All eyes on Manchester United tonight

unitedManchester United is winless in the last four games against Chelsea and they hope to put an end to this streak tonight when the two teams meet on an old Trafford. The hosts are trained by a new coach and Moyes needs to prove his worth against one of the best coaches in the world, as Jose Mourinho returns to Chelsea. He will also have to do without five of his veteran players as Hernandez, Nani, Fletcher, Young and Rafael are all missing due to injuries.

On the bright side, he will have a formidable trident upfront and with Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie scoring two times in the opening game, so he has reasons to be optimistic. Manchester United made short work of Swansea and will count on a similar offensive output against their arch rivals. What they should expect is an airtight defense, as Jose Mourinho knows all too well how to counter an aggressive opponent that has home pitch advantage.

The Portuguese coach won both games so far with Chelsea and will try to capitalize on the numerous absentees that Manchester United is dealing with. Without Sir Alex Ferguson to worry about, he should have an easier task at keeping the winning streak alive although Old Trafford is a hard place to play. One thing that punters are particularly interested in is whether Manchester’s new coach will give Wayne Rooney a chance or keep him on the bench.

What is interesting about the striker’s situation is that he submitted transfer requests recently and Chelsea is one of the teams where he could land in a not so distant future. Moyes told the media that he has no intention of selling the striker and he doubled up on his claims by saying that he might start the match tonight. By having these three strikers in the grass from the first minute, United should have an easier task in taking the initiative and hopefully for them the fail of shots at Cech’s net will bring a goal.

An interesting take on this match is available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2401912/Manchester-United-v-Chelsea–Martin-Keowns-guide.html. The visitors don’t have any fitness concerns except for David Luiz and are not intimidated by Manchester United’s impressive home record. The Red Devils won 51/59 games but lost twice against Chelsea, which means that the match could go either way and makes the odds of 2.50 for home victory fully justified.

Monaco’s grandiose return to Ligue 1

Monaco’s grandiose return to Ligue 1It is said that money makes the world go round and the new owners of FC Monaco will go to great lengths to prove that this saying is still valid. The rich Principality saw its team relegated to the second flight one season ago but it somehow found the strength to rebound and will play once again among the best French teams. Its return prompted rich Arab Sheiks to take over and attempt something similar to what has been done at Manchester City or Malaga.

The modus operandi is very similar and once again we see a team transform from the offensive downward, and prolific strikers being transferred. Radamel Falcao is the most prominent player to compete for FC Monaco the season after leaving Spain and there is an informative article posted at http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/transfers/radamel-falcao-completes-51m-transfer-to-monaco-8640165.html that sheds some light on the matter.

Radamel Falcao will probably feel pretty lonely up front with no other player coming even close to him in terms of skill, but will pair up with Traore. The other strikers are much younger and have plenty of time to prove their worth, but the midfield is also featuring some players with offensive valence. Colombian midfielder Rodriguez was transferred from Porto where he scored nine goals last season and made a significant contribution to the Portuguese team lifting the trophy.

The main concern for the visitors is the sub-par defense which was not reinforced after the team promoted from Ligue 2. To make matters worse, defender Raggi suffered an injury and will be unavailable tonight, leaving a gap in the defensive that will need to be plugged. Their opponents are also trying to deal with five absentees, four of them due to injury and one missing after receiving a red card. Bordeaux’s offense is more or less toothless, even so they managed to score a goal against PSG and were on the verge of pushing the game into overtime.

A late goal scored by a defender granted the reigning champions a victory in the Super Cup, but Bordeaux put up a good fight. The head-to-head record favors the hosts who won more games, particularly when they had home pitch advantage, but bookmakers have a different idea about how this match will go down. One theory for why the odds are so lopsided is that the hosts would have a harder time replacing the five absentees and have no real options in the offense.

Another way to look at this game is that Radamel Falcao will work his magic in a similar manner he did one year ago when he played for Atletico Madrid. Granted his speed and technique will be difficult to counter by the somewhat stiff defensive of Bordeaux, the hosts know all too well how to contain a prolific striker. The best wager for tonight is Bordeaux not to lose, with a 0:0 Asian handicap or a more straightforward double chance bet bound to trigger some nice profits without taking high risks.

