, but eight of their 13 away games have finished Over 2.5 Goals. Hopefully the hosts will have Nathan Thompson and Yaser Kasim fit, as those two are big players. And with Town conceding just 11 goals on their own patch in 12 matches, they just shade it here for me.
source: betfair

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Back Swindon Town to win @ 2.22

 


 

Bristol Rovers 1.98 v Northampton Town 3.95, the draw 3.75

click here for more info...Both these sides are consistent for their inconsistency - so they're in the right division! Although you can count on one thing with Bristol Rovers - and that's goals. 

The Christmas period highlighted how teams can go from one extreme to the other. Rovers lost 4-1 to Charlton on Monday, but won 4-1 against Coventry previously. Throw in a 4-2 success against Bury and another heavy loss to Charlton (1-5) from the past six weeks, and you've got a ready-made angle for the Over 2.5 Goals. 

In fact, 11 of their 13 matches in Bristol have hit the target for the Over 2.5 bet, whilst backers of the BTTS would also have collected on 11 occasions. 

According to Opta, both sides have scored at least two goals in each of their last two meetings in league competition (Bristol Rovers 5, Northampton 4), so it's a fairly obvious way to be heading for Saturday. 

Rovers score plenty, and with 24 at home this term, only Rochdale and Scunthorpe have netted more. The Gas will also be missing the injured Ryan Hartley, and the centre-back is a big threat at set-pieces with six goals. 

Northampton themselves are wonderful in their patchy form - which is unlike a Rob Page side - as he likes a tight defence. They picked up a couple of wins on the road in December, and recently managed to stay in the game against in-form Sheffield United (losing 1-0 at Bramall Lane). They are worth an outside punt here.
source: betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90

 

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Southend United 4.40 v Sheffield United 1.95, the draw 3.70

Backing odds-on away from home is not always the best way to go. I did for this column when Sheffield United beat Coventry 2-1 at the Ricoh in mid-December, and I had to thank Billy Sharp for an 87th minute winner. Sometimes I've been the pigeon, sometimes I've been the statue, and the Blades scraped that victory. 

Talking of statues - they'll erect one at Bramall Lane one day for Sharp, as the forward has been brilliant this campaign. Actually he's been brilliant most seasons, and he's a smashing player at this level. 

Sharp has hit 17 goals this term for the league leaders, who are now 1.56 in the League One winner market. They have won their last five on the spin and conceded just two goals in that run. Things are looking good for Chris Wilder's men. 

However, Southend do not deserve to be 4.40 shots here, and they are genuine play-off contenders at the moment. 

Their record at Roots Hall since defeat to Fleetwood back in August has been excellent, and they have carved out an unbeaten ten-match run. Phil Brown's side have conceded just ten in that sequence, with three clean sheets as well. 

The run of fixtures coming up for Southend will show us a bit about their mettle; with games against Rochdale, Bolton, and Scunthorpe.

The Shrimpers looked shattered in their Monday 0-0 against Swindon, so the latest batch of days' rest will be most welcome. Striker Nile Ranger featured over the Christmas period from the bench following injury, and I hope he starts this weekend. They look overpriced to me.
source: betfair

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Back Southend United to win @ 4.40

 

 


 

 

Colchester 2.60 v Carlisle 2.80; the draw 3.70 

click here for more info...'Clean sheet! My kingdom for a clean sheet!' That seemed to be one battle cry from Keith Curle this week after 12 games without one. Could it be 13th time lucky?

It would seem unlikely for many reasons. Firstly, his other strong public uttering was that he thinks some of his key players could do with a rest and he might give them one. Oh, how many managers would love the luxury of such thoughts when sitting third in League Two with a healthy goal difference, and a squad of sufficient quality to offer some genuine rotation opportunities. Derek Asamoah is desperate to force his way back in - and who wouldn't want to return to a generally winning team?

Curle is offering new contracts to several key players - top scorer Jason Kennedy, Luke Joyce, keeper Mark Gillespie, captain Danny Grainger and Michael Raynes - and awaiting their decisions before making major incursions into the transfer window, but he has been "bugging" Cardiff boss Neil Warnock about Rhys Healey, who was on loan at Newport. He'd also love to keep Macaulay Gillesphey on loan from Newcastle.

Carlisle have lost only once in their last 15 away games in League Two, point out Opta, winning six and drawing eight - and that's where this game could end up. The initial odds have shifted slightly from 2.70 apiece to Colchester's favour, but one important stat in Carlisle's favour is that, in those 12 games without a clean sheet, they have scored in all but one (26 goals in total), winning seven matches.

