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Betting preview's

 


 
18.11.2017
England Premier League
 

Burnley 2.18 v Swansea 4.10; The Draw 3.25

I'm sure there'll be many people wanting to back Burnley at an odds-against price on Saturday afternoon as they host one of the Premier League's early-season strugglers, Swansea City.

The Clarets are flying high in the division, thanks largely to some tremendous away form. Sean Dyche's men have already won at Chelsea, Everton, and Southampton this term, while also holding Tottenham and Liverpool to away draws.

Given this excellent away form it's easy to forget just how good Burnley were at Turf Moorlast season; in fact their home form is the reason they remain a Premier League outfit. And it also seems to have gone unnoticed that Dyche's men are currently five unbeaten in front of their own fans, and that they've keep three clean sheets, and conceded just one goal, in their last four Premier League home matches.


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Swansea are second bottom of the table following five defeats in six league games, so on current form it's virtually a no-brainer to put up Burnley as the selection in the Match Odds market, but at the back of my mind is the belief that the Swans, on their day, are very well organised and don't concede many.

In fact this is a match that should be pretty low on goalscoring chances. Only the top three in the table - Spurs and the two Manchester clubs - have conceded fewer than Dyche's men, while they've scored fewer goals than every team bar Huddersfield from the top 12 in the table.

Swansea have the best defensive record of any of the bottom six, but only Crystal Palace of all the Premier League clubs have scored fewer than Paul Clement's men this term.

So don't expect many goals would be my advice, and given that Swansea are really struggling in front of goal currently then I have to make a Burnley Clean Sheet my best bet of this intriguing encounter.
Source: betfair

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Back Burnley Clean Sheet @ 5/4

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Leicester 9.60 v Man City 1.37; The Draw 6.00

Leicester, for two-thirds of the season at least, were constantly underrated in the Match Odds market during their amazing title-winning campaign, and the reason I mention that is because seeing the Foxes available to back at 9.60, on home soil, on the back of some decent form, seems ridiculous.

But then you consider that Leicester's opponents are Manchester City, who simply look unstoppable at present, and you have to ask yourself, do you want to bet against Pep Guardiola's men, even at the lay price of around 1.38?

Personally, the answer to the above question is no, but given Sergio Aguero had another health scare in midweek, and that Gabrial Jesus looked to take a knock or two before being substituted for Brazil, then I couldn't put anyone off laying the Citizens, or even having a nibble on Leicester to win.

But the angle I like best ahead of this match is goals, and I'm prepared to wager that we'll see at least five of them at around 4.00.

The Foxes are unbeaten in six games now, including winning three of their last four where they scored a total of nine goals. New boss Claude Puel has mixed things up a little, changing personnel and formations slightly, and Leicester appear to have a renewed belief. Remember how well they did last term when changing manager.


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Regular readers will know that I've always rated this Leicester team; I enjoy the way they suck teams in and hit them on the counter attack, and I feel they always have goals in them. The problem they have is that they're always likely to concede at the other end. And when Man City are the opponents then that likelihood probably increases 10-fold!

The Citizens have been superb this season with so many players at the peak of their powers that it's not worth listing them; it's basically anyone who pulls on the shirt. They've scrored an incredible 33 goals in their last eight Premier League matches, and away from home they've already run up big numbers at Feyenoord, Watford, and Napoli.

This looks like being another highly entertaining affair with goalscoring chances at each end, and it's also worth pointing out that the last three meetings between these two teams have finished 2-1, 4-2, and 3-1, so it's a game that usually produces goals.
Source: betfair

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Back Over 4.5 Goals @ 4.00

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Liverpool 1.45 v Southampton 8.80; The Draw 5.00

Southampton have an excellent recent record against Liverpool, and Jurgen Klopp is yet to beat them as a manager. In fact the Reds have failed to score a single goal in any of their last four meetings with the Saints.

But despite the above I just can't see anything but a comfortable home win when these two teams meet on Saturday, and I'm happy to wager that the Reds win by at least two goals.

My primary reason for thinking the above is the form of Southampton. Mauricio Pellegrino's men have won just three Premier League games this term, all by a narrow margin, and those victories came against three of the bottom five clubs in the table - West Ham, West Brom, and Crystal Palace.

The Saints have been dreadfully goal-shy in front of their own fans but they haven't exactly set the pulses racing away from home either, scoring just a single goal at Palace, Stoke, and Brighton, while failing to find the net at Huddersfield.


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I've backed Southampton to be relegated at long odds, so I'm quite hopeful that with their incredibly tough-looking upcoming fixture list, and their current goal-shy form, that they'll be trading considerably shorter come the New Year.

After a difficult few weeks Liverpool have found a bit of form again, winning three league games on the spin and scoring 18 goals in their last five matches in all competitions. It's not difficult to see them scoring two or three, possibly more, against struggling Southampton, and that should be good enough to land the best bet wager.
Source: betfair

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Back Liverpool -1 to Win @ 2.24

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18.11.2017

England Leagues

 

Hull v Ipswich
Saturday 15:00

The tide of opinion around Suffolk might just be slowly turning back in Mick McCarthy's favour after Ipswich fans spent the international break taking a collective reality check with their low-cost team sitting pretty in eighth position, two points outside the play-offs with a game in hand.

It's probably stretching the point to suggest McCarthy should expect a deluge of Christmas cards from Portman Road regulars - and he won't be sending too many in the opposite direction either - but club legend Kevin Beattie summed up the current mood best, when saying: "To be quite honest, I'm getting a little bit fed up with the fans moaning."

McCarthy's contract runs out next summer and he's made it abundantly clear that he's going nowhere until then, unless results are so bad that owner Marcus Evans is forced to act. So it makes no sense for fans to rock the boat with the season shaping up nicely, regardless of their reservations about the football being played.

McCarthy's biggest crime, of course, was losing the East Anglian derby at home to Norwich last month but the Tractor Boys are back above the Canaries in the table and we should expect the seas to remain calm for as long as that's the case. As such, the conditions are right for them to heap more misery on beleaguered Hull.


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Leonid Slutsky is enduring a baptism of fire on Humberside - full of bright ideas and good intentions, but severely hampered by circumstances - as the Tigers repeatedly show genuine promise only to crash and burn time and time again. The former CSKA Moscow boss had no pre-season to speak of and that lack of grounding is there for all to see.

Slutsky spoke candidly after the 4-1 defeat to Sheffield United last time out, admitting he has no solution to Hull's current problems. He has talked about a shortage of data that enables him to understand his players and their individual characteristics and that's specifically where a manager like McCarthy has the edge here.

Ipswich have won eight and lost seven of their 15 league outings, with seven of those victories arriving against bottom-half opposition. Hull have hit top-half standards in flashes but they are clearly going to be a bottom-half team, not least because 10 of their 16 points to date have arrived in home games against the bottom four.
Source: betfair

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Ipswich to beat Hull at 3.80

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Bury v Blackburn
Saturday 15:00

Bury players left the pitch in disgrace on Tuesday night, forcing chairman Stewart Day to apologise to fans for a humbling 3-0 home defeat to non-league Woking in the FA Cup. It's a result that has cost Ryan Lowe any chance of landing the manager's job on a permanent basis but you can rest assured there will be a reaction this weekend.

"You're only here for the money" was the main chant that did the rounds amid a cacophony of boos at Gigg Lane, and it's a sentiment that's hard to disagree with when you look at the names on the team sheet and see the Shakers rooted to the foot of League One.

But that meltdown could prove to be a watershed and it really ought to be the catalyst for an upturn in the coming weeks. Managerless or not, Bury are capable of so much better and it's hard to resist odds of 4.20 on them beating a Blackburn side that is struggling to get to grips with what has been a stop-start season.


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Rovers are the only team in League One to have had their matches postponed over the last three international breaks and they now find themselves 11 points off the automatic promotion pace with key players underperforming and the system becoming over-reliant on summer signing Bradley Dack, an attacking midfielder playing out of position as an auxiliary support striker.

There's a tidy team in there somewhere but the likes of Ben Gladwin, Peter Whittingham, Danny Graham and Derrick Williams can all be disappointed with their contribution so far as Mowbray struggles to find the right blend. The former Middlesbrough, West Brom and Coventry boss has yet to name an unchanged line-up after 21 matches.

In truth, Rovers have only fulfilled their potential this term when taking an underdog approach against highly-respected opposition, blocking central areas and attempting to unlock the opposition with quality deliveries from out wide. However, with winger Harry Chapman now sidelined for three months, that threat could be diminished.

It's no small point that this will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides since May 1980 - ignoring last month's Checkatrade Trophy dress rehearsal - and with expectations at rock bottom, this is precisely the kind of high-upside occasion that the Shakers can rise to by way of an apology for their standards to date.
Source: betfair

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Bury to beat Blackburn at 4.20

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Walsall 1.84 v Gillingham 3.55, the draw 3.30

Worst value prize of this weekend surely goes to the 1.84 on a home victory for this. Of course Walsall could quite easily win, but they are very inconsistent and sit in 17th. And with the postponement last week due to international call-ups, they could be a bit rusty after ten days without football. Or they could be fresh, as we often hear players need a break.

The Saddlers have only won twice at home all season, and have not kept a clean sheet at home in any of their last ten league matches. They may have a bit of pace out wide and a couple of decent players, but I am not convinced about them - certainly not in the region of 4/6.


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The signs for Gillingham under caretaker boss Steve Lovell have been encouraging recently. He has simply gone back to basics with a front two and quite a few direct balls. In fact, Lovell seems obsessed by the second-ball and knock-downs. They have won their last two away (versus Rotherham and Peterborough), and that's as many as they had managed in their previous 26 on the road.

Lack of goals are clearly a problem for the Gills, and they have only managed five away from home all season. The surprise was that three came in the win at Rotherham - a genuine promotion contender. But they have failed to find the back of the net in five away fixtures this term - and only Wimbledon have scored fewer in League One this season away from home (three).

