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LATEST POSTS

LATEST POSTS

 

Did you know that one of the biggest jackpots in the online gaming world was won just last week? Hall of Gods game made one lucky Swedish player gasp as the bonus round ended with €3,85 million on the player’s account. As we heard about the win we instantly began thinking what will the winner do with so much money.. Do you already have clear plans in case you win the jackpot?

 

At the moment the biggest jackpot is in the videoslot The Dark Knight. Join Batman in the hunt of Joker and his €2,93 million bag of jackpot money. In the Dark Knigh game you never know when you get the chance to spin to bonus wheel and have the chance to win millions. This is why players really love this game.

 

If you think that Batman and Joker are both quite lame, you can try your luck in Mega Moolah (jackpot €2,8 million by the way) that is full of cute wild animals that make you smile, no matter what. That giraffe with purple eye shadow is by far our favourite. 

The Premier League train rolls on and if we’ve had some strange old results so far, things were back to normal this weekend.

 

City struggled to break through the Villa-wall for much of Saturday evening’s fixture, but with 10 minutes left on the clock, Yaya Toure found a gap a slotted home a much deserved leading goal. Aguero made it two with a few minutes left and that was all she wrote.

 

Manchester United can thank David De Gea for their three points against Everton. Not only did he save a Leighton Baines penalty as the first half was drawing to a close, he made three match-winning saves in the dying moments of the match.

 

Even Liverpool was back on track against West Brom, not without giving it their all though. However, Lallana’s tip-toing through Brom’s defense saw the reds take the lead just before half time. Teams in a rut often don’t get anything for free, so no Liverpool supporters were surprised when Lovren’s challenge on Berahino just outside the box was deemed inside by the ref. Berahino converted, but unlike most of this season, Liverpool bounced straight back. Henderson smashed in the winner just minutes after the equalizer.

 

Spurs hasn’t played very well so far this season, but Christian Eriksen’s crucial strike secured an impressive win against high-flying Southampton who in turn will regret missing a few sitters at White Hart Lane. Hull had no problems against Crystal Palace

 

West Ham vs QPR made us yawn, as the Hammers grabbed a much-expected 2-0 win. Swansea will regret letting Toon grab a point in their match, as will Leicester. Ross Wallace curled in a stunning free kick, 5 minutes into stoppage time. Sunderland and particularly Steven Fletcher were very convincing at home against Stoke. Even Connor Wickham is blooming!

 

And finally, Sunday’s big match at Stamford Bridge was exciting for all the wrong reasons. Even as Eden Hazard strolled through a passive Gunners defense and went down, questions were asked as to whether Koscielny should’ve been sent off or not. The raid itself was stunning. A few minutes earlier, Wenger and Mourinho went toe to toe over Cahill’s challenge on Sanchez. A red card seemed likely, but the England international was let off the hook with a yellow. So was Welbeck, the his two-footed challenge in stoppage time threatened to severely injure Fabregas. Costa had already sealed the win for Mourinho after a brilliant through ball from said Fabregas, the Arsenal reject.

 

Have fun in the international break, we’ll dish out some awards and see you in a couple of weeks!

 

Hero Award: David De Gea

 

Penalty save, match winning stops and a true savior for Manchester United. Important three points.

 

Villain Award: Datguy Welbeck

 

Holy smokes, that challenge! With his head up his rear end, Danny Welbeck tried to break Fabregas’ leg in stoppage time at Stamford Bridge. A horrendous tackle which amazingly did not result in a sending off.

 

Team Award: Liverpool

 

Flawless Chelsea could’ve got this one, but Liverpool bounced back after a couple of terrible performances. They are starting to look somewhat like the Liverpool from last season now and with upcoming fixtures against QPR and Hull, this could be the start of a good spell for Rodgers’ disciples.    

 

Goal Award: Ross Wallace

 

Well, 5 minutes into stoppage time, Scottish winger Wallace stepped up and saved a point for Burnley. A great finish and my, oh my, what an important point that could turn out to be. Burnley needs every point they can get.

 

Guts’ Gripe of the Weekend: Wenger on tilt

 

And no hand-shake from Mourinho after the match? Well, to be honest, it just gave the big game a much needed talking point. The game itself was just half-interesting

CL

 

 

When In Rome…

 

Although City are not in Rome tonight, they’re of course hosting Roma at the Etihad Stadium. It’s a vitally important fixture for the champions of England as another slip up could result in them having to play serious catch-up on both Roma and Bayern in the hope that one of them slips up when they play each other.

 

However, it would appear City, as a team, are far wiser than that now and they will be hoping that they can ruthlessly dispose of any threat the Italian side pose to them, especially with home advantage as well but City will definitely need the crowd behind them as a number of the endlessly noisy Roma ‘ultras’ have made the journey and they will be hard to drown out. 

 

 

We’ll Always Have Paris

 

Paris St. Germain and Barcelona do battle tonight, each looking to gain the upper hand in Group F and of course PSG will be looking to get more than the point they secured against Ajax on the first match day. Barcelona do look more solid under the stewardship of Luis Enrique, evidence being they have scored 17 goals in La Liga whereas they haven’t conceded any as of yet and are seemingly looking to drive a wedge between themselves and their past over reliability on Lionel Messi – Neymar alone has scored 6 league goals this season to Messi’s 5.

 

 

Liverpool in Basel

 

Liverpool will head to Basel with a win under their belts at home over Champions League newcomers Ludogorets. However, the trip to Basel will be a completely different experience, in what is sure to be a fiery atmosphere and a Swiss team that will be fired up following their collapse against Real Madrid in their first group game. 

 

Liverpool will want to come away with at least a point as their next game vs. Real Madrid will not be the one to bounce back on if they’re in need of a win. Mario Balotelli and co will look to spring one or two surprises and will also look to come away with the win and 3 points that Liverpool will want badly.

 

 

Ludo Who?

 

Ludogorets put up a valiant fight in their opening group stage match vs. Liverpool at Anfield but ultimately came up short when they deserved so much more. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep up the same attacking instincts when they face European champions Real Madrid on Wednesday night.

 

 

Arsenal Need A Win

 

One thing is for sure as far as English sides are concerned and that is Arsenal need to win their game vs. Galatasaray. Having suffered terribly in Dortmund on their opening foray into this seasons’ competition, Arsenal need to inject a bit of verve and added steeliness into their play if they’re to progress anywhere this season.

 

 

The third part of our Football XI series, this version will focus upon creating a football XI based on Disney characters. The footballers featured, will of course consist of football’s greatest and football’s…journeymen. It will, however, be an XI that, when it steps out over that white line, will give it’s all to the cause!

 

Fantasy XI

 

 

MANAGER – King Louie van Gaal

 

King Louie is of course the manager to implement a ‘philosophy’ within this side and will work wholeheartedly to ensure that the team doesn’t make any cartoon errors and instead produce some stunning football along with some stunning results.

 

GOALKEEPER – Oliver Shere Khan

 

Kahn is the epitome of a crazy goalkeeper. The former German international enjoyed a stellar career and was obviously a tiger when put in a 1v1 situation with strikers. Of course, he is best remembered for being the goalkeeper of German giants Bayern Munich where he won numerous honours and also proceeded to frighten the life out of opposition strikers.

 

RIGHT-BACK – Branislav Ivanostitch

 

Known as one of the Premier League’s staple right-backs and of course a dead-cert in any Jose Mourinho team. Despite standing at 6ft 1in and considered to be a very solid defender, he sometimes displays an unwanted side to his game involving some unsavoury antics; very Stitch like!

 

CENTRE-BACK – Christopher Simba

 

Also known as a big and athletic defender of some European pedigree. He has graced numerous clubs including Blackburn Rovers, Queens Park Rangers, Anzhi and currently, Dynamo Moscow.

 

CENTRE-BACK – Winnie de Zeeuw

 

A strong Dutch defender, de Zeeuw is a player who graced the lower leagues before reaching the holy grail of Premier League football for Portsmouth under Harry Redknapp in 2004 and then Wigan in 2005. 

 

LEFT-BACK – Jafarsson Farfan

 

Probably viewed as an unusual position for Farfan who, considered an outrageously fast winger, is probably not used to being tasked with left-back duties. However, considering his engine, he’s considered to have the stomach for the role.

 

CENTRE-MIDFIELD – Mufasa Hadji

 

Hadji is a name that harks back to the days of Graham Taylor at Aston Villa and Gordon Strachan at Coventry City. Hadji, of course, played for both Midlands clubs and became somewhat of a cult hero.

 

CENTRE-MIDFIELD - Abu Diaby

 

Diaby has been plagued by injuries for a number of seasons and of course has been out of the running in Arsenal’s midfield allowing for players to move ahead of him in which he has now become somewhat of a squad player within the Gunners squad.

 

CENTRE-MIDFIELD – Salomon Balou

 

He simply had the bare necessities to make it at a club like Chelsea while scoring a number of goals for them in quite important games too. While scoring regularly in Holland for Feyenoord brought him to the attention of Jose Mourinho in 2006, he never quite nailed down a permanent spot within the team while in his best season he played 41 games and scored 13 goals in all competitions.

 

FREE-ROLE – Christopher Robben

 

Robben is one of the world’s best players. When on form, there are relatively few people apart from maybe Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who can scare defenders when running with the ball. As he displayed in World Cup 2014 for Holland, the free-role suits him down to the ground.

 

CENTRE-FORWARD – Demba Scar

 

A powerful centre-forward he gained a reputation for bulldozing his way through defences, particularly for Newcastle. At Chelsea, he didn’t quite reach those heights but he is still a danger when given chances.

 

CENTRE-FORWARD – Sleeping Beattie

 

Beattie has always been a bit of a battering ram centre-forward, well he was, until he retired that is. He often appeared to be sleeping until he pounced on a defensive mistake and then a bullet header would fly into the net. 

The Premier League never ceases to amaze me, or anyone for that matter. While certain games (yes we’re looking at you North London and Merseyside) failed to live up to expectations, there were others that were genuinely exciting. But how did you do in your own exciting fantasy league? Are you ready for battle and also to secure those transfers before it's too late?

 

 

FPL

 

Gameweek 5 leader Temple Pilgrims managed by Ashley Temple still hold a lead at the top of the rankings, however, that lead has been cut to a narrow point over FC Banana Phone managed by Daniel S who with a gameweek total of 46 points, has put the pressure on the Pilgrims. Up into 3rd for the first time are 50 Shade’s of O’Shea managed by Andy Martin who are 7 points behind 2nd place. Also big movers at the top are Spoonfork FC managed by Gareth Jennings who with a very good gameweek total of 40 points have managed to move up to 4th in the rankings while being only 1 point behind 3rd place.

 

At the other end of the table, Guts Gaming have slipped to 142nd in the rankings after a gameweek total of 38 points making a total points accumulation of 244. The Sportsbook are obviously making a play for the title after a superb gameweek total of 54 points propelled them to joint 46th along with Golden Furryballs and PetrCechYourself.

 

FAMETASTIC are again bottom of the pile after a less than impressive gameweek total of 27 points while FavoTeam managed by Oleg O had a superb gameweek with 61 points but they are still 168th in the rankings.

Remember to grab your Guts sport bonus and get ready for next week's action from the Premier League. 

Players who have made the transfer wishlist this week are somewhat surprising. Chelsea’s Willian gains a place through acquiring 14 points while West Brom’s Graham Dorrans, Craig Dawson and Saidi Berahino also make the list with fantastic gameweek totals. Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann also makes the list after his assist and clean sheet vs. Leicester City. 

 

PL

 

 

Fighting Spirit Hasn’t Disappeared

 

Manchester United ensured they came away with a much-needed win and they defended pretty well when they needed to, especially after being down to 10 men for the last half hour. United fans are desperate for any semblance of the never-say-die attitude that epitomised the Sir Alex Ferguson era to rear it’s head again and you could say it did at home to West Ham United on Saturday afternoon.

 

 

Consistency Is Key

 

Consistency is most certainly key, especially for promoted sides and Leicester City were brought back down to Earth at the weekend after their 5-3 heroics against Manchester United a week ago. Beaten 2-0 at Selhurst Park by Crystal Palace, they were unable to match the level of intensity as well as the clinical finishing of their historic result. Most certainly, Nigel Pearson has a talented and vibrant side, but he must pick up results against teams in and around them rather than rely on the odd wonder result.

 

 

Derbies Aren’t All That

 

The two derbies this weekend seemed to struggle under the weight of expectation, particularly since it was the North London and Merseyside derbies. Traditionally, both games are non-stop, a controversy-laden, adrenaline-fuelled episode on and off the pitch but something just wasn’t quite right with them right from the off. There was relatively little spark while there was significant effort on both sides in both derbies.

 

 

Burnley Lack Plan B

 

Burnley were comprehensively dispatched by West Bromwich Albion on Sunday and were left to rue an unadventurous approach, which seemingly is against everything manager Sean Dyche stands for. They went for the compact game-plan that in fairness worked for half-an-hour or so and then when West Brom scored, it seemed to hinder Burnley rather than help them find a way back into the match.

 

However, what is for certain is that Burnley need something other than ‘keeping it tight’ for such games as these are the ones they really need to win to have any chance of staying up come May.

 

 

Title Challengers March On

 

Chelsea kept up their early season relentlessness as they comfortably dispatched Aston Villa 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. It was that easy, Mourinho even had the gall to claim that star striker Diego Costa, who again scored, hardly trains! Hmm. We’re not too sure on that Jose. However, the formbook looks ominous for those looking to stop the Blues this season, and at the moment, the only team who look to have the resources to do that are Manchester City.

 

City managed to come away from Humberside with a win after letting slip a 2-goal lead but they ruthlessly took their chances while denying Hull theirs in what was quite a close shave for the champions, they however have the experience within their team to close out games. 

 

Well one thing that cannot be said of the Premier League is that is does not disappoint. This weekend was again a spectacle to behold, however, this was from sources you wouldn’t have necessarily bet upon before the start of the day. The action was indeed what we were craving after last week’s goal bonanza, so it seemed, and so we were treated to a number of fine strikes.

 

Champions Manchester City had to battle to a 4-2 away win at Hull City after they let slip a two-goal lead. Frank Lampard again proving has hasn’t lost the knack of being in the right place at the right time as he scored his fourth goal in four appearances for City and indeed seal a first league win in four games for them.

 

Manchester United also recovered from the shock 5-3 collapse at Leicester City to record a much-needed 2-1 win over West Ham United at Old Trafford. Manager Louis van Gaal chose to give 19 year-old Paddy McNair his debut in the centre of defence alongside Marcos Rojo with another 19 year-old, Luke Shaw, also making his competitive debut at left-back.

 

After a quick start from United in which Wayne Rooney scored a sublime half-volley and Robin van Persie scored an angled finish, defensive frailties, in particular David De Gea’s feeble attempt at clearing a corner, led to Diafra Sakho heading in from close range to half the deficit eight minutes before half-time. Wayne Rooney was then sent off for a blatant kick-out at Stewart Downing when the midfielder was looking to capture United short at the back. In the captain’s absence, 19 year-old debutant McNair stepped up to the plate with a commanding defensive display that belied his years as well as a superb clearing defensive header from a cross that had looked certain to end up in the back of the net.

 

The two derbies of the weekend, however, failed to live up to expectation. The Merseyside derby never really sparked into life and only produced some moments when Steven Gerrard scored a 25-yard free-kick that curled beyond the reach of Tim Howard to put the Merseyside Reds 1-0 up with 25 minutes remaining. The scoreline stayed the same until the 90th minute when Phil Jagielka smashed in a 30-yard half volley into the top corner at the Kop end. It was a great end to a particularly disappointing derby.

 

The North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham was also relatively dull. While quality was short in both boxes, the two sides proceeded to cancel each other out in the middle of the park leading to a unspectacular 1-1 draw.

 

 

Guts Awards

 

 

Hero Award: Phil Jagielka

 

This award must got to the Everton captain after his stunning injury time equaliser away to Liverpool in the derby. If there was ever a strike and goal that belied a player, this was it. The shot certainly didn’t fit the profile of a 31 year-old centre-back with no history of being able to hit the ball with such ferocity. However, credit must be given where it’s due and fair play to Jagielka who buried the chance and earned his team a much-needed point after a rather indifferent start.

 

 

Villain Award: Wayne Rooney

 

Another captain award, this time Wayne Rooney earns the villain award for his reckless challenge on Stewart Downing left his team having to battle for a 2-1 home win instead of comfortably seeing out the game and perhaps scoring more goals.

 

He left his team needed to scrape a win that should have turned into a comfortable afternoon; however, the referee Lee Mason wasn’t entirely blameless in the incident.

 

 

Team Award: West Brom

 

West Brom managed to secure a big win on Sunday afternoon with sizeable scoreline over newly promoted Burnley at the Hawthorns. They put on a very good team performance, not allowing Burnley any time or space and finishing with aplomb every time they got anywhere near the Burnley goal.

 

 

Goal Award: Graziano Pelle

 

It was an amazing goal from Pelle to put his side back in front and ultimately seal the win. A graceful bicycle kick that sat up behind the striker and the technique required to hook the ball towards the goal with a power and accuracy required a player of suitable talent.

 

 

Guts’ Gripe of the Weekend: Saturday’s Derbies

 

The Saturday derbies were…well, how can I put it, a bit rubbish. Not that we expect endless entertainment or anything! However, on a serious note, they failed to live up to expectations and they were not up to standard in terms of the football produced either. All-in-all it was a bit disappointing to see both of them fail to live up to the hope that they could be potential classics. 

 

PL

 

The Season Starts Now…Again

 

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal will be hoping that his side can bounce back from the spectacular collapse at Leicester City last weekend and that indeed the season will start again with a much needed home win over West Ham United.

 

However, that task will not be easy as the Hammers are on the crest of a wave at the moment following the 3-1 win over Liverpool last weekend and the general novel verve and swagger in a Sam Allardyce-managed team. Also, United’s task is made all the harder without a defender that can keep himself fit for any decent length of time lending to a possible defensive crisis for the United manager to contend with.

 

What is clear is that United have a very good forward line but without the defensive security behind them, there is always the danger of scorelines like the one seen at Leicester.  West Ham will look to pounce upon any insecurity there and with the power and pace their forwards now possess along with the confidence boost received last weekend at Liverpool’s expense, there is now a real possibility that West Ham could secure the 3 points at Old Trafford.

 

Get the latest odds on Man Utd v West Ham here

 

 

The Merseyside Derby

 

The first meeting of the Merseyside clubs is this weekend and as ever it is hotly anticipated. However, neither side come into the game in the greatest form with Liverpool managing to scrape through against Middlesbrough in the 3rd round of the League Cup after one of the longest penalty shootouts in English football history and Everton being roundly handed a beating 3-0 at manager Roberto Martinez’ former club Swansea City.

 

Everton have only managed two wins out of their opening seven games while Liverpool have lost the last two Premier League games. Both clubs need the win in terms of their form but form will count for nothing when the whistle blows at Anfield at 12.45pm at Saturday lunchtime. Expect fireworks, goals, controversy and the usual sending off.

 

Get the latest odds on Liverpool v Everton here

 

 

The North London Derby

 

Arsenal and Tottenham also showdown in the first North London derby of the season at the Emirates Stadium with both clubs looking to gain the upper hand and much like the Merseyside Derby, there is expected to be a fiery atmosphere as well as a game of football that will not only produce the goods in terms of goals and talking points but also in terms of entertainment too.

 

While a midweek win over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup will go some way to alleviate the slump that Spurs seem to find themselves in as they are without a win in three league games which has also brought two home defeats, it doesn’t exactly fully prepare them for showdown with Arsenal this weekend.