A scoring festival to arrive in Salzburg tonight

Salzburg is making another attempt at reaching the Champions League groups after finishing five points behind Austria Vienna last season. It makes no difference who finishes first and second in the Bundesliga because both teams need to go through qualifying rounds before playing among the best European teams. Salzburg won nine out of the last 10 games and scored on average four goals per match, which is an impressive number even if most of the games were friendly ones.

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The match that will probably linger longer in the fans memory is the crushing victory over Austria Vienna last weekend when they’ve destroyed the archrivals by five goals to one. Those who are wondering what starting formation will coach Schmidt used tonight, have nothing more to do than to check out the lineup of that particular encounter. There is absolutely no reason for making amends or changing anything in a formation that delivered such a convincing victory against a top opponent.

Kampl and Soriano are the most likely goal scorers tonight but the Austrian team shouldn’t underestimate their opponents, because Fenerbahce is one class about them. A narrow margin victory in Salzburg will probably not be enough for securing qualification, because the second leg will be played on one of the most hostile stadiums in Europe. In Istanbul, the Turks know how to create an incendiary atmosphere and keep the visiting team under constant pressure until they finally crack.

Better teams than Salzburg lost in Istanbul against Fenerbahce or Galatasaray and the key to advancing to the next stage is winning their home game by a considerable margin. This is the reason for why the host will come out firing on all cylinders from the first minute and will refrain from retreating back into their own half after scoring a goal. What coach Schmidt is aiming tonight is a victory by two goals or more, and in order to secure it he will probably need to keep three strikers on the field throughout the match.

By doing so, the hosts will expose themselves to lethal counterattacks launched by Fenerbahce, a club with high expectations but rather disappointing results lately. The Turks have invested a lot of money in prominent players and purchased Kuyt, Sow and Webo trying to outshine Galatasaray in the domestic championship while tasting European glory. So far none of these objectives were a hit and the strikers are aging quickly so this is one of their last chances to propel the team to the Champions League.

Risk-averse players who don’t want to take any chances by wagering on the winner, have a less risky alternative at their disposal. This is the type of game that is very likely to end in a scoring festival, as both teams have plenty of options up front and are highly motivated to win. Given the fact that Salzburg can’t settle for a narrow margin victory, wagering on more than 2.5. goals to be scored is arguably the best bet.

Steaua Bucharest aims the double in 2013

It took them seven years to win the domestic championship after dominating this league for decades, but eventually Steaua Bucharest climbed to the highest step of the ladder. They could capitalize on that performance and win the Super Cup as well, as the reigning champions will face Petrolul in Bucharest. The team was mired in seemingly endless scandals and was on the verge of being eliminated from all European competitions due to corruption allegations.

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The scandal is not yet behind them, and with the owner behind bars for more than three years the future doesn’t look too good for Steaua Bucharest. Right now they have a chance of adding another trophy to their impressive collection and with the most important players still in their backyard, they are compelled to live in the moment. Petrolul is not an opponent to underestimate, but this team lacks experience at the highest level and this year’s performance is one of the best in their recent history.

The visitors spent most of the time in the second league and only recently made the step upward, so finishing on the third-place could be regarded as a breakthrough. The last couple of rounds highlighted their lack of experience and the inability to deal with high-pressure, as Petrolul slipped to the third-place. They were lucky to win the Cup as this performance would grant them a chance to compete for European glory, but the road ahead of them is long and tedious.

Fans will be swarming at the National Arena in Bucharest and will create an inferno that should benefit Steaua, while putting the visitors under tremendous pressure. Petrolul has been there before and yet they prevailed at the expense of former champions CFR Cluj, but back then they had thousands of players traveling to the capital from Ploiesti. Facing the team that won the championship by a landslide is an entirely different kind of challenge and it is hard to believe that Petrolul will cause a major upset.

What is certain is that both teams will field offensive starting formation featuring two strikers and this match is unlikely to be heading towards a scoreless draw. Bokila and Younes are by far the most prolific strikers for the visiting team, but Steaua Bucharest has the best defensive in Romanian football and should neutralize them easily. To catch a glimpse at the bigger picture and see how the two teams fared last year visit http://int.soccerway.com/national/romania/liga-i/20122013/regular-season/r18186/.

Uruguay chases its first victory at Confederations Cup

Being pit against the reigning European and world champion is not something that a team needs in the opening game, even in a competition such as the Confederations Cup. There are no high stakes in this tournament and both players and coaches try to do their best while testing various players on different positions. Fortunately for Spain, their reserves bench is deep enough to make any combination a winning one, but Uruguay can be proud of how they performed in the opening game.

