Friday, October 31, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions November 1 2014

bet365George was spot on with his prediction that the Man United v Chelsea game would finish in a 1-1 draw. He also predicted Liverpool being held by Hull at Anfield and 3 other results.

This week Snoopie Myddleton is back with her guest predictions. See how she got on last time back in March 2013.

The big game is at the Etihad Stadium where a Manchester City side without a win in three take on Manchester United, who lost both of the Manchester derbies last season.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Newcastle 4 v Liverpool 2
Arsenal 3 v Burnley 0
Chelsea 0 v QPR 0
Everton 1 v Swansea 2
Hull 3 v Southampton 5
Leicester 2 v West Brom 1
Stoke 1 v West Ham 2

Sunday 2 November 2014

Man City 2 v Man Utd 2
Aston Villa 3 v Tottenham 1

Monday 3 November 2014

Crystal Palace 0 v Sunderland 1

Soccer - Ancelotti brushes off Bale fitness fears

Carlo Ancelotti has denied he is having to manage a Gareth Bale injury which prevents the Wales international from playing three games in quick succession for Real Madrid. The world's most expensive footballer was an unused substitute in the 5-0 thrashing of Levante at Estadi Ciudad de Valencia in La Liga earlier this month. The 25-year-old also sat out the Champions League win against Liverpool at Anfield and the El Clasico victory against bitter rivals Barcelona on Saturday because of a hip injury. "It's a lie that Bale couldn't play three consecutive matches," Ancelotti said ahead of Real Madrid's Copa del Rey clash with Cornella on Wednesday. "He just has a small injury." The likes of summer signing James Rodriguez and Spain forward Isco have been the principal beneficiaries of Bale's absence but coach Ancelotti insisted the former Tottenham flyer still has a big future with the capital giants. "It seems like many have forgotten that Gareth Bale scored in the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League finals [last season]," he added. "He is equally important as James Rodriguez and Isco." Real Madrid are currently priced 5/6 by bet365 in the La Liga outright betting and 10/3 to win this season's Champions League.

Soccer - El Clasico now in the past for Enrique

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has said he will have no problem motivating his players for Saturday's La Liga visit of Celta Vigo to Camp Nou. The Spanish leaders conceded and lost for the first time this season when suffering a 3-1 defeat to title rivals Real Madrid in the capital on Saturday in Enrique's first El Clasico since taking charge in the summer. Enrique said his players have already moved on from the setback and are determined to get back to winning ways against Eduardo Berizzo's men this weekend. "It's never nice for a Barca fan to see their team lose but I am not especially upset about it. If anything, it's renewed our motivation," he told a media conference. "At the end of the day, we are joint leaders after nine games and for me it's much more important to be top of the league than to have beaten Real Madrid." The 44-year-old also said he would have no issue losing again to Carlo Ancelotti's men and champions Atletico Madrid this season as long as Barca end up winning the title. "I'd happily settle for getting beaten at Camp Nou against Madrid, Atletico and anybody else as long as we end up winning the title." Barcelona are currently priced 1/8 by bet365 in the match betting and the draw is quoted 15/2. Celta Vigo are available to back in the 90 minutes market at 16/1.

Last time's predictions

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2018 World Cup logo revealed

It was midnight in Moscow as three Russian astronauts from the international space station revealed the emblem of the next World Cup finals.

The image was then projected onto the facade of the famous Bolshoi Ballet.
As World Cup logos go it is pretty inoffensive, if not rather conservative, as perhaps befitting of the Russian Republic, but it is undeniably elegant at the same time and given the litany of dodgy sporting emblems, we can hardly complain. 

It appears a more elegant and refined version of Brazil's 2014 effort, although vaguely reminiscent of a deodorant in its rounded smoothness.

The shape is loosely the FIFA World Cup trophy once more and the red, gold and black are nods to the medieval tradition of Russian icon painting. From a distance it might even pass for a goblet about to be quaffed by Ivan the Terrible.

Yet the various stars on the blue background and tufts which could be exhaust flames reference Russia's pioneering role in space exploration, hence the unveiling 330km above the earth.

Brandia of Portugal were responsible for the final design but before producing it consulted eight Russian and international design agencies and a panel of ten individuals, including FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Russian national team coach Fabio Capello. 

After the furore which greeted the dreadful London 2012 Olympic symbol and the observation after their thrashing by Germany that Brazil 2012's emblem looked like a hand covering a face in shame, the Russians were taking no chances.

The official slogan will be revealed in early 2015, the preliminary draw will take place in St Petersburg next summer and in late 2016 we will get our first glimpse of the poster and the mascot.

