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Ally McCoist’s untidy exit from Rangers, when it is finally realised, will bring a disappointing end to the former striker’s time in charge of the Glasgow giants.

McCoist has handled the difficult position with all the grace, dignity and winning mentality you would expect from a club legend. He has been far more than the ‘safe pair of hands’ some thought he would only turn out to be when he stepped in to the breach back in 2011, charged with helping Rangers get back on their feet following the financial meltdown.

McCoist has generally been able to justify the Scottish football betting odds, as he’s managed to successfully guide Rangers from the bottom up to the second tier in the last three years. He’s done it without too much moaning and groaning despite having his hands tied in the transfer market. He’s also usually had to work with ongoing internal disputes, power struggles, yet more allegations of financial mismanagement and then, belatedly, poorer-than-expected results on the pitch, such as losing to Queen of the South.

But the way he is now making what could be a drawn-out exit from Ibrox leaves a bad taste. Some are even calling it an undignified departure for a man who should be held up as a beacon of hope and a stellar club legend who has given his all, both professionally and personally, to try and help get Rangers back to where they belong.

The fact that some Rangers fans have voiced their opposition to McCoist’s team selection and some of the tactics he has adopted in recent weeks is disappointing, as he continues to try his best in what is clearly a difficult environment for the manager to be working on a daily basis.

Rangers have relied on the 52-year-old in their time in need and it will rank as a shame when he does eventually depart, whether that is at the end of the season or at some point over the next weeks and months after it emerged he had tendered his resignation. 

Just why exactly the man who scored more than 250 league goals for Rangers is now on the verge of leaving Ibrox remains somewhat of a mystery, although it is no surprise that a club that has had such a complicated recent past off the pitch should see their manager depart in less than straightforward circumstances.

McCoist has reportedly lost the support of the Rangers board due to this season’s less-than-impressive form. But they have also admitted they do not have the funds to pay the manager off in full so he is more than likely set to stay on for the rest of the season. Although, the way things have developed at Ibrox over the year it wouldn’t be a major shock if there are more twists to come and McCoist does go earlier.

The problem Rangers have – if they needed any more – is that it is unlikely anyone new coming in would do a better job than McCoist and, while up-and-coming coaches may fancy a spell in the spotlight in trying to prove themselves, experienced managers are not expected to be banging down the Ibrox door in the search of taking over.

McCoist’s exit is on the cards, even if it could be prolonged. But it will be a sad day when he does depart.

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For all the glory and the grandeur that goes with winning the Premier League, there is a growing consensus that what happens at the other end of the table is where the real drama lies. Whilst the title race can at times feel like watching a couple of millionaires squabbling over the price of a hot dog, the relegation battle has a lot more bite to it.

If the cost of missing out on the title is a place in the Champions League – in the style of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – then the difference between coming first and fourth is arguably not that great.

Compare that with what happens when sides are relegated. The salutary lessons of Portsmouth and Blackburn, who have suffered all the agonies of the damned since they slipped out of the top flight, suggest that there is far more at stake at the foot of the table than the top.

What’s more, it’s a much more dramatic and dynamic contest. Watching Chelsea and Manchester City serially steamroller their way through the season is not what the Premier League is meant to be about. We’ve scoffed at the serial domestic successes of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid and, in years gone by, at the way Celtic and Rangers similarly dominated in Scotland. The drama of uneven contests is only occasionally even vaguely dramatic.

If Chelsea’s defeat at Newcastle is only interesting because it’s a break from the norm, we might as well just watch the traffic and wait for a yellow car to pass by. As impressive as unremitting excellence might be, it’s the human business of grappling with limited resources and the fear of failure that are what makes sport worth watching.

It also makes for a much more dynamic betting market. With more teams involved and continually fluctuating league standings, there is greater scope for punters to cash in on their insight. Comparing different bookmakers’ odds at somewhere like www.britishbookmakers.co.uk is a way to win twice over. The dynamism at this end of the table makes for a much more uneven marketplace.

