CHAMPIONS LEAGUE qualification continues on Tuesday night. Here Ross Casey (@RossCasey24) picks out his favourite fancies from the coupon.
Red Star Belgrade v Salzburg | Tuesday 21st August 2018, 20:00
This is a meeting of two in-form teams and should be played in a hostile atmosphere with a 50,000 sell out expected in Belgrade. The home side have played 10 times this season and are unbeaten conceding just three goals. Salzburg arrive in a similar vein of form – they have won all seven of their matches and conceded just once.
For me, Salzburg are the better side and they impressed (especially at home) in the Europa League last season reaching the semi-finals. Away from home here is a tough test for the Red Bull sponsored side, but we can keep them on side as well as going with the low scoring probability.
188BET offer the interesting market of double chance and under 2.5 goals and Red Bull Salzburg are available at 6/5 here. That means we are backing the away side not to lose and for there to be less than three goals – as they are on a seven match winning run and have conceded just once this season and they are playing another solid defence.
Benfica v PAOK | Tuesday 21st August 2018, 20:00
For me, the over/under market offers some decent vale in this first leg between Benfica and PAOK. The home side have seen three of their four matches so far this season go under 2.5 goals and the Greek outfit played out a goalless draw on the road to knockout Spartak last time out.
I recommend backing under 2.5 goals here with 4/5.
Ajax v Dynamo Kiev | Wednesday 22nd August 2018, 20:00
Ajax are undefeated this season with four wins and two draws from six games. They host Dynamo Kiev here who have conceded just one goal in their six games this season. I have spotted that Ajax have netted late on of late with two late strikes in their last three games. I will be looking at the draw/Ajax market here and back a home win late on as they look to breach the impressive Kiev defence.
THE PREMIER LEAGUE returns this week and here Mark O’Haire makes the case for Huddersfield suffering second season syndrome and eventual relegation from the top-flight.
Why Huddersfield are the best bet for Premier League relegation
Newly-promoted Cardiff correctly head the top of the Premier League relegation market following their minor miracle in securing promotion from the Championship under Neil Warnock.
The Bluebirds’ attritional and rugged approach is more suitable to the second-tier but the likes of Burnley have demonstrated it can also work in the top-flight. The Welsh outfit will be looking to follow the blueprint of the Clarets, and Huddersfield, who’ve both survived despite being written off before a ball was kicked.
There’s little value in backing the Bluebirds to suffer immediate demotion at 3/5 quotes so instead, focus your attention on Huddersfield catching a bout of Second Season Syndrome and eventual Relegation at 11/10.
A year in the top-tier has given the Terriers extra funding although David Wagner’s troops have so far been unable to recruit the players necessary to transition into a stable mid-table outfit with obvious concerns surrounding the strength (or lack thereof) in attack.
Town survived last term despite scoring just 28 goals– the joint-fewest from a side to stay up in Premier League history – as they failed to score in 21 of their 38 matches. The Terriers won only three games after Christmas and even the inspirational Wagner may struggle to keep them afloat this time around.
In nine of the past 21 Premier League campaigns, Second Season Syndrome has seen a club drop back down to the second-tier, and while Huddersfield defied pre-season odds of 4/6 to earn another crack at the top-flight, logic dictates a team with their relative measly wage bill will struggle to compete over time.
Hull were very disappointing last season after relegation from the Premier League. Their season never really got going and they finished 18th just eight points ahead of the relegation zone. Of the 29 matches Nigel Adkins had in charge of Hull, he only picked up nine wins and will be hoping his much changed squad can improve upon that statistic.
The likes of Abel Hernandez, Michael Dawson, Moses Odubajo and Seb Larsson have left the club, whilst the impressive Harry Wilson has joined Derby on loan after a very good loan spell with The Tigers last season.
Aston Villa had a very turbulent summer after losing the Championship play-off final in May. There have been question marks over the future of their owners and the manager Steve Bruce as well as their star players but it has pretty much been a return to the status quo. Steve Bruce remains in charge and there have been no major outgoings as yet.
We have made Hull sixth favourites for relegation this season and they are also underdogs to win this fixture with odds of 15/8 with Marathonbet. As stated already above, they have lost a lot of experience and quality from their squad and they also have injury worries over both Kamil Grosicki and Jackson Irvine – two of their key attacking options.
Their pre-season was a mixed bag with two wins, two draws and two defeats from six games. They did manage to score in five of those matches, however, so Adkins will be hoping they can continue that kind of goalscoring form into the regular season. The experienced Frazier Campbell was their top scorer in pre-season but only netted six in 38 games for Hull last season.
With the possibility of Jackson Irvine and Grosicki out, they may well struggle to break down the Villa defence – something that plays into the statistic that eight of the last 11 meetings between these two sides have seen less than three goals.