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The South Americans went down by 2-1 and Suarez was once again the one who delivered the goal, which explains why he will feature upfront from the first minute. If we are to consider what happened in the first round, his most likely partner would be Cavani who is younger and has an excellent season with Napoli. Another option for Tabarez is to send in Forlan, as the veteran player has a lot of experience in decisive games.

Although advancing to the next stage of the competition won’t translate into financial rewards and the trophy won’t cause many headlines around the world, being eliminated in the group stage is not something that Uruguay needs ahead of the World Cup. We shouldn’t be surprised to see three strikers on the field at the same time, because if Nigeria takes an early lead or if the game drags and Uruguay fails to score, Forlan, Cavani and Suarez could be all playing side-by-side.

Nigeria took full advantage of the fact that they met Tahiti in the first game and scored six goals, en route to a crushing victory. Their opponents didn’t pose any threats whatsoever and did their best to defend, but the difference in class and experience was simply too much. Against Uruguay, they will have a much difficult task, as their opponents will not settle for a draw but try to force them into their own half.

Away from home both teams have mediocre results, but in this tournament one can’t factor in such elements as form supersedes past performance. Punters are entitled to expect a high scoring game, because Uruguay is compelled to win the match while their opponents have already proven their offensive prowess. Add to this the fact that five of the six games scored by Nigeria came from midfielders, and you’ve got an accurate picture about exactly how dangerous the African team is upfront.

Don’t discount Mallorca as relegated

Even the team who has hit rock bottom such as Mallorca could rally in the final round and avoid relegation, although staying alive is a tall order for the hosts. The main problem is that they don’t have their fate in their hands and depend on their counter candidates, not to win tonight. Zaragoza will be facing Atletico Madrid, an opponent that is one class about them while Deportivo will lock horns with Real Sociedad, who needs to win to keep its Champions League dreams alive.

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The most dangerous game is the one playing in Vigo where the local team meets Levante, an opponent who lost all motivation and is bleeding points. Fortunately for Mallorca, they will be facing an equally complacent opponent, as Valladolid sits on a convenient 14th place. The visitors will be traveling with the second team and Javi Guerra will probably replace starting striker Goncalves at half time. Valladolid is a poor traveling team and now that motivation is at its lowest, they will be even less competitive.

The odds are stacked against them, but the hosts are not to be discounted as relegated, because only two months ago La Coruna was in a similar situation. Everyone was reluctant to give them a chance to avoid relegation, but they have past a serious test and are now favorites to play in Primera Division next season.  Form more on their recital visit http://www.thesoccer-blog.com/the-real-test-for-deportivo-la-coruna/.

Punters benefit of less than stellar odds, with 1.50 containing very little value, which means that it is worth being patient. One way of tackling this game is by placing live bets, while watching closely what happens on other venues. If Celta Vigo takes an early lead and expands it, then it might be profitable to lay Mallorca because players will lose confidence and wait for the inevitable.

Bayern gets another chance at winning the Champions League

For the first time in the history of Champions League, we will witness a final between two German teams and once again Bayern is favorite to win. One year ago, they enjoyed the same status as they’ve played at home against Chelsea, but eventually they’ve lost at penalties and all their effort went down the drain. Few remember that a couple of years ago, the British site suffered a similar fate at the hands of Manchester United, and lost the final in Moscow. Those who want to refresh their memory should head on to http://www.thesoccer-blog.com/champions-league/champions-league-final-moscow/.

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Chelsea brilliantly recovered after two seasons and in 2012 they achieved something that few thought possible before the Champions League began. Bayern is going to face the only team in the Bundesliga that they didn’t defeat this season, as both games against Dortmund ended in draws. Their opponents will be missing one vital player, as Gotze will be kept on the bench with an injury but many suspect that this is a strategy. Klopp doesn’t want to use him against his future team and this is something that Bayern is thrilled with, because this was one of the most dangerous players.

On the other hand they would still have to worry about Lewandowski, as the only striker single-handedly defeated Real Madrid. He was just as effective against Bayern in the domestic season and he somehow finds opportunities to score from the least likely situations. With no home pitch advantage, and facing one of the most offensive teams in Europe, Bayern will need to employ the same tactic they used against Barcelona. At least in theory, what worked brilliantly against the best Spanish team of the decade, should work smoothly against Borussia, but only time will tell whether they succeed in containing their rivals.