Pinpointing sides’ weaknesses as well as their strengths requires a keener appreciation than is routinely offered by the media’s pampered pundits. It takes a more fully developed football intelligence to dig beneath the superlatives of individual brilliance and to get to grips with the real mechanics of team building. The bottom half of the table is football for grown-ups.

14076522643_15b1f38d26_z   by  wonker 

Watching a master craftsman at work is only one-part instructive. It is watching someone more like ourselves that we can learn something. Watching Cesc Fabregas will not teach me how to see a pass, but seeing how Burnley’s willing but limited Adrian Barnes strives to work around his limitations offers a template that I can begin to understand. And remember, the likes of Barnes are to all intents and purposes performing on a high wire with no safety net. There is no room for error at the foot of the table. It makes for a truly gripping drama irrespective of allegiance.

Year-on-year the backs-to-the-wall intensity of the relegation battle makes for far more gripping fare than the inevitable fading away of title contenders. We should give those struggling sides far more credit than that routinely offered by the media. It is them rather than the runaway millionaires at the top who make the Premier League the greatest league in the world.

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Having come so close to winning the Premier League last season,Liverpool’s qualification for the Champions League for the first time in five years constituted something of a consolation prize for their fans.

With the financial windfall that qualification for Europe’s premier club competition brings, and the increased exposure, Liverpool will have seen their Champions League return as a way to cement their position back at the top of the English game.

As things have turned out, however, the Reds have fallen at the first hurdle, and qualification for the Champions League has done nothing but raise questions about their credentials.

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Difficult To Comprehend

Heading into last night’s game with Basel, which they ultimately drew 1-1, Liverpool knew that a win would be enough to see them into the knockout stages of the competition. Despite this, the home side looked timid and seemed to lack the cutting edge needed to break down their Swiss opponents.

Needing a win, the decision to start with Lucas Leiva alongside Joe Allen in the middle of the park seemed difficult to comprehend, particularly given that one of Liverpool’s few creative talents, Philippe Coutinho, was left on the bench until the middle of the second half.

Lacking Tempo

Having conceded a goal to Fabian Frei in the first half, Liverpool needed to up the tempo quickly but they lacked ideas and were made to wait until the 81st minute before Steven Gerrard bagged an outstanding,free-kick equaliser.

By this time, Rickie Lambert had already been replaced in attack by Lazar Markovic, who had added a bit of pace and dynamism to the attack before his sending off for lashing out at Behrang Safari. The red card left Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers less than impressed with the match officials after the final whistle.

Damage Long Since Done

Liverpool could have saved themselves late on, with the Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik saving well from Jordan Henderson while Gerrard had a penalty claim. But, in truth, the damage to this season’s European campaign was long since done. Going into the game, the Reds had won just once in their previous five Group B matches – a very late 2-1 victory over Ludogorets in the opening round of fixtures.

Even if they had won last night, their two defeats to Real Madrid in the group campaign indicate that they would probably soon have exited the competition had they come up against any of the other big boys, and Rodgers knows they are not up to the standard required to compete at the top level.

Into the Europa League Hat

So now Liverpool find themselves into the hat for the knockout stages of the Europa League, but will Rodgers take the Thursday night competition seriously?

It is to be hoped he does, and he has said he will do, as winning it could be Liverpool’s only route back into the Champions League next season. Currently sat ninth in the Premier League table, the Reds have endured an indifferent start to the season and they look unlikely to mount any real challenge for the upper reaches of the league this campaign.

A good run in the Europa League could salvage Rodgers’ season and, particularly given the seriousness with which Everton are taking the competition, having qualified for the knockout stages with a game to spare, it will be expected by the Anfield faithful.

As for the punters, they have given their backing to Liverpool. A quick look around the bookies suggests Rodgers’ men are amongst the favourites with betfair at around 14/1 while others such as skybet and totesport also have the Merseysiders among the front-runners to lift the Europa League trophy in Poland in May.

Signings Required

It is clear for all to see the signings Liverpool made in the summer have not come close to matching the men they have replaced. Rodgers has come in for criticism but it seems his only way out of the current rut is more spending.