 

Get the latest odds on Arsenal v Tottenham here

 

 

Leicester On A Roll

 

Leicester will look to build upon their magnificent 5-3 comeback win over Manchester United by following it up with a win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.  As they are under the spotlight now following that win there is reason to see whether the promoted side can find some consistency in results which will go along way to ensuring they stay up.

 

Get the latest odds on Crystal Palace v Leicester City here 

 

 

Geordie Shore Up

 

Newcastle will want to build upon their morale-boosting win over Crystal Palace in the League Cup in midweek and what better way to do it than travelling to a ground no opposition player wants to play at? Of course, we’re talking about Stoke’s Britannia Stadium.

 

Newcastle are desperately in need of a league win as they have three draws and two defeats in five league games. The defence needs plugging as they conceded six in the last two league games and eight in the last three in all competitions.

 

Stoke will provide a stern test and will frankly be expected to win at home and judging by the seeming improvement in their play, will possibly have too much for Newcastle but the morale-boost of midweek should provide Newcastle with at least a fighting chance. 

 

Get the latest odds on Stoke City v Newcastle here 

 

 

 

super league

 

The first weekend of the Super League play-offs showed us just why the current format won’t be missed when it is scrapped next year.


In the two “loser gets another chance” contests, fans were treated to walkovers, as Wigan thumped hopeless Huddersfield 57-4, while St Helens celebrated the night they were presented with the League Leaders Shield by beating Castleford, the team that could have denied them the trophy just a week earlier, 41-0 at Langtree Park.


Contrast that to two gripping contests on Saturday, which saw eighth-placed Widnes almost end Warrington’s hopes of a third consecutive Grand Final appearance and Leeds crash out at home to Catalan.
The Wolves were forced to come from 19-6 down at half time to eventually defeat the Vikings, making their first ever appearance in the Super League play-offs, 22-19.


For Leeds, the most successful play-off team in Super League history, a blunder by winger Tom Briscoe in the dying seconds enabled Catalan to record their first ever win at Headingley, stealing it 24-20 at the death.
So the two games that had meaning, the two do-or-die games, well and truly delivered for the Sky TV audience - a stark contrast to the two games before.


Next season, following the re-structure, the play-offs will be limited to a straight shoot-out between the top four - two semi-finals and then the Grand Final.


We’re not quite at that stage even yet this season. This weekend, Huddersfield host Catalan while Warrington travel to Castleford. The two winners will then go in to the semi finals to face either Wigan or St Helens, who have first choice over who they want to play at Langtree Park next Thursday night.


The NRL play-offs are a week ahead of Super League, and they saw some unbelievable drama last weekend.
Defending champions Sydney Roosters led 30-0 after 32 minutes, but needed a late drop goal from James Maloney to beat North Queensland 31-30, after the Cowboys had mounted an incredible comeback.


That was followed by a similarly gripping game between Manly and Canterbury. The Bulldogs led 16-6 at half time, but it finished 17-all after Trent Hodkinson and Daly Cherry-Evans traded late drop goals. That took proceedings to extra time, where Hodkinson was successful in a golden point drop goal that meant Canterbury sneaked home 18-17.
The Bulldogs will play Penrith on Saturday, with the Roosters taking on rivals South Sydney Roosters; the winners of those matches will then meet in the Grand Final at Stadium Australia on October 5.

sam burgess

By Natalie Shoebridge, Sydney

 

It's the week before the Grand Final and we’re at that bittersweet time of year again. I mean sure, your team could be one of the four left in contention for the title. Picture it: Glory. Pride. Bragging rights for the next six months. But at the same time, the end of the season means farewelling some of the superstars who are hanging up their boots for the final time -whether it’s to be put to pasture overseas or to venture into another career path.

 

To mark the occasion, here’s a list of the players we’re going to miss the most:

 

Sam Burgess

Arguably one of the best forwards the NRL has seen in a long time, there is going to be a notably large hole in the hearts of Rabbitohs fans next year. Sam Burgess is making the move back home to England for a 2015 season with Bath Rugby.  The popular Yorkshire lad made the move Down Under in 2010, and after five seasons in the red and green, he has become a core part of the team’s leadership group. With unprecedented skill for such a burly bloke, topped off by a knack for deft passes and impressive footwork, he not only leaves his three brothers behind, but a legion of fans who consider him to be what the Pride of the League is all about. Just give the man an NRL premiership ring, already!

 

Anthony Minichiello

Mr Nice Guy Minichiello has graced our screens since 2000 for the Sydney Roosters and announced his retirement earlier this year as a one-club man. As one of the most consistent and reliable fullbacks of the game, Minichiello’s farewell has been a focal part of the Roosters’ run to the finals this year; with celebrations of his last home game, finals series and chance for another premiership all central to their 2014 Grand Final campaign.

 

Todd Carney

Love him or loathe him, 2015 is going to be very quiet without Todd Carney. An undisputedly talented player, sadly it was his antics off the field which always drew the headlines. Carney is moving up to the Catalan Dragons next season, and hopefully he manages to keep his head down and make this aspect of his career a successful one.

 

Sonny Bill Williams

When Sonny Bill announced he was defecting to rugby union in 2015, I didn't really know how to feel. His disappointing exit from the Bulldogs in 2008 is something that will always be at the back of my mind, but his impressive form and impact on the Roosters’ side can’t be denied. His is an athlete who would excel in just about any sport and is a genuine pleasure to watch. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on, and many clubs would already be queuing to welcome him home if he settles on another NRL stint.

 

You can find Natalie on twitter at @nat_a_shoe.

ozil

By Sam Tighe

 

The 2014-15 Premier League season may be in its infancy, but there's still plenty to digest early on from a tactical perspective.

Top-tier managers never stop looking for ways to find the edge, and the summer transfer window gives them the chance to refresh their XI with a new shape, philosophy or approach.

Here, we chart five early tactical shifts—not all of them positive. However, getting the latest Guts sports bonus codes is always positive. 

 

Jose Mourinho's attacking delights?

Jose Mourinho's Chelsea were the stingiest team in the Premier League last season, with their 27 goals conceded a clear 10 less than the next best defence (Manchester City, 37).

This year round, however, the Portuguese boss has gone all-out attack in his approach—perhaps a reflex to his side's habit of dropping points against "lesser" teams last season—and in the process, has only kept one clean sheet from five games.

The second half against Swansea City saw the Blues switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, signalling a potential change in thought-process, but it's been very un-Mourinho-like so far.

 

Hull move away from three-at-the-back just as others move toward it

Steve Bruce played a 3-5-2 formation for almost the entirety of the 2013-14 season, and in doing so led them to safety with a good "goals against" record and lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup final.

Ahmed Elmohamady, Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone were perfect for the formation, and retaining both Shane Long and  Nikica Jelavic ensured they scored enough goals to worry defences.

The addition of Michael Dawson this summer only seemed to reinforce the idea that Hull are a three-at-the-back team, but a questionable start to the season—including a dreadful performance at Villa Park—has seen Bruce switch back to a four.

Luckily for the neutrals, it looks like the Tigers may be looking favourably at the...

Check out the løatest Guts sports bonus code and boost your acca's!

Midfield diamond!

England is diamond-crazy right now, with many taking inspiration from Liverpool's incredible run last season in the Premier League under Brendan Rodgers.

The 4-4-2 setup he created not only got the best from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge as linkup forwards, but also unleashed Raheem Sterling as a No. 10, Jordan Henderson as a box-to-box beast and Steven Gerrard as a regista-esque playmaker from deep.

The copying has started in record fashion; Louis van Gaal's Manchester United have done it, West Ham United have done it and even Roy Hodgson's had a tinker. The effectiveness of it, provided you have the right type of players, is spelled out irrepressibly in front of our very eyes.

 

 

Villa's Versatility

Paul Lambert is at his best as a tactician when he's reacting and changing formations to suit each fixture. It's one of his strongest assets, and it makes Aston Villa very, very difficult to gameplan for.

The club fell into a bit of a rut last season and there's no doubt his "settling" on a 4-3-3 formation played a huge part. Injuries dictated the stability, but Villa lost some of their edge in the process.

This season, though, he's back with a bang. A replenished, more experienced squad has given him all the tools he needs to chop and change, moving fluidly between the 4-3-3, the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-4-2 diamond when necessary.

This has played a large part in their very strong start to the campaign.

 

Arsenal's Dire 4-3-3

Arsene Wenger has, for some reason, switched from a standard 4-2-3-1 to a more asinine, clunky 4-3-3 (4-1-4-1). While that suits Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez down to the ground, it hit Mesut Ozil hard and also lessens the already-limited effectiveness of Mikel Arteta.

If Ozil isn't playing as a No. 10 there's no point playing him, and in a league where physicality and energy can reign supreme, the fact that the German is stuck out on the wing makes him look silly. He's simply not an athlete; he can't track and he can't help his full-back.

In placing Ozil on the flank, you weaken your attacking output and create a target for the opposing team to attack. It really is fruitless on all counts. Ozil had arguably his best game of the season when operating in his natural position against Villa; but will Wenger adjust the team around him?

 

You can find Sam on twitter at @stighefootball.

 

Check out this weekend's Premier League odds.

 

 

It was another barnstorming weekend of Premier League football with many goals, controversial incidents and just downright awful defending! However, where are the points going to go next week and to what players? Stick with us for the latest in the latest edition of another #FPL round up.

 

FPL

 

Last week’s joint leaders, Temple Pilgrims managed by Ashley Temple, have managed to grab the outright lead from Crabcakes managed by Hristo Sultanov whose team slip to 6th in the rankings after a very poor gameweek total of 34 points. FC Banana Phone managed by Daniel S have moved up to 2nd place just a mere 7 points behind the leader.

 

Ludicrous Display, managed by Daniel Breeze, has succumbed to an outrageous collapse. Admittedly there is a long way to go but to go from leaders to 17th place is a spectacular decline.

By the way, don't miss our latest on-site promotions. Get the latest Guts promo codes here.

At the other end of the table, Guts Gaming have slipped down the rankings after a poor gameweek total of 26 points. Come on lads! Don’t you realise the Sportsbook are currently way ahead? FAMETASTIC managed by Moch Wingga were the big losers at the bottom of the rankings after a 27-point gameweek total while FavoTeam managed by Oleg O had a good gameweek collecting a total of 59 points resulting in a 106 point total.

 

Transfers for the week consist of a relatively surprising bunch. West Brom’s James Morrison hit the winner in the 1-0 win away at Tottenham Hotspur and gathers the points while Angel di Maria’s superb chip earns him another good points total while Leicester duo Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa collect superb totals after their displays against Manchester United.

 

Peter Crouch also features if you feel the need for a Premier League proven goalscorer while Leighton Baines again makes the list with his goalscoring display in Everton’s 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace.

 

 big sam

Chris Atkins believes West Ham are becoming increasingly easy on the eye.

Sam Allardyce was in understandably high spirits on Saturday evening. Having seen his side dismantle last season’s Premier League runners-up Liverpool, he was not going to let the opportunity to cash in on a famous victory pass—quite justifiably after a summer in which his job was debated from first to last. "It's a well-deserved victory - it's not a lucky one,” he was keen to stress. “It’s not Liverpool having an off day, it's West Ham being absolutely brilliant on the day.”

 

The former Bolton manager is, of course, fully entitled to bask in the media coverage such a success brings. Football management away from the top clubs, where Allardyce has spent his entire managerial career to date, is an unforgiving world. Highs have to be enjoyed when they arise and, over the past 12 months, they have been few and far between for the Hammers. Over the past seven days, though, there have been signs that things may just be coming together at the Boleyn Ground.

 

It has only been in the last two fixtures since the international break against Hull and Liverpool that Allardyce has been able to call upon coming close to his full squad of players, with strikers Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia finally ready to start. Late summer arrivals of Alex Song and Morgan Amalfitano, too, have done much to improve the outlook for Hammers season, while highly-rated full-back Aaron Cresswell looks a real coup thus far. In the diamond 4-4-2 system employed in both games over the past few days, they appear a well-balanced side from back to front—a vast improvement on last year in itself.

 

It was the pace and power of Allardyce’s side that hurt Liverpool so badly. Valencia and Sakho pulled into the space behind the full-backs, stretching play and opening gaps from which Stewart Downing could operate in a No. 10 role. The Englishman, enjoying a fine start to the season with a goal and three assists to his name, appears to enjoy his new central role. Given space, Downing can hurt sides and he made former teammate Steven Gerrard look incredibly ordinary this weeend. It must be added, though, that his life is made considerably easier by the work-rate and defensive discipline of the midfield trio behind him.

 

The giant Senegalese Cheikhou Kouyate has already made a significant impact in East London, adding power and dynamism to the centre of the midfield. Partnered with the similarly direct but technically more refined Alex Song on Saturday, West Ham quickly took a hold on the midfield battle and forced Liverpool into an early formational change. With the equally tenacious but intelligent distributor Mark Noble at the base of the trio, there is an intriguing balance of skill and physicality at the heart the West Ham side. Pace and dynamism are far from football’s be all and end all, but every side needs players who can alter the speed of a game.

 

Allardyce has always known how to set up a defensive unit and, indeed, how to take advantage of set-pieces. In that respect, it is no surprise that the side remains a real threat from crosses into the box, but there is now far more intent to play the ball through midfield than was ever evident last season. With Downing, Song, Noble and, on occasion, Mauro Zarate in central areas, Allardyce has a number of players at his disposal who can pick a pass and unlock defences. Eleven key passes made this weekend to Liverpool’s eight tells its own story of the game.

 

The Hammers have not become world-beaters overnight, but there is no reason to suggest they cannot secure league safety early this season if key players remain fit. The Hammers board have publicly demanded a more aesthetically pleasing style of football this season and, on current evidence, there has already been a marked improvement.

 

The challenge for Allardyce and his side if they are to fulfil all their targets this season is now to sustain their current levels over the course of what is expected to be the most competitive season in Premier League history. For Hammers supporters, a season of relative stability would be a welcome relief after the ups and downs that recent years have brought the way of Upton Park. For now at least, there is reason to be hopeful.

 

You can find Chris on twitter at @ChrisAtkins_

PL

 

United Are Top Heavy

 

Manchester United now look like a fabulously attacking team - the United of old I've heard people say. It's hard to argue when players like Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Angel di Maria, Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj are on their forward roster and now, there is a genuine excitement every time they go forward. However, at the back, they are seemingly threadbare and undoubtedly in need of an overhaul. With defenders who cannot stay fit for any decent length of time, van Gaal must make his defence the priority in January and in the following summer transfer window.

 

 

Lampard Shows His Quality

 

Yes, this is a roundabout turn from the previous roundup but then Lampard truly didn’t show what he was capable of and didn’t look fit at all. However, in his cameo against former club Chelsea he displayed all of the qualities he was renowned for in his trophy-laden, goal glittering Stamford Bridge career. A trademark late run while ensuring the finish was simply too much for Courtois in the Chelsea goal ensured that Chelsea left the Etihad with only a point after seemingly being on course for all three.

 

 

Liverpool Falter Again

 

Liverpool are looking a shadow of their former selves, particularly in midfield and up front while in defence they have a nasty habit of letting in silly goals. Much like United, they have a specific weakness that teams are continually exploiting with no signs of improvement. West Ham had the look of a much better footballing side while Stewart Downing exposed Steven Gerrard for a lack of pace and positional awareness time and again.

 

 

Pochettino Can’t Do It By Himself

 

Tottenham slipped to a 1-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion, a rather frustrating afternoon for Spurs after initially beginning brightly and then subsequently fading away thus allowing West Brom to snatch the lead and ultimately, the win. What is clear is that Pochettino is finding it hard to bring some much needed consistency to Spurs’ play, the aim being they come away with scrappy wins instead of scrappy defeats, a task made all the harder with the added pressures and distractions the Europa League provides.

 

 

Teams Struggling For Identity

 

What is abundantly clear is that teams are struggling to find an ‘identity’, which of course brings consistency in their play. A specific line-up, a specific and unique playing spirit, a specific way of playing – these ingredients are either all or part missing in a lot of clubs this season. Manchester United are suffering from a lack of a settled line-up through injuries as well as a new manager implementing new ideas, while Liverpool seem to be suffering from a variant of 2nd season syndrome and a post-Luis Suarez hangover.

 

City seem down in the dumps a little although their late salvo against Chelsea would have lifted spirits while Tottenham and Everton are struggling to handle extra burdens in the form of the Europa League. What is clear is that these teams must come up with one quick as they risk an uncomfortable and inconsistent season. 

 

The Premier League certainly lays claim to the “most exciting and unpredictable league in the world” and on this weekends evidence, it is hard to argue with that claim. There were thrills galore, controversy and of course the most important thing…pies. Of course not, it’s goals silly! Anyway, with the turgid splendour of international football out of the way there is now free reign for club football all the way to March, near enough.

 

The standout game over the weekend was of course Leicester City’s 5-3 win over Manchester United. Almost as sensational as our Guts sport bonus. In what seemed to be a throwback to the 1950’s, Leicester capitalised on some fortuitous and bewildering decision making from referee Mark Clattenberg as well as some shambolic United defending to come back from 3-1 down to complete a remarkable comeback and seal a memorable victory. Van Gaal must now solve a defensive conundrum in which he finds another defender injured as well as one suspended for the following three games.

 

Of course, Liverpool succumbed to a 3-1 defeat away to West Ham United that was their third in five games, a far cry from the impressive side that we saw towards the end of last season. West Ham on the other hand seemed reborn which a pace, power and intelligence never seen before in a Sam Allardyce team! Arsenal secured a 3-0 win away at Aston Villa after the Midlands club started brightly but a 5-minute blitz that destroyed the Villans confidence and ensured Arsenal were relatively untroubled for the remainder of the match.

 

Elsewhere, there were draws for Newcastle, who came from 2-0 down to salvage a 2-2 at home to Hull, and also QPR and Stoke battled out a 2-2 draw at Loftus Road while Manchester City and Chelsea ensured the status quo at the top of the table as Frank Lampard secured a point for City against his old club in a 1-1 draw.

 

Guts Awards

 

 

Hero Award: Frank Lampard

 

Lampard has been one of the Premier League’s consistent performers and his number of goals from midfield has frankly (no pun intended) been outstanding. No other manager other than Mourinho would have let him go for free to a club that not only is in direct competition for trophies with Chelsea but also is approaching the ‘nemesis’ stage of football rivalry. However, Lampard showed class in how he conducted himself, scoring a vital goal and then his respect to both City and Chelsea fans.

 

 

Villain Award: Steven Gerrard

 

Is Gerrard worthy of a place at the moment? Yes, he’s Liverpool captain and he’s been a very good one but he’s just not doing it anymore. While claims that Brendan Rodgers could do worse than give his captain a rest, Gerrard cannot be happy with his own performances. Rodgers does need to rotate Gerrard better and if Liverpool are to move forward under him, he and the team need to get past this over-reliance on him and the attitude that without Gerrard, Liverpool are incapable of securing a result. Rodgers could do worse than look at Sir Alex Ferguson’s example of how he managed Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs as well as Mourinho’s handling of John Terry.

 

 

Team Award: Leicester City

 

Only one winner here, I’m afraid. Leicester secured a quite remarkable result against Manchester United at the King Power Stadium. 3-1 down on the hour mark and seemingly heading for a hiding, they rallied and basically bullied United into capitulation, which was as embarrassing as it was unexpected. While referee Mark Clattenberg was doing his best ‘let’s make this interesting’ act, take nothing away from Leicester who preyed on United’s weakness at the heart of their defence.

 

 

Goal Award: Angel di Maria

 

A quality goal from a quality player who, after playing a one-two with Wayne Rooney, collected the ball inside the penalty and executed a quite sublime chip over the advancing Kasper Schmeichel. Just a shame the defence behind him let him down with a collapse, as the goal was good enough to win any football match.