With no absentees and a coach that is respected by both players and supporters for his achievements, the Bavarian club starts with the first chance to win. Bookmakers tend to overprice the favorites and this season they offer odds of 1.40 for Bayern to lift the trophy and 1.80 for them to prevail in regulation time. There is no value in the former odds, because regardless of how good the team might be, a Champions League final remains an unpredictable event. Those who want to make this game more interesting by placing a wager, should at least go for the regulation time victory.

The real test for Deportivo la Coruna

Atletico Madrid has twice as many points as Deportivo la Coruna, but tonight the bookmakers are wrong to credit them with the first chance to prevail. Away from home, they’ve been more of a mediocre team and without one of their most prolific strikers, Diego Costa, all the pressure will bear on Falcao. Granted he is more than capable of single-handedly defeat Deportivo la Coruna in a good day, in the absence of any real goal and with motivation at the lowest levels this season, he is unlikely to play at 100%.

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By contrast, the hosts are poised to do their best tonight, because losing to Atletico Madrid could render all their efforts virtually useless. Undefeated in six consecutive rounds, Deportivo la Coruna is still just one point above the relegation line and all three counter candidates are within striking distance. Celta Vigo missed out on the opportunities to build a gap between them and La Coruna after drawing at home and will have to settle for being tied for the 17th place.

The hosts have no less than five players missing and two of them are serving a suspension after receiving a red card in the previous round. The most painful absentee is the Portuguese striker Pizzi who used to pair upfront with Riki and was responsible for most of the goals scored in April. Without him, Deportivo will have to choose between Bruno Gama and Nelson Oliveira and none of them are suitable replacements. Together they’ve scored as many goals as Pizzi so we shouldn’t be surprised if the hosts will choose to use a 5-4-1 starting formation with only Riki in the offensive.

The goal of the game isn’t winning against Atletico Madrid, although this would represent an extraordinary performance, but securing a point at home. They have a relatively easy schedule and not losing against one of the top teams in Primera Division would greatly boost their chances of avoiding relegation. On the other hand, both Zaragoza and Mallorca play at home this weekend and there’s a good chance for at least one of them to secure all three points.

Atletico Madrid would normally start with the first chance, but even the fact that they are 100% of their Champions League berth, the visitors will shift into a less aggressive gear. Falcao is highly unlikely to play 90 min. and in this context, it is only fair to assume that Deportivo will have a decent chance of securing at least a point. Punters can take advantage of this rare opportunity and back the hosts not to lose, with the odds revolving around even values.

Betis can be a hard nut to crack

Betis Sevilla is still in the race for a European cup spot, despite the fact that they have only won a game in more than a month. A string of inconclusive results are endangering their presence in Europa league and their dreams of playing among the best European squads in the Champions League have all but vanished. Tonight they will start as huge underdogs in Madrid against a team that has a good chance at securing the trophy in the aforementioned competition and is already qualified for the next edition.

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http://www.wsn.com/football/preview/spanish-la-liga/real-betis-sevilla_vs_real-madrid-preview/ has an insightful article about the upcoming game and raises some questions about whether punters should back Real Madrid at full stakes. The odds for a home victory are insignificant and there is no value whatsoever in placing such a wager, while trusting the hosts to cover a -2.5 goals spread is extremely risky. The visitors miss three players, but none of them are recent injuries and the team has fully adjusted to play without them.

The most recent game against city rivals Sevilla turned into a scoring festival, with both teams leading and then coming from behind. Six goals were scored one week ago and the scenario can’t be dismissed as fantasy for tonight’s fixture, especially with Real Madrid being the top team. The only concern that punters might have, albeit a very serious one is that Mourinho will choose not to field his best starting formation. The Portuguese coach is going to do his best to capture the Champions League trophy with this team, given the fact that he is very likely to leave it in a not so distant future.

Betis failed to win despite having home pitch advantage last round, but they are not the team to defend away from home not even against the Spanish giants. The head to head record is intimidating with Real Madrid winning 10 out of 17 games, but very few of those victories were achieved by a crushing score. From a punter’s point of view, there is simply more value in trusting the visitors not to lose by a wide margin, then to back the hosts to cover a handicap spread. Another interesting choice is to go against the current and wager on few goals to be scored, counting on the fact that Betis will keep its guard up trying to secure a point on one of the most difficult stadiums in Spain.