Firstly,Rodgers must buy a reliable goalkeeper. As good a shot-stopper as Simon Mignolet is, he is prone to errors and is not decisive enough to give his back four confidence. Someone like Chelsea’s Petr Cech could be just the ticket for the Anfield fans.

Defensive Frailty

Liverpool’s defence also needs tightening up. The likes of Glen Johnson and Dejan Lovren have underperformed this season and the club needs more competition for places.A man like Winston Reid, who has had an exceptional few seasons for West Ham United but is reportedly making wage demands which could see him leave Upton Park, could really help to improve the defence.

Lastly, upfront, Daniel Sturridge cannot return soon enough for Rodgers but he needs support and he cannot be expected to spearhead Liverpool’s attack on his own. Lambert is a willing worker and will do a job but Mario Balotelli has proved that he is not up to the task.

At £16m, Balotelli was a risk worth taking but it could now be time for Liverpool to cut their losses. Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony has seven league goals to his name this season and wouldn’t come cheaply but he is a proven goalscorer and could be a great option for Rodgers if he could prise him away from his old club.

Next Up -Old Trafford

Next up for Liverpool are bitter rivals Manchester United, who they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday. With Luis van Gaal’s men flying high, it will be a very tough assignment but it could come at just the right time for Liverpool as they seek to prove that they can still cope with Europe’s best.

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Manchester United’s run of four Premier League wins on the bounce might have lifted them into the top four in the table and might also have restored some confidence around Old Trafford but they are still a long way from being the finished article.

Time for Acceptance

Midfield enforcer Marouane Fellaini is backing United to be ready and waiting for Chelsea to make a mistake and insists they are still in the title race but they should accept that a return to the Champions League would be a great result following last season’s dismal ending. With the form of Chelsea and Manchester City, those in the know around football and at Blue Sq have long since accepted the title will not be returning to Old Trafford any time soon. It is perhaps time Fellaini and his team-mates, including Chris Smalling – who claims belief is back at United – also recognised that scenario.

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United manager Luis van Gaal – Image by: Calciomercato24 

Need for Consistency

United’s run of four straight wins, the latest of which came over Stoke City on Tuesday night, followed a record of one victory in the previous four games. Given the fact Chelsea remain unbeaten in the league this season, and that City have lost just twice, United will need to show consistency over a much longer period of time if they are to be considered as genuine title shots.

Too Late

In manager Luis van Gaal’s favour is the freshness of his squad. With no European football to worry about, the Dutchman has less cause to rotate his players and keep them fresh. Later in the season, Chelsea and City may tire as the various competitions progress and their players may take their eye off the ball in the Premier League. If this happens, then United will be there to pounce. But, at the moment, it looks as though they have far too big a mountain to climb and, with the proven title-winning experience in both the Chelsea and City camps, they have left it too late to challenge this season.

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The opening exchanges in the English Premier league produced some fairly predictable results along with a familiar, if extremely early league table. The likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool were all guided to victory by their main strikers and there are a number of forwards in the division who have made an early claim on the Golden Boot trophy as the Premiership’s leading goal scorer.

Attempting to fill a void

In the absence of his former club mate Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is the new favourite with Betfair to win the award at the end of 2014-15 and the England international opened his account with the winner over Southampton.

Suarez grabbed all the headlines, both good and bad, last season but his admittedly phenomenal record of 31 goals in 37 league games masks the fact that his strike partner managed a more than respectable 21 in 29.

With Rickie Lambert left on the bench for the opener, Sturridge is the lone centre forward in Brendan Rodgers’ new formation and even at this early stage he could be the man to beat.

City stroll

Defending champions Manchester City enjoyed a relatively comfortable away win at Newcastle with Sergio Aguero sealing the victory in second half injury time. At one stage in the previous campaign, the Argentinian was ahead of Suarez in the race for the trophy until injury derailed his domestic season.

Aguero may not be 100% fit as yet but he will remain a contender for the Golden Boot and at least he has a head start over team mate Alvaro Negredo who is yet to return after suffering a broken foot in pre-season.

