Preview: Stoke vs Liverpool

By this time last season Liverpool’s title challenge had already taken a significant turning for the worse, with Roy Hodgson struggling (and failing) to grind out results amidst the on-going ownership saga. It was in November that Liverpool played at Stoke’s Brittania Stadium and came away with a hollow feeling, a 2-0 loss, and no points.

This time around things are different, with King Kenny having instilled a new optimism into the team – and taking them (for a night at least) to the top of the table. A whole lot of dead wood was shifted out in the last few days of the transfer window, perhaps freeing up cash for a star January purchase, whilst Craig Bellamy returned for a second stint at the club. All in all things couldn’t possibly have gone any better for Liverpool really!

Bellamy is set to start on the bench against Stoke, along with now-fit Andy Carroll. Dalglish is expected to keep his trust in the 4-5-1, and the eleven players who did a great job against Bolton. Reina will have his goals defended by Enrique, Carragher, Agger and Skrtel, whilst Downing, Adam, Henderson, Lucas and Kuyt will be aiming to dominate the midfield. Suarez should start on his own – but expect Carroll and Bellamy to be used early if it appears that the Uruguayan is struggling against the burly Stoke back-line.

One player in the Stoke team that will interest Liverpool fans is Peter ‘the robot’ Crouch who, in spite of his recognised talents, was moved on again this summer. He never quite got the chances at Anfield and it remains to be seen whether he will be given a bigger chance in the midlands.

Last Match
West Brom 0-1 Stoke (Shotton 89)
Liverpool 3 – 1 Bolton (Henderson 15, Skrtel 52, Adam 53)

Stoke: D-D-W
Liverpool: D-W-W

Match Odds
Liverpool 11/10 (William Hill)
Stoke 5/2 (Ladbrokes)

Preview: England vs Wales

England vs Wales is LIVE on ITV1 – Kick-off at 19:45 UK.

England are all set to guarantee their position in the Euro 2012 Championships, should they manage to successfully overcome the challege of Wales.  Friday’s win leaves England three points clear of Montenegro with just two games remaining.  A win tonight should ensure that when they head to Montenegro in October all they will need to do on the night to qualify in as the group’s winners is to avoid an absolute drubbing!

In spite of missing a few key players on Friday, most notably Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere, England vastly outperformed Bulgaria away from home, with a convincing cameo from Wayne Rooney helping the Three Lions to all three points. The squad for tonight’s match looks even thinner, with Leighton Baines, Darren Bent and Micah Richards all having been sent home by Fabio Capello because they are suffering from injuries.

Whilst much of the team will pick itself, doubt remains on whether Theo Walcott will keep his place on the left hand side.  Hart will start in nets, with Smalling and Cahill having done enough to convince Don Fabio of their ability against Bulgaria.  John Terry and Ashley Cole will add some experience to the back line.  Parker and Barry will again be given the task of screening the defence, with the most adventurous and attacking midfield duties being handed to two of Downing, Walcott and Adam Johnson.  Ashley Young linked up well with his new clubmate Wayne Rooney on Friday, and is expected to start in the deep-striker role.

England are certainly favourites for the tie, with bookmakers putting them at just 1/7 (at Victor Chandler) for the win.  Admittedly odds are always skewed in England favour because of the vast amounts spent on backing them, but even by England’s standards this is low.

If we were betting men (and we are!) we would be looking at backing England to win 3-0 (11/2 at Bet Clic ) or 4-0 (10/1 at Bet Clic).

With Rooney on current form, we’d also advise sticking some of your hard-earned cash on him to score.  If you’re brave you can back him as First Goalscorer (5/2 at William Hill) but we’re playing the percentages by betting on him as Anytime Goalscorer instead (4/7 at Paddy Power).

We’ve got a fantastic deal going with Bet Clic – you really can’t lose! You can place upto £30 on any bet you want. If you win then you are ££££ in. If you lose, BetClic will refund the money. You can then either place it on a different bet, or simply withdraw the money again! Thats a genuinely cost-free £30 bet. Stick it on Rooney like we have, and you could be £15 richer without risking any of your own cash!

We’re always keen to hear who our readers are sticking money on, so please do let us know what you think will happen in the comments below!

Preview: The Premier League

Manchester United won the league title at a canter last year, and it looks like more of the same this time around. In spite of losing such experienced players as Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar, they actually look stronger as a squad this year – which must be scaring the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea! After their 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal, United are firm favourites to hold on to the title – at 6/5 with most bookies.

Second favourites are Manchester City, and you can see why. Sergio Aguero has given them a new lease of life up-front, complementing Edin Dzeko’s toe-poking, goal-snatching forward play, and helping to make City one of the best teams to watch this season. A solid defence (carried over from last season) means that City will be difficult to beat even if they do fail to score, so it’s no surprise to see the Manchester Blues at 2/1.

With Arsenal failing to live up to the hype yet again, and with Liverpool and Spurs happy just to break into the top four (and the Champions League), that only leaves Chelsea as realistic contenders. At 4/1 they might be worth a punt – especially given that they have a new coach who has yet to really see his vision on the pitch. As Andre Villas-Boas asserts himself in the dressing room, expect a more free-flowing Chelsea side to emerge, and possibly take home the trophy…

Preview: Euro 2012

With England just needing to beat Wales to practically guarantee their place in the Euroes, expect England’s tabloids to be building up all our hopes and dreams again ahead of our usual summer drubbing!

As you might expect Spain (basically Barcelona) have been installed as favourites. As World Cup 2010 and Euro 2008 winners you would be stupid to bet against them, especially as they seem to get better year on year. The only problem is that they are a stingy 2/1 to win with most bookies, which isn’t enough to tempt us.

Germany looked good at the World Cup and will now be 2 years older, so might be worth backing at 4/1. We can’t see Holland doing much – and they were lucky to reach the World Cup Final – which only leaves England (8/1), Italy (11/1) and our current dark-horse outside challengers Portugal at 16/1. If Ronaldo continues to fire then, with a little help from Nani, Portugal seem like a reasonable shout. We’ve already backed them to reach the Semis.