 

 

Guts’ Gripe of the Weekend: Refereeing

 

I know there has been a seemingly never-ending mention of the words ‘Mark’ and ‘Clattenberg’ in this blog but there can never be an excuse for inconsistency. Clattenberg’s decision to not award a free-kick to Manchester United right-back Rafael after being blatantly targeted by Leicester striker Jamie Vardy and then subsequently fall for his exaggerated theatrics in the penalty area resulting in a penalty to the Foxes, must be a quite puzzling sequence of events for one to analyse.

 

Mike Dean, who refereed Manchester City and Chelsea, seemed quite happy to let things go in that game that also wouldn’t normally be let go. A blatant arm-up from Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor was also missed while there were penalty decisions missed for City and a potential sending off for two bookable offences for David Silva also missed.

 

The subject of technology within the game will also rear its head again, surely while a bigger deal must be made of referees who fail in their job and while mistakes are forgivable, incompetency isn’t.  

 

costa

 Karl Matchett on Chelsea's new star

 

Last season, 2013-14, saw Atletico Madrid upset the established order in La Liga, becoming the first side other than Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the title since Rafael Benitez’s Valencia achieved the feat, a full decade previous. While the real star of the show was undoubtedly the team ethic and relentless aggressive spirit which Diego Simeone had instilled in the side, scattered throughout there were obvious stand-outs in individuals. Other stand-outs include Guts bonus sports which is definitely worth a look!

 

Thibaut Courtois impressed yet again on his extended loan, Diego Godin was monstrous in defence, Gabi irrepressible in midfield and Diego Costa added “lethal finisher” to his long list of attributes.

 

The Brazilian-turned-Spanish striker had long since shown his other attributes which made him an effective weapon on attack, but he maintained a fantastic scoring rate of around a goal per game for much of the season, until a succession of niggling injuries curtailed that incredible run and saw him finish with 27 goals in 35 games.

 

A title win under his belt as the main man in attack following Radamel Falcao’s departure a year previous, and with a Champions League final and World Cup appearance also on his CV—though he was able to impress in neither as a result of those injuries—it was no surprise to see Costa linked with a big-money transfer for this summer.

 

Chelsea, it must be accepted, was always a perfect fit.

 

Jose Mourinho has long favoured the style of forward who can not only score goals, but raise the attacking level of the team by several notches all by themselves: capable of holding up the ball to allow the team to go direct, a physical presence who occupies central defenders throughout the 90 minutes, a player who will drop off the front line to create space for the diagonal runners from the flanks and, above all else, a fierce, fierce competitor.

 

That’s Diego Costa to a tee. His movement has always been a feature of his game—time spent on the flanks earlier in his career contributes to that—and, as big a reputation as he seems to have for being something of a wind-up merchant, his in-game focus is hell-bent on being better than his defender. Like Luis Suarez, in a way, that ambition knows few boundaries; it can be by being combative, by excelling on the ball, or by finding other means to put them off their game. Costa narks, scowls, pushes and swears his way through a game, but the end-game is nothing more than catching his marker off his guard for a single second or two.

 

As he showed last season in La Liga, that can be all he needs.

 

And so to the Premier League. Some thought he might not adapt, but there was never any sense in that train of thought. He is coming into a team almost purpose-built to get the best out of his approach and link-up play, with great talents around him to create chances. Diego Costa’s non-stop aggression and willingness to follow up after he has contributed earlier in an attacking phase means he will find chances falling his way.

 

Seven goals in just four games this season suggests the partnership was indeed a ready-made one. Don’t bet against him making such a difference that he manages a second successive Champions League final, too.

 

You can find Karl on twitter at @karlmatchett

city bayern

 

The opening Champions League game for both sides in Group E ending exactly how Bayern wanted and denied Manchester City at least a point from the tough opening game. What was interesting is the way Bayern manager Pep Guardiola set his team up and how Pellegrini (completing a touchline suspension) changed his usual 4-4-2 formation for a tricky away fixture and how both teams and managers tried to counter each ones weakness.

 

Bayern in truth could have been ahead as early as the 1st minute as Thomas Mueller raced through the City defence after a flick from Robert Lewandowski split Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis, unfortunately for Mueller he lost his balance after pressure from Bacary Sagna as he rounded Joe Hart and put his attempt wide.

 

Guardiola had set his team up in a fluid 3-4-3 formation with Jerome Boateng, new signing Mehdi Benatia and David Alaba as the three centre-halves and Rafinha and Juan Bernat filling the wing-back roles while Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso occupied the central midfield berths. Robert Lewandowski operated as the focal point of the attack with Thomas Muller and Mario Götze in support.

 

Pellegrini decided to alter his tactical line-up for the away trip to a 4-5-1 as he left Sergio Aguero on the bench and plumped for the power of Edin Džeko in the lone frontman role. This move saw David Silva shifted from his usual left inside-forward role into the no.10 position while Jesus Navas was brought in to operate on the right-wing with Samir Nasri on the left. City had great success in this fixture last season, with Silva operating behind the lone Džeko.

 

However, where City had problems was in their usual strong area – midfield. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho seemed extremely uncomfortable with the movement of not only Götze and Mueller but of Lahm and Alonso too. Toure especially seemed uncomfortable throughout with the amount of running he had to do just to keep up with the Bayern midfield.

 

Where City looked to capitalise on the Bayern setup was through wide play, in particular Jesus Navas was given the task of driving Juan Bernat back towards his own goal and get in behind him at times. However, where the plan failed was Samir Nasri, on the left, failed to do that. Instead, Rafinha was given free reign. City won the game last year largely thanks to the performance of James Milner on the left wing, in which he continually streatched Lahm and restricted the German’s influence down that wing. Nasri was left unable to influence the game in either direction, which prompted a change from Pellegrini in the 2nd half.

 

In order to combat Bayern’s midfield, James Milner was finally drafted into the centre in place of Samir Nasri just before the hour mark while David Silva returned to his inside-left role while Yaya Toure was relieved from his difficult night briefly by shifting to the no.10 role. The move failed to have the exact desired effect, as Bayern continued to dominate possession and when Guardiola brought Arjen Robben on in place of Muller, with the attacks starting to flow down the Munich right.

 

In what was a complete contrast to the last time when these two sides met, last season in the Champions League group stage, City were not able to influence Bayern through the consistent high pressing and quick wing-play which had undone the German giants during City’s 3-2 victory at the Allianz Arena. Instead, they became camped within their own half and while Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis defended manfully they were not helped by the midfield in terms of gifting the Bayern attackers space in which to turn and shoot on Joe Hart’s goal.

 

It was only a matter of time before City were punished and when they were it arrived through an unlikely source. Former City defender Jerome Boateng capitalised on a poor attempted clearance and subsequently he proceeded to half volley the ball (via a deflection off Germany’s World Cup winning goalscorer) into the net and past the despairing Joe Hart.

 

Can City recover against Chelsea this weekend?

 

 jamie soward

By Natalie Shoebridge, Sydney.

 

Rugby league has a reputation for producing the big hits. Whether it’s man-mountain Dave Taylor bulldozing the opposition, Sonny Bill Williams sending someone to the next postcode, or little Chrissy Sandow shoulder-charging men twice his size - when that was still allowed, of course. 

 

After week one of the finals, it’s fair to say that this is going to be a memorable build-up to the premiership decider. Plenty of aggression, flair and passion ooze from each team that runs out, and the hysterical fans in the stands are lapping up the atmosphere and riding every play. 

 

The last few seasons have seen the NRL attempt to clean up the game. In 2013, shoulder charges and punches became officially illegal, and wrestling tactics even more frowned upon.

 

And while we’re all for the biff, a worrying statistic is the number of injured players this year. Reports have shown that enough players have graced the casualty ward to stock seven NRL teams – meaning almost half of the playing pool has battled to be fit enough to take to the field. However, you could take the field in a proper manner with the fresh Guts.com sports bonus code right now

 

2014 will always be remembered as the year Alex McKinnon sustained an horrific spinal injury because of a lifting tackle, and while the best efforts have been made to completely outlaw any movement “above the horizontal” in tackles, we are still seeing players being put in dangerous positions.

 

In last weekend’s qualifying finals, Greg Inglis was tipped on his head while two Manly players held his legs. There was much publicity following the game that Inglis seemed to get his head in an “awkward position”, leaving him vulnerable to neck injuries – but the offending players only received one week suspensions. Regardless of who is at fault, surely the primary goal should be player welfare so every effort should be made to avoid those on the field from landing in career or life threatening positions.

 

Of late, fullbacks have come under much scrutiny for try-line defence by ‘leading with the knees’ –meaning the sliding of the knees into an opposition player’s lower back to keep them from scoring. Billy Slater is a repeat offender, as seen in Sunday’s game against the Bulldogs when he was put on report for a try-saving tackle on Josh Reynolds. The judiciary is arguably reasonably consistent with this type of charge – but the same can't be said for neck-related tackles.

 

At this time of year, we want to see the newspapers plastered with images of freak-tries like that leap from Lote Tuqiri on Friday night, or the stunning field goal from Jamie Soward for the Panthers in the dying seconds against the reigning premiers. No one likes to see players carried off on stretchers or time being called off for concussion checks. Forget the “bring back the biff” campaign – give us some skill and athleticism. After all, anyone can throw a poor punch, but it takes a professional to make a length of the field, try-scoring dash in an NRL Grand Final.

 

You can find Natalie on twitter @nat_a_shoe

carlos tevez

Kirsten Schlewitz looks at the early season form of the Italian title chasers.

 

We’re just two rounds into the Serie A season, yet we may already have some idea of who, if anyone, might be best suited to challenging Juventus for the title. But first thing’s first, we should start with the champions. Actually, firstly you should check out this Guts bonus sports. You're welcome.

 

Juventus

The Old Lady remain top choice for this season’s scudetto. Replacing Antonio Conte with Max Allegri did prompt many questions, but so far, Juventus have delivered. It helps that Allegri has yet to change Conte’s game plan, adhering to a three-man defense despite having to shuffle players due to injury.

The talented collection of players Juve have on-hand means that, no matter who is shouting instructions on the touchline, they were always going to be favorites. But there’s still reason to think they may be more vulnerable this season than last. Injuries are already hitting the side, and a prolonged run without Arturo Vidal in midfield or Carlos Tevez scoring goals could mean danger. The Champions League may also take a toll, particularly as Juventus are being asked to finally deliver the goods in Europe.

 

Roma

Roma, who finished second last season, were tipped to challenge Juventus. But despite two wins from two, they’ve only truly impressed during their first half against Fiorentina. This weekend the giallorossi looked rather tepid against newly-promoted Empoli, winning 1-0 by virtue of an own goal.

It’s about to get tougher for Rudi García. The manager now embarks on his first Champions League journey, beginning with Roma hosting CSKA Moscow. It’s a relatively easy first match, but with Roma’s group including both Manchester City and Bayern Munich, the side could wind up exhausting themselves in Europe while stuttering in the league.

 

AC Milan

Milan are off to a flying start under new manager Filippo Inzaghi, collecting six points and scoring eight goals in the process. Considering their 8th place finish last season, tipping them for the scudetto may seem rather hasty. However, Inzaghi has assembled a rather frightening attack, even after selling Mario Balotelli to Liverpool.

What worries is their inability to defend. Milan ran out 5-4 winners against Parma on Sunday, but allowed two goals from corners, with another coming after a back-pass from Mattia De Sciglio, which caused Diego Lopez to flail spectacularly as the ball flew into his own net. If the defence isn’t sorted, the bigger sides could well rip Milan to shreds.

 

Napoli

After failing to qualify for the Champions League, Napoli announced their goal was the scudetto. But they’re already stumbling. Genoa ran circles around them in their first match, and despite a last-minute victory for Napoli, they did very little to excite. But this weekend’s home loss to minnows Chievo may have already knocked them out of the title chase. Supporters have made their ire known, and if Rafa Benítez doesn’t pull off an impressive victory over Udinese this weekend, he can expect to be looking for another job.

 

Inter

After a 7-0 thumping of Sassuolo this weekend, many might include Inter in the scudetto discussion. But while their attack, and particularly Mateo Kovacic, certainly caused chaos, it’s worth remembering the same result occurred last season. Walter Mazzarri started 10 of those 11 players against Torino in the opening match, yet not a single goal came. Until the goals rain down against a side not expected to be battling relegation, the nerazzurri shouldn’t be considered title candidates.

 

You can find Kirsten on twitter at @KDS_Football.

gianni infantino

Ellis Chaddock has solved UEFA's CL seeding problems.

 

As a Manchester United fan in my mid-twenties the last Thursday in August has been a joy to experience for as long as I can remember. The UEFA Champions League draw, what a prize for all the hard work I put in by supporting my team through the lean spells and the dark days (we finished 4th one year, it was rough). Which giants of Europe we will be clashing with this year? Will we get to test ourselves against the might of FC Copenhagen, or maybe we might be lucky enough to play Benfica for what feels like the 10th straight season?

 

To any outsider to the sport, this spectacle should be more than enough to satisfy – How could a three-hour ceremony dedicated to picking the names of 32 teams out of 4 bowls not be "enough"? At least the pay-off is understandable, the grand procession culminating in six potentially intriguing matches per team & a valid excuse to visit three European cities.

 

As anyone who has spent any time following a team will tell you though, there is more to football than watching your own side; there is also the joy of seeing your rivals fail. I don’t think this ever manifests itself as strongly as it does in the UCL group stage draw.

 

Somewhat naively, I had high hopes that schadenfreude would get me through this year’s draw; as I’m sure you were all aware Manchester United were not going to be present, but as a Mancunian living in opposition territory I had been gleefully informed, on more than one occasion, that Liverpool would be.

 

Schadenfreude wasn’t enough. Sure Liverpool have to face Real Madrid and Basel, but they were just so damn happy to be back at the top table that it was hard to laugh at them from outside with my face pressed up against the glass. Even the minor hilarity of Bayern Munich vs Manchester City for the third time in four years couldn’t bring a smile to my face. I felt empty, a husk of a football fan. There must be something wrong with me I thought, maybe I had it wrong? Is there more to football than the tribalism it has become? Should I not be cheering on the other English teams that have made it to UEFA’s top competition?

 

2

“Make sure all the English teams perish”

 

It hit me like a wave. It was so clear. It was UEFA’s fault! They messed up the seedings. If one thing good was going to come of Manchester United finishing seventh then it would be this! I will fix the Champions League seeding system. You’re welcome, UEFA.

 

uefa coefficients

*Galatasaray placed as 1st in Turkey following Fenerbache's European ban.

**Monaco given 13.000 as coefficient as they have not played in Europe for the past five seasons. The club recieved Ligue Un's coefficient score.

 

Above are the UEFA coefficients for all teams entering the CL at the 2014/15 group stage & the pot they were entered into for the draw. UEFA sort all entrants to the group stage purely on the coefficient each club obtained for the end of the 2013/14 season, this covers each club’s performance in European competitions over the past 5 years. When a club has not been in European competition, they simply take the country’s coefficient score, as evidenced by Monaco’s score of 13.000.

 

What struck me regarding this system is how heavily it is skewed in favour of qualification over the previous season’s performance. Arsenal and Chelsea have consistently qualified, benefitting from England’s high UEFA coefficient and number of qualification spots, which has seen them land in Pot A despite finishing third and fourth in the English Premier League. Meanwhile, every team in pot 4 finished second or higher in their league; including AS Roma & AS Monaco FC.


Don't forget to place your bets for this year's Champions League. Get the latest Guts sports bonus codes and boost your winnings!

 

So armed with Excel, and a vague memory of my statistic GCSE, I powered forward into the abyss that is UEFA’s ranking system. My aim was to create a system that would have a greater balance between rewarding the previous season’s performance and consistent European qualification (a secondary objective was to stop Chelsea and FC Schalke playing each other again, a match worse than Vorgon poetry). I started by grouping the 32 teams based on previous year’s performance:

 

2014 Champions League winner: 1
2014 League winner: 18
2014 League Runner-up: 6
2014 League 3rd place: 4
2014 League 4th Place: 3

 

I used these groupings for my first attempt to rearrange the rankings. Clubs were grouped into their pots based on the previous season performance & then by coefficient. The new seedings based on this can be seen below. Whilst this did give more immediate rewards to clubs who finished higher in their respective domestic leagues, you can see quite clearly it doesn’t reward consistent qualification for Europe.

 

uefa coefficients change 1

 

Alas, all this had done was create two pots (A+D) which were saturated with clubs who had qualified consistently; four of the teams now in pot D were previously in Pot A. Something needed to be done to redress the balance. I jumped headfirst into statistics mode to try and see if the numbers could point me in the right direction. I found that the average coefficient was 75.938. Remembering a combination of my statistics GCSE, and everything I have learnt about business over the years, I decided it was time for some standard deviating. Whilst I am most certainly not using this in the six-sigma black belt defined parameters that my business professor was so fond of, I feel it could be a useful tool to confirm that each pot in my new draw is as competitive as possible.

 

alec baldwin

My business professor

 

Standard deviation gave me a range of acceptable average coefficients for each pot of 34.62 to 117.26; or to use football terms, an average strength somewhere between APOEL and Arsenal. If I was going to slate off UEFA so vehemently I decided that it was probably worth checking that their current grouping didn’t already meet these criteria. It didn’t. Pot A in this year’s draw had an average coefficient of 135.22 & Pot D had an average coefficient of 26.89. This means a gap of roughly 110 points (55 wins in Europe over the past 5 years) between teams from the top and bottom pot. Whilst my new ranking system gave coefficients of:

 

Pot A: 109.92
Pot B: 55.80
Pot C: 44.26
Pot D: 93.76

 

Standard deviation test passed. But the range from group to group still seems too high as we have a case of 2 high quality groups and two lower quality groups. How can I rearrange the groups to address this? This is hard work; I can understand why Platini earns the big bucks now. After much soul searching, I gained inspiration.

 

bottle

Inspiration

 

A tiered system! That will cure which ails me! This is a little more complex than the previous system but works as such:

 

Pot A: Winner of previous seasons UCL + Divisional Champions 2013/14
Pot B: 2013/14 League Winners & Second Place
Pot C: 2013/14 League Winners, Second Place & Third Place
Pot D: All teams

 

SO, to qualify for pot A you must have finished top of your league, for pot B at least second, and so on. If more than eight teams qualify to be entered into each Pot they will then be sorted by coefficients, as before.

 

uefa coefficients change 2

 

At first glance, I think this could be it; there are big clubs in each pot indicating a balance between immediate & sustained success. The statistics confirm this:

Pot A: 109.92
Pot B: 67.83
Pot C: 85.30
Pot D: 40.62

 

Whilst this weakens Pot D, it does so by improving Pot B & C’s coefficients, which means there is a smaller difference between Pots.

 

I’ve cracked it & I am now ready to host my own UEFA Champions League draw. I don’t quite have the same budget as UEFA though, so the draw will not be held from Paris, but rather my girlfriend’s bedroom. There will be no luminaries and past stars of the game. We have her cat, Ben. A fine replacement for Gianni Infantino, I’m sure you’ll agree.

 

cat

Unfortunately, the excitement proved too much for Ben meaning we were left without a star to present the UEFA left-back of the year award.

 

 

I thought we might be able to use the little plastic eggs which hold the toys inside Kinder eggs, but again, no budget. It mattered not, this was what it had all been for, the moment for me to prove I could create a better group stage draw than UEFA, one which would leave the neutral and the invested fan positively tingling with excitement for the months ahead. So, without further ado: the draw.

 

champions league groups

 

Well, here are the results. I would personally say it was a resounding success as Chelsea didn’t face off against Schalke. There is only a single group (Group H) that may be considered weaker; and even though I swear to god I did not plan this to happen both Liverpool & Manchester City were dealt possible groups of death (I’m sorry City fans, it seems that fate has decided you must face Bayern Munich. I can fight UEFA but I can’t fight destiny).