Colchester are seven games unbeaten, taking 19 points, after a 10-game winless streak. They are now eighth and eyeing the play-offs in a serious way. Right wing back Richard Brindley says it feels like everything is clicking, and his fellow wing back Brennan Dickenson would have to agree in their new 3-5-2 formation. Dickenson is now joint leading scorer, with Chris Porter, on seven, pleasing boss John McGreal that goals are coming from many quarters of his squad.

Colchester have kept five clean sheets in their last seven games, scoring 16 goals, which is the more important clue to both sides going hell for leather and producing a result with over 3.5 goals. You can go for 0-0 as an antidote to all known statistics as a correct score if you like at 15.00 but I think over 3.5 goals is much more likely to be rewarded at 2.84.
source: betfair

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Back the draw @ 3.70

 

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Hartlepool 3.10 v Grimsby 2.50; the draw 3.60

I seem to remember writing in the past that I expected the Hartlepool keeper to be the busiest in League Two - and two seasons later little has changed.

Whether it was Scott Flinders, as then, or Trevor Carson, as now, the position of Pools' stopper is a vital one. Just how crucial a custodian is can often be overlooked: but it was underlined by the local media's headline "Hartlepool star man out injured for rest of season" with a picture of Carson, who is due to have a shoulder operation after soldiering on manfully for some time, it seems.

With a goal difference of -9, the fifth worst in League Two, it will take a lot more than even an experienced goalkeeper to help Pools stave off the threat of relegation. This Craig Hignett well knows, having signed Fulham defender Sean Kavanagh, 22, a versatile left-footed defender who can play in midfield, too.

The manager still believes his side need to tighten their ship, even after a 0-0 draw at Portsmouth. The case against the defence was again put in their 2-2 draw at Accrington, secured at the last minute, much to the displeasure of opposition boss John Coleman. They also conceded two against Morecambe (but scored three to win).

With three defeats in six, conceding 12 goals and not managing to score in four of those, victory or even a point against Grimsby looks somewhat unlikely.

New boss Marcus Bignot seems to be taking the line that many people do in life: stick largely to what you know but don't be afraid to learn. According to reports, he is returning to his former club, Solihull Moors, to sign Jamie Osbourne and striker Akwasi Asante while also looking at other non-league players.

What is certain is that his first signing, Adi Yussef, scored in the remarkable 3-1 at Carlisle - remarkable only because it marked the Cumbrians' first home defeat. Bignot must hope this week's recruit, defender Gavin Gunning from Greenock, makes just as big an impact on his debut.

Clearly the Mariners' manager also has an eye on development and experimentation because Andrew Boyce admitted the squad was surprised when they changed to a 3-5-2 formation (what is it with managers in this division?) for the Carlisle match.

It meant Boyce returned to the team, so it was a welcome surprise for him. They seem to have hit one of their winning streaks, with two wins at a draw and I can see another win for them here and they can still eye the playoffs. All this transfer activity talk will surely inspire the likes of Omar Bogle to continue his scoring spree. Opta say he has 56% of his team's league goals (18 of 32) this season - the highest proportion of any League Two player.
source: betfair

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Back Grimsby @ 2.50

 


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Leyton Orient 2.60 v Barnet 3.00; the draw 3.50

Another day, another key player ruled out for the season - Robbie Weir, the Leyton Orient captain this time - completing the wreckage that was the 4-0 defeat at Exeter.

The troubles don't get easier, with Jay Simpson now asking to leave the club six months before the end of his contract. Southend could be interested. With changes of manager and fans still upset with the running of the club, Simpson saying he wants out will hardly help Andy Edwards, nor will the continued absences of Teddy Mezague (groin), Sandro Semedo (knee) and Sam Dalby (ankle).

Even if Orient have taken seven points from three recent home games, Barnet seem in a far happier place, despite two defeats in four. A win over Plymouth, however, will have really boosted confidence, especially for debutants Simeon Akinola and Ricardo Almeida Santos. Dan Sweeney and David Tutonda, also recent recruits, will be pushing for full debuts.

The Bees have scored in all five of Rossi Eames' games in charge and chasing a top seven spot seems their aim and, in fact, Opta point out that Barnet have scored in their last 21 away games, setting a club record in the Football League. They are a nice big price to oblige.
source: betfair

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Back Barnet @ 3.00

 

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02.01.2017


 

Man City 1.19 v Burnley 19.00; The Draw 8.80

I've repeatedly wrote in recent weeks that it doesn't matter who the opposition is, sometimes you can make a call on a football match simply by assessing one team.