Will it be a bear by any chance..?



No Suarez in Ballon D'Or shortlist

FIFA's Ballon D'Or shortlists for the men's player of the year and coach of the year awards have been released.

All the 23 nominated players are Europe-based, with Cristiano Ronaldo favourite to retain his title. Five of Germany's World Cup-winning team are included, although there is no space for Luis Suarez, thanks to his bite in Brazil.

Otherwise, the Uruguayan would surely have been included for his 31 goals in 33 games for Liverpool last season, a tally only matched in Europe by Cristiano Ronaldo at Real.

Five of the chosen players are South American (Lionel Messi, James Rodriguez, Neymar, Javier Mascherano and Angel di Maria), one African (Yaya Toure) and one from the British Isles (Gareth Bale).

The ten-man shortlist for the world's best coach contains the usual suspects, although Jose Pekerman's guiding of Colombia to the last eight of the World Cup after they had not been to the finals since 1998 goes unrewarded.

Jorge Luis Pinto's achievements in taking unfancied Costa Rica to a heroic penalty defeat at the same stage of the tournament are also ignored. Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached the USA to the second round of the tournament however, makes the list.

FIFA World Men's Player of the Year shortlist:

Gareth Bale (Wales, Real Madrid), Karim Benzema (France, Real Madrid), Diego Costa (Spain, Chelsea), Thibaut Courtois (Belgium, Chelsea), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Argentina, Manchester United), Mario Gotze (Germany, Bayern Munich), Eden Hazard (Belgium, Chelsea), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden, Paris St-Germain), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Philipp Lahm (Germany, Bayern Munich), Javier Mascherano (Argentina, Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona), Thomas Muller (Germany, Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich), Neymar (Brazil, Barcelona), Paul Pogba (France, Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Arjen Robben (Netherlands, Bayern Munich), James Rodriguez (Colombia, Real Madrid), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany, Bayern Munich), Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast, Manchester City).

FIFA Coach of the Year shortlist:

Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid), Antonio Conte (Juventus & Italy), Pep Guardiola (Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klinsmann (USA), Joachim Low (Germany), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City), Alejandro Sabella (Argentina), Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid), Louis van Gaal (Netherlands & Manchester United).

The decisions will be made by national team captains and coaches and a coterie of international journalists assembled by France Football magazine, who started the European Footballer of the Year award in 1956. FIFA's World Player of the Year began in 1991 and the two prizes merged in 2010.

Other prizes up for grabs include the FIFA Fifpro World XI team of the year, the FIFA Ferenc Puskas award for most beautiful goal, the FIFA Presidential award and FIFA Fair Play award.

The winners will be announced in Zurich on the 12th of January 2015.

-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Buy first, develop players later

17.2% is the rather paltry percentage of homegrown players in Europe's top leagues according to a new survey.

The Centre International d'Etude du Sport (CIES) in Switzerland found the average has fallen from 20.2% four years ago. They took 'homegrown' as a player who had spent at least three years in a club's academy between the ages of 15 and 21.

Surprisingly the Premier League is not the worst offender; that crown is taken by Serie A's less than self-confident 10%.

France's first division clubs have the highest ratio however with almost a quarter coming through the youth ranks. Spain is close by with the much-vaunted German top flight somewhat behind, closer to England.

Ligue 1                 24.6%
La Liga                 22.4%
Bundesliga           16.4%
Premier League    13.9%
Serie A                   9.6%

In terms of clubs from the big five leagues developing their own players, three of the top four are from La Liga.

Athletic Bilbao's regional recruitment tradition unsurprisingly sees them in the lead, along with Lyon, often cited as the model organisation for a club with modest resources. Real Sociedad make it two Basque sides in the top three.


  • Athletic Bilbao           15
  • Olympique Lyonnais  15
  • Real Sociedad           15
  • Barcelona                  13
  • Manchester Utd         12
  • Bordeaux                   11
  • Metz                          10
  • Montpellier                 10
  • Lens                            9
  • Nantes                         9
  • Schalke                       9

Real Madrid have eight players who grew up at the Bernabeu, Bayern Munich six schooled in-house, Atletico Madrid five, Inter four, Chelsea & Milan three and Manchester City only one. Empoli was the highest-placed Italian club with seven, the same as Arsenal.

Ajax, outside the five big leagues but with a legendary youth system, have 15 own-grown players, but are topped by Argentina's River Plate, with 17.

When it comes to importing players from overseas, the Premier League came top in 2013-'14 with a percentage almost twice as big as France's.

