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Struggling Sunderland seeking survival with point at Arsenal

Premier League relegation battlers Sunderland have rallied to an impressive run of form in recent weeks, at a crucial stage of the season, and Dick Advocaat’s men now need just a single point from their two remaining games against Arsenal and Chelsea to secure top-flight status.
The Black Cats may seem to be in a strong position over fellow drop-fighters Hull City and Newcastle United, but recent history suggests they will struggle to come away from the Emirates with a much-needed result, having failed to win at the Gunners since 1984.
Advocaat’s Wearside outfit have also managed to net only 13 goals in the 16 meetings since that last away triumph, but their determined Dutch boss is hopeful his side can cause an upset (10/1 with Coral to triumph).
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Sunderland - Goodison Park
“I think every player enjoys playing at Chelsea and Arsenal. We have nothing to lose because everyone expects us to lose – but we don’t. I know that we will give both of them a really difficult time and try and get what we need,” stated Advocaat.
Sunderland have surprisingly gone four domestic league clashes undefeated, including back-to-back wins over Southampton and Everton, and will be confident of earning that crucial point which would see them avoid a daunting drop down divisions.
“The quicker we get that point the better, but I have thought that right from the beginning. To take 11 points from seven games is great, but unfortunately we still don’t know if we are safe,” continued Advocaat, who recently admitted he will depart the club after the season finale.
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Sunderland - Goodison Park
“But everything is still in our own hands and hopefully we can do something ourselves at Arsenal. Otherwise we have to wait for the weekend.”
Injuries have ruled out duo Wes Brown and Liam Bridcutt, but Jack Rodwell returns to the squad as Advocaat also considers utilising wideman Adam Johnson from the start (6/1 to score anytime).
“He’s in the squad and when you are in the squad always a chance you will start,” Advocaat said.
A glimmer of hope for the travelling Black Cats will be Arsenal’s last home result, when Swansea City stunningly clinched a narrow 1-0 triumph in London, but this only halted a run of 10 league matches unbeaten.
The Gunners have already secured their place in next season’s Champions League and will have one eye on their FA Cup final meeting with Aston Villa.
Britain Soccer Premier League
Having won the last four meetings with Sunderland, including a 3-1 triumph at the Stadium of Light last season, Wenger’s men are 9/4 to win 2-1 or 3-1 again this time out, with their key attacking threats Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez available at 3/1 to both strike anytime on home soil.
The battling Black Cats managed to narrowly edge towards survival last season and they will be eager to claw their way to safety yet again this term, but Arsenal are 9/4 to win by three or more goals.

Arsenal, Juventus and Rangers all to triumph in 90 minutes at 11/2

Back Arsenal, Juventus and Rangers all to triumph in 90 minutes at 11/2 in their upcoming clashes and reap the rewards of these brilliantly boosted odds on three terrific home sides.
Arsene Wenger’s Gunners will face a visit form relegation strugglers Sunderland, while Serie A champions Juventus are aiming to keep their treble bid on course with a Coppa Italia victory over Lazio and Rangers face Hibernian in the first leg of their Scottish Championship play-off encounter.
Here are even more reasons why should back this tantalising treble.

Arsenal v Sunderland
The London outfit, odds-on 1/3 favourites, have already secured their place in next season’s Champions League competition, having rallied to third place in the Premier League table.

Wenger’s Gunners also have an FA Cup final to look forward to and will be confident of dispatching a struggling Black Cats side, who are fighting to secure their top-flight status.
Clinical Chile international Alexis Sanchez has enjoyed a sensational debut season in London and he is a 4/1 chance to open proceedings in his latest home appearance.
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Hull City v Arsenal - KC Stadium
Juventus v Lazio
The Old Lady, 21/20 favourites to triumph in 90 minutes, are on course for a historic treble triumph, after securing a Serie A crown and reaching both the Coppa Italia and Champions League final.

The this domestic cup final against Lazio, Massimiliano Allegri’s Italian champions will be extremely confident of earning their second piece of a hopeful three pieces of silverware this term.
In-form Argentine attacker Carlos Tevez has been at the forefront of that incredible success so far and is 6/1 to bag a brace or more this time out.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Real Madrid v Juventus - Santiago Bernabeu
Rangers v Hibernian
In the first leg of their Championship play-off clash, Rangers are the heavy odds-on 4/5 favourites to topple their Scottish rivals.

