Gonzo’s Betting Diary; Champions League Final and the Play-Offs

After a massively disappointing season on the betting front, at least in terms of stuff published on here – personally I did quite well but anyway, I’ve got one last chance to claw some cash back before I start from scratch for the Euros.  I did manage a 10/1 treble with my last offering though (see pic), so maybe the Gonzo Sports Desk’s luck is turning.

Betting on the Champions League Final

Atletico Madrid hold the edge over their more illustrious neighbours in the last five meetings, with Atleti enjoying two wins to Real’s one.  Indeed, Real Madrid have actually won just one of the last 10 Madrid derbies so the 9/4 Totesport and Betfred are offering for a Los Rojiblancos victory looks pretty decent. There is the small matter of the 2014 final of course, which Real went on to win in extra time, but Atleti very nearly won that had it not been for a late Sergio Ramos equaliser so I’m going to stick to my guns and go for a win for the underdog here.

The Championship play-off final

Often described as the ‘richest game in football’ or some variation of, on Saturday Hull take on Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in a battle for the final place in next season’s Premier League.  Hull have been a strange team in the final throes of the campaign with some real Jekyll and Hyde performances, sometimes they look like a top flight team and occasionally they look shit.  Which Hull will turn up? Who knows, but given their absymal semi-final second leg display against Derby I’m guessing the latter and I’ll be taking Wednesday at 13/5 with Bet Victor and Ladbrokes.

League One play-off final

Right at the start I went for Barnsley but they will need to be on top form on Sunday.  Millwall are a decent team though so it might take the Tykes more than the 90 minutes to navigate this tricky fixture, as such I’m going for Barnsley to get promoted at 10/11 rather than the straightforward match betting.

League Two play-off final

I also picked out Plymouth at the start of the play-offs and I’ve not seen anything that makes me want to change my mind.  The Pilgrims are 13/8 with Totesport and Betfred to see off Wimbledon in 90 minutes and I’ll be sticking them on this ambitious fourfold.

As a fourfold this pays out at 56/1, usually I just go with trebles so perhaps I might knock one selection off but for the purposes of this site I’m going to throw caution to the wind and keep it at four – if it comes in I’ll be able to say this made a profit over the season as well, which would be a little unjust considering how terrible some of my bets have been but stats don’t lie. 

As always I’ve used Oddschecker but I’m in no way affiliated with them, nor do I have any links to any of the bookies mentioned above.

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Gonzo Sports Guest Article; Manchester City and underachievement

In a first for the Gonzo Sports Desk, I’ve accepted an article from a guest writer. Publication doesn’t imply endorsement or agreement, for example I quite like Manuel Pellegrini and wouldn’t say he was ‘punching above his weight’, but if we all agreed on everything life would be pretty boring. In any case I’ve got no interest in controlling what people say, I’m not Rupert Murdoch or North Korea.

Here Jacque Talbot offers his thoughts on Manchester City, you can follow him on Twitter @Jac_Talbot

Manchester City’s 2008 takeover looked set to transform them from serial underachievers into one of the biggest sporting clubs in the world. However, since their acquisition by the Abu Dhabi United Group they have won just three major trophies – the Premier league in 2012 and 2014 and the 2011 FA Cup. Any takeover begs the question of whether buyer holds the club’s best interest at heart. For City, it is easy to see that transfer spending certainly hasn’t been a problem. Money brings obvious benefits, but sometimes it does so at the expense of the club’s traditions or heart.

The 2015/16 season for City has fallen under the radar for many – with the attention being drawn towards the plight of Chelsea in the early part of the campaign and Leicester’s success in the latter half. City’s squad is full of world class names and a fourth place finish would have been viewed as a failure before a ball was kicked. Keeping neighbours Manchester United out of the Champions League aside, fourth place is indeed underwhelming considering the amount of money the club has spent into building its squad.

As Arsenal claimed second place on the final day, there were plenty of Gunners fans who deemed it a bad season – to such an extent that a not insignificant number of Arsenal supporters called for the removal of Arsene Wenger as manager. Whilst many have laughed at the calamity of the Arsenal protests and inner fighting – their ideas and arguments, on both sides, are fuelled by a central want for the club to be the best it can.