The new boys

In 2013-14, Jose Mourinho was quick to rule out his team’s chances of landing the title, claiming that his Chelsea side was without a striker. Since then, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o have gone with Diego Costa and Didier Drogba coming in and their side already look to be a more potent force.

Spanish international Costa scored the first goal in a 3-1 win over Burnley and after netting 36 times in 52 games for Atletico Madrid last season, the 25 year old must be a leading contender for English football’s top goal scorer award. Meanwhile, Drogba was only given seven minutes as a second half substitute while Fernando Torres – a very remote candidate – was left on the bench.

Lagging behind

Robin Van Persie’s absence from the Manchester United team that lost to Swansea may have an effect on his chances of taking an accolade that he won for two consecutive seasons prior to Suarez’s triumph in the previous campaign.

The Dutchman was in superb form in the 2014 World Cup but he simply needs to get onto the pitch to stand a chance here.

While Van Persie sat out United’s opener, Wayne Rooney opened his own account and if the new club captain is pushed further forward under Louis van Gaal, he can’t be ruled out.

Elsewhere, there has been some interest in new Arsenal signing Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean scored 19 goals in 34 league matches for Barcelona last season. Sanchez failed to find the net in a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace but both he and Olivier Giroud are clear contenders for Arsenal in this campaign.

Outside of these five clubs, you may have to take a leap of faith to find another suitable candidate. Emmanuel Adebayor at Spurs and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku would both argue that they have a chance but the main contenders for the Golden Boot seem to have already found the net in their opening round of league games.

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With the return of the Premier League this weekend, all bets are open on who will take home the 2014-2015 title. Chelsea are favourites to claim the league, but contenders are closely behind in bookies’ odds, suggesting another season full of drama and excitement in the English top flight.

The following table offers a recap of this season’s favourites and their odds to win the title.

Team Odds to win
Chelsea 15/8
Manchester City 9/4
Manchester United 9/2
Arsenal 6/1
Liverpool 10/1

 

Bet365 supplies these odds and the  bonus code available for new membership promotions in all of 2014.

Chelsea, for Mourinho’s second year back at Stamford Bridge, are looking like strong candidates for a league title. The squad was tailored to fit the Special One’s demands and is also the favourite English club in the odds to win the Champions League, with a promising 9/1 to win the completion outright.

Manchester City, the title holders, are still in the bookmakers’ good books. Their rivals, Manchester United, after a disappointing last season failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League are hoping to rebuild this year with the arrival of Luis Van Gaal on the bench at Old Trafford. Moreover the Red Devils will not have the Champions League draining the team’s energies as they set to fight to regain their rank. However, despite defeating Liverpool, AS Roma, and Champion’s League title holders Real Madrid the team very much still looks like a work in progress.

Arsenal are looking particularly strong. Their outstanding win in the Community Shield, the coming of age of a young generation of promising players and the arrival of top class recruits like Alexis Sanchez – formerly of FC Barcelona and one of the artisans of Chile’s successes in the World Cup in Brazil – will no doubt aim to live up to the ambitions displayed by the club in the transfer period.

Liverpool, very close seconds in last year’s race, are looking a bit behind. Suarez’s departure has yet to be compensated and Gerard’s poor performance in the Brazil both indicate that the Reds might not have the strength and the bench to repeat last season’s performance.

Although the odds for the season are in no way representative of the reality of a season, which has yet to commence, the trends represent the expectations at this early stage but will require confirmation on the pitch. One thing is clear however, the Barclays Premier League will once again prove one of the hardest leagues to predict with no less than five strong candidates for the final victory.

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With just three weeks until the kick off of the Premier League season, the league’s biggest title contenders are warming up with some essential charity matches. This year’s transfer season has seen some huge changes, from the sale of Luis Suárez to Barcelona to the complete revamp of Southampton, but a few preliminary matches will ensure that the teams can gel together to ensure a successful season.