In this case that one team is Burnley. Or if you prefer, that one team is the away version of Burnley.

At Turf Moor, what Sean Dyche's men are doing is nothing short of phenomenal, and they deserve enormous credit for it. Saturday's 4-1 thrashing of Sunderland took the Clarets' home points tally to 22 (from a possible 30). After the game they were sitting third in the Premier League table for home form. That's some achievement for a newly-promoted club.

But away from home Burnley are hopeless. They sit rock bottom of that particular table having taken just a single point all season, and they've scored just two goals on their travels which is by some distance the worst return in the Premier League.

On Monday the Clarets travel to Manchester City, who incidentally are one of the two teams that defeated them at Turf Moor. If you're still searching for your first away win of the campaign five months into the season, the Etihad Stadium isn't likely to be the place that you'll get it.

But then this Manchester City team don't exactly look bomb proof, especially on home soil where they've dropped points to Chelsea, Everton, Middlesbrough, and Southampton in the last few months. And following Saturday's defeat at Liverpool the mood in the camp won't exactly be sky high given they now trail league leaders Chelsea by fully 10 points.

The way I see this game going then is that Dyche will feel he has nothing to lose, and perhaps his best chance of getting anything from that match is by having a go against Pep Guardiola's men.

I wouldn't be surprised if Burnley got on the scoresheet in a similar type of game to how Chelsea v Stoke panned out at the weekend, but ultimately I think the home side will be too strong and take all three points, possibly by scoring at least four goals which is how I'm going to wager on the game.
source: betfair

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Back Any Other Home Win @ 3.20

 


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Sunderland 10.00 v Liverpool 1.37; The Draw 5.50

There's a bit of a pattern emerging with Liverpool. For all that they've been involved in some highly entertaining games, scoring three or more goals but often allowing the opposition to get on the scoresheet, in their most recent 'key' games they've kept it very tight and played out some low-scoring affairs.

Since the start of October they've scored a massive 28 league goals in games against Swansea, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Watford, Sunderland, Bournemouth, West Ham, Middlesbrough, and Stoke, recording just two clean sheets in those nine games.

All those clubs are (or were at the time of playing) 10th or lower in the table. Even looking at September's games against similar-placed teams, Jurgen Klopp's men beat Leicester 4-1 and Hull 5-1; another nine goals scored, two more failures to keep a clean sheet.

Yet in games against much stronger opposition recently, games that had a lot more riding on them, Liverpool have drawn 0-0 with both Manchester United and Southampton, and defeated Everton and Man City 1-0. That's just two goals scored and a 100% clean sheet record.

It's perhaps something to think of going forward. Klopp's men appear to be fully focused in the 'big' games, but against the teams that they find it easy to score against and should beat, they'll often switch off and allow the opposition to score.

With all this in mind, and given my opinion that Liverpool should easily beat a Sunderland team that are now appearing to be hopeless, the 2/1 on offer about an away win with both teams getting on the scoresheet makes plenty of appeal.

The stumbling block of course is the Black Cats finding the back of the net, but with Jermain Defoe in the side they've always got a chance. And if Liverpool find this game a bit of a stroll and take their foot off the gas then Sunderland must have a chance of doing what so many other bottom-half clubs have done against them by scoring at least once.
source: betfair

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Norwich 2.44 v Derby 3.20; The Draw 3.40

A cracking game in prospect here between two very good sides on their day, but just like I did a week ago I have to express my amazement that Norwich are such strong favourites.

On Boxing Day the Canaries - who had lost seven of their previous nine Championship games - were favourites to win away from home at in-form Reading. I didn't understand that one bit, and thankfully it went in our favour as the Royals ran out relatively easy 3-1 winners.

That meant Alex Neil's men had lost eight of their previous 10, and they've since been held to a goalless draw with Brentford, so how on earth can you back a team that has won just two of their last 11 as hot favourites against arguably the Championship's most in-form team?

True, Derby were disappointing in drawing 0-0 with Wigan on Saturday but hopefully that was merely a small blip. The Rams were still recording their eighth consecutive clean sheet on home soil, and from their last 10 games in the Championship they've won eight, drawn two, and prevented the opposition from scoring on eight occasions.

That run of excellent form entitles Steve McClaren's men to be at least a similar price as Norwich - who incidentally six points and five places behind Derby in the table - but given the dire form of the hosts we'd be forgiven for expecting to see the away team trading as favourites.

