Friday, November 04, 2011
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND SIR ..... AND MADAM !
LEYTON ORIENT - HARTLEPOOL UNITED
I was originally VERY keen on Orient here, but just heard that Matt Spring and Kevin Lisbie both picked up injuries during last weekend’s 2-0 win at Rochdale and are rated by O’s boss Russell Slade as doubtful for the game. Neither has trained this week and with a growing injury list, the home side are down to the bare bones, they will still be able to put out a decent enough starting eleven, but the bench is very weak and leaves them very few options. This is a shame, as Hartlepool are in a real slump and missing key players of their own, these are very much two clubs heading in opposite directions and I would have loved to have side with the O's at odds against. Six weeks ago the East London club were bottom of the table, with just three points ( all draws) from a possible 30, whilst Pool were flying high and unbeaten in 4th spot, 16 points ahead of Orient. The visitors have since gone 1-0-5 and the hosts 4-2-0, the gap is down to just five points and four league places. This was not entirely unexpected, all season United have been making the most of very few attempts on goal and as I pointed out a couple of months back, sooner or later this was going to catch up with them. United have still only managed a division low 122 attempts on goal, with a paltry 48 on target.
Orient have some history of runs like this, last year they were 23rd with a 2-3-6 record in the first week of October, five months later they were on the playoff fringes, having gone 13-8-2 through the mid season, that equates to 94 points over the full term and would have seen them finish ahead of Southampton who are now on the verge of a return to the EPL. They finally missed out on the playoffs by a single point. I do not know if they "over train" in the off season,which leaves them "leggy" early in the campaign, but I have seen that happen year after year to certain teams, so something might be wrong, anyway, they are not a team I would want to oppose at present, Russell Slade has got them buzzing and playing with huge confidence. I will put this up in black type, but if either Spring or Lisbie made the line up,even the bench, I would make them a firm bet. Leyton Orient -0.5 ball 2.14 asian line.
ATHLETIC BILBAO - BARCELONA OK, we all know that it is definitely not a profitable policy to oppose Barcelona on even a semi-regular basis, but I have to chance a little on Athletic Bilbao at home getting such a huge handicap start. We have discussed Athletic several times recently ( two are reproduced below) and they are now unbeaten in nine starts, including a 1-0 win at Salzburg on Thursday night , where they replaced two of their young stars after taking the lead, with the weekend fixture clearly in mind. Last ten h2h meetings here have ended 1-4-5, with a 10-15 goal difference, which is probably as good as most against the best club side in world football, Barce have only posted one two goal victory in that sequence and three of the last six have ended all square. The Catalan giants have not exactly set La Liga alight on the road domestically, drawing at Valencia and Sociedad and winning by the minimum margin at Gijon and Granada and the 6.50 offered for the draw here is calling me like the song of the sirens.
However, I will play safe and take 1.25 units Athletic Bilbao +1.75 ball asian line 1.95 +, which is really a very attractive price IMO. It will be extremely interesting to see how Iker Munian fares in this, he was an unused substitute in both meetings with Barcelona last season and he will get a closer look at them on Sunday, should be fun !
Thursday October 27th
One of those was Athletic Bilbao (see below) and I am going to start with their attractive home fixture with Atletico Madrid. They started on fire in the Osasuna game, racing into an early 3-0 lead and coasting home despite the visitors claiming an injury time consolation goal. Bilbao have subsequently continued their recovery with a draw at Mestalla and can move into the top eight with three points this evening. Wildly talented Iker Muniain scored in both matches and looks a player to build a franchise around. Now that coach Marcelo Bielsa has got his team up and running and signing from his hymn sheet, I do not want to rush to oppose Athletic, a top four push is certainly not out of the question, they were sixth last year anyway and it is hard to make a case for Valencia, Sevilla and especially Villarreal being stronger this time round. With a tough November ahead, including a visit from Barcelona and trip to Seville, they should be extra motivated for points tonight and at Gijon over the weekend and this looks a very good time to be playing Atletico, who are another potential rival for a high finish. The capital's second club started the season well enough, but a heavy loss to Barce appears to have knocked their confidence and they have lost their way, they are without a win in six, or a goal from open play in four starts ( they scored against Mallorca from the penalty spot), or of any kind on the road domestically. Star 40m euro striker Radamel Falcao has not been firing and is said to be struggling with gastroenteritis over recent days. Hosts will be without Carlos Gurpegi for several months, but the veteran midfielder has been a fringe player under Bielsa and I do not see this as the loss it would once have been. I have to stick with the hosts Athletic Bilabo -0.25 ball 2.12 asian line.