The home side secured victory in the two side’s previous meeting in March this year, when they rallied to a comfortable 2-0 result.
For the hosts, Steven Smith is an 8/1 chance to strike anytime, having slotted home against Queen of the South recently.

Soccer - Scottish FA Youth Cup Semi Final - Rangers v Ayr United - Ibrox Stadium

West Brom hoping to rely on good home record against Chelsea

West Bromwich Albion have a great recent home record against new Premier League champions Chelsea, having beaten them in two of their last three (losing none) meetings at The Hawthorns.
Tony Pulis’ Baggies, therefore, are tempting 3/1 chances with Coral for victory, which would also be the Blues’ first defeat in the top flight since New Year’s Day. West Brom, who are unbeaten in their last four, are 12/5 to get a draw, meanwhile.
But Chelsea are unstoppable of late, and they are a whopping 11 points above second-placed Manchester City with two games to go. They are also on course to reach 90 points this season (they are currently on 84), and are even-money favourites to triumph here.
Jose Mourinho knows all about Pulis and his record of never being relegated whilst in charge of a Premier League side, and had these words to say ahead of the clash: “If I own an English club, I sign Tony Pulis. It’s as simple as that – he’s a guarantee to achieve what the club wants.
“He has never managed a club that wants to be champion, never managed a club that wants top four, he is always managing clubs that want to survive and want stability,” he added.
“Tony is mathematics. His record is absolutely amazing.”

One person that does have a good record in matches between Chelsea and West Brom is Belgian star Eden Hazard, who has three against the Baggies. He has been one of the standout players this term for the champions so is a tempting 5/4 chance to score anytime and 7/1 for two or more.
There could also be a return for Brazilian-born Spain striker Diego Costa, who is an even-money anytime shout.
Two youngsters that cold be given a runout here at their former club are Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Isaiah Brown, who came through the Baggies’ academy. The are respective 11/2 and 7/4 chances to score.
Victor Anichebe, meanwhile, got a late equaliser in this fixture last season, so the frontman is 2/1 in the anytime market and 7/1 to strike last again. But Saido Berahino is the main man for the hosts, and he is 15/8 to net anytime.
In terms of injury news, Kurt Zouma, Oscar and Ramires all miss out, while Petr Cech is a doubt for the visitors. But West Brom have a fully fit side to pick from.

Premier League classic when the Baggies host the Blues on Monday night

Monday May 18, KO 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1

West Brom

The Baggies play their final home game of the season with their primary objective achieved. That, of course, is survival and all credit must go to Tony Pulis for turning things around since taking over on January 2. The former Stoke manager has won nine of 20 games in all competitions (six in the Premier League) to lead his team to mid-table safety.
Long term casualty Ben Foster is the only major player who can't figure.


Jose Mourinho's side wrapped up the league title with 1-0 home defeat of Crystal Palace in their penultimate fixture, but in truth it was won weeks before with a series of outlandish results needed if they were to throw it away. The Blues marked their first game since being crowned champions with a draw against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, a game in which they had taken the lead.
Diego Costa may make an appearance but first teamers Oscar and Ramires are out.

Match Odds

Was that draw with Liverpool a sign that the Blues were beginning to slacken off? The market is not overly taken with their chances, rating them just a touch over even money to win where ordinarily I'd expect them to be more like 1.80. The Baggies are 4.20 to bid farewell to The Hawthorns faithful for the 2014-15 season with a win while the draw trades at 3.55.
I certainly don't see Chelsea losing but equally so am not sure I can recommend a back at their current price. And I would really want to see West Brom at 5.00 or better before getting stuck in there.
That leaves the draw - a result the Baggies have recorded 11 times - but I'm just not convinced by anything in the market that I am happy to recommend as a bet.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

While we can only guess at motivation levels, we do know that both these teams can defend very well and that's not the sort of thing that is forgotten overnight. Chelsea have kept a league high 17 clean sheets while West Brom have been impressive themselves with 14 shutouts for the campaign. The market makes unders 1.82 favourite but there's enough meat on the bone to happily recommend it as a bet.

Sidemarket Selection - Clean Sheets

Might the Blues record clean sheet no.18? They are 2.58 to do so. At more than twice the price a home shutout can be backed at 4.50. Back them both and you get a payout should either or both come in.