 

Anyway, the point is: if I can come up with a better seeding system, why can't UEFA?

 

If you would like to criticise Ellis' improper use of statistical analysis you can find him on on twitter at @Ellis_bo_fellis.

 

Champions League

 

Return to Anfield

 

The Champions League pre-match anthem will be played loudly and proudly before Liverpool’s opening Champions League Group A match with group stage newcomers Ludogorets Razgrad. The match will mark the opening of the first Champions League campaign for the Anfield side since December 2009 when the Anfield side were knocked out in the Group Stages following a 2-1 home defeat to Fiorentina.

 

Time will tell if it’ll be a tricky opening for the Merseysiders but with a number of players missing including key striker Daniel Sturridge, manager Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that the lack of a cutting edge seen in the 1-0 weekend defeat to Aston Villa will not strike again.

 

 

Welbeck-Arsenal-Dortmund

 

Well, according to Danny Welbeck, this is what he joined Arsenal for: the Champions League. He will get the chance tonight to prove he has what it takes to do it for Arsenal on the biggest club stage in Europe. However, Arsenal have numerous problems, notably in defence where there are players who quite simply will have to step up to the mark, notably 19 year-old Spaniard Hector Bellerin, if Arsenal are to leave Germany with a positive result. Welbeck will have to do the business up front as a makeshift defence may prove a difficult thing to shield against the Germans.

 

 

Bavarian Delight for City

 

Another season, another Champions League campaign and…another trip to Bavaria for Manchester City. Is this last seasons campaign? No? Are you sure? Ok. Anyway, City will again have to face-off with the German champions and the might of Pep Guardiola if they’re to grab the initiative within their group.

 

On their last trip to Bavaria, City pulled off an amazing result coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping that this trip is equally successful.

 

 

Unfashionable Eddie’s

 

There are a lot of teams in this season’s competition that are making a welcome return or appearing in the Group Stage for the first time in their history. Notably, 1980 European Cup runners-up Malmo FF from Sweden are making their first appearance in the Champions League group stage since the format change in 1992. Malmo’s first match is of course away to Italian giants Juventus and they will be hoping to make an impression right away.

 

Apoel Nicosia face a daunting trip to Barcelona while NK Maribor and Sporting Lisbon face off against each other and Athletic Bilbao make a welcome return to the Champions League. All-in-all it could be a very exciting season with plenty of shocks!

 

 

Notable Similarities

 

There is of course a number of clubs who will face off against each other that also faced off last season, notably Chelsea v Schalke and Bayern Munich and Manchester City, hopefully there will some different outcomes when these teams meet as we don’t want things to turn out exactly the same do we?

 

The Premier League is back after the deplorable international break and the goals, shocks and talking points are back with a bang. So make those transfers, get the team settled and sit back and relax safe in the knowledge that your #FPL team will be the best it can be for the forthcoming weeks.

 

Fantasy L

 

In what is a massive change at the top of the Guts league, 3-consecutive-week leaders Ludicrous Display managed by Daniel Breeze have been knocked off the top of the leaderboard and they are now in 5th place. What has happened Daniel? A relatively poor gameweek total of 51 points, compared with the previous 3, ensured that Daniel was caught and knocked off his early season perch.

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The new leader is Hristo Sultanov and his team Crabcakes who lays joint 1st with Temple Pilgrims managed by Ashley Temple and after impressive gameweek totals of 78 and 79 points respectively, lay top of the pile with 270 points each.

 

At the opposite end of the table, gameweek 3’s bottom team aye rennie managed by Paul Rennie were the big movers as a reasonable week total of 54 points resulted in a move up to 140th place. Come on Paul, you now have a total of 166 points, keep that average up and you’ll soon move out of the bottom half. The indignity of last place now falls to FavoTeam managed by Oleg O who after a horrid gameweek total of 16 points, prop up the table with a meagre 46-point total.

 

Transfers, who can you have? Well, Angel di Maria seems intent on proving his £59.7m price tag was worth it and I’m sure he’ll do that, with a goal and an assist on his Old Trafford debut, he is surely worth a place in anyone’s team. Leicester City’s Leonard Ulloa is also worth a tip after his goalscoring exploits at the weekend while Jack Wilshere, Ander Herrera and Cesc Fabregas all scored to score good totals at the weekend. 

 

Rejoice and embrace all! The return of the Premier League happened this weekend after the turgid and frankly unwanted international break. It was a welcome relief from the seemingly endless fortnight that blights us all at the beginning of September every year. Oh well, with a healthy Guts bonus sports everything look a little better now, doesn't it?

 

However, back to the cut and thrust of the season and as it turns out it was quite an eventful one with a few routine and also a few spanners thrown into the works of a few while there were great individual and team performances and some great goals.

 

Manchester United secured their first competitive win under new manager Louis van Gaal with the 4-0 demolition of Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford. It was new signings galore as the Reds established the pattern of what van Gaal will hope is the precedent of what teams coming to Old Trafford will experience from now on. Angel di Maria showed his £59.7m worth of quality with a performance laced with pace, power and work ethic while Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera were all magnificent in ensuring the United defence remained solid and the attack was linked with every other facet of the team.

 

Daley Blind in particular was marked out for an impressive performance as his positioning and passing ability contributed to United enjoying 69% of possession. However, van Gaal will be quick to ensure that their feet remain firmly on the ground as QPR were frankly awful and offered nothing apart from a fluffed Matt Phillips chance that really should have ended up in the net.

 

Aston Villa produced a fine team defensive display to keep out a somewhat subdued Liverpool at Anfield, which has become quite a happy hunting ground for the Villans, the past couple of seasons. A Gabby Agbonlahor goal secured a 1-0 win and condemned Liverpool to their second defeat of the season. Arsenal and Manchester City battled out a 2-2 draw at the Emirates saw Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere score brilliant goals in response to Sergio Aguero’s excellent breakaway goal.

 

Guts Awards

 

Hero Award: Nigel Pearson

 

Leicester City are fast becoming everyone’s second team this season and they’re producing the results when they need to.  They have entered the Premier League this season perhaps one of the favourites to be relegated at the end of the season but yet they have produced several good performances, securing a draw to Everton on the opening day after being behind while pushing Chelsea and Arsenal close securing a point against the latter and beating a Stoke City side at the Britannia Stadium, which is as we know a very difficult ground to win at. Essentially, they have proved they can pick up results when needed and they will hope they can continue to do that.

 

Villain Award: Newcastle

 

As a whole, that includes the manager, staff, players and the performance, Newcastle were frankly awful against Southampton and were deservedly hammered 4-0. Their performance was inept in every way; the defence were continually split with gaps all over place, allowing Southampton to win first and second balls and also pick the right pass to play forward. Pardew must now fear for his future as the fans turned on him at the weekend and there were numerous banners visible with the simple words of “PARDEW OUT”.

 

Team Award: Aston Villa

 

Villa produced a fine team display to win at Anfield and defeat Liverpool again. It was the fourth successive game at Anfield that Villa had managed to come away with a result with the record now standing at 2 wins and 2 draws. Liverpool were unusually limp but were without the injured Sturridge and Raheem Sterling who was left on the bench following his exploits for England on Monday. It was however a disappointing display from the Merseysiders and condemns them to their second defeat of the season after four games.

 

Goal Award: Alexis Sanchez

 

The award for the goal goes to Alexis Sanchez who managed to scoop a wonderful finish into the top corner after City had failed to clear their lines. It was perfectly executed and surely a sign of things to come from him?

 

Guts’ Gripe of the Weekend: TV Scheduling

 

What is the purpose of scheduling a 4pm kick-off when that is the only Premier League game on that day? There surely has to be some common sense here, what was the purpose of it being a 4pm instead of say 1.30pm? TV companies have too much power in modern football and this surely has to be kerbed in the future but as long as they keep increasing the broadcast deal amount, that will not happen. 

 

 pl

 

Di Maria Shows His Class

It’s taken a while, but Louis van Gaal finally had most of his new signings available for selection. Interestingly, he abandoned the formation he had so far persisted with. Whether this was due to the players performing poorly in their tactical duties, or simply because he has more attacking talent to fit into the same XI remains to be seen. One thing is undeniable, Di Maria has added a cutting edge not seen at Old Trafford in a long time (from the home team, anyway).

On the same weekend Real Madrid lost to their city rivals, Di Maria hosted a masterclass of attacking football at Old Trafford. There is an argument that Di Maria was not exactly what this top-heavy United squad needed, but when a player of his talent becomes available, it is very hard to resist.

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Lampard Shows His Age

Arsenal and Manchester City played out one of the games of the season so far, with both sides contributing to a phenomenal 2-2. City fans will be disappointed that new signing Fernando missed the game through injury, while Yaya Toure was not included in the squad after his midweek travelling with the Ivory Coast. 36-year-old Frank Lampard made his debut in their absence and it was not surprising that City boss Manuel Pellegrini reshuffled his pack at half-time, moving James Milner into the centre and replacing Lampard with Samir Nasri. Lampard may have been a phenomenal player for Chelsea, but his influence waned towards the end and City will hope that Yaya Toure has sufficiently recovered to face Bayern Munich in midweek.

 

Southampton Show Newcastle How To Rebuild

This was supposed to be different. At least, that’s the narrative we have been fed throughout the summer: Southampton had their heart ripped out, with their best players all jumping ship after a successful season together. Newcastle, meanwhile, had invested wisely, with Alan Pardew finally assembling the attacking flair required to replace Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa. Newcastle weren’t just beaten by Southampton, they were systematically dismantled. The result leaves Newcastle bottom of the table, while the Saints are in the Champions League places. It’s early days, but things have to improve on Tyneside, and quick.

 

Villa Show Liverpool How To Defend

Villa are another side who are defying the pre-season predictions. Widely tipped for a relegation struggle, the Villains have picked up 10 points from 4 games; a feat bettered only by table-topping Chelsea. In a game not dissimilar to Stoke’s win at the Etihad two weeks ago, Villa put in an impressive defensive showing against one of the title challengers. Liverpool will point to the injury Sturridge sustained whilst on England duty, but Villa were also missing their captain and defensive lynchpin, Ron Vlaar. Villa couldn’t have asked for a better start to an extremely difficult run of fixtures, but on current form, they will fancy their chances of taking points from Arsenal next weekend.

 

Stoke Show Their Inconsistency

Oh, Stoke. A home game against one of the promoted sides should have been routine for Hughes’ men after their phenomenal victory against the Premier League champions last time around. Instead, the Potters fans watched their team lose at home for already the second time this season. The lack of a cutting edge was painfully evident as Stoke bossed the first half, despite a significant investment in attacking talent this summer. One of the biggest disappointments so far has been the impact of Bojan, but are we simply expecting too much from a young talent who hasn’t fulfilled his teenage potential?

 daley blind presented as MUFC player

Christopher Atkins looks at the man who could bring order to the new MUFC formation.

 

What had appeared so straightforward during an unbeaten pre-season campaign has proven rather difficult for Manchester United over the past few weeks, with two draws the sum total of their points haul from the opening three games of the Premier League season. Yet, despite those woes, there is positivity around Old Trafford at present following late transfer activity that sent out a significant statement of intent. The arrivals of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, in particular, were largely unexpected and, indeed, potentially season-changing.

 

However, for all the quality that new manager Louis van Gaal has brought in over the summer, it is perhaps the club's cheapest purchase of the window—Daley Blind—who could have the biggest impact on what the team can seek to achieve in the weeks and months ahead. The central midfield area has been an issue of United's for some time and, even in Van Gaal's 3-4-1-2 system—designed to lessen the burden on that department—it has proved a continued concern.

 

Much spotlight was put on the team's overeagerness to play long-balls against Burnley in United's last fixture, with just under 20 percent of all the side's passes hit long. Given Van Gaal's much stated preference for a high-tempo, possession-based system it was somewhat bemusing and supporters were rightfully concerned. Youngster Tyler Blackett was one player singled out as overly keen to play the ball long rather than seek a more simple option, but all too often there were few avenues available.

 

Of United's 10 most common passing combinations this season, nine comprise solely members of the six-man defensive unit (including goalkeeper David de Gea). The Red Devils have not had an issue retaining possession, averaging an impressive 58.9 percent of the ball, but it would seem they have struggled to move the ball out of the defensive line. That only six sides have created less clear-cut chances this campaign would also suggest that their more creative players have been far from involved in the right areas of the pitch.

 

That is not to let those attacking options off the hook and, indeed, the signings of both Falcao and Di Maria will do much to address what has been at times this season a slow and ponderous unit. However, such talents must still be given the ball in attacking quarters and defences must be stretched. United may not have been helped by injuries to both Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick, but those deputising in midfield should have offered far more. Van Gaal's is a system of stretching play by maximising the width of the field through fast passing exchanges. Thus far, it hasn't been implemented.

 

What the Dutchman saw in his opening competitive games must surely have convinced him that a move for Blind was a priority. The zest with which United had played on tour had been lost and, when put under pressure, the midfield was creaking. While attempts for a dominant Arturo Vidal or Kevin Strootman figure are on hold, Blind will do much to ease the burden on the defence when it comes to distribution from the back.

 

His task will be a simple one, to collect the ball from the centre-backs and bring those around him—the Matas, Herreras, Di Marias—into play in the attacking half of the pitch. A converted left-back, he was excellent in a defensive midfield role for Ajax last campaign and, when used there, for Netherlands at the World Cup. For what he lacks in pace, Blind compensates for in intelligence and reading of the game. By the way, this Guts bonus sports will boost your bets.

 

Whether United opt to remain in their current system or switch to a 4-3-1-2 diamond setup as has been suggested in some quarters, improving distribution will be key to unlocking the side's attacking potential. As previously unavailable players return, the side will inevitably improve but Van Gaal still saw the need to sign a new midfield anchor as he seeks to fully impose his philosophy at Old Trafford.

 

Blind, a pupil of his school of thought, will be central to that system and it is he, rather than the eye-catching signings higher up the pitch, who could be key to United returning to challenge at the top of the Premier League table. Given the significant investment they have made, a Champions League return next season has to be the minimum expectation for the season ahead.

 

You can find Christopher on twitter at @ChrisAtkins_

pl

 

The Week of Welbeck

 

Danny Welbeck hasn’t even kicked a ball for Arsenal yet but he continues to divide fans. After his move from his boyhood club, Manchester United, the Red Devils boss claimed that Welbeck simply was not of the standard required at United. Considering that Arsenal have eyes for the title and United’s priority should be firmly on reclaiming their place in the Champions League, it will be fascinating to see how Welbeck’s season pans out.

 

There is an argument that Welbeck’s scoring record hasn’t been helped by being constantly played out of position during his time at Old Trafford. Two match-winning goals for England in their EURO 2016 qualifier should help Welbeck’s case for starting through the middle for his club this weekend? The opposition? Manchester City.

 

Get the latest Arsenal v Man City odds.

 

 

New Signings At Old Trafford

 

It’s fair to say that Manchester United haven’t had the start the would have liked this season. Two points, gained against Sunderland and Burnley are the sum total of their Premier League efforts, while a 4-0 mauling at the hands of third tier opposition highlighted how the players are struggling to adapt to the new 352 formation.

 

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as this weekend should United’s big spending finally translate onto the pitch. Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind and Falcao should all play some part against QPR. LVG asked for 3 months patience while the players blend and become fluent with the new playing style, but the crowd at Old Trafford will be expecting to get their first win of the season this weekend.

 

Get the latest Man Utd v QPR odds.

 

 

Balotelli Leads The Line

 

Daniel Sturridge has returned from England duty injured. It’s the worst case scenario for any club manager. Fortunately, Liverpool have a new striker ready to prove his worth to his side in Mario Balotelli. The Italian’s return to the league was extremely impressive, as his clever movement helped rip the Tottenham defence to shreds in the club’s last outing. A lack of match sharpness prevented him from getting on the scoresheet, but it would have been an extremely encouraging sight for the Anfield faithful to enjoy. Grab your chance to enjoy some bets on this weekend's Premier League action with the lates Guts bonus sports

 

Balotelli is likely to become the focal point of a three-pronged attack this weekend, flanked either side by Sterling and Coutinho, but it would be unfair to forget Rickie Lambert’s part in all this. The veteran striker moved to his boyhood club this summer and will be eager to make his first PL start, in the absence of their first choice forward. How Rodgers decides to best use his forwards will likely decide the game against an Aston Villa side enjoying an impressive start to the season.

 

Get the latest Liverpool v Aston Villa odds.

 

 

Chelsea Should Beware Swansea On The Break

 

It’s almost like he never left. Cesc Fabregas has seamlessly slotted back into life in the Premier League, providing four assists in his first three games – a phenomenal return by anyone’s standards.

 

Chelsea’s attacking talent has blown away all challengers so far, with the exhilarating ‘we’ll score more than you’ 3-6 victory at Goodison Park already a contender for game of the season.

 

Chelsea are obviously favourites at the Bridge, but you wouldn’t put it past this exciting Swansea side to cause an upset. They have phenomenal pace on the break, with Routledge and Dyer never shy about running directly at the opposition full-backs. Wilfried Bony’s tireless running has opened up the space to allow the returning Gylfi Sigurdsson room to thrive.

 

Get the latest Chelsea v Swansea odds.

 

 

Attacking Talent At The KC

 

In all of the transfer window madness, Hull City assembled an exciting, attacking outfit somewhat under the radar. Abel Hernandez joined from Palermo, while Tom Ince was convinced that his career would prosper in Hull rather than Milan.

 

Forget all of the owner-shenanigans for a moment; let’s concentrate purely on the squad of talented individuals Steve Bruce has assembled over the summer. Gaston Ramirez showed glimpses of his ability during his spell at Southampton, but it is the signing of Hatem Ben Arfa which could really get the pulses racing. It could be some time before the enigmatic Frenchman is truly matchfit, such is the level of isolation he suffered in his last season at Newcastle.

 

‘Talented individuals’ is the key element here. There is no denying that Hull have attacking talent in abundance, but how these all fit into the starting XI remains to be seem. A good place to start could be a home game against West Ham.

 

Get the latest Hull v West Ham.

shield

 

Super League enters its final round with a big question unanswered - who will finish top of the table?


The prize is the league leaders’ shield, or the hubcap as it has derivatively been dubbed by some fans, usually of clubs who have done bigger and better things than finish 1st.


Fans of some other sports have a hard time understanding why, after a gruelling league season, the team finishing top of the table isn’t crowned champions, even opinion within rugby league is divided on the issue.
But the Grand Final, held at Old Trafford, and the play-offs add interest to the end of the campaign, and most importantly, revenue.


The two teams who can finish top are St Helens, for whom failure to secure it would represent an embarrassment given they’ve been the only club in real contention for it for several weeks, and Castleford, 2014’s success story.


The shield’s status in the game is perhaps best represented by these two clubs - one, in St Helens, a four-time Super League champion, who’s fans are still calling for coach Nathan Brown’s head, despite the fact they’ve been ahead of everybody else for much of the campaign; and the other in the shape of Castleford, who were being talked of as a relegation candidate in pre-season. It will undoubtedly matter more to Castleford, just as it did to Huddersfield last season, when the Giants won it for the first time.


Warrington are perhaps the best example of how a change in a club’s fortunes can determine it’s attitude to the shield. In 2011, the Wolves were in dreamland, finishing top of the tree, securing a notable trophy for many a year, and making a big deal of succeeding in what had been a see-saw battle to claim first place, ultimately sealed by a decisive victory over nearest challengers Wigan.


But Tony Smith’s side then went on to fail in the Super League play-offs, and spent the close season mulling over what was represented as a failure.


The season after, finishing first was not on the top of Smith’s agenda - instead, he wanted to get his team in a position where they could make a real push for the Grand Final. While they’ve not won it yet, they’ve reached Old Trafford in both seasons since.


