The Rugby League Week Mole gives us all the ins and outs ahead of NRL Round 24.
Steve Matai’s dodgy shoulders shape as the punters’ biggest dilemma coming into tonight’s big Manly – Parra clash out west.
Manly are rightly $1.55 favourites on Sportingbet and they have the big name players in the right positions that should make them too strong for the Eels.
But Matai is returning to the Sea Eagles’ side and Parra coach Brad Arthur is well aware he has a problem.
Matai is as tough as they come but he has chronic shoulder issues and you can bet Arthur will be aiming his big wide-running back-rowers straight at the Kiwi international.
Matai has been forced off the field several times this season with shoulder problems – which screws up Manly’s rotation and leaves their bench a man short.
If Parra can exploit his – and Manly’s weakness – an upset is a chance.
The word out of Brisbane is that coach Anthony Griffin is set to try Justin Hodges in the troublesome fullback role against the Knights tomorrow night.
It’s a gamble – Hodges has played little fullback in his career and isn’t the most mobile of runners these days. It could work spectacularly – but it could also backfire.
The Broncos start as $1.30 favourites on Sportingbet – but the Knights have surprised in a few games of late and could be value with the ten points start at $1.91.
The Titans have lost their strike weapon Dave Taylor with a calf injury for the clash with the Dragons on Sunday. Taylor is a massive loss – he can turn a game on its head with his power running – but all is not as bad as it seems for the Titans.Tryscoring ace David Mead hasn’t been named but could be a late inclusion and I’m hearing and classy hooker Paul Carter – a real prospect – is over a shoulder problem and should play. The Titans have sprung some upsets this year and with 6.5 points start on Sportingbet at $1.91, could be a chance.
Lastly – a couple of HOT tips…
Paul Gallen will NOT play for Sharks v Raiders in the big wooden spoon battle – so get on Ricky’s men.
And a big-name Rooster – not Sonny Bill – is set for a surprise return against the Warriors on Sunday.
Billy Brownless has been hard at work for Sportingbet and has done all the form for the week’s AFL. Check out our Round 22 preview and get on Billy’s recommended bet in every game this weekend!
Port Adelaide Power vs Carlton Blues
Friday 22nd August, 7:50pm AEST
Carlton comes into this game on the back of losing another close match against the Cats last Friday night. The extra day back up may help the Blue boys, while Port Adelaide back up after a tough slog in the rain against the Suns.
It’s interesting to note that we’ve seen some of Carlton’s best footy this season, since they dropped out of finals contention. Port Adelaide are trying to keep their top-4 hopes alive and will want to be hitting their straps before they face Fremantle in the last round.
The Blues have a strong record in South Australia winning five of its last six matches at AAMI Stadium but are still yet to venture to the new Adelaide Oval. The Power will be looking to have 50,000+ Port Adelaide supporters at home as they attempt to rebuild ‘The Portress’ before the finals.
Brownless Says: Must win game for Port who still have a chance to make to top 4. Carlton are in their best form of the year which should make this a great contest. The home crowd advantage should be enough for the Power .
Recommended Bet: Port Adelaide 1-39 ($2.05)
North Melbourne Kangaroos vs Adelaide Crows
Saturday 16th August, 1:45pm AEST
It will be a crucial match up for the makeup of the eight, as the unpredictable Adelaide squad (8th) going up against the Kangaroos (6th) in Tasmania. The Crows will likely drop out of the eight with a loss here, so they won’t need any more motivation for this match.
The Roos will be down some major firepower with both Daniel Wells and Brent Harvey missing through suspension. This should allow Adelaide as the top ranked centre-clearance team in the competition, to have first use of the ball throughout the match.
Andrew Swallow will be key for the Kangaroos as he looks to build on his 10 clearance, 11 tackle performance from last week, while for the Crows, Patrick Dangerfield will need to start living up to his lofty standards if the Crows are going to get on a roll.
Brownless Says: Big game this one, the Tasmanian public will be losing their minds! North at ‘home’ missing a few of their stars while the Crows are on a mission to cling onto that 8th spot. Another close game this one, Adelaide for me.
Recommended Bet: Adelaide ($2.12)
Essendon Bombers vs Gold Coast Suns
Saturday 23rd August, 2:10pm AEST
The Dons have had the measure of the Suns in their only three head-to-heads and will be looking to continue that trend at Etihad.
The Gold Coast played one of their best games without Ablett against the Power last week but were unable to get the win. It was taxing game in the driving rain, so the young Suns may have trouble running out this game.
The Bombers won a similarly close game against West Coast and stringing some strong wins together will do wonders for their finals credentials. Departing veteran Jason Winderlich has found new life since announcing his retirement and will provide a dangerous target up front for Essendon.
Brownless Says: Another must win game for the Bombers if they want to lock in a finals appearance. Losing Heppell during the week will be massive for the Dons, his clearance work is exceptional. Gold Coast have been very disappointing after showing so much promise. Bombers by 5 goals.