However, we are more than compensated with a fair price on Gillingham here - especially with the Draw No Bet. I was half-tempted to throw in the Draw as Walsall have collected five of those this term at home - but it's important to have two running for you at all times.

Walsall were beaten 0-1 in their last match at the Banks's by Southend, and there might be one or two murmurs of discontent if they fail to start well in this.

If you are looking for a Correct Score back, Walsall have three 1-1 scores and a 2-2 at home this term.
Source: betfair

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Back Gillingham @ 2.80 Draw No Bet


 

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Charlton Athletic 1.96 v MK Dons 4.40, the draw 3.50

I've not exactly been the biggest fan of the MK Dons this season, often citing they are priced up on their Karl Robinson days. Well, they face their old boss in south east London on Saturday - and are pretty chunky odds.

Do I want to back them? No. But Charlton are not exactly blowing teams away.

However, the Addicks are finding ways to beat teams. A home record at The Valley of W5 D1 L1 is promotion form, so in that sense, backing a team with 30 points that sit 3rd at around 1.96 is quite attractive.

Charlton are unbeaten in seven but they have struggled against the lesser teams who go to SE7 to sit back and defend. AFC Wimbledon were a good example recently. Neither side offered anything going forward and Robinson described the match as "very average", which is not really a comment for a promotion-chasing team.


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However, they also won 1-0 against Bradford and Doncaster. They might face a fight if teams sit back deep, but they do have "the mavericks" as Robinson likes to call some of his game-changers - and Ricky Holmes is certainly one. He netted the winner in the drab 1-0 versus the Wombles.

The home back at 1.96 is a fair shout, so is the Correct Score at 1-0. However, the safest bet could be the Under 2.5 here at around 1.85 - especially if Robbie Neilson has his game head on in terms of frustrating the hosts.

The MK Dons have not scored in five of their away games, and they have only netted six on the road all season. Charlton have conceded just six on terra firma, with an Under 2.5 record at The Valley of 4/7, whilst Neilson's men are 7/8 away for that bet.

Charlton will need flying winger Tarique Fosu-Henry fit as he fights a thigh injury. According to Opta, he has had a hand in seven of the Addicks' last nine goals (six goals and one assist).
Source: betfair

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Back Charlton Athletic to win @ 1.96 
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.85

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11.11.2017
England Leagues
 

Friday November 10, 19:45 kick-off
Newport County 2.10 v Port Vale 4.00; the draw 3.50

Defender Nathan Smith says he has learnt a lot from Neil Aspin, his new Port Vale manager - and he doesn't seem to be the only one.

There's a phrase "never go back" and you might add "especially if you are a legend" but Aspin, who played about 400 games for the Valiants, has had a great start as boss at the club where he made his name.

Even ignoring the positive result in the Checkatrade Trophy - which I do for form - Vale have had a great run. A 2-0 victory over Oxford United in the FA Cup, bringing a fourth win in five games, just confirms their improvement.


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Tom Pope just can't stop scoring now and his seven League Two goals have come in double quick time since Aspin's arrival.

You could name your own price for Port Vale to finish in the top three, but it is no beyond the realms of possibility. Exeter were lowly placed this time last year (but they had consistent away form to build from). This is a different case, but had you started the season a month ago the table, the odds and the prelude to this match would look a lot different.

Newport might have scored 10 and conceded just four at home - and also beat Walsall at home in the FA Cup - but Nathan Jones' side have one point from their last three league matches.

Newport might have the division's highest average possession at home (66% according to Opta) but Padraig Among and Frank Nouble have their work cut out to get past a defence whose personnel has hardly changed, whereas the confidence clearly has - for the better. That makes a gamble on the away side worth a go at a sizeable price, despite the Exiles making their fourth best start to a season (add Opta) and having lost only once at home.
Source: betfair

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Back Port Vale @ 4.00

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Saturday November 11 15:00 kick-offs 
Crawley Town 2.12 v Forest Green Rovers 3.80

Just like on Friday night, an away side makes great appeal at their price on Saturday. It seems odd that Forest Green, who have four straight League Two and FA Cup wins, should be 3.80 and Crawley close to even money, despite three draws being all they can show for the past five league and cup games.

Even Opta stress that Crawley have won just one of their last 12 home games and that the visitors have won their last two on the road (starting with a surprise victory at Coventry). It is surely only a matter of time before Mark Cooper's men overturn the statistic of mustering fewer away shots (62, 21 on target) than any other League Two side.


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The visitors have taken their time to find their Football League feet, with Christian Doidge's haul of five goals needing to be improved if he is going to trouble the top scorer charts.

Crawley won't be easy to break down, it seems. Their defence has been stubborn, but they can't be thrilling to watch. Three of their last four league games have been goalless, with only the opposition scoring in the other.

The Reds seem more comfortable playing away from the Broadfield at present, actually managing to score in the FA Cup at Wigan last weekend. Harry Kewell is, evidently, having trouble getting his messages across of how he wants his team to play.

You'd think the prices would be more even and layers pointing punters towards a draw at the very least, especially as Rovers haven't conceded in three of their last four games either.

But the evidence of recent form points me to the away win, whether it be Doidge to score, or Keanu Marsh-Brown or even defender Scott Laird.
Source: betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Forest Green Rovers @ 3.80

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Morecambe 4.00 v Wycombe 2.04; the draw 3.80

Should you watch the quiet ones closely or the wild ones? Gareth "Wild Thing" Ainsworthregistered himself as a substitute in a recent cup match, but it is doubtful whether the Wycombe manager has a serious intention of playing, especially in the league.

His opposite number Mark Bentley must wonder that Ainsworth has the luxury of being able to keep fit. The Shrimps manager must spend every minute of his day worrying about the smallest injury to a player or slightest thing going wrong, given his threadbare resources. Victory over Hartlepool in the FA Cup would no doubt have come as a huge relief from the regular action.

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Never mind Andy Fleming scoring from midfield, or Garry Thompson doing so in mid-week Football League Trophy action on Tuesday, the manager would love to see his strikers Adam McGurk and Vadaine Oliver chipping in with regular goals.

Ainsworth seems to have little such worries, with Adebayo Akinfenwa almost at double figures, youngster Eberechi Eze contributing and Paris Cowan-Hall doing so when fit, too.

The visitors might seem a touch short - and Morecambe are always capable of springing a victory - but the Chairboys have a strong away record (four wins, three draws and one defeat) and if they have genuine ambitions of sustaining a promotion challenge this is the sort of match they must win.
Source: betfair

Recommended Bet
Back Wycombe @ 2.04

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Coventry 2.12 v Mansfield 4.20; the draw 3.50

I just knew there had to be a link between League Two and the international weekend,when the focus will be on the Football League's two lowest divisions. The big news is that Durkens Nazon will be missing for Coventry, as he will be playing for Haiti instead (while the game's stars like Harry Kane sit out the weekend injured).

It makes little difference, however, to my search for a home win among a gluttony of tips on away teams. Mark Robins (pictured) is already busy talking to Wolves about extending the striker's loan from January, but even without his six goals, the Sky Blues have a strong chance of victory. Jodi Jones and Marc McNulty should be able to compensate and if not Jordan Ponticelli will relish his big chance in the Football League, having scored twice in the 4-2 win over Maidenhead in the FA Cup.


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Having won five games at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry have conceded there just twice in the league this season - giving Danny Rose a stiff test to impress, not that he will be joining Coventry, or Notts County, insists Mansfield boss Steve Evans.

Naturally, the force of nature that is the Stags' boss seemed positively annoyed that Rose would even contemplate moving to another League Two side (or more precisely Mansfield would let him), while revelling in the concept that his players are playing well enough to be thought of highly by predators, so to speak.

Evans reaction was typically forthright: nonsense - he's not going anywhere. From a player's point of view, perhaps you'd be able to see the attraction of moving to the Magpies, who are top of the pile, when the visitors are not living up to the pre-season odds of strong favouritism to win the division. Mansfield have four away draws and just the one victory on their travels, adding to the sense that Coventry can continue to enhance their home record.
Source: betfair

Recommended Bet 
Back Coventry @ 2.12

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04.11.2017
England  Premier League
 

Newcastle 2.06 v Bournemouth 4.20; The Draw 3.60

With no disrespect to any of the eight clubs in action on Saturday afternoon it's hardly the most mouthwatering set of fixtures to look forward to, and I have to admit that I found it really difficult to be confident about any potential wagers.

So my advice is to keep stakes low, or don't even have a bet, if you're feeling as non-enthusiastic as me; sometimes it's pointless forcing a bet when you don't fancy anything.

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Having said that, I do think Newcastle will get the better of Bournemouth, so that will be my main bet on Saturday, while laying Southampton and wagering on goals at the Liberty Stadium just look worth chancing from an odds perspective.

We successfully opposed Newcastle at Burnley on Monday night but as suspected before the game, there was very little to split the two sides and it could easily have gone either way. But like most promoted clubs, I believe Newcastle can go a long way to securing their Premier League status by being a very difficult team to beat on home soil.

Rafa Benitez's men have already won three times at St James' Park, while a 1-1 draw with Liverpool means they've accumulated a very respectable 10 points from a possible 15 in front of their own fans. True, the victories came against lowly West Ham, Stoke, and Crystal Palace, but go and take a look at where Bournemouth are in the table, and you'll see why the Magpies are pretty strong favourites for the victory.

The Cherries have started the season very disappointingly, taking just seven points from a possible 30, and away from home they'd lost their first four away games in the leagueprior to beating Stoke in a scrappy game a fortnight ago.

Of course, that first away win of the season might spark Eddie Howe's men into a bit of form, but going to St James' Park will be no easy task given that the hosts have a very good defensive record this season, conceding just two goals in their last four home games.
sours:betfair
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Back Newcastle to Win @ 2.06 

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Southampton 1.69 v Burnley 6.60; The Draw 3.75

 

Looking at the Match Odds ahead of this game you'd be forgiven for thinking that Southampton are above Burnley in the table, and that they have a very good recent home record. Neither is true of course, so at the odds we simply have to take the Saints on.