Another of rugby league’s quirks, the presence of a French team in its top flight, means that the two decisive games on the final weekend take place on different days.


St Helens can secure top spot if they avoid defeat against Huddersfield away on Friday night, while Castleford will be primed and waiting to pounce when they travel to Perpignan to play Catalan Dragons on Saturday.

 

With the recent announcement of the World Club Series, involving three teams each from both Super League and the NRL, finishing top has the prize of being included in that groundbreaking tournament. The play-offs kick-off in the NRL this weekend, with the eventual Grand Final winners set to join Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs in the tournament set to take place in the UK next February.

nrl logo

By Natalie Shoebridge in Sydney.

 

September: the month when legends are born, loyalties are tested and quirky fan superstitions are at an all time high. Also the month the Guts sports promotion is bursting, so get in! As the winter chill begins to lift in Australia, tempers and passions are similarly spiking on the field as we charge towards the Grand Final. Certainly 

The final round of the regular season saw Josh Dugan and Tyrone Roberts sin-binned in one of the biggest biffs since the strict ‘no punch’ rules were implemented last year, and losses to the New Zealand Warriors and the Parramatta Eels rendered these teams out of contention for this year’s finals series.

 

Along with tacky car-flags and bandwagon-jumping fans, September marks the return of NRL hysteria as the top eight teams battle it out for the title. And there’s no better way to celebrate the run to The Big One than to have a quick look at the top four contenders ahead of the first week of the finals.

 

Sydney Roosters

We may have had the official farewell celebrations for departing stars Anthony Minichiello and Sonny Bill Williams – complete with cut-out face masks and impassioned video montages – but these two stars are still a long way from hanging up their boots for the year. After an arguably slow start to the season, last year’s premiers managed to retain the Minor Premiership, snatching it from the clutches of Manly in a fierce contest of for-and-against.  The Roosters have peaked at the right time and seem to be a certainty to make a real impact on the contest for the 2014 title.

 

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

While coach Geoff Toovey may be known for his referee rants and coach’s box reactions, the tight ship he runs at Manly has set up a possible grand final rematch this season. After narrowly missing out on the Minor Premiership, only injury concerns could inhibit their appearance at the business end of September. There’s certainly no reason why Manly should book any Mad Monday celebrations just yet.

 

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Russell Crowe’s Rabbitohs are often touted the Pride of the League, and look a real chance to break the hoodoo that has plagued the side since the late 80s. With the biggest fan base in the league and the experience of the last two years in the finals, Souths look to be a permanent fixture in September footy for many years to come if they can consolidate the form they have shown under captain John Sutton.

 

Penrith Panthers

As one of the big surprises of the season, the Panthers have stepped out of the shadows and look to be the team to beat in the coming weeks. After buying up big for the last few years, the team curated by Phil Gould is a pleasure to watch, and the Western Sydney fans will be a big drawcard for this finals run.

 

The first game kicks off on Friday night, where the Sea Eagles take on the Rabbitohs, with the winner one game away from a Grand Final appearance.

 

You follow Natalie on twitter at @nat_a_shoe

Last night England won away in a competitive international for the first time since defeating San Marino in March 2013. As it turned out it was the perfect start to the qualification campaign of Euro 2016 which will take place in France and it was the response to the critics that the team, manager and fans (to a certain extent) would have wanted after the debacle that was England’s 2014 World Cup campaign.

 

Last night also saw the inception of a new system for Roy Hodgson’s side, the 4-4-2 diamond which was clearly implemented with the aim of utilising England’s attacking strength and specifically allowing Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling to replicate the damage he has caused playing for Liverpool in the exact same position; at the ‘tip’ of the diamond or seemingly just behind the frontmen of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck.

 

roy 

 

The youthful zest that Sterling has provided this particular England squad cannot be underestimated and his presence was greatly needed last night, even if he couldn’t quite reproduce the influence he has on Liverpool’s play. He was a willing runner and dragged the Swiss defence into areas of the pitch where they didn’t want to be.

 

Danny Welbeck was also aiming to prove the critics wrong that, after his £16m move to Arsenal from Manchester United on transfer deadline day, claimed he didn’t score enough goals to be considered that much of a threat. While that may ring true for his club side as it certainly did for Manchester United, the same cannot be said of his record in England colours. His two goals last night were his 9th and 10th England goals in 28 caps, which is an impressive strike rate at international level. Impressive is also this Guts sport bonus. Beleive us.

 

What the new system provided England was a significant threat on the break through the pace of both Sterling and Welbeck while the 3 in midfield provided a somewhat solid base to build upon. Jack Wilshere’s performance wasn’t what his undoubted talent suggests it could be and he was all too slow in showing for the ball while England’s defenders were in possession. The defence also had a few shaky moments and the Swiss would have equalised had it not been for Gary Cahill’s brilliant last-ditch goal line saving tackle to save the day.

 

Hodgson plumped for a surprise or two in his line-up both in terms of the system chosen as well as the players picked. Youngster John Stones was given his first competitive start in the England side at right-back while uncapped Fabian Delph was chosen in midfield on the left of the diamond. The Villa midfielder emerged with much credit after his performance, which settled down after an uncertain start in which he was booked within inside the first 10 minutes.

 

However, in a group that looks very easy on paper, England must beware of potential banana skins in Lithuania and Estonia and the Swiss will not be as blunt when they play at Wembley in a years time. What Hodgson must do now is ensure that his side remains settled and he continues to work on the frailties that this England side has such as in defence. The style of football must also continue to improve to a level that brings the English public back on side.

 

Hodgson has the players to do it and he now has the will to do it as he will surely not want questions aimed at him like the ones asked after the dire win over Norway last week. One thing that Hodgson must also do is make sure that qualification isn’t the end of the road for England which seems to be the story recently at international tournaments. The start to the Euro 2016 qualification campaign potentially exhibited to the English public how Hodgson plans on winning back that trust and faith - with results where they matter. 

 

wembley

Greg Johnson believes the FA should look to Non-League day to win back fans.

 

Football shouldn’t be a chore yet with every passing September, the first international break of the season feels more and more like an administrative obstacle to overcome rather than a spectacle to relish.

 

With just a handful of games played, it’s time to put down your clubs’ burgeoning league campaigns, tidy away the spoils of the transfer window, and get on shift. Who cares if you’ve only just got into the rhythm of the new season! No wonder people are left feeling short-changed by the fixture list and its abrupt halt to proceedings. They’re left all warmed up with nowhere to go; it’s a classic example of the old bait and switch con if ever there was one.

 

And it’s a situation that’s hardly likely to help the popularity of Roy Hodgson’s England, especially after their dour display against Norway in front of a half-empty Wembley.

 

Rather than kick their PR campaigns into overdrive to try and explain away the desertion of fans from the national team however, the FA should take notice of the positives that can come out of this unhappy quirk of the FIFA calendar.

 

Non-League Day, now in its fourth year, was a huge success at the weekend as many supporters looked locally for a substitute to replace their interrupted intake of club football. At Dulwich Hamlet in south London, a crowd of 2,856 flocked through the turnstiles to watch them draw 2-2 with Hampton And Richmond all the way down in the English seventh tier. It was an attendance larger than the numbers that made it down to come League Two games, and even pipped the figures for Crawley Town’s 4-0 home defeat to Rochdale in League One.

 

Similar successes were reported across the country as teams tried to make the most out of the lull of topflight football by engaging with their communities and offering enticing discounts and deals for ticket prices. At Dulwich, the club looked to Radiohead for inspiration, running a “Pay What You Like” scheme on the door. Days after a hollowed-out Wembley played host to echoes, Champion Hill roared.

 

England would do well to take inspiration from the growth of Non-League Day. It’s not just the dull football and tired tactics that are causing audiences to switch off or turn away. There’s a general sense of aloofness that permeates the national team, the FA and the bubble that surrounds the upper echelons of the game’s establishment in this country.

 

Sure, who wouldn’t want Hodgson to finally make good on his comparisons between Jurgen Klopp’s version of a 4-4-2 and his own? But in the absence of excellence, there should be a concerted effort to reacquaint England with its supporters, and create a feel good factor that doesn’t rely on hype and bluster to paper over the cracks of both the team and its relationship with the general public.

 

If attendances are a problem, lower the ticket prices. Open the doors to a new group of fans who may appreciate the opportunity to grab a seat and sing a song to produce an atmosphere rather than an inflated profit. Attempt to foster some sort of connection between those on the pitch and those in the stands, beyond the logo of the kit manufacturer that adorns their both their shirts and their replicas, respectively.

 

Perhaps in some ways Wembley itself is the problem. What better example is there of the authorities being out of touch with their public and the problems of the grassroots game than the 90,000-seater behemoth that replaced the iconic twin towers at great expense and delay? The £757 million spent on its construction could have done a world of good to the beleaguered youth clubs and half-dead or disappearing playing surfaces that are strangling England from its roots as the Premier League soars. And beyond the monetary cost involved, think back to the nomadic era on the road under Sven Goran-Eriksson and the excitement generated by the national team having no fixed abode. Rather than playing their half-baked football in an inconvenient pocket of north-west London—with the rest of the country out of sight and out of mind—England toured England, playing to the crowds in Manchester, Middlesbrough, Birmingham and beyond. For all the tradition of having a national stadium, in retrospect the decision to go back to Wembley now seems like a retrograde step.

 

However, the cost has been paid and so the ground must be used, but the FA need to remember the positive impact brought about by those wandering qualification campaigns and friendlies that brought the England team to the fans, rather than the other way round.

Do we somehow need a Non-League Day of sorts for England? With qualification to future European Championship tournaments set to be decided by a multi-tiered league system after France 2016, Hodgson and his successors may find themselves thrown into such a scenario due to decline instead of choice if the rot isn’t stopped soon.

 

You can find Greg on twitter at @gregianjohnson

ivanovic

By Sam Tighe

 

Jose Mourinho drew global applause for snapping up Filipe Luis this summer, paying £20 million in no-nonsense style for what many consider to be the most complete left-back in world football. The Brazilian, comically overlooked by Luiz Felipe Scolari for his FIFA World Cup 2014 selection, boasts both defensive and attacking ability and has the stamina to match anyone. He's not an offensive juggernaut like David Alaba but he's close, and while he may not be the best left-back in the sport, his skill-set is most certainly the most well-rounded.

 

He forged a wonderful relationship with Arda Turan on the flank for Atletico Madrid, bombing forward when necessary but tucking in to do his defensive shift too. Is there a better way to replace the outbound Ashley Cole than with a player so similar in his ethic and traits?

 

Luis to Chelsea made all the sense in the world to every individual...except one player in particular who has decided he won't be ousted. Branislav Ivanovic takes issue with the notion that he should take a back seat, and as a result is playing some of the finest football of his entire career.

 

This was to be the season, earmarked by Mourinho and the club, in which Ivanovic—so often a central figure in the dressing room and a key face in the side—would be phased out. The focus in pre-season was on how the Serbian would take it; how would he cope with a reduced influence in proceedings as the new pair of full-backs took over full-time control?

 

Cesar Azpilicueta, who played most of last season on the wrong side in place of Cole, was expected to return to his natural right side and Luis would slot in opposite on the left. The pairing, on paper, is perfect; one of the strongest and most mobile in world football.

 

That Mourinho didn't introduce Luis immediately wasn't a surprise, with Chelsea opening Monday Night Football for the season with a tough, physical trip to Burnley. Newly promoted sides are among the worst to face when both slates are clean, and travelling to Turf Moor on a windy, rainy night requires nous, experience and, above all, exactly the type of physicality Ivanovic provides.

 

This strategic move wasn't an issue for Luis, who would win his chance soon. The problem developed when Ivanovic had an absolute stormer and scored a goal, then followed that up with a cracking show against Leicester and a goalscoring performance against Everton, too. Utilize the latest Guts sports promotion and place a bet on Ivanovic to score next game, that could pay off big time.

 

The Serbian has two in three from right-back, has been hitting the best crosses out of everyone and has renewed vigour in his defence work. Mourinho gave Luis his debut late on at Goodison Park on Saturday evening, but his task was to flail around in defensive midfield rather than slot in at full-back.

 

It's arguable Ivanovic has been Chelsea's third-best player of the season so far behind Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, and what was originally a guaranteed first-team role for Luis has now become the biggest challenge of his life.

 

Many were quick to accept Ivanovic fading this season, but not Ivanovic himself. He's in demonic form because he knows what he's up against, and don't expect his performance levels to drop any time soon.

 

You can find Sam on twitter @stighefootball

 

Get the latest odds on Chelsea vs Swansea.

raheem sterling

By Karl Matchett

 

If Liverpool surprised more than a few people with their ability to win games and challenge for the Premier League title in 2013-14, an awful lot of stern, memorable lessons were handed out between January and May. With a couple of 5-0 and a 4-0 hammerings dealt the way of Tottenham Hotspur in that time, the north London side should have heeded those teachings more than most.

 

Fast forward to the start of the present campaign and Spurs—complete with another new manager—had the chance to show they were ready to compete with Liverpool for a top-four finish, but once more they were undone by the power, pressing and precision of the Reds’ midfield diamond.

 

While it is shape which allows a number of Brendan Rodgers’ key players to flourish, one stands out more than most: Raheem Sterling.

 

Formerly used as a winger or an inverted forward, Sterling used his pace to blaze beyond full-backs before moving infield to shoot or provide a final ball—but such has been his tactical, as much as his technical, improvement over the past year that the teenager can now reasonably claim the No. 10, central attacking midfield position, as his best role in the team. In Liverpool’s diamond midfield, he is indispensable in that role: able to work hard defensively, press his opponent into a mistake…and then surge beyond the opposition pivot, breaking into space with his great acceleration.

 

It allows Liverpool to overload very quickly through the centre, with Sterling looking to exchange passes with the forwards or commit defenders with his dribbling. Either way, it inevitably leads to a chance for the Reds to test the goalkeeper.

 

New arrivals this summer at Anfield include Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana, both attacking midfielders who could reasonably lay claim to that same role in a diamond. Sterling’s advantage is that he can play in a number of roles, including as the second of the two forwards ahead of that point. Not a natural striker, he nonetheless stretches play with his pace, is free to roam the channels and has an ever-improving end product in front of goal.

 

His link-up play with Luis Suarez was at times bordering on the genius last season; with Suarez now departed he has sought to do similarly with Philippe Coutinho—when the Brazilian plays from deeper positions—and Daniel Sturridge. How he ends up combining with Mario Balotelli is another intriguing storyline to watch.

 

Rodgers has so far restricted Sterling basically to half-seasons of involvement.

 

A breakout 12-13 campaign was borne of necessity and lack of options as much as Sterling’s own ability, but from January onward in that campaign he barely featured. Last season it was the opposite way round; up until December he was largely substitute, before nailing down a starting role thereafter. Having excelled over Liverpool’s title run-in and gone to the World Cup as a first XI choice for England, Sterling’s own seasonal objective has to be to try and extend those performances over an entire domestic season. Added competition gives him the chance to rest from time to time, but he is also quite clearly vital to the team set-up.

 

Sterling has already made his mark domestically and internationally, but this season will see him take that ability to the Champions League stage too. Perform as he did against Tottenham—at Anfield last season or at White Hart Lane already this—and soon enough, the footballing entire world will know of the immense talent the Liverpool attacker possesses.

 

You can find Karl on Twitter at @karlmatchett

salford red devils

 

Before the season, much was expected of Salford.


Their expensively-assembled squad, championed by bold and brash owner Dr Marwan Koukash, were tipped to at least make the play-offs, and potentially trouble those established at the top of the league, and one pundit, SKY Sports' Phil Clarke, even predicted that they'd win the whole thing.


Yet with two rounds still left of the regular season, the Red Devils are done. Out of the play-off running, thumped 42-6 by Wakefield, a club who was in turmoil in the close season, gripped by financial troubles that forced them to sell all but one of their star players, including ironically Tim Smith, who went to Salford and has since made a return to the Wildcats having failed to sufficiently impress Koukash and his coaches this year.


Koukash has responded to that thumping by cancelling Salford's player of the year event, clearly unhappy at how his so-called star team have underachieved this season.


One of those big names, Gareth Hock, has now had a transfer request accepted and is expected to leave the club soon. Hock was tempted out of an agreed deal to move to the NRL with Parramatta to join Salford from Wigan, and just a year later is now planning his next move. He and the aforementioned Smith probably haven't delivered what Koukash might have expected, but in truth very few of the Salford squad can be happy with their performances over the season.


They started the season under Brian Noble, before he was replaced by Iestyn Harris mid-way through. The change in coaching set-up will have done little to help numerous new signings settle in, although there had been hope in recent weeks, particularly since the arrival of New Zealand international Kevin Locke and London younger Mason Caton-Brown that things were turning for the better.


As it is, Harris has a job on his hands. Having invested so heavily, Koukash would have expected to have at least been dining at the top table in the first round of the play-offs, and in reality, Salford have never come close to even troubling the top eight. Contrast to Castleford, who have done excellently this term, and even Widnes, who in only their third season back in the top flight have occupied a play-off place for the entire year.


Given the failings of the scattergun approach - signing a raft of top players - perhaps we might see a change of tact this close season, enabling Harris to plug the gaps he needs and concentrate more on their style of play - something with which Castleford are renowned for now - or the team spirit - which is something Denis Betts is big on at Widnes.


The play-offs will happen without Salford, but are likely to include both Castleford and Widnes, after the Vikings defeated Wigan last week. They now need just a point from their final two games to finish in the top eight. Castleford find themselves second in the table after a few unlikely results last weekend, and that would give them home advantage in the play-offs. Below St Helens, who will finish first, the teams second to sixth - Castleford, Warrington, Wigan, Huddersfield and Leeds - can finish in any order, meaning the play-off picture probably won't be known until the end of the season. Catalan and Widnes are all but  confirmed to be joining them.

England played their first match since the World Cup 2014 debacle in Brazil at Wembley last night and it wasn’t exactly the most exciting affair ever witnessed. The nation has steadily getting over the disappointment (or is it expectation?) of England failing at another major international tournament and the resumption of international football is just a nasty reminder of what could have been in Brazil.

 

However, needs must and Roy Hodgson must get the players back to performing how they were prior to the commencement of the World Cup. Yes, it was only a friendly and yes it was the first international game of the calendar however a better performance was still expected against what actually was modest opposition, who on their last away trip were ruthlessly dispatched 4-0 by an impressive French side.

 

Wembley Flag

 

 

1. England needs its support back on side

 

Looking at a sparsely populated Wembley last night was quite frankly depressing for the well being of English football. The sight of the entire top tier of the stadium being deserted was a reminder to the FA that the English public have, for now, had enough of poor performances.

 

Equally, the official attendance of 40,181 didn’t quite ring true either as there was swathes of empty seats lower down and to fill the ground on uninspiring nights like this, the FA must amend its ticket price policy or face even more embarrassing attendance figures such as the one that marked the new Wembley’s lowest attendance since being opened in 2007.

 

Even clearer after this match was that the team need the fans onside, they need the crowd to cheer them on as quite clearly, they’re not going to be able to do it themselves.

 

2. England would have been punished against better opposition

 

Winning 1-0 on home territory against opposition of the calibre of Norway would not have been Roy Hodgson’s idea of ideal preparation for what is sure to be a sterner test away to Switzerland on Monday night. There were a few nervy moments for the England defence particularly down the right-hand side where young John Stones was making his first start in an England shirt and this would have been punished against a side of higher calibre.

 

England need Gary Cahill who is now the ‘experienced’ head in that back four, particularly at international level, to assert his authority and become the leader.