Can this be said for Manchester City? It’s doubtful, in fact there seems to be a silent agreement of disregard for any competition aside from the Champions League, which turned around mid-season (when Pep Guardiola was appointed); to them perhaps not being particularly bothered by the season at all. The main concern for Manchester City, was obtaining top four in order for Guardiola to have a shot at the Champions League next season.

The season was regarded as a ‘transitional year’ for Man City by most – a term I still struggle to come to grips with. I think it is a recent fad, or ‘get out clause’ that big clubs can use when they have a bad season. The so-called transitional year is when one or two players will retire at the end of the season, or they have a few youngsters in the ranks, who although 23 and been who’ve been playing for seven years in the top flight, are classed as inexperienced. The whole idea of a club having a ‘transitional’ period is complete bollocks – especially with a club with the amount of wealth and resources as Man City. They should be challenging for the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League every year, and every time they don’t, it should be considered a failure.

Yes, I would argue that City are not in a transitional year, because I simply do not believe in it. What’s more, given the season they’ve just had, I would say that they are almost a one-man-team – with the man being Sergio Aguero.  City’s underwhelming displays have been largely camouflaged by this world class, clinical striker. Without Aguero’s contribution in goals and assists, City would have finished behind Southampton, West Ham and Liverpool in ninth place and with a +2 goal difference – mid-table.

Aguero’s ability has allowed the once talismanic Yaya Toure to become a passenger. With a £200,000 per-week salary – Toure can be seen as the embodiment of City’s one-track thinking. The past couple of seasons have made him to be thought of as the player who will only perform to the best of his ability if the match is an important one. But this season, the sheer laziness from Toure has reached the boundaries of hilarity. Even in the Champions League semi-final showdown with Real Madrid there was a Vine that went viral, showing the Ivorian wander around aimlessly for 90 minutes, which completely undermines the idea that he has these ‘man of the match’ performances against big clubs.

The fingers should point the blame at now former boss Manuel Pellegrini – yet they don’t as it’s universally accepted that a large majority of the players couldn’t care less for what he says. I do believe that the man was punching above his weight in the job role, yet he undeniably worked tirelessly for the club. His farewell was outrageous. The fans who left should really have words with themselves. They got caught up in the Guardiola appointment halfway through the season and this of course was another kick in the teeth for Pellegrini and made it almost impossible for him to manage without being undermined.

It seems that the ‘money mentality’ of the club can have an impact on its players. If the club’s owners show off a representation that trophies should be bought and not won, it can have negative effects on the players and then unto the fans of the club. Fans should be wanting to win every game, regardless of opponent. This idea of resting before a big game or losing 4-2 to a Southampton side just because there is a bigger game in the Champions League next week does the Premier League no justice, nor does it give Manchester City any credibility.

Being accused of ‘buying the cup’ was thrown towards Chelsea in their 2003/04 triumph, and the supporters got angry. The same sentiments have been thrown City’s way and a few seem to revel happily in agreement. There is no mistaking the capital interest of football nowadays – and it can have good points. But reflecting upon the strength of heart in Liverpool’s and United’s European dominance of the 80s and 90s, the same cannot be said for English football currently. Yes, clubs likes Barcelona have always been rich too, but their buys have either been almost perfect and majority of their talent stems through their youth system ‘Messi, Xavi, Pique, Sergio, Alba, and Iniesta’.

This is why the appointment of Pep Guardiola is much more than it seems. Not only does he have the tactical prowess and the silverware, he is also a manager who will take no shit (are you watching Yaya?) and who is shrewd in his transfers. Some of his Bayern purchases include: the young Kimmich for £6.3m, Robert Lewandowski as a free, Sebastian Rode as a free, Xabi Alonso for £7.5m and Kingsley Coman on loan. These rather calculated transfers are an almost polar opposite to City ‘bazooka’ buys which accumulated at £350m since Pellegrini’s appointment in the summer of 2013.

I hope that the City fans don’t read this as an attack on them or the club. I have a lot of respect for City, I consider it a ‘massive club’, both in terms of current finances and previous history.  My gripe is purely with the obvious attitude problem that’s currently ingrained in their current owners.  The money owns all attitude is problematic, especially when the club is representative of English football in European competitions.