Recommended Bet: Essendon -32.5 ($1.91)
Greater Western Sydney Giants vs Collingwood Magpies
Saturday 23rd August, 4:40pm AEST
These young Giants will be packed full of confidence after they throttled the Demons last week, with only 19 fit players for a large part of the game. Collingwood on the other hand are still trying to pick themselves out of the ground after they were steamrolled by the Lions.
Injuries continue to hold back the Pies. While Lumumba and Pendlebury could return this week, Cloke, Beams and Reid are key players who will not be seen again this season and bring Collingwood back to the field. For the Giants, the tall timber is being chopped down, with Jonathon Patton joining Jeremy Cameron on the injury list.
Collingwood have won both match ups between these clubs by 40+ points on both occasions, but book yourself in for a much tighter affair here. GWS have a respectable 3-4 record at home and should be able to push the Magpies.
Brownless Says: All of a sudden this becomes a very interesting game! The Giants are full of confidence while Collingwood are losing players left, right and centre and there would be plenty of players losing belief now. Surely the Pies win. Don’t they? What’s the line?
Recommended Bet: Collingwood -11.5 ($1.91)
Hawthorn Hawks vs Geelong Cats
Saturday 23rd August, 7:40pm AEST
Melbourne Cricket Ground
Should be match of the round but we may get let down here. With the finals race so tight at the top of the ladder, don’t expect to see anything ground-breaking from either coach here.
Jarryd Roughead is a big plus for the Hawks who will benefit greatly for the extra path way to goal the big man provides. Stevie J and Jimmy Bartel are possible scratchings for the Cats, who won’t be showing all their cards in this match.
It’s always a cracker when these two go at it so don’t expect anything different this time around. There may be a few key outs but it’ll be close!
Brownless Says: Both sides might go into this game resting some key pieces for bigger battles down the track. These two look likely to face each other in the first round of the finals. Always a close one, pains me to say, but Hawks by a feather.
Recommended Bet: Hawthorn 1-39 ($2.20)
West Coast Eagles vs Melbourne Demons
Saturday 23rd August, 7:40pm AEST
Whether West Coast are flying high or low, they always seem to be able to put a score on the Demons. Victories by 93, 94, 108 in there last three games show that the Eagles are able to turn it on against Melbourne.
The Demons are coming off one of the worst losses in recent history and the consensus is that they have taken an obvious step backwards. It’s dark times at the club and Melbourne have not won at Patersons Stadium since 2002.
The Demons will struggle to get any of the ball, coming into the match as the bottom ranked team in centre-clearances. They’ve also struggled to trouble the scorers, kicking less than 5 goals in 6 outings this year.
Brownless Says: Easy one here. West Coast to bounce back hard and tear shreds off the Demons. Should put 60 on them still in second gear.
Recommended Bet: West Coast Wins Match by 60 Points of More – 10 Goal Hiding ($1.85)
Brisbane Lions vs Fremantle Dockers
Sunday 24th August, 1:10pm AEST
Spirits will be high for the baby Lions after they picked their teeth with the Crows last week. With nothing to lose against the Dockers this weekend, expect them to try the same run-and-carry they used to put the Pies to the sword.
Fremantle still have so much to play for going into this one, so we should see their best. With a top-four spot still on the line, don’t expect Fremantle to do anything but look to crowd the stoppages and have players behind the ball.
The immense pressure that Fremantle can heap on will make it hard for the outside-running Lions, who are ranked last for contested possessions. Fremantle have claimed the last six match ups between the clubs and this should be nothing more than a tune up for them.
Brownless Says: Brisbane keep making it hard for Finals aspirants so look out Freo! Having said that, the Dockers are nearly back to their defensive best and they’ve got the great Pavlich kicking goals. When the front and the back ends are both working, there aren’t many better than the Dockers. Fremantle to win.
Recommended Bet: Fremantle 40+ ($2.70)
Western Bulldogs vs Sydney Swans
Sunday 24th August, 3:20pm AEST
On paper, it’s 1st vs 14th, but it’s never that easy. Question marks everywhere on whether the Swans will bring a full team to play against the Dogs, the injury scare to Brownlow Medal contender, Josh Kennedy, will surely be playing on the minds of the Sydney coaching staff.
While Kennedy will likely miss the game, the Bulldogs will have their hands full with the tall forward line the Swans boast. The likes of Franklin, Tippett, Reid and Goodes should be licking their lips looking at the Bulldogs small back line.
The Western Bulldogs had a let-down performance last week but have been popping up with the odd solid performance so don’t write them off completely. The young Dogs team, led by Marcus Bontempelli, is showing good signs for the future but will be giving away a definite class advantage in this one.
Brownless Says: The Dogs were disappointing last week and Sydney keep on keeping on. There’s too much class in this Sydney line-up and they’ll cover any changes they’re forced to make. Swans far too good.