One match that’s got bookmakers talking is the forthcoming Community Shield, taking place on 10th August, which will see Manchester City take on Arsenal. The event, formerly known as the Charity Shield, has been taking place since 1908 and places the winners of the FA Cup (Arsenal) against the winners of the Premier League (Manchester City.)

This year will be particularly interesting, if the current odds are anything to go by. With odds of 9/4, Arsenal are an amazing value bet, particularly given the recent signing of Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez. Though Wenger had been cautious of making any drastic moves too early on in the transfer window, he’s now made two essential purchases, Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez, that will surely serve him well in the Premier League and indeed in the forthcoming charity match.

Punters who want to have a flutter on Arsenal in the Premier League need only look at Sanchez’s performance in the World Cup for proof of how much he can help the team. After scoring against Australia and former favourites Brazil, the 25-year-old has shown amazing potential, and this preview match could be a sign of things to come for the Premier League title race.

Meanwhile, Manchester City, who have taken the Community Shield title recently in 2012, should use this opportunity to stretch the legs of their new defence and goalkeeper. While some may argue that manager Manuel Pellegrini is fixing a formula that isn’t broken, he could be viewed as a cautious manager who’s taken care to have a back up where it counts. With odds of 5/4, The Blues are hot favourites to win this year’s event, and they have recent titles on their side. With a 2012 Community Shield win and a Premier League win, they’re highly preferable against a team who, prior to the last FA Cup, hadn’t won a title for nine years.

It could be argued however that the disparity in the odds is somewhat misleading: while experience tells us that Manchester City should win, a charity match is hardly a pairing that will see either team taking any risks. Just six days prior to the start of the Premier League season, both teams could see their managers starting their second team in a bid to keep peak fitness for the league.

For Arsenal however, a title win would be welcomed after their former nine-year drought, so we could just see the bookies proved wrong.

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It seems a lifetime ago that Liverpool were edging closer and closer to beating all odds and winning the Premier League. The Reds were pipped at the post by Manchester City’s 86 points over their 84, despite showing amazing promise throughout the season.

This time round, Liverpool fans were left feeling optimistic for the 2014/15 season: that is, until Luis Suarez showed his true colours. During a crucial match against France, the Uruguay forward earned himself a nine match ban by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

The result was catastrophic. The conditions of Suarez’s ban meant that he would not be able to play until 27th October for Liverpool during the Capital One Cup. Liverpool soon saw their odds of winning the Premier League slashed, and that was before Barcelona even got involved.

Today, Suarez has now accepted a £75 million offer to transfer to Barcelona, despite the match ban controversy. The conditions of his transfer mean that he will not be inaugurated officially like any other player – under the terms, he will not be allowed to set foot on a pitch to confirm his signing.

But losing Suarez might not be the only chink in Liverpool’s armour. Hot contenders Chelsea have made some very expensive purchases in preparation for the upcoming season, including the signing of Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa, setting manager Jose Mourinho back a cool £32 million.

Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile, has taken a £30 million fee to transfer from Barcelona to Chelsea. After Barcelona’s less than impressive last season, the move could be beneficial for both Chelsea and Fabregas’ pride.

With the former Arsenal midfielder in mind, 2014/15 could also be the year for the Gunners, who could show themselves to be a further threat to Liverpool. Manager Arsene Wenger, who is notorious for not spending money until the last minute, has recently signed Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez. The 25-year-old will surely prosper under the guidance of Wenger, who has a reputation for bringing out the best in young talent.

If Liverpool want to make sure they don’t repeat last season, they would do well to focus on the transfers they’re making now. Rumour has it that Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony, Lille’s Salmon Kamou and Atlético Madrid’s Arda Turan could all be making the switch to the Reds, while S. L. Benfica’s Lazar Markovic has just signed for the team.

The transfer window remains open, and with so much going on, the title could be in anybody’s hands this season.