Derby aren't favourites, far from it, and we simply have to take a punt on them at odds of 3.20.
source: betfair

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Back Derby to Win @ 3.20

 



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Bristol City 2.26 v Reading 3.50; The Draw 3.85

For the second week in a row I'm genuinely amazed at the price of Reading, in fact this is the third time in the space of about six weeks that they appear to have been dismissed in the market.

I must be missing something. But then again, am I? Jaap Stam's men have won eight of their last 10 matches, sit third in the table, and are playing away to a team that has dropped to 17th in the Championship after losing eight of their last nine.

I'm genuinely staggered - but delighted at the same time - that we can back the Royals at 3.50.

To put those odds into perspective, Ipswich Town, who are 14th in the table and not in any great form, are away to a team just one point worse off than Bristol City, and yet the Tractor Boys are just 3.00 to win.

I'll repeat what I've just said above. Reading are third in the table, are in tremendous form, and they're playing a side that sit rock bottom in the 10-game form table. Stam's men have taken 24 points from the last 30 available, the Robins have taken just four.

Let me just check that Reading actually are available to back at 3.50. Yes they are. Wow!

They may lose of course because as anyone who knows me will know too well I'm a huge believer in the 'anything can happen in football' factor. On any given day, any team can beat anyone, and no more so than in this division. But betting is all about being happy with the price, backing at odds you think are too big.

If you stick to that philosophy you will generally profit in the long term, and odds of 3.50 about Reading just seem incredibly generous.
source: betfair

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Back Reading to Win @ 3.50 

 

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Nottm Forest 2.50 v Barnsley 3.10; The Draw 3.50

Games involving Nottm Forest continue to witness goals, so let's chance our arm on seeing at least four of them at the City Ground on Monday afternoon.

No team in the bottom half of the Championship has scored more goals than the 37 Forest have managed, and only Rotherham (52) have conceded more (Forest have conceded 44). The 81 goals seen in their games this term mean each match averages just shy of 3.5 per match.

We can back Over 3.5 Goals at 3.10 here, and that seems like a value wager.

Of course, it takes two teams to make a football match but we should have no worries about Barnsley being able to get on the scoresheet or concede themselves, as their league matches this term have witnessed 79 goals, just two fewer than Forest's games.

The Tykes' last seven league games have averaged exactly four goals per game, including Saturday's 2-2 draw with Birmingham, while for Forest their last seven league matches have averaged 3.43 goals per game.

And of course, when these two side last met six weeks ago we were treated to the net bulging seven times in a live TV match. I'm not expecting that amount of goals this time but given the stats for each team outlined here I think a price of 3.10 about witnessing at least four is more than fair.
source: betfair

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Gillingham 2.56 v Oxford United 2.60, the draw 3.50

Monday 2nd January, 15:00

Keeping up with the festive League One games is a job-and-a-half so never mind playing twice in three days. Whether the extra day of rest for Gillingham is crucial I am not sure, but the hosts do not look a bad price for the first home game of 2017 at Priestfield.

Gills' boss Justin Edinburgh will face a selection poser, as Bradley Dack and Paul Konchesky were both red-carded against Millwall on Friday. They lost 2-1 at The Den, but that part of London has never been a happy hunting ground for the Kent club. They played well for much of the game with ten men, and were a bit unlucky not to take something from the match. But like so many affairs in this division, the cutting edge up front proved critical.

Oxford have only scored 12 on the road this season, with just two victories away from home. That slightly tempers the Both Teams To Score market, as Gillingham's home matches involving that particular bet has hit nine out of 11 times. Which is an improvement on the Over 2.5 stats for games at the Priestfield - which is just six from the same amount.

Gillingham are nowhere near a play-off side, but neither are Oxford. Edinburgh's team have at least picked up their home record recently - going five unbeaten including wins against Rochdale (3-0) and MK Dons (1-0). And lest we forget - clean sheets have been the problem for them all campaign.

The Gills have conceded 28 away and just 11 on their own soil, and with the extra day of rest, I'm prepared to give a chance to Gillingham at what looks a fair price.
source: betfair

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Back Gillingham to beat Oxford United @ 2.56

 

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AFC Wimbledon 2.58 v Millwall 2.60, the draw 3.55

Monday 2nd January, 13:00

Millwall's festive form cannot be faulted - a maximum of nine points with victories against Gillingham, Swindon, and Charlton has pushed the Lions once again into the play-off picture.