Recommended Bet: Sydney 40+ ($2.10)
Richmond Tigers vs St Kilda Saints
Sunday 24th August, 4:40pm AEST
One team on the rise, the other on the slide. The Saints were well held by the Swans last week, while the Richmond Express just keeps on moving, with 7 wins on the trot.
After grinding out a courageous win against the Crows in Adelaide, the Tigers come into this match, having claimed the last 5 matches between the two teams. Compounding this, the Saints only other appearance at the MCG this year was a 145 point demolition at the hands of the Hawks.
While there is a big gap between Hawthorn and Richmond, the red-hot Tigers should be able to take care of business here. While their finals destiny is not completely in their own hands, they should win well.
Brownless Says: Richmond will make it 8 in a row with a good win over the Saints. They’ll keep the smiles going down at Punt Road. Tigers will do a job here and win by 40+.
Recommended Bet: Richmond 40+ ($1.74)
BILLY’s BEST BET: ADELAIDE CROWS @ $2.12
Most of the big guns got of to a great start, all but Manchester United of course who crashed to yet another home defeat. This week is our first taste of Big Gun v Big Gun action as Arsenal take on Everton and Man City play host to Liverpool. We say bring it on!
Chelsea v Leicester – Saturday midnight
Recommended Bet: First half over 1.5 goals ($2.25)
Predicted Line Ups
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Schurrle, Oscar; Diego Costa
Leicester (4-4-2): Schmeichel; de Laet, Morgan, Moore, Konchesky; Knockaert, Hammond, King, Mahrez; Nugent, Ulloa
Head to Head: Last 5
Chelsea were super impressive after going down an early goal to Burnley last week. They were in total control and took the foot off the pedal in the second half cruising to victory. This will be their first EPL fixture at home and the new signings will look to put on a show in front of their home crowd. There is no better side to do so against than Leicester who have just been promoted. They have a dominant record against Leicester scoring 18 goals in their last 5 matches against them!
Leicester will be hoping that it doesn’t end up like a cricket score but Chelsea are looking ominous this season and captain John Terry highlighted that the Premier League is the title they will be chasing most this season. After a season with no trophy manager Jose Mourinho would have stressed to his players that every result counts. They currently sit on top of the ladder on goal difference and another big win here could really set them up for the coming weeks. Chelsea will be on a rampage from the opening whistle!
Everton v Arsenal – Sunday 2:30am
Recommended Bet: DRAW ($3.50)
Predicted Line Ups
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Stones, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; McGready, Naismith, Pienaar; Lukaku
Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Szeczhny; Debuchy, Koscielny, Chambers, Monreal; Arteta; Sanchez, Ramsey, Wilshere, Carzola; Giroud
Head to Head: Last 5
Everton were unable to hold on to a lead against Leicester while Arsenal were able to find a late winner at home to Crystal Palace. Arsenal have consistently edged their way into the top four in recent seasons and Everton have been the side to miss out on most occasions.
Goodison is a very tough place to travel to and Arsenal have had their trouble there in recent times highlighted bu a 3-0 thumping last season. Arsenal were far from spectacular last week and are coming off a mid week champions League qualifier against Besiktas. The second leg of that match is only a few days after the Everton match so Arsene Wenger may look to share the work load in order to keep a fresh squad.
The Toffees are looking to bounce back after failing to take all three points at Leicester and will come showing plenty of intent in front of their home fans. Striker Romelu Lukaku is a man for the big occasion so look for him to get on the score sheet in a tight match ending in a draw.
Sunderland v Man Utd – Monday 1:00am
Recommended Bet: Over 2.5 goals ($1.80)
Predicted Line Ups
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Van Aanholt; Cattermole; Johnson, Larsson, Rodwell, Wickham; Fletcher
Man Utd (3-5-2): De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Blackett; Young, Fletcher, Herrera, James, Mata; Rooney, Van Persie
Head to Head: Last 5
Man Utd: 2-1
Man Utd: 1-0
What can we say about the Red Devils??? Old Trafford used to be a fortress with Sir Alex Ferguson but in recent times it has become a playground for visiting sites with a handful of cellar dwellers managing to win at the famous ground. Louis van Gaal expressed his disappointment after the loss to Swansea in all aspects of their game. He demands a lot more from his players and is looking to inject Robin van Persie into the starting line up.
They have more problems to solve though as they lacked fluency in attack and were found chasing Swansea players down the flank when Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard were getting caught out of position. For the 3-5-2 formation to work the Man utd players will have to buy into the system. Several of them looked slightly lost out there last week and in order to bounce back they will have to control the middle of the park.
Herrera and Fletcher were outplayed by Jonjo Shelvey and Sigurdsson last week and will have to lift their game. They have more than enough fire power in front of goal but the new formation will need time to get used to. Until then Man Utd will be conceding regularly and this week will be no different. They will have to score at least twice to win!