Premier League   63%
Serie A               55%
Bundesliga         41%
La Liga               39%
Ligue 1               32%


So the overall picture, at least in England and Italy, is of clubs buying in more and more talent despite spending a fortune on youth systems to avoid the huge costs that entails.

The situation is really quite curious. For ambitious young players trying to make it at Europe's biggest clubs, the best chance of success paradoxically seems to be to get transferred to another one.

- Sean O'Conor

Monday, October 27, 2014

South Africa captain dies

South Africa & Orlando Pirates captain Senzo Meyiwa has been killed in an armed burglary.

At 8pm yesterday two men entered the house he was visiting in Vosloorus and following an altercation over a mobile phone, Meyiwa was shot and pronounced dead on arrival at hospital in Johannesburg.

Meyiwa led a complex private life and at the time of his death was visiting the house of actress/singer Kelly Khumalo, with whom he had fathered a child. Khumalo was arrested last year for assaulting Meyiwa's wife Mandisa, and had published a photo of herself with Meyiwa hours before the shooting.

South African police have promised to track down the killers and have offered a 150,000 ZAR (£8,500) reward.

The 27 year-old had six caps for his country and 73 appearances for Orlando Pirates, for whom he had played the day before in a 4:1 win over Ajax Cape Town.

Meyiwa was born in Durban and had captained Bafana Bafana in their four African Nations Cup qualifiers this year.

In the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the press whipped up much fear of tourists being targeted, but in the end the tournament passed off peacefully. 


Sadly now domestic football has fallen victim to the country's violent crime problem.

Irvin Khosa, president of the Pirates and the South African football association, tweeted, 

"If something like this can happen to a national icon, then the rest of us are in deep trouble. It has to be stopped for us all."

Darren Keet, Meyiwa's goalkeeping understudy for the national team, put it simply, "When does it STOP South Africa?"



- Sean O'Conor

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Clásico in Spain, Suarez bites back

It's that time again, Spanish heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid lock horns at 6pm local time in the first clásico of the season.

Estadio Bernabeu


"The best game in the world", proclaims soccer daily Marca without much irony. 400 million people will be watching, says rival AS, with the kick-off time primed for South American and Middle Eastern markets.

We all know La Liga is far from competitive, with two super-clubs dominating the rest of the field thanks to their ability to negotiate their own TV deals, so this really is the clash of the titans.

Brand Barça face brand Real twice in the league each season and often once in the Copa del Rey too, and these few meetings take on the importance of cup finals in Spanish football. It is so often assumed that the title will go to one or other of the giants that these games are seen as deciders.

Atletico Madrid won last season's championship, Sevilla are a point ahead of Real and Valencia and Atletico are only a point behind in the table but these salient facts have almost been forgotten in the hype approaching tonight's game at the Bernabeu.

With revenues comfortably outstripping their rivals, the twice-yearly extravaganza that is Real v Barça goes on, the two enterprises cherry-pick the brightest stars each summer for their particular galaxies, and press coverage of this clásico descends into another duel between famous individuals.

So once again it is Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo, the two finest footballers in the world. Then there is the sub-plot of Neymar, Andres Iniesta and the much-anticipated debut of Luis Suarez for the Blaugrana versus Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale for Real, although the Welsh wonder will miss out through injury.

Clásico in Spain, Suarez bites back.


The loss of Bale and the sale of Angel di Maria to Manchester United leaves Real without much pace to support Ronaldo, but arriving on the back of a 3-0 humbling of Liverpool at Anfield while Barça maintained their stuttering Champions League form, the home side should have the edge.

Suarez's return to competitive football after his flesh-eating fiasco in the World Cup could be the stuff of legend if the Uruguayan runs riot on an unprepared Real defence. Alternatively he may struggle for match sharpness in his first real run-out since June.

The former Liverpool man is set to start on the bench for Barça and come on as an impact sub, as is Real's Chicharito, who could just as well steal the headlines with a game-winning cameo.

While the outcome of today's clash is most likely to be decided by the relative brilliance of Messi or Ronaldo again, unsung heroes like attacker Pedro, or midfield anchor Sergio Busquets could hold the key for Barça. On the other side, the much-improved Benzema and Isco could be decisive for Real.

The 'return-leg' of this annual jamboree is on the 22nd of March 2015 at the Camp Nou.

Probable teams:

Real Madrid (4-4-2) - Casillas, Carvajal, Marcelo, Pepe, Ramos, Modric, Kroos, Rodriguez, Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo
Barcelona (4-3-3) - Bravo, Alves, Alba, Mathieu, Pique, Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi, Neymar, Messi, Pedro

-Sean O'Conor 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Europe's clubs back a Spring World Cup, but Blatter wants November

The tussle over when to host the 2022 World Cup rumbles on.