Admittedly, on paper, Southampton are in many people's opinion the better team, and they have home advantage on Saturday. But there are two problems with what I've just said; one is that football isn't played on paper, and the other is that Mauricio Pellegrino's men haven't exactly been in good form at St Mary's recently.

In fact, on home soil, the Saints have won just two of their last 12, those victories coming by just a single goal margin against West Ham (currently 16th in the table) and West Brom (15th). But the big negative is the fact that from those last 12 home games Southampton failed to find the back of the net in nine of them!

That's not a stat that fills you with confidence when you're about to face one of the most organised teams in the Premier League.

And when you consider where Burnley are in the table, and look at the results they've had away from home this season, then it's absolutely impossible to put your faith in Southampton at 1.69 to win this game.

Sean Dyche's men currently sit seventh in the table, they have the joint fourth best defensive record this season with only Man City, Man United, and Tottenham having conceded fewer goals, and away from home they've already defeated Chelsea and Everton, while they also avoided defeat at both Tottenham and Liverpool.

The Clarets are just an extremely well-organised side, and it's easy to see them going to St Mary's and frustrating the Saints. I'm not overly confident that Dyche's men can go there and score a few goals that they might need to take all three points, but I'm even less confidentabout Southampton landing the odds-on price.
sours:betfair

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Lay (oppose) Southampton to Win @ 1.70

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Swansea 2.36 v Brighton 3.70; The Draw 3.20

 

These are tough times for Swansea. After taking just four points from the last 21 available Paul Clement's men sit just above the relegation zone, level on points with Everton who are in 18th place.

The big worry however is Swansea's home form. Three of their four victories in all competitions this term have come away from home, while at the Liberty Stadium they have lost five of their six games played, conceding an average of 2.2 goals per game in those five defeats.

It's a stat that should have Brighton and their in-form attackers, not least Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross, licking their lips. The Seagulls have been disappointing themselves on the road this term, drawing just one, and losing three, of their opening four away games. But last time at West Ham it all clicked and Chris Hughton's men ran out easy 3-0 winners. They should be full of confidence going to Swansea.

And all that means that a chance is definitely worth taking that we'll witness at least three goals. Swansea will feel that they have to win, Brighton will believe they can take the points, so hopefully an exciting game will be played out.

As I've already mentioned, Swansea concede plenty of goals in front of their own fans but they're also capable of getting on the scoresheet themselves. That last four games at the Liberty Stadium have witnessed an average of exactly 2.5 goals per match, and with Brighton arriving on the back of scoring three in their last away game, odds of 2.56 about Over 2.5 Goals seem very generous.
sours:betfair

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Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.56

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04.11.2017
England Championship

 

Aston Villa 2.14 v Sheff Wed 3.85; The Draw 3.60

 

Aston Villa are upwardly mobile, and perhaps the hierarchy are reaping the rewards of staying patient with Steve Bruce after his position was severely questioned early in the season.

Okay, 'staying patient' might be a bit far fetched given that Bruce was less than a year into the job when Villa won just one of their opening seven league games this term, but the fact he is a former Birmingham boss, and that Villa were one of the pre-season favourites for the title, a slow start could easily have resulted in him being sacked.

Bruce has turned Villa's form around however, and the club now sit fifth in the tablefollowing six wins, and one draw, from their last eight Championship outings.

And as was to be expected when Villa signed John Terry, they aren't conceding many goals either. In fact, clean sheets are arguably what this team's recent improvement is built on, recording seven shut-outs in the Championship from their last 10 games.

Saturday's opponents Sheffield Wednesday are in poor form, currently sitting 14th in the table following a run of just two wins - both at home - in their last eight outings.

Carlos Carvalhal is a man under pressure and he knows he needs to start winning games sooner rather than later. But there is absolutely nothing in Wednesday's away form to inspire any confidence ahead of the trip to Villa Park. The Owls have lost three on the spin away from home, are without a win in any of their last six road trips, and they've surprisingly lost twice to rock-bottom Bolton in that period.
sours:betfair

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Back Aston Villa to Win @ 2.14 

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Derby 1.90 v Reading 4.80; The Draw 3.60

 

It's not often I back an odds-on shot in this division, but I expected in-form Derby to be around the 1.70 mark in all honesty so I can't pass them over at 1.90 at home to Reading.

The Rams have really impressed of late, going seven games unbeaten in the Championship and winning their last four on the spin, a run that has taken them to sixth in the table.

But it's not jus the four wins that have impressed, it's the sides that they have defeated that catches the eyes. A home win over Forest - a local derby that is never an easy game - and wins over Sheff Wed, Norwich, Leeds, the last two on the road, is an exceptional run of form.

Gary Rowett continues to speak about how his team aren't the finished article yet but they are getting better each week and have plenty in the locker. That's good enough for me and Derby look a good bet to make it five wins on the trot against struggling Reading.

The Royals are 20th in the table following a run of just two wins in their last 10 matches in all competitions, and Jaap Stam is yet another manager coming under increasing pressure. He didn't sound too enthusiastic about his future after last week's home defeat to Middlesbrough, saying, "I like the club very much but if somebody else can make better results and do it better, then (the board) need to make that decision."

Reading did bounce back with a home win in midweek, but away from home they've already lost to the likes of Preston, QPR, and Millwall this term, and a trip to in-form Derby promises to be a much tougher task than any of those defeats.
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Nottm Forest 2.52 v QPR 3.05; The Draw 3.60

 

This looks a very difficult match to call, and the market has the odds exactly how I'd expect so there isn't really an angle there.

But I was surprised to see Over 2.5 Goals trading at just 1.80 so I'm happy to against that and wager that we'll witness fewer than three goals; an angle I always like to take when I can't separate two teams.

QPR won narrowly in midweek, recording an excellent 1-0 victory over highflying Sheffield United, meaning they are now four games unbeaten. I can see them setting-up to keep that run of form going at the City Ground and trying to add to their unbeaten away run too, which now stretches to three games.

Incidentally, all of QPR's last three away games ended 1-1, and that means that five of their last seven league games have resulted in Under 2.5 Goals paying out. The two that didn't witnessed three goals.

Forest have been involved in some higher-scoring games this season admittedly, but those tend to come when they lose, like the 3-1 defeat to Reading in midweek, and a run of four straight defeats that all resulted in at least three goals being scored.

But if you're not confident that Forest will lose this game, and I'm not, then we can point to three of their six league victories this term being low scoring (1-0, 1-0, and 2-0), while two others finished 2-1.

Admittedly I haven't made the most compelling case for a low-scoring game on Saturday afternoon, but I just feel that it's a coin toss market, so getting odds of 2.18 about 'unders' in what I expect to be a tight match appeals as a wager to be had.

It's also worth noting that the last four meetings between Nottm Forest and QPR have all finished with Under 2.5 Goals paying out - 2-0, 1-1, 0-0, and 1-0.
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28.10.2017
England  Premier League
 

Liverpool 1.25 v Huddersfield 14.50; The Draw 

 

Liverpool have been a short-price backer's nightmare throughout 2017, so having started this season with their worst defensive record in over 50 years - see the above stat - there's no way I want to touch them at 1.25. Not that I would at that price in this column anyway, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Jurgen Klopp's men can be breathtaking on their day, at least in an attacking sense, but if they have an off day, as they so often seem to have, then no result should surprise us.

From the start of the year the Reds have had results reading 2-2 at Sunderland, 0-0 at home to Plymouth, back-to-back 1-0 defeats to Southampton in the EFL Cup, home defeats to Swansea and Wolves, a 2-0 loss at Hull, a 3-1 defeat at Leicester, just a home draw with Bournemouth, another shock defeat at Anfield to Crystal Palace, a 0-0 draw at home to the Saints, a 1-1 draw at home to Burnley, and another 1-1 draw in Moscow.


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That's 13 games where they either lost, or failed to win, when an odds-on price, and in some cases a huge odds-on price. And there's more too, like the 3-3 draw at Watford at the start of this season, the EFL Cup defeat at Leicester, and the 1-1 draw with Newcastle recently. Another three examples of Liverpool failing to win at an odds-on price.

I accept that the Reds could easily win Saturday's home game against Huddersfield by three or four, but I'm taking into account that they go into this match on the back of another defensive horror show, and that the Terriers are buoyed by their tremendous victory over Manchester United.

David Wagner's men are yet to be embarrassed in the Premier League on their travels and I fancy them to keep this game tight also, and given Liverpool's defence it's not unreasonable to suggest they can get on the scoresheet at Anfield.

If they do, then Klopp's men will need to score at least three to deny the recommended wager, and that's a big ask given their dreadful record in such games throughout 2017.
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Watford 2.12 v Stoke 3.80; The Draw 

 

You could be forgiven for expecting Watford to be odds-on to win this game given the start they've had to this season's campaign, so at 2.12 to back I'm sure they'll be many people's idea of a home banker this weekend.

True, the Hornets haven't exactly set the world alight at Vicarage Road, winning just one of their four home league games to date, but they did put three past Liverpool on the opening day of the season, and that one victory came against Arsenal, while their only defeat was at the hands of unstoppable Manchester City.

So there isn't really much wrong with Marco Silva's men on home soil, while their away performances this term - albeit against some of the division's lesser lights - stands them out as an above average outfit, capable of sustaining their berth in the top half of the table.


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Brazilian youngster Richarlison has become an instant hit, but even his three league goals to date is one short of how many the impressive French attacking midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure has netted, while former Manchester United starlet Tom Cleverley has matured into an excellent, and reliable midfielder.

There is lots to like about this Watford team, and as long as their morale hasn't been dented after last week's loss at Chelsea - they really could have scored four or five at Stamford Bridge - then they look a decent wager to beat out-of-form Stoke.

Mark Hughes' men currently sit just one place above the relegation zone following a run of just one win in their last eight league and cup games, and away from home they've picked up just a solitary point thanks to a 1-1 draw at West Brom, losing their four other away matches this term and conceding 12 goals in the process.