Despite the off-field shenanigans surrounding the club over the past few months, they have managed to retain their squad – apart from John Terry and Sam Johnstone – from their first team. They have now been linked with moves for both Joe Bryan and Tammy Abraham who would be good signings at this level and also have a fully fit Jonathan Kodjia.
After an amazing first season with Villa where he scored 22 times, his last year at Villa Park was a dud with just one goal in an injury blighted season. He is like a new signing for Steve Bruce and against a Hull side that conceded nine in six during pre-season he will fancy himself to get off the mark here.
Villa lost just one of their six pre-season games and also had the opportunity to play Andre Green, their youth product who also missed most of last season through injury and both he and Kodjia scored three times.
The betting angle
Aston Villa look capable of kicking off with a win here for me looking at both pre-season results and the injury news. I will be backing Aston Villa to win, under 2.5 goals and also for Jonathon Kodjia to score.
Football League tipster Ross Casey goes through the three main markets of each division in the Football League, beginning with The Championship. Do you agree with his picks?
West Brom To Win The Championship
Of all the sides relegated from the Premier League, for me, West Brom look the best equipped to bounce straight back up. Darren Moore did fantastically when in charge of this team in the Premier League and his record of six games, three wins two draws and one loss is proof of that. Had he been assigned the role earlier in the season, perhaps they may well still be in the Premier League!
As it is, they were still relegated, but they went down with their heads held high and on a positive note going into this Championship season. They have managed to hold onto Salomon Rondon and Jay Rodriguez for now so they have plenty of goals in them and they are backed up by the experience of Gareth Barry, James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Jake Livermore in midfield.
In the summer, Moore has invested wisely too, bringing in Sam Johnstone who was arguably the best goalkeeper in the Championship last season, Harvey Barnes who impressed in this league last season with Barnsley and Kyle Bartley who should be a rock at the back.
They have had an unbeaten pre-season and the morale and confidence about The Hawthorns could take them to the title at 8/1.
Nottingham Forest Top 6 Finish
Nottingham Forest have really had a turnaround in finances of late since being taken over by Olympiakos owner and Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis. Their squad this season is almost unrecognisable from the one that started the season last summer and they now have Aitor Karanka in charge.
The Spaniard has already proven his worth in this league by getting Middlesbrough promoted and he will now be given the reigns to do the same with Forest. They have a balanced mix of proven British based players such as Michael Dawson, Jack Colback, Liam Bridcutt and Ldewis Grabban, exciting European players such as the Portuguese quinte brought in this summer and homegrown youth with the likes of Joe Worrall and Ben Brereton.
If Karanka can make them gel, we could see Forest in the top six of The Championship for the first time since 2011. Take the best Championship odds of 6/5 on them to finish in the top six this season under the pragmatic Karanka.
Wigan To Be Relegated
It would be fair to say that Wigan Athletic are a yo-yo club with two relegations and two promotions in their last four years.
Yes, they have just destroyed League One last season, racking up 98 points thanks to their strong defence and goals from Will Grigg. However, take Dan Burn out of that defence and they appear to crumble. The big centre-half was taken off with a knock in their final pre-season fixture away at Rangers and once he went off, they fell to a 3-0 defeat at Ibrox.
The Chinese consortium that has invested in the club has helped the Latics sign the exciting Leonardo Da Silva Lopes and re-sign Callum McManaman. There are caveats to a lot of their players, whether newly signed or already in the squad, that only a few have truly proved themselves at Championship level.
The Latics have lots of players that have been relegated from the Championship, or struggled to perform there, whilst manager Paul Cook is also unproven in the second-tier. Despite the confidence built last year, this could be another season where Athletic have a close shave with relegation yet again and odds of 6/1 appeal.
Football League tipster Ross Casey goes through the three main markets of each division in the Football League, with this article looking at League One. Do you agree with his picks?
Sunderland To Win League One
Yes, Sunderland are massive favourites, despite back to back relegations, but for me they are worthy of the tag this season. The Black Cats find themselves in League One next season for just the second time in their history here and following the sacking of Chris Coleman, Scotsman Jack Ross is in charge of their promotion push.
Ellis Short finally sold the club to end his unsuccessful time at the club, the pink seats at the Stadium of Light have been restored to their rightful red and a summer of necessary change could well yield excellent results. Eight new faces have been brought in, with a mix of experience (Glenn Loovens) and youth (Jerome Sinclair). However, it is Scottish international Dylan McGeouch who has impressed the most in pre-season, controlling the Sunderland midfield.
Their pre-season results were a mixed bag and their final match was abandoned due to adverse weather conditions, but a squad that has got rid of the bad eggs and retained the hungrier players and added some more spice and experience looks capable of a title run this season and League One odds of 11/4 appeal despite their recent downward trajectory.