 

3. Raheem Sterling is an automatic starter

 

Raheem Sterling has quite frankly been a breath of fresh air to an England team that desperately needs one. His running, vibrancy and energy are desperately required and he provides the spark within the current team. Daniel Sturridge is also required up front but he must be more ruthless in front of goal if he truly to become a success in an England shirt. To be more of a fluid unit, Hodgson must find a way to fit his best players in within a system that gets the best out of them consistently.

 

4. Wayne Rooney must prove he is the England captain

 

While Rooney scored the goal that ultimately won the game, he didn’t really put in the performance of a leader. It’s true that he needs help from the more experienced members of the squad but he is the one ultimately responsible. If that means dropping a little deeper to organise his teammates then so be it.

 

5. England needs something other than 4-4-2

 

Hodgson must work to prove the public wrong and dismiss the jibes that he should have been sacked after the appalling World Cup form suffered by the squad in Brazil. He is again pinning his side’s chances of success on an arguably out-dated 4-4-2 system.

 

If England are to prosper, Roy must show that he is tactically flexible to get the best out of not just individual players, but the team as a whole. 

 

conte

Kirsten Schlewitz shares her thoughts on the start of the Conte era.

 

Italy, winners of the 2006 World Cup, finished last in their group in 2010. Cesare Prandelli took over, guiding the azzurri to the final of Euro 2012. But in Brazil, Prandelli’s squad finished third in their group, unacceptable for the four-time World Cup champions. Prandelli then resigned, ushering in the Conte era.

 

Antonio Conte, who spent the vast majority of his career at Juventus, is credited with the recent bianconeri revival. He was appointed head coach prior to the 2011-2012 season, and immediately took Juventus to the top of Serie A, finishing the league unbeaten and lifting the scudetto. Two more titles followed in quick succession.

 

Heading into qualification for Euro 2016, Conte is tasked with reviving the Italian national team in much the same manner. The question is whether his considerable talents at club level will translate into international football. Conte, as a manager, is both tactically adroit and skilled in his ability to forge a team, rather than assemble a collection of individuals. The problem is that national teams are almost always comprised of individuals who don’t often play together. And with little time to train, tactics are often less refined than those used by club managers.

 

But if there’s one trait Conte is famous for, it’s his innate ability to find a way to win. He’ll be well aware of the limitations imposed on national teams, and as such, he’s unlikely to make wholesale changes prior to Italy’s first qualifying match, against Norway on Tuesday, September 9. That’s evident when looking at the squad he’s selected. Only one outfield player is uncapped – Simone Zaza, who represented Italy at various youth levels. Four players remain from the azzurri squad that lifted the World Cup in 2006.

 

The majority of the squad is composed of players Conte knows well. His backline will almost certainly be composed of three center backs Conte led at Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli. They’ll be in front of veteran Juve and azzurri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, and capable of skillfully carrying out the 3-5-2 formation Conte loves so much.

 

The new manager is making changes up top, however. Ciro Immobile is the only forward included that made the trip to Brazil. Conte has insisted that players must prove their worth, rather than expect automatic inclusion in the squad, yet his included strikers make one wonder if Conte is following his own rules. Sebastian Giovinco, a favorite of Conte’s, warms the bench at Juventus, as did Fabio Quagliarella, who scored just one Serie A goal last season. Mattia Destro is expected to do much the same at Roma, although he’s certainly capable of knocking in goals.

 

Of the forwards called, only Stephan El Shaarawy has truly impressed recently. The 21-year-old, who missed much of last season through injury, shone in Milan’s first-round victory over Lazio. It’s enough to make you wonder just how poorly Conte believes Mario Balotelli has performed recently – especially as he had 17 goals last season.

 

Conte’s ability to succeed as the azzurri coach is limited, both by the time he has to work with players, and the lack of young Italian talent. Yet there remains a sense of optimism over his appointment. Antonio Conte has shown that not only is he a winner, but that he’ll do everything in his power to ensure his side emerges victorious. That’s enough to make Italy worth watching over the international break.  

 

You can find Kirsten on twitter at @KDS_Football

Well the goals are flying in, the games are coming thick and fast and then…there is an international break for 2 weeks – disappointing to say the least. However, with transfer deadline day well and truly underway will you be joining in the scramble for new players for your #FPL team in preparation for week 4?

 

Fantasy League

 

Early season favourites Ludicrous Display, managed by Daniel Breeze, are still top of the leader board and will take the lead heading into the international break. While having not as good a week in terms of points with 52, Ludicrous Display maintain their lead over 9 point lead over 2nd placed Beegees managed by William Gould. Last week’s 2nd and 3rd residents J managed by Joe Lloyd and inittowinit managed by John Ambrose slip to 9th and 11th places respectively.

 

At the other end of the table aye rennie managed by Paul Rennie prop up the table with an average weekend total of 47 points resulting in 112 in total. The big movers at the bottom appear to be Drunited managed by Darren Hiscox who had a very good week, more so than the leader with a week total of 65 points resulting in 136 in total. There is still along way to go Darren so keep that average up and you never know!

 

As for the players who managers should be scrabbling around for, Nathan Dyer at Swansea is a worth a purchase once you’ve sold your deadwood that is while Morgan Schneiderlin at Southampton appears to have put his transfer worries behind him and he scored at the weekend resulting a high score. Villa’s Andreas Weimann seems to have a new lease of life while Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson has made a reappearance on the leader board. 

The Premier League took a rather pleasant turn this week – there was a copious amount of entertainment, controversy and most importantly, goals. There were some important victories too for a number of clubs who were looking to kick-start their season.

 

Firstly, Manchester United are still without a competitive win under new manager Louis van Gaal after they were only able to draw 0-0 with Burnley at Turf Moor. The debut for Angel di Maria, while promising, also ended in a disappointing style with the winger needing to be substituted after suffering from a calf complaint.

 

Manchester City suffered a rare home loss to a determined and impressively resolute Stoke City team after former Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf sealed a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium with a quite brilliant counter-attacking goal. There were also goals galore at Goodison Park where Everton were undone by an impressive Chelsea who have started the season in a fantastic fashion with the game ending 6-3 to the visitors after a two-goal blitz inside the first 3 minutes.

 

Liverpool were also impressive after ending Tottenham’s 100% start to the season under new manager Mauricio Pochettino. With new signing Mario Balotelli making his first start for Brendan Rodgers’ side, Liverpool ruthlessly dispatched Spurs and cruised to a 3-0 away win with goals from the impressive Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Spanish left-back Alberto Moreno.

 

Guts Awards

 

Hero Award: Jose Mourinho

 

This award must go Portuguese who set his Chelsea side up to attack Everton from the off and they got their reward with 2 goals in just under 3 minutes. He realised the only way to avoid a potential banana skin at Goodison Park was to unleash the serious attacking potential of his Chelsea side on Everton and they collected their just rewards with a thumping 6-3 win. However, looking at the error of his ways he’ll probably revert to type for the remainder of the season and look to grind out 1-0 wins from now on!

 

Villain Award: Mauricio Pochettino

 

So, Pochettino has gone from hero to villain within the space of a week – football eh? Anyway, Pochettino simply had no answer to Liverpool’s tactics as well as their pace and thrust up front. Brendan Rodgers, who is fast becoming one of the most tactically aware manager’s in the Premier League, exploited Tottenham’s need to play narrow by playing a diamond formation and thus breaking on Spurs with relentless ease.

 

Team Award: Liverpool/Stoke City

 

To be honest two teams could win this award for two very different reasons. While both played, seemingly, on the counter-attack Liverpool’s extra quality gave them an edge over a Spurs side who simply had no answer to that quality. Stoke on the other had to rely solely on the pace and power of Mame Biram Diouf to provide the cutting edge against the champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Ryan Shawcross was superb in the centre of the Stoke defence while man-for-man they matched City all over the park. As much as City were uncharacteristically quiet at home, Stoke were superb in the defence of their goal.

 

Goal Award: Mame Biram Diouf

 

Diouf deserves this award simply for the way his run ended – in the back of the net. He outmuscled, nutmegged and outpaced a number of City’s defenders to reach the City goal and while the finish wasn’t exactly ‘buried’ (Joe Hart will be disappointed to say the least) he was aware enough to slide it through Hart’s legs and into the net, giving his side a vital and unexpected 3 points.

 

Guts Gripe of the Weekend: Refereeing Decisions

 

This weekend highlighted the need for better refereeing training if anything else as there was a number of questionable decisions throughout the weekend. Firstly, there were two in the early kick-off featuring Burnley and Manchester United in which Ashley Young was shoved over in the penalty area with no reward and then a handball decision that was not given, also in the area.

 

The Manchester City-Stoke City match also featured a number of questionable decisions, one for each team. In the first half Mame Biram Diouf was tripper just inside the area while Yaya Toure was caught, all the while theatrically, in the opposition box in the second-half. Everton’s Tim Howard should have been sent off for a blatant handball outside of his box against Chelsea while Joe Allen’s dive against Tottenham resulted in Steven Gerrard giving his side a vital 2-0 lead in that match.

 

Simply, referees need to be better and while the element of controversy brings debate into the game, which is what we want, referees need to be consistent in their decision-making. Penalties are penalties regardless of who is on the end of them. 

 

We’re extremely proud to say that our very own Christopher Demicoli, winner of the 2014 ICE Malta Cisco Netriders competition will soon be jetsetting to Italy as Malta’s representative.

 

Christopher, who is now being mentored by ICE Malta’s very own Cisco Educators, is preparing for the major honour that will be the prestigious NetRiders International competition, which takes place in Milan in October.  

 

Here at Guts we love people who love to innovate and create products and services that we know our users will absolutely love.

 

 

 

I’m sure Chris is tired of hearing it from us but we’re all behind you Chris and we hope you can bring the competition home! Good luck in Milano!

It’s all getting heated now in the Guts fantasy football league and the movers and shakers of the league are beginning to be apparent. It’s only week 2 but much like the real thing, a good start is always vital. Get a good start on your betting career with this Guts sport bonus! Ok, here goes:

 

Fantasy League

 

Ludicrous Display managed by week 1 leader Daniel Breeze retain the top spot with 153 points total and 68 for the game week. Week 1 2nd place Panthers managed by Arjun Shivananda slip to joint 4th with J managed by Joe Lloyd and inittowinit managed by John Ambrose take 2nd and 3rd respectively 6 points behind the leader.

 

Down at the other side of the table, there lies Guts Gaming’s own Guts team who slip to 96th out of 100. Come on lads! What’s happening? You’re not going to let the Sports book beat you are you? They are managing a slightly better ranking located in joint 91st. However, at the end of game week 2, the unenviable position of 100th goes to Vixen’s Eleven managed by Hera Tariq who have a total of 81 points with a game week total of 35.

 

As for players whom you can transfer in and who are performing, the hottest property at the moment seems to be Steven Naismith from Everton who again scored at the weekend vs. Arsenal. Tottenham’s own Eric Dier scored for the second successive week and he is without doubt worth a place within your team at the moment.

 

Fantasy League

 

When Di Maria finally completes his seemingly inevitable move to Manchester United, I’m sure there will be a few who will scrabble around for him too given his undoubted quality.

 

Again though, much like week 1, the hottest talent seems to be the obvious, ranging from Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Daniel Sturridge while Stevan Jovetic may be worth a look if he can keep his place within the City team.

 

The Premier League is now well and truly underway and we have reached the second week already. Not long now until the boring international break comes along and ruins everything you have been getting into the previous three or four weeks.

 

Well, Manchester United are still without a competitive win under new manager Louis van Gaal and have claimed only 1 point out of a possible 6. Sunderland gave as good as they got (and in some cases better) but ultimately the game petered out and the 1-1 draw was a somewhat inevitable outcome. Do better with a Guts sport bonus why don't you?

 

Manchester City claimed the first ‘big’ win of the season with their 3-1 win over possible title rivals Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium and continued their strong start to the season with 6 points from 6. Tottenham also continued their strong start to the season with the 4-0 thrashing of promoted side Queens Park Rangers complete with former boss Harry Redknapp.

 

Up there with City and Spurs are Chelsea and Swansea who defeated Leicester City and Burnley 2-0 and 1-0 respectively while also continuing their 100% starts to the season. Arsenal also salvaged what seemed to be a very unlikely point at Goodison Park where Everton let slip a 2-0 lead heading into the final 10 minutes and Aaron Ramsay and Olivier Giroud banged in the goals to ensure Arsenal remained undefeated after 2 games.

 

Guts Awards

 

Hero Award: Mauricio Pochettino

 

Pochettino is surely deserving of this award as (I know it’s only 2 games but…) after the second week he has Spurs top of the table.  An opening London derby win over West Ham United at Upton Park was followed by another London derby win over Queens Park Rangers and Spurs are now beginning to look like a team that saw over £100m spent on it within the last year.

 

Villain Award: Roberto Martinez

 

Roberto Martinez claims this award as with only 10 minutes remaining of his sides’ home game against Arsenal, they proceeded to lose 2 goals and throw away the 3 points as Arsenal claimed a 2-2 draw. Watching him on the touchline for those last 10 minutes it seemed he didn’t quite know what to do to stem the tide that was building against his team.

 

Team Award: Manchester City

 

Manchester City produced a very good team performance to defeat a lively Liverpool side featuring Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. City weren’t at their best but again they showed that they have what it takes to win ugly and defeat their rivals.

 

Goal Award: Olivier Giroud

 

A powerful header from the Frenchman ensured Arsenal’s unbeaten start to the new season remained intact and salvaged a point for the Gunners at Everton’s Goodison Park after falling 2-0 behind and drawing 2-2.

 

Getting in front of someone as powerful as Sylvain Distin to direct a header with panache and direction as much as he did is a difficult skill but Giroud made it look easy. Will be a major miss if rumours are true he is to miss a significant part of the season through injury.

 

Guts Gripe of the Weekend: Transfer Window

 

The transfer window brings out the worst in football as we approach the summer transfer window deadline. Money is splashed around and agents to players to the media get their faces in the limelight. It just makes a mockery of what football is supposed to be – a working mans game. Agents and the media in particular have a lot to answer for while they continue feeding the ever-present greed monster that is the football transfer window. 

 

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The first Premier League weekend didn’t turn out to be quite the weekend we were all hoping for on the pitch due to rustiness and post-World Cup hangovers and pretty much every other excuse you can think of under the Sun.

 

However, the same cannot be said of the Guts fantasy football league, which kicked off with a bang and it producing some stunning results. The honour of being ‘Top of the Table’ after week 1 goes to Ludicrous Display managed by Daniel Breeze who managed an impressive 85 points.

 

Remember to join our fantasy league using the code: 1619520-369907

 

Second, 8 points behind is the Panthers managed by Arjun Shivanda on 77 points, I bet you’re regretting your decision not to pick Sterling now aren’t you, Arjun? Of course there is a long way to go yet and Derek Cluderay in third with his Bahia Spartans is only 2 points behind Arjun yet we can never underestimate the effect that injuries and suspensions have on a squad.

 

At the other end of the table OELoosers managed by Odde Jensen will be bitterly disappointed to be bottom with only 27 points (even if it only the first week) which is a bit soul destroying considering the squad picked – better luck next time Odde.

 

As for the players that simply need to be included within your teams for next week and the weeks beyond, we point to the obvious – Aaron Ramsay, Wayne Rooney, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa. Of course, Cesc Fabregas had a very good week with 2 assists in Chelsea’s 3-1 win away at Burnley and he is one of the star men. Chelsea teammate Branislav Ivanonic would be a solid pick considering his knack for scoring crucial goals at crucial times as he did against Burnley.

 

Liverpool players Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge would be sensible picks and as long as Sturridge remains fit he will guarantee goals that will propel your side up the table. Looking at the more unfashionable picks Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson would be a decent choice considering his winner v Manchester United in week one and he is tipped to be a decent goal scoring midfielder throughout the season for Swansea. West Brom’s Saido Berahino may also prove to be a rising star as his 2 goals helped West Brom to a 2-2 with Sunderland.

 

So get picking those teams for the coming weekend! Good luck everyone!

22
AUG

The second part of our Football XI series, this time we’re creating a football XI based on 1980s pop stars & groups. Footballers featured are all-time stars, some still involved within the game while some have been retired for some time. It will, however, be some XI that steps out over that white line!

Join in on Twitter with the hashtag #1980sXI and let us know who would make your team!

 

prince

 

GOALKEEPER – Simon Queen-olet

 

Considered a solid choice in-between the sticks. While he has made some mistakes and does have a habit of flapping at a fair few crosses into the box, he has proved himself a more than able shot-stopper and he clearly loves the big stage at Liverpool.

 

RIGHT-BACK – Lilian ThuWham!

 

A solid right-back in his day and one of the very best to ever grace the game of football. A French international and a winner of both the World Cup in 1998 and European Championship in 2000, he graced the game splendidly for Parma and Juventus in Italy before eventually ending his career with Barcelona in Spain, he clearly had a love for the bold and brash clubs.

 

CENTRE-BACK – Fitz Hall & Oates

 

A much-travelled defender, he has graced a number of clubs’ rosters and after spending his youth career at West Ham United, Hall moved on to clubs such as Barnet, Oldham Athletic, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Wigan Athletic and QPR. He currently finds himself without a club after spending the last few seasons at Watford.

 

CENTRE-BACK – Simon Kjaerjagoogoo

 

Once considered a highly regarded defender, he seems to be one of those players that have been around for years despite being only 25-years old. He finds himself at French Ligue 1 side Lille after spending a season on loan in Italy at Roma where he put the jagoogoo in Simon Kjaer.

 

LEFT-BACK – Ulises de la Soul

 

At the age of 40, it is to be expected that he finds himself out of the game and having retired in 2012 after spending the last 3 years of his career at Ecuadorian club LDU Quito where he had spent some time earlier in his career. He had spells in Scotland with Hibernian before moving to England with Aston Villa, then Reading before finally moving to Birmingham City – soul indeed.

 

RIGHT-MIDFIELD – Victor Guns N’ Moses

 

Victor is a lot like the Guns N’ Roses in that he performs with a lot of flash confidence while also exploding from time to time with searing pace. However, unlike the Guns N’ Roses, there is not a lot of end product to back up that confidence.

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – Boy George Graham

 

We can see a lot of similarities between George Graham and Boy George. When you think of George Graham’s Arsenal side you immediately think of attractive, flamboyant flair. Only kidding! These two are polar opposites, but we think George Graham could do with a little new romantic pop to liven up his punditry .

 

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – Bon Xavi

 

Xavi is very Bon indeed (the French version!), forming part of a formidable Catalan line-up, very much in the same manner if Bon Jovi had if he had lined up with Wham, Guns N’ Roses, Boy George, Wham, Queen and Kajagoogoo (!) in the 80’s.

 

LEFT-MIDFIELD – Wilfried zA-Ha

 

Wilf will be hoping the defenders he faces are singing ‘Take on Me’ while he’s running with the ball as that is what he loves to do. However, he’ll also be hoping they’re not humming the Living Daylights..

 

SECOND-STRIKER – The Footballer Formerly Known As Kevin Prince-Boateng

 

Need we say more?

 

STRIKER – Pink Floyd Hasselbaink

 

Hasselbaink is one of those strikers that didn’t seem to fit into the Dutch way of doing things due to his power and strength over skill, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A highly proven goalscorer at pretty much every level, he displayed his ability for numerous clubs including Leeds United, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid. 

Well, here we are and the Barclays Premier League is back. However, it wasn’t quite back with the back we were all hoping for, as there seemed to be a bit of a post-World Cup slump from most of the teams. Players were tired and teams seemed more content on not losing rather than going for the win.

 

The biggest surprise did of course occur at Old Trafford where Swansea City managed to spring a shock and inflict upon Manchester United, a first home opening league defeat since 1972 when Ipswich Town went back home with a 3-2 win under their belts. Manager Louis van Gaal seemed as downbeat as everyone leaving the ground on Saturday afternoon and he quickly acknowledged responsibility for the defeat while assertively reminding vice-chairman Ed Woodward of the need for reinforcements.

