The English Premier League 2017/18 Preview & Tips

The English Premier Arsenal to Liverpool

It’s back and if Sky are to be believed, the Premier League’s 26th season is going to be bigger and better than ever. Quite how the good folk of Sky know this is anyone’s guess but on that premise let’s take a look at the runners and riders and their strengths, weaknesses, key players and chances from Arsenal to Liverpool (odds from 888sport for a top-four finish):

ARSENAL (Evens)

The Gunners will be hoping that a season free of Champions League commitments will boost their chances of getting into the top four. Fifth place last season, and subsequently missing out on mixing with Europe’s elite, was a disaster and only partly mitigated by winning the FA Cup last season, and Arsenal will be determined to come back with a vengeance in 2017-18.

News that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both look like at least starting the campaign for Wenger’s men is a positive sign for Gooners; even more so if both can be persuaded to pledge their long-term futures to the club.

Having secured his own future at the club by signing a new two-year deal, Arsene Wenger has been quite busy during the summer – at least in Arsenal terms – and has added some much-needed reinforcements to his squad in the form of French international Alexandre Lacazette and Bosnian Sead Kolasinac; his spending being £47.7m.

Lacazette scored 37 goals in all competitions last season and was one of the top scorers in European football. He almost single-handedly dragged Lyon into fourth-place in Ligue 1 finish as well as regularly finding the net in both the Champions League and Europa League. His impressive pre-season form suggests they may have found the 20-goal a season striker they’ve been long searching for.

2016-17: 5th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 4th 

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BOURNEMOUTH (80/1)

A top half finish for Eddie Howe’s men for the first time in the club’s history was a tremendous achievement last season; many would say an over-achievement. The trick now is either replicate it or better it.

Backed by a wealthy owner – now a Premier league must have – they have miraculously managed to hold on to their key players as well as adding quality in the form of Asmir Begovic, Jermain Defoe and Nathan Ake, whose loan spell has now been made permanent in a £20m move from Chelsea; their total spending being £30.87m.

The downside, if there is one, to such levels of punching above your weight is that expectations rise commensurately and that now becomes one of Howe’s biggest challenges. Whether they can improve on 2017-18 appears doubtful and success will in truth come in the form of consolidation in the Premier League.

Norwegian international Joshua King was the Cherries’ top scorer last season and has come a long way since his time as a youth player at Manchester United. Much will depend on how he and Defoe can dovetail in Bournemouth’s attack and whether their midfield can create enough chances for the pair to feed off. Tick this particular box and it’ll be another successful season.

2016-17: 9th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 11th 

BRIGHTON (300/1)

The Seagulls were pipped at the post in last season’s Championship race by Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United, who took the title, but there was little to choose between the two teams as they both comfortably secured automatic promotion.

In what will be Brighton’s first ever Premier League campaign, there will inevitably be a very steep learning curve, Chris Hughton has quietly compiled a squad that, amongst a fair sprinkling of quality, has plenty of experience in its ranks.

Hughton has headed to the continent for the quality and has brought in, amongst others, Mathew Ryan from Valencia, and Pascal Gross and Mark Suttner from Ingolstadt; their total spend now up to £30.87m.

Success for Brighton will in truth be to avoid the drop but buoyed by the bounce of promotion they will be looking to taking a few big names down along the way. It’s not an easy start for them though, with Man City up first at the Amex, and they’ll be hoping their baptism of fire doesn’t turn ugly and dent the confidence going forward.

Much will depend on now last season’s Championship Player of the Year Anthony Knockaert can adapt to the requirements of the Premier League. The former Leicester winger will almost certainly feel he has a point to prove having never been given a chance at the highest level, and will be hoping to get close to his 15 goals of last season. If he can achieve that the Seagulls will likely have had a good   season.

2016-17: 2nd (Championship, automatic promotion)

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 19th 

BURNLEY (250/1)

Sean Dyche performed a near miracle in keeping the Clarets in the division last season, especially as they did so having won only a single away game. Their form at Turf Moor was exceptional and they will need something similar this time round if they are to repeat or even improve upon last season’s achievement.

Dyche will know that expectations have risen as a result of last season’s heroics and that the second season is a doubly difficult one, especially as he’s lost two of his best players in Michael Keane – who joined Everton – and Andre Gray, who has gone to Watford in a £18m deal.

In terms of new additions, Jon Walters and Jack Cork will bring with them much-needed Premier League experience and Dyche will need both to contribute if the Clarets are to survive; a modest spend of £11.02m will surely increase before the transfer window closes.

Another player who they will need to step up is Robbie Brady, who arrived at Burnley from Norwich City last season at considerable expense. While the Republic of Ireland international showed a few glimpses of his quality in his 14 league appearances – including a brilliant free kick past Thibaut Courtois in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea – he was largely a disappointment.

A promising pre-season for the former Manchester United youngster is a good start but that form now needs to translate to quality Premier League showings, and Burnley need him to be firing on all cylinders.

2016-17: 16th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 16th 

CHELSEA (3/10)

Despite being the reigning champions Antonio Conte’s Chelsea appears not to be a completely happy ship right now. The Diego Costa saga rumbles on and the fact he’s still technically a Chelsea player has caused problems aplenty behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge.

To have won the Premier League in his first season in English football was an impressive achievement for Conte and for the reasons stated above, for him to repeat the feat in his second season would most definitely exceed it.

In addition to their main competitors for the title strengthening considerably over the summer, Chelsea also have a fixture schedule that includes the Champions League this season – something that will have a significant impact.

The departure of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and the impending departure of Diego Costa will require a tweak or two in their playing style, and the imbedding of new players may take time. Also there’s an injury to Eden Hazard, which will cause him to miss the first few weeks of the season, so it’s been far from plain sailing in the King’s Road.

On the plus side they finally managed to bring in Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid for £70m and also acquired the services of Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco and Antonio Rudiger from Roma; their total spend now up to £126m.

Morata is the key signing though and if the two-time Champions League winner can hit the ground running, the void left by Diego Costa will be quickly filled.

2016-17: 1st

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 2nd 

CRYSTAL PALACE (80/1)

With Frank de Boer now in charge at Selhurst Park, replacing Sam Allardyce, there is a culture change underway in south London. The former Ajax and Inter coach has made clear his intention to bring a different philosophy to the club and has started this transition by bringing in Netherlands international Jairo Riedewald, as well Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea.

The rest of the Palace squad has remained largely intact and with the new additions Palace fans will be optimistic about their chances of improving on last year’s 14th-place, albeit one would expend their current spend of £8.1m to increase before the window closes.

Again they will be largely reliant on Belgium international Christian Benteke for their goals and will be hoping he can improve further on his 15 goals in 36 league appearances last season.  Now 26, the former Liverpool player has matured into an accomplished Premier League striker and will be central to de Boer’s Selhurst revolution.

2016-17: 14th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 17th 

EVERTON (10/1)

In his first season at Goodison, Ronald Koeman secured Europa League football for the Toffees, and in order to take the club to the next level he must now have the top four in his sights.

With wealthy owners who are prepared to splash the cash and funds available from the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, Koeman will be looking to further bolster his squad and has already brought in a few high quality additions. Former Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and ex-Barcelona forward Sandro Ramirez are among those to join the ranks during the summer, along with Michael Keane from Burnley. A total spend to date of £88.2m pits them among the league’s big spenders.

The biggest profile arrival of course has been Wayne Rooney – who brought to an end a 13-year spell at Manchester United to return to his roots – and there will be plenty of hype and spotlight surrounding the man who originally made his breakthrough as a teenager at Goodison Park.

The former England captain, who will be 32 in October, suffered a downturn in form in his final two seasons at Old Trafford, but has now been offered a fresh start and will be expected to spearhead the Toffees quest for a Champions League place.

Final 2016-17 position: 7th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 7th 

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (500/1)

To have reached the Premier League in the first place on a relative shoestring was a phenomenal achievement for the Terriers; to stay there will be an even greater challenge for David Wagner and his troops.

The club’s first season in the Premier League will require every ounce of savvy from the German, plus the squad will need to collectively punch above their weight. But don’t write them off. They overcame the odds last season and have enough about them to do it again.

Wagner is an energetic presence and has bought wisely in the transfer market with Laurent Depoitre having joined from Porto, Steve Mounie from Montpellier for a club record £11.5m, while Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy has made a permanent switch from Manchester City. The Huddersfield boss needs all three to have an immediate impact having splashed out £38.79m to date,

Mooy was a key performer for Wagner in their promotion campaign and his ability to dictate the pace of games from the centre of midfield will be a key component again this time round.