Fleetwood Top 6 Finish
The fact that Joey Barton is the new Fleetwood manager means that almost no-one will want them to do well this season, but you cannot ignore their pre-season form where they have played five matches, won them all and scored 15 goals in the process.
In Paddy Madden and Ched Evans they have goals in their side, whilst loan signing Jason Holt is clearly someone that Joey sees himself in and believes he can get the best out of in midfield. Look for him to try and control games, alongside the experienced Dean Marney whilst the likes of Kyle Dempsey and Wes Burns will offer their creative spark.
League One looks a very open league this season, and if Sunderland don’t perform I would be incredibly surprised if there is a runaway leader. Shrewsbury proved that any side at this level can challenge and if this small Fleetwood squad can avoid major injury worries, they could well be the side to do it in 2018/19.
Back Fleetwood to secure a top six finish with our League One betting odds of 7/2.
Bristol Rovers To Be Relegated
Bristol Rovers have lost so much firepower in recent seasons with Matty Taylor, Billy Bodin, Rory Gaffney and Ellis Harrison all departing. The Pirates have brought in Gavin Reilly and much will now be expected of him to get the goals that those four players mentioned above used to bring.
They have an issue with two goalkeepers failing to nail down a starting spot last season, defender Tom Broadbent often seems to lack the dominance a defender should have and Lee Brown leaving for Portsmouth is a blow. All of these things combined with the fact Rovers played three League Two sides in pre-season and lost two and drew one including a 4-0 home hammering by Exeter tells me things are not well at the Memorial Stadium and come May, League One relegation odds of 9/2 could look very big.
Football League tipster Ross Casey goes through the three main markets of each division in the Football League, with this article looking at League Two. Do you agree with his picks?
Notts County To Win League Two
Kevin Nolan’s Magpies looked on course for promotion last season before losing to eventual winners Coventry in the play-offs. It what was the manager’s first full season as a manager, you would hope he has learned a lot from the experience.
The Magpies have revamped their squad and it appears he has made a conscious effort to lower the average age of his team, as that may have been one of the reasons they ran out of steam last season.
The likes of Shola Ameobi have left the club during the summer with striker Kristian Dennis the most eye-catching arrival from Chesterfield, after he scored 19 goals in League Two last term despite playing for the side that finished rock bottom.
None of their strikers managed to hit double figures in the league last season, but with Dennis claiming the number nine shirt, they hope that will change in the 2018/19 season.
Further arrivals such as David Vaughan, Nathan Thomas and Enzio Boldewijn improve the midfield too, and whilst question marks remain over their defence and in goal, the likelihood is that Notts County will aim to simply outscore their opponents this season playing a brand of adventurous attacking football.
They are favourites to lift the trophy at 11/2.
Crawley Top 6 Finish
Crawley went about their pre-season looking at several trialists and facing tough competition and they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves in their results.
Harry Kewell has quietly gone about bringing in plenty of experience to his squad with the likes of Romain Vincelot, Dominic Poleon and Filipe Morais all on-board for the coming season.
The Red Devils finished 14th last season and now 51 games into his managerial career, Kewell will surely be learning plenty day-to-day and with a full pre-season underneath him this time around, I think he can guide Town towards the top of the League Two table.
Back Crawley to secure a top six finish with our League Two betting odds of 9/2.
Morecambe To Be Relegated
Morecambe only survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last season and despite being taken over since then, the majority of their transfers have been free signings with lots of pressure on Jason Oswell from Stockport after he managed to notch 29 goals in 45 games down in Greater Manchester last season.
No team won less home matches in the bottom tier than Morecambe last season and that will have to improve and I can see why 188BET have made them favourites to go down after ending the 2017/18 season on an 11 match winless streak and remaining that way in pre-season.
You can get Morecambe to face the drop with League One odds of 5/2.
WITH The Championship starting on Friday, Gabriel Sutton outlines the reasons why Sheffield Wednesday could well face relegation at a big price of 9/1.
Why The Owls face a relegation battle…
Sheffield Wednesday are a great club with a loyal fanbase, but those supporters could be let down by the mismanagement of Dejphon Chansiri and the board, who are already starting to suffer the consequences for poor recruitment.
Since losing the play-off final to Hull in 2016, they have put approximately another £11 million on the wage bill by adding 18 new players on permanent transfers and loans of which, aside from perhaps energetic left-sider Adam Reach, none have made a significant impact.
Even if the rise of goalkeepers like Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson means Keiron Westwood is no longer the untouchable stopper he used to be, the key outfield players – Tom Lees, Barry Bannan, Kieran Lee, Gary Hooper, Fernando Forestieri – all started at Wembley two years ago.
In fact, one could argue they are yet to replace aerial beast Sunderland-bound veteran Glenn Loovens – the jury is out on centre-back Joost Van Aken.