Bilbao: Iraizoz, Toquero, Aurtenetxe, Amorebieta, San José, David López, Iturraspe, Llorente, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Raúl, Susaeta, Iraola, Muniain, Ander Herrera, Ekiza, Javi Martínez, Ibai , Ruiz and Galarreta.
Atletico: Courtois, Sergio Asenjo, Godín, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Sìlvio, Álvaro Domínguez, Miranda, Mario Suárez, Salvio, Reyes, Arda Turan, Paulo Assunçao, Gabi, Koke, Diego, Adrián, Falcao and Pizzi.
Written Monday October 17th
In La Liga we have an interesting Basque derby game between Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna, hosts are the big power in the region and after seeing off Sociedad (another local rival) just before the international break, will be keen to follow up and do the double. I suspect they could have done without the break, as that was their first win of the campaign and it followed on from an impressive 2-0 defeat of big spending PSG in the Europa League. New coach Marcelo Bielsa is a real one off and it has taken a little time to get his ideas across, but the benefits are starting to show and we can expect Bilbao to come on very strong in the next couple of months. Bielsa is very meticulous, he personally checks pitch measurements before every away game and has been known to give four hour press conferences ! He favours a high pressing game, with the strikers putting a lot of pressure on opposing defenders, whilst at times this looks a fairly rigid formation, he makes a lot of subtle changes during the course of the game, which sometimes give them five forward players. 18 yo Iker Muniain has been outstanding in the last two seasons and he has been very influential in the last two games, setting up a lot of chances for the front three. Far more options for the coach tonight with the return of big summer signing Ander Herrera from injury and Ekiza to the centre of defence after suspension and this is a young, developing team of huge potential. Fernando Llorente who has found his scoring boots recently, missed training twice last week, but is named in the squad and Bielsa has a habit of sometimes training strikers separately from the rest of the group in any case, so you can never be sure with him, I told you he was a one off ! You always get a tough physical challenge from Athletic and the visitors have really struggled here in recent seasons, not scoring in five visits and losing the last four. Osasuna are not great travellers at the best of times and probably still have nightmares about their recent 8-0 loss at Barcelona, where their goalkeeper was their star performer and they look a little fragile. Goals are always a problem for them, just five this season and only Gijon of the other top ten clubs scored fewer last season, defensively they are very short of numbers with four players out, two of whom (Raitala and Ruben) started in the last league game, when they conceded two at home to struggling Mallorca, the second when the visitors were already reduced to ten men. They have added Roversio to the squad, but he was said to be a big doubt a couple of days ago and including him, every available defensive player has travelled. I like this home win a lot, but am not madly keen on these Monday night home televised favourites, having said that, everything else looks in Athletic's favour and they desperately need a home win in the league, especially ahead of tougher games against Valencia and Atletico. Just one unit Athletic Bilbao -0.5 ball 1.86, but I might press this early in the game if signs are good and 2.0 + becomes available.
Bilbao :Iraizoz, Toquero, Aurtenetxe, Amorebieta, San José, David López, Iturraspe, Llorente, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Raúl, Susaeta, Iraola, Gurpegi, Muniain, Ander Herrera, Ekiza, Javi Martínez y Ibai.
Osasuna :Andrés Fernández, Riesgo, Marc Bertrán, Damià, Lolo, Miguel Flaño, Roversio, Sergio, Annunziata, Cejudo, Lamah, Nekounam, Puñal, Raúl García, Timor, Ibrahima, Sola y Nino.