The men from The Den scored seven goals in those three matches, and front duo Steve Morison and Lee Gregory are doing the business. Their combined total for goals in 2016 stands at an impressive 43 between them. Good sides have good partnerships, and they work ever-so-well together.

Neither of those two played when these two teams met in November - playing out a 0-0 draw at The Den. Both teams cancelled each other out on that occasion, and there's an argument to say that Wimbledon will have to try and do the same here as the Lions are scoring.

However, Millwall on the road have a shocking defensive record - conceding 25 in all, which puts them on a par with the leaky duo Bury and Coventry. Only Gillingham have the worst tally in terms of shipping goals at 28.

The hosts conceded three at Southend on Boxing Day, but they are one of the form teams of the division. At Kingsmeadow, the Dons have a recent couple of big wins including a 5-1 and a 4-0 (against Port Vale and Bury), but they are two poor sides at the moment.
source: betfair

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Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.85

 

 


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Oldham Athletic 2.02 v Port Vale 3.60, the draw 3.6

Monday 2nd January, 15:00

This is unlikely to be a classic, but that's not a reason to avoid this game. In fact, out of some of the tricky matches for Monday, this was the one that stood out for me as a bet.

Port Vale parted company with Bruno Ribeiro recently, and following a promising start, results dipped as they slipped to 17th in League One. Ribeiro's patient, passing style will be ditched by caretaker boss Michael Brown - who is going to opt for a more aggressive, high-energy game judged on his first in charge on Boxing Day against Chesterfield.

That was a much-needed 1-0 success. Both teams had just five shots in total on target, and the match was sparse in quality. The Burslem side's away record reads LDLLLW, and have suffered some heavy defeats against the better clubs.

Oldham are not one of the form teams in the division, although I made the point in Saturday's column that they are a better footballing outfit than a team who are bottom of the table.

The Latics just cannot score at home, and a record of just four there means we should be looking at a low-scoring game. Indeed, the Under 2.5 Goals at Boundary Park this term is flying - with nine games out of ten successful. The 0-0 Correct Score has also come up trumps a few times for Oldham's home matches - with four in total ending that way.

Defensively Athletic have shipped in just 11, which is not bad for the league's worst team. This will be low on quality, and Vale looked very tired after their exertions on Friday.
source: betfair

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Back Oldham Athletic to beat Port Vale @ 2.02 
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26.11.2016/16:00
England League One
Gillingham-Rochdale

click here for more info...Rochdale eased into a play-off spot on Tuesday after handing out a 4-0 shellacking to Walsall. But the Dale are a curious team; their last three games have finished W4-0, W4-0, L4-0, and the question here posed is how much do you trust them to follow up from Tuesday night?

One thing we can put almost maximum faith in, is the inability of Gillingham to keep a clean sheet. In fact, it's a while since I touched on this particular area - so in times of doubt - head to Kent. 

In 27 games in all competitions (including the much-maligned EFL Trophy), they have managed to keep just one shutout, and that came against West Brom's Under 21s.

More startling is their record at Priestfield; as both teams have scored in every single game. Not one fixture at Gillingham has produced a clean sheet for any team - and that is from 10 matches. Backing the Over 2.5 Goals in all home games for Justin Edinburgh's team would have netted you 6/10. 

The hosts have been playing Bradley Dack in a more central role, but they have shipped 32 goals this term. Rochdale have got to view this as a game they should be winning - especially with their league position, which could make for BTTS here. 

Opta stats: Gillingham have won three of their last four home games with Rochdale, and Dale are winless in five league outings with the Gills. If the hosts concede in this game, they will equal their longest run without a clean sheet in their entire Football League history - going 26 games without one between September 1992 and March 1993.
source: betfair

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12.11.2016/16:00
England League Two
Luton Town-Accrington Stanley

Can Luton come out of their rut of League Two draws with a win? Or can Accrington rekindle that magic which puts them on great unbeaten runs and makes them series promotion contenders?

At the moment, John Coleman's side seem to be stuttering in the league, with one victory in their past six games, and emphasising their role as perennial underdogs by popping up and beating Bradford in the FA Cup.

Maybe finally having a big investment and money to play with has taken away their edge. Or maybe that FA Cup victory can kick start a another promotion push spearheaded by top scorers Romauld Boco and Billy Kee.

Luton's Danny Hylton has scored in seven of his last eight starts, emphasise Opta, who are keen to point out that the Hatters have compiled the biggest number of shots on target (88) across League Two this season. Which means they should be scoring a lot more goals than five draws from the last six games would suggest (four of them finishing 1-1). So it is about time they turned those draws into wins.
source:betfair

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