2016-17: 5th (Championship, promoted via play-offs)

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 18th

LEICESTER CITY (20/1)

Leicester’s title triumph now feels a distant memory and despite a very decent run in the Champions League the Foxes came crashing down to earth in last season’s Premier League, which also saw the departure of Claudio Ranieri.

Ranier’s departure mid-way through the season came as the atmosphere around the club became toxic, but Craig Shakespeare managed to revitalise the team and steer them away to safety.

To date Shakespeare has spent a whopping £52.83m and, while uncertainty remains over the future of  Riyad Mahrez, he has bolstered his squad with the signing of three-time Europa League winner Vicente Iborra and Kelechi Iheanacho, from Manchester City.

It’s difficult to envisage a renewed assault on the Premier League title, but they will be able to perform free of the media glare that was fixed on them as defending champions and also will be without the unrelenting schedule that the Champions League brings with it.

The signing of Iheanacho is an interesting one and they have arguably secured the services of one of the brightest prospects in the Premier League.

The 20-year-old Nigerian international has already proved himself to be clinical in front of goal, scoring 17 goals  for Manchester City over the course of the last two seasons despite featuring predominantly from the bench. He’ll be key to Leicester’s prospects and will share the goalscoring load with Jamie Vardy.

2016-17: 12th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 10th 

LIVERPOOL (Evens)

The Reds quest for a major trophy goes on and even the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp has been unable so far to bring the big trophies to Anfield. Yet there’s a sense that the good times are around the corner and a fourth place last season was a sign or real progress.

Off the field the summer has been dominated by the Philippe Coutinho saga – the latest being that the Brazilian has handed in a transfer request – but still Klopp has been busy, not least with the signing of Mohamed Salah from Roma.

The Egyptian is regarded as a winger but one with an eye for goal; his goalscoring record in Serie A and with the Egypt national team is exceptional, and will lessen the burden on Sadio Mane and , if he stays, Coutinho. If the latter does depart, Klopp will need to act quickly and decisively to bring more goals to his squad and expect their current summer spend of £45.9m to soon increase massively.

Klopp will feel that a top-three finish is within his side’s grasp but squad depth remains an issue and he’ll be hoping for more luck on the injury front this time round in order to achieve such lofty aspirations.

The need for Salah to hit the ground running is obvious; so too the need to increase the firepower options if Coutinho does indeed head to Barcelona. But if these boxes can be ticked the season could yet be another step forward for the Merseyside giants.

2016-17: 4th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 6th

The English Premier League 201718 preview & tips – Man City to West Ham

MANCHESTER CITY (1/5)

Pep Guardiola’s failure to deliver a Premier League title in his first season in the Man City hot seat was regarded by many as a failure, especially given the almost bottomless pit of money at his disposal, and his paymasters are unlikely to settle for another third place.

But the Spaniard is now familiar with what it takes to win the Premier League and having spent a ludicrous £216.45m this summer he’ll feel his squad is now well equipped to top more than just the spending charts.

A major squad overhaul has taken place and a host of established names have left to make way for some big incoming names like Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Ederson and Bernardo Silva. The net result is a stronger, more balanced squad that will set them up perfectly to challenge for honours on several fronts.

Key too will be keeping the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva fit, in addition to having a fit again Gabriel Jesus back in the squad, which will be a lot like having a new player.

The young Brazilian scored seven goals in 10 league appearances last season, but his debut campaign was cut frustratingly short by a foot injury and he’ll be looking to play a full part in City’s title charge this season.

2016-17: 3rd

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 1st

MANCHESTER UTD (33/100)

Jose Mourinho guided United to League Cup, Europa League glory and Champions League football in his first season in the Old Trafford dugout but will be hoping to go one better this time round. His managerial CV is one long list of league titles and he’ll be hoping to continue that impressive run.

What he’ll need to do to achieve this is to increase his side’s potency in front of goal without compromising one of the best defences in the division. As part of this quest for more attacking thrust Jose has brought in Romelu Lukaku from Everton at great expense but of equal importance in terms of his squad upgrade is the arrival of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea; their total spend being £147.96m.

And the signs are good for Utd, having enjoyed a successful pre-season and they’ll be keen to hit the ground running and not let any of their rivals steal an early march on them.

Key to their progression will be the performances of Paul Pogba who despite arriving last summer for a then world-record fee did not live up to expectations. The French international scored just nine goals in all competitions, but did not dictate games in a manner befitting his price tag. Utd fans will be hoping his friendship with Lukaku will inspire both to deliver the goods, and the early signs are good.

2016-17: 6th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 3rd

NEWCASTLE UNITED (80/1)

Rafa Benitez ensured Newcastle bounced straight back from the disappointment of relegation at the first time of asking by winning the Championship, and will be hoping to see the Magpies push on now.

While survival will be the main aim, the Toon Army will be hoping for something a little better and, while they’ve left their business late, the Newcastle squad now looks strong enough to at least compete with those outside the league’s top six.

Christian Atsu has joined the Toon permanently from Chelsea having spent the 2016-17 season there on loan and Javier Manquillo has signed from Atletico Madrid, both giving the Magpies a major boost for 2017-18. Jacob Murphy too has arrived from Norwich and will add some further attacking thrust to Rafa’s attacking options; the club’s summer spend now up to £30.42m.

Goals will of course be harder to come by in the PL and for that reason they’ll continue to look to Ayoze Perez and Dwight Gayle to keep them flowing. Their success, or otherwise, in doing so will be crucial to Newcastle’s season.

2016-17: 1st (Championship, automatic promotion)

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 12th

SOUTHAMPTON (20/1)

Mauricio Pellegrino will lead Southampton into the 2017-18 season having replaced Claude Puel as manager during the summer and there is a sense of the unknown attached to the former Alaves boss, who was previously assistant to Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and Inter Milan.

Even though the Saints reached the final of the League Cup and finished a respectable eighth, Puel’s services were dispensed with and so there will be extra pressure on Pellegrino to deliver.

The uncertainty around Virgil van Dijk’s future at St Mary’s has made for a feeling of uneasiness but they have a solid core to their squad, to which Pellegrino has added Polish defender Jan Bednarek; their total summer spend to date being £20.7m.

Nathan Redmond enjoyed an impressive debut season after joining from Norwich and Saints will be hoping he raises his game further in 2017-18 to get himself in the frame for England.

Having previously excelled with the Canaries, the 23-year-old displayed his attacking prowess by scoring seven goals in 37 league appearances for the Saints last time out and can play a central role for the club this season.

2016-17: 8th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 9th

STOKE CITY (80/1)

Stoke have seen a number of key personnel depart over the summer and much will depend on how Mark Hughes can reshape his squad to cope with the gaps they have left.

So far Marko Arnautovic has left for West Ham, Jon Walters has signed for Burnley and Glenn Whelan has joined Aston Villa. What Hughes has done however is bring in five-time Premier League winner Darren Fletcher from West Brom and the 33-year-old will add a much-needed winning mentality to their midfield.

Having finished ninth for three consecutive seasons, last year’s 13th-place finish was a disappointment and Hughes will have to show the club’s owners an improvement as he enters his fifth campaign as Potters’ boss. Fletcher arrived on a free and Hughes is yet to spend a pound this summer in transfer fees.

Much will continue to depend on the form of Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, widely recognised as the most talented player in the Stoke squad, and he’ll be key to their hopes of securing a top-half finish.

2016-17: 13th

IntenseGambling’s predicted 2017-18 position: 13th

Llorente turns away after firing Swansea into the lead

SWANSEA (150/1)

Last season was the Swans’ worst-ever in the Premier League as they finished 15th after only just managing to pull themselves clear of the relegation zone.

Paul Clement brought stability to a team that had been in disarray following the tenures of Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley, and ultimately delivered on his original remit.

Much of the summer has been taken up with trying to resist overtures from Everton and others over star player Gylfi Sigurdsson, but for now the Iceland international remains at the club. If he stays it will be a major boost heading into the new campaign.

Clement has, in addition to retaining the services of Sigurdsson (for now), strengthened his squad with the addition of Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham on loan, while Spanish midfielder Roque Mesa has joined from La Liga outfit Las Palmas.

Abraham has a bright future ahead of him and the 19-year-old demonstrated his goalscoring prowess while on loan at Bristol City last season, scoring 23 goals for the Championship club. A tall and powerful forward, Abraham must add potency to a strike force that managed just 45 league goals last term if the Swans are to survive again.