Days after potential FIFA Presidential candidate Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean with the oh-so English name, proposed moving the tournament back a month to May 2022 and kicking off as late as 1am to temper the effects of the summer heat, Europe's clubs seem to be moving in that direction.

The European Club Association which represents the continent's top clubs is set to back a switch to April or May of 2022. Their initial preference for January and February now seems to have bitten the dust after the International Olympic Committee, which counts FIFA President Sepp Blatter as a member, refused to contemplate moving the 2022 Winter Olympics to accommodate FIFA's cock-up.

Blatter has gone on record saying the winter is his ideal date, which would put him on a collision course with Europe the financial heart of football. "We cannot play the World Cup in summer," he reiterated this week. 

Yet the Association of European Professional Leagues has also stated it is dead against any disruption to its winter schedules and reluctantly maintains that summer 2022 is the only option.

European players' unions, whose members made up around three-quarters of the footballers at the last World Cup, are yet to get involved in the dispute although former Australian custodian Mark Schwarzer said earlier this week about a summer tournament in Qatar, "It's ridiculous to play at that time of year. I don't know why there is a debate." Their clubs might favour the minimum disruption to their businesses, but how many players will want to kick-off in an average of 35 Celsius, three degrees above FIFA's own threshold for extreme risk?

Underlying the latest developments is a suspicion that the climate-cooling technology promised in 2010 may not materialise, as it has never been tested on a large-scale before. English firm Arup's Showcase Model (left) got the temperature down from 44C to 23C, but little has been heard about their ambitious plans recently.

FIFA's taskforce dealing with the 2022 headache, lead by Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim al Khalifa, reconvenes on the 3rd of November and again in February 2015. 

At their first meeting in September FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke appeared to insist they were legally bound to host in 2022. With the IOC's rebuttal, this leaves November-December 2022 as FIFA's preferred timeslot, though this week's calls in favour of the Spring will surely now be brought to the table.

No final decision is expected before next summer. Meanwhile the sorry saga goes on.

-  Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

George's Premiership Predictions October 25 2014

bet365George got six out of the 10 games right last week but his tip for QPR to beat Liverpool was close but no cigar.

This weekend the big match is Chelsea, the leaders, away to Man United and the kid is going for a 1-1 draw.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

West Ham 1 v Man City 2
Liverpool 1 v Hull 1
Southampton 3 v Stoke 1
Sunderland 1 v Arsenal 2
West Brom 2 v Crystal Palace 1
Swansea 1 v Leicester 1

Sunday 26 October 2014

Burnley 0 v Everton 2
Tottenham 2 v Newcastle 1

Man Utd 1 v Chelsea 1

Monday 26 October 2014

QPR 1 v Aston Villa 1

Not So Super Mario 5/6 To Leave Anfield

Mario Balotelli's Liverpool career is yet to take off and bet365 are 5/6 the controversial striker leaves the club before the end of the 2015 summer transfer window.

bet365’s Steve Freeth "Liverpool took a punt at £16m and the early signs could point to a brief spell on Merseyside."

bet365 also have a market on where Liverpool will finish the 2014/15 Premier League campaign.

Mario Balotelli To Have Left Liverpool By The End Of 2015 Summer Transfer Window

Yes 5/6 No 5/6
(Loan deals do not count)

2014/15 Premier League - Liverpool Finishing Position

1st 40/1 2nd 16/1 3rd 4/1 4th 3/1
5th 10/3 6th 11/2 7th+ 4/1

Soccer - Ronaldo not interested in sideshow

Cristiano Ronaldo has said he will not be concerning himself with Lionel Messi and is only interested in helping Real Madrid win the first 'El Clasico' of the new La Liga season on Saturday. Luis Enrique's Barcelona will make the hotly-anticipated trip to the Spanish capital having had an extra day's rest from Tuesday's 3-1 win against Ajax in the Champions League. Ronaldo and Camp Nou icon Messi have long been pitted together as big rivals for the world's best-player tag, but the Portugal superstar says Saturday's showdown is not about individuals. The Catalan capital title-chasers have only dropped two points from their opening eight games in the top flight and have yet to concede a goal in Spain's La Liga. Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo says Los Blancos need to beat Barca to have any hope of usurping their rivals in the title race and is expecting a massive test. "It will be a difficult match because Barcelona are playing well," he told the official club website. "I'm not going to play against Messi, I'm going to play against Barcelona. They are a great team. Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing each other." Real Madrid are currently priced 11/8 by bet365 in the match betting and the draw is quoted 13/5. Barcelona are available to back in the 90 minutes market at 7/4.