Man City v Liverpool – Tue 5:00am
Recommended Bet: Double Chance – Over 2.5 goals($1.60)
Predicted Line Ups
Man City (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy; Fernando, Yaya Toure, Silva, Nasri; Aguero, Dzeko
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Johnson; Lucas, Gerrard; Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling; Sturridge
Head to Head: Last 5
Man City: 2-1
This is our ‘Big Guns’ match of the round and we will have to wait until Tuesday morning. Liverpool have had a good record against Man City in recent times but will have to improve on last weeks performance where things were looking a bit shaky at one point in the second half. Both teams will be pushing for a win so we can expect a open encounter similar to a Cup game. For our match of the round preview, CLICK HERE.
The Sportingbet team have put their heads together and come up with the best bets across Racing and Sport.
1) Andreas Seppi
ATP Winston Salem – Andreas Seppi vs Yen-Hsun Lu (2:10 AM AEST)
Seppi is good value as the outsider head to head. He has a more consistent game from the baseline and the shot making ability to get past any net rushes from Lu.
2) Los Angeles Angels (SHOEMAKER)
Los Angeles Angels (SHOEMAKER) @ Boston Red Sox (R DELAROSA) (9:10 AM AEST)
The Angels put the hurt on the Red Sox yesterday and that doesn’t look likely to stop with De La Rosa on the mound for Boston. Coming off a horror start against Houston, where he gave up 6 runs on 9 hits over just four innings, he looks likely to struggle against a much more powerful line-up like the Angels. The heart of the Angels’s batting (Hamilton, Kendrick, Freese) are seeing the ball well, each picking up a pair of hits against Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz.
3) Cumberland Range
Wagga Race 6 (3:50 PM AEST)
Coming off a good win at Canberra looks good enough to be saluting here. Stepping up to the 1600m shouldn’t be a problem. Could push forward to get a good position from a wide gate. Will be there when the whips are cracking.
4) Skip The Faith
Mildura Race 8 (5:30 PM AEST)
She enjoys racing at Mildura with a 1st and 2nd from two starts at the track. The distance won’t be a problem and looks like a very winnable race against some of these. Ready to win.
5) Port Adelaide 1-39
Port Adelaide vs Carlton (7:50 PM AEST)
Port Adelaide return home after a tough win against the Suns on the Gold Coast. Look for them to be feeling it towards the end of the match, and a resurgent Blues side should be able to make this a close encounter. Regardless, Carlton have a shocking close game record, going 2-7 in matches decided by 20 points or less so happy to bet the Power, lifted by 50,000+ at Adelaide Oval, should be able to sneak home.
6) Manly 1-12
Parramatta Eels vs Manly Sea Eagles (7:55 PM AEST)
Parramatta desperately needs a victory to keep their finals hopes alive and Manly needs the win in their quest for the minor premiership. Two desperate footy sides generally means a close encounter and this should be no different. The Sea Eagles love an arm wrestle and should be able to hold off the Eels in a tight one. Watch for Cherry-Evans to have a big game.
The Sportingbet team have put their heads together and come up with the best bets across Racing and Sport.
Maribor vs Celtic (4:45 AM AEST)
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Celtic is the obvious pick in this one. In the last qualifying round Celtic were beaten 4-1 and 2-0. Legia, their opponents were sanctioned for fielding an ineligible player. As a result Celtic were handed a 3-0 win and chance to play Maribor for a spot in the Champions League. The crowd in Slovenia will be loud and hostile and Maribor have shown that they are a quality side, especially at home. Needing to build a lead for the away leg in Celtic next week they will come out with intent and purpose, catching Celtic off guard. Maribor to win.
2) Under 8.5 Runs
Los Angeles Angels @ Boston Red Sox (9:10 AM AEST)
LA’s Garrett Richards has been lights out since the start of June, posting a 1.79 ERA in that time. He has also managed to keep the ball in the park, giving up just 5 long balls in 167 innings. Boston is a notoriously tough homerun park so don’t expect that stat to change. On the other side, Clay Buchholz, is the last man standing in the Red Sox rotation and while perhaps not living up to it, has been levelled with the ace role. He is however coming off back-to-back quality starts including a no-decision against the Angels where he struck out 8 and then 9 against the Astros.
3) Over 7.5 Runs
San Diego Padres @ Los Angeles Dodgers (12:10 PM AEST)
Padres starting pitcher Eric Stults has struggled to keep the scoring down on the road, with a 5.11 away ERA to go with his 1-9 away record. San Diego totals have been streaking up in recent days with their last 3 game totals coming in at 14, 13, and 14. Similarly the Dodgers have been involved in some high scoring matches of late with their last 5 coming to 14, 9, 5, 9 and 10.
