TUESDAY JULY 12TH
There are three english domestic friendlies that I would like to discuss today. Going to start with the match between non league Tamworth and League 2 Aldershot Town. The hosts only managed to avoid relegation on the last day of the season and look set for another season of strife in the Conference National. Money is very tight at the Lamb Ground and a few days ago only ten players had signed contracts for the coming season, with a number of trialists taking part in two matches against very low opposition at the weekend, looking to secure deals. Others have refused deals for the semi professional club, whom it was said have offered the same ,or similar money to the squad for the fourth year running, despite asking them for greater commitment in regard to extra training sessions and therefore expense to players, who in some cases were driving an hour or more to attend sessions.
It is a completely different story at Aldershot, don't get me wrong, they are not exactly flush with funds, but boss Dean Holdsworth who made a very promising start to life as a coach at Newport County, is ultra professional in his approach. He had half a season to find out what was working and what was not at the Recreation Ground and has had the off season to get his own men in, including a very high level( by League 2 standards) backroom team. Deano, who was a hero at Brentford in a former life, is very thorough and keen to make a fast start to this campaign. So those of you that are only with me short term, please make a note of that. Not only were the Shots one of the first teams back training, but the entire squad trained at some time through the summer four or five at a time, this means they are very fit and advanced in preparation.
This was very clear at the weekend when they travelled to Farnborough Town, one of the better BSS teams last season who narrowly missed out on promotion and could easily have swapped places with Tamworth. Shots got better and better as the game progressed and ran out 4-0 winners, with newcomers Michael Rankine and especially Bradley Bubb who is lightning quick and scored 40 goals in 88 starts in the BSS impressing. The difference between how these two clubs have started their preseason is further highlighted by the fact that one of the Tamworth players missed the first week of training as he was still on holiday ! Holdsworth would never have stood for that. hard to see anything other than another away win, with Shots fitness advantage surely telling after the break if not before.
No asian odds for this game yet, I have seen 1.91 for Aldershot in a place and other companies are sure to quote later in the morning, at 1.85 + I make them a 1.5 unit selection.
All league meeting at Gigg Lane, where newly promoted Bury, under new coach Richie Barker, entertain Championship Burnley. The visitors took all of the first team squad aside from Charlie Austin to Altrincham on saturday and played two seperate starting elevens in each half. The first group did best, going in 3-0 ahead, with the second eleven easing home 4-2. All four strikers scored in Eagles, Paterson, MacDonald and Iwelumo, which students of the Championship will appreciate is a decent number of attractive options and that is without Austin, who is hungry to get back on track after missing much of last season with injury, following his big money transfer to the Clarets. He will almost certainly start tonight and having seen his fellow strike partners/rivals all score at the weekend, will be eager to follow suit. Boss Eddie Howe still has the basis of the squad which made it into the EPL , but is close to adding a couple of players this week. I know less about Howe in pre season, but as a club, Burnley have traditionally taken these warm up games quite seriously in recent seasons and will be keen to build on the good work shown at Altrincham. Bury will be fielding a couple of trialists, four new comers and possible a youth team player or two, so hard to see how they will have too much cohesion and I have to favour the away side.
One unit Burnley -0.5 ball 2.04 + asia..... there is some 2.10 with William Hill.
Braintree Town of Essex take on Leyton Orient and this is another match with plenty of interest, both on and off the field. The hosts won the BSS last season, but had hardly finished celebrating before coach Rod Stringer had walked out in a row over money ( of course). The club is run on very tight financial lines and Stringer felt that he and the players did not get what was due and possibly promised. Almost the whole squad was out of contract, but 12 have since resigned and new coach Alan Devonshire has added a couple of his own men, any oldies reading this might remember him from his West ham days, back then he was an elegant, slim, long haired talented footballer with a moustache ( very early 80's), now he is fat and bald, but I wouldn't tell him that !
Numbers are still light at Town and needing to find £175,000 to complete ground improvements to stay in the league, the squad budget has had to suffer. Given that and with Devonshire needing time to get to know the majority of his squad and having returned to training a couple of days after Orient, they are bound to be a little rusty and behind the League 1 team in preparation.
The O's had a terrific second half of the campaign and almost forced their way into the playoffs, eventually finishing seventh. Boss Russell Slade should and will make sure he takes plenty of credit for that and Championship club Barnsley tried to speak to him about their vacant managers position, but Orient chairman Barry Hearn refused, which did not go down well with Slade at all. I assume that all is forgiven and we are two months down the line now in any case, Slade has been given money and added to his squad with Leon McSweeney ( Hartlepool), Scott Cuthbert ( Swindon) and Jamie Cureton ( Exeter City) all of whom are proven performers at League 1 level. Cureton is a little long in the tooth and will be 36 next month, but scored 20 goals last season ( he has always been prolific at Championship level and below) , included 17 in just 34 league outings, a fantastic return. He will be a great addition to the squad and this all looks very solid business. Orient passed teams to death on occasion in the second half of last season and should have too much for what is sure to be a disjointed home side.