Following this fixture the Potters face the likes of Leicester, Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Swansea in the next five weeks so there's a lot of pressure on Hughes to climb the table before Christmas given those winnable games, but I fear he'll start the run with a defeat at Watford and the pressure will be cranked up even further.
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West Brom 12.50 v Man City 1.28; The Draw 

 

That Opta stat above makes for dreadful reading if you're a Baggies fan, and it actually gets even worse because following Man City's 2-1 EFL Cup win at the Hawthorns earlier in the season the Citizens have now won 12 on the spin against West Brom in all competitions.

The aggregate scoreline in that time is 33-8 with City recording a two-goal winning margin (or better) in six of the last eight meetings. The current favourites for title have also scored at least three goals in each of their last four Premier League visits to the Hawthorns.

But the worst news for Albion fans - and they'll know this fine well - is that City are in scintillating form currently, and simply look unstoppable.

Pep Guardiola's men are averaging over 3.5 goals per game in the Premier League, and their winning margins alone average over three goals per game (goal difference of +28 after nine league games). They also have the joint best defensive record, have won seven consecutive league matches, and away from home they have a 100% win record in all competitions this term - played six, won six.


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It's obviously a no-brainer of a selection to suggest that Man City will record yet another victory, but a price of 4/5 about them winning by at least two goals - or 21/10 to win by at least three if you're feeling a tad braver - makes plenty of appeal.

It's difficult to know how Tony Pulis will approach this match. If he sets his men up with a defensive mentality, and they concede early, they could cop for a big defeat, so given he'll probably view this as a free swing he might just go for it. The problem with that of course is that the Baggies are now eight games without a win in all competitions so confidence surely can't be very high within the squad.

But however Albion approach this fixture this really should boil down to how Man City play, and if they perform anywhere near like they have in most games this season then a straightforward win should be recorded.
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28.10.2017
England Championship

 

Leeds v Sheffield United
Friday 27th October, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports

Leeds back to winning ways

Leeds manager Thomas Christiansen opted to stick by his 4-2-3-1 formation last weekend despite losing four of five previous Championship outings, including three immediately prior to their trip to Ashton Gate to face high-flying Bristol City.

However, the Whites boss pushed Kalvin Phillips into the number 10 role and recalled Ronaldo Vieira to partner Eunan O'Kane in a more balanced midfield pairing, offering both brawn and flair. The result was obvious with Vieira dominating the match in a wonderful 3-0 triumph for Leeds.

Samuel Saiz bagged an early brace as the Whites cemented their position in the top-six in emphatic style and should again feature from the flanks. Gaetano Berardi's red card means the defender is absent whilst Stuart Dallas remains a doubt following a family bereavement.


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Sheffield United flying high

Goals from Paul Coutts and Billy Sharp helped Sheffield United to an eighth triumph in 10 as the Blades overcame Reading 2-1 at Bramall Lane. Chris Wilder's troops reduced the Royals to a sole on-target effort and are now occupying third in the Championship, sitting only two points off top spot.

Wilder claimed his clan will have no shortage of motivation for the all-Yorkshire clash, telling the local press in Sheffield, "They don't need any geeing up for any game. I'd be embarrassed if I had to gee my team up, that would be a right insult."

The Blades boss promised in pre-season his newly-promoted outfit would 'go for it' in every game they played and the visiting boss has been true to his word thus far. United have proven tough, organised operators with a supreme work ethic and travel up the M1 with defenderKieron Freeman the only major absentee.

Leeds fair favourites at Elland Road

Leeds have suffered a solitary home loss to Sheffield United in over 30 years but Friday night's clash is the first between the two club's since March 2011. Nevertheless, the hosts have been chalked up as 2.34 favourites to extend a wonderful Elland Road record.

The Whites have pocketed 17/26 (65%) victories here since the start of last season and also boast a tremendous W7-D3-L2 return when welcoming top-half teams. Meanwhile, Leeds' 56% xG ratio from open play puts Christiansen's charges in amongst the top-six performers in the division.

Sheffield United 3.35 arrive one place above their bitter rivals but three of their four defeats since promotion have arrived on the road (W3-D0-L3) although the Blades deserved at least a point from their most recent away day at Nottingham Forest.

In what's likely to be a tight and edgy encounter, the draw 3.45 is always the value option at the biggest price available in the Match Odds market.

Tight tussle anticipated

Four of Leeds' last five Championship matches featured Over 2.5 Goals winners but at Elland Road, the Whites have produced only two goal-heavy games in six. With half of those showdowns being settled by no more than one goal, opposing a high-scoring contest appeals.

Indeed, Leeds have leaked only 11 goals in 14 home fixtures with top-half clubs with 11 (79%} of the same sample proving profitable for Under 2.5 Goals punters. With only four second-tier sides featuring a lower average xG return from open play (1.95) this term, the data also points towards opposing goals.

Sheffield United's success has been built upon a solid defence - only Cardiff have conceded fewer goals - with the Blades paying-out in the Under 2.5 Goals market in eight of their 13 outings thus far. And considering the guests' games have produced a lower average xG return from open play (1.93), backing a tight tussle is our best angle of attack on Friday night at fair 1.81 odds.
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28.10.2017
England Leagues
League One

 

Plymouth Argyle 3.45 v Rochdale 2.24, the draw 3.70

I was kicking myself last week with the Plymouth win at Wimbledon. As you may have read in the column, I didn't fancy the Dons at all at 1.76, but opted for the draw bet as Argyle gained their first victory since August with a 1-0 scrap.

That's three matches unbeaten for Plymouth; and they have played Shrewsbury, Blackburn and Wimbledon. The scorelines from those were 1-1, 1-1 and 0-1, so you might want to consider some of those in what potentially could be a low-scoring affair this Saturday. Also bear in mind the Dale have collected three 0-0s away from Spotland this season.

The price of the Under 2.5 Goals on Thursday was 1.85, and I think that should be shorter. Rochdale are hardly swashbuckling in that sense with just six netted on the road in seven games. Plymouth's tally of five in seven at Home Park isn't much better, so that is bet number one.


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Bet number two is going with the Plymouth Draw No Bet. Hopefully Derek Adams has decided on the 4-1-4-1 formation, and new signing Toumani Diagouraga has certainly added something. The Greens haven't lost since he made his debut.

Add to that the return to form of Graham Carey. He is Plymouth's one creative player, and with two goals and an assist from his last three matches, he is on the way back.

Rochdale have won five of their last ten league games against Plymouth according to Opta stats, but they have lost their two most recent visits to Home Park. They have also dropped more points from winning positions (12) than any other team in the division. I think they are bad favourites this Saturday.

The home team are defending well again, and fought off a barrage at Wimbledon last Saturday. They've got their game-plan going of moving the ball forward as quickly as possible to look for those knock-downs, and with Carey back on song, they could nick this.

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Portsmouth 2.20 v Bradford City 3.50, the draw 3.30

I have been guilty in the past of getting sucked into backing Bradford when they are at home - sometimes around the 1.85 mark. It's the belief that they are one of the better teams in the division, so the massive 3.50 for Saturday's trip looks very tempting.

On the flip-side, Pompey look a bit short - although I respect they are in form with victories recently against Gillingham (0-1) and MK Dons (2-0), but this will be a much sterner test. After all, Bradford are the playoff specialists in this league.

This will be Bradford's first visit to Fratton Park for over 15 years, but they arrive without a win in three league matches. However, it's not all doom and gloom. They are third in the table and have recorded their best points tally from their opening 15 matches in the third tier since their 2004/5 campaign.


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The hosts defend well at home - they have conceded just five goals in seven. The Bantams are the total opposite on their travels, and have a joint-top goals record of scoring 15 on the road. And with four victories and two draws away, they do look the bet for Saturday.

Entertaining scores have littered their fixture timeline this season, as their run highlights: L3-1, W1-4, W0-1, D2-2, W1-3, D3-3, W0-1. Exciting eh?

The Bantams have hit the BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals in five of their seven matches away from Valley Parade thus far.

Bradford missed some key men last Saturday in the 1-0 home loss to Charlton, but the conditions were dreadful and they didn't play too badly. Pompey could be in for an aerial test come kick-off time - as City have scored more headed goals (nine) than any other team in English football this season.

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Charlton Athletic 2.00 v AFC Wimbledon 4.10, the draw 3.55 

This in theory should be a fairly straightforward task for the Addicks. Karl Robinson's side are certainly showing a bit more quality these days, and a position of fourth in the table has them earmarked as playoff, if not promotion contenders.

Charlton are 3.60 in the Promotion market, and as short as 1.39 for a Top Six finish.

According to Opta; this is Charlton's best start to a league season after 14 matches (27 points) since 2011/12. Whilst the Opta team also highlight the Londoners' record at The Valley recently - with seven wins from their last nine matches (with four clean sheets).

Maybe Robinson is the perfect fit?


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AFC Wimbledon's problems are goals, or lack of them. The Achilles heel reared its head last weekend (or foot) with a 0-1 home loss to bottom-placed Plymouth. However, the Dons have collected 1-0 away victories at Blackburn and Northampton this term, so they are not complete rags here at 4.10.

But with just three goals scored on the road this term, it's quite hard to be confident about backing a team with such a poor record. They are the lowest scorers in the division, and have failed to hit the net in four of their seven away fixtures this season.

Looking at the Under 2.5 Goals, it's a bit of a mixed bag with the Addicks - with it an even split of three out of six. However, Charlton have beaten the supposed lesser teams this term with wins against the likes of Bristol Rovers, Northampton, Southend and Doncaster.

It might be a low-scoring game, but Charlton should win this.

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League Two

 

Port Vale 2.70 v Swindon 2.90; The Draw 3.60

A few weeks ago I remarked that Neil Aspin couldn't have noted the best days of Tom Popewhen he remarked that he looked around the team and didn't see many goals.

The new Valiants manager has certainly had cause to take notice of the striker, who has scored in all four of his boss's games - netting six in all.

Aspin seems to have turned around Port Vale's fortunes so quickly, the last three matches bringing victory, that I am taking myself by surprise a little by backing them against Swindon.