When last season’s injury crisis cleared up and some of the key men – namely Bannan and Forestieri – returned to fitness for the final few weeks of last season, form notably improved.
The problem with relying so heavily on the same men they did two years ago is that players tend to wane in ability as they get older.
Forestieri is tremendously gifted but lacks the power to carry a ball up the pitch and Atdhe Nuhiu is not the most mobile target man, therefore the midfielders like Joey Pelupessy and George Boyd will have to get through a lot of leg work.
Ideally, Wednesday would have the funds to rebuild this squad but FFP regulations have put pay to that, so manager Joss Luhukay used six academy graduates after taking over in January.
Left-back Ashley Baker and midfielder Connor Kirby caught the eye, while Jordan Thornily (signed from Everton at a young age) continues his rise, but relying on kids in a division as advanced as the Championship has its risks.
A combination of off-field issues, old players potentially past their best and kids lacking the knowhow was a recipe for Sunderland’s relegation last season – it’s not inconceivable that a similar fate could come Wednesday’s way.
WITH The Championship starting on Friday, Gabriel Sutton outlines the reasons why you should be backing Leeds to win the league and head back to the top flight for the first time since their relegation in 2004.
Why Leeds are a great bet to win the Championship…
Marcelo Bielsa just doesn’t do uneventful, transitional campaigns: that’s not how he works.
The Argentine is a purist; he places high technical and physical demands on his players and will not stand for anything other than combative, fluid, high-tempo football every week for 90 minutes.
Bielsa doesn’t do his job in a way that is driven solely by results: he wants his teams to represent what he believes in – that’s what drives his passion for the game.
Of course, his extreme methods can sometimes backfire, as they did in short-lived spells at Marseille, Lazio and Lille.
At other times, players love the intensity with which he works: he oversaw marked progress while in charge of Chile, then had an excellent 2011-12 campaign with Athletic Bilbao, who reached the Europa League Final, playing delicious one-touch football to knock out Manchester United en route.
While there’s a possibility of Leeds struggling under Bielsa, there’s also value in backing them to take win the league at 11.0, simply because we know they will attack the division.
The four favourites currently above Leeds in the betting list are all led by conservative tacticians:
Forest have failed to scored in 11 of their 20 games under Aitor Karanka and Stoke boss Gary Rowett, while in charge of Derby, couldn’t adapt his tactics when teams nullified Matej Vydra.
Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough didn’t hit the target in the second leg of their play-off semi-final at Villa Park despite knowing the 0-0 draw would knock them out. Although Darren Moore did superbly to get the best out of limited players for West Brom at the end of last season, it remains to be seen whether he will bring fresh ideas.
It is very difficult to envisage either of those managers having the audacity required to inspire a title-win, whereas Bielsa has audacity in buckets. What’s more, he’s been backed:
Barry Douglas, one of the best players in the Championship last year, joins from Wolves to provide excellent deliveries from what looks like a left-back role, rather than wing-back, with Luke Ayling offering intelligence on the other side.
In Patrick Bamford, they have a striker who has scored 35 goals in 90 Championship appearances across three seasons, being part of a top six outfit in each of them.
Bamford’s movement will compliment creativity from dribbler Samuel Saiz and pin-point passer Pablo Hernandez; Lewis Baker will add further talent in midfield and fellow Chelsea loanee, Jamaal Blackman, should solve last season’s keeper conundrum.
While the Whites have proven performers, they also have a collection of academy graduates such as forwards Ryan Edmundson and Jack Clarke along with midfielder Jamie Shackleton, so that Bielsa’s squad has the energy to execute his high-pressing methods.
This project could go either way, but there is a distinct possibility that Leeds could take this division by storm.
PAOK home matches tend to be high scoring games with over 2.5 goals yielding a profit in nine of PAOK’s last ten on home soil. That will be music to ears of many punters backing the Greek side as Basel have been in terrible form. The Swiss outfit had lost three friendlies on the spin, while conceding 11 goals in the process before losing to St Gallen in their season opener.
However, it isn’t all bad news for them as going forward they remain a threat. Both teams to score has landed in four of their last five matches and I beleive that will be the case again on Tuesday night with the stat that PAOK have shipped at least once in each of their six warm-up fixtures.
So my selection for PAOK v Basel is both teams to score at evens thanks to both sides looking susceptible at the back heading into this Champions League fixture.
Hapoel won their last round tie 7-2 on aggregate, but they have a horrible record when playing away from home in these later qualifying matches. They conceded a total of eight goals against Celtic and Ludogorets away from home in their past two seasons, and despite Zagreb not starting their season yet, you have to fancy the Croatians here.
Whilst you can’t read too much into friendlies, they are unbeaten in nine matches and have kept six clean sheets in their last seven matches at home. I recommend backing a Dinamo Zagreb win here with Champions League odds of evens.