Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Murray regains old spirit

A two set deficit and a painful looking ankle injury are two fairly hefty obstacles to overcome in tennis. The fact Andy Murray has done just that in 24 hours is testament to his determination and fierce will to win.

Add to that the fact he was 2-5 down in the final set against Viktor Troicki, his progression though to the quarter-finals is even more remarkable. Those placing French Open bets would have been surprised.

It is certainly something he perhaps wasn't capable of just a few months ago. In the wake of his crushing defeat against the all-conquering Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January Murray's form and mental toughness deserted him, with a flurry of first round exits and sluggish, sulky performances.

But with the start of spring came a re-birth in Murray's form, the stubborn obstinate body language was still there, but it was channelled the right way and that fierce will to win - combined with the undoubted the Scot possesses - bore successful results. Those looking at the French Open best bets will be wondering how far he can go.

He now moves on to play unseeded Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela, a kind draw at this stage of the tournament. If he shows the same levels of performance against Chela that he did against Troicki, then a semi-final berth -and a potential clash with Rafael Nadal - is certainly on the cards.

Only then would we get a true sense of Murray's recovery from Melbourne. After all he has reached semi-finals before as well as three Grand Slam finals, and on each occasion he has fallen to one of the leading lights, usually Federer, Nadal and now Djokovic.

Plus it can't be forgotten than Nadal is usually unbeatable on clay, his favourite surface by a distance.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How many runners in the WSOP Main Event?

The latest press release from Unibet Poker:

The WSOP is here again! A time for optimism, a time for pain, a time for pretty much any emotion in your entire repertoire. Whether you come back from Vegas a millionaire or a punch-drunk no-hoper (ho-noper?) who swears there’ll never play the game again, you can be sure of one thing. There will be plenty of attempts to put numbers to uncertain events.

That’s all poker is. Guessing with limited information on uncertain events. Should that tourist from Alabama be drawing to that flush? Nope. Should that internet kid be putting that UTG opener’s raise on a range of 88+, AJ+, KQs? Nope. If everyone always got the numbers right there’d be no money to make in the game – except perhaps for the house (see all the pit games for more details).

The timeless attraction of uncertainty and limited information is that we can bet on it. And whenever a new possibility comes alive, the denizens of the poker world start tweeting numbers like deranged stock traders.

The latest subject? Answering the question: How many runners will there be in the Main Event? Because of Black Friday there’s a special amount of uncertainty this year. The last time America didn’t have internet poker, the Main Event runners numbered only into the hundreds.

Of course, the playing field is slightly different now. While there is no doubt that the number will be smaller than last year’s 7319 (the highest figure was the pre-UIGEA 2006 of 8773), a hell of a lot of Americans, and indeed people from further afield, still see the Main Event as a must.

The big problem this year will be the lack of internet qualifiers from the US. The two other factors I can see are: (a) many US players cannot get hold of their funds in time; and (b) many non-US players might not come to the WSOP if they cannot grind on the internet while there.

So what have people said so far? Tom Dwan came up with an answer on day one (i.e. Black Friday): 5,144. Doyle Brunson recently tweeted that it would be 4,500 and Bluff Europe journalist Matt Perry reckons it will be 4,038.

I’m less pessimistic. I understand that getting on for half the people who entered the Main Event last year satellited online, but I can’t believe they were all from the US, and even so, that US players aren’t going to try a different way in this year.

The Rio runs satellites to the Main Event on an hourly basis, and I given the timing of Black Friday, a reckon lot of US pros will take their bankrolls to Vegas casino for one last hurrah and take a view on pro poker at the end of July.

A few people will already have qualified via those sites before Black Friday. Also, I’d reckon around 1,000 of the internet qualifiers are not actually from the US (but rather Europe, Asia, Canada, etc). Nothing’s changed for them.