The Robins should, if longer-term form was everything, have a stronger chance in this game than 2.90 would suggest. Away from home, they have lost only to Cheltenham and Notts County, winning five other matches. They have also started to improve at home, after a strange start of picking up one point in three games. A third win was achieved by ending Wycombe's 13-game unbeaten away run last weekend.

David Flitcroft's men merely lack consistency - unsurprising after 18 players were brought in over the summer - but if Harry Smith's return to the starting line-up is any sign they can be a force for promotion this season. Luke Norris' shoulder injury is a bit of a worry but it is an indication of how strong Flitcroft believes his squad to be that Paul Mullin was also left out of the starting line-up.


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Maybe Vale might join them in League Two's upper echelons yet. It is ever more remarkable - in days when managers come into clubs between transfer windows and cannot bring in their own players - when they have fantastic early success. They have, effectively, managed, directed and inspired the same bunch of people. Pope had one goal before Aspin arrived and the Valiants a mere eight.

Now Aspin has been hailed "hero of the week" by one national paper in its weekend football round up after they added the scalp of out-of-sorts Exeter to their improvement, 1-0 sufficing after what were surely lesser tests at Morecambe and at home to Cheltenham when they scored three goals each.

Ben Whitfield's absence through injury, having been a key part of the revival, will be a bit of a blow and will emphasise Derby's on-loan keeper Kelle Roos' point that three straight wins won't go to their heads. Having not played first team football since his previous loan spell at Bristol Rovers ended in December, Roos, 25, is keen to make up for lost time.

He says the team has more belief now that Aspin has taken charge - and the first thing they need to do is believe in another clean sheet on the way to victory.
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Accrington 2.04 v Barnet 4.00; The Draw 3.50

If Steve Evans, like Sir Alex Ferguson, is known for his half-time and post-match rants at his players when they are not winning, rest assured John Coleman will be no different. Accrington never fail to make the most of their meagre means, making the best out of talent rejected elsewhere.

That might be a bit of a smokescreen these days as Stanley have had investment in recent seasons and they will look favourably on next week's tie at Guiseley, in the money pot of the FA Cup, as a chance to earn more.

Top scorer Billy Kee, who heads the League Two scoring charts with nine goals this season, has extended his contract until 2021. Just a couple of years ago, few Accrington players would have gained a guarantee of more than a year at once.

Despite losing twice in their last five games (a pattern of every other one) they are still third in League Two, Jordan Clark and Kee taking advantage of Crewe being reduced to 10 men to earn a 2-0 win.

Coleman has long since spoken of the ambition of promotion and three recent victories with clean sheets, something only previously achieved once this season, suggests they really are going the right way about a bid for a top three spot this season.


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Opta point out that Accrington have won just once in four home games, while Barnet have won win in eight away. The Bees are the sort of opponents Stanley ought to beat to maintain their challenge at the top.

The hosts rarely score more than twice. The visitors rarely score more than once. Barnet would dearly love John Akinde to be fit to resume his top scoring duties from last season. Boss Rossi Eames can only imagine Barnet's own progress up the division if Akinde and Shaquille Coulthirst, who has struck seven, could be fit together. Simeon Akinolo's three goals from midfield (so far) can't quite replace Akinde's contribution.

Barnet might have scored in double figures away from home, thanks to an early 4-1 win at Swindon, but in their last nine games have only scored eight goals - one in each bar a blank.

Sean McConville and Kayden Jackson should be able to add enough support to Accrington's front line to give them a victory.
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21.10.2017
England  Premier League
 
 

Huddersfield 11.50 v Man Utd 1.37; The Draw 5.30

 

(Significant Opta Stat: Manchester United have kept seven clean sheets in their first eight Premier League games this season.)

Whether it's because of a growing injury list or not, United have become a bit tepid in recent games, mirroring how they performed for large parts of last season.

There are however some huge positives. United currently sit second in the table, just two

points behind leaders Manchester City. They are top of their Champions League group following three wins from three. And of course, ignoring the pre-season European Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid, United remain unbeaten this term, winning 10 and drawing two of their 12 games played in all competitions.

Performances mean very little when you're getting results of course, but you sense Jose Mourinho's men are going slightly off the boil; they again showed a distinct lack of ambition at Anfield last Saturday, and they were very unimpressive in defeating Benfica 1-0 in midweek.


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But United are keeping clean sheets, and lots of them too. As the Opta stat above tells us they've recorded seven shut-outs in eight Premier League games, meaning they have the best defence in the country, and they've also conceded just a single goal in their three Champions League outings this term.

It suggests that Huddersfield - who have failed to score in any of their last four games in all competitions - will struggle to break the United defence down, and you'd have to favour strongly yet another clean sheet for Mourinho's men.

The Terriers are in fact without a win in any of their last seven games, and they've failed to score a single goal in six of those outings. But they also rarely get a good hiding; only a rampant Tottenham side, who have a better away record than United, beat David Wagner's men easily, and six of the last seven games involving Huddersfield have paid out on Under 2.5 Goals.

So with the odds stacked against the home side getting on the scoresheet, and United misfiring themselves in recent games, a low-scoring affair has to be the call at an odds-against price.
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Manchester City 1.12 v Burnley 30.00; The Draw 12.50

 

(Significant Opta Stat: Manchester City have won all of their last three Premier League home games by a five-goal margin.)

Burnley have been excellent away from home this season, incredibly remaining unbeaten and taking eight points from a possible 12 in games at Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton. I doubt there'll be another team in the Premier League who will amass as many points this season in those fixtures.

Apart from Man City perhaps, who just look incredible right now and are breaking, or are on the verge of breaking, records left, right, and centre.

On Saturday Pep Guardiola's men became the first top-flight team in over 120 years to score 29 goals in their first eight league games of a season. They'll also become only the third team in history to win four consecutive home games by a five-goal (or more) margin should they do so against Burnley at the weekend.


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And there's other records too, like the one Chelsea hold for scoring five or more goals seven times in league games in a calendar year - City have done so on six occasions and still have another 11 league games in 2017 to play. You wouldn't bet against them not just equalling, but breaking that record.

So as much as you have to stand up and respect Burnley's away form this term, especially after it was so dire last season, the gut feeling is that this game is all about Man City and how they apply themselves. If they carry on as they have been playing then another four or five goals isn't out of the question at all.

And the reason City just keep running up big numbers is because they have so many top class players who just don't let off when the game is won. They are scoring goals from all over the pitch, and whoever is on the field wants to perform and get on the scoresheet.

Guardiola's men have won 10 consecutive games now; they've scored 36 goals in the process and an average of over four per game at the Etihad. Backing the Citizens to win, and score at least four again, is the logical call.
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Swansea 2.90 v Leicester 2.74; The Draw 3.30

 

(Significant Opta Stat: Swansea have allowed their opponents 75 more shots in total than they have attempted themselves this season; the biggest negative differential in the division this term.)

Perhaps I'm putting too much faith in this Leicester City team, but I really do like them and believe they should comfortably finish mid-table, if not slightly higher.

Maybe the club owners think exactly the same, and that's why they pulled the trigger and ended Craig Shakespeare's reign as manager earlier this week. But to me that was a very rash, and harsh decision.

It's been well documented that the Foxes endured a very tough set of fixtures to start this campaign, and although they lost all four of their clashes against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United it's worth remembering that they are unbeaten in their other six games this season.


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Okay, too many draws in there perhaps, but Leicester didn't have the look of a team that weren't playing for their manager, or a team that had gone completely off the boil, and if anything, with the fixtures they have coming up I'd have come out and backed Shakespeare even more, rather than sack him.

Ahead of Saturday's game at the Liberty, Leicester can take encouragement from having a decent record against Swansea, winning four consecutive matches by an aggregate score of 12-1 prior to February's 2-0 loss in Wales. By pure coincidence, that defeat resulted in Claudio Ranieri being sacked, and here we are now back at the same fixture and the Foxes don't have a manager. Next Leicester manager take note!

Swansea themselves haven't exactly set the world alight in the early months; their two league wins were against a dreadfully out of sorts Crystal Palace team and against a Huddersfield side who have scored just a single goal in their last seven outings.

I understand why Leicester are favourites to win, and if, like so many teams do when they change boss, they have an immediate upturn in performance levels then I can see them claiming all three points.
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21.10.2017
England Leagues

 

MK Dons 2.34 v Oldham Athletic 3.40, the draw 3.45


Another set of fixtures, and another match in which the MK Dons are priced up as favourites at 2.34. You can take Shrewsbury this weekend at 2.22 - and they're top on 34 points. I know who I would rather back.

Opta highlight the poor home form of the Buckinghamshire side heading into the weekend; as they have only won twice in their last nine matches at the Stadium MK. I think there are plenty of reasons to oppose them again here. They don't score many either; with only seven netted on home soil from as many matches.

The hosts are probably priced up with a bit of Oldham in mind - however, they are a side that are on the upgrade. Richie Wellens has been confirmed as the full-time manager after a run of five games without defeat, and he fought off the likes of Paul Scholes and Clarence Seedorf.


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The Latics have scored 11 on their travels this season, so the MK Dons will see them as dangerous opponents. They've recently beaten Blackburn at home and Portsmouth away - and both of those teams are better than the Dons.

Oldham's 1-1 draw away at Bradford on Tuesday was a terrific game, real end-to-end stuff. Goalkeeper Johny Placide produced a moment of magic with a step over in his own area followed by a glorious long-range pass to set the move in motion for the equaliser. They looked good in their 4-5-1 formation - and they'll probably face the three-man midfield that Robbie Neilson tends to use.

According to Opta stats, Wellens has won four of his five matches in charge, as many as his predecessor John Sheridan managed in his final 22 games in charge. That highlights they are on the up, and they are good enough to earn a point, if not three on Saturday.

I would also side with the Under 2.5 Goals punt here if you want a bet in that area. MK Dons are five from seven at home on the Under 2.5.
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Southend United 1.94 v Bury 4.00, the draw 3.75

 

Tuesday saw nine favourites on the midweek coupon fail to win their games, and that included the likes Bradford, Wigan, Rotherham and Blackburn. Bizarrely the fixture list threw up seven 1-1 correct scores.

