Posts Tagged ‘ Nikica Jelavic ’

World Cup 2014: Predictions For Every Team

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With the kick-off of World Cup 2014 now less than a week away, the excitement is starting to build. Coverage of the event is starting to really pick up, as the footballing world gets ready for the beginning of it’s biggest event of any calendar year. With that in mind, I would like to put forward my predictions for every team and how they will fare, including all the teams who will fall at the group stage hurdle, all the way on to who I predict will be the eventual winners.

Group stage eliminations

Cameroon

The most likely victim of what is a very tough draw, Cameroon seem like long shots to emerge from Group A. Hosts Brazil, potential dark horses Croatia and Mexico make up the rest of the group, and it may well prove too much for Cameroon to claim enough points to sneak in to the knockout stages. An experienced squad led by captain Samuel Eto’o as well as veterans Alex Song and Jean Makoun, Cameroon also boast young defensive talent in Nicolas N’Koulou and Joel Matip. Unfortunately for them, it seems unlikely that they will prove good enough to edge out two of the other teams, and so it looks like three games and out for Cameroon.

Mexico

It looks quite likely that Brazil and Croatia will emerge from this group, especially if the Croatians can get a point in the tournament’s inaugural match. Mexico had a very ugly qualifying campaign to even reach Brazil, finishing fourth in their group, behind the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras. They eventually beat New Zealand comfortably in a play-off, but it does not augur well for them in such a tough group. Still, Mexico boast a very experienced squad, with the likes of Rafael Marquez still around to organise them. If the likes of Javier Hernandez (who has a scoring rate of better than one every two games for his country) catches fire, then maybe they have a shot. But all signs point to an early exit for Mexico.

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West Brom Accept Hull Offer For Ireland Striker

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West Bromwich Albion have accepted an  undisclosed offer from Hull City for Ireland striker Shane Long.

The Tipperary native has six months left on his Hawthorns deal, plus  a year’s option in the club’s favour, and has been given permission to talk to  the Tigers, who have also signed Nikica Jelavic from Everton to partner the former Cork City star.  Continue reading

Chelsea To Overcome Home Blues Against Gunners

FELLAINIFor all the exciting build up to last weekend’s fixtures, many of the matches turned out to be dull spectacles with disappointingly unsurprising results. In the most anticipated matches, United looked comfortable for most of the match when dispatching Liverpool, while City were easy victors against Arsenal after Laurent Koscielny had been sent off early in the game. So looking at the table going into this weekend, the two Manchester clubs have distanced themselves further from the also-rans, with Chelsea hanging onto their coattails six points adrift of second place and a depressing thirteen points off top spot. So on Sunday, for the good of the league, let’s hope that Tottenham can claim three points against Man United and thus complete the double over them, having beaten them already at Old Trafford earlier this season.

For the good of our pockets however, we’re going to have a look at a 12/1 treble, kicking off at the DW Stadium where Wigan host a rejuvenated Sunderland side, who have been quite good this season in beating the teams around them at the lower end of the table. Since December, they have recorded important wins against West Ham, Fulham, Reading and Southampton, consequently improving their league position steadily. Both sides have only 4 days to recover from their Tuesday night FA Cup replays, but whereas a weakened Wigan side overcame Bournemouth, Sunderland had an altogether different experience as their full strength team succumbed 2-0 at home to Championship side Bolton. However a major boost for the Black Cats during this game was the substitute appearance of Lee Cattermole and he should return to the team against Wigan at the weekend and he should bolster their defensive play even further. Contrarily, centre-back Ivan Ramis has suffered a knee-ligament injury and is out for the rest of the season for Wigan. Sunderland, erratic as they may be, have been strong in recent games against bottom-half teams, and I will be backing them at 5/2 to win.