4) I’m Imposing
Rowley Mile – Race 6 Hawkesbury (3:45 PM AEST)
Was very impressive in the Listed Winter Challenge and recorded a good victory before that. Can’t be knocking the Waller stable at the moment. Barrier could be an issue but will be doing his best work late with the 1600m suiting him perfectly.
Race 10 Seymour (4:45 PM AEST)
Looks ready to break through for a win this prep. The extra 100m should work in his favour and has strong formlines around Awasita who won at Sportingbet Park yesterday. Has a fitness edge on a few of these resuming.
6) Canterbury 13+
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers (7:45 pm AEST)
The Bulldogs will have revenge on their minds when they take on the Tigers tonight. The Tigers hammered the Bulldogs 46-18 back in Round 19 but are a shadow of their former selves. Wests have conceded 112 points in the past two weeks and appear to be shot ducks. Canterbury to win comfortably.
Sportingbet.com.au believes Hawthorn’s Jordan Lewis has polled between 13 to 14 Brownlow Medal votes this season but one punter clearly disagrees with the online bookie.
The punter stands to collect $105,000 should Lewis win this year’s Brownlow Medal after placing an each-way bet of $3,000 by $2,000 on him at odds of $31.
“We think Lewis is at least 10 votes behind the leaders at the moment but this is a pretty smart punter,” Sportingbet’s Andrew Brown said.
“The same bloke put $1,000 on Dyson Heppell at $51 a few weeks back and he’s now a $9 third favourite.”
Joel Selwood is Sportingbet’s $3 favourite in front of Gary Ablett at $3.50.
Sportingbet’s running Brownlow Medal vote tally (below) shows the ineligible Nathan Fyfe level with Ablett on 24.5 votes after Round 21.
Sportingbet’s analysts award half votes when they can’t split certain player performances, a system that has proven to balance out over the course of the season and provide a more accurate prediction of a player’s final vote numbers.
2014 Brownlow Medal
Votes according to Sportingbet’s AFL analysts. Odds from Sportingbet.com.au
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers
Thursday 21st August, 7:45pm AEST
A month is a long time in rugby league and this game is a perfect example of that, with the Tigers defeating The Bulldogs 46-18 in Round 19.
We all know how the Tigers have gone since then and the Bulldogs finally broke their losing streak with a narrow 18-16 victory over the Eels last week.
The Bulldogs have more on the line and the Tigers are counting down the days until their end of season trip. Bulldogs to win comfortably.
Major Outs from Rd 23: Canterbury – Lloyd Perrett (Ankle), Wests – Dene Halatau (Hamstring)
Big Marn Says: Bulldogs by plenty here. Were smashed by the Tigers a month ago but the Tigers have now been reduced to whimpering pussies.
Recommended Bet: Canterbury 13+ ($1.68)
Parramatta Eels vs Manly Sea Eagles
Friday 22nd August, 7:45pm AEST
This is arguably the game of the round with plenty at stake for both clubs and they have plenty of history too.
Manly is trying to wrap up the minor premiership and the Eels are trying to force their way into the Top 8.
It should be an arm wrestle for the majority of the 80 minutes with Cherry-Evans & Foran guiding the Silvertails to victory.
Major Outs from Rd 23: Parramatta - Fuifui Moimoi (Dropped), Pauli Pauli (Dropped)
Big Marn Says: Manly should win but I do think the Eels will fight all the way.
Recommended Bet: Manly 1-12 ($3.10)
Brisbane Broncos vs Newcastle Knights
Saturday 23rd August, 5:30pm AEST
This shapes up as an interesting clash, with Knights coach Wayne Bennett coming up against the side he will be in charge of next year. Could be some spite in this one.
The Knights are becoming the giant-killers of the competition with wins over the Storm & Warriors in the past two weeks.
The Broncos ran wild last time they played at Suncorp Stadium with a 41-10 victory over the Bulldogs. They were touched up by the Bunnies last week but will be keen to make amends back in front of their home fans.
Not sure if the Knights can lift for a third consecutive week and the Broncos need the win to force their way into the eight.
Major Outs from Rd 23: Brisbane – Josh Hoffman (Leg)
Big Marn Says: Broncos to win and keep their playoff hopes alive. Take the Broncos at the line.
Recommended Bet: Brisbane -8.5 ($1.91)
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 23rd August, 7:30pm AEST
The Rabbitohs are the form team of the competition and will fancy their chances against a Cowboys side backing up after Monday Night Football.
The Cowboys hate playing in Sydney and will be up against it when facing one of the competition heavyweights.
Plenty of factors against the Cowboys but the big question is, have the Bunnies peaked too early?
Major Outs from Rd 23: Souths – Ben Te’o (Suspension), North Queensland – Ethan Lowe (Dropped)
Big Marn Says: The Rabbits are in rare form and will win this 13+. Look for another big performance from Sam Burgess.