The Shrimpers gained one of those 1-1s, but it was akin to an FA Cup tie against Peterborough and did nothing for Phil Brown's grey hair (his words not mine).

However, Southend are unbeaten at home (W3 D4), and they take on a Bury side that are yet to win on their travels this season (W0 D2 L4). The Shakers are also shipping goals on the road - conceding 13 in that sequence, which is the second-worst record in the third tier.


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According to Opta, Bury's last away victory at Southend came back in 2002, and they lost both fixtures to the Essex club last term by an aggregate of 5-1. It's quite hard to make a case for them despite the results on Tuesday night.

The safer play here could be to look to a few goals. Bury's Jermaine Beckford is a man in form, he's hit six in his last seven, and has scored away from home against the decent sides in this league including Rotherham, Fleetwood and Charlton. With eight in total this term, no other player for Bury has scored more than two according to Opta, which highlights how important he is to the team.

The Over 2.5 Goals should be considered here, but also the Both Teams To Score. Southend have hit the latter in five of their seven at Roots Hall, whilst Bury's BTTS record reads a near-perfect five from six on the road.

Southend have had a shocking run of injuries, and might be getting a few players back if you want to take the 1.94.
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AFC Wimbledon 1.76 v Plymouth Argyle 5.20, the draw 3.75

 

The 1.76 back of the home team does nothing for me here, even though they play bottom-of-the-table Plymouth. Indeed, Plymouth haven't won in their last 12 league matches - so they are most certainly the right price. But there is hope. Read on.

Opta tells us that of the ten league meetings between the two teams, this fixture has never produced a home victory. The home side has also failed to score more than one goal in those matches mentioned. The Opta team also highlight the fact that the Londoners have never beaten them at home.

Is that enough to back the Pilgrims at 5.20?

Maybe not, but they are worth a shot at getting a point here. They defended very well at Blackburn on Tuesday night, and were good enough to hold the leaders Shrewsbury to a 1-1 the Saturday before. Midfielder Graham Carey is their one creative player, and he's been a big influence recently in coming back to form.

 


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The hosts are not playing like 1.76 shots, and the market is suffering from a bit of recency here following their 3-1 home victory against Rotherham. Lyle Taylor scored a hat-trick, and that ended a personal drought. However the Dons are not prolific scorers at home and have netted just six in seven games (and three came on Tuesday).

Away from home Plymouth have collected four from six on the Under 2.5 Goals, where as the Dons are six from seven at Kingsmeadow for the same bet.

I cannot explain the 3-1 Rotherham victory, but my outlook is that these are two physical, big strong sides that don't score many, and Plymouth will be looking to keep this as tight as possible. Unfortunately, they just haven't got the players to score twice on the road.
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Cheltenham 2.80 v Lincoln 2.80; the draw 3.40

Lincoln are clearly on a roll and there are lots of reasons to think positively about their trip to Whaddon Road.

Defender Sean Raggett, whose headed goal defeated Swindon in a team performance boss Danny Cowley (pictured) hailed as "heroic", is back from a one-game ban (althoughMichael Bostwick is now suspended).

Nevermind. Josh Vickers, the former Arsenal youth keeper who has played the last three games, believes there is a strength in a small, tight-knit squad because while there is competition for places everyone is ready to step in.


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Cheltenham might have won seven of their last 10 at home, but boss Gary Johnson isn't relying on that. So unimpressed was he with defeat to Grimsby he cancelled the Robins' day off and made them train. Mo Eisa and Harry Pell, who had offers to go elsewhere in the summer but turned them down, remain capable players but the hosts show little consistency in results and have lost the last two.

Johnson had wanted Raggett at Cheltenham when he was at Dover, but couldn't afford the price tag and now the other centre-back he did sign from the non-league club, Jamie Grimes, will come up against him.

Opta state that Harry Anderson has been involved in four of Lincoln's last seven goals (one assist) while the Imps have alternated between a win and a draw in their last five games - picking up 11 points. They won the last, but seem very capable of breaking that win-draw habit by winning back to back games, despite the layers pricing this evenly in anticipation of a draw.
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Morecambe 3.00 v Grimsby 2.56; the draw 3.50

Morecambe made hard work of their 2-0 win at Chesterfield, felt boss Jim Bentley. There must be something in the cooling autumn air with a few teams putting in lacklustre performances.

Bentley added after a 3-0 home defeat to Port Vale that the Shrimps needed to start earning their wages. Well, if budget stories are anything to go by they probably get less than most others in League Two!

Keeper Barry Roche escaped criticism. With Kevin Ellison still suspended after his red card at Crawley, one of the team's prime creative outlets has gone. Adam McGurk didn't escape the manager's wrath and needs to add to his two goals this season.

 


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However, whatever they do, Grimsby are on a bit of a role with two wins (both away) and a draw from three games.

The Mariners have been scoring, two. It's not just a Dembele (for Tottenham) in the Premier League who is impressing: winger Siriki Dembele is scoring a few in League Two, with three in three games. The Ivorian international, 21, is highly rated by his skipper Nathan Clarke.

Dembele has had people talking about him since pre-season. And now there is talk of the play-offs. It's matches like these they need to win to maintain that ambition.
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Crawley 5.00 v Luton 1.90; the draw 3.80

There seems no stopping Luton. Five wins out of six with a hatful of goals indicate they should be no match for Crawley at the Broadfield, where the hosts are struggling to convince home fans of their worth, despite some promising results on the road.

The Hatters are odds-on away from home, which is a sure sign they are highly fancied to defeat their opponents relatively easily. However, will they suffer the curse of being top? Teams continue to struggle when they sit in the leaders' spot in League Two, which Nathan Jones' side now occupy because Exeter lost (to Luton) on Tuesday and Notts County were also defeated.


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With Luton striking another four on Tuesday after seven on Saturday, it should be no suprise that they boast two of the division's three top scorers, Danny Hylton and James Collins, both on eight goals. Luke Berry isn't far behind them. Their attack looks formidable.

Unless they have a bout of complacency they should be able to see off Harry Kewell's side who have far less quality. They have lost four at home in a row but never lost five in the Football League, state Opta. They haven't been in it very long - since 2012. Collins should enjoy himself against his former club and if Crawley do get a consolation then we should have enough goals to make over 3.5 goals pay.
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Newport 2.60 v Mansfield 3.10; the draw 3.50

Mike Flynn will be prepared to put Tuesday's defeat to Colchester behind the Exiles because this is their best start to a Football League season since 1983-84, state Opta, who add they had 25 points from 14 games. They have 24 on the board at present, including the just as stunning statistic that they have only conceded three goals at Valley Parade.

Last season, the ground was a pain for them and their opponents, but this season the grass is smooth and the football flowing.

Frank Nouble might seem under a little pressure, having not scored since netting three in August to win League Two player of the month, but the manager is pleased with his overall contribution. He has, however, added free agent Paul Hayes to the squad, which includes Padraig Amond and Shawn McCoulsky who both have six goals. As long as someone is scoring, managers don't mind.

 


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It is a concept that Mansfield are feeling less familiar with. One goal in each of their last two games and drawing a blank at Colchester won't lighten the mood Steve Evans will set in the dressing room as he tries to rally his troops to live up to their tag as pre-season title favourites.

The Stags boss is not one for mincing his words. The visitors have their own striker who can score, Danny Rose who has eight. The damning statistic from Opta is, however, that he has scored five of the side's last eight. Not enough variety seems to be their present problem. Even without injured midfielder Joss Ladabie, Newport should be on enough of a roll to defeat their visitors.
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17.10.2017
 England  Leagues
 

Crawley 2.10 v Chesterfield 4.30; the draw 3.50

It could be a dangerous one tipping Crawley at home, close to even money, in front of a restless crowd starting to get on the manager's back. However, four points from two away games since their last appearance at the Broadfield might have raised their hopes.

The Reds have had a fair bit of luck in those games, Billy Clifford scoring directly from a corner at Morecambe and Grimsby missing a penalty in a goalless encounter.

Notwithstanding, the defence has kept two clean sheets in a row, for the second time this season, with centre-back Joe McNerney (pictured) earning man of the match on Saturday. Harry Kewell believes he will become match fit during the absence of Lewis Young, whom he replaced at Morecambe.

He is also pleased that Moussa Sanoh and Clifford have taken their recent opportunities in the team well.


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Can they do him proud against struggles Chesterfield, who haven't yet won for new boss Jack Lester? The Spireites have just two points from 10 games and couldn't see off a Morecambe side who looked on Saturday's game as a strong chance to take precious points.

Good approach play and build up, but lacking quality in the final third seemed to be the consensus about Chesterfield's performance at the weekend.

Christian Dennis, scorer of five goals this season, has much weight to carry as the prime scorer. Will he get the chance against the Reds' brick wall? I'm prepared to back the hosts to prosper.
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Crewe 3.60 v Notts County 2.26; the draw 3.60

How often have we heard it? Managers believe their side was the better one but they lost. David Artell was convinced Crewe should have won at Yeovil on Saturday, but the Alex failed to take "chance after chance".

Well, despite the analysis that the visitors dominated for an hour, during which time they conceded twice, Crewe only had four shots on target (and seven off) to Yeovil's seven and six.

The Railwaymen have won once in seven games, scoring three times - in just two of those games. Chris Porter and Chris Dagnall need to finish those openings. Jordan Bowerywas particularly culpable at Huish Park.


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Meanwhile they have conceded 15 goals. As a former centre-back, Artell ought to be able to sort that out. A settled back four since making changes after the 5-0 mauling by Carlisle doesn't seem to have done the trick.

Artell expects Notts County to be direct and physical. And also tall, which is probably the reason for his thinking. The Mapgies also seem to have a multitude of choices right now, from Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi to George Grant and Jon Forte. Stead is glad he turned down offers to play in the United States to stay at Meadow Lane and the way things are going he will be rewarded with promotion. The visitors just seem to have too much firepower and confidence for Crewe at present.
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Exeter 3.20 v Luton 2.30; the draw 3.60

Clashes between teams a the top are always hard to call. But when do a team like Luton become value to tip? As regular readers know I avoid odds-on bets at virtually all costs, believing that very few teams who are priced under evens for an individual match actually win. Secondly, nobody got rich backing favourites.