There really should’ve been a fight shown by this season by Man City, but there was none. Leicester City’s title win wasn’t an intense fight with the big boys, it was almost a stroll to victory. Though I highly commend Leicester, it’s my belief that the likes of City and Chelsea should hang their heads in shame. Leicester have made an absolute mockery of them. I feel that Pep will do well for them as he’ll get rid of the deadwood, and perhaps build a team capable of securing silverware consistently.

The Gonzo Sports Desk offered some thoughts on Pep Guardiola’s arrival a while ago, you can read them here.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Gonzo Sports Digest; the time has come to rally round Newcastle United

When Newcastle United’s relegation was confirmed the vast majority of rival fans were understandably pretty happy with that result, with the Magpies seemingly the team most wanted to go down.  I say understandably because they’re a big club, the biggest of those involved in this season’s Premier League relegation fight by some distance.

Most want to see them struggle, some probably want them stuck in the Championship for a few years, and in normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t mind that too much myself – because who doesn’t like to see a big club struggle from time to time?

But these are not normal circumstances. Usually when it becomes clear a club is being run by dubious owners football fans unite in solidarity, there is sympathy from even the bitterest of rivals. Newcastle are not getting this.  The current or previous regimes at the likes of Blackpool, Bolton, Blackburn, Charlton, Aston Villa and more have all been roundly criticised by the football community but for Newcastle, it is only those associated with the club in some way who are calling for change.

Newcastle’s owner, Sports Direct businessman Mike Ashley, is a private guy, or alternatively smart enough to know to keep his mouth shut depending on your viewpoint.  Away from football, the billionaire has refused to appear before a committee of MPs investigating pay and working conditions at his retail empire.  At various stages different media outlets have been banned from press conferences at St James’ Park. Why the lack of transparency?  What’s he got to hide? Whatever is going on, this is not the kind of behaviour you want from the guy in charge.  Fundamentally, you want someone at the helm who cares more about success than making a profit, and has at the very least a facade of being trustworthy. Clearly, that is not always possible – it is an ideal rather than the norm – but Newcastle are getting a raw deal compared to most.

Poor managerial choices, equally poor signings and what appears to be a policy that ‘cup competitions are not a priority’ can kill the confidence of even the most ardent of supporters. Many football fans may feel like their club has certain priorities but you don’t want explicit confirmation that the FA Cup, for example, has been deemed as basically an annoyance by the powers that be. Even if that is true you’d hope the owners, or those they employ, would at least have the decency and – arguably more importantly – the good sense to lie about it.   Reports later emerged to the contrary, that in fact cups were now a target, but by then the damage had already been done.

There are mitigating factors at play as to why the wider world of football doesn’t seem too worried about the situation at St James’ Park.  For one, unlike at places such as Bolton and Villa, Ashley appears to have been putting money into the squad, he also sanctioned the arrival of Rafael Benitez as manager so on the surface it seems as if he isn’t running the club into ruin and maybe he isn’t – but then again maybe he is.

The club owe him £129m “in the form of interest-free loans from Mike Ashley and companies under his control”, and despite the fact profits are being recorded results are not improving, nor is their debt to him reducing.  What happens if he decides to stop putting money into the club and begins a search for a new owner (which could already be in progress)? According to local rag the Chronicle, it would take £260million to buy him out, and no one is going to pay that for a Championship team.

The attitude of the supporters is also cited as a reason to mock the Toon, but in reality you have every reason to expect results if you’re getting around 50,000 going to games, historical struggles to secure silverware aside. Despite Newcastle being largely woeful over the course of the campaign; only Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City averaged higher attendances this season. Even if Newcastle fans were only demanding top 10 Premier League finishes that’s not outrageous, a relegation battle shouldn’t even be on the radar.  In any case the Newcastle fans aren’t a bad lot, if you ignore the occasional horse puncher, just a few weeks ago the supporters belted out a rousing rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in tribute to the Hillsborough victims in support of their Liverpool counterparts, maybe it is time the rest of the footballing community showed them the same kind of solidarity – because their club is not in a good place.