 

Meanwhile, there were wins for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City who all made hard work of their victories but ultimately managed to get the 3 points to kick-start their league campaigns. There was mixed emotions for two of the promoted sides while Leicester managed to hold Everton to a 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium while QPR fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Hull City.

 

Guts Awards

 

Hero Award: Paul Lambert

 

Lambert deserves this award, as before the season started no one would have given his side a win against the local Sunday league side, never mind against Stoke City. However, Lambert skilfully managed his side to a tough away victory, which ensured Villa started the season with a vital win.

 

The goal came from Andreas Weimann, Villa need him to have a good season and while Villa need to desperately have a season that is progressive, they began it in the right way. The appointment of Roy Keane as assistant manager may prove to be another masterstroke from Lambert.

 

Villain Award: Louis van Gaal

 

Another coming of the Messiah for United fans and another…defeat at home. Louis van Gaal is clearly a world class manager and while there is belief he will get it right and there is a clear vision for how he wants United to play, in vast comparison to David Moyes it has to be said, ditching his 3-4-1-2/5-3-2 formation after only 45 minutes represented something of a desperate act from the Dutchman.

 

The formation change seemed to represent that what needs dispersing at Old Trafford – the idea that United cannot play any other way. Any other formation, tactics are useless due to the need to play 4-4-2/4-4-1-1. While it’s true van Gaal needs help with new signings, he needs to instil his solid blueprint, as there is evidence for it working rather effectively at his previous club's and with Holland at the World Cup. 

 

Team Award: Swansea

 

As much as United were disappointing, Swansea were equally solid and at some points industrious. While they didn’t really have to do much to successfully get at United, what they did do, they did very well. The finish from Ki Sung-Yeung was exquisite while the build-up to the goal was also very good.

 

They defended the sporadic attacks from United well while nullifying the 3-4-1-2 formation to great effect. Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez were hardly given a sniff all afternoon and while it is only the first game, Swansea have claimed the first shock of the season and great credit to them.

 

Goal Award: Lee Cattermole

 

A surprising recipient as he usually is on the end of a gripe somewhere! However, Lee Cattermole pulled a rabbit right out of the hat with this strike as he picked the ball up around 25-yards from goal and proceeded to arrow the ball right into the top right-hand corner. Splendid.

 

Guts’ Gripe of the Weekend: Rustiness

 

A major gripe for all concerned was the apparent rustiness from all involved throughout the weekend. While there were periods of good play and flourishes of brilliance, there wasn’t anything to really make the opening weekend stand out.

 

All teams seemed to be suffering from a post-World Cup hangover and the major sides with the exception of Manchester United, seemed to be content to grind their way to victory rather than go all out. We can only hope that its get back to the Premier League we know and love soon.

 

Swansea City

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You have to worry slightly for Swansea. Garry Monk did just enough to earn himself the managerial job permanently, but the style and swagger which won over so many neutrals seemed to disappear somewhat as the club flirted with being pulled into the relegation fight last season.

 

The summer has seen a player exodus, with first teamers Ben Davies, Michel Vorm, Michu, Chico Flores and Pablo Hernandez all departing. While some transfers can be easily absorbed – for however talented Ben Davies was, they have a ready made replacement in Neil Taylor – there still seem to be major holes developing in the squad. They have so far held onto star striker Wilfried Bony, which will give fans hope they can replicate recent cup success.

 

The signing of Lukasz Fabianski from Arsenal may help to bridge the gap that Vorm has left, while Garry Monk has also managed to significantly strengthen his striker department with the signing of Bafetimbi Gomis and the permanent signing of Marvin Emnes from Middlesbrough.

 

For Swansea, certainly after the departure of Michu, it is important that Monk not only finds support for Wilfried Bony but also finds goals from other areas of the team.

 

Key Signing(s):

Lukasz Fabianski (free, Arsenal), Bafetimbi Gomis (free, Lyon), Marvin Emnes (Undisclosed, Middlesbrough), Gylfi Sigurðsson (Undisclosed, Tottenham), Jefferson Montero (Undisclosed, Monarcas Morelia)

Key Departures:

Ben Davies, Michel Vorm (Undisclosed, Tottenham), David N’Gog (Released, Michu (loan, Napoli), Chico Flores (Undisclosed, Lekhwiya), Pablo Hernandez (undisclosed, Al-Arabi)

 

 

Tottenham Hostspur

thfc

It’s safe to assume that Tottenham underachieved last season, especially considering the money they had spent in the summer of 2013. A total of £105m was spent on seven players where Christian Eriksen was the only true success story.  

 

For 2014/15, Spurs have yet another new boss in the form of ex-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino and for the time being they have been relatively quiet on the transfer front bringing in Ben Davies and Michel Vorm from Swansea and England U-21 international Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon.

 

Pochettino has also overseen a clear out of the squad, consisting mostly of first-team fringe players such as Jake Livermore, Iago Falque and Heurelho Gomes. Pochettino will be confident that he can get all of Tottenham’s talented parts functioning as one with the aim of a serious assault on the top 4.

 

If Pochettino can get as much from Spurs’ attacking players as he did Southampton’s, the North London club could be one of the most exciting teams to watch this season. Eriksen will surely be a delight to watch, embracing the attacking freedom much as Adam Lallana did, but it will be how Lamela and Soldado settle which could decide whether a Champions League place is possible.

 

Key Signing(s):

Ben Davies (P/Ex, Swansea City), Michel Vorm (£3.5m, Swansea City), Eric Dier (£4m, Sporting Lisbon)

Key Departures:

Gylfi Sigurðsson (P/Ex, Swansea City), Jake Livermore (£8m, Hull City), Heurelho Gomes (free, Watford)

 

 

West Bromwich Albion

wba

Judging by the transfer activity of new West Brom manager Alan Irvine during the summer transfer window, it is clear where his priority lies. Of the eight players that have been signed by Albion this summer six have been defenders.

 

The recruitment of proven Premier League experience in Chris Baird and Joleon Lescott may prove to be inspired moves by Irvine as he looks to consolidate West Brom’s position within the Premier League.

 

Irvine has also plumped for youthful and vibrant options in the fullback areas with the signings of Australian Jason Davidson, Andre Wisdom on loan from Liverpool and Costa Rican World Cup star Cristian Gamboa.

 

While Irvine is an experienced coach, he is not so experienced with the rigours of Premier League management, which may count against the club if West Brom find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle. A change to 3-5-2 has mooted, which could be advisable considering the lack of real attacking talent in the wide areas.

 

Key Signing(s):

Craig Gardner (free, Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (free, Manchester City), Chris Baird (free, Burnley), Brown Ideye (Undisclosed, Dynamo Kiev), Andre Wisdom (loan, Liverpool), Jason Davidson (Undisclosed, Heracles), Cristian Gamboa (Undisclosed, Rosenborg)

Key Departures:

Steven Reid (free, Burnley), Liam Ridgewell (free, Portland Timbers), Diego Lugano (Released), Zoltan Gera (free, Ferencvaros), Billy Jones (free, Sunderland), Scott Sinclair (loan return, Manchester City), Morgan Amalfitano (loan return, Marseille)

 

 

West Ham United

whufc 

The mission for Sam Allardyce at the beginning of the summer transfer window was to inject some much needed vibrancy and creative flair into his West Ham squad for 2014/15.

 

West Ham fans have been fairly critical of Allardyce’s reign and the way he sets his teams up to play football. To be fair to Allardyce, West Ham must have known who and what they were hiring when they approached the former Bolton manager.

 

However, his summer signings so far show some marked improvement. Diego Poyet from Charlton Athletic is a signing that signifies a little shift in the mentality for neat and tidy footballers at West Ham, whereas Cheikhou Kouyate is a big powerhouse standing at 6ft 4in.

 

Ecuadorian World Cup striker Enner Valencia should provide pace and power up front for the Hammers while Argentinian Mauro Zarate is more of a poacher and should provide Allardyce with something a little different.

 

Allardyce has never been anything less than ambitious in the transfer market, as his time at Bolton will attest. Moves to bring Alvaro Negredo and Mathieu Valbuena to the Boleyn Ground may have come to nothing, but it does at least demonstrate ambition.

 

For 2014/15, Allardyce will be hoping he can inspire his team to produce better football as well as better results. If he cannot produce more enjoyable football with these new signings, we could be seeing a new face at West Ham sooner rather than later.

 

Key Signing(s):

Mauro Zarate (Undisclosed, Velez Sarsfield), Cheikhou Kouyate (Undisclosed, Anderlecht), Aaron Cresswell (Undisclosed, Ipswich Town), Diego Poyet (Min. Fee, Charlton Athletic), Enner Valencia (Undisclosed, Pachuca), Carl Jenkinson (loan, Arsenal)

Key Departures:

Joe Cole (free, Aston Villa), Jack Collison, George McCartney, Alou Diarra (Released), Matthew Taylor (free, Burnley)

 

Queens Park Rangers

qpr

Queens Park Rangers find themselves back in the snake pit that is the Barclays Premier League and with Harry Redknapp in charge, they will be fairly confident that they can beat the drop this season. 

 

Redknapp has in fact bought shrewdly this transfer window, adding the vast experience of Rio Ferdinand to his squad while signing Steven Caulker and Jordan Mutch from Cardiff.  Their tactical options may improve their hope of coping with Premier League opponents while providing added attacking impetus. Mauricio Isla has arrived on loan from Italian champions Juventus and if he rediscovers his Udinese form he could add some real attacking impetus to Redknapp’s 352 system.

 

Key to their survival though is their striking options and with the returning Loic Remy and Charlie Austin, they have natural goalscorers.  

 

However, there is no guarantee that Remy will stay after a move to Liverpool fell through at the last minute, which would leave only Bobby Zamora as the recognised backup to Austin in the squad. ‘Arry will surely look to recruit in the striker position before the window slams shut on September 1st.

 

QPR vs Hull City odds

 

Key Signing(s):

Rio Ferdinand (free, Manchester United), Steven Caulker (Undisclosed, Cardiff City), Jordan Mutch (Undisclosed, Cardiff City), Mauricio Isla (loan, Juventus)

Key Departures:

Yossi Benayoun (free, Maccabi Haifa), Aaron Hughes (free, Brighton & Hove Albion), Estaban Granero (Undisclosed, Real Sociedad), Ji-Sung Park, Luke Young (Retired)

 

Fans View: @VitalQPR

 

How do you think QPR's 2014/15 will shape up?

I think we will be competitive, play decent football and hopefully and ultimately stay in the Premier League to fight another day. Adopting a new system brings with it an element of risk, particularly when the personnel that suit the system have yet to be fully recruited. I hope that QPR can get off to a positive start, unlike last time in the top flight, and secure a respectable 15th to build on.

 

How do you rate your summer signings so far?

I would rate our signings as good, 'so far' being the operative word. I think one or two are still required to complete the squad, particularly in light of the system we are trying to impose. Caulker, Ferdinand and Mutch are three quality additions, blending youth and experience - and another forward or two would help to bolster and support a strike force propped up by Charlie Austin.

 

Is there anyone in your current squad that you think could provide a surprise and be the standout player?

If Charlie Austin plays to his ability and scores the amount of goals he is capable of producing, he could not only raise a few eyebrows among the elite, but also court the attention of Roy Hodgson - which along with keeping Rangers up will be an aim of his coming into the season I'm sure.

 

What do you think Glenn Hoddle will bring to QPR's season?

Hoddle could be the acquisition of the summer, and his tactical acumen will undoubtedly be put to good use in the coming weeks. 3-5-2 is a formation that Hoddle is no stranger to and having a coach of his caliber on board can only serve to benefit the team, veterans and youngsters alike.

 

 

Southampton

sfc

For outsiders, it has appeared a fairly depressing summer when viewing a promising young Southampton team be ripped apart. Never has the glass ceiling of the Premier League been more visible. It is not all doom and gloom on the south coast, however, as new imports seek to make their mark.

 

With numerous key players leaving as well as a new manager in the form of Ronald Koeman, who is unproven in the Premier League, Southampton will make for fascinating viewing as the season unfolds. Facsinating is also our Guts casino bonus, cause it's pretty huge. 

 

A decent pre-season, with the only blotch being a 1-0 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen, seemingly took a turn for the worse when midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin professed his wish to leave for Tottenham. However, with a number of players leaving St. Mary’s already this summer, it is unlikely Southampton are going to let him go barring an astronomical offer.

 

The signings of Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, Ryan Bertrand and Saphir Taider look to have filled in a few gaps within the squad while Fraser Forster may prove to be a shrewd buy but ultimately it will be a big ask to replicate last season’s final position.

 

Liverpool vs Southampton odds

 

Key Signing(s):

Duaan Tadic (Undisclosed, FC Twente), Graziano Pelle (Undisclosed, Feyenoord), Fraser Forster (Undisclosed, Celtic), Ryan Bertrand (loan, Chelsea), Saphir Taider (loan, Inter Milan)

Key Departures:

Rickie Lambert (£4m, Liverpool), Adam Lallana (£25m, Liverpool), Dejan Lovren (£20m, Liverpool), Luke Shaw (£27m, Manchester United), Calum Chambers (Undisclosed, Arsenal)

 

 

Stoke City

scfc

Stoke City will be looking to improve upon 9th place which resulted in Stoke’s best placed finish in the league since 1974/75. Mark Hughes is looking to instil a more possession-based game, which ultimately he has done, although he will be looking for improvement this season.

 

Hughes must find a way to incorporate more goals into the team while pre-season has been tinged with a lack of goals in all seven of the games. Plus points include new signings Bojan and Mame Diouf scoring while they have generally looked solid.

 

Marko Arnautovic and Peter Odemwingie will hopefully provide the same spark and pace as they did last season while Hughes will be hoping Stephen Ireland can remain fit to provide his team with a creative spark in the final third.

 

For Stoke to improve upon their brilliant 2013/14 season, Hughes ideally would like to get new signings Diouf and Bojan firing on all cylinders right from the kick off.

 

Stoke City vs Aston Villa odds

 

Key Signing(s):

Phil Bardsley (free, Sunderland), Steve Sidwell (free, Fulham), Mame Diouf (free, Hannover 96), Bojan Krkic (Undisclosed, Barcelona)

Key Departures:

Matthew Etherington (Released), Michael Kightly (Undisclosed, Burnley)

 

Fans View: @Homzy

 

How do you think Stoke City's 2014/15 will shape up?

 

Stoke finished ninth last season and, realistically, there isn't much room to improve on that. Eighth is certainly achievable given Southampton's summer exodus but another top-10 finish and a cup run or two would more than satisfy the club's fans.

However, a kind set of opening fixtures provides the chance to build up a real head of steam - Stoke face only one of last season's top seven in their first 10 games. If Mark Hughes' men can start well, who knows what they're capable of when the tougher encounters come around - confidence and momentum can have a huge effect in football, and Stoke have a habit of upsetting the top clubs anyway, certainly at the Britannia Stadium.

Without getting too carried away, there is a real feeling in the Potteries that this could be a special season.

 

Who within your squad would you tip for a good 2014/15 and is one to look out for?

Everyone outside of the club is focusing on the arrival of Bojan, and rightly so, but Mame Biram Diouf could have an even bigger impact. Peter Crouch has done well as the lone striker but he lacks the pace to really stretch teams. Diouf has that in abundance, and if he can maintain the sort of goalscoring form he produced in Germany, he could be the difference this season. 

Bojan is obviously an exciting prospect behind him if he can realise even half the potential he showed as a teenager at Barcelona, while Marko Arnautovic is certain to be attracting admiring glances from the top clubs if he can maintain or improve on the sort of performances he was producing in the second half of last season.

 

How do you think Mark Hughes' style transformation is going?

 

The style has changed more and much quicker than most fans expected. There were plenty of teething problems in the first half of last season, but Peter Odemwingie made a huge impact after signing in January. He added the pace that had been missing, and Arnautovic either coincidentally or as a result sparked into life at the same time. Suddenly, Stoke started to cut teams open on the break and make the most of the extra possession they had been having.

With Bojan and Diouf on board, a right-back that provides a good delivery in the shape of Phil Bardsley, and at least one more forward player likely to arrive before the end of the window, Stoke should finally be able to shake off the lazy stereotypes that still persist.

 

With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May?

 

It's unlikely there will be a real surprise package in the race for the top four, but very few people seem to be tipping Tottenham to challenge for the Champions League in Mauricio Pochettino's first season in charge. However, the Argentinian is a top-class manager and, with Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and co. benefitting from a settling-in period, Spurs could do a lot better than many people are expecting.

At the other end, I expect Southampton to be a surprise in that they're not involved in the relegation battle - they still have plenty of good players - while Swansea may be the ones dragged into trouble that nobody is expecting.

 

 

 

Sunderland

sunderland

Sunderland will be hoping for a more settled season and they will be hoping to achieve PL safety much sooner that last time around. Ultimately, Gus Poyet managed an outstanding job getting Sunderland to 14th considering they were bottom of the league at Christmas.

 

The signings that Poyet has made within this summer transfer window show he is shaping the squad to his desires and while they have let a number of players go, it is hard to argue that he hasn’t strengthened.

 

The signings of Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt from West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea respectively show that Poyet is perhaps looking for more from his fullback positions while Costel Pantillimon may finally get his chance to impress in a no.1 spot while Connor Wickham ended the season in stellar form.

 

All eyes will be on Jack Rodwell though as his career at Manchester City stalled badly due to various factors, notably injury and competition for places. Sunderland will be hoping that his injury worries are behind him as £10m is quite a gamble for a player who hasn’t played regularly in well over a year.

 

West Brom vs Sunderland odds

 

Key Signing(s):

Billy Jones (free, West Bromwich Albion), Jordi Gomez (free, Wigan Athletic), Costel Pantillimon (free, Manchester City), Patrick van Aanholt (Undisclosed, Chelsea), Jack Rodwell (£10m, Manchester City)

Key Departures:

Phil Bardsley (free, Stoke City), Jack Colback (free, Newcastle United), Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena, Kieran Westwood (Released), David Vaughan (free, Nottingham Forest)

Liverpool

liverpool honest slogan

Odds on Liverpool to win the Premier League

 

Manager Brendan Rodgers hasn’t been afraid to splash the cash ahead of the 2014/15 season. It has been necessary considering the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for a cool £75m and with Liverpool returning to the holy grail of Champions League football for this coming season, the squad needed some serious strength in-depth.

 

Rodgers has seemingly targeted the defence as a source for improvement with the acquisitions of Dejan Lovren from Southampton and Atlético Madrid right-back Javier Manquillo providing competition for Glen Johnson, with Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno on the brink of joining a new-look backline. Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert, further recruits from Southampton, provide a sense of continuity and are proven Premier League level.

 

The signing of Emre Can however could prove a shrewd signing by Rodgers as he embarks on his first European season as Liverpool manager.

 

Key Signing(s):

Rickie Lambert (£4m, Southampton), Adam Lallana (£25m, Southampton), Dejan Lovren (£20m, Southampton), Emre Can (£9.75m, Bayer Leverkusen), Lazar Markovic (£19.8m, Benfica), Javier Manquillo (loan, Atlético Madrid)

Key Departures:

Luis Suarez (£75m, Barcelona), Pepe Reina (£2m, Bayern Munich)

 

Fan’s View: @LFCOffside

liverpooloffside.sbnation.com

 

How do you see Liverpool's 2014/15 season shaping up?

Another title run would always be nice, but the realistic hope and expectation for most Liverpool fans is securing another top four finish. Easier said than done, perhaps, with Luis Suarez heading to Barcelona, Manchester United widely expected to be back in the running, and Tottenham fans hoping Mauricio Pochettino will be the man to put all their talented but under-performing pieces together.