Recommended Bet
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.82

Lazio to strengthen case for Champions League

Lazio, 11/8 for victory with Coral, are racing to cement a Champions League place for next season and, after a recent blip in form to surrender second spot back to capital rivals Roma, must clinch all three points against Sampdoria.
Currently ensconced in coveted third place, the electric Eagles, who have won five of their past six battles with the Blucerchiati, must stay ahead of Rafa Benitez’s Napoli boys.
Samp, 2/1 to triumph on home turf, are also chasing continental football for next campaign, but currently sit sixth after their own recent Serie A slump.
The Romans have won five of their previous six battles with the Blucerchiati, with the other ending on even terms, so will be expecting to emerge as victors again.
Having already sunk Samp 3-0 this season, Stefan Pioli’s impressive side are a superb 17/5 chance to score three or more again, or 15/4 to win to nil at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Fantastically talented Brazilian attacking force Felipe Anderson struck against Sampdoria in Lazio’s earlier rout of the Genoese club, and is 21/10 in the anytime market, while prolific marksman Miroslav Klose is 5/1 to draw first blood.
Italy Soccer Serie A
The potent pair of Anderson and Klose have hit 12 Serie A strikes between them this term, while Italy international Andrea Candreva, who grabbed a consolation against Inter Milan last time out, is 13/2 to deliver the final blow.
Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men should not be discouraged by their guests’ attacking prowess, however, as the Eagles are far less impressive away from the Stadio Olimpico, having failed to win their last two on the road.
Samp enter this encounter on the back of a swashbuckling victory against Udinese, but need to string a run of wins together having tasted triumph just once in their last seven in Serie A.
The Blucerchaiti have suffered a significant blow after top scorer Eder’s injury, as the Brazil-born Italy international looks set to be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Italy Soccer Serie A
Highly-rated Colombia star Luis Muriel (13/2 to fire home the first) and sharpshooter Samuel Eto’o (11/2 to hit home last) will bear the goal burden in his absence, while fellow attacking threat Roberto Soriano bagged a brace last time out in Udine, and is 13/5 to be on target anytime again.
For this clash, our top tip is Lazio at a fantastic 15/4 to bounce back in style and win to nil against Sampdoria, for what would be the second time this term.

The Brazilian league is underway again

Santos vs Cruzeiro 
Sunday 20:00
Our first game on Sunday is a tasty affair as back-to-back champs Cruzeiro make their first away trip of the season to play Santos.
Both teams are coming off the back of disappointing results in their opening fixture; Santos a 1-1 draw to newly promoted Avai and Cruzeiro starting off their season with a home loss to Corinthians.
It is long past time, over a decade, that Santos put together a credible title challenge, the club that has given the world Pele, Robinho (currently back at the club on loan from AC Milan) and Neymar has languished in mid-table for far too long.
Unfortunately, it would be a surprise if this year was that year. The side that finished ninth last season has hardly been supplemented with quality, a 33 year old Elano on a free being an example of their transfer activity.
The famed Santos youth production has some talented youngsters coming through but there is no new Neymar on the horizon or even a Kenedy at Fluminense.
Cruzeiro on the other hand are in an extremely healthy position as a club, the Foxes are coming off back to back titles (not acheived since the Sao Paulo side of 2006-08) and are in the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores, a tournament the club has not won since 1997.
Most familiar to European fans on the away side would be Dede; the 26 year old Brazilian centre back made waves when he moved to Cruzeiro in 2013 from Vasco da Gama for a club record fee, instead of Manchester United as was rumoured at the time.
Dedeckenbauer, as nicknamed by the fans, is an outstanding centre back who has been hit by a serious knee injury and is such likely to miss the game.
Attacking midfielder Willian is one to keep an eye on, not to be confused with Willians in defensive midfield or indeed Willian Farias also at defensive midfield!
This game should be tense, Cruzeiro have been outstanding away from home in the last two seasons and are undefeated in their last five away fixtures.
Not only are the Blues unfeated in their last six against Santos, they have clean sheets in five of those! The last two seasons have seen 1-0 away wins at the Vila Belmiro, back Cruzeiro to make it a hat-trick of single goal victories on Sunday.
Recommended Bets:
Back Cruzeiro to win 1-0 @ 11.50
Back Under 1.5 goals @ 3.00

