Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 28 February 2010

Pressure Grows on John Terry and Chelsea

Chelsea were handed a surprise 4-2 home defeat at the hands of Manchester City, days after their 2-1 Champions League defeat in Italy. Not only are their odds of doing the treble increased, their chances of succeeding are slipping.

All attention before the game was on the Wayne Bridge-John Terry saga which saw Bridge refusing to shake Terry's hand pre-kickoff. While Bridge put in a solid performance, John Terry continued to stumble again today. Firstly some miscommunication with John Obi Mikel for the opening Manchester City goal. Later a completely mistimed tackle and a confrontation with Carlos Tevez. The former England captain has made big errors in each of his last 4 games now, which has seen Chelsea lose 3 of them. He's not the commanding and reliable captain centre back he use to be.

Chelsea dominated the first half and broke through on 41 minutes with Frank Lampard slotting home. Expecting Chelsea to run out comfortable winners at this point, Mikel's crazy header under no pressure at the half way line gave Carlos Tevez possession as he weaved in and out of Terry and Ricardo Carvalho before his scuffed effort rolled past and out-of-position Hilario.

The Portuguese stopper, in for the injured Petr Cech was also at fault with some bad positioning for City's second goal as Craig Bellamy raced onto a long ball down the left wing when Branislav Ivanovic was caught out of possession, and although appearing to dribble the ball too wide of goal he managed to get the right angle on the ball and fire City ahead.

Chelsea were crumbling and things were made worse 15 minutes from time when Juliano Belletti's clumsy challenge from behind on Gareth Barry saw him sent off and a penalty awarded against the Blues. Tevez powered it home and celebrated with Wayne Bridge, who the City team were clearly sticking up for and playing for in this one. As well as playing for themselves and the team obviously.

Michael Ballack's needless tackle from behind on Tevez saw him receive a second yellow ahead of Craig Bellamy adding a fourth before Frank Lampard converted a consolation penalty for the league leaders.

Fortunately for Chelsea, despite a couple of suspensions adding to the big losses of Michael Essien and Ashley Cole, they have two domestic games that they should find their form in ahead of their Champions League tie with Inter Milan. Inter Milan are evens to qualify from that tie, with a 2-1 lead from the first leg if that tempts anyone.

The Premier League title race is still in Chelsea's hands, albeit with only a 1 point lead over Manchester United and 3 over Arsenal. They have a few favourable fixtures until the end of the month where they need to take maximum points from as they will be expected. One thing for sure is this is going to be a very exciting run in and we can expect a few more twists in the tale!

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Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Advantage Mourinho: Inter 2-1 Chelsea

Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan will take a 2-1 lead to Stamford Bridge for their Champions League second leg tie with Chelsea in 3 weeks.

Inside 3 minutes, Diego Milito was allowed to cut inside John Terry and fire into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead. The Argentinian striker was quiet after that but his goal was invaluable.

Chelsea had a few chances afterwards, including a long range free kick from Didier Drogba that came out off the underside of the cross bar in the first half. The Blues could have been awarded a penalty on the stoke of half time when Salomon Kalou was dragged down by Walter Samuel inside the six yard box, one-on-one with Julio Cesar. It wasn't to be, but it was Kalou who stroke the ball past Cesar 5 minutes into the second half. Mourinho won't be happy with the defending that saw Branislav Ivanovic walk around the Inter 18 yard box before laying it off to Kalou, whose shot should have been saved by the Brazilian number 1.

Less than 5 minutes after Kalou had equalised, Esteban Cambiasso blasted Inter back in front from the edge of the area. Inter saw the game out after that and worse news for Chelsea saw Petr Cech go down on the hour mark with a knee injury that looked serious. Hilario replaced him but the loss of Cech will be a big blow for the remainder of their campaign if it turns out to be as serious as it first looked.

The away goal for Chelsea is big, but Inter are on top in this tie. Jose Mourinho's teams in the past have been successful at parking the bus and sitting on leads. Lucio kept Didier Drogba in check this evening. Nicolas Anelka was ineffective and Frank Lampard didn't test Julio Cesar. Opportunities looked hard to come by for Chelsea tonight as Inter defended well as a team in both open play and at set pieces. The Premier League leaders cannot afford to go all out in attack at home with the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder, Goran Pandev and Mario Balotelli all capable of hurting Chelsea on the break.

Manchester United are the only English side in the Champions League who take a lead into their second leg, having won 3-2 in the San Siro against AC Milan last week. They look comfortable but cannot rest on their laurels with a defence that has shown vulnerability this season.

Arsenal are still favourites to qualify for the quarter finals despite losing 2-1 in Porto last week. Two moments of madness cost them the 2 goals and they rarely threatened the Portuguese sides goal in the away leg. Arsenal, as like Chelsea, are more comfortable on their home turf and I can understand the bookies choice to make them favourites. I won't be backing them any more though as I backed the Gunners in-play when they went a goal down in Portugal during the first leg!

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Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 21 February 2010

Nearly a Perfect Premier League Weekend

Firstly, I wasn't overly surprised by Everton's victory over Manchester United on Saturday. They didn't wake up for the early away game kickoff against an in-form side at Goodison Park. Their chances of winning the title are very slim now; 4 points behind Chelsea who have the better run in.