Another problem is that maybe Stars and Tilt will be less concerned about getting people to the WSOP because there’s no point in them advertising in the US any more. It’ll be interesting to see, for example, how the November Niners fare sponsorship-wise given that the Big Two will not be interested.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Australia set for first ranking snooker tournament

After Australia gained its first ever world champion last year in the shape of Neil Robertson, it has now been handed its first world ranking tournament. World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn is in the process of expanding the game throughout the globe, and has targeted the Australian market as the next big move. The Australian Goldfield's Open will be held in Bendingo, Victoria, between the 18 and 24th of July this summer.

The deal will stretch to an initial three years, which will be extended should it be a success, which is something Hearn knows a thing or two about. 2010 world champion Robertson was quick to express his delight at the news, claiming the move was a dream come true to have a tournament in the state that he grew up in. Those looking at the snooker betting odds will know he has every chance of claiming the competition.

"This is a long-standing dream come true for me, as I am sure it is for many snooker players and fans in Australia. To have a world ranking event in my home state will be just unbelievable and I hope to get a lot of support," he said.

Also on the horizon for the snooker tour will be South America's first tournament, to be held in Brazil. The growing Asian market will be once again tapped into, this time with Thailand the destination of another new tournament on the calendar. Hearn won't settle with that though, and there is sure to be plenty of other ideas up his sleeve as he looks to expand snooker's growing popularity.

Park hoping for third time lucky

Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung will be looking to make it third time lucky on Saturday in the Champions League final against Barcelona, after two previous disappointments at the biggest game in club football.

The South Korean international failed to make Sir Alex Ferguson's 18-man squad for the final in Moscow back in 2008, when United went on to beat Chelsea in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Park was then involved in the Champions League final defeat to Barca just 12 months later, as the Red Devils went down 2-0 to the Catalan giants in Rome. Those looking at the Champions League best odds will know United are in for another tough game.

Two years have passed since that defeat in the Eternal City and now United face Barcelona once again, this time at Wembley Stadium.

Park is determined to help United win the prestigious trophy on Saturday and is looking to put some closure on his own personal disappointments over the past few years. Those who have placed a Champions League bet on United will be hoping he can do this.

He said: "Missing out on one final and losing another makes me more eager to play and win this game - against which team it doesn't matter.

"If I play and we win the game it will be fantastic for me. It is my dream but I have to play 100% for my dreams to come true.

"Obviously Barcelona are one of the best clubs in the world so if we beat them we will create the perfect final - for me as well."

Park has been a key big game player for United this season, scoring a decisive goal in the 2-1 quarter-final victory over Premier League rivals Chelsea.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Watson and Robson have time on their side

There was a time when 19 would be considered too late to make a breakthrough at the top of women's game. Many of the game's female legends had started to win slams in their teenage years, with retirement beckoning for some in their mid-20s in an environment well-known for burnout.

Times have changed. Players are now more athletic and physically stronger, making it difficult for a precocious but comparatively frail teenager to storm to majors and into the world's top 20. Child stars are perhaps never to emerge like they did in the 80s and 90s, with experience and maturity being a factor as much as the necessary physical attributes. Those looking at the Wimbledon tennis betting should remember this.

There are only two teenagers in the top 50 of the WTA rankings, with the new breed of challengers having a few years' of tour experience behind them. Julia Goeges, Andrea Petkovic and Petra Kvitova have all made rapid strides only when they have reached their early-20s.

This bodes well for Heather Watson and Laura Robson, Britain's two great female tennis hopes. Aged 19 and 17 respectively, they have time to develop physically and mentally, with Watson's faster improvement over the past 18 months a clear indicator of how time on tour is crucial.

Watson is likely to enter the top 100 after the French Open, where she became the first British woman to win a Roland Garros match for 17 years. Robson has reached something of a plateau after showing her talent sooner, winning her junior slam a year earlier, but the talented lefthander has even more time on her side.

It is too early to predict Wimbledon championships for either, but their speed of progression is encouraging, whereas it would once have been considered too slow.

Armstrong facing fresh accusations

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is facing a new battle to clear his name in connection to doping. Former team-mate Tyler Hamilton has claimed he knows for certain that Armstrong not only took performance enhancing drugs, but also failed a doping test back in 2001, something that Armstrong strongly denies.