2016-17: 15th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 20th

TOTTENHAM (3/4)

Unlike their rivals, Spurs have not made any fresh signings ahead of the new season and they head into the campaign weakened by the loss of Kyle Walker to Manchester City.

But squad cohesion and familiarity will not be a problem for Spurs and they look more likely than any of their rivals to be able to hit the ground running. They proved a formidable team last season, pushed Chelsea all the way and with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son combining to create one of the most effective attacking units in Europe they will again be a force.

Their biggest hurdle however is likely to be nothing to do with their rivals but more to do with their temporary home. A transitional season, while the White Hart Lane site sees the finishing of a brand new stadium, means Wembley is home, and a difficult time there in last season’s Champions League doesn’t bode well.

Much again rests on the shoulders of Kane, and it goes without saying that he will be key to their ambitions of winning the league. He’s claimed the Golden Boot in the last two campaigns and will need to be there or thereabouts again.

2016-17: 2nd

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 5th

WATFORD (200/1)

This time round its Marco Silva turn to attempt to steer Watford clear of relegation after he took the reins from Walter Mazzarri at the end of last season. And the former Hull manager has a tough task.

They narrowly avoided the drop last season but have added a number of players in a bid to prevent themselves from being sucked into this season’s relegation battle. Former Manchester Utd midfielder Tom Cleverley has signed from Everton, Spanish right-back Kiko Femenia will add competition in defence and England Under-21 midfielder Will Hughes has joined  from Derby County. It total they have spent a whopping £51.75m.

Etienne Capoue’s combative skills will again be central to their quest for mid-table safety and the French international will be a key figure for the Hornets. The ex-Tottenham and Toulouse player also chips in with important goals and scored seven league last season, including a strike in the crucial win over Manchester Utd.

2016-17: 17th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: position: 14th

WEST BROM (100/1)

Tony Pulis’ West Brom were comfortable for most of last season but ended on a downward curve, losing seven of their final 10 fixtures.

They still managed however to finish in the top half, and the Baggies will be aiming to avoid a repeat of their end-of-season form this time round. Pulis, who has just signed a new contract, will demand his players do not take their foot off the pedal as they strive for another top half finish. To date they have spent £18.81m this summer.

The signing of Jay Rodriguez from Southampton will take some pressure off Venezuelan Salomon Rondon to score most of their goals and the 28-year-old will hope to add more goals to his game following his successful return from a long-term injury.

Rondon, West Brom’s top goalscorer last season, will however remain the focal point of the Baggies’ attack in the upcoming campaign and will be looking to dovetail effectively with Rodriguez.

2016-17: 10th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 15th

WEST HAM (35/1)

Slaven Bilic came under a lot of pressure last season and the Croatian will be keen to improve the Hammers’ league position this time round.

He has brought in several new faces to try and achieve this and propel the club towards a European place. So far Joe Hart has arrived on loan from Manchester City, Pablo Zabaleta has also moved south from the Etihad and they paid £20m for Austria international Marko Arnautovic from Stoke; their spend to date being £38.79m.

Crucially Bilic has also landed former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who at the age of 29 comes armed with loads of  Premier League quality and experience..

If Hernandez hit double figures, just as he did in his first three seasons at Utd before falling out of favour, the Hammers can look forward to a productive season.

2016-17: 11th

IntenseGambling’s prediction: 8th

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 – Preview & Tips

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017

Between now and August 26, Ireland will resonate to the sound of the world’s elite women’s rugby teams going toe-to-toe in their quest to be named World Champions 2017.

The tournament, which kicks off in Dublin, is now challenging its male equivalent in terms of profile and hype, and a lot has changed since its humble beginnings back in 1991. It’s also the oddity of being a global rugby competition in which New Zealand are not the runaway favourites.

On this occasion it’s England who begin the tournament as the bookies’ favourites, not least because they are the only professional side of the 12 competitors, and few will be surprised if it’s them lining upon August 26 in Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium in the final.

But if they expect it to be plain sailing then they’re in for a rude awakening with France, Canada and Ireland all making a genuine case as potential trophy winners. Australia too cannot be discounted and will look to advance deep into the tournament’s knock-out stages even though their starting XV is compromised by their continued focus on the sevens format of the game.

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Having won the inaugural Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016, the Aussies have thrown everything at the sport’s reduced-format competitions and in the final countdown may ultimately cost them a place in the last four.

Others who consider themselves outsiders but yet still contenders are Italy, Wales, Spain and the USA – the champions back in 1991 – while, with the best will in world, Japan and Hong Kong will regard progressing beyond the groups stages as a decent degree of progression.

What is guaranteed is that this is by some way the most competitive line-up in the tournament’s history.

England begin their Pool B campaign against Spain, who qualified for the tournament by beating Scotland in a play-off, and have opted to rest a number of senior players in the opener with a view to keeping them fresh for tougher tests that lie ahead. Twelve of the England team who will face Spain are making their World Cup debuts and so it’s one that coach Simon Middleton is using to help his team find their tournament feet.

For England, said tougher tests are not likely to arrive until the knockout stages, with Italy and the USA making up their pool, and while they initially find themselves based in Dublin, it will all really kick off when the relocate to Belfast for the semi-final stage.

Pools A and C are far more difficult to call, especially when you consider that only the pool winners go through to the semis automatically, with the best runner-up in the three groups also making it through to the last four.

Pool A is particularly intriguing with New Zealand, winners of four consecutive World Cups from 1998 to 2010, coming up against Canada, the losing finalist to England last time out in 2014. Wales and Hong Kong make up the group and while the Welsh have enough in their country’s rugby heritage to make life difficult for their opponents it’s all about the big two – one of whom could miss out on a semi-final place.

And Pool C pits the French, the Irish and the aforementioned Australians against each other, with Japan also in there looking to spring an upset along the way. Again we’re set for a battle royal with the format meaning that no games are ‘nothing’ games. Some big team are going to bite dust in this pool.

What the format has also ensured is that the action in the group stages will come thick and fast in what will be a positive feast of rugby for the watching pubic in Ireland and the traveling fans. In a manic three days of action, six matches are scheduled for Wednesday, another six on Sunday and six more next Thursday, which is when New Zealand meet Canada and Ireland face France.

Before that, however, on opening day the hosts entertain Australia in the pick of the opening matches at University College Dublin, while the New Zealand Black Ferns, buoyed by the return of sevens specialist Portia Woodman, find themselves up against Wales in what will be an early test for both. The previously imperious New Zealand failed to reach the knockout stages three years ago, while the Welsh are steadily improving so it could be closer than some expect.

Elsewhere, Japan and Hong Kong, who come up against Canada and France respectively, will be hoping to emerge with at least their confidence still intact, while the USA go toe-to-toe with Italy in the day’s other fixture.

So, the scene is set for some thrilling rugby with the big question being if anyone can stop the English retaining their title, the key to which is how others can cope with the Red Roses’ powerful set piece.

We’re about to find out.

Recommended Bets:

New Zealand to win the tournament @ 6/4 with Betfair
Australia to beat Ireland (9th Aug) @7/2 with Betfair

English Football League 2017/18 – Preview & Tips

English Football League 2017/18 – Preview & Tips

For some the summer break is all too short but for those who are champing at the bit for a return of the Football League the wait is finally over.

Fans of the Premier League have another week to wait but fans of Championship, League One and League Two teams it’s all systems go as this weekend marks the start of the 2017/18 season. And for those who fancy a bet on who will be at the top and bottom of the tables in May now is the time to put your money on before some odd early results skew the odds.

The Championship

Middlesbrough, armed with a squad that failed miserably in the Premier League but which has been bolstered by some expensive summer signings – particularly in the striking department with the additions of Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Jonathan Kodjia – are the bookies’ favourites, and with good reason. At 6/1 to win it, with 888sport, they are fairly priced; unlike Aston Villa who at 7/1 appear to have hypnotised the bookies with John Terry syndrome. Villa will undoubtedly be better than last season but the loss of Kodjia will hit them hard in the goal scoring department. Fulham at 8/1 look better value.

Even better value can be found in the ‘top six finish’ market with over half of the teams in the division in with a genuine chance of getting in the playoff places. For those looking for an outsider, Reading at 9/4 with BetFred look a good bet considering they were in last season’s playoffs; Sheffield Utd too (7/2) have all the credentials for a push from League One champions to Championship contenders.

At the opposite end of the table, poor old Burton again find themselves labelled by the bookies as the division’s over-achievers and 7/5 with 188Bet looks harsh. They’re a gritty, determined, well-drilled team and don’t be surprised if the consolidate their Championship status. Interestingly, Ipswich Town – about to embark on their 16th consecutive season in the Championship – have whetted the bookies’ appetite with regard to a relegation fight, and given their ongoing struggles both on and off the pitch 11/4 for them to go down is not the worst bet in the world. QPR too are threatening to be a big club who find themselves in the mix at the wrong end of the table.