Luton are often odds-on, especially at home where they have rattled in 24 goals in seven games. Away, they have scored only six times. Naturally, going for promotion, they have been just above evens several times. Against promotion rivals, you would expect the odds to be more evenly split than they are for this one.

However, after a second game in which they scored seven, Luton seem in irresistible form. Even so, normally I would caution that such a result is usually followed by a bad one. Luton won their opener 8-2, then lost at Barnet.


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Exeter should present a far tougher test than the Bees, but the Hatters seem to have copious amounts of strikers to blast holes in opposition defences. Summer recruit Luke Berry bore fruit with a hat-trick on Saturday and Danny Hylton notched another two to reach seven in 11 games, the same number as James Collins after 13 games.

Whether they can puncture Christie Pym's goal is another matter. The Grecians' goalkeeper was in fine form at Wycombe to help earn his lacklustre side a point. Paul Tisdale will not like that. Nor the last Tuesday league result, one against promotion rivals - a 3-0 defeat to Notts County.

He'll need not only his defenders in top form, but a spark of magic from Reuben Reid or Jayden Stockley perhaps. Exeter have started scoring goals at home, rather than rely on a clean sheet and a single goal, but surely this game will revert to low scoring as both teams size each other up. The hosts, however, will do well to keep their visitors' multiple marauding forwards out for 90 minutes and the visitors can sneak a narrow win.
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14.10.2017 
 England Premier League

Crystal Palace 9.40 v Chelsea 1.42; The Draw 5.00


A quick glance at the Premier League Relegation market and you'll notice Crystal Palace sitting there at 1.67. In terms of long-term odds-on shots I can't think of many better.

The reason I say that is because the Eagles already look destined for the drop to me having lost all of their opening seven league games without scoring a single goal. But consider also that Palace play Chelsea on Saturday, then travel to Newcastle next week - which will be a very tough ask - before facing Tottenham, West Ham, and Everton, and it really could be a case of Roy Hodgson's men being dead and buried before Christmas.

And to add insult to injury, Christian Benteke, Palace's only serious goal threat, is likely to be absent for all of the above mentioned games with a knee injury, while the impressive Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains sidelined. Wilfried Zaha is hoping to be fit enough to play some part in the game, but it's a lot to expect the Eagles talisman to make an immediate impact on his return.



Nothing should ever surprise us in football of course, but if Palace go the next five games without getting a win - which is very likely - then that 1.67 about them being relegated could easily become a 1.25 shot.

It's also impossible to envisage Chelsea not taking all three points from Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon. Antonio Conte's men are on a fine run of form away from home domestically - see the above Opta stat - and they also recorded a superb win at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.


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N'Golo Kante's absence is obviously a blow but the Blues have plenty of quality midfielders who can drop deeper and play a similar role, so I fully expect Conte's men to dominate the midfield, dominate the game in fact, and secure a sixth successive Premier League away win.

And given Palace's woes in front of goal then backing a Chelsea win without conceding makes complete sense.
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Manchester City 1.18 v Stoke 21.00; The Draw 9.40


Manchester City go into Saturday's game against Stoke on the back of eight consecutive victories. They've won their last two league games at the Etihad Stadium 5-0 each time, they've recorded six clean sheets in that winning run, and their aggregate score from those eight wins is 27-2.

It's a formidable run of form the Citizens are on no doubt, yet arguably their most impressive victory was their narrow 1-0 at Stamford Bridge just before the international break. They completely controlled the game against the reigning champions and never looked in any danger.

Pep Guardiola's men look incredibly strong in every department, and with or without Sergio Aguero - who is reportedly recovering very well from his minor car accident injury - they are impossible to oppose against Stoke this weekend.



The Potters actually have a decent record at the Etihad, drawing 0-0 there last season and springing a shock three years ago when they recorded a 1-0 away win.

But in between those two very good results Mark Hughes' men have lost three times against Man City, and they conceded exactly four goals each time. So given Stoke's poor away form this season - three defeats and a draw in all competitions - then you have to feel that another big defeat for the Potters is far more likely than them getting a good result at the Etihad this time.


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City just look unstoppable at the moment, they have so many big-name players at the top of their game - none more so than the brilliant Kevin De Bruyne - that I just can't see them not producing another emphatic victory on Saturday afternoon.
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Tottenham 1.23 v Bournemouth 15.50; The Draw 8.00


You sense that this is a pivotal fixture for Tottenham. At White Hart Lane you'd have no hesitation in taking the long odds-on about a home victory given that the opposition is a Bournemouth side currently sitting second bottom in the table.

But this game is at Tottenham's temporary home, Wembley, a venue where the Lilywhites are yet to record a league victory.

In fact, Mauricio Pochettino's men could claim a bit of unwanted history if they fail to beat the Cherries on Saturday afternoon as they'd become the first team ever in English football to win all of their first four away games while failing to win any of their first four home games.

But fear not. Tottenham, and that man Harry Kane, should put Bournemouth to the sword if they perform anything like they did at home to Burnley and Swansea. Put simply, Spurs should have won both of those matches, and they should have scored three or four each time.



You'd be worried if Tottenham were failing to win at Wembley because of the lack of goalscoring chances created, but a combined total of 54 shots at goal in those two home draws, 13 of which were on target, suggests that they've just been unlucky not to win. Surely it's just a matter of time before they run in a big number on 'home' soil.


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And given that they've scored 12 in four meetings against Bournemouth, that Kane is in scintillating form (and has six goals against the Cherries in those four previous meetings), and that Eddie Howe's men are struggling currently, then you'd be a brave man to bet against this match being the game Tottenham win easily.

Bournemouth have actually lost all three Premier League away games this term and conceded three at Tottenham's North London rivals Arsenal, and I won't be in one bit surprised if they concede a similar number of goals at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.
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14.10.2017
 England Championship
 

Barnsley 4.40 v Middlesbrough 1.99; The Draw 3.60

The Championship has been typically hard to predict in the early months of the season, so much so that being asked to take odds-on about an out-of-form team away from home makes very little appeal.

But I still like the look of this game from a goals perspective as games involving Barnsley rank extremely high in the Championship when it comes to the 'shots at goal' stats, and with Middlesbrough conceding goals quite regularly of late then an odds-against price about Over 2.5 Goals is worth taking.

Games involving The Tykes have produced an average of 2.8 goals per match in the league this season, but when it comes to average shots per home game when Barnsley are involved, Paul Heckingbottom's men rank fourth in the division.



And as we know, the more shots at goal in a game then by the law of averages, the more times the back of the net will ripple, evidenced by Barnsley's seven home games this term with the scorelines reading, 4-3, 1-2, 2-1, 3-0, 3-2, 0-3, 1-1. That's an average of 3.71 goals per match at Oakwell this season with six of those seven games going over the 2.5 goals mark.

Middlesbrough don't rank as highly when it comes to shots at goal but Garry Monk's men have now failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last four league games, which increases the chances of Barnsley getting on the scoresheet here.

And the fact that I really believe that this Boro team are far better suited to playing away from home, then I can easily see them getting on the scoresheet a few times themselves.
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Bolton 4.40 v Sheff Wed 2.04; The Draw 3.50

Bolton have endured a dreadful start to life back in the Championship, taking just a miserly two points from the first 33 available to them. The biggest concern for Phil Parkinson's men however surely has to be the lack of goals his team are scoring.

The Trotters have just four league goals to their name this term, and they all came within their first four games of the season! Since then Bolton have lost seven consecutive Championship games - eight in all competitions - without scoring a single goal.

At the Macron Stadium Bolton have a 100% record in the league this campaign - played five, lost five. An international break can change matters dramatically, we know that, but until we see evidence that Parkinson's men are actually improving and capable of scoring then we simply have to oppose them.


Sheffield Wednesday haven't exactly had a blistering start to the season but there's absolutely no reason to panic just yet given that the Owls are just four points off the play-offs.

Inconsistency seems to be the problem for Carlos Carvalhal's men but they go into Saturday's game on the back of a superb 3-0 victory over high-flying Leeds, and given they haven't lost away to Bolton in any of their last five league meetings I'm confident they'll claim another three points this weekend.
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Brentford 2.04 v Millwall 4.20; The Draw 3.70

Back to those 'shots at goal' stats and it's no surprise to see games involving Brentford right up there; they rank fifth in the division overall and second when it comes to games at Griffin Park, so it bodes well for goals backers that Saturday's opponents Millwall also rank in the top third of the Championship.

The Bees are starting to find a bit of form and are now unbeaten in four league games, and they go into this game on the back of an excellent 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough just before the international break.

Games involving Dean Smith's men have averaged almost exactly 2.5 goals per match this season, but on home soil five of their six outings have resulted in both teams getting on the scoresheet and an average of 3.8 goals per game were scored.

By pure coincidence, league matches involving Millwall this term have also averaged almost exactly 2.5 goals per game, while the last London derby Neil Harris' men were involved in - away to QPR last month - finished 2-2.

The safer bet is to back Over 2.5 Goals at a shade of odds-on, but I'm going to push the boat out slightly after looking at the recent head-to-head history between these two sides. All of the last six meetings between Brentford and Millwall resulted in both teams getting on the scoresheet, while four of the last five meetings witnessed at least four goals.
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 14.10.2017
 England League 1
 
Rotherham United 2.10 v Scunthorpe United 3.65, the draw 3.45


The way to go this season has been to back Rotherham at home, and with a record of five victories at the New York against just one loss, the price of 2.10 is more than fair. The Millers are now up to fourth, and are looking like playoff contenders.

Two key factors have underpinned the Rotherham run on their own patch: plenty of goals, and the performances of Kieffer Moore.