The Newcastle United fans are a proud bunch and they’re probably as unwilling to accept any sympathy as others are to dish it out. The situation is bigger than that though, because what happens to one club could conceivably happen anywhere. Newcastle’s situation is not clear cut, you could make the argument that the club’s hierarchy are trying their best but just happen to be pretty terrible at whatever it is they’re trying to do. The pessimist/realist in me however, sees a storm brewing. Football and business are now so intertwined there will never be any unravelling of the two but clubs are intrinsically linked to communities and as such should not be regarded as wholly capitalist ventures, especially if that is how they are viewed by those who own them.

Further Reading;

Mike Ashley “wedded to Newcastle” via Chronicle Live

Mike Ashley snubs calls to face MPs via The Guardian

‘Preferred Media Partner Strategy’ via The Telegraph

Stuff on silverware, initial reports of cups not a priority via Chronicle Live and a later report via The Mirror.

Gary Neville and the Northern decline, via Gonzo Sports Desk.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Gonzo’s Betting Diary; one last time

This has been a terrible idea but I’m going to try and claw back some of my losses, then wipe the slate clean and start over from scratch for Euro 2016 in a month or so.

The last day, sometimes even weeks, of a season are always tricky.  Teams with nothing to play for can either drop off or suddenly turn into world beaters (think Swansea smashing West Ham last weekend) but I can’t resist one last attempt at beating the bookies so here we go.

The Treble

If the end of the season is a minefield the play-offs are the frontline but regardless I’m taking Barnsley to beat Walsall at Oakwell in the first-leg of their League One play-off clash. The Saddlers were unlucky to miss out on automatic promotion but the Tykes head into the match in great form and at 29/20 they’re worth the risk.

Over in Germany, Werder Bremen face Frankfurt in a huge relegation showdown.  Win and Bremen stay up at Frankfurt’s expense, lose or draw and they go down.  The visitors have won three on the spin going into this but Bremen have beaten Wolfsburg and demolished Stuttgart 6-2 in their last two home games so I’m going with a home win at evens.

The last selection comes from Serie A as second place chasing Roma head to AC Milan.  The Rossoneri can’t finish any higher than sixth and the visitors have been in good form so at 6/5 I’ll be taking Roma.

As a treble this pays out at 10/1, not too shabby but not the big bucks I really need…

The match result and both teams to score treble

Southampton are great going forward but have a leaky defence so at 21/10 they’re going on this big odds triple at home to Crystal Palace, Torino are 17/5 at Empoli and West Ham are 11/4 at Stoke.

This pays out at 48/1, which would be a cracking way to end the campaign.

As always I’ve used oddschecker for the best prices.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Gonzo Sports Digest, Khan v Canelo musings

On Saturday Amir Khan heads to Las Vegas for a crack at WBC middleweight champ Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in probably the most daunting task a British boxer has undertaken in some time.

Big credit to Tyson Fury and prior to that David Haye for travelling to Germany for a tear-up with Wladimir Klitschko, but Khan’s upped the difficulty stakes by jumping two weight classes.  The best comparison is probably Martin Murray’s jet setting, he’s had a trip to Argentina for a meeting with master technician Sergio Martinez and a jaunt to Monte Carlo for Gennady Golovkin before losing on points to Arthur Abraham in Germany.  He’s due a win in fairness, but already I’ve sidetracked myself so back to Khan.

That’s the kind of task ahead of Khan, he’s considered the underdog against a very powerful fighter and the crowd will largely be behind the Mexican.  Alvarez has 32 KOs in his 46 wins and was unbeaten until he came across Floyd Mayweather, but more on that later.

It is a huge ask for Khan but he’s got more than just a chance of upsetting the odds (Canelo is a massive odds-on favourite), despite that it has been largely overlooked by the British media.  Overlooked perhaps isn’t right, it has been mentioned, but he isn’t getting the same kind of fanfare as Anthony Joshua, and a lot of the Matchroom stable – but that is the power of Sky and Eddie Hearn at the moment I suppose.  What Khan is attempting is much bigger than Joshua’s world title success, both in terms of prestige and the task ahead of him, but for whatever reason he isn’t quite the headline act in Britain at the moment.  I don’t mean this as an insult to Joshua incidentally – you can only beat what’s in front of you and good luck to him, I just find it disappointing Khan isn’t getting the same kind of attention.