Soccer - Rafael won't hide from Chelsea test

Rafael da Silva has said Manchester United should not fear the visit of leaders Chelsea on Sunday and demanded his team-mates make their own Premier League statement. The west London club have only dropped two points from their opening eight games - in a 1-1 draw against Manchester City - and have not lost in six previous meetings against the former champions. Young defender Rafael says Louis van Gaal's men are relishing the visit of Jose Mourinho's early-season pacesetters and said they can inflict a first defeat on the capital club. "Everyone is beatable," he told the club's official website. "We have to do our best, of course. They are playing well. "We're playing at Old Trafford though and we've been getting results there so they are definitely beatable." The 24-year-old is convinced Van Gaal's new signings are starting to have an impact at Old Trafford and feels victory against Chelsea could give the supporters a huge lift. He added: "Football is about results and, when you don't play well and draw, like on Monday night [2-2 at West Brom], of course everyone will speak. But hopefully we can play well against Chelsea and, if we get the result, it would be very positive for us and the whole team." Manchester United are currently priced 9/5 by bet365 in the match betting and the draw is quoted 12/5. Chelsea are available to back at 7/5 in the 90 minutes market.

Last time's predictions

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fifa World Rankings October 2014

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for October 2014 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

2014 world cup champions Germany remain at the top of the Fifa rankings followed by Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, France, Uruguay, Portugal, and Spain.

England drop to 20th place despite three wins in three games in Euro 2016 qualification.

Algeria are the top African team in 15th place.

Japan are in 52nd place and on a downward spiral, four spots lower than last month.

The USA are in 23rd place, down six from last month. Scotland are in 37th position with Wales in 34th. The Republic of Ireland are in 61st place up one spot, Northern Ireland are up to 43rd position after winning their first three games in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Ranking Team
1 Germany
2 Argentina
3 Colombia
4 Belgium
5 The Netherlands
6 Brazil
7 France
8 Uruguay
9 Portugal
10 Spain
11 Italy
12 Switzerland
13 Chile
14 Croatia
15 Algeria
16 Costa Rica
17 Mexico
18 Greece
19 Ukraine
20 England

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

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Soccer Books & DVDs

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harold maybe you've cracked it

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, whose technical report warned FIFA of the health risks associated with playing the 2022 World Cup in the heat of Qatar, has suggested evening kick-off times could be the solution.

Under the Chilean's proposals, the tournament would begin a month earlier in May 2022 and games would kick-off at 7pm, 10pm and 1am local time to avoid the worst of the heat, or at least the sun.

In May the average temperatures for Qatar range from 27C to 39C (81F-102F) as opposed to between 29C and 42C (84F-108F) in June.

With Doha only one hour ahead of continental Europe, advertisers and marketers could still cash in on television broadcasts at reasonable times, while the big US market would benefit from the switch from afternoon kick-offs in the Middle East.

On the east coast of America, games would start at noon, 3pm and 6pm, although the California market would have to make do with 9am, 12pm and 3pm.

The Far East would have a harder time, with kick-offs in Beijing at midnight, 3am and 6am, and in Japan one hour later.

While the FIFA Executive Committee is still expected to back a switch to the 2021 winter and potential clashes with the Winter Olympics, Superbowl and European soccer leagues, Mayne-Nicholls is angling for a challenge to President Sepp Blatter in next May's FIFA elections.

To that end he has issued this proposal in the hope of attracting support in the run-up to the application deadline at the end of January 2015.

The controversy surrounding the decision to award the 2022 tournament to a country with little football heritage and extreme temperatures continues to rumble on, with FIFA reluctant to release Michael Garcia's corruption report.

With no action on 2022 expected before the Spring of next year at the earliest, it appears as if FIFA is trying to delay as much as possible so that Qatar can start building infrastructure, which would reduce the likelihood of a switch of hosts.

But the inescapable issue of the searing heat of summer there, which Mayne-Nicholls rightly flagged up in his famously ignored report, remains an almighty headache for world football.


(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, October 17, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions 18 October 2014

bet365George was spot on with his prediction of Chelsea to brush aside Arsenal at The Bridge and also called the correct score for Aston Villa v Manchester City.