Chelsea extended their lead over Manchester United with a 2-0 victory at Wolves. While I wasn't surprised by this, I wasn't brave enough to back a Chelsea side who have struggled on the road recently. Didier Drogba's brace has given them a comfortable lead at the top of the table.

My first tip on Saturday was Arsenal beating Sunderland and they did so, 2-0, cutting the gap behind Manchester United to 2 points. My other 3pm kickoff tip was West Ham to beat Hull City and they backed up their 5/6 odds with a 3-0 victory over a side who finished the game with 9 men. With the bottom 7 losing this weekend, West Ham are now 4 points above the relegation zone. Hull are just 1 point outside of the bottom 3.

In Saturday's evening game I wasn't brave enough to back Stoke to win, so I took a double chance of them to win or draw at Portsmouth. Despite trailing at half time, goals from Robert Huth and Salif Diao won my bet and earned 3 points for Stoke.

Today, Aston Villa gained 2 points on both Manchester City and Liverpool after beating Burnley 5-2 at home. This is what I regarded as the safest bet of the day ahead of the match and I was certainly a bit concerned by the slow start Aston Villa made to the match. They were 11/10 when 1-0 down and I didn't back them, partly because I had already invested heavily into them and partly because I was concerned they may had had next week's Carling Cup final on their mind. Fortunately they equalised before half time and then 4 goals in 13 minutes in the second half won my handicap bet.

Good job I chose not to watch the Manchester City-Liverpool game after reports it was a dull affair. This didn't surprise me with both sides playing not to lose when I thought Manchester City should have been going for the win here. Fernando Torres made his return to the Liverpool side though as a second half substitute. Maybe I should be kicking myself for not backing the draw here, but it's been such a good weekend of gambling I don't need to worry about that.

My final picks on this week's Premier League Betting Tips was on the Tottenham v Wigan game. It wasn't a convincing performance from Spurs on a terrible pitch at the DW Stadium, but Jermain Defoe scored for the first bet, Tottenham won for my highest bet and with a bit of fortune at the end I also won handsomely on a handicap bet. My only lost bet on the weekend was backing Defoe to score a hattrick, but it's nothing worth crying about!

Make sure you come back next Thursday for some more reliable Premier League Tips. I hope you too had a successful weekend and if not let's make it a successful weekend to finish of February.

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Michael Bisping Beaten by the Axe Murderer

The 'Axe Murderer' Wanderlei Silva looked rejuvenated last night in his performance at UFC 110, defeating Michael Bisping on a unanimous decision after the fight went through all three rounds.

Both fights exchanged blows throughout a close fight. The Brit, Bisping connected a few times early on and took Silva down to the mat on a couple of occasions. But the Brazilian, having lost 5 of his last 6 bouts scored with a rally of punches at the end of the first and third round that swayed the judges scores in his favour.

The Count, coming off an impressive victory over over Denis Kang in November, was caught in a guillotine choke at the end of the second round after attempting to take Silva down. Time also saved him at the end of the final round as Silva knocked him down to the ground and was about to start a flurry of punches before the referee intervened at the bell. However, he did not do enough to win the fight in the 15 minutes as the Axe Murderer was comfortably attacking him in the final round.

Having lost to Dan Henderson in July last year, followed by this one, Michael Bisping is a long long way from a title shot that seems unlikely for him to ever get now.

On the British front, Dan Hardy will become the first ever Brit to get a title shot as he takes on Georges St Pierre for the Welterweight Championship in New Jersey on March 27th. Hardy's odds are going to be long to say the least and as supportive of the Brits as I am, I am like everybody else who doesn't give him a chance in this match! He's represented Britain well in the UFC and with Michael Bisping has helped to expand the popularity of the sport over here.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 20 February 2010

Everton Halt Manchester United 's Title Chase

Goals from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell handed Manchester United a 3-1 defeat at Goodison Park today as the defending champions failed to overtake Chelsea in the Premier League.

Dimitar Berbatov had given Manchester United the lead after quarter of an hour. It was only a few minutes later that Bilyaletdinov capitalised on a poor clearance from Jonny Evans.

Manchester United's defence looked vulnerable without both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. This has been a problem all season and has seen them keep only 3 clean sheets on the road this season.

Going forward, United have relied heavily on Wayne Rooney this season and it showed today. Rooney was quiet with help from an excellent performance by Sylvain Distin. They really threatened the Everton goal, wasting a number of set piece opportunities.

Already with a tough run in, Manchester United will be relying on Wolves to pick up points at home to a Chelsea side missing a number of first team regulars today. Victory for the Blues would extend their lead to 4 points at the top with just 11 games remaining. Arsenal have the opportunity to close the gap to 2 points on Manchester United if they can win at home to Sunderland, as expected. They have a favourable run in.

Defensive problems have been a part of what Manchester United are struggling with this season. They've had injury problems there all season. Edwin van der Sar has only recently return, Rio Ferdinand returned to get suspended and Nemanja Vidic is currently out injured. They were all key players in there championship winning season in 2009. Despite scoring an impressive 63 league goals in 27 games now, they rely on Wayne Rooney far too often going forward. In games like today's when he doesn't perform well, neither do they.

The league is Chelsea's to lose now. Victory today and their odds will shrink dramatically.

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