Moore has hit nine goals overall this term, with eight coming at home. Indeed, Rotherham have smashed in five goals on three occasions with 5-1 successes against Walsall and Oldham, with a 5-0 to boot versus Southend.

Scunthorpe will be no pushover here; they have the joint-best defensive record in the third tier with just seven conceded (and a measly three in six on the road). Opta point to the fact that the Iron have lost back-to-back league matches recently following a run of just one loss in 15. However, those two games were against Shrewsbury and Wigan - the top two in the division.

The Iron made too many mistakes at the back in their latest loss to the Latics, and they failed to make the opponent's keeper work. Those defensive errors, though, were most uncharacteristic.

On the plus side, Scunny do have a good record historically according to Opta stats; with Rotherham winning just once in the last eight clashes between the two. However, the Millers gained a crucial away win at Rochdale last week; the first time they have kept back-to-back clean sheets under Paul Warne.
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Bristol Rovers 2.12 v Oxford United 3.50, the draw 3.75 

I need to address a misconception of mine about Rovers. I had them down as inconsistent - which I suppose is fair enough with their away form. But it's hard to knock a home record of four wins at the Memorial. They didn't do too badly either last week at Northampton winning 6-0!

If I thought they were unpredictable in terms of their results, there's nothing unpredictable about their goalscoring exploits this term. With 23 netted thus far, they are the highest scorers in the division by a goal - even better than the likes of Rotherham and Peterborough.

At the Memorial; they are F13 A11, and with Oxford away F8 A9, we have two teams that concede as many as they do score. We can also throw into the mix Rovers' record of BTTS at home - they are six from six on that, and also 100% in terms of hitting the Over 2.5 Goals on their own patch.

The BTTS is a touch short at around 1.55, but the 1.70 on the Over 2.5 Goals has to be the play here. The Over 3.5 can backed at 2.74.

In terms of the outright bets, this game matches 12th versus 10th - so Oxford are an interesting price, especially on their 4-1 away victory at Peterborough.

United boss Pep Clotet has recently hailed the impact of striker Wes Thomas; who according to Opta, has scored in four of Oxford's last five league wins - and he netted his fifth of the season in the 3-0 victory against AFC Wimbledon recently.

Both are in form, but Rovers haven't won three in a row since 2015-16, so I might just leave alone the price of a home win.
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Plymouth Argyle 3.80 v Shrewsbury Town 2.10, the draw 3.55

Last week I highlighted how the market still seems not quite convinced about Shrewsburyand their sensational start to the season. OK, it didn't quite work last Saturday with the 1-1 draw at Walsall - but that was the beauty of the price with the extra insurance of the Draw No Bet. Whether that can be utilised again this weekend is another matter, but we can still back the league leaders at odds-against.

Indeed, according to Opta, Shrewsbury are the only unbeaten team amongst the 72 EFL clubs. Yes, and we can still back them at 2.10.

This looks even better considering their opponents are bottom-placed Plymouth. A whopping 25 points separates the two teams going into the weekend, and how Plymouth must envy the high-energy game of Salop.

Argyle cannot buy a result for love nor money. They don't score many either, with the local press describing their attack as toothless this week. The 4-2-3-1 is not a success, but manager Derek Adams has tried the two up front and it never seems to work. A system only works if you have the players. Shrewsbury have young, fresh, hungry (and extremely fit) squad members who play with high tempo - and that is highly effective.

Opta state that Plymouth have won their last three league games against Shrewsbury without conceding a goal, but this is a new-look Town side who have won four times on the road this season and have conceded just five goals in six matches on their travels. With Plymouth's shot-shy antics - we should really look to the 0-1 and 0-2 Correct Scores.

The hosts have signed free agent Toumani Diagouraga, a midfielder who was previously at Leeds. But they need a goalscorer.
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14.10.2017
 England League 2
 

Forest Green Rovers 3.50 v Newport County 2.30; the draw 3.50

The thing I love most about statistics is their ability to bite you in the behind when you start to take them for granted.

There are some pearlers from Opta this week, which helps us as we try to find chinks of light to build on the hope of that fantastic draw at Notts County, which took the Magpies down a peg or two from their high perch after a fantastic run.


Forest Green are without a clean sheet in their 12 league games this season, trumpet Opta. The last side to wait longer in a season for a clean sheet in the Football League were Torquay in 1927 (14 games). So if Mark Cooper can't find a way to stop his side conceding, they could be landed with an unwanted piece of history in three games time, in their first ever EFL campaign.

Cooper won't be impressed with either of the two goalkeepers he has deployed, nor perhaps surprised to learn that the first one, Bradley Collins, has the lowest save-to-goals-conceded ratio (60.4%) of those who have conceded at least 10 goals. Sam Russell, who has shared custodian duties, has also conceded eight in four games, including to the softest of headers for Notts County's very late equaliser.

Cooper knows his side have talent, knows from last season that they can win matches. They are now off the foot of the table. He also knows Omar Bugiel should have scored twice, not just once. He also knows now that Rovers are capable of a clean sheet, having come so close.


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Newport will have other ideas of course, having matched their best ever points tally from the first 12 games of the season (1983-84) with 21 points, say Opta. Every reason for the bubble to burst, then, or at least be contained. Conceding 11 goals away from home (and scoring nine by comparison) gives the hosts hope that if they can score, and keep opposition chances to a minimum, they have a chance here. It's asking a fair amount with Joss Ladabie and Padraig Amond in scoring form, but I'm in a contrarian mood and willing to take on the statistics and believe that Forest Green are turning the corner.
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Port Vale 2.90 v Cheltenham 2.60; the draw 3.55

Terry Brown, the former Aldershot Town manager, once remarked that the only way a non-league manager was ever going to get the chance to manage in the Football League was to win promotion with a team, because Football League clubs just don't pick managers from non-league. He later earned promotion with AFC Wimbledon.

Several managers in non-league have been given their chance, of course, but they happen to be former league players (unlike Brown). Like Neil Aspin, who just happens to have spent 12 years managing in non-league. Aspin believes he wouldn't have got the chance unless at his old club Port Vale, and while that sounds like he is selling football judgement short all round the argument does seem to have legs. Graham Westley and Marcus Bignott are just two in recent years to have served an apprenticeship in non-league before being plucked by league clubs.

The name Aspin sounds like a popular painkiller and the Valiants certainly need something to relieve the current headache of sitting 23rd in the Football League. The new manager's first assessment seems to be that he looks around the team and doesn't see too many goalscorers.


Well, perhaps he didn't see Tyronne Barnett bang them in for fun at Crawley which, admittedly, was five years ago. Aspin will have to find the magic that helped Jamie Vardy in his time at FC Halifax if he is to revive confidence of Barnett and another previous hot property, Tom Pope. Now 32, Rotherham paid £150,000 for him a few years ago and, after that, he scored 56 times in 163 league appearances for Port Vale in a previous spell. But he only has two goals this season. Top scorer is Dan Turner, with three. Vale have only scored nine.

Aspin has his work cut out but the contrarian in me likes to look beyond the headlines for signs of change. Can a new manager turn around a horrendous season so far? Shawn of confidence, the hosts have not won since the opening day.


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Meanwhile Cheltenham have been picking up some notable results, including defeating Swindon last Saturday, but their away form is nothing to write home about. Mo Eisa did score twice in their most recent away game - their first win, 2-0 at Chesterfield, and they did take a point at Accrington, again thanks to their former Greenwich striker.

Home defence is key. Aspin, who thinks his squad is too big, won't want to extend the statistic that his side have scored first in four of their last five games yet failed to win. He also will note the Opta stat that if Port Vale don't win, it will be the first time they have gone nine successive home league games with a victory since November 1995, when they went 10. That would make an unwanted double for Aspin, who was in the squad at the time.
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Yeovil Town 2.60 v Crewe 3.00; the draw 3.50

Everyone loves Harry Redknapp. Except the FA of course who didn't select him to manage England - and then his stock suddenly dropped when he was sacked by Tottenham a few weeks later. But, joking aside, Redknapp has huge experience in football and it was no surprise that his offer to help a young manager out for free a couple of days a week was snapped up so quickly.

Darren Way, just ahead of his 100th game in charge of Yeovil, was on the phone pretty much immediately he read Redknapp's remarks and the Yeovil Town manager surely had to do something to boost his side after their rotted run continues.

Victory at Chesterfield three games ago was their only victory in the last eight matches. They have not scored in four of them, including the last two. They clearly need some defensive advice, having conceded 26 goals this season, just one behind top of that table Forest Green, state Opta.

Defender Daniel Alfei's season ending knee injury won't help matters. Redknapp and Way have problems at both ends, then. The Glovers sat back in their own half at Newport, keen not to get a pasting like they did on the opening day at Luton perhaps, but the Exiles are not as hot as the Hatters.


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Way says some of his young players have let themselves be "bullied" by opponents.

Crewe have been difficult to write off, mostly at home, this season but not exactly set pulses racing. They have not scored in four of their last six games, failing to score in three of their five away games. Jordan Bowery says he wants to experience the exhilaration of scoring again, after doing so having returned from a summer hernia. He has had to bide his time as Chris Porter and Chris Dagnall have led the line.

Olufela Olomola, Otis Khan or Francis Zoko, the top scorers so far, need to dig deep into their reserves and give the Somerset side a long overdue boost.
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Colchester 2.44 v Carlisle 3.00; the draw 3.70

John McGreal puts a recent turnaround in results down to experienced players returning to the team after injury.

Defender Doug Loft, 30, has started the last four games, while striker Kyel Reid, 29, has begun the last three games, in which Colchester have notched two wins and a draw. Those two wins have come with clean sheets and include victory over Mansfield, which has given defender Ryan Inniss the impression that the team can push on up to the promotion places.


It might seem a bit early to be building castles just because grains of sand have been smoothed out with a few good results, but Carlisle are not in any sort of shape to argue I don't think. They might have won at Crawley a fortnight ago, but the Reds have been poor at home. In their other two from three matches, the Cumbrians have not even scored and lost twice. Beating Crewe in their game before that 5-0 must seem a lifetime ago.
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