Chelsea are another team who had to play during the week, registering a miserable draw against Southampton on Wednesday evening. They face another tough test on Sunday when they welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge. The Blues’ away form has been outstanding of late, culminating last week with a 4-0 thumping of home rulers Stoke City. Their home form has been less consistent. Having knocked eight past Aston Villa, their next home game proved a goalless outing for the Blues and they fell victim to a Shaun Wright-Phillips goal and dropping two points against Southampton is hardly ideal. The shrewd purchasing of Demba Ba should reduce the chances of more fruitless endeavours and he will prove a handful for the weakened Arsenal defence if he once again starts ahead of Fernando Torres. Along with Koscielny, who is absent through suspension, Mikel Arteta will be sorely missed by the Gunners for this game as he is injured. Abou Diaby made a welcome return to the team and he will have his work cut out in his defensive-midfield position if he is to hinder the influence of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and the evergreen Frank Lampard. Arsenal’s performances against stronger opposition is notoriously bad, they haven’t picked up a single point from their meetings with the top three teams this season, so I’m sticking with Chelsea at 5/6 to pick up the three points.

Our three bets this weekend are all spread out, so far one from Saturday, one from Sunday and to round it up, we’re looking at the Monday night game when Southampton take on Everton at St. Mary’s. The home side are unbeaten in their last five matches, recording notable draws against Fulham, Stoke, Arsenal and Chelsea and beating Aston Villa but I think this good run will come to an end when the Toffees come to town. The away side were very unlucky not to beat Swansea at the weekend, Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic looking particularly dangerous but just failing to score. With Kevin Mirallas on the brink of return after a long spell out with injury, the situation for David Moyes’ side is only looking rosy. If the manager can hold on to his big Belgian afro-man during the January transfer window, Everton should be playing European football next season and they can continue on this prosperous road on Monday night with victory over Southampton. They are priced at even money to do so.

Trusting Terrible Sunderland to Share the Spoils

KJOnce again, Stoke shattered our big odds accumulator last weekend and are fast becoming our bogey team. I never thought the image of Kenwyne Jones pounding towards an empty goal would ever be a beautiful sight but that’s just what it was last Saturday, his side level with Everton at the time. Less beautiful was the subsequent image of him inexplicably putting the ball wide of the goal with his thigh and with it, our chances of winning big money. With the Manchester City and West Brom fixtures going our way,  we were left to curse this missed opportunity. Gutted as we may have been, onward we must venture and courageously reach out to grab a handful of this 16/1 shot that looks pretty tasty.
I am not of the popular opinion that Arsenal are in crisis at the minute and was happy to see Santi Cazorla destroying a hapless Reading on Monday evening. Despite the negative press they have received over the past few weeks, the Gunners climbed to fifth, have been drawn against Bayern Munich in the last 16 in the Champions League and on Saturday, they have a favorable tie against  Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. The home side had the creative James McCarthy controversially injured in their game against Norwich City and he, along with Adrian Lopez, will miss this game. I really fancy Arsenal to breeze past Wigan and the handicap betting will get my attention for separate bets but for the purpose of our accumulator, we are going to back them to win at 8/11.
Marouane Fellaini’s brainless behaviour during the Stoke game has resulted in a quite mild punishment, coming in the form of a three-match-ban. The Belgian has been inspirational  this season and even though he has been below par these past couple of weeks, he will nevertheless be missed by Everton who travel to an erratic West Ham. Both sides are missing key players for this fixture but I figure that the Hammers could come out on top. Everton will have little to offer in the line of creativity and if West Ham can keep Nikica Jelavic and Leon Osman quiet, they should be able to claim 3 points for the first time since they beat Chelsea three weeks ago. They are 2/1 to win.
Sensible enough work so far. Brace yourself though, maybe even stick on the kettle and have a relaxing cup of tea before you read the next sentence. We’re going to take a gamble and back highly ineffectual Sunderland to earn a point away to Southampton. The Saints will be without their captain Adam Lallana and Sunderland will also be without one of their key players as well, as Steven Fletcher continues his absence from the side. Both players’ nonavailability should not be underestimated and without them on the pitch, chances could be hard to come by.  Southampton have been strong at home  recently in beating the teams around them in the table. QPR and Newcastle have been impressively beaten at St. Mary’s, but I think that Sunderland can struggle on and manage a point here. The draw is available at 5/2.