Former team-mate Hamilton claims Armstrong tested positive for EPO during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, and that the governing body proceeded to cover up the result to keep the sport's biggest star out of trouble.

"I know he's had a positive test before, for EPO [at the] Tour of Switzerland, 2001," he said.

"People took care of it. I don't know all the exact details but I know that Lance's people and the people from the other side, the governing body of the sport [the UCI], figured out a way to make it go away."

Those looking at the Tour de France odds will hope this scandal doesn't overshadow the race.

It is the second time this same allegation has been levelled at the 39-year-old former RadioShack rider, following Floyd Landis' series of claims accusing his former US Postal team-mate. Landis claimed that the $125,000 donation Armstrong made to the UCI's anti-doping team wasn't simply a helpful gift, but something more sinister. Again, Armstrong denies any wrongdoing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seiborg spoils the party. Or maybe not.

Alex Rousso, a Unibet Ambassador, gives us the latest news from the world of poker:

This week brings the news that Seiborg has done it again. For those who have not been following this story, Eric Seidel has now cashed in nine major tournaments so far this year; five of those cashes have been six-figure and a further two of them have been seven-figure.

In total, his winnings so far for this year have been $5.59M. That would put him second on the UK all time list, a few hundred thou behind the Devilfish...in five months. Since Seidel was no slouch on the all time list beforehand, he’s now way out in front – almost $1.5M ahead of Negreanu and $2M ahead of best-in-the-world Ivey.

In a previous blog I commented on how much the major sites spend to keep their poster boys on top of this “league table”. At the same time – though perhaps not coincidentally – the Hendon Mob released new all time money lists which excluded invitationals and/or buy ins over $50k.

My first thought was that Seidel is spoiling the party somewhat. I mean, we’ve expended so much energy trying to convince ourselves that Ivey and Negreanu are “it”, and then Seidel just waltzes right in there and proves that it’s all about variance after all.

Negreanu makes a good point in one of his blogs. Sites could just have ten people enter a $5M SNG and the winner takes all. That winner would have an extra $50M on their Hendon Mob and go straight to the top of the all time list. OK, so let’s have a look at the list which excludes over $50k buy in events. Ah, that’s better. Negreanu and Ivey one and two – order is restored to the universe. But hang on, we should also get rid invitationals too, since that warps the figures due to the Matthew Effect. Dammit, that still has Jamie Gold above Ivey for Christ’s sake!

It’s ridiculous that even though I bill myself as the dispenser of “red pills” about variance in poker, I feel disappointed by yet another massive bink this week from the Seiborg. The thought process in my head goes something like: “it’ll take years for the table to recover now that all these super-high rollers are skewing the results.”

What nonsense. Even the list which excludes the $50k plus buy ins suffers from the same problem. Of the top twenty in that list, nine are former WSOP ME winners (often with little else on their resume: Gold, Yang) and a further two are runners up. So even before the high rollers buggered things up, it was a charade in any case.

Negreanu’s conclusion is a typically sober one. The list 'doesn’t “mean anything”, but it’s fun and obviously creates a lot of interest'. I’d go one step further. The list does mean something: it means that there’s a hell of a lot of variance in poker, and this is just another flag being waved in front of our eyes, begging to be noticed.

We can see the real long run in action, but we have to turn to statistics of online play to do so. For a long time, I’ve used Sharkscope.com as a resource for my articles. With databases on some players stretching into the tens of thousands, one gets a better idea of the sting of variance in poker.

Only thus do we discover that it could take thousands of years to reach the long run in these live high rollers. How fortunate that our current champion is actually a cyborg.

Ronaldo to return to Manchester?

Manchester City have been making some fairly logical statements recently about the need to invest sensibly this summer rather than launch audacious bids for Europe's top stars ahead of next season's involvement in the Champions League. For some cynics, it all sounded a bit too good to be true in light of City's spending activity over the past two years, and it would seem that the suggestions of sensible spending emerging from the blue side of Manchester were, after all, hot air.

With sources close to Cristiano Ronaldo revealing that City are preparing to launch a ridiculous bid for the Real Madrid man, it seems likely that, despite the Sky Blues' denials, there is rarely smoke without fire when it comes to this sort of transfer rumour. Rumours report that the bid, if plans really are in the pipeline, may be as high as £150 million, an unthinkable sum of money, even for a player of Ronaldo's skill and experience. Those placing a football online bet certainly wouldn't expect that sort of money to be paid for him.

Should City decide to let go of such an outrageous amount of money at a time during which UEFA is taking a close interest in the finances of major clubs around the continent, the question remains as to whether or not a man who spent six seasons at Old Trafford would switch to their bitter city rivals. United fans would surely believe Ronaldo would turn his nose up at the chance to play for the Sky Blues, but with Ronaldo a man more known for his interest in his public image and his bank account than for his loyalty, Premier League fans could yet be in for a shock, if not this season then maybe next. And who knows? Maybe City could be welcoming Ronaldo as Premier League champions next summer.

Lucky 13 for outstanding Goldikova

The near legendary French mare Goldikova took her tally of Group 1 wins to a remarkable 13 when landing the Prix d'Isaphan at Longchamp for the second year running, making the perfect start to what has already been declared to be her final season on the track.

The Freddie Head-trained mare, last seen in action when getting the better of US star Gio Ponti to win the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs for the third year in a row, was racing at the very outer limits of her stamina in tackling Sunday's nine furlong contest on home soil, and after hitting the front inside the final two furlongs she was pushed all the way to the line to beat the determined Cirrus Des Aigle, scoring by a neck, with Rajsaman finishing back in third. For the second race in succession Richard Hannon's Dick Turpin ran below-par and connections once again put the disappointing effort down to competing on ground that was too fast for him and those looking at the horse racing betting odds should remember this.

No firm decision has been made as to quite where Goldikova will appear next, although the European racing public would dearly love to see her try and defend her Queen Anne Stakes title at Royal Ascot next month where she would most likely go head-to-head in a mouth-watering clash with another outstanding miler, the Hannon-trained four-year-old Canford Cliffs.

Head wouldn't be pressured into making a decision on the spot at Longchamp and insisted he would have to discuss all options with the wondermare's owners, the Wertheimer brothers, before making any future plans. There was a mixed reaction though from betting firms with not all being impressed by Goldikova's victory, some now making Canford Cliffs an 11/8 favourite for the Ascot race (Goldikova 6/4), whilst others bet exactly the other way around.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Giggs eyes Champions League cherry

Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Blackburn last weekend was a game that heaped more records on the evergreen Ryan Giggs. Not only did the draw hand Giggs his 12th Premier League title with United, it also meant the Welshman passed David James' record of 572 top flight appearances as well as equalling the record held by Steve Perryman for number of top flight games played for a single club.

With pretty much every record, title and honour now under his belt, Giggs will be looking to add a shiny third Champions League winners' medal to his collection when United take on Barcelona next weekend at Wembley. Anyone looking at the Champions League specials will know it is set to be a thrilling game.

Giggs was naturally delighted to pick up his 12th Premier League title last weekend, but maintained the focus will immediately switch to trying to avenge their 2009 Champions League defeat to the Catalan giants. Those looking at the Champions League betting tips will be wondering if this can happen.

"We want to conquer Europe now. We will be focusing on Barcelona and winning that Champions League. For a lot of us there is still that disappointment from Rome two years ago. We didn't do ourselves justice that day. Hopefully we will do it this time at Wembley," he said.

While Giggs has been used sparingly by Sir Alex this season he has still had a major impact on United's success over this campaign. With a new 12-month contract now signed by the 37-year old, United will have the Welsh wizard for another year at least, and many fans would love to see the winger stay on beyond that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Neymar hints at Blues move

Brazilian wonder-kid Neymar has admitted that he would like Premier League giants Chelsea to make another bid for his services in the near future.