George also predicted home wins for West Ham, Man Utd and Liverpool.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Man City 2 v Tottenham 1
Arsenal 2 v Hull 0
Burnley 1 v West Ham 0
Crystal Palace 0 v Chelsea 2
Everton 2 v Aston Villa 1
Newcastle 2 v Leicester 0
Southampton 2 v Sunderland 0

Sunday 19 October 2014

QPR 1 v Liverpool 0
Stoke 1 v Swansea 0

Monday 20 October 2014

West Brom 1 v Man Utd 2

Euro 2016 - Home Quintet 40/1 To Make France

Another productive couple of nights for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland has bet365 quoting 40/1 about all five making the Euro 2016 finals in France.

bet365’s Steve Freeth "The qualifying process has been questioned in some quarters, but try saying that to a team like Northern Ireland who have shortened from 7/1 into 5/4 on the back of three wins."

The firm have also seen favourable Euro 2016 results over the last week.

"The staggered nature of qualifying has seen some results go our way, none more so than the John O’Shea late equaliser in Germany and Scotland’s performance in Warsaw was also well received" added Freeth.

Euro 2016

England, Scotland, Wales, ROI & NI all to qualify 40/1

To Qualify

England 1/500
Rep Ireland 4/5
Northern Ireland 5/4
Scotland 7/4
Wales 7/4

Soccer - Kightly desperate to break duck

Michael Kightly is confident that Burnley will get their first Premier League win on the board in the next ten days. The Clarets face West Ham United at Turf Moor this weekend before playing Everton on home soil on 26th October. Sean Dyche's side have drawn four of their first seven league matches of the season and are 4/11 with bet365 to be relegated. However, Burnley winger Kightly is optimistic that a victory is imminent, saying: "We're disappointed not to have won a game but we've got two home games after this international break and hopefully we can get a win. "We just haven't had the rub of the green and we haven't got that win that we've deserved. We know it will come." Burnley can be backed at 17/2 to beat the Hammers 1-0.

Soccer - Beleaguered Redknapp wins Rio's backing

Rio Ferdinand is convinced that Harry Redknapp is the right man to lead QPR away from the relegation zone this season. QPR are rooted to the foot of the Premier League table and face Liverpool on Sunday before playing Chelsea and Manchester City in the next month. Former Tottenham and West Ham United boss Redknapp has come under pressure following his side's poor start to the campaign and they are currently 8/15 with bet365 to be relegated this season and 20/1 to beat Liverpool 1-0 on Sunday. However, Ferdinand told the Evening Standard: "We are not even in double figures for the amount of games played yet. To push the panic button now would be crazy in my eyes. Harry still comes across to me as a fighter and a man with a lot of fight left in him."

Last time's predictions

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Premier League pricing, Guardiola opens up, farewell Big Boss and hello new Vélodrome

Stefan Szyminski, joint author of Soccernomics/Why England Lose, the Freakonomics of football, believes Premier League ticket prices are merely keeping up with rising demand and are not therefore intrinsically overpriced, as many have argued.

"Most clubs are constrained by capacity and many games are sold out," he says in his webpage, "so extra demand is choked off by raising prices".

Wrong Stefan - demand is not choked off and prices do not automatically have to rise to keep up with it. Rather, English football has been exploiting the unique brand loyalty that is supporting a team ever since the Premier League turned clubs into rapacious capitalists. A true club does not exploit its own members.

If demand is rising because England teams are now full of foreign stars, whose elephantine wages come from increased ticket costs rather than TV money, now that is another argument. But it is highly unlikely fans enjoy paying ever-larger sums for the product, to use that awful word, well aware that similar leagues or entertainment options come much cheaper.

The correlation between increasing attendance and rising ticket costs is not a simple economic equation of cold, hermetically-sealed logic.

Football fans are more like devout churchgoers than pure brand-comparing customers whose choices come more from the head than the heart. It would be convenient if a cradle-to-grave, die-hard Arsenal follower could swap the Gunners tomorrow in favour of say, the more affordable Barnet F.C. up the road, but fandom does not work like that. That paradox allows irresponsible club owners to exploit supporters with ease.

There is no reason why English football clubs could not sell more reasonably-priced tickets. When I was a teenager our clubs dominated Europe while charging prices kids could afford. They still charge sensibly in the Bundesliga after all and their league appears to be in pretty good health, with the highest attendances in the world to boot.

Szymanski retorts however that German tickets are too cheap and in some cases fuel a black market, as if no such touting exists in England. In other words, the market must rule, end of story.

---

A new book on Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich is released today, penned by Catalan journalist Marti Pernanau.

An aura surrounds the former Barça manager, for that golden team he forged in the Cantera of the Camp Nou, and it no surprise to learn he was snowed in by job offers during his year-long self-imposed exile in New York City.