Internacional vs Avai
Sunday 22:30

The Sunday night game takes us to Porto Alegre where Internacional host Avai in their shiny new stadium.
As mentioned above Avai managed to take a point off Santos on the opening weekend of the season and Internacional were thrashed 3-0 at Atletico Paranaense which has them sitting bottom.
The home side, poor result last weekend notwithstanding, have reason to be positive. A third place finish in the league last season was a solid effort and the Red Nation have a decent squad to have another shot at the crown.
Argentine number 10 Andres D'Alessandro is, as usual, the star of the show while Anderson is looking to get his career back into shape after a disappointing time at Old Trafford.
New signing Lisandro Lopez is a coup if he can reproduce half the form he showed at Porto and Lyon whereas ex-Brazil centre half Juan is still classy at the back.
Avai's squad will be less well known to a European audience, and I daresay some Brazilians having been in Serie B last season.
17 year old Renan Martins is one to watch for the future having played the full 90 last week and Antonio Carlos is a decent if unspectacular defender.
Given Avai's history of playing in the lower leagues, this fixture has not happened too many times in recent years but Internacional have a great record winning five out of six.
With winning, and scoring at least two goals, in eight of the last nine at home allied to their previous record against Avai, the People's Club should have no problem brushing the away team aside.

Recommended Bets:
Back Internacional to win 3-1 @ 14.00
Back over 2.5 goals @ 2.06

3 Bad news to Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga

Borussia Monchengladbach to win at Verder Bremen
This writer doesn't know the German for "after the Lord Mayor's Show", but expects Borussia Monchengladbach to display a tacit understanding of the phenomenon a week on from the win over Bayer Leverkusen which put them on the fast track to next season's Champions League group phase.
The Foals have been the story of the Bundesliga campaign - one which is their most successful in 31 years - yet their sole win in six away to a top-eight rival came against a distracted Bayern Munich in March.
Only Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich have defeated resurgent Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion since the start of November, and they haven't conceded in three home matches.

Lay Torino to beat Chievo @ 1.82

This has been another laudable season for Torino, who are on course to earn a top-half finish despite losing Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci - who scored 60% of their goals in 2013/14 - last summer, having also reached the round-of-16 of the Europa League.
However, in the Serie A overachieving tradition (see Parma in 2013/14, Catania in 2012/13 and 2011/12 and Bologna in 2010/11), they have run out of gas in the final stretch, winning just one in six and losing their past two. Top scorer Fabio Quagliarella has been ruled out for the remainder too.
Chievo on the other hand have been sensational since February 11 under former Catania gravity-defier Rolando Maran, posting figures of P14 W6 D6 L2 and going six without defeat most recently, earning points at Lazio and Inter in the process to give themselves a shot at the top half.

Lay Deportivo to beat Levante @ 1.78

Levante's need for victory on La Liga's penultimate weekend isn't quite as severe as Deportivo's - they are five points clear of the drop zone whereas their hosts are only outside by virtue of a head-to-head tie-breaker - but desperation is the sole metric by which the favourites come out on top.
Deportivo have taken three points from their last five games, whereas Levante have scored eight, and the visitors have won one of their latest two away encounters, in contrast to their opponents being winless in 14 La Liga fixtures at any venue.

Levante have triumphed on successive league trips to the Estadio de Riazor too, so it is difficult to understand how Depor are odds-on to prevail.

Germany Bundesliga 1 this week : just two weekends left of the Bundesliga season

Freiburg vs Bayern Munich
Saturday May 16, 14:30
Bayern Munich went down swinging in the Champions League semis, but ultimately they had no answer to the sustained excellence of Barcelona. Bayern coach Pep Guardiola was hopeful that the tactical adjustments he has made throughout the season would allow the German champions to overcome even the world's best teams, but that hope proved forlorn. Barca's all-star armoury may well have blown Bayern away even if the Bavarians had been at full-strength, but we'll never know, as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and David Alaba remained tethered to the treatment table (not literally, unless things have taken a weird turn since club doctor Hans Muller-Wolfahrt departed).
With the German Cup campaign derailed by Borussia Dortmund, and the Bundesliga title wrapped up, only personal pride remains for Bayern and Guardiola. That pride shouldn't be underestimated, and while Bayern have lost their last two Bundesliga matches, I don't expect them to sleepwalk into a third defeat.
Bayern have been at pains to stress they will give their all in Saturday's game at Freiburg, and their midfielder Sebastian Rode has pointed out that the team owes the other sides in the relegation battle a good performance. After a sobering exit from Europe, I'm expecting a fired up Bayern that's keen to finish an adequate campaign with a flourish, and Guardiola has no reason to rest star players.
Freiburg only have themselves to blame for still being stuck in the relegation dogfight. Last Friday's 1-1 draw at fellow strugglers Hamburg was the sixth time that the Black Forest outfit have blown a lead in the 88th minute or later. Performances mean little at this stage of the campaign, with results the only worthwhile currency, and Christian Streich's men barely have two cents to rub together. Freiburg have collected just three points from their last six games, and they are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Freiburg's home form has often bailed them out in times of trouble, but that's deserted them too, as they've lost their last two home games to Mainz and Paderborn. Against a frustrated Bayern Munich team that will feature some players battling for their futures, I think Freiburg could be about to suffer another costly blow.
Recommended Bet
Back Bayern Munich -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.92
Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt
Saturday May 16, 14:30