Recommended Bet: South Sydney 13+ ($2.35)
New Zealand Warriors vs Sydney Roosters
Sunday 24th August, 12:00pm AEST
Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors are the toughest team in the NRL to follow when it comes to consistency, just look at the result in Newcastle last week.
The Roosters have been winning ugly before they blew the Tigers away last week. It’s not the best formline but might finally click them into gear when they head across the Tasman.
Won’t be much in this one but the Roosters look to have the edge.
Major Outs from Rd 23: Sydney – Heath L’Estrange (Knee)
Big Marn Says: I liked what I saw from the Roosters last week. Should be too classy for the Warriors.
Recommended Bet: Sydney 1-12 ($3.50)
Cronulla Sharks vs Canberra Raiders
Sunday 24th August, 2:00pm AEST
This has to be the match of the round!
Battle of the spoon. Last vs Second last. What more can you say?
The Sharks have played the better football despite sitting at the bottom of the ladder. Sharks to give their loyal fans something to cheer about.
Major Outs from Rd 23: Cronulla – Tinirau Arona (Hamstring), Canberra – Jordan Rapana (Fractured Skull), Brett White (Hamstring)
Big Marn Says: Sharks to hand Ricky Stuart back to back wooden spoons. Sharks at the line.
Recommended Bet: Cronulla -4 ($1.91)
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Gold Coast Titans
Sunday 24th August, 3:00pm AEST
WIN Jubilee Oval
The Titans had a dig against the Sea Eagles last week and despite having an unhappy season, they should test the Dragons.
The Dragons finally broke their Raiders hoodoo, but need to keep winning to keep alive their finals hopes. This is a massive danger game for them!
Titans speedster James Roberts is starting to find some form and could be the X-factor in this one.
Major Outs from Rd 23: No Changes
Big Marn Says: Tipping an upset here. I think the Titans have been pretty good lately and might get the biscuits.
Recommended Bet: Gold Coast ($2.80)
Penrith Panthers vs Melbourne Storm
Monday 25th August, 7:00pm AEST
Can’t knock the efforts of the Panthers, but if James Segeyaro is out, that could be a huge blow to their title aspirations.
The Storm keep going from strength to strength and plenty of sides are starting to look over their shoulders.
Think the class of Slater, Cronk and Smith could prove the difference against the gutsy Panthers.
Major Outs from Rd 23: No Changes
Big Marn Says: Even though Penrith have been outstanding this year I think the class of the Storm will get them home. Storm at the line.
Recommended Bet: Melbourne -5.5 ($1.91)
The Sportingbet EPL ‘Big Guns Tracker’ keeps a close eye on the main title contenders and their week to week progress. With a tight finish predicted in the EPL the results of title rivals each week is critical. Week 1 was a classic example that there are no easy games with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all conceding first!
Week 1 Review
Man Utd 1-2 Swansea
This much anticipated encounter launched the Premier League season and was filled with nothing but drama. After a horror season David Moyes was sacked and the Dutch master Louis van Gaal has been brought in. He introduced a 3-5-2 formation which had been successful in the pre season with wins against fellow European giants including Real Madrid. Against Swansea though they were disappointing to say the least.
With Luke Shaw injured Ander Herrera was the only new signing on the field for the Red Devils. Ashley Young looked out of place in the left wing back role and was served some bird poop for his troubles from a bird flying over Old Trafford. Gilfy Sigurdsson and Jonjo Shelvy were able to dominate in midfield while Rooney, Mata and Chicharito (Hernandez) were unable to combine or create. Swansea took the lead midway through the first half but the Red Devils struck back through Wayne Rooney from a corner.
You would have though that Man U would take control in the second half but they failed to do so as man of the match Sigurdsson scored the winning goal for the Swans in the 72nd minute. The worrying signs are there again for Man U losing to a bottom half of the table side at home. Traditionally in close games the Red Devils were almost always able to score at will in front of their fans at Old Trafford. The aura has now gone and lower ranked teams travel to Old Trafford with the belief that they can win!
Louis van Gaal had months to make a move in the transfer market but has failed to make any significant moves. They signed Marcos Rojo just yesterday but will have to make further moves if they are to compete with the big guns. The Red Devils will need the Angel Di Maria and Arturo Vidal rumours to become reality if they are to stand any chance of making the top four. Currently they are at risk of losing their ‘Big Gun’ status and becoming a comedy act that Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal all make fun of!
Next fixture: Sunderland v Man Utd
Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace
If the Man Utd result wasn’t enough to warn the Gunners they were on full alert when Hangeland headed Crystal Palace into the lead 10 minutes from half time. With four matches scheduled in just over 10 days Arsene Wenger started with Yaya Sanogo up front. He failed to impress and was unable to use his large frame to hold the ball up or distribute to his team mates in midfield. Alexis Sanchez was looking dangerous in wide areas but Sanogo was unable to play the small intricate passes that he had been well accustomed to at Barcelona with Messi and Iniesta.