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League One

Blackburn are the division’s big fish and but for a catastrophe of a massive scale should be there or thereabouts come next May. Tony Mowbray took over in the new year and his point-per-game ratio would have good enough for safety if he’d been in situ earlier. The club’s owners, Venky’s, have invested in a way they failed to in the Championship and all things point to a good season. At 4/1 with BetFred there are worse bets out there but the value looks to be with a resurgent Portsmouth at 9/1, who tick all the boxes for a fast-track from League Two to Championship. Bradford and Wigan also figure highly in the betting for the title and neither can be ignored.

In terms of the race for the top six, Charlton and Oxford both offer a tantalising potential return at 5/1, and Peterborough at 11/2 should not be disregarded either.

The race to beat the drop to League Two is a really tough one to call although the bookies seem certain that Oldham will be in that unhealthy mix; as short as evens in some books. Much will depend on how they address their lack of goals between now and the close of the transfer window. Plymouth at 4/1 are arguably the value bet for the punters, although it’s a long shot and if there were a market for mid-table that would be equally attractive.

League Two

In the heart of the boondocks – where many argue the heart and soul of football lies – the Steve Evans factor has propelled Mansfield to the forefront of the bookies’ thoughts. While only finishing 12th last season, this summer has seen a massive turnover in the playing department with 13 new signings; many of whom are considered accomplished players at higher levels. As a result they are going to be strong – no question – and at 5/1 to win the title they’ll appeal to many. Closely following them in the book for champions are Luton – who will indeed be pushing them close – but the real story is around third and fourth in the betting.

Lincoln City, off the back of last season’s promotion and FA Cup exploits will naturally expect the glare of publicity on them and have a good young management team and squad; the big question being will they be able to utilise the momentum from last season in a positive way. At 12/1 with Betfred they’re worthy of a modest wager. Coventry – the current epitome of a fallen giant – will be looking to bounce back from a torrid spell on and off the pitch and in Mark Robins have a manager capable of steadying the ship and some. At 10/1 they too are outsiders but still worthy of consideration.

The race for the top six, those mentioned above aside, brings the likes of Cambridge, Notts County and Chesterfield into play; the former in particular looking a good bet at 4/1 under the stewardship of Shaun Derry. But all three offer reasonable value to the punter.

As ever the battle to stay in the Football League will be tense, nervy and riddled with danger. The bookies have it down as a four-horse race between Morecambe, Crawley, Yeovil and Newport County but it would be no surprise if Cheltenham – after a summer that’s seen many changes – were to get dragged into the relegation mire. They’ll rely heavily on the experience of manager Gary Johnson to steer them through what could be some fairly choppy League Two waters this season. For the punter, at 7/1 to be relegated they may be a little tempting for all the wrong reasons.

Recommende Bets

Fulham @ 8/1 to win the Championship (888sport)
Ipswich @ 11/4 to get relegated from the Championship (888sport)
Peterborough @ 11/2 to make the League One playoffs (Betfred)
Lincoln City @ 12/1 to win League Two (Betfred)

World Athletics Championship London 2017 – Preview & Tips

World Athletics Championship London 2017 – Preview & Tips

It’s nearly five years since the greatest show on Earth shook London’s Olympic Stadium to its very foundations in an unforgettable Olympics that saw, amongst many others, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Usain Bolt race to glory as they competed against track and fields’ elite.

And the same stadium is braced to do it all again, when, for ten days starting on Friday, it plays host to the 16th IAAF World Championships. It’s an event that began in Helsinki in 1983 and has grown into the sport’s second biggest showcase.

In August 2015 they were held in Beijing, China, where a record 1931 athletes from 207 national federations competed to go faster, further and higher than any other athlete in the world. Interestingly, Kenya topped the medal table for the first time in its history, winning 16 medals in total of which seven were gold. The USA, who have topped the medal table on ten occasions, had be content with third place in the table behind the Jamaicans.

In addition to the London crowd being thrilled by the world’s greatest, some of whom they hope will be from their own shores, there will be at least a couple of occasions for them to celebrate. And that’s because a couple of retrospective medals will be presented during the Championships.

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will be one recipient, when she receives a gold relating to the heptathlon in the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu. At the time she was awarded silver but it’s since transpired that the Russian athlete who beat her was a drug cheat. Therefore Jess will be officially awarded the third outdoor world title of her glittering career, ahead of session five on the evening of August 6.

And GB’s 10,000m runner Jo Pavey will receive her first ever World Championships medal when she picks up a bronze that dates back to Osaka in 2007. In similar circumstances to Ennis-Hill, she was denied her rightful medal by a drug cheat but a decade on that wrong is about to be righted. The original bronze medallist Kara Goucher of the USA will be promoted to silver.

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Bolt’s Farewell

The pre-meeting talk has pretty much centred on the fact a certain gent called Usain Bolt is running in his final World Championships and, understandably, it’s something that has occupied column inches and web pages aplenty. Yet, while it’s a seminal moment in the world of sprinting – the pending retirement of the fastest man who ever lived can’t pass without something of a kerfuffle– there are nearly two thousand athletes who are focussed on anything but Bolt’s final hurrah.

No Rudisha

One defending champion who won’t be competing in London is 800m world record holder David Rudisha who has pulled out of the Championships with a quad muscle strain.

The 28-year-old Kenyan is the only person to ever run under one minute 41 seconds for the event and won gold in London at the 2012 Olympics and again in Rio last year. Despite only two weeks ago claiming to be “excited” to return to London, where he set the 800m world record of one minute 40.91 seconds five years ago, he’s picked up a training injury and will not be there to dazzle the London crowd. Although ranked only 19th in the world this year, he would still have been one of the favourites to win a third successive gold medal at the ‘Worlds’.

In Rudisha’s absence, fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Korir and Botswana’s Nijel Amos are expected to battle for the gold medal.

No Jess, but Katarina could win Heptathlon for the Brits

While Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will be there to collect her 2011 gold, at 8-months pregnant and now retired she won’t be wowing the home crowd on the track and field. That task now belongs to Katarina Johnson-Thompson; the latest in a long line of high quality multi-event athletes to be produced from the shores of the UK.

And she’ll be looking to put the disappointment of Beijing behind her – when her bid for glory was blown by no-marking in the long jump – and having made changes and steps forwards since then, she registered a lifetime best score back in May. With a noisy home crowd behind her she has a chance and has the ability to push Belgium’s current Olympic champion Nafi Thiam all the way.

Fastest Women on Earth

All eyes will be on the men’s 100m for obvious reasons but for one of the titanic battles of the championships week look no further than the women’s 100m.

With women’s sprinting in rude health it will be a captivating event for the London crowd as double Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica – who enters the event in scintillating form as the world’s quickest female100m athlete – takes on Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers and USA’s Olympic silver medallist Tori Bowie. The trio are fierce competitors and rivals and are promising fireworks.

For the home crowd there are another trio of athletes behind whom they’ll be sure to offer their vocal backing. GB’s Desiree Henry, Asha Philip and Daryll Neita – three of GB’s bronze medal-winning 4x100m quartet from Rio2012 – will all look to perform well in their home city. Philip, at 26 the most experienced athlete of the group, was victorious at the European Indoor Championships over 60m and so has some decent form behind her, while Henry is ranked no.1 in the UK and Neita, at just 20, is fast improving and will gain from the experience.

The above is but a snapshot of what’s on offer over what promised to be a thrilling ten days of competition; the timetable of which can be found on the IAAF’s official site.

Recommended Bets:

To win Men’s 100m: Yohan Blake – 5/1
To win Heptathlon:  Katarina Johnson-Thompson – 13/2
To win Men’s 110m Hurdles: Sergey Shubenkov – 9/2
To win Decathlon: Trey Hardee – 9/2

UFC Fight Night 114: Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno

UFC Fight Night 114 Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno

The UFC returns to Mexico City, Mexico on 5 August with an event packed with nine rising Mexican mixed martial artists. Brandon Moreno (14-3) acts as the local star in a bout between two young UFC flyweight prospects when he goes up against Sergio Pettis (15-2) in the main event.

Sergio Pettis has put together a three-win streak with consecutive unanimous decision victories over John Moraga, Chris Kelades and Chris Cariaso. MMA fans have long been waiting for Sergio Pettis to make his move up the UFC’s flyweight rankings and his decisive victory over John Moraga pushed him all the way up to #6.