Alex Ferguson wined and dined him, Roman Abramovich courted him for Chelsea of course, but he agreed to coach Bayern from the 2013-'14 season back in 2012. It
seems the best fit for him.

Elsewhere, Guardiola curiously lambasts tiki-taka as a "useless" way of playing and calls Bayern's mauling by Real Madrid in last season's Champions League "the biggest f*ck-up of my career."

Extrapolating, he says that possession for possession's sake is pointless unless it leads to a goal and that Barcelona's pretty passing had a clear purpose in moving the majority of their team into the opponents' final third.

Once that has occurred, "The secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent tilts his defence to cope,"says Guardiola. "And when we've done all that, we attack and score from the other side."

Thus far, his reputation as a miracle worker remains intact and he remains the most sought-after manager in world soccer, but aged only 43, the Catalan still has a long way to go in coaching.

Having bagged two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, three Spanish league titles and two Spanish Cups by the age of 40, creating what some said was the greatest team of all time, has he already achieved too much, too soon?

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Stephen Keshi has been fired as Nigeria coach. 'Big Boss' won the 2013 African Cup of Nations for Nigeria and became the first African coach to take a team to the knock-out s
tages of the World Cup Finals this year, where the Super Eagles lost 2:0 to France.

One point from three games in qualifying for 2015's African Cup of Nations and an ongoing wage dispute with the federations led to the parting of ways. Shaibu Amodu takes over the national team for the fourth time.

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Keir Radnedge reports that former FIFA Executive Committee member, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and bribe-taker extraordinaire Ricardo Texeira could be heading back to football if his pal wins the forthcoming Brazilian presidential election. God help us...

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The new Stade Vélodrome opens in Marseille today (pic from Marvellous Provence), with a capacity of 67,000 ready for Euro 2016.

OM's ground is one of world football's most distinctive arenas. Let's hope the new home keeps its spirit alive.


-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Yesterday in brief

  • Serbia's highly-strung Euro 2016 clash with Albania lasted 41 minutes after an Albanian drone (!) flying the nation's flag entered the stadium. Serbian defender Stefan Markovic grabbed the flag precipitating a brawl involving players and supporters. The two nations remain in dispute over Kosovo, a historically Serbian territory now populated by people of largely Albanian origin. Belgrade police arrested the brother of Albania's Prime Minister for allegedly organising the drone stunt. Georgia and Russia were previously banned from being drawn against each other while Armenia & Azerbaijan and Spain & Gibraltar are still kept apart by UEFA.
  • Neymar scored four as Brazil beat Japan 4-0. Dunga has a 100% record over four games since taking over from Felipe Scolari after the World Cup.
  • World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez scored the only goal as Colombia won 1-0 in Canada.
  • Argentina walloped Hong Kong 7-0 while 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar beat Australia 1-0. China beat Paraguay 1-0 but South Korea lost 3-1 at home to Costa Rica.
  • In their first game since Landon Donovan retired, the USA drew 1-1 with Honduras in Boca Raton, Florida.
  • World Champions Germany slipped up again by conceding a last-gasp equalizer to Eire in their Euro 2014 qualifier in Gelsenkirchen. John O'Shea levelled on the occasion of his 100th cap. The Mannschaft are equal third in Group D.
  • In the same group, Gibraltar got their best competitive result yet - a 3-0 loss at home to Georgia following two 7-0 defeats, while Poland and Scotland battled to a 2-2 draw in Warsaw.
  • In Group E, Switzerland won their first points at the third attempt by winning 4-0 in San Marino.
  • Northern Ireland are the unlikely leaders of Group F after winning 2-0 in Greece.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo got Portugal on the board in Group I with a last-minute winner against Denmark in Copenhagen.
  • Italy, Sweden, Denmark, England, Portugal, Germany and Serbia booked their places in the UEFA U21 Championship in the Czech Republic next summer, but holders Spain, France and the Netherlands are among those who miss out.
  • English football continues to be unaffordable according to a BBC study, with average ticket prices rising at double the rate of the cost of living since 2011. Arsenal have the dearest season ticket at over £2,000 and the most expensive individual ticket price at £97.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Long Euro 2016 weekend starts today

UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying

Over the next six days there is a feast of international football in Europe as UEFA's 53 member nations get stuck into qualifying for Euro 2016.

23 places on offer for the finals in France in 2016 and early next week the identities of the group leaders should become clearer with countries having played three times.