The Santos striker is highly rated in Brazil and showed what he is capable of when he scored a brace in an international friendly against Scotland back in March.

Chelsea will be looking to add to their squad this summer, after they splashed the cash in the January transfer window on striker Fernando Torres and defender David Luiz.

The Blues attempted to lure Neymar to Stamford Bridge last summer but the Brazil striker opted to stay in his homeland and continue his development.

However, the gifted player has now revealed he could be willing to leave South America and make his name in Europe.

He said: "I was very happy about Chelsea's interest because it is a club every player would like to play for, but at that moment the right decision was to stay at Santos.

"To play in Europe is my dream. I was very proud of Chelsea's interest and I hope to keep playing well so that this proposal can happen again.”

Chelsea have struggled for goals in forward positions this season, with Dider Drogba their top goalscorer in the Premier League with 11.

Torres has only managed to score one goal for the Blues since his arrival from Liverpool in January for £50m and the club could be looking to bring in Neymar to increase their attacking threats for next season.

For the latest Premier League odds or casino games, check out the pariuri Unibet site today.

Wenger confident on Cesc future

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes his captain Cesc Fabregas will be playing his football at the Emirates next season.

Once again questions have been raised over the player’s future, as the Gunners have gone another campaign without winning any silverware.

Arsenal battled last summer to keep hold of the talented midfielder when Spanish giants Barcelona were keen to bring the 24-year-old to the Nou Camp. Fabregas started his career with the Catalan side and has admitted it would be a dream to one day play in the red and blue jersey.

It looks like Europe’s top clubs will be trying to lure the Spanish World Cup winner away from the Emirates but Wenger is confident Fabregas will be at Arsenal next season, as the club look to end their barren title run.

He said: "I will fight very hard to keep him here. You have always to fight when you have a player of that quality.

"I believe the biggest pride for a captain is to be committed to his club and deliver trophies to his team.

"A player who changes every time when he is frustrated that he does not win a trophy goes nowhere.”

Arsenal currently find themselves in fourth place in the Premier League table and will have to win against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday if they are to stand any chance of taking third spot from Manchester City.

Finishing third would guarantee Arsenal would automatically go through to the Champions League group stage and avoid playing an extra qualifier.

For the latest Premier League odds or casino games, check out the pariuri Unibet site today.

Basso avoids serious injury

Liquigas-Cannondale rider Ivan Basso avoided serious injury after suffering a heavy crash while preparing for this year's Tour de France. The Italian has been in Sicily training before the sport's showpiece event next month, training at altitude on Mount Etna. The 33-year old was rounding a corner at speed when he came off his bike, slamming his face and shoulder into the road.

Team director of sport Paolo Slongo was on the scene at the time of the accident and Basso was given 15 stitches at a medical centre nearby, before the rider headed to a local hospital for X-rays that confirmed no break to any bones. Despite admitting his fear at the time of the worrying incident, Basso has played down fears it would put his participation in next month's Tour under any doubt so those looking at the Tour de France betting need not worry.

"I was really scared, because the impact was violent and in a delicate area. I didn't need this accident but it certainly won't stop my preparation for the Tour. I'll restart my approach gradually over the next few days," he said.

After opting out of the current Giro d'Italia in order to preserve himself for next month's Tour, this injury will have been far from what Basso would have had in mind. The relief for all-concerned will be that the damage to the Italian is purely cosmetic, and Basso will be fit an ready to once again mount a challenge at the famous race next month.

French star Gentoo could miss Ascot Gold Cup

An eventually fruitless journey to Japan at the start of this month to compete in the hugely valuable Group 1 Tenno Sho at Kyoto could prove the undoing of the plan to run top French stayer Gentoo in next month's feature Ascot Gold Cup, writes Elliot Slater.

Connections of the talented seven-year-old stayer had been tempted by the £2 million prize money up for grabs in the coveted Japanese staying contest, but in the end the Alain Lyon-trained gelding could only manage ninth place (beaten over 7 lengths) behind local hero Hiruno D'Amour. Those following him in the Royal Ascot betting would have been deeply disappointed.

The return journey to Japan has apparently taken more out of Gentoo than had been anticipated and Lyon reports that his stable star lost a considerable amount of weight as a result of his abortive attempt to conquer the Japanese racing scene. Lyon is concerned that the Ascot Gold Cup might come just a shade too soon to have Gentoo back to his best in time to take on the cream of the European staying division.

As short as 12/1 with some firms for the blue riband event at the royal fixture (although available at up to 20/1 with others), Gentoo showed last year that he is very close to the top of the tree in the European staying division. He progressed from winning a decent Deauville handicap last spring to winning the Group 3 Prix Gladiateur at Longchamp in September, the start of a rich vein of form that saw him go on to win at the very highest level, taking both the Group 1 Prix du Cadran and the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak during a very fruitful October campaign.

A confirmed mud lover, Gentoo's participation at Ascot would also be very much in doubt if the dry spell continues and the ground remains on the fast side of 'good'.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hewitt to warm up at Eastbourne

Former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt will warm-up for this year's tournament by competing at Eastbourne, the event now entering its second year on the ATP Tour.

Since lifting the US Open title in 2001 and then the Wimbledon trophy back in 2002, Hewitt has failed to truly build on his potential. The Aussie is a bit unlucky perhaps to have been playing during Roger Federer's dominance but Hewitt still takes some beating when playing on grass and the Wimbledon specials will reflect this.

At 30, many will feel the Australian is past his best. Hewitt's body has begun to feel the effects of a career at the top of the sport. Injury and loss of form have seen his ranking drop out of the top-50, down to 66th, but the former world number-one will have a chance to improve that over a busy summer should his body allow it. Anyone looking for Wimbledon tips shouldn't rule him out.

Foot surgery in March has meant Hewitt will go into next week's French Open without so much as a single match under his belt to test his injury. While he won't be expecting much from his appearance in Paris, Wimbledon will be a different matter all together. Hewitt's decision to compete in Eastbourne shows he is determined to put in a good showing at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

There is already a strong look to the line-up with more names expected to sign up over the next few weeks. French duo Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga are both ranked above Hewitt and look set to be the Australian's main challengers, as he looks to iron out any problems with his game ahead of Wimbledon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mixed fortunes for Europa League finalists

The two Portuguese sides that will compete for this season's Europa League final, Porto and Braga, enjoyed mixed fortunes in the final round of their league season. While Braga's 1-0 defeat to Sporting Lisbon saw them drop from third to fourth, Porto beat Maritimo 2-0, ensuring the club finished the season unbeaten and claimed their title with a 21 point difference between them and the chasing pack. The Europa League final odds make them overwhelming favourites.

Andre Villa-Boas has achieved miracles in his first season as Porto's manager. The rookie manager has seen his team dominate the league like no other, picking up 27 wins with only three draws and no defeats all season. Porto's achievement makes them only the second team in the history of the Portuguese top-flight to finish a campaign unbeaten. The last time a club achieved the feat was back in 1973 when Eusebio led Benfica to the title in similarly dominating fashion. Those planning to bet on Europa League 2011 should bear this in mind.

How bigger role current form will play in this week Europa League final remains to be seen but Braga will rightly go into the game as underdogs. There northern Portuguese club will be hoping now that Porto maybe underestimate them and think of the game as already won.

The title winners will have a chance to record a stunning treble, with this week's final followed up by their appearance in the Portuguese Cup final, but Braga will be looking to finish their campaign on a high following the disappointment of their final league game.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Manchester United : 2010 - 11 English Premier League Champions

Manchester United have won a record 19th English league title.

The Reds secured the trophy – the team’s 12th under Sir Alex Ferguson’s stewardship – by coming from behind to draw 1-1 at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, thus eliminating any mathematical possibility of being caught by Chelsea. United captain Nemanja Vidic will now lift the Barclays Premier League trophy next Sunday at Old Trafford after the Reds face Blackpool.