Brandon Moreno arrived on the scene after featuring on The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions. Moreno was the designated #16 (and last) seed in the tournament but challenged #1 seed Alexandre Pantoja in an exciting first-round affair. Since then, the UFC signed him and put him up on a late-notice fight with Louis Smolka. Moreno went on to defeat Smolka, Ryan Benoit and Dustin Ortiz and has bounced all the way up to #7 in the UFC’s rankings.

The co-main event features Alexa Grasso, a Mexican fan-favorite in a battle with Randa Markos. Grasso joined the UFC as a highly-touted 23-year-old prospect and won her debut against Heather Clark at UFC Fight Night 88. Grasso’s dream run had come to a halt when she lost a shock unanimous decision victory to Felice Herrig in February this year. Grasso’s opponent, Markos, enters this fight after her best performance in the UFC to date. Markos defeated Carla Esparza via split decision in February after entering as a moderate underdog.

Also featuring on the card are entertaining main card matchups between Alan Jouban and Niko Price, Martin Bravo and Humberto Bandenay, Rashad Evans and Sam Alvey and Alejandro Perez will face Andre Soukhamthath.

Sergio Pettis is one of the more well-rounded fighters in the flyweight division. He’s up against the often wild and reckless Brandon Moreno, who has found a way to win in all three of his contests in the UFC so far. This time, Pettis will out work with him technically sound striking.

Recommended Bet:

Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno
Sunday 6th August – 1:00 am (ET) /  5:00am GMT
Sergio Pettis to Win (+175, 7/4, $2.75) 

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Main Card – 10pm ET / 2am GMT

Sergio Pettis vs Brandon Moreno – Main Event

Randa Markos vs Alexa Grasso – Co-Main Event

Alan Jouban vs Niko Price

Martin Bravo vs Humberto Bandenay

Sam Alvey vs Rashad Evans

Alejandro Perez vs Andre Soukhamthath

Prelims – 8pm ET / 12am GMT

Bradley Scott vs Jack Hermansson

Dustin Ortiz vs Hector Sandoval

Henry Briones vs Rani Yahya

Jose Quinonez vs Diego Rivas

Fight Pass Prelims –7pm ET / 11pm GMT

Joseph Morales vs Roberto Sanchez

Alvaro Herrera vs Jordan Rinaldi

Hungarian F1 Grand Prix – Preview & Tips

Hungarian F1 Grand Prix

Events at Silverstone have stirred things up nicely at the top of the drivers’ championship  and it’s very much all to play for as this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix marks Formula 1’s traditional summer break. The teams have one last chance to bag a big result before the mid-summer hiatus and things couldn’t be more finely poised with just a single point separating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings.

In terms of the constructors’ standings , events in the English countryside played very much into the hands of Mercedes and despite Ferrari attributing their disappointing weekend to the poor performance of their tyres there’s no doubting it will have led to much soul-searching in the Italian garage.

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A Wounded Ferrari

But expect a Ferrari fightback. They’ll not want to go into the summer break on a downward curve and will be pulling out all the stops to get Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in the podium places at the Hungaroring.

Ironically the changes to the Ferrari car that were made ahead of Silverstone were met with approval by both drivers and the Finn commented after the race that the changes ‘improved the feeling’ of their car and that the Hungarian track should suit it.

Ferrari need a strong performance, not just to earn some points but to re-establish themselves in the championship battle and it’d be a brave punter who would bet against it.

Cock-a Hoop Mercedes

By contrast Mercedes departed Silverstone on a high, and not just because of their impressive 1-2. The gap at the top of the drivers’ championship is now negligible and in the fight for the constructors’ title they lead by a whopping 55 points. Even at this stage of the season, it’s theirs to lose. And more bad news for Ferrari – they too think the Budapest track will suit them.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff observed post-Silverstone that while the planets aligned for the team in England it is all about ‘future performance’ and there’ll be no complacency or let up in intensity in their garage; the focus remaining on preparation and eye for detail.

And there are more records in the sights of Lewis Hamilton – winner at the Hungaroring last year – who this weekend will be aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions. Valtteri Bottas too has incentive aplenty to continue his recent good form; something else that has met with Wolff’s approval, who commented after the British Grand Prix that the Finn is ‘getting better with each passing weekend’.

Red Bull Upgrade

Red Bull will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Silverstone that saw Max Verstappen finish one place off the podium and Daniel Ricciardo a place behind him in fifth. This weekend they are using a heavily revised aero package that they believe will enable the F1 world to see the ‘real’ RB13 for the first time this year.

Problems to date have largely centred around rear-end grip but as the season has progressed this has become a diminishing problem and the balance has been reportedly improving all the time. And they hope this weekend to reap the full benefits of the work of their engineers, and to see an end to their the grip problems.

Ricciardo has been typically bullish when contemplating the Hungarian circuit and claims it to be a circuit that ‘always seems to suit us’, while Max Verstappen has been his usual more cautious self, sensibly awaiting the impact of the updates on the car’s pace before declaring Hungary as his new favourite circuit.

McLaren Optimism

For McLaren it’s been little short of a nightmare season but they believe that the Hungarian Grand Prix will give them their best opportunity of the season so far for scoring some decent points, particularly with Fernando Alonso having earned a very creditable fifth place one year ago. And with the Spaniard having accepted a whole range of grid penalties at Silverstone – a total of 30 places in for use of additional power unit elements – with the sole intention of doing well in Hungary, McLaren’s hopes are high.

The short, twisty lay-out of the Hungaroring does indeed offer a chance to those cars that are unable to generate the out-and-out power of the Ferraris and Mercedes and so, on that basis, the optimism of the McLaren team appears justified. Key for McLaren however, as always, is reliability and Alonso has been at pains this week to point that out.

They’ll be praying for a trouble-free, point-scoring weekend.

Buoyant Renault

Renault were buoyed by Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth place at Silverstone, albeit it was tempered by Jolyon Palmer’s early exit due to a hydraulic O-ring failure on lap one. But the mood is still positive in the garage with Palmer expressing a liking to the Budapest track dating back to his GP2 days.

Aerodynamically the team have made major strides with their set-up, with grip and stability significantly improved since the implementation of a new floor. In Hungary their garage are also evaluating a new nose and cooling package.

Renault will be hoping that all of the above equates to points on the board because in the constructors’ championship they have their sights firmly set on Williams’, who currently sit in fifth place – just fifteen points ahead of them.  Also in the mix for fifth place are Toro Roso and Haas on 33 and 30 points respectively.

New-look Sauber

For Sauber, currently a lowly ninth in the constructors’ championship, it’s a case of banking on some off-track changes to make greater use of that Ferrari powerpack. They have appointed a new team boss, Fred Vasseur, and will be hoping his influence will rub off on all those around him as they also look to implement a big aerodynamic update to the car.

Recent major technical upgrades in Barcelona and Monaco – to the floor, bargeboards, brake ducts and bodywork and – were considered very successful and they’ll be hoping the latest one, which involves the bodywork and cooling system, will have a similarly positive effect.

With a new floor due for Belgium after the summer break, they are a team with a plan but will be hoping these improvements manifest themselves into some regular top ten finishes for both cars.

The Track

The Hungaroring is notoriously hard on tyres and so Pirelli are offering the same options as 2016.  Although it is a permanent circuit it has plenty in common with the street circuits in the F1 calendar, such as tight and twisty corners, low grip, and a requirement for high downforce.

The weather in Budapest in late July can be extremely hot, which only serves to increase the degradation of the tyres.

It’s renowned as a circuit that makes overtaking difficult – another common factor with street circuits – and so race strategy is critical; as is the data collection process on Friday and Saturday that assists qualifying and race day.

The track itself is 4.381 km (2.722 mile) and was resurfaced completely for last year’s race. A few areas have been changed for this year’s. It will begin at 1400 hours local time (1300 BST) and be run over 70 laps or 306.630 km (190.553 miles).

Tips

Hamilton is the bookies’ clear favourite to secure another maximum and they clearly feel his momentum after the British Grand Prix is unstoppable. At Evens (with Betfred) the chance to double your money is reasonably attractive, but there’s value elsewhere.

Vettel at 7/2 to win the race looks a decent bet, particularly given the Ferrari bounce that is expected to be there this weekend. Even more attractive is Ferrari at 11/4 to win the team race, but this does rely on a focussed Raikkonen getting amongst the podium chasers.

Red Bull is another team with a huge incentive to bounce back in Hungary and Verstappen to win the race at 15/2 looks a reasonable bet for those who steer clear of the short-priced favourites.