Thursday
Belarus v Ukraine
FYR Macedonia v Luxembourg
Slovakia v Spain
England v San Marino
Lithuania v Estonia
Slovenia v Switzerland
Lichtenstein v Montenegro
Moldova v Austria
Sweden v Russia

Friday
Latvia v Iceland
Netherlands v Kazakhstan
Turkey v Czech Republic
Belgium v Andorra
Cyprus v Israel
Wales v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bulgaria v Croatia
Italy v Azerbaijan
Malta v Norway

Saturday
Eire v Gibraltar
Scotland v Georgia
Poland v Germany
Romania v Hungary
Armenia v Serbia
Finland v Greece
N.Ireland v Faroe Is.
Albania v Denmark

Sunday
Ukraine v Macedonia (5pm)
Estonia v England (5pm)
Austria v Montenegro (5pm)
Russia v Moldova (5pm)
Belarus v Slovakia
Luxembourg v Spain
Lithuania v Sweden
Sweden v Lichtenstein

Monday
Kazakhstan v Czech Republic (5pm)
Iceland v Netherlands
Latvia v Turkey
Andorra v Israel
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Belgium
Wales v Cyprus
Croatia v Azerbaijan
Malta v Italy
Norway v Bulgaria

Tuesday
Germany v Eire
Gibraltar v Georgia
Poland v Scotland
San Marino v Switzerland
Faroe Is. v Hungary
Finland v Romania
Greece v N.Ireland
Denmark v Portugal
Serbia v Albania

Kick-offs 19:45 GMT unless stated

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, October 3, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions 4 October 2014

bet365George had 7 correct Premier League predictions last week and 2 perfect scores. A really good week for El Nino.

This weekend sees Chelsea face Arsenal after both teams had midweek Champions League wins. Georgie thinks this will be an easy win for The Blues at Stamford Bridge.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hull 1 v Crystal Palace 1
Leicester 2 v Burnley 0
Liverpool 1 v West Brom 0
Sunderland 1 v Stoke 1
Swansea 1 v Newcastle 0
Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 2

Sunday 5 October 2014

Man Utd 1 v Everton 0
Chelsea 3 v Arsenal 1
Tottenham 2 v Southampton 2
West Ham 2 v QPR 1

Soccer - McGregor set for spell on sidelines

Veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper will deputise for Allan McGregor when Hull City take on Crystal Palace this weekend. Former Rangers shot-stopper McGregor faces a spell on the sidelines because of a shoulder injury that seems certain to force him to miss Scotland's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Georgia and Poland later this month. The 39-year-old former Newcastle United keeper Harper made 19 appearances for the Tigers in all competitions last season and featured in the Capital One Cup defeat to West Brom last month. Hull are 17/2 with bet365 to beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on Saturday and 6/4 to keep a clean sheet in the match.

Soccer - Hodgson turns to in-form Clyne

Roy Hodgson has admitted that Nathaniel Clyne has been in his thoughts for a while after naming the Southampton defender in his England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia. The 23-year-old has made 65 Premier League appearances for the Saints since moving to St Mary's from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2012 and has been in fine form so far this season. Hodgson said: "He has impressed us for quite a while, even before the World Cup he was a name we were constantly considering. "Now of course we have lost Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker and we were looking for another candidate for the right-back post and Nathaniel has been asked to come." Daniel Sturridge has not been selected for the qualifiers though as the Liverpool striker has a thigh injury. England are 14/1 with bet365 to win Euro 2016 outright and 2/9 to top Group E in qualifying.

Last time's predictions

Thursday, October 2, 2014

England squad announcement

Roy Hodgson has revealed a 21-man squad England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers at home to San Marino on Thursday the 9th of October and then away to Estonia on Sunday the 12th.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Brom
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka & John Stones (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal) 
Midfielders: Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Jack WIlshere (Arsenal), Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling & Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Man City), Andros Townsend (Tottenham)
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Roy Hodgson continues his rebuilding for the future with a number of unfamiliar faces in his squad, knowing a home win over San Marino is all but a given and Estonia away should pose few problems. 
Youth is definitely the emphasis with Wayne Rooney now an unlikely veteran, but the assured performance in midweek of 33 year-old Ashley Cole for Roma against Manchester City will have given the England manager pause for thought.
Daniel Sturridge misses out through injury, leaving only a trio of strikers, although Danny Welbeck's hat-trick for Arsenal in the Champions League against Galatasary last night will have comforted Hodgson.
After a miserable World Cup campaign in Brazil, England got off to the best possible start in their race to Euro 2016 by winning 2-0 away at their biggest group rivals Switzerland.
Six points from these two games will put The Three Lions in the driving seat in Group E as the other group opponents Lithuania and Slovenia are unlikely to give the F.A. sleepless nights.
(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile