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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Friday, 31 August 2012

US Open Day 5 Picks (August 31st)

So after months of speculating on this blog, I was not so surprised to see Andy Roddick announce that he will retire after the US Open.

Roddick has always struck me as the kind of man that wouldn't keep playing on the Tour without being competitive and he said so himself when he admitted he didn't want to just 'exist' week to week.

The immediate reaction to his retirement was one of disappointment as Roddick was one of the characters on the Tour that was not afraid to speak his mind and he was always fun to watch on the court.

But I can understand his frustrations in a season where he is no longer considered a genuine Grand Slam Winner, while he was struggling to even move on in the lesser tournaments. Losses to the likes of Steve Darcis and Jeremy Chardy on the North American hard courts would have strengthened the belief in his mind that the 'time was now' to finish his career.

It will be interesting to see where Roddick will fit in the history of tennis now we can begin to look back on his career. His one Grand Slam win at the US Open back in 2003 puts him with the elite to have played this sport, but his three losses at Finals in Wimbledon to Roger Federer will be the lasting legacy in my opinion.

He was so close to picking up that Wimbledon title in 2009 as he played a huge match before losing it 16-14 in the final set and he will always be associated with Federer having lost 4 Grand Slam Finals to the Swiss man.

However, the American public will have fond memories of a player that led the Davis Cup success of 2007 and the man who followed the great American players of the past and he remains the last American (male) to win a Grand Slam title.

Personally I am going to miss watching him play and I'll label him as being one of the more interesting players of the last decade. He was unfortunate not to win more than the one Grand Slam, but Roddick achieved plenty in his career and he will be missed on the Tour.

Yesterday I made three picks from Day 4 and was fortunate to see all three come off as winners making the first four days here very successful. I have made five outright picks ahead of the tournament and all five are still in the draw thanks to Angelique Kerber's win over Venus Williams last night.

Today I will play three more matches as I hope to build on the week so far.

Ernests Gulbis - 4.5 games v Steve Johnson: Ernests Gulbis came back from two sets down to beat Tommy Haas in the First Round, but he has had a couple of days to recover from that and I expect he is going to win this match against Steve Johnson.

Johnson was a winner over fellow American Rajeev Ram in the First Round and he did win a Challenger on the hard courts at Aptos a couple of weeks ago, but losses to the likes of Benjamin Becker and Igor Sijsling during this North American hard court swing do not inspire confidence.

The one real concern is that Gulbis is so up and down with his performances that you don't always know what you are going to get. Two of the last three seasons has seen the Latvian finish with a losing record on the Tour, but he is 14-16 this season and has a real chance to end with a winning record this time around.

However, the hard courts have generally seen Gulbis play his best tennis and he should be too strong in this match as long as he hasn't spent himself emotionally from the match against Haas.

Janko Tipsarevic - 5.5 games v Brian Baker: The Brian Baker story has taken a detour over the last couple of months since Wimbledon as the American lost five of six matches since playing at SW19 before coming through the First Round against Jan Hajek.

Even the players that Baker has lost to in recent weeks have not exactly been a whose who list from the world of tennis and Janko Tipsarevic is a clear step up from those players.

Tipsy was very close to being knocked out in the First Round, but he was one of a number of players that recovered from a 2-0 deficit in sets to win through in five.

That match will give the Serb a boost while the staggered First Round here at the US Open will have given Tipsarevic enough recovery time ahead of this match.

I believe Tipsarevic will be a little too consistent for Baker in this one and I do expect him to come through in much simpler fashion than he did in the First Round. With the open third section of the Men's draw, the top 10 player will feel he can take advantage and I'll take him to cover the spread at odds against.

Andy Roddick - 2.5 games v Bernard Tomic: As we all know, this is potentially Andy Roddick's final match as a professional, but I think he will be a little too experienced for Bernard Tomic and will be able to extend his time a little more.

I don't know how long Roddick has been thinking of retirement, although it is clear from some of his peer's reactions that he had been thinking about it for some time. Now that he has made his decision, Roddick might just feel a little 'free' and I can see him turn back the clock and beat one of the younger generation that will look to fill his void on the Tour.

Tomic will look to grind out the win, but he doesn't have any really big shots, at least not consistently, that will see him blow Roddick off the court. That means the American will get his chances and the fans will make it a raucous atmosphere that he should thrive in.

While the retirement call has surprised people, we have seen American players cause surprises in their final tournaments here at Flushing Meadows. Even though Pete Sampras didn't call his retirement, his last tournament saw win the title here in New York, while Andre Agassi beat Marcos Baghdatis in his final tournament in a memorable match.

This could go four or five, but I am of the belief that Roddick extends his professional career for at least one more match.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 4.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Janko Tipsarevic - 5.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Andy Roddick - 2.5 games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)

US Open Update: 7-3, + 7.32 Units (18 Units Staked)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

US Open Day 4 Picks (August 30th)

It has been a really busy day for me at work so I haven't been able to put down my picks any earlier than this.

Unfortunately, that means I won't be able to put down my usual breakdown of the matches and why I have picked the ones I have.

Tomorrow shouldn't be as hectic as today so I will be able to get back to the usual level of these posts.

MY PICKS: James Blake @ 2.10 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Roger Federer - 10.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tsvetana Pironkova - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 4-3, + 2.12 Units (13 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

US Open Day 3 Picks (August 29th)

It was a much better day yesterday for the picks as three of the four came off as winners and has taken the profit into a positive for the week.

I also enjoyed the fact that all the outright picks I have made have moved through to the Second Round with just David Ferrer to still complete his First Round match. Hopefully they will all still be intact by the end of the days play.

The early rounds have proven to be well priced by the layers as far as I can see so I am sticking with just the two picks again today.

Magdalena Rybarikova - 1.5 games v Jie Zheng: Magdalena Rybarikova is the younger player of the two and she has been in very good form recently to think that she will be capable of knocking off Jie Zheng in this Second Round match.

Rybarikova won the tournament in Washington and then took a couple of weeks off before winning through the qualifiers here in Flushing Meadows. She came through a tough First Round encounter and has already surpassed her achievements last year at the US Open.

Her opponent, Zheng, had lost 4 of her last 5 matches before coming through the First Round thanks to Virginie Razzano's retirement from that match. She has always been a solid competitor on the hard courts so I don't want to under-estimate her in this one, but the form of Rybarikova definitely gives her the edge in my opinion.

Rybarikova also beat Zheng in the Semi Final of a hard court tournament in China last year and has now won both of their previous matches without losing a set so the mental edge should also belong to her in this one.

It might need a decider, but I'll back the Slovakian to come through.

Lucie Safarova - 2.5 games v Aleksandra Wozniak: Lucie Safarova is one of the ball-bashing players on the WTA Tour that you have to catch on the right day if she isn't going to throw one of her really poor performances in.

She reached the Semi Final in Montreal and also the Quarter Final in New Haven, but she cannot afford to take Aleksandra Wozniak lightly considering the Canadian has also been in decent form.

Wozniak was a Quarter Finalist at Montreal and Dallas so has been showing plenty of good form herself.

Both players got through the First Round by handing in at least one bagel, but the key difference could be the fact that Safarova has dominated the last two meetings between the players.

Safarova has the better serve of the two players and should be able to get more 'cheap points' of the two and that means Wozniak will be under the more pressure to keep holding serve. Eventually that should tell and allow Safarova to come away with the win, most likely in straight sets.

MY PICKS: Magdalena Rybarikova - 1.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 2.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)

US Open Update: 3-2, + 2.28 Units (9 Units Staked)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Final Thoughts on Weekend Football (August 25-26)

This is I write my final thoughts from the football that took place over the last weekend.

You can read my take on a week at Manchester United here

You can see my Midweek Football Picks here

Will Arsenal be able to replace Robin Van Persie's goals?: Arsenal have failed to score in their first two Premier League games this season, but that is not the reason for the fans to be concerned. The performances of the replacements for the Dutchman may be more cause for worry.

Arsenal actually started last season by failing to score in their first two League games and they actually only had 1 point from those two games compared to 2 points this season. At least they could point to some of the uncertainty surrounding Samir Nasri's future and the late sale of Cesc Fabregas while they hadn't brought in any players as replacements by that stage.

This Summer was different as Arsene Wenger signed Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, pre-empting Van Persie's exit, but he is still not happy with the squad and his anger at some of his forwards has been evident in their first two games.

There just seems to be lacking in the Arsenal side, while Van Persie's ability to score goals out of  tough situations was evident again at Old Trafford with his first for his new club and that is something that can be impossible to replace.

I believe Arsenal create enough chances to get by without RVP, but the front players are going to be feeling more and more pressure until they get off the mark.

Maybe it wasn't wise to write off Swansea so quickly: I hate making judgements on a couple of games as things change awfully quickly in football, but Swansea have looked so far from the side that I expected would be in a relegation fight this season.

They hammered Queens Park Rangers on the opening day and then backed that up with an impressive, and very easy, win over West Ham United at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.

The football has been of the same style that Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers advocated before Michael Laudrup was given the reigns, but there has definitely been a more distinct cutting edge to their play.

For all the possession Swansea played last season, sometimes it did seem a little meaningless and the players didn't know how best to make it productive possession, keeping it going back and sideways rather than penetrating defences. The first two games this season have been different and the passing game is being rewarded with shots on goal at the end of the possession and that does bode well for them.

That has been the impressive aspect of their performances so far and 8 goals in 2 games tells its own tale. Now the question is how long they can keep it up and whether they can virtually assure themselves a place in the top flight before the bubble bursts, if indeed it does burst.

Andre Villa-Boas needs time at Tottenham Hotspur, but only has one week to shape his squad: Anyone who has read my thoughts over the last year will know that I wasn't the biggest Harry Redknapp fan, but Andre Villa-Boas' early results at Tottenham Hotspur are making 'Dead Crap' look a genius.

The Luka Modric saga hasn't helped the former Chelsea boss, but he now has a big week ahead of him before the close of the transfer window as he looks to shape the squad to something of his liking.

On the way back from Old Trafford, you already had the fans phoning in to the radio shows and turning on AVB- he has to get a result and at least keep Spurs in contention for a top four finish, but that isn't looking easy with Chelsea playing as they are early this season and the two Manchester clubs expected to take the top three places.

Villa-Boas still has some top players at his disposal and if he can spend the fee gained from the Modric deal, he may have a chance to get the fans back on board or it will be a long Winter at White Hart Lane.

(On another note, what was the point of Tottenham demanding a 'working relationship' with Real Madrid? It seems strange that it was Spurs wanting this kind of link-up and I am not entirely sure what they will be gaining... At least Gareth Bale will be happy after long being linked with a move to Real previously).

Has the Championship become the most attacking League in England?: I don't know whether I am just imagining things, but there seems to have been a load of high-scoring games in the Championship so far this season as teams play attacking formations looking to outscore their opponents.

15 of the last 24 games in the League has seen at least 3 goals scored and I am not sure if that is because the defences are getting tired towards the end of the games after the Summer break and thus struggling to contain the opposition attack.

Whether this is just early season stats or whether teams are going to continue to be involved in high-scoring games is something interesting to keep an eye on.

US Open Day 2 Picks (August 28th)

I only had the one pick yesterday and was disappointed that Bobby Reynolds couldn't quite get himself into a perfect position as he gave up a set and a break advantage to fall down 2-1 in sets and eventually was beaten in 5 sets.

Some of the top players made harder work than they needed to in the First Round, but that is to be expected considering it is their first match and the conditions have been rough to say the least.

Roger Federer and Petra Kvitova both moved on to the Second Round to keep all the outright picks alive and today we will see the others join the fray.

Today it should be a clearer day with little chance of a break in play like there was yesterday and the temperature is going to keep going up during the next few days. The wind was playing havoc yesterday with some of the players, but even that should start dying down over the next couple of days and it looks a good day to get on the court.

Teimuraz Gabashvili - 1.5 sets v Rogerio Dutra Da Silva: I really don't like backing bad players, but I am going to take Teimuraz Gabasvili to win this match against an opponent who has not played any hard court tournaments ahead of the US Open, although he did reach the Second Round in Flushing Meadows last season after qualifying for the tournament.

Gabashvili did qualify for the event and he has been attempting to make hay in hard court tournaments over the last month, although he hasn't enjoyed a lot of success.

However, he should have gained some confidence from the three wins he had to get through to the US Open main draw and Rogerio Dutra Da Silva was busy playing in Challenger tournaments on clay courts in Europe, which suggests he could be found wanting here.

I won't go over the minimum unit for this one as I don't have complete faith in Gabashvili either.

Roberta Vinci - 3.5 games v Urszula Radwanksa: Roberta Vinci has been having her best season on the hard courts this year and should be full of confidence having won the tournament in Dallas last week, while she has also reached the Quarter Final in Montreal earlier in the month.

Vinci was going along in earlier hard court events at Miami and Indian Wells, but ended up running into the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova while she was also reached the Third Round at the US Open in 2011.

Urszula Radwanska may be overshadowed by her big sister Agnieszka, but she has doubled her wins from last season already and in fact has more wins in 2012 than she has had in the previous two seasons. She was also playing well on the hard courts during this Summer swing, reaching Quarter Finals at Stanford and Carlsbad, but she can still fall short against some of the better and more consistent players on the Tour.

Vinci also leads the head to head 2-0, although their last match was back in 2008 when the Italian beat Radwanska in straight sets here in New York.

There are some question marks about Radwanska's health and all this points to Vinci winning 6-3, 6-4.

Jelena Jankovic - 4.5 games v Kateryna Bondarenko: Jelena Jankovic is not the force of three or four years ago, but reaching the Final in Dallas last week should have given her some confidence after a poor run of form had seen her lose 4 matches in a row.

Despite her up and down performances, Jankovic has already won 17 matches on the hard courts this season and this is by far and away her favourite surface. However, she had been just 1-6 on the North American hard courts before her performance in Dallas last week and that will be a boost for her mentally and the Serb did reach the Third Round at the US Open last season.

Her opponent Kateryna Bondarenko is a tough player on her day, but Jankovic has won their previous meeting (which didn't end in a retirement) fairly comfortably and the Ukrainian hasn't played too much hard court tennis since March.

The spread will be touch and go, but I think Jankovic can be a little too tough for her today and may just need a break more in each set to ensure she does get the cover.

I'll be looking for a 6-3, 6-4 win for the former World Number 1.

Yaroslava Shvedova - 1.5 games v Vania King: This is one of those rare occasions when doubles partners have to play one another in the singles draw, but that is the case for Yaroslava Shvedova and Vania King in the First Round.

They haven't met in singles before but both players will know all about the other and that makes it a tougher match to call.

However, I think Yaroslava Shvedova has been the more consistent singles player and she has had a couple of really good months on the WTA Tour and that makes her the favourite in this match.

Shvedova will have to cope with the heat having pulled out in Cincinnati from dizziness caused by the weather, but that was two weeks ago and she should be ready.

Vania King did reach the Semi Final at Washington recently and she will have the crowd behind her in this one. She also reached the Third Round here last season so shouldn't be under-estimated, but her recent form has been mixed and her doubles partner did reach the Quarter Final and the Fourth Round at the last two Grand Slams and will likely be too strong again.

The players know each other well so there could be a deciding set to settle the winner, but I think Yaroslava Shvedova holds the edge and should come through.

MY PICKS: Teimuraz Gabashvili - 1.5 sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Roberta Vinci - 3.5 games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jelena Jankovic - 4.5 games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Yaroslava Shvedova - 1.5 games @ 1.92 Stan James (2 Units)

US Open Update: 0-1, - 2 Units (2 Units Staked)

College Football Week 1 Picks

Has it really been eight months since we saw the Alabama Crimson Tide destroy the LSU Tigers in the National Championship Game?

Just like that we have reached the first week of the College Football season, a week before the NFL starts, and that means the games are going to be spread from Thursday 30th August through to Monday 3rd September.

There have been so many issues in the off-season, from the scandal at Penn State to the number of dismissals from top schools around the nation, but now is the time for football and for people to focus on on-field activities.

Below I will give a few thoughts on potential winners of the Conferences- I won't put down my projections for every school as that would take a lot more time than I have, but I have had a look at every School that will be competing this year to try and get an edge on the picks I will be making.

The College Football picks were successful last season, but the hard work starts again this week.

SEC East: I like the Georgia Bulldogs to win this Division ahead of the South Carolina Gamecocks as the Bulldogs avoid playing any of the top three teams from the SEC West, while the Gamecocks need to travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers and host the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Aaron Murray could be the best Quarter Back in the SEC, and I think the Bulldogs take the Division as long as they don't fall into a hole early in the season when a number of their Defensive players are serving suspensions.

SEC West: The big news in this Division was the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu at LSU, but I still think the Tigers are going to win the SEC West for the second season in a row ahead of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Tigers have lost a Special Teams playmaker, but they have vastly upgraded their Quarter Back position with Zach Mettenberger, and I think they have the most talented team in the SEC. They also get to host Alabama, who also have to travel to Arkansas, and that may be enough for the Tigers to take the Division.

SEC Champion: While I believe Georgia are a top team, the LSU Tigers will be the more battle-hardened if they get to this game and that may just give them the edge.

Big 12 Conference: I like the Oklahoma Sooners to bounce back from an injury hit 2011 to win this Conference this year, but the Big 12 is full of good teams that are capable of beating any of the others on their day.

While that is the case, I think the Sooners have the least issues of the 10 teams that make up the Conference, especially considering the lost players at Oklahoma State, the Quarter Back issue in Texas and West Virginia and TCU moving into a new Conference.

Oklahoma will need to maintain better health than last season, but they have one of the top Quarter Backs in the nation in Landry Jones, although the Offensive Line has been hit with injuries already ahead of the new season.

Texas have a great Defense and they could come close to winning the Conference if the Quarter Back play is a little better than last season, whereas the schedule is against some of the other schools.

Big 12 Conference Champion: If Oklahoma can recover from some of the Offensive Line injuries they have suffered already, the Sooners may win the Conference although I don't think they will get to the National Championship Game.

Big Ten Leaders: Probably the easiest pick in the top Conferences is picking the Wisconsin Badgers to win this Division as Ohio State are still ineligible and Penn State have been rocked by the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Danny O'Brien has been transferred in from Maryland to take over from Russell Wilson, and they look the best team in the Division.

Big Ten Legends: The Legends Division is the tougher of the two in the Big Ten and I have fallen in favour of the Michigan Wolverines to make it to the Championship Game ahead of Nebraska and Michigan State.

The latter two schools have the tougher Conference schedules, even though the three play one of the other two teams at home and one on the road. Michigan don't face Wisconsin but do play at Ohio State, whereas both Michigan State and Nebraska play both of those schools.

It may depend on how the Wolverines recover from their early non-Conference schedule as they have tough games against Alabama (neutral field) and go to Notre Dame, but if they are in a good place emotionally, they look like they will sneak the Division.

Big Ten Champion: Wisconsin did lose Russell Wilson, but they have brought in a decent Quarter Back in Danny O'Brien who fits in the system and I don't think there will be much of a drop off from their 11 wins from last season. I think they will be a little too good for Michigan that may have to win a tough one at Ohio State the week before just to get to this game and could be emotionally and physically spent.

ACC Atlantic: This is a tough Division and should come down to the Florida State Seminoles and the Clemson Tigers and it could all be decided by the fact that the Seminoles host the Tigers in their Conference game.

Florida State have all the makings of being one of the top teams in the nation this year, but the Offense will have to be a little more consistent if they are to do so. Clemson have a lot of Offensive talent, for example Sammy Watkins, but the 70 points they gave up to West Virginia in the Bowl last year is a little disturbing.

I have been back and forth with this for a while, but I think the Clemson team may just do enough to take the Division as I think their Conference schedule is more manageable outside of their trip to Florida State. The Seminoles have to go to North Carolina State and Virginia Tech and they may just lose out in what could be a tight race for the Division title.

ACC Coastal: The Virginia Tech Hokies have one of the best Quarter Backs in the nation in Logan Thomas, one who is expected to be the second QB taken in the NFL Draft next April behind Matt Barkley.

With North Carolina being ineligible for the title this season, the Hokies should win the Division again and get back to the title game. Their nearest challengers for the Division will be the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but Virginia Tech host them and that should be enough to ensure they take the Division as the Yellow Jackets also travel to North Carolina and Clemson.

ACC Champion: The winner of the ACC Atlantic Division will win the title game and so I will be picking Clemson to do so for the second season in succession as I have tipped them to take the Atlantic ahead of Florida State.

Pac 12 South: As soon as Matt Barkley admitted he was coming back to USC for one more season, the Trojans became the trendy pick to be playing in the National Championship Game. Their 50-0 crushing of UCLA last season points to their capabilities and I think the USC Trojans take this Division fairly comfortably.

Pac 12 North: Both the Oregon Ducks and the Stanford Cardinal have lost some key players from their Offenses in the NFL Draft and both are weaker teams than the 2011 additions in my opinion.

However, both are probably still too good for the rest of the Pac 12 North, although I am picking the Ducks as they entertain Stanford this season. Oregon do have to play at USC in the regular season, but Stanford have to host them and the tie-breaker is likely to be in favour of the Ducks if they finish with the same record (assuming the Ducks do beat Stanford as I think they will).

Pac 12 Champion: If USC are going to get to the National Championship Game, they are going to have win in Stanford and will have to beat Oregon (most likely twice) to ensure they win the Pac 12 with an unbeaten record. The Trojans do look the pick of the Conference and I won't go against the grain and pick anyone else to take the Pac 12.

Big East: This is one of the tougher Conferences in which to pick a winner as USF, Louisville, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will all feel they have the edge and any school can beat another on their day.

It is no surprise that the last two seasons has seen every school lose at least 2 games in the Conference and it wouldn't be a huge surprise to me if that happens again this year.

Honestly, any of those five schools I mentioned could win the Conference and it really is a tough one to call.

Big East Champion: If Rutgers buy into what their new Head Coach is asking of them, they may just do enough to sneak the Division.

Mountain West: Boise State are playing one more year in the Mountain West Conference before they move their football operations to the Big East and they will be the favourite to go out with a Division title, but they are losing a number of key players that have led the school to so much success in recent seasons and it may be a tougher year for them than expected.

This is another deep Conference, but the pick of the teams may just be the Nevada Wolf Pack who join the Division this season and also have the benefit of hosting Boise State during the season.

The schedule looks manageable for Nevada as they also host Fresno State, San Diego State and Wyoming, all teams that expected to finish in the upper half of the Conference, while their toughest road trip is at Air Force on a shot week.

Mountain West Champion: My biggest problem with Boise State is the number of starters they have lost from last season and the fact they have to go on the road against Nevada. That is why I think the Wolf Pack may be the winner of the Conference.

Conference USA East: This Division looks like it will be decided by UCF and Southern Mississippi, but the latter have lost a special Quarter Back in Austin Davis.

UCF also host Southern Mississippi in what could the big tie-breaker in the Division and perhaps the slightly more manageable schedule and more consistency with a Head Coach entering his 9th season compared to a 1st year Coach in Southern Mississippi.

Conference USA West: While the East has two potential winners, the West has three in Houston, Tulsa and SMU and it is the last of those teams that I think will take the win.

All three of the teams will have new Quarter Backs this season, all of which are considered amongst the best in the entire Conference USA.

I believe SMU will be the victors as they have the best schedule of the three and have the talent that can see them finish as winners of the West. SMU host both Houston and Tulsa and wins in those games will put them in the driving seat for the West, although they do have a road game at UCF which could cause problems.

SMU have their toughest games at home, the exception being UCF, but if they can win those home games, I expect them to take the West.

Conference USA Champion: I just have a feeling the winner of the West is going to be a little more spent than the East so I am thinking UCF will take the Conference title

MAC West: This Division looks to be between Western Michigan and Northern Illinois and looks a tough one to call.

Northern Illinois have won the MAC West in the last two seasons with a 15-1 record, but they have lost their starting Quarter Back and also have to play in Western Michigan. The Huskies have won 3 times in a row against Western Michigan so they may just have the mental edge as long as their new Quarter Back fits in and gets up to speed quickly.

The Huskies will win the Division if they get something from Jordan Lynch at that position and I am going to back them to do so.

MAC East: Ohio have won the Division in two of the last three years, including last season, and I think they are still the pick in the East.

They do face Miami, Ohio on the road, but have dominated the series in recent years and the schedule looks like one where they could surpass their 6 Conference wins from each of the last two seasons.

MAC Champion: Ohio lost the MAC Title Game last season, but I think they could have revenge on Northern Illinois this time. Confidence will be higher now they have won their first Bowl Game and they will be my pick in this Conference.

WAC: This could be the final season for the WAC as they think they won't have enough schools for their football Conference from next season and they have lost three schools from last season coming into this one.

The one positive is that their defending Champion, Louisiana Tech, are back this season and they look the pick of the Conference and could sweep their games. The Bulldogs pushed teams like Houston, TCU and Mississippi State last season and they have brought back a lot of starters from last season who should have improved for the experience.

Louisiana Tech finished 6-1 last season within the Conference, but rivals like Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii are gone and they host Utah State which could be a tie-breaker.

WAC Champion: It has to be Louisiana Tech who made life difficult for schools with much higher expectations and I expect them to retain their title.

Sun Belt Conference: This is another Conference that has a few teams that can make a run for the title.

FIU, Troy, Louisiana, Western Kentucky and Arkansas State will all give very good reasons as to why they can win the title.

FIU and Western Kentucky have probably the best defenses in the Conference and I am of the believe that defenses do still win Championships.

I also favour FIU over the Hilltoppers because they have the more manageable schedule of the two and also host Western Kentucky- of the five teams mentioned, FIU have 2 at home and 2 on the road, while Western Kentucky have 1 at home and 3 on the road.

Sun Belt Conference: I am going to say FIU here but only because they have the better schedule and host Western Kentucky.

Week 1 Picks
The Week 1 Picks from the College Football games will be listed here, but they will be coming out when I lock in the games I like and they will also come out in staggered times as the games this week are spread from Thursday 30 August through to Monday 3 September.

Whenever picks are made, I will post a link to this thread and let's hope for a good start to a great season.

South Carolina Gamecocks @ Vanderbilt Commodores Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14814-South-Carolina-at-Vanderbilt.htm)

UCF Knights @ Akron Zips Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14817-UCF-Knights-at-Akron-Zips.htm)

UCLA Bruins @ Rice Owls Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14818-UCLA-Bruins-at-Rice-Owls.htm)

Oklahoma Sooners @ UTEP Miners Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14860-Oklahoma-Sooners-at-UTEP-Miners.htm)

Arkansas State Red Wolves @ Oregon Ducks Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14861-Arkansas-State-at-Oregon-Ducks.htm)

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Virginia Tech Hokies Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14881-Georgia-Tech-at-Virginia-Tech.htm)

MY PICKS: South Carolina Gamecocks - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
UCF Knights - 23.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 16.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 30 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 37 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Virginia Tech Hokies - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Season 2011: 63-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, 23.5% Yield)

Monday, 27 August 2012

Midweek Football Picks (August 28-30)

It was a strange weekend for the picks as the 'pick of the day' didn't come off, yet the majority of the others did and that meant only a small loss on what could have been a devastating couple of days.

My views on the last week at Manchester United can be found here

The overall musings from the last weekend of football can be found at this link

The picks for the next couple of days will come out in staggered updates.

Sheffield Wednesday v Fulham Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14790-Sheffield-Wednesday-v-Fulham.htm)

Leicester City v Burton Albion Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14792-Leicester-City-v-Burton-Albion.htm)

Norwich City v Scunthorpe United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14795-Norwich-City-v-Scunthorpe-United.htm)

Panathinaikos v Malaga Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14784-Panathinaikos-v-Malaga.htm)

MY PICKS: Sheffield Wednesday-Fulham Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Leicester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Norwich City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Panathinaikos-Malaga Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.14 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

August Update: 12-9, + 5.29 Units (36 Units Staked)

US Open Day 1 Picks (August 27th)

It's the first day of the US Open and that means we will see some of the big names in action with Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova all taking to the court.

You can see my outright preview and picks here

I am only going to start off with just the one pick from the first day of action in Flushing Meadows as I don't feel there is a lot of value in these early picks and I have some serious doubts over some short priced favourites.

Bobby Reynolds - 1.5 sets v Tim Smyczek: Both of these American players had to qualify for the First Round proper, but I am going to back the veteran Bobby Reynolds to be too strong for Tim Smyczek.

Reynolds has dominated the head to head between the players, winning five of their previous six matches including three in a row without dropping a set.

Both players have had a pretty decent season on the Challenger circuit and in winning matches at the qualifier stage, but Reynolds has the bigger experiences on the court having played in the main draw here at the US Open on more than one occasion and actually reaching the Second Round before.

Smyczek will only be competing in the main draw for the second time in his career and I believe the veteran Reynolds takes this in 4 sets.

MY PICK: Bobby Reynolds - 1.5 sets @ 2.29 188Bet (2 Units)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

United Corner (August 26 2012)

And just like that, we have got through the first week of the new football season and you can hear those fans that are disappointed, those that are satisfied and those that have been given new hope as to how this year will develop for their club.

In my first 'United Corner' last week, I wrote that I was looking forward to the new season after the signing of Robin Van Persie, but I still have some concerns about the engine room of the side and whether we have enough in the midfield area to really make progress.

However, I was also of the belief that the options we have in that area were going to be good enough for the Premier League, but perhaps see us come short in Europe. I also thought a 4 point return from the first two games of the season would have been a good start to build upon.

The game at Everton on Monday night was largely disappointing for United in that we never seemed to get into the game and really sit out to control the tempo. We had a couple of half chances here and there, but there was always the fear that Everton were going to be the ones to get the breakthrough and they did look the better team on the night.

Injuries obviously played a big part in the team selection, but it looked a side that was going to need a bit of luck to get away with a win although I still believed it was going to be strong enough to avoid defeat.

To be honest, that may have been the 'opening game' positives spreading through the heart which eventually blocked any thoughts in the mind that Everton were a good enough side to take advantage and go on and win the game.

At the end of the day, losing a game at Goodison Park which is due to start in the evening can happen (read Citeh losing there last season on a Wednesday night), but the manner of the loss is what will determine the mood and feelings I take from it.

On this occasion, I was vastly disappointed with the performance and felt there were too many lacklustre performers in the team that needed to question themselves and truly ask if they had given enough.

One of those was Nani, a player that seems to divide the United faithful into two camps that think he is good enough and those that think he isn't... I can't really fit into either category with any conviction, although I will fully admit to tearing my hair out when watching him play. Nani continues to be frustratingly inconsistent, and he doesn't seem to have any middle ground in his performances- he will either give you an 8.5/10 or a 1.5 but never a game where he is between those numbers.

Unfortunately for us, we saw one of his 1.5 games on Monday night when he can't cross the ball (how many times did he hit the first defender in open play and from set pieces?!), makes the wrong decision when he is in a promising position and generally looks like someone who wouldn't be out of place in a Non-League side.

Some of this could be down to him really wanting to prove himself in the light that he hasn't been offered a contract extension despite seemingly want to commit his future to the club, but it's not the first time he has been a let-down for United and his inconsistencies mean it surely won't be the last (unless sold in the transfer window as some suggest).

Another who didn't impress on Monday night was Wayne Rooney, so often a match winner for United but a player who continued in the fashion that I have become accustomed to in the last twelve months. There hasn't been much competition for Rooney in the starting line up in that time and while the goals have kept coming, there has been a lack of energy (for want of a better word) in his play and almost a lethargic attitude.

It's almost like Rooney had fallen into a comfort zone knowing he would be playing in all the important matches and perhaps he even began thinking that he was 'too good' to be dropped with the lack of competition for him (these are just theories on my part and I have no concrete evidence to suggest they are true). With the introductions of Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, there is now some real options to bring into the side and, as it turned out, Rooney can now be given a 'rest' when the performances are not quite up to scratch.

It wasn't all doom and gloom at Goodison though, with Kagawa looking like a neat and tidy player that will be a positive to what we already had in the squad. With Fergie so often playing a 4-3-3 in the big games, Kagawa will be an upgrade to the position that Ji Sung Park so often took up for United and he looks a player much more comfortable on the ball and a little cleverer with the passes he plays.

Despite all the disappointment of the defeat at Goodison Park, I was still pretty positive about United's chances this season (how many other teams are going to win at Everton after all was the thinking) and the only surprise from the United team sheet on Saturday was the fact that I had predicted all but one of the players- try playing that game every week and guess the team Fergie will start and see how many times you get it right this season(!)

It was great to see Van Persie and Kagawa both get off the mark in their Old Trafford careers, especially the former as you just know the media were itching to get on a 'witch hunt' like the one they enjoyed when Torres couldn't hit a cow's backside with a banjo in his early Chelsea career.

However, I am a glass half empty kind of guy and the sloppiness of the two goals we conceded against Fulham were disappointing, while we were kind of hanging on at the end for the three points. The injury to Rooney will be a big miss, especially if he is missing for the game at Anfield on September 23, while I still have big reservations about a midfield that can't get a grip on a match.

I know a lot of United fans are high on Tom Cleverley and what he can do for our team, but I just can't see it... He played pretty well when we got in front and he was happy to have the ball at 3-1, but before that (OK fine it was only ten minutes) and after Fulham made it 3-2, he no longer demanded the ball, he was careless in possession and he refused to get forward with the ball.

He gained a lot of respect for his early season form last year, but I don't think he is the solution to the problems we have had for over four years now. As I say, he does do the little things well, but he doesn't do enough for me when we need a midfielder to take the ball on.

I barely noticed him at Goodison Park and I really wasn't that impressed with him yesterday- it's far too easy to want a ball when you're leading by a couple of goals, but it's a different story when you need someone to take the ball and get some composure in the side by leading possession.

In the second half, Cleverley and Anderson (I can't be the only one that thinks he has put on the pounds since he was last in action for us) both allowed too much space for the Fulham midfield to exploit and that leads me to the impressive Moussa Dembele.

Dembele has been linked with United in the transfer window and he looked like a player that would really bring some much needed dynamism into our midfield- he was comfortable bringing the ball forward through the midfield and linking up with the forward men, while he could also beat players with his quick feet. There were at least three occasions he beat a couple of men in the middle of the park and had United on the back foot and would give Fergie a different look in that area of the pitch.

We just don't have a player that is comfortable driving with the ball and forcing defenders to make decisions whether to go to the man or track the run of the forward players and we have even fewer players that can actually beat a man- even the likes of Ashley Young have been almost scared to try and take their man on in a dribble and these are all elements that could improve our side in my opinion, elements that Dembele would bring.

Do I think we will get him? Probably not at this late stage, but you can't blame me for believing that someone will see that we need to bring in someone into the midfield.

Finally, the strangest thing I have head all week about United is that Fergie has been banning hacks for getting a news story RIGHT- huh? Three journalists have been banned from future press conferences because they had written Rio Ferdinand would be missing at Everton and it just continues to see the press conferences becoming a bunch of 'Fergie cronies' that won't dare to ask anything of interest in fear of not being invited back.

Personally I don't see how this to the interest of the fans who are keen to hear about some of the bigger issues at Old Trafford (not related to Glazers who are clearly off the agenda), but I am guessing the 'real fans' are the only ones invited.

US Open Tennis Outright Preview 2012

The year seems to be moving faster and faster and we have now reached the final Grand Slam on the tennis calender. It has been a mixed bag of a year for me so far, but the Grand Slam predictions have proved to be very successful and I will  hope to back that up here with one more big effort.

So far, I have picked the winner of both Men's and Women's tournaments at all 3 Grand Slam events this season, so one more effort like that will be much appreciated.

Below is my breakdown of both the Men's and Women's events at the US Open which begins on August 27th and let us hope for a profitable couple of weeks.

Men's Tournament
First Quarter
The Number 1 seed for the tournament is Roger Federer and it is no surprise that he is one of the favourites to win this whole event, especially after his efforts over the last two months where he has won titles at Wimbledon and Cincinnati while also picking up the Silver Medal from the Olympic Games.

Federer gets to play himself into the tournament here in New York as the first two Rounds could not be any simpler for him before he meets, most likely, Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard would have been a threat a couple of seasons ago, but he has been inconsistent at best, has a poor record against Federer and it would be a huge surprise to me if he was to beat the Swiss man considering the current form of both.

It does get awkward at that stage as he could potentially play Mardy Fish, but the American is not fully healthy having recently returned to the store and Federer would be the big favourite again.

The other half of the Quarter contains Tomas Berdych, someone that would usually be considered a dark horse on this surface. Berdych did reach the Final at Winston Salem last week, but his overall form has been inconsistent at best with early defeats at Wimbledon, the Olympics and at both Toronto and Cincinnati.

He may have played himself into some form, but Berdych immediately has to play David Goffin, an up and coming player that could cause problems, before likely clashes against Denis Istomin and Sam Querrey.

That looks a tough draw just to get to the Fourth Round and I wouldn't be surprised if he is beaten before that stage. That may leave the way for someone like Querrey to go deep in his home Grand Slam, but either way this Quarter looks Federer's for the taking.

Prediction: Can't look beyond Roger Federer who has been given as straight-forward a route to the Semi Final as he would perhaps have asked for in a Grand Slam

Second Quarter
The big question ahead of the US Open draw was which side of the draw would Andy Murray land on, a question that gained significance in the knowledge that Rafael Nadal would be missing the final Grand Slam of the season.

As it turns out, Andy Murray will be in the Second Quarter and has to be one of the big favourites to win the tournament considering he has always said that the US Open is his favourite surface and the fact that he is one of the form players coming into Flushing Meadows.

Murray, like Federer, can't have too many complaints about the first couple of matches has to go through, but it then does become significantly tougher for him than the World Number 1. He will likely meet Feliciano Lopez in the Third Round, although Murray should be too strong for him, and then would potentially play Milos Raonic in the Fourth Round.

Raonic is a huge danger, especially with the serve he possesses, and I think he would have a real chance of knocking off Murray here and announcing himself on the Grand Slam level. However, it could be tough for him to do it in a best of five set match as Murray is one of the better returners in the game, but I honestly think this is closer than a lot of 'experts' may think it would be.

Even getting through that match wouldn't be the end of the tough matches for Murray with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the other top seeded player in this section of the draw.

Tsonga had a decent week in Winston Salem last week and he did reach the Semi Final at Wimbledon and the Quarter Final at the Olympics, while his draw looks a little more manageable than even Murray's in the top half of the section. Back to back matches against Raonic and Tsonga could really drain Murray and that is my biggest concern for him if he is to win this tournament as a Semi Final with Roger Federer may see a role reversal of their Olympic clash with Federer being the fresher player.

There is also every chance that either Raonic or Tsonga could knock Murray off and that is why the short odds on the British Number 1 look one to avoid.

Prediction: Tough section to pick- if Andy Murray beats Milos Raonic in the Fourth Round, I would think he will do enough to get to the Semi Final, otherwise I think Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes his place in the Semi Final

Third Quarter
Rafael Nadal's absence from Flushing Meadows meant there was always a chance that one of the Quarters would be an open one where a surprise Semi Finalist would emerge. That has been the case this year in the Third Quarter.

David Ferrer, Janko Tipsarevic, John Isner and Richard Gasquet are the top seeds in this section, but the latter three of those are not the most reliable while David Ferrer has been given a really tough opener against Kevin Anderson.

However, I do think Ferrer's style will make life awkward for the big-serving South African, while Anderson has also lost 4 straight matches, not the best preparation for the US Open. If Ferrer can get through that First Round clash, he has a number of players in his section over whom he has solid previous head to head records like Gasquet, Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny and the former US Open Semi Finalist may just be able to make enough hay to get through to another one.

One player that should be heavily backed in the other half of this Quarter is John Isner, the winner last week in Winston Salem, and one who has been given a tough but negotiable path through to the Quarter Final.

Isner opens against Xavier Malisse and also potentially could face Philip Kohlschreiber in the Third Round, two players that are very capable on their day. However, I think Isner would fancy his chances on 7/10 days against both and I would expect the confidence from winning a tournament last week will drive him on.

Tipsarevic is likely to be his opponent in the Fourth Round and he would be capable of knocking off the American as long as he is fully recovered from a virus he had last week. Tipsy reached the Quarter Final here last season before running out of gas against Novak Djokovic, and he is someone that is capable of upping his game to knock off a player like Isner.

Prediction: A tough section with a number of players that are capable on their day, but I think David Ferrer will be the man to get through to the Semi Final as long as he can avoid the upset against Kevin Anderson in the First Round

Fourth Quarter
Unsurprisingly, Novak Djokovic's price to win the US Open hardened after the draw made last Thursday with both his nearest rivals in the other half of the draw.

Djokovic is the defending Champion here in New York and he could not have hand picked a much easier start to his defence with little or no threat in the first three Rounds. Even the likes of Stanislas Wawrinka and Alexandr Dolgopolov, two potential Fourth Round rivals, are far too inconsistent for the Serb and I think it would be a huge surprise Djokovic not getting through to the Quarter Final without dropping more than a couple of sets.

Djokovic won the Masters event in Toronto and also reached the Final in Cincinnati and should be the form player in this section, especially considering Juan Martin Del Potro has wrist issues again and is the biggest threat in the other half of this Quarter.

Andy Roddick is another player that won't leave Djokovic restless and I don't see too many issues for the Serb in this draw.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic... There are too many issues with Juan Martin Del Potro's health to see a surprise result and the World Number 2 is in the best form of all the players in the Quarter

Winner and Outright Picks
With the way the draw has panned out, it is hard to see anyone but Novak Djokovic getting through to the Final in the bottom half of the draw and making his third straight Final in Flushing Meadows.

I also think Roger Federer is going to make his second Grand Slam Final of the season as I believe he will be the freshest player in his half of the draw when it gets to the Semi Final stage and that should give him an edge whether he plays Andy Murray, Milos Raonic or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

With the Men's Final moved until Monday, I also think the advantage Djokovic may have had by having an 'easier' Semi Final has been negated a little bit and Roger Federer does seem to 'have his number'.

With that in mind, the 3.75 on Federer looks a good price to me and I will take that as my main pick from the Men's draw.

I will also back David Ferrer to reach his second Semi Final at the US Open at 3.50- he does look the best player in the section and should be able to get through to that stage as long as he can get through his tough First Round match. He has a solid record against all the other players in this section and has previous experience of reaching the last four here, while it took an inspired effort from Andy Murray to prevent him reaching the last four at Wimbledon on his least favourite surface.

John Isner and Janko Tipsarevic could cause issues for one another before that clash with Ferrer so I'll back the Spaniard in the Third Quarter.

Women's Tournament
First Quarter
The Number 1 seed in the Women's draw may be Victoria Azarenka, but it is Serena Williams that will have all the attention coming into the tournament.

Azarenka leads the draw and looks set to reach the Fourth Round here with the competition she has in front of her as well reaching the Semi Final at Wimbledon and winning a Bronze Medal at the Olympics. However, my biggest concern for her is she had to pull out of Montreal with a knee injury and I am not sure how well she has recovered.

If Azarenka is fully fit, the draw would pose no problems ahead of the Quarter Final, but that is a big IF at the moment.

At the Quarter Final stage, the likes of Na Li, Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur (the defending Champion) could all be lying in wait and this does have the feel of a tough section.

Li has reached the Final in Montreal and won the tournament in Cincinnati during this shortened Summer hard court swing in North America, but she could face Clijsters in the Third Round, a player that has a strong head to head record against Li and also an impressive 3 time winner here at Flushing Meadows.

Sam Stosur has an easier path to the Fourth Round where should face the winner of the Li-Clijsters match and I think the Australian will get there despite poor recent form. It's funny to see that Stosur has won all 6 previous meetings against Li but lost all 5 previous matches with Clijsters.

Prediction: The injury concern for Victoria Azarenka is the only issue that is bothering me else I would tip her to be too consistent for this section. However, Kim Clijsters, in her final Grand Slam, may just be the person to come out of it.

Second Quarter
This Quarter is dominated by the presence of Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova, two of the favourites to win the tournament and I also believe it will be the Quarter that provides one of the Finalists this year.

Maria Sharapova has not played a match since being completely trampled by Serena Williams in the Gold Medal match at the Olympics as the Russian won just ONE game. She pulled out of both big events in Montreal and Cincinnati since the Olympics, but she will be able to get her feet underneath herself in this event as the draw presents some 'easy' matches to get her going.

A potential Fourth Round match with either Nadia Petrova or Lucie Safarova could be awkward, but Sharapova has been very good in 2012 and I think she will be too consistent and mentally tough for those players to make her way through to the Quarter Final.

Petra Kvitova has had a really productive hard court swing in North America, winning the events at Montreal and New Haven and finishing as Runner Up in Cincinnati. She is displaying some of the form that took her to the Wimbledon title in 2011 and looks a real danger player in the draw.

The amount of tennis she has played over the last three weeks would be a concern, but the draw means she won't have to expend a lot of energy in the first couple of Rounds and her confidence should be high.

Yanina Wickmayer, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Marion Bartoli are tough opponents from the Third Round onwards, but Kvitova's recent form as well as the fact she has beaten the latter two in events in the last three weeks and she should set up a special Quarter Final.

Prediction: I think we will see the big Quarter Final between Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova and it is a tough match to call. Sharapova has won 3 in a row against Kvitova, but the latter has been in special form over the last three weeks and may just snap that streak

Third Quarter
The first name everyone, including 127 Women who are going to take part in this tournament, would have looked for in the draw is Serena Williams and this is the Quarter she has landed in.

Williams has won tournaments at Wimbledon, Stanford and the Gold Medal at the Olympics before her winning run was snapped in Cincinnati, but the American remains the player to beat, especially if she is serving as well as she was during her time in London.

Maria Kirilenko may cause some problems for Serena before the Quarter Final, but there doesn't seem a lot in this section that can do that and I think Williams will be too powerful for the Russian and will get past.

Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic are 'names' in the other half of this section, but neither has shown me enough to think they will be able to get near Williams in any potential match.

Prediction: Serena Williams

Fourth Quarter
I mentioned Serena Williams had been on a long winning run until it was snapped in Cincinnati and the player to do so was Angelique Kerber.

Kerber actually went on to finish as Runner Up in Cincinnati and now returns to Flushing Meadows where she announced herself to the rest of the WTA Tour with a run to the Semi Final where she was beaten in three sets by Sam Stosur, the eventual winner.

The German could be a dark horse for this tournament, but she has to pick up form immediately as she has a potential Second Round match against Venus Williams on the slate. Venus had not been in great form as she deals with a syndrome that can sap energy, but she did reach the Semi Final in Cincinnati recently and clearly can still perform with the best on her day.

Venus also pushed Kerber to two tight sets at the London Olympics recently so could be a real threat to the latter here.

The winner of that Second Round match may actually feel pretty good about their chances of making it through to the Semi Final as they won't have too many issues to reach the Quarter Final with the likes of Sara Errani as a high seeded player that enjoys much more success on the slower clay courts than the faster hard courts.

Agnieska Radwanska is a potential Quarter Final opponent for Kerber or Williams, but she had to pull out with an injury last week in New Haven and has to be ruled out with some serious doubts about her ability to compete.

After Radwanska, there aren't too many big names in the bottom half of this section.

Prediction: The winner of Angelique Kerber-Venus Williams will likely go on to win this Quarter... Tough one to call, but I guess I would favour Kerber, but only just

Winner and Outright Picks
The bottom half of the draw looks one for Serena Williams to dominate and I would favour her to reverse her loss to Angelique Kerber from Cincinnati, especially after having 5 wins under her belt.

Kerber may also have already been knocked out by big sister Venus Williams, but every way you look at this, you have to favour Serena.

Secretly, I am sure Serena is very pleased to see almost every other threat in the draw in the opposite half of the draw and I have to take Serena, at very short odds, to win this tournament.

However, I also think it is worth adding Angelique Kerber to the staking plan and having a very small interest on her winning the tournament at 26.00 as she has previous form on this surface and her recent win over Serena Williams will surely have given her some confidence.

The top half of the draw looks the toughest one to call and there are a couple of doubts over some of the leading contenders which makes it all the more tougher to call.

In saying that, I think the layers shouldn't under-estimate Petra Kvitova considering the way she has been playing over the last three weeks.

Kvitova is a special player when she is confident and she has the ability to take the racquet out of her opponents hands and 13.00 on her to win the tournament looks a little disrespectful to me and I will have another small interest in her.

Outright Picks: Roger Federer @ 3.75 Boyle Sports (4 Units)
David Ferrer to win Third Quarter @ 3.50 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Serena Williams @ 2.00 Paddy Power (6 Units)
Angelique Kerber @ 26.00 Bet Victor (0.5 Units E/W)
Petra Kvitova @ 13.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit E/W)

Season 2012: + 43.25 Units (761 Units Staked, 5.68% Yield)

Season 2011: + 82.02 Units

Friday, 24 August 2012

Weekend Football Picks (August 25-26)

The first week of the new season has been pretty successful so far, but things can change quickly in the football world and I just have to keep my fingers crossed that I can keep picking the right games.

This weekend we have a full slate of games from England, Scotland and Spain and I will be posting picks in the coming days. As always, I will post a link to the thread whenever I have added new picks.

You can read my thoughts from the first weekend here.

Manchester United v Fulham Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14723-Manchester-United-v-Fulham.htm)

Sunderland v Reading Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14726-Sunderland-v-Reading.htm)

Tottenham Hotspur v West Brom Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14733-Tottenham-Hotspur-v-West-Brom.htm)

Aston Villa v Everton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14727-Aston-Villa-v-Everton.htm)

Sheffield Wednesday v Millwall Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14735-Sheffield-Wednesday-v-Millwall.htm)

Middlesbrough v Crystal Palace Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14744-Middlesbrough-v-Crystal-Palace.htm)

Stoke City v Arsenal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14759-Stoke-City-v-Arsenal.htm)

Liverpool v Manchester City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14763-Liverpool-v-Manchester-City.htm)

MY PICKS: Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Pinnacle (4 Units)
Reading + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Aston Villa-Everton Draw @ 3.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Sheffield Wednesday-Millwall Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Middlesbrough-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Stoke City @ 3.50 Coral (1 Unit)
Liverpool-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

August Update: 9-5, + 7.79 Units (23 Units Staked)

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Final Thoughts on Weekend Football (August 18-20)

This was a regular piece I put together last season where I would look back at the weekend's football and put down my 'final thoughts' on some of the issues we see transpired.

I will usually put it together on a Monday night, but I didn't much feel like writing after the disappointing start to the season made by Manchester United at Everton.

These are my final thoughts on the opening weekend of the season:

Don't be too quick to make rash judgements: I don't know if it is down to people missing football, but there seemed to be a lot of 'fans' deciding how the next nine months were going to go after watching their opening games of the season.

Eden Hazard will be the Player of the Year, Andre Villa-Boas is a poor manager that won't be in charge on Christmas Day, Swansea will be safe from the drop (even though they were tipped heavily for relegation before the season began) and some even suggested Robin Van Persie was a poor signing after his 20 minute cameo.

The same time last year there wouldn't have been too many calling Bolton Wanderers for relegation after they beat Queens Park Rangers 0-4 at Loftus Road, and that is a prime example of making a rash judgement on one game.

Sean O'Driscoll of Nottingham Forest said a 'good start is ten games' and that is when we will begin to see how the season will take shape. There were some real positive performances for some of the teams and individuals, but it would be foolish to take those as the norms rather than it just being one game and a long way to go this season.

Can Everton gate-crash the top four: I think the two Manchester clubs are going to finish in the top two places this season and I also believe Chelsea are going to be good enough to move into the top four after finishing 6th last season.

With some of the doubts surrounding the Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur teams, I think there is an open space in the Champions League places that could be filled by a surprise candidate like Everton.

The obvious 'dark horse' pick is Newcastle United who came so close last season, but I wrote in my season preview that Everton could move up from their finish of 7th last season as long as they can steer clear of injuries and their performance on Monday night suggests that could be the case.

David Moyes still has a bit of cash left over from the Jack Rodwell sale and he has worked some miracles in the transfer market over the last few seasons at Goodison Park and he does seem to have a solid 14-15 players that can do a job for him.

They will need some luck, but I wouldn't want to rule Moyes out from achieving this and really padding his CV and perhaps getting an opportunity to manage a 'bigger club' sooner rather than later.

Southampton could be the big surprises in the Premier League: I said that it would be silly to make a rash judgement, but here I am making a rash judgement.

I was very impressed with the Southampton counter-attack on Sunday at Manchester City and they have players that are going to be capable at this level. Nigel Adkins clearly can inspire his players and they have the same philosophy that served Blackpool so well the year before last.

The one question is whether they can perform when there is a little more expectation on them- at City no one expected them to win, but they next meet Wigan at home, a game they would have targeted for three points if they are to survive in the Premier League.

Still, I was very impressed with their composure in front of goal and confidence is clearly still high in the squad after back to back promotions and they may just confound all those that tipped them for relegation this season.

The Championship is not for the faint-hearted or for those relegated from the Premier League: Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Wolves gained 1 point from their 3 separate games last weekend (although Bolton and Wolves have since won their first home games in the next set of League fixtures during the week) and I think they have all learned how tough it is to get out of a competitive Championship Division.

Only 6 of the last 24 teams to be relegated from the Premier League have found their way back into the top flight at the first time of asking which shows there is every chance that none of the aforementioned teams will earn their way back into the Premier League this season.

Last season West Ham United did make their way back to the top flight, and the other two relegated sides were both Play Off teams, but it is such a competitive League.

I was going to say that Bolton and especially Wolves need a win soon to bring back some confidence in the side, but both managed that on Tuesday night. It's a tough long season for these sides so getting a win on board early is important so that will give Bolton and Wolves a boost, but there are so many sides that can beat others on their day and that makes it difficult for those relegated.

I don't think there is a massive difference between those relegated and those that have been in the Division for more than one season, especially as the relegated teams rarely get to keep hold of their big names.

Right now, I would still pick Blackburn Rovers as being the most likely to return to the top flight at the first attempt, but history points out that it is not going to be easy for any of these sides and the early results have backed that up.