Interestingly the Red Bull’s straight line speed makes it a relatively short 2/1 when picking the team that will post the fastest lap but with Ricciardo and Verstappen at the wheel this is something well within their grasp.

The bet on a podium finish also offers value as it enables the punter to steer clear of the Mercedes/Ferrari powerhouses, and Raikkonen at 5/2 looks excellent value, especially given his third place at Silverstone.

Recommended Bets:

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel – 7/2
Fastest lap:  Daniel Ricciardo – 7/2
Podium finish: Kimi Raikkonen – 5/2

UFC 214: Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones

UFC 214: Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones – Betting Preview, Prediction and Best Bets

Cancel your plans for June 29, trust me. This is the day of UFC 214, an event in which Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones stand toe-to-toe for the second time in a battle between two of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. If that’s not enticing enough, then surely the two other UFC championship fights will tip you over the edge. The UFC pay-per-view event will be broadcasted around the world from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones is billed as the headline bout for UFC 214 in a contest for the UFC light heavyweight championship. Daniel Cormier is the current champion of the division after winning the title that had been stripped away from Jon Jones in 2015 for his involvement in a hit-and-run incident. Jones has since been fighting a difficult battle to get back inside the octagon and this fight with Cormier will mark only the second time that Jon Jones has been in the octagon since the two battled it out in January 2015 at UFC 182.

Jiu-jitsu genius Demian Maia has earned his shot at Tyron Woodley and the UFC welterweight title in the co-main event of UFC 214. Maia has dominated everybody in his path to the UFC championship and his seven-fight win streak includes wins over Carlos Condit, Gunnar Nelson and Jorge Masvidal. Tyron Woodley enters the octagon for the third time since winning the UFC welterweight title from Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. Woodley enters this one after consecutive fights with Stephen Thompson that resulted in a majority draw and majority decision victory.

The UFC women’s featherweight championship is also up for grabs when Cris Cyborg meets Tonya Evinger at UFC 214. Cyborg was originally scheduled to meet Megan Anderson at this event but Anderson withdrew from the fight citing “pressing personal issues”.

Also featuring on the main card is an extremely exciting matchup between Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone and an important light heavyweight matchup between Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir.

The best bet for UFC 214 is a relatively safe selection that backs Tyron Woodley to defeat Demian Maia by KO/TKO. Tyron Woodley is an extremely bad matchup for Demian Maia and his defensive wrestling will prove too difficult for Demian Maia to surpass. Maia, who is then forced to shoot for desperate takedowns in order to set up his submission game, will be exposed to a heavy-hitting Tyron Woodley.

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Recommended Bet:

Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia
Tyron Woodley to Win by KO/TKO
Saturday 29th July – 11:00 pm (ET) /  3:00am GMT
Odds: (-111, 9/10, $1.90) 

UFC 214 – Schedule and Start Time

Main Card (Fox) – 10pm ET / 2am GMT

Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones

Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia

Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger

Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone

Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir

Preliminary Card (Fox) – 8pm ET / 12am GMT

Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight

Renan Barao vs. Aljamain Sterling

Brian Ortega vs. Renato Carneiro

Andre Fili vs. Calvin Kattar

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass) – 6:30pm ET / 10:30pm GMT

Jarred Brooks vs. Eric Shelton

Kailin Curran vs. Aleksandra Albu

Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober

Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017

Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017

Vienna will become the unlikely capital of the beach volleyball world this week when the FIVB sets up its nets ready for the Beach Volleyball World Championships, which will run from July 28 – August 6.

For ten days the Austrian capital will be the sport’s HQ, hosting all of the group games and the finals in a purpose-built volleyball arena on the Danube Island.

It is the first time Vienna has played host to the sport’s biggest event outside the Olympics, and it will entertain the world’s best 48 women’s and 48 men’s teams who will fight for the title of world champions and the record prize money of $1million.

The Championship format is that, in both competitions, the 48 teams are split into six seeded pools with the top two automatically qualifying for the Round of 32. The remaining four places in that round will be taken by four ‘lucky losers’, who will qualify via winning a play-off match.

And from there it’s a straight knock-out, with the winners in the Round of 32 qualifying for the Round of 16 and thereon in there are quarter-finals, semis and the final.

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The Pools:

Women:

Pool A

  • Larissa/Talita (Br)
  • Bieneck/Schneider (Ger)
  • Day/Branagh (USA)
  • Strauss/Holzer (Aut)

Pool B

  • Laboureur/Sude (Ger)
  • Elas/ Amaranta (Sp)
  • Lidy/Leila (Cub)
  • Andrea/Gorda (Col)

Pool C

  • Agatha/Duda (Br)
  • Meppelink/Van Gestel (Ned)
  • Gordon/Saxton (Can)
  • Gaudencia/Too (Ken)

Pool D

  • Ludwig/Walkenhorst
  • Borger/Kozuch
  • Glenzke/Grossner
  • Mahassine/Zeroual

POOL E

  • Summer/Sweat (USA)
  • Davidova/Shchypkova (Ukr)
  • Mashkova/Smalikova (Kas)
  • Rimser/Plesiutschnig (Aut)

POOL F

  • Hermannova/Slukova (Cze)
  • Lehtonen/Lahti (Fin)
  • Filippo/Erika (Par)
  • Alfaro/Charles (Cos)

POOL G

  • Pavan/Humana-Parades (Can)
  • Yue/Wang (Ch)
  • Mengatti/Perry (Ita)
  • Flier/Van Iersel (Ned)

POOL H

  • Barbara/Fernanda (Br)
  • Heidrich/Verge-Deprea (Swi)
  • Elize Maia/TaianaLima (Br)
  • Manhica/Muianga (Moz)

POOL I

  • Maria Antonelli/Carol (Br)
  • Hughes/ Claes (USA)
  • Pischke/Broder (Can)
  • Nzayisenga/Mutatsimpundu (Rwa)

POOL J

  • Betschart/Huberli (Swi)
  • Wilkerson/Bansley (Can)
  • Zonta/Gallay (Arg)
  • Gabi/Agudo (Ven)

POOL K

  • Bawden/Clancy (Aus)
  • Ross/Fendrick (USA)
  • Laird/Ngauamo (Aus)
  • Xue/Wang X (Ch)

POOL L

  • Schwaiger/Schutzenhofer (Aut)
  • Kolocova /Kvapilova (Cze)
  • Birlova/Makroguzova (Ru)
  • Radarong/Udomchavee (Tha)

Who can win?

Despite missing out in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Brazilians Larissa and Talita will have a good opportunity to make amends in Vienna in the women’s event. The Brazilian pair who lead the world rankings after winning gold medals at the Fort Lauderdale Major – a recent three-star event in Moscow and in Olszty – are certainly among the main contenders in the Austrian capital and will comfortably negotiate Pool A before the going gets tougher.

While a long way from home, the Brazilian pair have spoken of the energy that will be generated by the 10,000-seat Centre Court and are looking to feed off it; the Austrian fans being renowned worldwide for their enthusiasm in the stands. Being on a different continent will not be an issue for Larissa and Talita.

When Ludwig and Walkenhorst secured their Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal, the German ladies also established the fact that they would be the team that the rest of the world would aim to take on in the 2017 Beach Volleyball World Tour. The pressure hasn’t fazed them at all though and they are now aiming to become the first women’s team to top a podium at the sport’s three most prestigious events – the Olympics, the FIVB World Tour Finals and the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.

And they don’t have to look far more a major rival with compatriots Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude certainly in with a chance of getting in on the medal shake up; both keen to make up for missing out on Rio, with Britta Buthe and Karla Borger taking their country’s second and final spot in the Games.

Laboureur and Sude are in form, have had a good season and are capable of getting in on the medal action, as too are another Brazilian pairing in the form of Agatha and Duda, whose place as third favourites is more than justified.