A sublime Alexis Sanchez cross was met by Koscielny in first half injury time to level the scores. Debutants Chambers and Debuchy were impressive in the back line and the later was making some excellent overlapping runs down the right flank. Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were introduced and Arsenal immediately began to look more dangerous. Aaron Ramsey, their player of the year was on hand again with seconds left on the clock to slot home the winning goal.
It was a great escape for Arsenal but the ability to score late goals (one in each half) is a sign of quality. This was a common theme in the Red Devils title winning runs and the London side will be hoping for the same. There are still holes to fill with Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini not at the world class level required to drive the side from midfield. Sami Khedira is still on the radar and they are also shopping for a striker to provide more support.
Many have been critical of Mesut Ozil but they clearly missed his vision and passing ability in the final third. When he returns from injury he will combine excellently with Alexis Sanchez and allow the Chilean to take up attacking positions more consistently. A winning start is a good start!
Next fixture: Everton v Arsenal
Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
This match was dubbed as Southampton A v Southampton B after Liverpool signed Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert from the Saints in the off season. The big question on everyone’s lips surrounded how the Reds would perform following the departure of 31 goal hero Luis Suarez.
From early on Gerrard and Henderson were able to take control in midfield with the later providing a sublime through ball which allowed Raheem Sterling to give them the lead early on. Sterling will no doubt be the man to watch this year as Liverpool will be looking for him on a more regular basis. His blistering speed is almost impossible to defend and following a good showing at the World Cup he will be on fire.
Southampton’s new manager Ronald Koeman must have given them a big talk as the Saints came out on fire in the second half equalising through Nathaniel Clyne. All of a sudden there would be silence around Anfield as Southampton continued to push. The Saints players were relishing the battle of taking on the team that had torn apart their squad. The fairy tale would be cut short as Sterling set up Daniel Sturridge for the winner in the 79th minute.
It was an impressive performance by Southampton but it remains to be seen if they can replicate the same effort on a weekly basis. For Liverpool, Lallana will provide additional creativity in midfield but with Champions League commitments this season they are still lacking depth, especially in comparison to Chelsea and Man City.
Next fixture: Man City v Liverpool
Newcastle 0-2 Man City
The defending Champions opened their title defence at St James Park. They were unable to defend their title two seasons ago and were looking to learn from the past with a win on the opening day.
Man City were nothing short of dominating in the opening stanza and deservedly took the lead late in the half after a Edin Dzeko back-heel was finished off with class by David Silva. Newcastle were able to create some chances but failed to take advantage of them. Vincent Kompany again led his troops from the back and the front duo of Dzeko and Jovetic was proving relatively effective.
The Magpies came out flying in the second half and produced a series of half chances. Joe Hart was up to the task when called upon while Newcastle failed to trouble him on several other occasions. Man City would regain control and take the game away from the home side. An injury plagued Sergio Aguero would make a late cameo appearance and seal the win with a goal almost straight after coming on as a substitute.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini was happy with the performance and applauded the attitude of the team. The scary part for their title rivals is that half of their squad is still not fully fit with regular starters Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas to feature more prominently. The only worry is that they will need them in the coming weeks as they face Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in three of their next four!
Next fixture: Man City v Liverpool
Burnley 1-3 Chelsea
Chelsea had to wait until Tuesday morning to kick off their campaign and they got a wake up call when recently promoted Burnley took a shock lead in the 14th minute. It ignited Chelsea aand what followed was a 20 minute patch of absolutely sublime football.
The Blues dominated in the centre of the park with Nemanja Matic playing the pivot role to a tee and Branislav Ivanovic making surging runs up and down the right side. New signing Cesc Fabregas was able to find the Serb out wide with a neat back-heel and Ivanovic drilled a low pass across the face of goal. It would rebound off the back post where $60 million dollar man Diego Costa was on hand to slot home. He didn’t have to wait long to kick start his Chelsea career and Jose Mourinho showed his approval with a fist pump!
The show would continue and Ivanovic would combine with Fabregas yet again. This time the Serbian floated a square ball across to Fabregas who was just outside the box. He shaped to shoot first time but in a stroke of genius he noticed the run from Andre Schurrle and played a half volley through ball to the German who neatly tucked home to score a fabulous goal! Ivanovic would then put himself on the score sheet from a corner and Burnley did not know what hit them. Welcome to the Premier League!
In the second half Chelsea displayed why they are title favourites successfully taking the game away from the home side by controlling the middle of the park with silky passing and great movement off the ball. They took the gas off the pedal and cruised to a very impressive victory. We knew that Chelsea had signed well in the off season but the effectiveness of the new combinations this early in the season highlights the ability of Jose Mourinho and is a definite warning sign for the rest of the league.
Next fixture: Chelsea v Leicester
The Sportingbet team have put their heads together and come up with the best bets across Racing and Sport.
