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WEDNESDAY MAY 5TH
Bit of a mixed bag today with some tennis, plus scottish and spanish football. Tomorrow I will start with my first look at the Football League playoffs ahead of a really huge weekend of sport.
SCOTLAND DIVISION 2 PLAYOFFS
FORFAR ATHLETIC - AYR UNITED
I am keen on United to progress through this two legged tie and to go on and book a quick return to the First Division following relegation last season, they had previously gone up through the playoff system in 2009 so know what to expect and look the strongest of the four sides. They are definitely the biggest club, with arguably the best starting eleven, who should be well rested after most were given a day off at the weekend with second place already assured. They took a little while to get a settled side this season, but really started to find the net in the last month or so, beating playoff rivals Forfar 3-1 and Brechin City 3-0, City might claim to have got some revenge on saturday, with a 1-0 victory, but United had nothing to play for and fielded a team mainly made up of youngsters. They also suffered a recent 3-2 loss here in the league, where they led twice and then conceded a late own goal and will be confident of getting a result tonight against a team who were expected to struggle this season after promotion last year, when they were two divisions below United. Hosts will have 18 yo Neil Duffy between the sticks, he is on loan from St Johnstone and has plenty of promise, but has only made five career starts and that is far from ideal in such a big game, against an opponent with goals in them. United also got a massive boost off the pitch this week, when Bodog agreed a sponsorship deal with the club, this is unheard of at this level and could lead to bigger things for the cash strapped club ,with Bodog owner Calvin Ayre having links to the area. I am going to split two units between Ayr with the handicap start tonight and them to win promotion.
Ayr United +0.25 ball 1.86 IBC Won 4-1
Ayr United to win Division 2 Playoffs 3.60 + (Boyle/Hills) ...3.75 Stan James/ Bet Fred. .... Now trading as low as 1.91
SPAIN LIGA ADELANTE
GRANADA - SD HUESCA ( Thursday)
I am going to have so much to pass on in the coming months that I will have to start sharing it whenever the opportunity arises, so an early bet for tomorrow and a few words about Granada whom I am keen on to clinch the third promotion place. The top two spots in Segunda come with automatic promotion and they will quite rightly go to Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano, the next four teams, excluding the reserve teams, will playoff for the third spot, so at present that would be Celta, Granada, Elche and Valladolid. With Granada having a six point lead over the nearest potential gatecrasher, three of their remaining five games on home soil and with their last game against a likely "friendly" opponent, they look booked for a post season place.
I have watched extended highlights of three recent Granada games and have been very impressed, they would definitely not be out of place in the lower reaches of the top flight and this is a team going places fast. They have had severe financial problems in the recent past but appear to have put those behind them and have some very influential "owners". Effectively ,they are owned by the Pozzo family who also own Udinese and eleven , yes eleven, registered players of the italian club are on the books here, almost all on a season long loan. I am not entirely sure what the idea is here, they are mainly players with Spanish experience, signed by Udinese and then immediately loaned to Granada, although there are also the usual Brazilian, Nigerian and a very talented Chilean in Fabian Orellana who has made 19 appearances for his national team and who is pulling the strings, another who caught the eye was Swiss born/ Spanish player Alex Geijo, who is big, mobile, quick and he has a real eye for goal , scoring 22 in just 30 appearances. Money is tight in Spanish football but no longer a problem for Granada it seems, Giampaolo Pozzo considers the city ripe to support a top flight team and it is a much bigger city than Udine. Since he became involved officially last year, Granada have coasted through Segunda B averaging two points and two goals per game and made the switch to the higher level fairly seemlessly, getting stronger as the season has progressed. There was no let up from the club at the end of last season and they won their last five starts in the regular season and then played four post season games, conceding just a single goal and effectively settling both ties in the first leg.
They should have enough to ease past Huesca, who struggle for goals on the road, but will have to open up a little as they still mathematically have a chance of making the post season themselves, this should give Granada space to exploit . I also think as soon as possible we should try to back them for promotion, odds are around 4.33 now, maybe higher if you shop around, they are not in the playoffs yet, but once they are and everyone starts to research their background a little more, I think much lower quotes will be offered.
Granada -1 ball 2.04 .... won 2-0
TENNIS WTA ROME
MARION BARTOLI - ANABEL MEDINA GARRIGUES
OK, we are not going to get fat on these odds, but little fish are sweet sometimes and I think this is a value price. Bartoli is not a clay courter she cannot move well on the surface and complains that "the ball comes back too often " on the surface, she usually loses the moment she meets anyone comfortable on the surface and in the past that has included players ranked 400 + in the world. The frenchwoman's father, Walter, who is also her coach, says that Marion uses the clay court season as "a springboard for the grass", "it helps her prepare". She holds a 5-1 lifetime record over her spanish opponent, but is, guess what ( ?) 0-1 on clay, with Garrigues winning in Madrid in this very week last season 6-2 6-0. Garrigues is 71-38 on the dirt in the last four years, posting a winning record every year ( Bartoli has a losing record on clay in three of the last four seasons) and proved her well being with a win in Estoril a fortnight ago, the 9th single title on the surface of her career, plus any number of doubles wins on clay including two French Open titles. She has already won two qualifiers here and beat Patty Schnyder, a much better clay courter than Bartoli with ease in the first round, she really ought to win this with a degree of comfort.
1.5 units Anabel Medina Garrigues 1.67 +1.714 Pinnacle/ 1.70 exchanges. Won in straight sets