Men:

POOL A:

  • Alvaro Filho/Saymon (Br)
  • Gonzalez/Nivaldo (Cub)
  • Kunert/Dressler (Aut)
  • Williams/Phillip (T&T)

POOL B:

  • Smedins/Samoilovs (Lat)
  • Jefferson/Cherif (Qa)
  • Bockermann/Fluggen (Ger)
  • Charly/Golindano (Ven)

POOL C:

  • Dalhausser/Lucena (USA)
  • Doherty/Hyden (USA)
  • Prudel/Kujawiak (Po)
  • Leonardo/Garcia L (Gua)

POOL D:

  • Evandro/Andre (Br)
  • Virgen/Ontiveros (Mex)
  • Quesada/Pina (Cub)
  • Varenhorst/Van Garderen (Ned)

POOL E:

  • Alison/Bruno (Br)
  • Grimalt E/Grimalt M (Chl)
  • Plavins/Regza (Lat)
  • Nguvo/Tovela (Moz)

POOL F:

  • Krasilnikov/Liamin (Rus)
  • Koekelkoren/Van Walle (Ger)
  • Toc/Finsters (Lat)
  • Abicha/Elgraoui (Mor)

POOL G:

  • Losiak/Kantor (Pol)
  • Gibb/Crabb (USA)
  • Capogrossa/Azaad (Arg)
  • Goyo/Roger (Par)

POOL H:

  • Pedro Solberg/Guto (Br)
  • Brunner/Patterson (USA)
  • Seidl Rob./Winter (Aut)
  • Naidoo/Williams (RSA)

POOL I:

  • Herrera/Gavira (Sp)
  • Pedlow/Schachter (Can)
  • Candra/Ashfiya (Pol)
  • Ermacora/Pristauz (Aut)

POOL J:

  • Brouwer/Meeuwsen (Ned)
  • Fijalek/Bryl (Pol)
  • Ranghieri/Carambula (Uru)
  • Vieyto/Cairus (Uru)

POOL K:

  • Nicloai/Lupo (Ita)
  • Stoyanovskiy/Yarzutkin (Rus)
  • McHugh/Schumann (Aus)
  • Lombi/Kamara (Sierra Leone)

POOL L:

  • Doppler/Horst (Aus)
  • Saxton/Schalk (Can)
  • Raoufri R./Salemi B. (Ira)
  • Vandemberg/Nusbaum (Can)

Who can win?

The Brazilian duo of Alison and Bruno start as clear favourites, closely followed by the US pairing of Lucena and Dalhausser. Both will be expecting to advance comfortably through the Pool stages and still be there on the tournament’s final day.

Their respective odds will be short but justifiably so and those looking for a very decent chance of a modest return would be well advised to give both pairings serious consideration. Pushing them all the way will be another Brazilian pair ­– Pedro Solberg and Guto, who are seeded 8 but who are more fancied by the bookies, who make them third favourites.

For better value we’d recommend looking further down the bookmaker’s list of odds and, in particular, at the USA pairing of Brunner and Patterson.  After starting the season with two modest ninth place finishes and a more impressive fourth at tournaments in the USA, Brazil and Russia respectively, they then went on to finish 25th in the Netherlands, fifth in Croatia and then 25th in Switzerland. Their up and down season continued with two defeats in the recent World Tour event in Olsztyn but as Brunner has been explaining, their season is all about the World Championships are everything has been geared towards them peaking this week. These guys are well worth an each-way bet.

They are seeded 17th and open Pool H on July 29 against 32nd-seeded Robin Seidl/Tobias Winter of Austria. This is followed by a July 31 contest against 41st-seeded African continental qualifiers Jamaine Naidoo and Leo Williams of South Africa and they conclude their group action on August 2 against the aforementioned eighth seeds Guto and Pedro Solberg. This should be a formality with both pairings already qualified for the Round of 32.

On Austrian soil (or sand) there will be plenty of support for the European pairings, the highest seeding of which are the Polish duo of Kantor and Losiak. They enjoyed their best results of the season with a second place at the Rio World Tour event in May and the same at the World Tour event in Gstaad, Switzerland a couple of weeks ago. This suggests that Austria – not too far from home – will also be to their liking. These guys are in with a chance.

Another European duo who will consider themselves in with a chance of winning this event are Brouwer and Meeuwsen from the Netherlands. With three gold medals to their names in 2017 this Dutch pairing will be dangerous opponents and as a result have been installed as sixth favourites. But they too will be buoyed by a European crowd and probably some voices in the crowd from home.

Also worthy of an each-way bet, in no small part due to the thunderous backing they will get from the Vienna crowd, are Austrian duo Doppler and Horst. Their talent allied to a crowd that’ll be willing them on victory could be an explosive and intriguing cocktail.

Recommended Bets

Women’s:

  • Ludwig and Walkenhorst (Ger) – To win
  • Laboureur and Sude (Ger) – Each-way
  • Meppelink and Van Gestel (Ned) – Each-way

Men’s:

  • Pedro Solberg and Guto (Br) – To win
  • Brouwer and Meeuwsen (Ned) – Each-way
  • Brunner and Patterson (USA) – Each-way
  • Doppler and Horst (Aut) – Each-way

2017 BMX World Championships – Preview & Tips

2017 BMX World Championships – Preview & Tips

This week the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships will be hosted in the USA for the first time in over 15 years. The venue is the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track in Rock Hill, South California, where over 300 professional BMX riders from over 40 nations will compete for the sport’s biggest prize.

A week of events and open training sessions culminate on Saturday with the main event – finals day.

The track itself is one of just a few Olympic-calibre BMX SX tracks in the US; one that was modelled on the 2008 Beijing Olympic track. It was designed for speed with a 35-foot initial elite jump, asphalt turns for acceleration, and a breath-taking berm jump directly over the amateur track. Its unique state-of-the-art surface makes for smooth and dust-free racing in all weather conditions.

There are various junior competitions for elite youngsters, who will be the stars of tomorrow, but the two big events are the Men’s and Women’s elite races.

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Below, in no specific order, are a few names that will be in the mix to make the final eight of the Elite Men’s and Elite Women’s competitions:

Connor Fields (USA): The reigning Olympic Champion has not yet won the BMX Racing rainbow jersey as an Elite rider, so will be hoping to set that record straight. He’ll be boosted by a noisy home crowd, which could well propel him in his bid to make the final. As world ranked number 7, it’s a big ask for him to win the title but bank on him making the final and going close.

Joris Daudet (France): The reigning World Champion, and number 10 in the current rankings, proved he is in good form by winning the recent European Championships in France. His track skills enable him to come from behind, so even a slight mistake at the start will not necessarily put him out of contention.

David Graf (Switzerland): The world number 9 has experience of Rock Hill and has a built a reputation for overtaking on the course’s second straight, giving the impression his competitors are standing still. He’s capable of being in the mix.

Corben Sharrah (USA): The world number 1 has a reputation for cruising effortlessly through the qualification rounds and then, once in the final, he is more than capable of turning it up another notch. Like Connor Fields, he can also count on the backing of a noisy home crowd. He’s the bookies’ favourite.

Sylvain André (France): Has improved after spending time training and racing in the USA and won his first BMX SX World Cup race in Papendal earlier this year. The world’s number 8 was third at the recent European Championships so is in decent form. He’s a contender, no question.

Niek Kimmann (Netherlands): Back-to-back World Champion (2014 Junior and 2015 Elite) and world number 2, Kimmann has the ability to take the lead from any lane on the wide-open first straight in Rock Hill. This makes him a real contender.

Maris Strombergs (Latvia): ‘The Machine’ has not had a good 2017 but is one of the most experienced riders on the circuit and has two Olympic golds (2008, 2012) and two world championships (2008 and 2010) on his CV. As he approaches the twilight of a glittering career he’ll be looking for one more big win. This may just be it.

Twan van Gendt (Netherlands): The world number 3 is without doubt a potential finalist. Recognised as one of the fastest riders out there, he needs to be able to utilise his power and steer clear of mistakes but if he does this he’s a potential winner.

Mariana Pajon (Colombia): Dubbed the ‘Queen of BMX’, the double Olympic Champion and multiple World Champion has the skill, speed and experience to go all the way at Rock Hill. Anything other than first place will be deemed failure.

Laura Smulders (Netherlands): Freshly crowned European Champion in France, the Dutch rider’s confidence is high. The track in Rock Hill suits her – she won the World Cup race here in 2016 – and she will be looking for victory this week.

Alise Post (USA): After two third places and a second in the ‘Worlds’, the home favourite is ready to claim the title. The backing of the American crowd will be a huge advantage for the world number 6 and she’s expected to make the final.

Simone Christensen (Denmark): Only 23 but still hugely experienced, she’s a regular on the podium – although rarely on its top step. She’ll draw on her experience of winning the European title in 2015 and her world ranking of 4 to go all the way this time.

Yaroslava Bondarenko (Russia): The world number 3 is part of a very strong Russian team, but she is their leader and their fastest rider. At just 20-years old she has time on her side but can still go close this time round.

Stefany Hernandez (Venezuela): The world number 10 was the 2015 World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist in 2016. She’s still on the comeback trail after injury but has timed her return with a view to peaking in Rock Hill. She’s certainly one to watch.