1) Under 2.5 Goals
Besiktas vs Arsenal (4:45 AM AEST)
After a win over Crystal Palace they face Besiktas in back to back mid week fixtures split by a tough match against Everton in the EPL. Arsene Wenger will be looking to keep his squad fresh so expect a more patient performance from the Gunners. Besiktas coach Slaven Bilić has made it clear that his side has a plan and It will no doubt be focused around ex Premier League star Demba Ba.
Napoli vs Ath Bilbao (4:45 AM AEST)
Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has labelled Bilbao as a ‘complete team’ but he is clearly trying to deflect attention from a Napoli side that has been very impressive in Europe over the last two seasons. The Spanish side would love an away goal to take back home for the second leg but Benitez would have planned for a tactical match. Napoli’s experience and class with Higuain, Callejon and Mertens will be enough to give them a first leg lead.
3) Real Madrid Only
Real Madrid vs Atl Madrid – Teams To Score (7:00 AM AEST)
An injury to Gareth Bale, may limit the scoring opportunities for Real, so we expect them to scrape home in a close one. This will be an oppportunity for new signing James Rodriguez to put on a show for Los Blancos.Though Pepe picked up an injury too in the UEFA Super Cup final, Frenchman Rapael Varane is a more than handy replacement and his added speed will help Real deal with an Atletico team that does most of its attacking on the counter.
4) Washington Nationals (S STRASBURG)
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Washington Nationals (9:05 AM AEST)
Off last start form, Strasburg looks a good pick here, giving just 3 hits and a run over 7.0 innings, while Diamondbacks’ starter Chase Anderson showed limited control, being shelled for 9 hits and three runs over 6. Jason Werth looks to be back to full fitness and will add some valuable hitting power for the Nats.
5) Royal Adventure
Canterbury Race 4 (3:18 PM AEST)
Has been around the mark of late and looks ready to break through. Should handle the heavy track with no concern and the appointment of Hugh Bowman should be noted. Will be primed to win second-up.
6) Sultry Feeling
Canterbury Race 5 (3:53 PM AEST)
Smart filly resuming for the Bart and James Cummings stable. Was a really handy two-year-old highlighted by a Group Two placing in the Magic Night behind Bring Me The Maid and Peggy Jean. That was on a heavy track too so the ground is no worries. Should be winning this before contesting much better races over the carnival.
1) Under 7 Runs
Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets (2:10 AM AEST)
These teams managed only 3 runs together against inferior pitching yesterday, so there shouldn’t be many more in this outing. Since coming up to the Majors, Kyle Hendrick has been awesome, going 4-1 including winning his last three starts. There will be a 17-year age gap between the pitchers, with the ageless Bartolo Colon slinging for the Mets, where he has enjoyed homefield advantage with a 3.04 ERA and 1.09 WHIP at Citi Field.
2) Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves @ Pittsburgh Pirates (9:05 AM AEST)
The Braves will be coming straight off a road-trip to face the Pirates, but showed themselves to be top class competitors dominating the MLB leading Athletics in their past 3 games. Atlanta’s Ervin Santana has got his slider back and has gone 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA in his last 9 starts. The Pirate’s Vance Worley is coming off a beating at the hands of Detroit where he gave up 9 hits and 5 runs over 5.1 innings. Braves are hot!
3) Over 41.5 points
Cleveland Browns @ Washington Redskins (10:00 AM AEST)
We saw yesterday how quickly points can be scored when 2nd and 3rd string defences are on the field. Competition on the offensive side of the ball usually indicates that points will be scored. Redskins backup QB Kirk Cousins, is auditioning to go other places so will put in his best effort while Washington Head Coach Jay Gruden has made it known that the running-back battle is still hotly contested with current back up Roy Helu, Gruden’s first choice on passing plays. On the other side, the Hoyer v Manziel competition should result in both quarterbacks putting their best on show.
4) Melbourne Victory
Bayswater City vs Melbourne Victory (9:35 PM AEST)
Since the early exit of the Western Sydney Wanderers, no A-League club wants to be knocked out early. The Victory is expected to take a full-strength squad to face Bayswater City with Besart Berisha, Carl Valeri and Matthieu Delpierre all likely to make their debuts for the club. Melbourne look to be taking this seriously and should win the match easy.
5) Unleash De Fear
Warragul: Race 7 (8:50 PM AEST)
This NSW dog, has the inside running and is the fastest starter of these lot. Should be able to find the front early and hold the rest at bay. With 8 wins from its 16 career starts, it hasn’t been worse than 4th in its last 12 runs.
6) Pappa Gallo
Warragul: Race 8 (9:09 PM AEST)
Pub-wisdom says don’t got past a ‘Bale on the rail’ but the outside runner Pappa Gallo looks to be a class above this field. Sisco Good on its inside should burn off quckly allowing Pappa Gallo to get a nice break and position well. This one loves jumping from the outside boxes and looks set to rediscover his early-August form today.
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