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category: World Cup 2014
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FANTASYAfter the success of its Fantasy Pre-World Cup game, FanXT has launched its Fantasy World Cup (http://fantasyworldcup.fanxt.com) game to offer World Cup fans a once-in-4-years chance to build a virtual World Cup team based on real-life World Cup players such as Lionel Messi (Argentina), Neymar (Brazil), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Wayne Rooney (England). These fantasy football managers earn points based on the performances of these players that play in FIFA World Cup 2014 matches. As the world would watch in awe the action and drama behind the FIFA World Cup, football fans could take on the challenge to earn the coveted title of Legendary Fantasy World Cup Manager, something many failed to do in the previous Fantasy World Cup 2010. The game offers 12 statistics for users to score fantasy points such as Goals, Shots On Goals, Assists to score valuable points, ability to assign a captain, analyse players’ performance based on detailed graph analysis, choose their team formation (4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 5-3-2) as well as create private or mini leagues for users to compete among their friends. The socially savvy can also invite friends to join via Facebook and earn extra $0.5 million virtual budget for each friend who joined. Fantasy managers start with the rank of Rookie Manager but as they advance in the game, they could eventually earn the Legendary Manager title, something many failed to do in the previous Fantasy World Cup 2010. A World Cup Predictor game is included in the website, which challenges users to predict the outcome (including the score) of all 64 matches and predict who will lift the World Cup trophy this year. For those early bird users that joined the pre-World Cup fantasy soccer game prior to this one, each of the fantasy manager shall have their fantasy points earned to be converted to extra virtual budget in this final World Cup game. It pays to be early. Fantasy sports are enjoyed by over 83 million people globally and according to Alexa statistics, fantasy sites are 3 times more engaging than popular sites like Yahoo, CNN, ESPN and even the official FIFA World Cup site itself. This highly engaging fantasy football game for World Cup is available in Spanish (http://fantasyworldcup.fanxt.com/es), Chinese (http://fantasyworldcup.fanxt.com/cn), Indonesian (http://fantasyworldcup.fanxt.com/id) and Portuguese (http://fantasyworldcup.fanxt.com/pt) languages and playable on these platforms below. Website: http://fantasyworldcup.fanxt.com Facebook: http://apps.facebook.com/fantasyworldcup iPhone: http://itunes.apple.com/app/fantasy-world-soccer/id859769859?mt=8 Android: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jmsb.fantasyworldcup   About FanXT [www.fanxt.com] [483, Green Lanes, London, N13 4BS UNITED KINGDOM] FanXT aims to be fantasy sport and digital media provider for sport leagues across the world, by managing the internet and mobile rights of the leagues via the provisioning of official websites, fantasy sport game, mobile apps, Facebook apps and even Smart TV apps. We are supported by the U.S State Department via the GIST Initiative programme. We are the Official Fantasy Football Provider for Finland’s Veikkausliiga, Hong Kong First Division Football League, India’s I-League, Philippines’ United Football League, and Singapore S.League   For any information and enquiries, please e-mail us at info@fanxt.com or visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FanXT

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As excitement builds ahead of this summer’s hotly anticipated football tournament, attention has turned to the ball that will take centre stage at kick off. Tested for over two years by some of the biggest stars in the footballing world, pundits are calling it the most tested ball yet. But one legend has still to give it his seal of approval…

Following recent research* commissioned by Captain Morgan, which revealed that a third of England fans are concerned that the ball may hamper England’s chances in the tournament this year, the Captain who is famous for his mischief making, has turned his spy glass to the ball and decided to really put it through its paces.

The Captain has commissioned a cannon capable of firing an object at speeds of up to 74 miles per hour, to determine once and for all whether the ball has what it takes to deliver a legendary tournament this summer.

Captain Morgan, said: “This year’s ball has plenty of style but does it have any substance? I gathered together my crew of buccaneers and headed to the beach to discover for myself whether it deserves true legendary status as the world’s most tested football.

“We tested its speed, swerve and performance vs an old ball, as well as its controllability and of course its accuracy and I’m very pleased to announce it passed all with flying colours and has received my official seal of approval.

“I know the England team haven’t had chance to practice with the ball ahead of the tournament in Brazil but fans can rest assured that the ball is definitely up to scratch and has the makings of a true legend.”

You can watch the Captain put the ball through its paces at www.facebook.com/captainmorgan or here

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