Judy Baauw (Netherlands): The world number 5 is in good form and, as her ranking suggests, is capable of being world champion. She’ll be hoping to improve on her fifth place in the European Championships and is well capable of doing so.

Caroline Buchanan (Australia): Also a top level mountain biker, Buchanan has successfully switched between both disciplines and has won world titles in both. While not one of the favourites for this event, she’ll be a threat to those who are.

Tips

Home advantage seems sure to count for a lot at Rock Hill and the US pairing of Alise Post (in the Women’s) and Connor Fields (in the Men’s) will both go close. An each-way bet on both looks good value, whereas – for the same reason – a straight win bet for Corben Sharrah (Men’s), while the odds may not be attractive, looks good for a return.

For a slight outsider in the Women’s competition, look no further than Judy Baauw.

PDC World Matchplay Darts 2017 – Preview & Tips

PDC World Matchplay Darts 2017 – preview & tips

The 2017 PDC World Matchplay tournament starts on Saturday at its spiritual home – the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. Thirty-two of the world’s top players – the top 16 in the PDC Order of Merit plus 16 qualifiers from the one-year ProTour Order of Merit – will compete for one of the most prestigious prizes in the sport.

The tournament dates back to 1994, when Larry Butler beat Dennis Priestley in the first final. Interestingly, in its 22-year history there have only been seven different winners. Unsurprisingly, Phil Taylor has been the championship’s most dominant player with 15 titles; Michael van Gerwen and Rod Harrington the only other players to have lifted the trophy more than once.

Taylor was also the first to hit a televised nine-dart finish during the 2002 World Matchplay and he repeated the feat during the 2014 competition on the way to his seventh-straight Blackpool title; the previous year he’d managed an unbelievable three-dart average of 111.23 during his final win over Adrian Lewis.

His seven-year winning streak, from 2008 to 2014, ended in 2015 when Michael van Gerwen beat James Wade 18-12, before winning it again one year later – ironically beating Taylor in the final.

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This year they line up as follows:

PDC Order of Merit Qualifiers

1 Michael van Gerwen
2 Gary Anderson
3 Peter Wright
4 Adrian Lewis
5 Dave Chisnall
6 James Wade
7 Mensur Suljovic
8 Phil Taylor
9 Raymond van Barneveld
10 Jelle Klaasen
11 Michael Smith
12 Kim Huybrechts
13 Ian White
14 Robert Thornton
15 Benito van de Pas
16 Simon Whitlock

ProTour Order of Merit Qualifiers

Daryl Gurney
Alan Norris
Rob Cross
Joe Cullen
Mervyn King
Gerwyn Price
Cristo Reyes
Stephen Bunting
Darren Webster
James Wilson
Steve West
Steve Beaton
Kyle Anderson
John Henderson
Christian Kist
Justin Pipe

The players are playing for a new record prize pot of £500,000, which includes £115,000 to the winner with a £10,000 bonus on offer for anyone who hits a nine-dart finish.

The competition kicks off on Saturday with the first four matches of the first round, there’s a double session on Sunday and the round concludes with the final four games on Monday evening.

The second round is played across next Tuesday and Wednesday, the quarter-finals are on Thursday and Friday, the semi-finals next Saturday and the final on Sunday.

All of the first round matches are the best of 19 legs and Saturday night (7pm) is when it all starts with Steve West – a World Matchplay debutant – taking on former world youth champion and World No 11 in the PDC rankings, Michael Smith. This is followed by one-time winner and five-time runner-up James Wade facing a dangerous opponent in the form of Norwich’s ‘Demolition Man’ Darren Webster.

Wade and Webster are followed on stage by World No 2 Gary Anderson who continues his quest for his first Blackpool crown against the Dutchman Christian Kist, and opening night ends with the colourful 2017 UK Open champion Peter Wright playing another debutant, James Wilson.

Sunday afternoon gets underway with Justin Pipe – who clinched the final qualification spot last weekend – taking on the Dutchman Jelle Klaasen, and this is followed by former UK Open and World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton taking on Spanish debutant Cristo Reyes. The third match of the afternoon sees two of the sport’s rising stars, Benito van de Pas and Daryl Gurney, clash in what promises to be an exciting match, before the session ends with former European Championship finalist Mensur Suljovic taking on John Henderson.

The Sunday night session see two of the game’s heavyweights take the stage in games two and three, but not before a very enticing aperitif in the form Dave Chisnall versus Mervyn King.  The greatest darts player ever to take the stage, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor begins his final World Matchplay with a tough one against UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price and next up, to take on the experienced Dutchman Raymond ‘Barney’ van Barneveld, is Bradford’s Joe Cullen. Kim Huybrechts brings down the curtain on Sunday’s action when he plays Somerset’s Alan Norris.

An all-Aussie clash between Simon Whitlock and Kyle Anderson kicks off the action on Monday evening before World No.4 Adrian Lewis takes on Steve Beaton. And in game three, Stephen Bunting has the unenviable task of facing Michael van Gerwen, the World No.1 and current World Matchplay champion. The final game of the first round sees Ian White take on against Rob Cross, who has made a fine start to life on the circuit having only turned pro in 2016.

The winners in the bottom half of the draw will play in the second round on Tuesday and those in the top half on Wednesday – all games in this round being the best of 21 legs – with the winners progressing through to Thursday’s and Friday’s quarter-finals, which will be the best of 31.

The semi-finals, which are the best of 33 legs, will be played on Saturday before the big one, the final, on Sunday is played over the best of 35 legs.

Betting

Unsurprisingly, Michael van Gerwen heads into the tournament as 8/11 favourite with Betfred as he looks to defend his World Matchplay crown. Gary Anderson is second in the betting at 4/1 with the same bookie, while Peter Wright at 6/1 looks decent value.

It’s been a while since Phil Taylor was anything as generous as 25/1 but as he enters the twilight of a simply never-to-be-repeated career that’s exactly what he is to win this year’s competition. But for the romantics out there, there are worse bets to take on.

According to Betfred, Dave Chisnall is the best of the rest at 33/1, followed by Michael Smith, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis all at 40/1. The rest are 50/1 or over and are listed below:

James Wade – 50/1
Mensur Suljovic  – 50/1
Rob Cross – 66/1
Daryl Gurney – 66/1
Jelle Klaasen – 100/1
Kim Huybrechts – 100/1
Benito van de Pas – 125/1
Gerwyn Price – 125/1
Simon Whitlock – 150/1
Alan Norris – 200/1
Ian White – 200/1
Joe Cullen – 200/1
Mervyn King – 200/1
Robert Thornton – 200/1
Cristo Reyes – 200/1
Darren Webster – 200/1
Kyle Anderson – 250/1
Stephen Bunting – 300/1
Steve Beaton – 300/1
Justin Pipe – 300/1
Christian Kist – 500/1
James Wilson – 500/1
John Henderson – 500/1
Steve West – 500/1

Tips/Advice

Given his almost complete dominance in the sport it’s unsurprising that Michael van Gerwen is odds-on but there’s little value to be had there, and Gary Anderson’s 4/1 looks a decent bet especially with his experience of winning the sport’s big titles.

Where it gets even more interesting, as mentioned above, is when you look at Peter Wright at 6/1. ‘Snakebite’, as he is known has only the UK Open to his name but is undoubtedly knocking on the door in terms of winning one of the big ones. Now could be his time.

Further down the betting, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis – both at 40/1 – are worthy of a punt if you’re looking to throw your weight behind an outsider; both having been there and done it on the biggest stage. Both will need to be in the right mind-set and will need the planets to align but on their day both are capable of getting amongst the van Gerwens and Andersons.

In terms of the first round match-ups a couple are worthy of consideration if you’re looking for an upset: Darren Webster at 21/10 to beat James Wade looks reasonable value, as does Mervyn King at 5/2 to beat Dave Chisnall.

Betfred are also doing some specials and one that caught the eye was Gary Anderson at 4/1 to his the most 180’s on the opening Saturday; Peter Wright also looking good value at 9/2.

On Sunday night there is an interesting market on in which game will the most 180’s be hit – Phil Taylor v Gerwyn Price looking quite enticing at 10/3 – and on Monday night Betfred have a book running on the player most likely to hit the highest checkout. While van Gerwen will be the name on everyone’s lips, an in-form Adrian Lewis is more than capable of hitting a 170 and winning you some cash.

Recommended Bets:

Winner: Peter Wright – 6/1
Mervyn King to beat Dave Chisnall – 5/2
Gary Anderson to hit most 180’s on Saturday – 4/1