Only Bet365 have quoted this so far and Orient are priced terribly short at 1.40 which is useless. Maybe there will be a handicap line later, if not, at least we have some early notes on these two to take into the new season .
Tonight sees the final games in Group C and all is still to play for, even pointless Mexico can still ensure qualification with a win. Winner of the Chile-Peru game will top the group, a draw would leave the door open for Uruguay to claim that spot. The situation is further complicated because the team that finishes second in the group will travel to Santa Fe to play Argentina in the quarters , but you could win the group and get Brazil, so it is a case of be careful what you wish for !
Forget what you might read elsewhere, Chile and Peru have already qualified for the next stage, they are just playing for position in the draw and Uruguay no longer need to win, a point will ensure they finish as one of the top two third placed teams.
I am not really too interested in the first game, Chile have looked the stronger of the two sides and will again have massive support in Mendoza. Peru remain without Pizzaro and Farfan and the betting line in asia has moved almost a full quarter ball in favour of the chileans in the last 24 hours and that looks very much on the skinny side, but there are just too many imponderables here. By the time the second match starts, Uruguay who are very talented and still capable of winning this tournament will have far better idea of what is required and whom they are likely to face, they will be suited by playing a mexican team that will attack them and should win with a degree of comfort. Mexico are another nation that gave priority to the Gold Cup and have arrived here with a B squad minus all their stars. It is very much Uruguay's policy to start this tournament slowly, yet they have still made the semi finals at least in eight of the last eleven Copa's.
They have goals in them, three strikers Suarez, Forlan and Abreu have 73 international goals between them, that is double anything the Brazilian forwards have managed and some twenty more than the impressive array of attacking talent that Argentina boast have posted . In addition, keeping these three on their toes and pushing for starts are Abel Hernandez and Edinson Cavani, two young strikers of almost unlimited potential who have thrilled Serie A viewers in the last couple of seasons. Cavani 's goals helped fire Napoli into the Champions League this season and Hernandez has thrived at Palermo since Cavani departed and at just 20 yo, he might have an even greater future. These five give Uruguay the best pure striking options of any nation in the competition and the five are fairly interchangable.They have a solid experienced defence and a talented midfield where six of the players helped their european clubs book Champions League spots next season.
Cavani and Caceres are out tonight, so we should get a first chance to see Abel Hernandez take his place in the starting line up, he should be nice and hungry after warming the bench for much of the two opening games.
The odds for them to win tonight are too short, but I still feel their quotes to win the competition are the best value on offer and have to suggest you take a little of the 13.5 offered on Betfair, this could look big for the World Cup semi finalists by the time we know the quarter final line up.
Tour de France: Stage 10 Aurillac-Carmaux
The rest day will have been well received after two medium mountain stages and was perfectly timed as temperatures soared into the mid 30's on Monday, but cloud cover today should see a maximum of 28 degrees. The peloton will have to work hard to keep potential breakaways in check, but chances for the sprinters are going to be limited after tomorrow and the main players are going to put all their effort into the next two days, as the tour heads towards the Pyrenees. Today sees a fairly short (158km) rolling stage, but one lacking any real difficulty, there are plenty of chances for riders to try breakaways, but the finish is gently downhill and if the pack stay vigilant, then we could have a bunch finish. You know my thinking by now, if we do have a bunch finish, then Mark Cavendish wins, if his team deliver him perfectly he wins, if things go wrong but he has a chance however small with 300 metres to go .... he wins, if someone tries to put him over the barrier but doesn't complete the job .... he wins.
MC has a perfect record in "flat" stages following a rest day and an 18th tour stage for him is on the cards today and/or tomorrow, but the bonus sprint is very early in the race today and that is a bit of a concern. I have just seen 3.50 put up by Bet 365, if only we knew it was going to come down to a sprint ! If we are 50/50 to get a sprint finish, then 1.75 ( 1.75 X 2.0) for Cav is too big, so I am assuming the odds makers feel it is a shade of odds on for a breakaway to factor in their profit margin. I also know that several tour readers believe that even if we see a sprint, that the slight downhill finish might suit one of the more veteran sprinters. Similar claims have been made previously, in particular in 2009 when it was slightly down and then uphill in Saint-Fargeau, I do not think that it is big enough to make a difference and at the business end 300-500 metres out ,it is minimal. If it comes down to a sprint I want to be on Cavendish, when he is sub 1.40 in my book.
This is a very interesting day and one I will probably just watch, but if it looks to be coming together after the cat 4 climb 15km from the finish, anything above 1.60 offers value in my book. If you feel a breakaway is unlikely to succeed, then get on this morning as I can now see 3.80 in a place.