If it was on Sky it would be a much bigger deal in the UK as they grab the vast majority of casual fans, sadly, and Khan is on niche service Boxnation. There are other factors that have conspired against him but hopefully the buzz will pick up a bit as the week goes on.  And considering the monthly subscription to Boxnation is less than a single pay-per-view on Sky this is going to be well worth a watch.

One of the reasons he’s gone off the radar a bit is the fact he’s been inactive for nearly a year, having failed to land a ‘mega fight’.  He had every right to chase either Manny Pacquiao or Mayweather, in hindsight you could argue he wasted his time but if you’re an ambitious fighter why not go for the guys who rank amongst the greatest to have ever graced the sport?  There would have been other regrets if he’d never pursued those fights.  There were also rumblings he was dodging Kell Brook but now he’s heading for Canelo that tenuous argument has collapsed, no disrespect to Brook but that’s a bit like saying someone is running scared of a grilling from Jeremy Vine by instead taking an interview with Jeremy Paxman.

Another reason why British fans have possibly grown a little cold on Khan is a lack of home fights, with only one UK outing since 2011. That could change soon… The US might not be an option if Donald Trump becomes president and bans all Muslims from entering the country. Meanwhile, Canelo will be stuck on the other side of a wall wondering why no one else has ginger hair.

Can Khan cause an upset?

Why not?  I actually think Khan has a great chance, despite being a big outsider at 7/2 with some bookies, around 3/1 seems to be the average.  In his favour, he’s definitely the more mobile of the two and his speed is a huge advantage.  Khan’s also a fairly big puncher for a guy his size regardless of the fact his KO stats have dropped in recent years (he hasn’t stopped anyone since 2012) and he will be able to hurt Canelo.

This is being billed as a classic ‘style makes fights’ match-up and maybe that will be the case. There is the possibility Khan will simply be a bit too quick, or Alvarez will land a big shot and end it early but those issues exist in any match-up.

Khan has to stay out of trouble and if he does get caught he’s got to make sure he doesn’t get drawn into a battle. If we look back to the Mayweather fight – he outclassed Canelo, using his superior speed and defensive skills to win just about every round in a one-sided affair that failed to live up to the hype.  Khan could theoretically do the same, but there is a bit more aggression to Khan’s style and he has been tempted into brawls in the past – this would be a huge mistake if he goes down that route on Saturday.

My thinking is Khan on points but that doesn’t pay out much more than just a straightforward win for the Briton so I’ll just be sticking to the standard win market myself. He is however, the underdog for a reason and there are plenty of arguments as to why Canelo can win this.  He is bigger (not necessarily taller) and more powerful, and his relentlessness in his win over Miguel Cotto was hugely impressive.  Against Cotto, he stalked the Puerto Rican and never allowed him any rest, he searched for a KO and was happy to be the aggressor. He didn’t get the stoppage but he won a wide decision, these are the tactics he’ll probably adopt with Khan too. The former light-welterweight world champion will be happy to land a few punches, move out of danger and repeat if allowed, Canelo can’t let that happen and has to take the fight to him.

There are other factors that make me cautious as to Khan’s chances.  Golden Boy supremo Oscar De La Hoya set this up and Canelo is his fighter, so you’d assume he has the Mexican down as the favourite.  If it goes to points there is always a fear the judges will call the fight wrong, the regularity of such occurrences means it is no longer cynical to think in these terms when it comes to boxing.

Putting all worst case scenarios to one side, this could end up being a contender for fight of the year if it goes into the later rounds.  Khan’s fights are usually entertaining and he’s a man with a point to prove, and for Canelo he’s got to demonstrate he can mix it with all kinds of fighters after his Mayweather schooling – despite the Cotto win.

Further Reading;

Amir Khan BoxRec

Sual ‘Canelo’ Alvarez BoxRec

De La Hoya’s Donald Trump Invite – Bad Left Hook

Oscar De La Hoya interview – ESPN

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