Big Odds Gamble Will Pay For The Turkey

adamA highly entertaining Manchester derby did nothing to soften the blow of the failure of last week’s accumulator, and my, oh my, was it a spectacular failure.  Nevertheless we’re going to keep on keeping on and focus on the task ahead which is finding another classic bet small win big accumulator. As luck would have it, I have the perfect remedy for your empty pockets with a very generous 16/1 on offer for a surprisingly rational gamble.

Let’s face it, Newcastle are pants at the minute and cannot buy a break as once again their talisman Hatem Ben Arfa seems to have re-injured himself after returning from a knock for the Fulham game on Monday. He scored Newcastle’s only goal that night but did not complete the match and is once again a major doubt for Saturday when they welcome Man City to the North-East. The Manchester club could be lacking defensively for this tie, captain Vincent Kompany is a doubt and Gareth Barry is suspended, however the latter’s absence might be a bonus as he is not in the best form. Demba Ba might prosper if Kompany turns out to be unavailable but even if this is the case I feel City are a steal at 4/6.

Stoke may be the most dismal team to watch in the Premiership but we’re going to take a gamble and back them to beat Everton at 2/1 in the Brittania Stadium. The home side are obviously solid at the back and they should be able to contain the Toffee’s dangerous attacking threat of Nikica Jelavic and Marouane Fellaini. Despite Michael Owen’s efforts he will not make his long awaited return this weekend, but Peter Crouch should be named in the starting eleven for the first time since he lost some teeth after a collision with Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini three weekends ago. They also welcome back Charlie Adam to the team and with their team strengthened, I think they should have enough to cause an upset and to overturn highflying Everton.

We’re completing the three-legged accumulator by tipping a draw between West Brom and West Ham. The last three meetings of these two teams have ended as draws and I feel that Sunday’s match will churn out the same result. Key man Mohamed Diame has joined the queue of long-term injuries for the Hammers and with neither team in terribly good form of late, I feel that the draw is a decent bet at 12/5.

Spotlight On Croatia

Ireland kick off their first European Championship since 1988 against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia in Poznan on June 10th. If Ireland are going to get out of this extremely tough group I believe they will have to go out all guns blazing against the 1998 World Cup Semi-Finalists. The critics are saying that we will be fighting for third place with the Croats and even that won’t be an easy task. 

Just like Ireland, the play offs were the route that the Croatians took to gain qualification. They finished two points behind Greece in their group and were handed a two legged tie against Turkey. Croatia put three past the Turks in the first leg meaning a nil-all draw at home secured a place in Poland. 

Croatia aren’t as strong as their 1998 World Cup golden generation and don’t have a player quite as influential as Davor Suker but they can still pose a serious threat. Suker was a thorn in the side of the Irish team scoring three goals in four meetings including a 94th minute winner in a Euro 2000 qualifier. 

Since the heady heights of the late nineties, Croatia have done reasonably well, qualification has usually been achieved, missing out only twice, however group stage elimination has usually followed. The exception came at Euro 2008 under current coach Bilic. Having qualified ahead of England, who they defeated at Wembley during the campaign, Croatia went on a run to the quarter finals, where they lost a penalty shoot-out to Turkey.  This team pose a threat but it’s a similar squad to the one that failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. 

Bilic announced that he would be stepping down as manager of Croatia after this tournament and this may give his side extra incentive to perform to the best of their ability and give the manager a good send off. They are extremely compact without the ball, making them very difficult to break down, and play a pressing game, giving their opponents very little time on the ball. When they do have the ball they play an incredibly quick, counter attacking game, which relies on one and two touch play, pace and clinical finishing. 

Previous Meetings: The two sides most recent meeting was a nil all draw in a friendly last summer. Ireland have beaten Croatia twice in six meetings and only lost once in that time. Ireland will hope to continue their good record against the Croats when they meet at Stadion Miejksi in Poznan.

Strengths: Croatia have some very talented players and have a serious attacking threat with the likes of Modric, Krancjar, Olic, Jelavic and Eduardo tasked with firing them to glory.

 Weaknesses: Croatia lack real quality in their defence and an even further dent to their back line was the omission of Lyon defender Dejan Lovren who misses out through injury.

By Andrew Harte