Still, even without Suarez, Liverpool would have been the league's third top scorers last season. This year, with hopes for a more solid defence led by new signing Dejan Lovren and a few extra goals from the likes of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, and Adam Lallana, the expectation will be that even if the club take a step back, it won't be nearly as big a step as some might think.

 

Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?

Last season, Roberto Martinez proved he was the real deal with Everton. This summer, they've used the windfall that is the Premier League's new television deal to tie down the second striker Chelsea will end up kicking themselves for losing. With David Moyes' United failures showing that perhaps he was holding them back rather than propping them up, it might be time to start expecting more from Everton.

When it comes to the other end of the table, it's hard to see too far past the usual suspects that are this season and last's promoted sides. Looking a little further afield, though, with Tony Pulis' success with Crystal Palace it might be tempting to look towards Stoke and ask if their attempts to find success with more pleasing style of play under Mark Hughes could instead lead to their downfall.

 

Who within the Liverpool squad do you think could be one to look out for?

With Luis Suarez' departure, youngsters Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are either going to take the next step in their development and become true global stars or stumble now that they will be the targets for opposition defences. They have the chance to show that for as much as Suarez helped Liverpool, the quality of the players around him helped Suarez. It's a tough task, but in pre-season the signs have been promising.

 

 

Manchester City

mcfc honest slogan

Odds on Manchester City to win the Premier League.

 

City are entering the new season as champions and with new signings strengthening supposed weak spots within the squad, City are well placed to defend their title in 2014/15.

 

The signing of Bacary Sagna from Arsenal provides City with proven quality and experience in the right-back area but it also sheds doubt over Micah Richards future at the club. The burden on Pablo Zabaleta in recent seasons has been heavy and the arrival of Sagna on a free transfer looks an inspired squad-strengthening move, whilst also weakening a title rival.

 

Fernando’s eventual arrival from Porto offers the Blues a solid midfield base, if Pellegrini decides that a midfield three of Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure be required for some of the tougher fixtures. Although Javi Garcia improved during his time at the Etihad, there is the sense that the Spaniard never truly settled, with the arrival of Fernando and youngster Bruno Zuculini paving the way for the former Benfica man’s exit.

 

The centre of the City defence has also been strengthened with the acquisition of France international Eliaquim Mangala from Porto. Although Martin Demichelis proved the doubters wrong over the second half of the season, playing an integral part in the Citizen’s title win, his age meant that finding a long-term partner for Vincent Kompany was one of the Club’s top priorities.

 

Joe Hart faces real competition in the form of Wily Caballero after the City manager returned to his former club to pick up the goalkeeper for £6 million.

 

Frank Lampard will be plying his trade in a lighter shade of blue this season, joining MCFC on loan for five months before his eventual transfer to sister club New York City FC. Contrary to Arsene Wenger’s belief, it is unlikely that the New York club was founded in order for the Manchester Blues to sign a 36-year-old midfielder on a short-term loan. How much Lampard plays for the champions remains to be seen, but such is the strength of the squad it would not be surprising if the former Chelsea man sees his playing time limited to a few cameos and cup appearances.

 

Key Signing(s):

Bacary Sagna (free, Arsenal), Fernando (£12m, Porto), Eliaquim Mangala (£32m, Porto), Frank Lampard (loan, New York City FC), Wily Caballero (£6m, Malaga)

Key Departures:

Joleon Lescott (free, West Bromwich Albion), Gareth Barry (£2m, Everton), Costel Pantillimon (free, Sunderland), Jack Rodwell (£10m, Sunderland), Javi Garcia (£12m)

 

Fan’s View: @howiehok34

www.standingalone.co.uk

 

How do you see City's 2014/15 season shaping up?

 

It will be a tough fight for the title with multiple contenders. City have gone about their business quietly and efficiently and will be there or thereabouts and I think Chelsea will be the strongest threat, as they have certainly strengthened their squad over the summer, though if Costa gets injured they are still light up front. Arsenal are certainly strong enough now to challenge also and whilst United are weaker they do not have the distraction of a European campaign and have the confidence of not having an inept manager anymore. I can't see Liverpool being quite as strong again but all the teams mentioned will be expecting a top four finish so something has to give. 

But for City, they have great squad strength now, as strong as it has ever been and have cover in every position. The main concern right now is that we will start the season with certain players lacking match-fitness and with a fairly tough opening set of fixtures, City could spend much of the season playing catch-up again. You should definitely avoid playing cath up with this Guts bonus sports. Almost guaranteed to make your betting life easier.

 

Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?

 

I don't think my tips are really surprises. I expect the teams already mentioned to fight for the title and I expect Spurs and Everton to be in the pack below. I don't really see anyone breaking that top 7, as Southampton's new-look team will take time to gel. At the other end of the table, I have a hunch Leicester will do quite well (although I thought the same of Norwich last season) and I fear for Aston Villa & West Brom. And Burnley. And QPR. 

 

Who within the City squad do you think could be one to look out for?

 

Well he isn't new or low-profile but I pray for an injury-free season for Stevan Jovetic - he was the signing I was most excited about last summer and I think he will be a star if he stays fit. If. 

The good thing about the squad is that we have kept all the star players and it will be a case of the existing squad carrying on where they left off. I think Caballero is not inferior to Hart so the battle between those two should be interesting as will the effect on formations that playing Fernando has, and how it effects Yaya and Fernandinho. The big one to look out for is Mangala of course -a protracted transfer saga and a hefty fee means all eyes will be on him. He is an athletic, powerful and composed player but is also known to have his off-days so I hope the likes of Kompany can help him develop further as a player.

 

 

Manchester United

mufc honest slogan 

Odds on Manchester United to win the Premier League.

There is a new-found optimism at Old Trafford following the appointment of Louis van Gaal as manager. The disastrous reign of David Moyes was quickly consigned to history once he was shown the door in April following defeat to his former club Everton at Goodison Park.

 

Now, many of the United faithful see the 2014/15 season as the season that should have been following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. The signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw bring optimism as well as vibrancy to a team that looked to be lacking so much energy at vital times last season.

 

Of course, Louis van Gaal may prove to be the most important signing of the summer, as his will to win and world-class pedigree were things that also were abundantly missing last season. The pre-season couldn’t have gone any better for van Gaal with six victories out of six and a 3-1 win over Liverpool to boot. Even Fellaini scored a stoppage time winner.

 

However, but as his United squad, the fans and van Gaal himself will well know, it’ll count for nothing if United don’t turn it on against Swansea on the 16th August.

 

Key Signing(s):

Ander Herrera (£29m, Athletic Bilbao), Luke Shaw (£27m, Southampton)

Key Departures:

Rio Ferdinand (free, QPR), Nemanja Vidic (free, Inter Milan), Alexander Buttner (£4.4m, Dynamo Moscow), Patrice Evra (£1.2m, Juventus)

 

Fans View: @ManchestrLaLaLa

www.manchesterlalala.com

 

1.) How do you see United's 2014/15 season shaping up?

 

I'd be delighted if we finished in the top 3, but that might well not happen. 

Van Gaal is undoubtedly a world-class manager, and it's barely believable how quickly he's been able to change the style of United's play, but right now there are still worrying weaknesses in the squad and a startling lack of experience at the back. 

If we do make any major signings before the end of the window, it could take them a while to settle. If we don't, that could mean opportunities for some of the younger players; ultimately, that could be the best thing for the club, but it could make for a turbulent first season under Van Gaal. 

We also know that he values good performances over good results - this commitment to his philosophy should pay dividends in the long term, but, again, the first season might not be such an easy ride, with modern fans and the media notoriously short on patience. Having said that, the complaint of most supporters last season wasn't the results, but the lack of entertainment, and the absence of any clear philosophy or vision from Moyes. As long as we're fun to watch again, and there's a sense of a masterplan unfolding, however gradually, that will be enough for me. 

Quite frankly, though, we couldn't have asked for a much easier opening 6 games - if we take advantage of that and keep the momentum going, who knows where we might end up!

 

2.) Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?

 

I don't know how surprising it would be, given the excellent progress they made last year, but I certainly think Everton could challenge for a top-4 finish. Martinez is a great young manager, and the Lukaku signing was a powerful statement of intent. 

In terms of relegation, I think Newcastle have made some potentially decent signings, but I'm not sure Pardew is the man to get the best out of them. I can see them imploding spectacularly, but I've also got Janmaat and Cabella in my Fantasy Football team, so I hope I'm completely wrong. 

 

3.) Who within the United squad do you think could be one to look out for this season?

 

I think the obvious answer is Januzaj. He was a revelation in the first half of the 2013/14 campaign, but was then used far more sparingly in the latter stages of the season. Comparisons have been made with Sterling, who made a massive leap forward last year. I'm really excited to watch Adnan develop. 

I'm also keeping an eye on James Wilson, and I think Darren Fletcher could be a big player for us this season, especially if we don't sign another CM - would be great to see him back to his best! 

 

 

Newcastle United

nufc honest slogan

Odds on Newcastle to beat Manchester City in opening fixture.

Newcastle will be looking for a relatively stress free season, without incident and without boardroom shenanigans. However, with Newcastle and in particular, Mike Ashley, that is never certain. As we all know, Ashley is no stranger to controversy and he does like to rub the Newcastle faithful up the wrong way from time-to-time.

 

However, it does seem that Pardew has bought wisely in the summer transfer window and a successful pre-season is all that the Newcastle fans could have asked for before the start of the season. The Toon have a tough opening match though at home to champions Manchester City which may not be ideal with so many new faces hoping to hit the ground running.

 

With his buys, Pardew has bought youth as well as creativity and his has added firepower up front in the form of Dutchman Siem de Jong, Frenchman Emmanuel Riviere and Spaniard Ayoze Perez from Tenerife.

 

Remy Cabella represents a significant purchase as his pace and creativity was very much lacking at times last season but Pardew will look to take Newcastle to the next level this season, especially in the cup competitions as these represent Newcastle’s best chance of silverware.

 

Key Signing(s):

Jack Colback (free, Sunderland), Remy Cabella (£12m, Montpellier), Emmanuel Riviere (£6m, Montpellier), Daryl Janmaat (£5m, Feyenoord), Siem de Jong (£6m, Ajax)

Key Departures:

Dan Gosling (free, Bournemouth), Shola Ameobi (free, Gaziantep B.B.), Mathieu Debuchy (£12m, Arsenal)

 

Fans View: @LinleysLessons

 

How do you think Newcastle's 2014/15 will shape up? 

 

We have done some great preparation for the new season and so we should be comfortably in the top ten.

 

Is there one player within your current squad who you think will be one to watch out for throughout the season? 

 

Cabella is one that could stand out for me but I have a feeling that Siem de Jong could be the star performer.

 

Do you think Alan Pardew can replicate the team's fortunes in 2014/15? 

 

Pardew should be fine achieving what he did last season as long as key players aren’t sold with any replacements in place.

 

With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May? 

 

The surprise package could be QPR. Harry is a top manager. I have a feeling the top 4 will be Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Man United, in that order! The relegation battle is a little trickier to call but I would go for any 3 out of Southampton, Villa, Leicester and Burnley.

Crystal Palace

crystal palace

Palace manager Tony Pulis worked wonders last season when he managed to inject some much needed confidence into a squad that was desperately lacking. Palace had made a terrible start to last season winning just 1 of their first 11 games in the league season but the arrival of Pulis sparked a revival in fortunes.

 

The team picked up valuable points at home as well as away and they began to climb the table to eventually reach a solid mid-table position. For 2014/15, Palace fans will be hoping for more of the same from Pulis and his team. The signings of Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff and Brede Hangeland from Fulham may prove to be shrewd signings but the Palace squad could do with some proven quality

 

Central midfield where a creative player could make the difference and left-back will be areas Tony Pulis will look to improve upon should he get the chance before the transfer window slams shut.

 

Key Signing(s):

Brede Hangeland (free, Fulham), Fraizer Campbell (£900k, Cardiff City)

Key Departures:

Kagisho Dikgacoi (free, Cardiff City), Jonathan Parr (free, Ipswich Town), Danny Gabbidon (Released)

 

 

Everton

everton crest

Everton are looking to build on a superb 2013/14 that brought them so close to the top four and resulted in Everton’s best performance in a Premier League season.

 

Manager Roberto Martinez has added Bosnian midfielder Muhammed Besic to the squad while securing Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku on permanent deals after they were on loan in 2013/14. The signing of Lukaku especially raised a few eyebrows after the £28m fee was announced, shattering Everton’s transfer records. However, his signing is a significant one for Everton on the eve of 2014/15.

 

With a few players returning after injury such as Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson, the Everton squad should be as competitive if not more compared to last season although they could do with another top notch striker with only Steven Naismith and the unpredictable Arouna Kone as back-up for Lukaku which they will need if they’re to go far in the Europa League.

 

Key Signing(s):

Gareth Barry (free, Manchester City), Muhammed Besic (£4m, Ferencvaros), Romelu Lukaku (£28m, Chelsea)

Key Departures:

None

 

Fan's View: Stephen James @ginge1878

How do you think Everton's 2014/15 will shape up?

I believe that Everton’s hopes rest on how are injuries pan out this season. If we can go through the season relatively unscathed with the odd small injury to first team players they can finish 5th again, if not challenge for top four. We proved last year that we can beat any team in the top four with the exception of Liverpool who have a hoodoo on us. Anyway, with the youthful talent of Lukaku, Barkley, Mirallas (not so young) McCarthy (unsung hero) and Coleman with a nice blend of seasoned pros – Distin, Baines, Jagielka & Barry -- we have a team capable of consistency against the lesser teams home and away. But also mixing it with the likes of Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool & United. We need more additions to the squad before the end of the transfer window, ideally a striker, winger and defender but I’m happy with the preparations in pre-season despite the poor form.


Is there one player within your current squad who you think will be one to watch out for throughout the season?

The obvious player is to say Barkley, therefore I will pick him. The one thing he lacked last year was consistency. On his day he is unplayable, but he has shown through inexperience (or being rushed back from injury due to his importance to the team) he can be equally as poor. Nonetheless his precocious talent is undeniable. He will only get better and there isn’t a better manager he can thrive under than Martinez. He gives him the opportunity to express himself in a position where he is able to make mistakes and learn from them. If he can handle the pressure he will be a great Everton player and a great England player. Fingers crossed.


Do you think Roberto Martinez can replicate the team's fortunes in 2014/15?

As a pessimist I see everything through a negative view, however, seeing the way Martinez wants to play his football I believe he can emulate Everton’s fortunes of last season. The only possible downside is the pile up of fixture and travelling in Europe. It’s a big test for a relatively small squad, which doesn’t have the greatest luck with injuries. I’m still in shock with Everton spending £28 million on one player – but this seems to be a new Everton that wants to invest in players rather than sell them. If we can keep hold of our current crop of players (which with all of the new contracts it seems we will) and make a couple more additions I think that we will be able to cope with the rigors of Europe & domestic competitions.


With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May?

The past few years there’s only been 5-6 teams fighting for top four (Everton included in that) and this season I think it will be much the same. I believe Arsenal will be a strong bet for the League with Manchester City and Chelsea as favourites. Liverpool will be up there along with Everton, Spurs and a potentially a resurgent Manchester United under Van Gaal. With regards to relegated teams I think 2 of the promoted teams will go back down with Leicester having the best of the season of the promoted teams. They are well drilled, organised, with some talented players and an intelligent manager. Possibly Villa, Swansea and West Brom being pulled into the dreaded 18th position. I fear for Villa, with their main striker being injured still and not being replaced. It’s be a shame as they are a long serving top flight team.

 

 

 

Hull City

hull city crest

Hull have made solid signings in preparation for the 2014/15 Premier League as well as their first ever-European campaign in the Europa League. Manager Steve Bruce has added proven Premier League players and with Tom Huddlestone in midfield, they will be hoping he can control matches for them domestically and in Europe.


Securing the signature of Tom Ince proved to be something of a coup, amid speculation linking the promising young attacking midfielder to Internazionale. Instead, he chose to link with Steve Bruce and prove his ability in England.

 

Key Signing(s):

Robert Snodgrass (Undisclosed, Norwich City), Tom Ince (free, Blackpool), Jake Livermore (Undisclosed, Tottenham)

Key Departures:

Matty Fryatt (free, Nottingham Forest), Robert Koren (free, Melbourne City)

 

 

Leicester City

lcfc

 

 

Leicester have been in splendid form throughout pre-season, winning six out of seven games and drawing the other. Although you can never read too much into pre-season, a morale-boosting win over Everton in Bangkok in July would surely have given manager Nigel Pearson reason to believe they have what it takes to make it in the Premier League.

 

Experienced PL campaigners Matthew Upson and Marc Albrighton have joined in a relatively understated transfer window. Pearson may still sign a ‘marquee’ player, but time is running out. It looks more likely that the manager will keep faith in a team which illuminated the Championship.  

 

 

Key Signing(s):

Marc Albrighton (free, Aston Villa), Matthew Upson (free, Brighton & Hove Albion), Leonardo Ulloa (£8m, Brighton & Hove Albion)

 

Key Departures:

Sean St. Ledger, Zak Whitbread, Lloyd Dyer, Neil Danns (all released)

 

We’re delighted to announce the Guts fantasy football league ahead of the new English Premier League season!

 

Our league is free to enter and there are some wonderful prizes on offer.

 

End of Season Prizes

 

1st place – PlayStation 4 with two controls and one game

2nd place - £200 free bet

3rd place - £100 free bet

 

Monthly Prizes

 

You don’t have to wait until the end of the season to win prizes with Guts! Each month, the three teams which have gained the most points over the course of the month will win free bets from Guts!

 

Manager of the Month Prizes

 

1st place: £100 free bet

2nd place: £60 free bet

3rd place: £40 free bet

 

With the Guts manager of the month awards, you can still win if you’re out of the running for the end-of-season awards!

 

Simply register a team on http://fantasy.premierleague.com and enter this code to join the Guts league:

 

1619520-369907

 

Our league is completely free to enter and incredibly simple to join.

 

Join the Guts fantasy league today to win some fantastic prizes.

 

Don't forget to visit our Sportsbook, where you can find our best Premier League odds. Get the latest Guts sports codes here and boost your winnings!

 

Terms and conditions:

1. The deadline to join this league is 30th of August at 12.45 PM GMT.

2.The Free bet winnings will be credited to the winners Guts.com Sportsbook accounts. If you don't have an account when you win, you need to create one to get the winnings.

3. If you are one of the lucky winners (monthly or annual) you should contact support@guts.com and write the subject to: "Fantasy League" and in the e-mail you write your username at guts.com and your team name in the fantasy league. Then we will credit the winnings to you the following weekday after the last game of the Gameweek is played. We will also write a note about who the winners are in the league chat, so check this frequently. If you have won you need to contact us within 14 days after the last game was played for the monthly or annual prize, otherwise you will not be eligable for the prize.

4. The free bet needs to be placed in Guts Sportsbook once and there is no wagering requirements if you win with your free bet. Read all about the free bet and how you play for it here: www.guts.com/en/page/freebetextra

5. If you win the final annual prize, playstation 4 with two controls and one game. Do the same as if you won a free bet and contact support@guts.com. We reserve to give out the Playstation prize as a gift card of which monetary value will be decided once the campaign ends.

6. If there are two or more teams on the exact same score, the winner will be decided by the highest gameweek score for the month (or highest gameweek score of the full season if it's the annual prize). If this score is also the same, the prize will be divided amoung these winners.

7. It's only allowed to participate with one team per person, per household/IP for this competition.

8. This competition is for all countries except Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. If you are from Sweden, Norway, Finland or Denmark you should join the league: Guts.com fantasy Nordic

9. We reserve the right to alter the competition and everything connected to it at any time without notification to the other party.

10. General Terms and conditions apply.

 


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