Hertha Berlin are one of the teams still embroiled in the closest relegation scrap the Bundesliga has ever seen, and with a tricky trip to Hoffenheim on the horizon, this is the capital club's big chance to secure safety. Against an Eintracht Frankfurt side that have been on their summer holidays for quite a while, I think Pal Dardai's Hertha will get the points they need.
Hertha have lost their last three matches, but those defeats came against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach, and they played well in all three games. Before that dip in results, Hertha had gone seven matches unbeaten. They still look solid under the watchful gaze of Dardai, who will earn himself a lucrative new contract if he keeps his beloved Hertha in the top flight.
Frankfurt's away form has been dreadful all season, and they have collected a solitary point from their last eight road matches. The premature end to Bundesliga top-scorer Alex Meier's season was a hefty blow, and the Eagles haven't really recovered. Frankfurt's next best player is arguably midfielder Stefan Aigner, and he can expect plenty of stick from the home fans, after he felled Hertha's Roy Beerens with a horrific challenge in the reverse fixture.
Recommended Bet
Back Hertha to win at 2.06
Stuttgart v Hamburg
Saturday May 16, 14:30

In the last few seasons there has been a shift in power from iconic German clubs to less established outfits like Wolfsburg, and both Hamburg and Stuttgart have been poster-boys for that decline. Stuttgart were champions as recently as 2007, while Hamburg have never been relegated from the Bundesliga, hence the rather pompous clock at the Imtech Arena that shows how long the Redshorts have been in the top flight. Now both are in the relegation mire, and one could doom the other this weekend.
Stuttgart are bottom, but gave themselves a lifeline with last weekend's 2-0 home win against Mainz. Hamburg are just two points better off, but are currently outside the bottom three, having taken seven points from four games since Bruno Labbadia took the helm.
Against expectations, former Stuttgart boss Labbadia has given HSV some much-needed fight, and in their last two games late goals from Gojko Kacar have seen them turn a draw into a win against Mainz and turn a defeat into a draw at home to Freiburg. Such belief simply hasn't been evident for most of the campaign.
Stuttgart are still in with a chance of survival because they have won three of their last four home games, but I still think they are far too short to win this at 1.77. You could barely put a cigarette paper between the squads in terms of quality, and I think this nerve-ridden slugfest will be far tighter than the match odds suggest.
Stuttgart seem jittery to me - they have catastrophically blown leads in two of their last three games, and the pressure seemed to tell on their coach Huub Stevens this week, as he ranted at his players and called them monkeys. This could be incredibly tight, so I have to oppose the hosts at those odds.
Recommended Bet
Lay Stuttgart at 1.77
Bayer Leverkusen v Hoffenheim
Saturday May 16, 14:30

Bayer Leverkusen's hopes of finishing in the Bundesliga's top three nosedived last week, as they were swept aside 3-0 at local rivals Borussia Monchengladbach. A place in next season's Champions League playoffs is secure, but direct entry into the group stage is not, and Bayer only have two games to make up a five-point gap.
Last weekend's second-half display at Gladbach was a blip for Roger Schmidt's Bayer in what has been an encouraging season. Progress to the Champions League knockout phase was a step forward, and Bayer were only beaten on penalties by Bayern Munich in the German Cup. Since Christmas, Die Werkself have kicked on, collecting 30 points from 15 matches. At home, they have won their last five matches without conceding a single goal.
Hoffenheim's dreams of securing a first ever European qualification have been undermined by their wretched away form. Markus Gisdol's men have won just one of their last eight away games, losing five times in that sequence.
With the excellent Karim Bellarabi returning from suspension to boost what is already a dangerous front four, I think Bayer can win this comfortably against a Hoffe side that has leaked 17 goals in its last seven outings.
Recommended Bet

Back Bayer Leverkusen -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.12