In a topsy-turvy, roller-coaster ride of a season, the experience of Sir Alex's squad ultimately paid dividends in the title run-in, with last weekend’s win over Chelsea effectively sealing the silverware. Perhaps the biggest contribution to this 19th league title, though, was the team’s sparkling home form. Of United’s 17 Old Trafford league games so far this season, United have won 16 and drawn one. What’s more, the Reds conceded just 10 goals in those games… and not one in the first 45 minutes.

United’s home form meant a few sucker-punches on the road could be absorbed. Not that there were many defeats, mind you. In fact, Sir Alex’s men didn’t lose in the league until February, at Wolves, before suffering subsequent losses at Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. The real stumbling block was the side’s inability before Christmas to turn away draws into wins: six of the seven away games in 2010 yielded only a point.

EPL 2010-11 : Blackburn - Manchester United goals

Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Manchester United

1-0 - Emerton

1-1 - Rooney (pen)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tony Pulis deserves FA Cup glory

If, as people like Harry Redknapp would have you believe, being an English manager is hard then perhaps being a Welsh manager is even harder. Not that you'd hear Tony Pulis complaining about a lack of credit.

In a managerial career which stretches back to 1992 Pulis hasn't exactly had a glamorous time of it. Stints at Bournemouth, Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth, Stoke and Plymouth Argyle were the apprenticeship that Pulis served before returning to the Potters and somehow leading them into the Premier League.

What Pulis did next defied all expectations. Far from taking the side straight back down again, he instead galvanised them and slowly but surely turned them into an established Premier League side.

Of course, football fans are a fickle bunch and they're not too fond of sides turning up and upsetting the balance of things, and this may be part of the reason why Stoke's success hasn't received quite as much praise as it should and those looking to place FA Cup bets should bear this in mind.

It's true to say that Pulis didn't exactly employ the most attractive style of play when the Potters first arrived in the top flight, but then he was forced to work with the squad he had.

However, after making them safe he has realised that it's important to add a significant element of flair to the team. Obviously Stoke are never going to land Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but by bringing in Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, and getting the best out of them, Pulis has proved he has the nous and know-how to move Stoke on to the next level.

Yet bafflingly, he fails to get the credit that is heaped on other managers doing an adequate job with much more money to spend. Maybe if Stoke can land the FA Cup Pulis will finally get some of the credit he so richly deserves.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One step closer to safety for Wolves

Wolves have taken a major step to safety but they cannot rest on their laurels as they are still firmly rooted in a Premier League relegation dogfight.

The Midlands club could have hit a real body blow for their rivals for the drop as a morale-boosting 3-1 win over West Brom on Sunday moved them out of the bottom three.

It is the first time in seven weeks that Wolves have not sat in the Premier League relegation zone and comes with only two games left in the campaign. Those following the football betting will know just how close things are down the bottom.

Blackpool, Wigan and West Ham currently occupy those bottom three places but Wolves are only ahead of them by one point so they need to show that last win was not a fluke and look to continue where they left off next time out against Sunderland. The weekend Premier League betting suggests it should be a close game.

Following that game Wolves then face Blackburn and boss Mick McCarthy has called on his players to approach their two coming games in "exactly the same way" as they overcame WBA last time out.

The boss has seen a lot during his years in football and he admits there is still a lot of football to be played before May 22nd and Wolves could still find themselves in that Premier League bottom three after the final ball is kicked.

"I've maintained all along when we've been in the bottom three that it's May 22 when we want to be out of it," McCarthy stated.

"There are two games to play and, while we're out of it for the moment, we're not safe and we need to stay focused on them because we want to stay out of the bottom three."

McCarthy was able to name Sylvan Ebanks-Blake on the bench for the WBA game and bring him on for the last five minutes. Wolves have been suffering from a striker shortage so his return comes at exactly the right time.

Fellow forward Kevin Doyle has also returned to training and could come into contention for the remaining games. The return of two key strikers is a massive boost to Wolves Premier League relegation battle.