Midweek Football Picks (August 21-23)

The first weekend of the new season is already in the history books, but it is a fast start as we get into the European qualifying games, another full set of fixtures from the lower Leagues in England ahead of the next weekend of a full schedule.

My 'Final Thoughts' from the first weekend of the season can be found here

Picks from the midweek schedule can be found below:

Spartak Moscow v Fenerbache Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14701-Spartak-Moscow-v-Fenerbache.htm)

Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14698-Sheffield-Wednesday-v-Birmingham-City.htm)

Middlesbrough v Burnley Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14696-Middlesbrough-v-Burnley.htm)

BATE Borisov v Ironi Kiryat Shmona Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14708-BATE-Borisov-v-Ironi-Kiryat-Shmona.htm)

Blackburn Rovers v Hull City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14706-Blackburn-Rovers-v-Hull-City.htm)

Hearts v Liverpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14713-Hearts-v-Liverpool.htm)

Atromitos Athens v Newcastle United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14715-Atromitos-Athens-v-Newcastle-United.htm)

MY PICKS: Spartak Moscow @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sheffield Wednesday-Birmingham City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Burnley + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
BATE Borisov @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Blackburn Rovers @ 2.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 2.25 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Atromitos Athens-Newcastle United Draw @ 3.30 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

August Update: 3-4, + 0.34 Units (15 Units Staked)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Tennis Picks August 18th (Cincinnati)

It is Semi Final day in Cincinnati as both the Men's and Women's events begin to wind down.

With a little over a week to go until the US Open begins, I was more than a little surprised that there are so many big names in action next week in the final preparation events.

The likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Andy Roddick, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber are all expected to be in action, and that is not really something we are used to in the week before a Grand Slam event.

I think it says a lot about the players and their belief that they can go deep at Flushing Meadows- don't get me wrong, I am 100% sure some of these will pull out, in particular Kvitova and Kerber, but it is surprising that they had these events on their schedule knowing the US Open was immediately following the tournaments.

Juan Martin Del Potro + 4.5 games v Novak Djokovic: It's a little risky to go against Novak Djokovic considering the form he has displayed over the last two weeks in Toronto and here in Cincinnati, but Juan Martin Del Potro should be able to keep the match relatively close considering how quick the courts have been playing.

Del Potro will also have the additional belief that comes from winning the last two matches against Djokovic, including for the Bronze Medal at the Olympic Games, and I am satisfied that the wrist injury he suffered in the Third Round wasn't as serious as first feared.

You have to believe that Del Potro can hold on to serve a little easier than Marin Cilic did yesterday against Djokovic as the second serve is a lot more effective. His groundstrokes will also feel heavier to the Serb as they seem to quicken through the courts this week.

I'm not sure Del Potro will do enough to get through Djokovic, but he has a chance of stealing a set, and you have to think a tie-break will be in play at some point and so I will take what looks like a lot of games.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Stanislas Wawrinka: Roger Federer just missed the cover for me yesterday, but that was much more down to an inspired second set from Mardy Fish and the World Number 1 continues to play at an extremely high level.

Federer will be plenty motivated knowing that a win here will guarantee he goes into Flushing Meadows as the Number 1 seed and he has dominated the head to head against his compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka, winning 12 of the 13 previous matches between the friends.

He has won the last four matches comfortably between the pair and Federer has been in absolute fine form this week.

That isn't to say Wawrinka hasn't as he has beaten the likes of David Ferrer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic for the loss of just the one set. However, Federer will provide a different kind of pressure and will look to attack any second serves that he sees and that can be a problem for Wawrinka who can struggle to get a high percentage of first serves in play.

While it may not have worked yesterday, I still want to stick with Federer in this one and I think he can take this match 6-3, 6-4 this time.

Petra Kvitova - 1.5 games v Angelique Kerber: These two should provide an entertaining Semi Final tonight, but I am sticking with the form displayed by Petra Kvitova in the last two weeks when she has won in Montreal and continued that run here in Cincinnati.

Angelique Kerber had a big win over Serena Williams yesterday and there is the fear that that match could have taken more out of her, especially mentally, than Kvitova who was a straight sets winner.

They have already played two close matches this season, both winning one apiece, but I just feel Kvitova is the stronger player on this surface as her groundies will be able to fly through the court and her form has been brilliant of late and I'll look for her to come through, even if it may take three sets.

MY PICKS: Juan Martin Del Potro + 4.5 games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 1.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-7, - 4.46 Units (21 Units Staked)

Friday, 17 August 2012

Tennis Picks August 17th (Cincinnati)

The Cincinnati Masters have reached the Quarter Finals of both the Men's and Women's tournaments, although there are still a couple of Third Round matches to be completed in the latter due to the weather last night.

It could be another stop-start occasion today, especially early on when there are showers forecast, but there looks to be a big enough window to get through all the matches on schedule.

The wind could be an issue for some of the players today, while it remains humid in Mason, and that is something to consider on the day.

Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games v Marin Cilic: As I said, it is going to be a little windy today and I think that may affect Marin Cilic more than Novak Djokovic in this match, particularly considering his high ball toss on serve.

Djokovic has been playing some solid tennis over the last two weeks in Toronto and here in Cincinnati after a couple of really disappointing losses at Wimbledon and the London Olympics- it wasn't the fact that he lost to Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro, it was the lack of fight in those matches once he fell behind and almost a lack of belief that he could win.

Granted he has only played one top 10 player in the last two weeks since the Olympics, but he should still be a little too consistent for Cilic who can lose his will in matches if he believes all is lost.

The Croatian has had three tight wins this week, but he has an erratic forehand and his best shot, the backhand, can be negated by Djokovic with his own backhand groundstrokes.

Djokovic has a 6-0 head to head record against Cilic, although this will be their first meeting in 12 months. The last two have been fairly comfortable wins for Djokovic and I will look for him to make that a hat-trick today.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Mardy Fish: The last three times Roger Federer has met Mardy Fish he has recorded two tough wins and suffered one loss, but they seem to be in different places at this moment in time and I think he may have one of his more comfortable matches against the American.

Federer does lead the head to head 7-1, but as I said, the previous three matches have been touch and go as to who will win. At the moment, Federer is playing some of the best tennis on the Tour having won at Wimbledon, taken the Silver Medal from the Olympics and recorded a couple of easy wins this week with good looking performances.

Fish has also been very comfortable this week despite playing some tough opponents like Feliciano Lopez and Radek Stepanek, but this is a big step up for the World Number 20 and we have still seen some poor performances from him as he returned from a long injury lay-off.

The worst of those came against Richard Gasquet last week in Toronto when he won just 3 games after winning a tight first set and Tommy Haas beat him comfortably in Washington.

He has proven he likes the conditions here with the extra zip that seems to be coming off the court, but Federer is playing some immense tennis this week and has looked imperious and I think he will be good enough to get a break in each set to see himself through.

Federer does usually serve first and that could see him win through 6-3, 6-4

MY PICKS: Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-6, - 4.96 Units (17 Units Staked)

Weekend Football Picks (August 18-20)

The new season will be beginning this weekend, even though it only feels like yesterday that the last one ended.

As always, I will post my picks on here over the next couple of days.

You can read my breakdown of the Premier League and the individual clubs here

I also have a full view on Manchester United, my club, that can be read here

Fulham v Norwich City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14648-Fulham-v-Norwich-City.htm)

Queens Park Rangers v Swansea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14650-QPR-v-Swansea.htm)

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14652-Newcastle-United-v-Tottenham-Hotspur.htm)

West Ham United v Aston Villa Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14660-West-Ham-United-v-Aston-Villa.htm)

Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14669-Ipswich-Town-v-Blackburn-Rovers.htm)

Manchester City v Southampton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14677-Manchester-City-v-Southampton.htm)

Everton v Manchester United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14686-Everton-v-Manchester-United.htm)

MY PICKS: Fulham @ 1.83 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
West Ham United-Aston Villa Draw @ 3.50 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Ipswich Town-Blackburn Rovers Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.92 Coral (4 Units)
Everton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)